What is your contribution?

A couple of years ago I had a visitor staying in my home in South Africa. He was a businessman from India who for most of his career was very successfully involved in the construction industry in India. He himself meditated and taught in his tradition in India and other parts of the world. When he sat in my living room he explained to me:

“The first half of your life you spend exploring the world and yourself. You take in and take in; the world serves your own growth. The second half of your life you spend giving back and you do this for the rest of your life. You serve the world and you serve people. It is important not to miss that turning point. So what is your contribution? What do you serve?”

I did not have an instant answer to his question and it took a few moments before I realized that he did not expect one.

When we begin to sense that our leadership contribution needs to be reconsidered, a question like this strikes us like a sudden uncomfortable memory. We are pushed beyond our comfort zone. We have enough demands placed on us; we do not need more.


The question remained in my mind for years. As with all questions that aim directly at the heart, it became a constant reminder of my journey. It took a year or two before I was finally prepared to grow slowly into an answer.

 If we allow that to happen, such questions reach our heart. We know when we set out on our journey that this is what we intuitively wanted to do – serve the world. We might have become far more realistic, much more sensible, and slightly more cynical. But we sense the underlying quest. And it is important to revive the quest: we’ll discover the treasure we have always been looking for. The purpose of our early intention was to do something for the benefit of humankind.

This blog post looks at the dimension of WHOLENESS and zooms into the aspect of CONTRIBUTION in the Collective Leadership Compass at the level of individuals. For more insights on leading collectively with the Compass, subscribe to my blog or read more in my book: Mind and Heart, Mapping Your Personal Journey towards Leadership for Sustainability, 2008

Categories: Accessing our humanity, Leading future possibilities, Living the six capacities of Collective Leadership, and Monday morning reflection.

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