The 5 Levels from Survival to Significance

Are you aiming for Significance?


When I took the decision I was going to build a successful life and business a few years back; I had great enthusiasm. I was on fire! I was highly motivated. I took risks. Failure was not an option. I knew I was going to change the world. It was only a matter of time…

This was all good – for a while. Eventually, as my somewhat naive enthusiasm waned, I began realizing that this climb would be tougher than I first imagined. Indeed, moving up from Survival to Significance is arduous. It is not done overnight, and it will require everything that is in you.


There are five stages that people who start with nothing have to go through in order to build a life that matters – a life of significance.


Unlike the game of Monopoly where everybody starts with $1,500, not all of us start with the same advantages or opportunities in life. Some of us begin below the bottom rung, while others are blessed with a great beginning, such as having wealthy parents who may provide them with the tools to, at the very least, skip the first step, which is survival.



This is the starting point for many in the world – including myself a couple of years ago. A great percentage of the population is living paycheck to paycheck – 78% of Americans to be exact.


Although this is the starting point, this is where most people remain for most of their lives. Why? Because most people in survival mode have just accepted their fate. They have accepted their lives and are not leading their lives. “It is what it is”, is their motto. “Life sucks and then you die”, others say. Very few use the survival stage as a stepping stone. That’s because the survival stage is like standing at the foot of a mountain before the climb, looking at the top, and thinking, “This is too hard. I’ll never make it.” As a result, most in survival mode pitch their tent at the foot of the mountain and never begin the climb. They get discouraged before they even attempt anything. As the late Zig Ziglar once said:


“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

– Zig Ziglar



For those among us who are blessed with a good beginning, we get to skip the survival part – which is the hardest to overcome mentally. What do I mean with a good beginning? Well, this might be having parents who have good income and who can afford to pay for your schooling. For others, it may mean having parents who own a company, and who entrust the reins to their children. This might enable you to skip the first two stages. For yet others, it may simply mean to find your passion young and to be able to pursue it while never looking back – which can also yield some great results. Either way, this means a much quicker route to (at the very least) the level of stability.


At this stage, people have passed the struggle of survival. They stopped having too much month at the end of their money, and are faring okay in a stage where their income is adequate for all their expenses, family vacation, and some money aside to brace for potential emergencies. They are mostly debt-free and want to keep it that way in a very delicate balance between income and expenses.


While not super comfortable, many choose to pitch their tent there. They reason that this is as good as it gets. They don’t dare to take unnecessary risks because it might jeopardize their semi-precarious situation. They count their blessings and few try to grow further. The danger of the stability stage was well summed up by economist Hyman Minsky:


“Stability leads to instability. The more stable things become, the more unstable they will be when the crisis hits.” – Hyman Minsky, economist




For many, the security stage is often mistaken for the success stage. The security stage is very appealing. It often equates with the nice house, the nice car(s), the nice trips, eating out in nice restaurants, and nice money in the bank. It’s a nice stage to be in.


Financially speaking, it is very secure (hence its name), and it provides more than its share of good times. It is often the stage where many professionals settle and pitch their tents – understandably so.


Security, for the most part, is a stage of financial success. Many find some fulfillment there, but not all. The potential problems with this stage are usually lack of time freedom and unfulfillment.


Let me explain…

Many at this stage have traded in long hours of study and hard work for… security. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it may leave some of its members in want of “What If’s”. There is a French song that Tom Jones reprised called “Le Blues du Businessman” (I Would Love to Change the World, i.e. The Businessman’s Blues) that sends shivers down my spine whenever I listen to it. It expresses the plight of many in the security stage. In the original French version, the successful businessman says these poignant words:


“I’m successful in business
I’m successful in love
I often change my secretary
My office is at the top of a tower
From there I see the city below
From there I control my universe
I spend half my life in the air
Between New York and Singapore
I always travel in first class
I have my secondary residence
In all the Hiltons of the Earth
I can’t stand poverty

At least are you happy?

I’m not happy but I look it
I lost my sense of humor
Trading it in for business sense
I made it and I’m proud of it
In fact, I only have a single regret:
I’m not doing what I wanted

Well, my friend,
In life, we do what we can,
Not what we want…

I wanted to be an artist
To be able to perform my act
When the plane lands on the runway
In Rotterdam or in Rio
I wanted to be a singer
To be able to scream who I am
I wanted to be a writer
To be able to fabricate my life 
I wanted to be an actor
To change skin every day
And to be able to think I’m handsome
On a big colored screen
I wanted to be an artist
To have the world to remake
To be able to be an anarchist
And live like a millionaire 
I wanted to be an artist
To be able to say why I exist


So, here is the secret plight of some in the security stage: some of them are unfulfilled. They have money, but not purpose. They have many things, but they wonder if they themselves matter. They have possessions, but no real joy. They are often surrounded by people but lack the time for relationships. Alas, they have ‘arrived’… financially. Like T.D. Jakes once said:


“You can be successfully wrong.” – T.D. Jakes



In an article by the Wealth Research Group, they stated that 98% of the people die without ever achieving their dream (wealth research group). In the context of this here blog, it would mean that they die in the first three stages of either Survival, Stability, or Security. That’s 98% folks!!!


