I always thought success meant one of two things: either (1) a person goes to work for a company, makes a lot of money, and buys nice things, or (2) a person takes a big risk, works for themselves, makes a lot of money, and buys nice things. Simple right? Want to be successful, just do one of those two things. This made sense to 16 year old me, 18 year old me, 21 year old me, and 24 year old me, but 26 year old me started thinking “wait a minute now.”
Mike Tyson is famous for (among other things) saying “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Well, I started finding issues with my plan of achieving success around my mid 20’s, once I crossed five full years out of college and working full-time. I started looking around at my bosses and management, and began thinking “do I really see myself in their shoes?” The answer turned out to be “no” more than it was “yes.” A house by the beach can only be so much fun if you are only spending two weeks out of the summer there because of how busy work is. Having a few kids and being a family man don’t really go together if you’re on the road half the year and working many late nights and weekends. With the traditional definition of success comes great sacrifice much of the time.
I don’t know why it took me 26 plus years to realize I could define success on my own terms, but I guess that’s better than realizing it at 60. Now creating your own definition of success is a lot harder in the real world than it is in practice. Social and societal norms are still ingrained in us. Being in school from from age 5 to 22 and then in the workforce thereafter will do that to most people.
I have tried to start defining success on my own terms. Success to me incorporates more than money and a career, the definition I had known for most of my life. My definition is definitely a moving target as things change throughout life, but right now success means time for relationships (spouse, family, friends), time for hobbies, time for experimenting, and at least some income to enjoy said hobbies and travel. Maybe you are reading this and thinking “that doesn’t sound like too crazy of a definition.” I don’t think so either. It’s all about balance. But balance is tough in a world where our jobs convince us to put them first above everything else.
Maybe this realization is part of growing up. Maybe with maturity comes the ability to call bullshit. Life is too short to live it based on someone else’s definition. Take a step back and try crafting your own definition of success.
What is your definition of success? How does that compare to the definition you have known for most of your life?