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3 Essential Tips To Achieve Greatness

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

3 Essential Tips To Achieve Greatness

Tavis Smiley Shares Important Life Lessons
Tavis  Smiley
Tavis Smiley More by this author
Apr 06, 2016 at 06:15 PM

Below are 3 simple tips to remember on your path to greatness from my book, 50 For Your Future - Lessons From Down The Road

1.    Privilege can be poisonous

As a poor child in a three-bedroom, one-bath trailer, I spent my Saturday mornings watching the Jackson 5 on TV and fantasizing about what it would be like to be Michael Jackson, to have that famous last name. The other kids made fun of my name, as kids will do, calling me “Travis Smelly” to be mean. But If I was called Michael Jackson, I thought, imagine how different my life would be!

Now I have a much better idea of exactly how different. When I was young, I was turned on by the idea of being a person of privilege. It wasn’t so much about the riches or the fame, but the opportunities that privilege could provide. I wanted a launching pad, a foundation to help me get into the stratosphere, to do whatever I wanted to do.

The older I got, the harder I worked. The more I accomplished, the more I realized that there is a sublime joy, a peace, and indeed a beauty in being able to get lift-off on your own. Not that any one of us makes this journey solo; we all need help from supporters and collaborators. I am not self-made, as some people occasionally describe me. I am, in fact, social-made.

Now that I’m older, I’ve met many folks whose last names and legacies are attached to them like heavy anchors they must carry around their whole lives. I have come to appreciate that privilege can actually be poisonous. 

Most of us are not people of privilege so don’t get caught hating on somebody else’s game, wishing you had that launching pad, or a certain last name, or the kind of economic means that privilege can provide. Whatever your assignment is in the world—whatever gift, talent, skill, vocation, or purpose you have—know that you were born with enough innate, requisite ability and ambition to get the job done.

The challenge is figuring out what that vocation is, nurturing those gifts, becoming an expert at what you do. That’s hard enough in life. Don’t waste energy craving what others have. If you’re not careful, craving becomes coveting. Don’t risk missing the chance to be the best and the most privileged you possible.

2.    You’re entitled to nothing 

There are some things in life that we deserve, and others that we have to demand. I believe that each of us deserves respect. And if you don’t get it, then you have to demand it—we are all owed this basic human right. 

I believe that, in this country, you deserve access to health care. You deserve a high-quality education.
You deserve to live in a neighborhood free of crime. You deserve to not live next to a toxic dump. You deserve a job with a living wage, not just a minimum wage. We should be demanding these things if we aren’t getting them.

I fear, though, that social media, reality television, and the instant gratification we receive in so many ways in the world today are making us a culture of narcissists. There’s been a shift in expectations.
People expect things to just happen for them now—whenever they want it, however they want it—and they don’t show any gratitude when they’re granted their wish.

I’ve become increasingly concerned over the rising sense of entitlement in this country. I’ve encountered it all over the place: as an employer, working with young people through my foundation, interacting with people as an entrepreneur, and certainly through my time spent with celebrities and personalities of all kinds through my broadcast work.

This is one of the only lessons I can say I’ve learned by engaging with and observing the lives of others, and not through my own personal experience. I grew up not even feeling entitled to an hour alone in the bathroom, let alone second or third helpings at the dinner table or expensive clothes. 

What’s tripping me up is that it’s not just the well-to-do, the lucky, or the elite who feel entitled—it’s everyone. I say all the time that you can’t make demands unless you’re in demand. And yet everyone,
Regardless of whether they’re in demand or not, somehow feels entitled these days to make demands simply because they believe they’re entitled to get whatever they want. Without working for it.

Too many “ordinary” people feel this way, those yet to make any meaningful contributions. They don’t have fame or notoriety. They don’t have name recognition. They don’t have leverage. They don’t have multiple degrees. They haven’t invented anything important. 

The problem is that you can’t command your future into existence. There are no shortcuts. You have to work to make success happen, and even then it is not guaranteed, let alone instantaneous. You cannot demand a job for which you are not qualified. You cannot demand a salary that your experience doesn’t justify. You cannot demand power and control and authority that you aren’t ready to wield. And you cannot demand to be let into the club of exclusivity simply because you think you’ve got a great profile on LinkedIn—it’s not your club!

I don’t know anyone who likes a person who acts entitled. That behavior isn’t worthy of respect. On the other hand, people always respect folks who deliver. I’m around people who love those who work hard, who prove themselves, earn their power and respect, and earn their own way in the world. And who do it with integrity. That’s the path to true success. But you’ve got to put in the work—you’re entitled to nothing.

3.    Gratitude is the gateway to greatness

Too many people today lack gratitude. From not saying “thank you” to the kind soul opening a door for us to showing deep social apathy toward the opportunities presented to us, it’s evident we are living through a drought of gratitude.

Quincy Jones came up with a good definition of greatness: someone who is humble about creativity and gracious about success. But the path to greatness—the road that leads to a humble heart and a graceful spirit—passes through the gateway of gratitude.

That’s not what most people think about when they ponder what it is that leads to greatness. They think it’s who you know and how much money you have. They equate it with the kind of job you have or the car you drive. Throw in how many college degrees you’ve earned and what your zip code is, and you’ve arrived at our society’s misguided, out-of-sync perception of what constitutes greatness.

Everything starts with us being given something, from our very lives to our innate talents and abilities. How dare we not have a sense of deep, abiding gratitude for these? And when you come in contact with someone else’s gift—expressed to you, given to you, shared with you—you would do well to show gratitude for that too. Whether a gift comes in the form of a brilliant performance at a concert or someone letting you into traffic on a busy street, show a little gratitude.

Even the smallest amount of gratitude goes such a long way, and for a seemingly small investment, it has a huge payoff. It can be as simple as using a “thank you” to close all your e-mails, or telling folks face-to-face that you appreciate them, as I do. A friend of mine calls everyone Brother and Sister. Another friend greets everyone with a hug. These are the kinds of simple daily habits that set in motion the journey toward greatness. For more tips, see my book, 50 For Your Future.

About Author
Tavis  Smiley
Tavis Smiley is a broadcaster, author, advocate, and philanthropist. Tavis Smiley continues to be an outstanding voice for change.  Smiley is currently the host of the late-night television talk show Tavis Smile Continue reading