Home The Path From Survival to Significance

The Path From Survival to Significance

user profile picture Chris Martenson May 18, 2019
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I was blown away by many of the presenters at our recent Peak Prosperity seminar. But Joe Stumpf left the biggest impression on me.

Joe is a good friend and mentor of my business partner Adam Taggart. Eager to introduce the Peak Prosperity tribe to Joe’s intellectual and motivational firepower, Adam invited Joe to be a featured speaker for our event. Thank goodness he accepted.

Simply put: Joe is a force of nature.  At age 54, he participated in Kokoro Camp which exactly mirrors the infamous Seal Team “hell week.”  Along with dozens of much younger men, most in their late teens and early twenties, he put himself through living hell. While the majority of the entrants didn’t make it to the end, Joe became the oldest person to ever pass the challenge.

In 2016 he set out to train for and win his age class in the CrossFit Games.  Only 20 people world over make the cut.  He trained 5 days a week, sometimes 2x per day, ate a strict paleo diet … and … made the cut.  One year later he was ranked 12th in the world, and 9th in the US for his age class.

When Joe decides to do something, he sets the goal and then figures out the processes necessary to get him there.

His most significant work in the world is as a life coach and mentor to real estate professionals.  The lessons he shares with his tribe apply anywhere, and they apply and work just as well for ours.

(If you want to watch Joe’s inspiring session from our seminar, as well as all the other presentations from the 3-day event, for the first time ever we’re offering a video of the entire seminar, which you can purchase here.)

Out of the many things Joe brought that day, the part I’d most like to share with you today is his Four-S framework which captures a person’s stages of growth as they move from Survival to Stability, then on to Success, and finally to Significance.

When you’re in Survival mode, you’re only concerned about making it through the day.  You’re juggling too many bills against too little income.  An emergency (like an unexpected job loss, accident, injury, etc) could actually put your welfare in serious jeopardy.

Stability happens when your income matches or even slightly exceeds your bills.  Stability happens when we finally take responsibility for creating our own security.  Our lives are relatively calm, we have good relationships, and our days are relatively calm.  When in Stability, we have the time to lift our heads, look around, and begin to plan and build our way to Success.

Success results when we apply ourselves and begin to approach our work from a place of service and joy.  We have become the master of our niche, and deliver exceptional services or products as our monetary works.  The money just happens, opportunities are abundant, and there’s usually more of both than you can use at any one time.  Many people aim for success and stop there, because they haven’t thought through the next stage – Significance.

Significance means operating from a place of love and service, touching people deeply, and being the beacon that draws other people towards significance, just as you were touched and mentored by others before.  Significance is more about the being than the doing.   Who are you?  What are your gifts, and what animates you passionately?

As you can tell, Joe’s model aligns just brilliantly with our own work over the years, and with his permission, we’re adopting it here to overlay across our own eight forms of capital.  Together, they provide a very tidy framework for asking where you are in different areas of your life and then setting goals to move you through each stage of development.

Adam created an extremely useful matrix of exactly this, which he piloted with the audience at this year’s seminar. The feedback we received on this new framework as a valuable way to zero in on your next actionable priorities, has been extremely positive.

For example, you might self-diagnose as being in survival for social capital because you don’t really know the people around you all that well.  Maybe you just moved or, like me, are more of an introvert and recharging means staying home.

But you might be at the far end of Success financially and have begun to wonder what Significance might look and feel like there.  How will you use your ample funds?  What does the world most need at this time?

I raise all this because I’m personally excited to share this new framework, and because it comes not a moment too soon.  The stresses are building, the strains are apparent, and no matter how many times the media says the economy is doing great implying that we must be doing great too, most people know this isn’t actually the case.

As we’ve reported on extensively, the levels of sadness, depression, nay demoralization, concern, worry and even dread are at all time highs and rising.  People are unhappy and there are only three things you can do about it.

Your Three Choices

The first thing you can do is to drop out.  You can decide that the news is just a bummer and go on an information fast, tune out the din of bad news, and focus on things that make you happy.  Or maybe take a different approach and numb out.  Drink more, play video games, maybe get hooked on opiates.

You might buy a cabin in a beautiful spot and just live there, secure in the idea that there wasn’t much you could do in the first place, so you might as well be content and nourished.  There’s no harm in that, right?

Many have already made this choice and I don’t worry about offending them here because in all likelihood they won’t be reading this in the first place.

The second thing you could do is to join the party.  If the powers that be are going to pour money into the markets to print up some happy high stock prices so that people will borrow and buy more stuff then you might as well join in.

Grab the dollars as fast as you can, plow your energy into growing some sort of a business, and maybe travel the world using the proceeds from your success.  Become a powerful defender and advocate of the status quo.  Who knows, it might be possible that some technological solution to every one of today’s problems and predicaments can be found?  If so, by joining the party you are helping to make that become a reality all the faster, right?