I believe success is, in part at least, achieving one of your dreams. I know that I have spoken much about finances from one stage to the next, and yes, they are relevant to success. Nevertheless, money is not the end-all-be-all of success. In my Kindle book, Thriving on Purpose – 8 Stepping Stones to a Successful and Fulfilled Life I quote Jim Rohn, the late American business philosopher. He gave, I believe, the best definition of success that I have ever read. Here it is:


“If a guy says, “Hey, I’m soon cashing it in and I’m heading for the mountains. I’m going to live in a little cabin, live off the land and feed the squirrels.” If he goes and does that, guess what—he’s a smashing success. Why? He’s doing what he designed to do and pulled it off. You can’t say, “No, no, that’s not successful.” That is the epitome of success—giving a design to your life and pulling it off to make progress in the direction that satisfies you.”


And so it goes that only 2% of people pull off “giving a design to their life and pulling it off to make progress in the direction that satisfies them.”


The reasons for this are many, but I think we can boil it down to just two.


  • Some either become satisfied prior to attaining real success (Stability & Security), or they never start to begin with (Survival). In other words, many just choose to ‘pitch their tent’ at the prior three levels.


  • The rest quit on their dreams after too many failures. The price tag of success can be quite high. Not everybody is willing to pay it until the very end. Sometimes, the price just becomes too high and people get discouraged and quit.


But for those who persist and never give up, the sweetness of being successful is a crown to be cherished and proud of, while never to be taken for granted. If that is you, congratulations! Whether you are feeding squirrels in the mountains or running a multi-million dollar business; if you have attained the success you were aiming for with all your heart, soul, and mind, you are part of a select group of only 2%! Success, true success, is extremely fulfilling and gives a great sense of purpose to one’s life, but there is more…



The greatest and most significant (pun intended) man who ever lived said this:


“After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” (Mark 9:33-35)

This is the basis of building significance: putting others before self.


In a great article for Success Magazine, John C. Maxwell listed the five main differences between success and significance and encouraged people to pursue significance. Why? Because in doing so, you will inevitably cross paths with and enjoy success. Here are those five differences:


Motives: With success, my motives may be selfish; with significance, my motives cannot be selfish

Influence: With success, my influence is limited; with significance, my influence is unlimited.

Time: Success can last a lifetime; significance can last several lifetimes.

Focus: Success asks, “How can I add value to myself?” Significance asks, “How can I add value to others?”

Reward: If I pursue success, my joy is the result of my success; if I pursue significance, my joy is the result of others’ success.


Full article here: Success VS Significance


Those who have left their mark on history as people we love and admire have done so because they pursued significance. They wanted to help people, not themselves. They gave of themselves, no matter the cost. In many instances, they poured their own lives out in sacrifice to others. Some became rich, others not, but all of them were fulfilled in their calling. All of them added value in one form or another to many, many people and impacted their lives at a deeper level.

Significance ALWAYS leaves a legacy.



One of the best examples of significance is Mother Teresa who is well known for pouring her life out and saying:


“God has called me to be faithful, not successful.” – Mother Teresa


So, these questions remain for you dear reader…


  1. What stage are you at?
  2. What are you doing about it? And finally…
  3. Why?


Maybe you're where I was at a few years back. Maybe you're standing at the foot of your mountain, looking at the top and wondering if this is worth it, or even possible. I assure you: it is both worth it and possible.


Will it be easy? No. Will you feel like giving up at times? Yes. But life is only worth living provided we move confidently in the direction of our dreams and build a legacy of significance in the process.


If you're at a level you dislike right now and wish to climb higher, I can help. I am all about helping people to climb higher in faith, life, prosperity, and leadership. If you'd like to find out how I can help you to move from survival to significance, simply message me on my Facebook page at:


Be blessed as you make it your decision to become significant.


Sebastien Richard



1 comment

Mary Therese

Mary Therese

Thanks a million, I am creating some content on finding and pursuing purpose and this write up has been a great assistance to me.

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