"It's easy to say you value and cherish your relationships and that they are important to your happiness and a meaningful life. You’d certainly pass a written test on the topic. But being true to the relationships and people in your life is not easy."
I’ve recently had the daunting task of running the admissions committee for Stanford Law School. It’s not an easy job. There are thousands of bright young optimists who dream of (or at least write essays about) changing the world and remedying injustice, spending the weekend saving small countries, curing cancer, establishing a chain of organic-farm-to-halfway-house communes, and collecting a Nobel Prize or two — all while leading deeply fulfilling personal lives.
Like many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these applicants want to succeed and to matter and be part of something valuable.
One recent, impressive candidate confessed that she was driven by “that big fear: the fear of being inconsequential.” This desire to matter, to be on the inside of important firms and causes, can motivate us to do good and to succeed. But, as I once pointed out to a law school commencement audience, this desire to matter also creates a few risks. If we’re not careful, it can also lead us to make predictable mistakes that can bring unhappiness to us and to people we love and care about.
Examples from the world of business and my own personal life, examples I’ve shared with my Stanford law students, help illustrate these risks of relevancy.