Greatness Revisited

Hi, just so you know, I’m feeling better today.  In fact I feeling pretty chipper.  But as we all know feeling “chipper” doesn’t guarantee I will have anything worthwhile to say.

Before I jump into the meaty topic of the difference between being fame and greatness I have something I want you to see.

Notice anything new on the blog?  I’ll wait while you peruse the page.

Huh… can’t find it?  Just slide your eyes over to the top of the column on right side of the page… that’s it!

Several people asked if they could be emailed when I posted a new blog entry – Wah Lah.

If you want these entries to be sent electronically all you need to do is put your email address in the box and follow the instructions.  It’s very simple.

OK, now that we got the blatant self promotion out of the way it is time to tackle the more worthwhile topic… “Greatness”.

Those of you who visited with me last Monday (it should have been Thursday but I was a slug so I didn’t get it done) know that I started to grapple the difference between fame and greatness.

It seems I have a talent for tapping into a topic that is much larger than me and then feel inadequate because I can’t do it justice.

Greatness is definitely one of those topics.

As I contemplated the topic, several simple thoughts surfaced.

First, fame is pretty easy for me to wrap my arms around.  It’s relatively straight forward and easily definable.  A person can become famous quickly for both noble and ignoble acts.  Fame is basically the number of people that are aware of who you are.

For example, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III became quickly famous when he landed the plane in the Hudson River.  He may be a person of greatness, but if he is, his greatness is not defined by the river landing.  The river landing only brought him to our attention.

Side Note: I choose a noble act intentionally.  There are literally thousands of acts that make one famous that are… shall we say… of less noble quality.


Please understand, I am not saying that his landing the plane was not an act of greatness.  But unlike fame, greatness is not defined by a single action.  A single action reflects the content of who we are.

Fame tends to be fickle in that you can be famous one day and forgotten the next.  Some experience Warhol’s proverbial fifteen minutes of fame and others maintain their fame by continued high profile activities.

The point is, fame is fleeting, whereas greatness seems to naturally self-sustain.

The price of greatness is responsibility.

-  Sir Winston Churchill


Don’t get me wrong.  I believe there are people of greatness who are famous.  There are wonderful examples of leaders whose greatness provide direction and strength during times of difficulty.

Difficulty, my brethren, is the nurse of greatness

- William Cullen Bryant


But I also believe there are amazingly great people all around who will never know the bright lights of fame.  They are the salt of the earth people that provide the foundation of who we are as a society.

Greatness is close kin to character and true character tends not to be self promoting.  True character is the fodder for greatness.

Greatness is what you are not who you are or what you possess.

I just read a story about a woman whose parents did not make it past the eighth grade yet left a legacy for their children of love, hard work and integrity… a foundation that allowed their children to step beyond them and carry the same traits forward.

Now that’s greatness!

It’s not what you take but what you leave behind that defines greatness.

-          Edward Gardner


So once again, stories and topics such as this help me to keep my eyes on the horizon to the things of what’s really important.

See you Thursday.

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