You probably stumbled across this post because you’re seeking the answer to one simple, yet incredibly complex question: “What is your greatest accomplishment”? If you enjoy the post that follows, I strongly encourage you to download a copy of my ebook “Welcome to the Real World”, featuring insight and wisdom from 50 of the most inspirational and driven folks you’ll meet. Click here to grab your copy.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Show of hands, how many of you out there have been sitting in an interview, going through the ringer of questions, when this one pops up and totally throws you for a loop: “What is your greatest accomplishment?” Welcome to the real world…
Talk about a loaded question. Think right now, does something immediately come to mind? Maybe, but odds are you’ve got a million thoughts spinning around up there. A few weeks ago I was asked this exact question during an interview - it was a question that for some reason, I was totally unprepared for. We had already been through the personal ‘SWOT’ analysis – breaking down my strengths and weaknesses, we’d discussed times of overwhelming stress and challenge (and how I dealt with it). I knew the drill, most interviews are pretty cut and dry, but this one had me stumped.
I sat there for a minute, looking down at a copy of my resume, hoping the answer would jump up at me. Nothing. I started to think about everything. Yes, EVERYTHING that I had been through in my life. Growing up, moving around a lot, my parents divorce, going through school, finishing high school, making and losing friends, that one trip to Washington in 8th grade, graduating college, the one episode of Saved by the Bell where Zack and the gang camps out at the mall for U2 tickets, looking for jobs, getting engaged – a lifetime of memories laid out in front of me, swirling around in approximately 3.5 seconds of thought.
It’s safe to say there’s a lot there for all of us – so much so that it’s almost impossible to pinpoint one event from our past that can be considered the definitive ‘greatest accomplishment’. All I could think of was that at 23 years old there’s no way I’ve even really begun to achieve greatness – that my greatest accomplishment (so far) is simply living and working toward writing my life’s legacy. That there’s been no happy ending, that I’ve only written the prologue.
A couple weeks ago I reached out to all of you fine Twitter followers and asked you to take a minute and put your life under the microscope. To define, in 140 characters or less, what you considered to be your greatest accomplishment. The response was overwhelming and what I surmised from my ‘research’ was the synonymous idea of accomplishment with self discovery, selflessness, and humility.
Collectively, we’re proud of not only what we’ve been able to do for ourselves, but of what we’ve done for our friends, neighbors, and complete strangers.
So before I share MY actual response – the answer I gave that may not have landed me the job, but should have at least warranted a ‘slow clap’ – I want to share the insightful (and inspiring) things you all had to say. Your responses were both humbling and inspiring. As you read through these below, think about what your own response would be. What is your greatest accomplishment? What contributions have you made to the world around you?
Whether your greatest accomplishment is finishing college or raising your kids, surpassing the legacy of generations before you or volunteering your time for the less fortunate. We all have something (many things) to be proud of. We all have a story to tell. Every one of these responses serve as reaffirmation that we are all inherently good people. People that strive to do more and be more for ourselves and for our communities.
But keep this in mind: Your greatest accomplishment isn’t set in stone – your past doesn’t define your future. The future is out there for you to conquer – the road ahead is wide open and you’re in the drivers seat. When you think about your greatest accomplishments, think about where you are today, think about being alive, think about all the good in your life and the good you can bring to the world around you.
…by now the silence had achieved ‘awkward status’. It had been a good 30 seconds since my interviewer had dropped this bomb on me…“What is your greatest accomplishment?”
I had to come up with something. I looked up, cleared my throat, and summarized it all in one word: “This”
This response warranted little more than a blank stare from across the desk, so I quickly continued on…“This is my greatest accomplishment, being here, interviewing with you, having this opportunity. My greatest accomplishment isn’t in the past, it’s the present, this moment, the ‘right now’. I’m living my greatest accomplishment every minute of every hour of every day.”
Call it cheesy. Call it cliche. But today is your best today. Today is the new tomorrow. Your greatest accomplishment is everything you’ve done that’s helped you to arrive at the moment we call now.
What is YOUR greatest accomplishment? Is there one monumental event that stands out? Have you been asked this question before? What response do you give?