One key? Is that even possible?

Many of the books I’ve read and the speakers I’ve listened to have listed out way more than one key. Napoleon Hill’s Keys to Success offers 17 Principles of Personal Achievement. Grant Cardone teaches about a dozen rules for success. Jim Rohn, in this classic 90-minute talk, gives way more than one key.

I don’t want to argue with any of those people. They, and so many more leaders like them, are smarter and more experienced than me.

But I’ve discovered a principle in the Bible, in business, and even in my own life that has me convinced there is a pattern to be observed. There is one principle of success I see repeated time and again. So here’s my assertion…

The ONE big key to becoming a successful person is giving your life to making the lives of others better.

If you decide today to give your life – and by “life” I mean your time, your attention, your resources – to making the lives of other people better, you will discover success. It’s guaranteed.

It’s what Jesus did, teaching, feeding, healing, and serving others to the point of laying down his life as a ransom for all who would follow him.

It’s what Paul did, which he explained this way, “We are not preaching about ourselves. Our message is that Jesus Christ is Lord. He also sent us to be your servants.” (2 Corinthians 4:5 CEV)

It’s what King David did, which is summed up in Psalm 78:72, “With unselfish devotion David became their shepherd. With skill he guided them.” (GWORD)

As a Christian, I believe that the very best thing I can do for anyone else is to share with them the good news about how they can have a relationship with God through his son, but I usually only get to share that message with people who trust me on some level.

And why would people trust me? I believe people trust me when I demonstrate my commitment to making their lives better.

When you give your life to helping other humans flourish, you’ll find success. In other words,

  • Life is about building relationships.
  • Ministry is about serving people.
  • Leadership is about elevating others.
  • Sales is about providing solutions.
  • Writing is about inspiring or informing readers.
  • Humanitarianism is about relieving suffering.
  • Art is about making people think and feel.

It isn’t that “success” only happens for people in certain professions, or with certain personalities, or with certain advantages and privileges. It’s that success comes to those who see their job, their neighborhood, their church, or their community as a realm in which to serve people.

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If your only pursuit in life is your own happiness, you’ll miss out on success because you’ll bypass opportunities to bear pain with and for others.

If your only pursuit is financial gain, you can get rich and still miss success because you’ll sell without serving.

If your only pursuit is power and authority, you’ll miss out on success because you’ll see people as a means to your own fulfillment.

If you give your life to helping people, to serving people, to loving people, to meeting needs, to being a friend, to providing resources, to answering questions, and fixing problems, and educating minds and encouraging hearts, you’ll never lack a place in the world to work for very long.

You’ll be inexpendable, but this is still more than a utilitarian notion. The more you forget about yourself, the more fulfilled you’ll become.

I’m convinced about this! I would even challenge you to an experiment.

For the next week of your life, think relationally in as many situations as possible.

How can I encourage this grocery store clerk? How can I give a little hope to someone at the end of their rope? How can I show grace where someone is fully expecting judgment? How can I speak positively and prophetically about someone’s future when they don’t have very high aspirations for themselves?

Charisma is great, but it’s subject to too many changing variables. Talent is helpful, but talent alone is never enough. Skills are useful, but they’re really a small part of the equation.

The one big key to real success in life is giving the rest of your life to making the lives of others better.