The True Meaning of Success

What do you do for a living? It seems like our lives are built around that question. We spend years in school in preparation for a career. Yet a lot of us are still lost. The older I got, the more I realized how much you are judged by your occupation, but why?

Sometimes, I get the feeling that money controls us, while it should be the other way around. Money can also create anxiety or depression if we don’t have it. When we use terms like “worth” to describe a human being, saying he or she is, “worth a billion dollars” we are creating a superiority complex. One may interpret this as “these people are worth more than me therefore, they are more important”.

If life was a book, then we are the authors. In this case, many would only fill the first page with stories like “Go to school, get a job, get married, have kids then retire. Some may enjoy that book. I don’t. Sure, it has a happy ending, but I like adventure. I’ve always been like that, yet many people still try to convince me that I’m doing it all wrong.

I’ve always recognized the power of money. Insurance, a house, and cars always come to mind. These things cost money. That’s why I understand the position of tolerating a job you hate to obtain these things. I just don’t believe I have to suffer to get them. In other words, I’d rather be working a job that I love that pays 40k, rather than a job I loathe that pays 200k. This is because my time holds more value than money. I have to be interested in what I’m doing. I would very much like to “earn a living” without forgetting to live first. Why not make a lot of money doing what you love? Why not you? Maybe because we are told that only special people can do that, and not everyone else.

I’ve worked plenty of jobs simply for money and I was never good at any of them. Some were easy tasks but I had no determination to do them. It affected me mentally and physically. I once worked at a factory and was given the opportunity to work overtime on a Saturday. I declined, telling my supervisor that I had a performance that night. He looked at me and asked me, “What’s more important, performing or your livelihood”? I told him that my livelihood was more important and still declined his offer. He couldn’t understand why I would miss out on an opportunity like that. Was I crazy?

Saturday came and went. Yet, I still remember that day. I had a great performance and I got to see great people. I wouldn’t trade those memories for the $100 that I would’ve earned that day. When I look back on my life, I will remember that day. If I would have worked instead, that day would hold no significance to me. These kinds of experiences are what makes life worth living. Therefore, he was right. My livelihood is more important because that’s what makes me feel alive.

To be quite honest, most of the happiest moments in my life were not based on how big my paycheck was. It was the experiences that I had and who I had them with that is significant. Money was just a minor factor in the equation. It didn’t necessarily make me happier knowing that I had it.

I’m thankful to have had elders to advise me on the matter. Some may see me following my passion and believe that it has been a waste of my time. Many even tried to convince me to make it a side thing. But it’s hard to treat things that you love as a “side thing”. It takes a good amount of time, energy, and focus. They also told me that it’s very rare for people to make money doing something they enjoy. I don’t blame these people for their way of thinking. They have more life experience than me. They have learned what works for them. I just don’t believe that my story is the same as theirs.

Often times, when others advise you on what to do, they are telling you what they would do if they were you. Even though they are not, they become frustrated if you decide to go a different route. They can’t understand why you won’t use a similar method that worked for them or that they know to work. They may tell you that you are not being realistic about your goals.

I consider myself a realist, but I think that people who tell you to be realistic are basing things on their own thought process. They do not have the same view as you, so they tell you your plan is flawed. So realistic by whose terms? Theirs or yours?

Whose life are you living? I had to answer that question before, and I decided to live for myself. I decided that if I only have one life, I’m going to be responsible for it and spend it with purposeful action. I will live it by my own terms. I will live a successful life.

So what’s the true meaning of success?

There is none, and some may not even care if their life is “successful” or not because success is whatever you define it to be.

We all have our own ideas of what success is. My idea of success is freedom. Freedom to do the things that I enjoy without limitation. For example, if I want to travel somewhere, I can. I don’t have to worry about vacation time. Having the freedom to travel is even more important than traveling itself. That’s what success is to me.

Success is not going to a job every day and doing the same thing repeatedly for 8 hours. I have tried that before, and I know that it isn’t for me. Others may not mind those types of jobs and view success as simply earning good money. Some may view success as being alive, healthy, and having a place to sleep.

Who am I, or you, to tell someone that their life isn’t a successful one? Why do we assume if someone is earning more money than others, they are more successful? Why can’t one simply just enjoy what they are doing regardless of salary?

These are questions that I continue to ask as I go through my journey. I may not have all the answers, but I do know that it is not healthy to live your life where your fear limits your ambitions. I don’t think that you should be doing what you are doing simply because everyone else is. I also recognize that I have made mistakes. The biggest mistake was not following my heart as much as I should have. I should have trusted myself more. In that instance, I have failed, but never again.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with chasing a job strictly for a good salary. However, don’t expect everyone to have the same mindset. People that decide to take risks and follow their dreams recognize that it will be a challenge, but also recognize that it is more challenging living a life of regret.

Also, don’t look down on others because they don’t have as much material gain as you. Maybe they are happy with who they are and don’t equate money with success.

Lastly, if anyone judges you based on how much money you have and no longer want to associate with you, then good. They probably weren’t meant to stay in your life anyway.

Do what you want to do in this life because you only get one. Do it now. Don’t worry so much about if it will be a successful one, and focus more on if it will be a good one.

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