The third option is to enter the fight.  Recognize that there’s a huge predicament before us and that you have but one life to live.  Find your gifts, and put them fearlessly out into the world without any hope that success is an assured outcome even if you try really hard.

There’s a great transition underway and you might as well get in there, roll up your sleeves, and do what you can.  This is the choice that I made and I fight each day in ways large and small.  I leave snarky comments on Twitter for no good reason besides they might amuse someone else, and you never know, they might let another person out there know they are not alone.  Like this one:

And I read and write and create new content each and every day as I try to show people the data that says we’re on the wrong path, and then encourage people to take actions in response.  Being steeped in this work day after day sometimes feels like a fight, with a very nimble and reactive entity in the ring who is quite intent on foiling my plans.

The Power of Your Presence

I was struck hard during the interview with Stephen Jenkinson when he said “every older person needs to be ready for the day when a younger person walks up to them and asks them two questions.  When did you know?  What did you do about it?

When did you know that the world was headed towards the place it now finds itself?  When did you know that the insects were disappearing, the oceans dying, and ancient 2000 year-old trees were quietly expiring?

Even more importantly, what did you do about it?  Did you undertake a flurry of political activism?  Did you banish superfluous consumption from your life?  Or did you do nothing and look away, deciding that this was not a battle you wished to face?

There’s really no right or wrong answers here, but the young are  anxious and they want to know; how did you handle yourself, and make decisions when faced with the enormity of it all?  They want to know what life lessons you have for them, some useful gleanings that you can share, to both ease their minds and help carry their burden.

Through it all, the most powerful thing you can share with anyone, but especially the young, is your own clear presence.  That’s it.

Just your full attention without your chattering monkey-mind solving puzzles in the background while you nod at what you hope are the right moments.

Simply focus and listen with your whole being, absorbing the words and the buried meanings all at once.

It’s astonishing what simply listening to someone can do.  I’ve been on both ends of that process and I know how powerful it can be.  The impact can be enormous when we fully engage and share ourselves fully with another.

I was similarly struck when I heard an addiction expert say that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection.  That’s a powerful statement.  So much of our epidemic of opiate use, as well as the self-reported loneliness and isolation people are experiencing begins with a primary failure to connect with self.

Going further and extending this outwards, the depth and quality of connections we forge with others are quite often no deeper than our own inner connection to self.  As within, so without.

Which means the first step in forming deeper connections is to do our own inner work, explore our past wounds and excavate our hidden limiting beliefs that we simply know and accept as “that’s just me.”

It can be said that most people who have achieved success know themselves pretty well, but everybody who gets to significance has done some deep inner work and knows themselves really well.  So well, in fact, that they can use their mind and ego as tools, which they can set aside if and when necessary, such as when deeply listening.

Learning to set aside our egos, rather than be driven by them, is perhaps the most important undertaking of any adult’s lifetime, but is absolutely vital for those seeking meaning, purpose, and significance in their lives.


So my questions to you are these:

  1. Where in your life do you have or offer Significance?
  2. Would you like to get there?
  3. If so, do you know how?
  4. When did you know?
  5. What did you do about it?

Adam and I will soon be publicly announcing Peak Prosperity’s Inner Circle, for people who are aware of the Three E’s predicaments we face and want to be part of a close knit tribe of people who have achieved some measure(s) of Success and/or Significance and are seeking to develop those further.

Keep an eye out for that announcement, as there’s a careful selection process and only limited spaces are available available.

By combining our 8 Forms Of Capital framework (financial, material, living, social, knowledge, time, cultural and emotional/spiritual) with this new Survival-to-Significance development path, you can quickly assess where you are and what you need to do to achieve your life’s goals.

For many of us our life’s goals were wrapped around being financially successful but now that we see the direction of things, realize that there’s so much more that needs to be included.  For some this has meant a complete redirection of their work, where they live, and their entire lives.

Whatever sized bite of the apple is right for you, we’re here to help support you as you bring your personal gifts to bear to create a world worth inheriting (our mission) or whatever your personal spectacularly audacious goal happens to be.

In Part 2: Creating A World Worth Inheriting, I lay out where my personal focus is right now, given the inspiration I received from Joe and his Four-S model. There’s an opportunity I’m particularly excited about, in which a like-minded group of Peak Prosperity members can join forces to build resilience in a way that delivers impact as well as a lot of fun.

And I see opportunity for each of us to step more concretely into informed ‘elder’ roles, where we can help guide the thinking and actions of those close to us as well as those younger than us (an increasing amount who are waking up to the broken prospects the status quo is leaving them).

At a time when our media and authorities want us distracted, compliant, and isolated, this moment in time demands that we be the exact opposite of those things.

The good news is that we still have time and options in this story. The future is not yet written.

Get your own house in order first, and expand with brilliant compassion from there.  That is my invitation.

It’s time.

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access).