What is greatness?

Someone who has greatness distinguishes themselves from others, sets themselves apart and is truly eminent in their field.

Or as it is defined:

Greatness: The quality of being great, distinguished, or eminent.

Sometimes, when you see a truly amazing person speak or watch a mind-blowing TED talk on YouTube or witness a show-stopping performance, you feel a rush of inspiration run through your body. You wonder, “How on earth did that person become who they are today?”

We know greatness when we see it.

You may be the type of person who takes that inspiration and runs with it. Or you may be the type of person who looks on admiringly, assuming you’ll never be like that. Ask yourself:

  • Are you a leader?
  • Are you a follower?

Here’s the thing: You do NOT have to be a leader to be great. Greatness is essential for both leaders and followers.

How can you achieve greatness with everything you do? Can you be a great follower? A great leader?

What if there was a formula to create greatness . . . in anyone?

A Story of Greatness:

That is the question Lewis Howes has asked himself for most of his life. As a kid he was the rejected, awkward student who struggled in school and had no friends. But once he discovered his passion and talent for sports, he began to channel all of his energy and frustration into athletics.

That led to many achievements in football and the decathlon (including breaking a world record), but it wasn’t enough for him. He still wanted to be great.

After a career-ending injury, he found himself recovering on his sister’s couch, broke and clueless about what to do next. But he again channeled his frustration and energy into learning new skills and built a multi-million dollar business as an online marketing consultant in just a few short years. But it wasn’t enough for him. He still wanted to be great.

He sold his half of the company to his business partner and went back to the drawing board. This time, he started to think beyond himself. What would make a truly great impact on the world? He realized it needed to be focused on serving other people.

So he started a new kind of school, which he called The School of Greatness. In the form of a podcast, he began to interview the best and brightest minds in the world about their insight on what makes greatness.

Today, he has published hundreds of episodes, has millions of downloads and shares the microphone with superstars like Tony Robbins, Julianne Hough, Arianna Huffington and Scooter Braun.

I was honored to be on Lewis’ podcast a few months ago, listen to the episode here:

As a summary of the lessons he has learned in greatness so far and as a way to give back to an even bigger audience, he wrote a book, The School of Greatness, sharing the top 8 things he has learned to achieve greatness.

What can we learn from Lewis’ journey? Here are 8 ways you can achieve greatness:

Greatness Tip #1: Create a Vision

Think about what you want to create in your life and how you want to live – as if anything is possible. Without a crystal clear vision of what you are going to accomplish, you won’t know where to start. If you need to try on a few ideas before you commit, go ahead, but take action and start creating something you are excited about.

Greatness Action Step: Learn my Science of Goal-Setting where I will walk you through a step-by-step way to create your vision.

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Greatness Tip #2: Turn Adversity Into Advantage

Adversity serves as a choice point for each one of us.  We can choose to play into a victim mindset and give our power away, or we can use challenges as opportunities to learn, grow and become stronger. As soon as you realize you have a choice in adversity, you also realize you are in control.

Greatness Action Step: What do all top performers know? They are able to turn averageness into greatness. Dr. Stan Beecham works with world renown athletes and has found patterns in how great achievers think. 

10 Patterns of Top Performers

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Greatness Tip #3: Cultivate a Champion’s Mindset

An unshakeable belief in yourself and your potential may sound like a tall order, but it’s 100% possible to create. In fact, it’s essential if you want to graduate from average to great. Reconnect with your strengths, your passion and your ambition and cement those into your mindset.

Greatness Action Step: Stop and take stock of everything you learned in your life. Have you ever felt greatness? A few years ago I sat down to review everything I have learned. Read mine and do the same for yourself.

20 Key Lessons I Learned

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Greatness Tip #4: Develop Hustle

If you are going to be great, you have to be willing to do what average people are unwilling to do. Hustle means sacrifice, sweat, hard work, long days and crazy determination – but it’s also worth it. When you hustle you are in good company; it’s how all the A players got to where they are.

Greatness Action Step: Anyone who has achieved greatness knows how much went into their journey. But we don’t always see it. Here is the most personal talk I have ever given. It is the story of my hustle:

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Greatness Tip #5: Master Your Body

Despite all the noise about what the best workout and diet truly is, it’s less important that you find the perfect rules to follow and more important that you are conscious of your body and health everyday. The truth is, that your body is the vehicle that allows you to do what you were born to do. Once you respect that, you’ll find the discipline to take care of your body and constantly work on improving it.

When we think of greatness, we often think about outward behaviors — making to do lists, achieving goals. But what you put in your body is just as important. Do you eat great food? Have a great diet? 

Greatness Action Step: Learn the science of eating. Your food is fuel for your great works. In this resource guide we analyze how you can set your eating habits up for success. For example you will learn:

  • How the best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.
  • How food can equal pleasure.
  • My favorite food hacks.

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Greatness Tip #6: Practice Positive Habits

We are all experts at forming and keeping habits – some of them are good and a lot of them are bad. A huge part of greatness is using our ability to form habits to our advantage. It takes a lot of energy to make decisions all day long, so the more good habits you can create, the less energy you have to spend on deciding what to do for every part of your day.

Greatness Action Step: Get motivated to change your bad habits! Learn my 10 steps for getting motivated (using science!)

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Greatness Tip #7: Build a Winning Team

Playing solo (AKA perfectionism) might have gotten you this far, but it’s not going to get you to your full potential. The best and biggest accomplishments are never achieved by a single person. Invest in the right kinds of relationships that complement your weaknesses and allow you to focus on your strengths.

Greatness Action Step: Learn this INCREDIBLE team-building psychology. If you are on a team or lead a team you must read this team science resource guide.

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Greatness Tip #8: Live a Life of Service

You can achieve greatness by just focusing on pursuing your own selfish interests, but it’s not going to feel great. You’ll discover quickly that greatness which only serves you is empty. Build giving back and serving others into every part of your journey and you’ll find fulfillment and happiness long before you reach your goal of greatness.

Greatness Action Step: Do a kindness challenge! We have created 3 kindness options for you:

  • The 5 minute favor
  • The 1 hour favor
  • The 1 day favor

Kindness options for every situation. 

People who achieve true greatness never feel ‘done.’ Cultivating a life of greatness means constantly pushing, learning and growing. You are already on your way to greatness!

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

4 replies on “8 Ways to Achieve Greatness”

  1. QQ

    Vanessa,
    Its usually the messy parts in the middle that are the hardest, its not getting started per se, its keeping the intensity and work during the middle periods that are the most challenging and where most give up.
    This is mostly where the challenges will be; the most significant ones, the frequency of challenges, the diversity of challenges etc. Often, success comes to those who get through the turbulent middle. Its very very difficult to do though; as you articulated in your video of having a meagre traction in the first years before spikes. Its those periods that make or break the endeavour.

  2. Donna Hamilton

    Hi Vanessa!
    I was at the virtual Global Leadership Conference where you spoke and I became an instant fan! I read all of your emails, check out your website regularly, bought your book and I tell all my friends about your support, insights and motivation. I enjoy your professional and fun manner – you are articulate, brilliant, and loving soul. Thank you for coming into my life.. I’m staying tuned:)

  3. Adithya Baiju

    Thanks for your work. I am researching about greatness for my educational purpose. Your worked helped a lot…. 🙂

  4. Jordan darels enyaru

    Yeah thanks very much for the work you have done am so amazed by that and am happy for the lesson cause I have learnt alot of things on how to be grateful and I also do admire to join your service I am Jordan from Uganda
    Am in form six grade 12 doing physics, economics, mathematics and information and communication technology

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