Famous vs Great

Martin Luther King Jr. was quoted as saying, “Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great because greatness is determined by service.” Does it seem to you that many of us in America are struggling with a misplaced desire to be famous? Do you harbor a secret wish to have your name in lights or to have lots of people know your name? I have to admit that I have a bit of this desire myself. I don’t want to have it, but I do. And I wrestle with my secret desire because I think it is not really right for me.

When I saw Dr. King’s quote, it eased my mind. It is not so much I want to be famous, as I want to be great. I want to make a contribution that matters to as many people as I can. I love to make a difference! Something keeps pushing me to share my ideas and insights in any way I can, like in this blog. This seems like a good thing to reach for contribution by sharing my unique perspective on life.

As much as I have worked on self-expression, communication and presentation skills, I know I can express more. The more for me, though, needs to come from deeper and deeper places as I explore my inner reality. In the last three years, I have taken an even deeper journey into meditation than ever before. And my journey inward has been opening greater awareness of the spiritual force that is in all of us. I want to share more of the ways that I see things from this deeper viewpoint. That, I believe is where greatness comes from. Dr. King was great because he followed his inner calling. The same goes for all who have been great throughout history.

Fame is a quality of being known, but just being known by lots of people does not mean you are great. Greatness is a quality of knowing who you are, why you are here and having the courage to express yourself authentically from the truest place you can connect with inside. When you do that you can’t help but serve. Your very Being serves others by calling them to authenticity.

One of my heroes is Gerry Spence, a great trial lawyer who speaks from his heart zone to advocate for his clients in the courtroom. In one of his books, I can’t recall which, Gerry says he is not afraid of skilled trial attorneys with lots of experience. He is afraid of the young, tender, lady lawyer who shakes visibly as she speaks from her heart to share her client’s story. He is afraid of her because he knows the power that authenticity has over listeners. People can sense the truth when they hear it. Her greatness is her vulnerability to be honest.

I have been teaching public speaking for about 23 years now. And the one thing that remains true from 23 years of speaking classes, is that it has always been the person who was most scared, who ended up speaking in a way that moved us most deeply in class. The person who ended up as a great speaker was the one who had the most fear. I have assumed that was because those people had the most feeling, their feelings were up to the surface where they can be used to create genuine connection with listeners.

So, maybe we all need to redefine what it means to be great. Greatness, according to Dr. King, is a measure of service. And service is simply sharing who we are with others.