This article is based on my best-selling book: The Art of Significance.

Law 1: Practice Obedience: Instead of Free Will Agency

Do you aspire to live a successful life or a significant one?

Successful people get what they think they want. Significant individuals want what they get, so they don’t die with their dreams and music still in them.

There was a time in my life when I thought success was the ultimate goal…to be “the best.”

A path marked by fame and financial reward tempted me as I pursued a career in American football.

And then a catastrophic injury suffered during practice threw my sense of self-worth, and my future, into doubt. Without the promise of achieving “greatness,” what was my purpose in life?

Through the pain and agony of a fourteen-month paralysis – both physical and mental – I learned my first lesson in living a life of significance rather than greatness.

I learned the universe was organized by a set of Twelve Highest Laws, the first and highest of which is Obedience. All other laws and principles are governed by it. When I obey a specific law I reap a specific reward, and when I disobey a law I suffer a specific consequence – especially in resiliency, rehabilitation, and finding my ‘why’.

It was through this journey of reconsidering my path that I began to consider the Twelve Laws of Significance and that my purpose was to be a servant in life to my community, colleagues, friends, and family.

I go into detail about these laws in my book, but for now, let’s take a look at the first law…

The Law of Obedience

What does it mean to be obedient?

You might think of subservience, an imbalance of power.

In reality, following the law of obedience empowers you to achieve your greatest potential.

As we see in many religious traditions, people have sensed this since the beginning of recorded history. The biblical Adam, for example, the first human creation, was held accountable for his obedience.

Every soul to follow him has given a choice between exercising free will – or agency – and obedience to natural laws. And we were all born with a conscience to help us navigate this choice.

Throughout history, several fundamental character traits have been established as the foundation of our being.

Leaders who dedicate themselves to these core qualities will realize the potential that emerges from this one ubiquitous law. I call them the five faces of character.

The Five Faces of Character

1. Humility

Humility is often mistaken for weakness in the business world. But those who are humble aren’t meek, unassuming, self-deprecating, or downtrodden.

They are individuals who have the strength to learn from others. Humility requires submission to a higher authority, a willingness to be taught or guided on a path to significance.

The humble person isn’t seeking personal gain. They are genuinely dedicated to the welfare of others, and they’re willing to yield control in order to achieve it.

2. Integrity

We can define the second character in the obedience trait, integrity, as doing the right thing when people are watching, but more importantly, doing the right thing when they aren’t.

Throughout your personal and professional life, you’ll be presented with opportunities to make a small sacrifice or go the extra mile. And nobody will be there to see it.

If you’re striving for “greatness,” this lack of acknowledgment won’t satisfy your appetite. But if you’re living a life with quiet integrity, the act of charity, goodness, or generosity will be its own reward.

This will also mean choosing to do the right thing when the wrong thing would be more comfortable since nobody would be a witness…and this is where the third character trait comes into play. 

3. Self-discipline

Integrity and self-discipline are intertwined.

If you want proof of that, you need only consider the American pilots who were shot down in Vietnam, including Senator John McCain.

They were tortured, starved, and interrogated relentlessly. But without fail, when one of the captives was dragged out of their cell for interrogation, they shouted, “RWH!”

Return with Honor.

When all those soldiers had left the base on that fateful day, they believed they possessed everything they needed to survive a disastrous situation as part of their uniform…

Helmet, gloves, steel-toed boots, protective flight suit, and a survival vest carefully stashed with a radio, a compass, a knife, flares, and a small-caliber handgun.

Stripped of these resources, all they had left was their honor. To maintain it and endure the relentless torture and abuse, they had to wield their greatest internal resource: their self-discipline.

They survived the ordeal with their integrity and honor intact.

4. Sacrifice

Self-discipline leads us inexorably to the concept of sacrifice.

To sacrifice is to relinquish something valuable or precious, often to accomplish a greater purpose.

In baseball, the sacrifice bunt is a strategy whereby a batter seeks to advance a teammate. They give up their opportunity to make a base hit in order to bring home a runner who is in a better scoring position.

The player’s personal statistics might reflect a lack of base hits, but they’ll also reveal an impressive RBI – Runners Batted In. Like an assist in hockey, they’re as valuable to a team as any individual accolade.

In thinking about sacrifice, we must acknowledge that something’s value is determined by what we are willing to surrender to obtain it.

In our universe governed by moral law, we can choose success – achieve “greatness” – and get what we want right now and pay for it afterward.

Or we can choose significance and pay for it first, before we get it.

5. Order

When we practice humility, integrity, self-discipline, and self-sacrifice, we follow regimens that generate order in our lives— the fifth face of character required of obedience.

By order, I don’t mean robbing your life of spontaneity or individual expression.

Establishing order in your personal and professional life simply requires that you acknowledge the natural patterns that give stability. They allow you to remain humble, act with integrity, exercise self-discipline, and make sacrifices willingly.

You may feel like you’ve got to impose order on your life, create rules and routines that will give you a grounding, impose some consistency.

I suggest to you that the rules already exist. The law of obedience is a universal law. Once you’ve identified it, the principles can be your guide – your beacon.

(Learn more about obedience by attending my leadership training found here.)

The Law of Obedience is liberating

The law of obedience isn’t a constraint…it’s a beacon.

If you’re seeking “success,” as though it’s merely an end that justifies the means, you’ll likely find yourself living a hollow life.

When you follow the law of obedience and emulate these five character traits, you’ll build a life of significance. A life that will bring you fulfillment and joy and elevate those around you.

If you’d like to learn more about living a life of significance, you’ll find a more in-depth conversation in my book, The Art of Significance, attending one of my virtual keynote speaker events, or hiring me as a Life Coach. 

Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you:

Trust others as if life depends on it — because it does
Why Should You Learn Public Speaking?
5 Steps to Learn Perseverance


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