“You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it,” wrote J.M. Barrie. Life is a series of trade-offs. We trade hard work for success. We sacrifice convenience to achieve our goals. Every day brings decisions where we trade one thing for another. As Emerson said, “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something.”
Yet the call of our times is that we can get what we want without sacrifice. It’s why my inbox is cluttered with hacks on how to lose weight without dieting, be an entrepreneur without risk, and get rich without working hard. Think about these offers for more than a few seconds and it’s easy to see that they’re ridiculous. Anyone who’s achieved any measure of success in life has made sacrifices to get there.
Most people are willing to recognize this early in their careers. They may take a poor assignment to gain better exposure. Or they may work longer hours to build their reputation. Yet we begin to have problems when we start thinking that we’ve paid our dues and no longer need to make sacrifices.
This is especially true for leaders. If the core of leadership is prioritizing the needs of others over yourself, then great leaders never stop sacrificing. For them, it’s an ongoing commitment, not a one-time cost.
It’s easy to see this as a negative. After all, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice if it didn’t involve something that you want. Yet it also provides an opportunity. By recognizing the need to sacrifice, you can better pinpoint your priorities. You can more clearly understand where you’re willing to make the biggest impact. And what you’re willing to give up to get it.
Instead of thinking about what you want to accomplish this year, a better question might be: What do you want badly enough to sacrifice for?
And just what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it?