As a child we developed a warp vision of success, and mine was up there. growing up in the 70s and early 80s I viewed successful people as those who were famous nationally, and then around my area those who had the nicest car. My parents drove a 1973 Ford LTD station wagon (yellow) affectionately called the ambulance (another story) but I saw one neighbor with a blue Corvette, and another with Cadillacs. In car magazines you would see the Ferraris of the world, but no one in my town had one.
I had previously written about the notion asking a child what they want to be when they grow up is a dumb question, and the answers are what kids see as successful and or exciting jobs. I wonder if you asked a kindergarten student what determines success at that age what their answer might be. The downside of information being at our fingertips could result and the current generation saying success is having one million followers on the current social media app. That is no worse than my childhood idea of success.
Why this idea of success was in a conversation with some people there was a discussion of someone who made a fortune and retired a lot younger than I am right now and how successful. He was bright, hard to quantify if he brighter than me, but that was not the question that came up, the question came up is why aren’t you rich like he is? Note this is a group of adults and we resorted to our childhood definition of success, money.
I shook off the conversation with some comments, but I realized that still is the definition. The notion of having good friends, being able to give back and trying to be a better person is not the definition of success. None of those are as measurable is how much money do you have in the bank, what kind of car you drive, did you raise your children right or how many Armani suits you have in the closet. Being the nutcase I am, I had to think about it for a few days. I stared at my ceiling and thought what I should do now to become successful.
The definition of success in the dictionary is “accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” It does not say anything about money or fame. The Atlantic has a good article on the history of this. Looking at the change it was not till the mid 19th century that the US started to value money and move towards a capitalistic society. Thus, one hundred and seventy years it continued to evolve, including the 1970s shareholder value, and the consumer generation of the 80s. So, the definition of success continued to be linked to money.
An updated definition might include for human’s desire to accumulate wealth. Linked In has an article on 9 reasons why money does not equal success, but at falls apart starting with number 2 and 3. Money cannot buy family is number 2. But Family is a lottery, you are born into a family, and it is possible that your parents could have died young, or not be the greatest. You as a person may not want a family. Number 3 states Health is your most important asset. What if you are born ill or get some chronic disease, and if you like health to success those people can’t be successful? And often can money afford you to be healthier? The article does make other good points, but again put stipulations on the definition.
Is successful being happy? A Princeton study states that making $75,000 (usd) as the amount of money that allows you to provide for your family and making more does not add to your happiness. A study at Harvard I mentioned before that started in 1938 found that happiness is not about money either. Success at work does not make you happy, it is the connections you make. If you read my series on team building, you would understand that building a team is what I believe makes me a success at work.
But wait that breaks the definition also by adding happiness to the definition. If it is simply reaching a set forth goal, then success is seen just by you (unless you tweet or create a TikTok video) by the goal you set. It is also not something that ever ends, as your goals in life may change, or add more as you reach one. I do know that just getting this written won’t change opinion, just like the Princeton Study and the Harvard Study, as the shift started in the 1850’s towards a capitalistic society is still running its course. For me, I find watching Bruce Lee’s Game of Death and realizing that the lessons I learn guide me yet towards another lesson and thus another goal.
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This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book. With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path. I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content. I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip. I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog. AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information. Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.