A question has been haunting me of late: Do I want to be known for what you earned? Or what I sacrificed?
In other words, do I hope to be known for what I achieved, or what I deferred?
Maybe it’s the distinction between the capitalist and the soldier. The capitalist seeks to accumulate and earn. The soldier to give her life or health in service of a higher aim.
Or the difference between the businessman and the priest. One working for a check in order to add to a notion of self. The other working in order to deny the notion of self.
I shot messages to a few friends about this idea, to see where they stood. Some answered based on religious influence and sense of duty. Others answered a bit more broadly, choosing a third or even fourth way to be known. (Fair enough; I can appreciate people who answer questions bigger than the ones asked.)
But, ultimately, where I’m landing is that I don’t think these two can cleanly be separated. You want to earn something big? You’ll need to give up a few things to get there (friendships, time, hobbies, health). You want to sacrifice something meaningful? Then you’ll earn things when you do (kudos, honor, pride, wealth).
What’s your driving motivator, then?
I know people who led with the earning motivator. They wanted to amass wealth, status, and influence. They worked hard to earn it. Each day, when they woke up, they pledged allegiance to this earning potential and made decisions throughout their day that drove them closer to their goal of accumulating and amassing. As they climbed, sacrifices had to be made of course, but their names became synonymous with greatness or wealth or whatever else they earned.
Others I’ve known wanted to first be known by what it was they gave up. They abstained and fasted, withdrew and quit certain behaviors, routines, or pathways because it didn’t meet their personal goals and objectives. Of course, among a select group, they were then honored for this sacrifice, earning esteem from others. But, their chief drive was in the giving, not in the getting. They lived to give, to give up, to give to.
Where, then, is your strive directed? Your deepest efforts and greatest ambition? To earn or to sacrifice?
Ultimately, the question points to a broader truth: you will be known for something. What will it be?
And how can you shape it? The choice is in your hands, after all.