Up: Pursuing Significance in Leadership and Life

We live in uncertain, and some would say even troubling times. But, really…isn’t life always uncertain, and sometimes troubling?

Whether speaking of a nation, an historical era, or the world as a whole, aren’t we really speaking about ourselves as individuals?

It all boils down to how we each handle life’s uncertainties and troubles –- our responses to them –- that really matters.

My recent book, UP: Pursuing Significance in Leadership and Life, was inspired by years of coaching executives and leaders to climb higher and be better.

In this journey, I discovered that everyone deals with the same issues –- yes, those uncertainties and troubles of life.

They may come wrapped in different labels. They may pertain to professional or personal issues, but they are all universally “bottom-line” in one critical concern: how we deal with them

It was also clear that we all struggle with other universal questions. Who am I, and why am I here? Will I ever be more than just a survivor in this world? Can I ultimately be significant, not just successful?

I was hearing the same questions, and giving the same answers, over and over again with my clients. And, more personally, I was also dealing with these same uncertainties in my own life.

Little by little, the patterns and truths of life and significance became clear, and I realized they were indeed universal.

“Life” is the “whole” of us, with no distinction between career, profession, ambition or home. Life is life. It is all that we do, all that we are. It is not just our doing; it is our being.

While life is full of uncertainty, there are indeed some universal truths we must embrace and adapt. These are what I have found to be the “facts of life.”

1. LIFE IS A CLIMB. From the beginning, we grow UP. We never reach a “plateau” where we stop growing physically, emotionally, academically, or spiritually. Life is UP. But we decide whether the climb is out of one mud hole into another, or an ascent up the mountain.

2. LIFE IS CHOICE. Our choices dictate our destinations. There are two paths in life. One satisfies self, an easier climb that never leads to Significance, and only yields hollow illusions of “satisfaction” or “success.” The other surrenders self to serve, the only path to the top where Significance and fulfillment are realized.

3. LIFE IS CHALLENGING. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fair. It throws wicked curve balls. It leaps out to frighten and derail us. Life is a beast sometimes. We have many options, more choices, regarding what we do when we encounter these beasts. They will either consume us, or strengthen us.

4. LIFE IS CHANGE. We cannot change change, an inevitable fact of life, anywhere, anytime for everyone. With any change, there are many options. We can learn to embrace change and triumph through it to find new vistas and opportunities, or we can be unnerved and paralyzed by it.

5. LIFE IS CONTRASTS. Highs and lows, ups and downs, sorrows and joys, successes and failures, darkness and light – life is a series of contrasting experiences, all of which we can utilize to strengthen us and take us further up. All of these contrasts, from the very lowest places to the highest peaks, make us smarter climbers if we choose to learn from them.

6. LIFE CALLS. Everyone has a calling, the discovered personal (and professional) passion and purpose that drive us to the top. This enables breakthrough discovery of what helps us climb further, overcome challenges, deal with change, make right choices, and blend contrasts into vibrancy. Life’s calling is our climbing energy.

7. LIFE IS COMMUNITY. Life is not lived on an island, but on a crowded, well-populated plain dotted with mountains. We will have climbing instructors, climbing partners, climbing boosters, climbing beneficiaries, and yes, climbing inhibitors. Learning how to interact with those who we live in community with enables us to climb to our potential. Ultimately we also have a divine partner that calls us to a higher summit. Life’s ultimate fulfillment is not earthbound, but heaven sent.

Up is the map to a life climbed higher, better, faster, and more significantly.

It presents the truths of life, packaged in a step-by-step guidebook for any climber, any time and any place. It details the terrain, alternate paths, hazards and climbing techniques.

It enables you to know where you are now, and how to get where you want to be.

UP relates real stories that illustrate each level of the climb, in both forward and backsliding tales of Survival, Success, and ultimately Significance.

Maria Shriver appears as an example of Family and Community, one of the ten values presented for “Sherpas,” those who climb on the right side of Significance, the side that serves others over self.

UP is loaded with stories of ordinary people, and those whose names we all recognize. Readers will see themselves in this book. Readers will find themselves here.

UP is not a “one-time read.” It is a life-time guide, the Owner’s Manual to reaching the level of Significance we all desire.

In this time of uncertainty, in this time that demands excellence in leaders, in every time and every place, UP paves the way to being the best we can be –- being Significant.

About the Author

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An international speaker and leadership consultant, Joan is President of O’Sullivan Wright, Inc. an organizational strategies firm founded in 2000 to serve Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurial businesses. Her broad understanding of individual leadership and organizational development comes from 21 years in Human Resources Management roles with Wachovia (Wells Fargo), Philip Morris, Citicorp, and GE Capital. Her Masters Degree in Social Work enables her to help leaders understand important self-awareness issues and individual development, while her many key HR roles with leading corporations gives her the necessary business experience for supporting results- oriented organizational change. Her Master Certified Coach designation, combined with being one of an elite group of 59 Kolbe Copper Circle Consultants in the world, enables Joan to bring unmatched leadership insights and skill-building best practices to clients in four continents. Her book, UP: Pursuing Significance in Leadership and Life, received a five star rating from Midwest Book Review. In September, 2012, inspired by her own book and the compelling needs in Africa (clean water, aids and genocide orphan care and tribal reconciliation) Joan raised money and awareness for Senai Global through her successful climb to the Uhuru peak of the largest free-standing mountain on earth, Mount Kilimanjaro.

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