Called the “father of American literature”, Samuel Langhorne Clemens had many pen names, including Epaminondas Blab and Mark Twain. The latter name came from Clemens’ time spent as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi. The phrase “mark twain” was used to indicate that a vessel was at a sounding depth of twelve feet (2 fathoms).
Finding a sense of relevance in one’s life can seem like a daunting task. But perhaps the thought of becoming irrelevant is even more unnerving. Most people, including senior executives and other team members, spend a great deal of time finding, achieving and holding on to their sense of relevance. They are rather anxious to avoid becoming a “commodity” by looking for ways to uniquely stay ahead of the “crowd.” As one researcher commented, relevance is the fuel of significance. People find relevance in a host of pursuits: power; achievement; affiliation; intellect; and goodness knows how many other descriptors. And it is instructive to take note of the source of a person’s sense of relevance in order to interact more effectively with her/him. Research by Styrlund and Hayes suggests that building relevance can be taught. They put forth that the key four words to do so are: authenticity, mastery, empathy and action. To investigate further, their work is easily found on-line.
Born 186 years ago, Clemens acquired his sense of relevance by writing about topics that mattered to him throughout his life - human rights, slavery, racism, class barriers, education and psychology – subjects that are just as relevant today as they were almost two centuries ago.