If you were to achieve the level of success you see on social media or the cover of Forbes, would you know what to do with it?
When I see a celebrity like Jay Shetty, a former monk and modern purveyor of wisdom who became a worldwide phenomenon in his late twenties, I wonder if I’d know how to handle his position.
Before social media made the world one interconnected social ladder, one might only compare themselves to those of similar age in their hometown.
Now we’re constantly fighting an uphill battle by comparing ourselves not only to our friends and those in our immediate sphere, but to the entire planet and those at the very top of their respective fields.
Society’s expectations to succeed weigh heavy on our shoulders and we’re subconsciously led to think that it isn’t enough just to be a living, breathing, beautiful being of light with gifts to move at their own pace. We feel we must always be doing more to get ahead.
To achieve this lofty goal of becoming the next millionaire in their twenties, we sacrifice happiness by throwing ourselves into a career we’re not in love with and maybe don’t even enjoy.
While it could very well be necessary to challenge ourselves and work in different fields to find what does light us up, we must make sure we’re seeking success for the right reasons.
“One of our biggest challenges in today’s world is the pressure to perform big, right now,” says Shetty in his book Think Like a Monk.
“Many of us feel that if we haven’t found our calling and risen to the top of our fields in our twenties, we failed. Putting all of this pressure on people to achieve early is not only stressful, it can actually hinder success. According to Forbes magazine publisher Rich Karlgaard, in his book Late Bloomers, the majority of us don’t hit our stride quite so early, but societies focus on academic testing, getting into the right colleges, and developing and selling an app for millions before you even get a degree.”
Before the pandemic as a real estate agent in Los Angeles, I was friends with several young and hustling agents. We discussed business and got to know each other, yet I feel we hardly scratched below the surface of who we really are. I wonder if they were truly happy.
I was unaware of what the job truly meant to them. It was likely different than what it meant to me.
I don’t know if to them, success meant money, happiness or fulfillment; they could have been hitting their stride and making good money in their early twenties, but money doesn’t guarantee happiness.
As an agent, I watched a video by world-renowned business coach Tom Ferry that changed my entire perspective of success. This lesson serves as the foundation for my decisions and where I choose to allocate my efforts in this instrumental stage of life.
As a young man Ferry asked his mentor the age-old question:
What can I do to be successful right now?
His mentor thought about it and gave Ferry a better question to ask:
What can I do right now to become somebody worthy of success?
Don’t start thinking about money until you’re at least in your thirties, his mentor told him. Make enough money to live, but focus on becoming the kind of person worthy of the success you dream of.
Find What Makes You Come Alive
I’m incredibly grateful to have met some very wealthy and influential people in my life. From the outside looking in, they seem to have made it.
But it’s strange. As I get older and question what I truly want, I recognize they don’t have the thing I increasingly long for: meaning. Some are in their forties, fifties and sixties when they suddenly realize it’s time to discover who they are.
This is an extreme generalization to say that all wealthy people are lost and have sold their souls to get there. Of course, countless are fulfilled and use their wealth to better the world.
But this is what I’ve noticed with many that I’ve met. They’re good people, but underneath the facade, something is missing. It’s easy to think if we work hard enough and achieve traditional success, we’ll be happy.
But there is no get-rich-quick, or better yet, a get-happy-quick scheme. This is falling into the trap of expedience, which psychologist Jordan Peterson describes in his transformative book 12 Rules for Life. He writes:
“Expedience is the following of blind impulse. It’s short-term gain. It’s narrow and selfish. It lies to get its way. it takes nothing into account. It’s immature and irresponsible. Meaning is its mature replacement. Meaning emerges when impulses are regulated, organized and unified. Meaning emerges from the interplay between the possibilities of the world and the value structure operating within that world. If the value structure is aimed at the betterment of Being, the meaning revealed will be life-sustaining.”
Do What Is Meaningful, Not What Is Expedient
We must first set out to discover what matters to us before even thinking about success. Meaning comes from sinking your teeth into the long game, welcoming the slog of personal-growth and relishing every step of your journey.
Put up your blinders and focus on what you can do to be somebody worthy of future success.
As difficult as it may feel, pay no attention to those at a similar stage who seem to be ahead. We never know the inner battle somebody is dealing with, even when it appears they have it all figured out. Peterson writes:
“Meaning is the Way, the path of life more abundant, the place you live when you are guided by Love and speaking Truth and when nothing you want or could possibly want takes any precedence over precisely that. Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient.”
When you speak the truth, your individual truth, you’ll discover what success means to you. When you’re guided by love you’ll find your way; even if the path is dark, you’re alone and there’s no end in sight, you will find your way. When you walk this path, you will find the answers to the questions burning in your heart.
When you walk this path you are successful, not by society’s standards, but by the only standards that matter. You’ll feel it in your soul. No recognition or admiration or follower count could mean more than that.
It may not be easy to imagine what life may be like in our fifties and sixties. We want immediate success so we can enjoy it right now in the way that a twenty-five-year-old would. Yet according to statistics, our peak earning years are between our forties and sixties.
While every season of life bears unparalleled importance, our twenties are meant for experimenting, failing and enjoying the gift of youth. Let time takes its course; focus on becoming the type of person worthy of future success.
Five Essential Questions to Ask Yourself
What does success mean in your own eyes? Look inward, and start asking these five fundamental questions that Tom Ferry poses:
What is my purpose?
Write it down, and ponder it often.
What are my innate talents that I can build upon?
If you could do this thing day in and day out with pure enjoyment and ease regardless of making money, what would you spend your time doing?
What are my values?
When you assess your values, what is most important to you? What are the fundamental principles of your life that won’t change depending on the circumstances? What do you truly value?
In five, ten, twenty years, how is the world experiencing me?
This one profoundly resonates with me. It doesn’t only mean on a macro level. How is the world experiencing your gifts, your light and your values in your day-to-day interactions?
Who would I be if I was already there?
If you had the success you desire, who would you become? Do you like that vision? If not, start changing it now.
The old model of how the world worked went like this: If you do a lot, you have a lot. When you have a lot, you become happy.
In this model we grind and throw our happiness away, enticed by the notion that the harder we work, the happier we will be down the road.
The world is changing. Life isn’t meant to be enjoyed once we become successful. It’s meant to be enjoyed every single day, and that can only come from within. When we’re constantly trying to get ahead we lose sight of what’s right in front of us, the possibility to be.
Be in the moment and live every day like it could be your last. Enjoy wherever you are in life right now, slow down, and see it as part of the ride.
When you focus on letting the day’s energy flow through you from moment to moment, you will naturally do what fills you up.
The world will experience your energy and value if you are focused on becoming the best version of yourself. As Jay Shetty says in this encouraging video: Build a life, not a resume.
When you are naturally doing and adding value, the haves will come. This doesn’t just mean material haves. It’s the meaningful relationships that come from being present.
It’s the joy of self-discovery and seeing every day as a blessing and an opportunity. It’s the contentment and peace of knowing that what you have is enough. It’s surrendering and being open to new experiences. That’s when growth happens. That’s when you discover who you are.
We must open our eyes and wake up from somebody else’s dream. We must find what makes us come alive.
What does success mean to you?