I stumbled upon a quote an internet entrepreneur–I’ll call him Mr. Pomp for the purposes of this blog, but I’ve taken a liking to calling him Napoleon to my family –who had managed to luck out a few years back with a successful company turnover, and that quote got me to thinking. Immediately after I read it, I turned to Buffy and said, “I guess he doesn’t realize that different people measure success differently. His version of success, in my eyes, would be a complete failure.”
Chances are, he would considers me a complete failure, but something tells me if he were a fly on the wall for a lazy afternoon in my living room, surrounded by all the things and people I love, looking at the backyard at the greenery and the crystal water of the pool, my dog licking my toes, sipping a cup of hot tea while watching it rain (I love rain) and realizing this is an average WORK day for me, and if Mr. Pomp could feel what I feel inside of me in those moments, he might just envy me a little bit–just a bit, you know–the next time someone is trashing him on some website, or he’s popping a pill to stay awake while 50 different people are all wanting a piece of his ass, and then popping another pill to be able to shut off his brain at night to go to sleep. Sure, some days, he probably loves his life and thinks he’s successful, but I’d venture to guess if he ever slowed down enough to really think about it, he might realize he hasn’t been measuring success very accurately.
But I’m sort of digressing…
A couple of weeks after reading him talk about his supposed ‘success’, I was talking to my friend and assistant editor, Jennifer Walker (buy her book! It’s good!), telling her that money isn’t what anybody REALLY wants. She, like so many others, initially balked at that statement, but she, like I think you will too, realized what I’ve known for a few years now: It’s really not money that anybody wants. For Jennifer, I think what she’d probably would like to have is a nice little (but not too little) house, play with her horses, have all her bills covered with some extra and be able to write whenever and most important WHATever she wants. Heck, sounds sort of like my measure of success, minus the horses. I love them, but really don’t want to have one of my own. See how I talk about her like she’s not even here? Oh, wait, she’s not. Hummm… oh, well, did I mention to go buy her book?
Back on track – Money should absolutely not be used as the sole measure of success, if it should be used as a measure at all. I’ll be the first to say it shouldn’t be, but then, I’ve also been blessed to see some amazing things that can be done with money. More on that in a minute, before I lose track of my thinking here (too late).
SUCCESS: What REALLY Matters
Back to what I read from this ‘successful’ businessman, who has quite a few ‘haters’ and the majority of the people who are fans are more scared of him or looking for how they can ride on his ‘success’, never realizing how unsuccessful he really is, in the scheme of things. Basically, he said the only reason people hated him was because they were not as successful as he was, did not have as much money as he had, did not live in as nice a house as he did and did not drive as fancy of a car. He continued on bragging, basically, at least in my opinion, about all the things he has that he says he ‘shoulnd’t have’, because he doesn’t ‘deserve them’.
Well, I sort of agree with him on that point: he doesn’t deserve them. Then when I see some of what is involved in him getting those things, I realize, well, maybe he does.
A miserable person with all sorts of ‘things’ is not more successful than a person with ‘enough’ who is happy. Now, granted, it’s possible to be poor and happy at the same time, but being financially insecure is draining and it’s hard to be comfortable and truly feel successful when one is struggling to pay bills (boy, do I remember that – been there, done that, and couldn’t even afford to buy the t-shirt). My point is age-old: money doesn’t buy happiness, and happiness has nothing to do with income.
What Do People Really Want?
I suppose there are some people who really think they want money. Typically, those people really want something that money provides them: security, freedom, power, control, safety, etc. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, per se. What a person does with these things is much more important than their desire for them.
But the point here is, not everyone needs a bank account with a couple of million bucks or more in it and a high-paying income to feel secure or safe, and in fact, some people who do have big bank accounts actually don’t feel secure or safe for various reasons that might be due specifically to having that high bank account.
Something I wrote in a novel, “Those who are the easiest to control are those who have the most to lose.”
What people want varies from person to person, but usually it’s to be happy, to feel secure, to have all of their needs easily met (food, clothing, shelter, basics) and most of if not all their wants met. Not everyone in the world will want the same thing. Ryan has dreamed of owning the truck he has right now for years when he was a kid (or at least, one like it). I look at that truck and think, “Ugh.” Shoot, it’s hard for me to even get into it (I swear the thing must be seven feet tall), much less enjoy driving it, but he loves it. That’s what matters. It cost him about 60k. My car, on the other hand (though I rarely drive anymore, if at all, due to health reasons) is 10 years old, only cost me 10k when I bought it, and it is exactly what I wanted. I’ve owned it for about eight years now, and I still love it. I’ve looked at other cars, could afford to buy other cars, but I truly am perfectly content with the one I have (but admit it needs a wax job right now!)
I’d say both he and I were ‘successful’ in terms of our vehicles, and yet, our circumstances are nothing alike. Which one of us was successful? Guess that answer will vary depending on your own point of you and what success looks like to you.
WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT?
I’ll bet you have a friend who is really stoked about getting a big screen TV, and another who is really impressed with her brand new fancy laptop. Maybe you don’t care about either of these things, but your kids bought you a gardening tool that you’ve spent two weeks in the yard playing with. Maybe you envy your co-worker’s fancy diamond earrings, but in reality, earrings hurt you ears and even if someone bought them for you, you’d probably never wear them. Now, a diamond ring? Maybe.
The point is, no one person wants exactly the same thing as any other one person. Because of this, success cannot be measured by any one ruler either.
So don’t bother following someone else’s vision of success. As writers, we cannot look at the Stephen King’s of the world and say, “If we never sell as many books as he has, we are unsuccessful writers.” Neither can we look at our one contest win or one published work and determine that this equates a successful writing career. We must determine, before we begin walking the writing road, what our vision of being a successful writer looks like. Then, as we grow, change, learn and develop as a writer, we can constantly change our vision of ultimate success, with each level of success reached along the way.
The only downfalls would be never celebrating or recognizing our success along the path, and rather looking at success as a destination. Another downfall is, pretty much what this blog post is about: don’t use another person’s measure of success to determine how successful you are. There will always be someone who has more and there will always be someone who has less than you do. It’s what you have versus what you really want and need that matters, and even then, it should only matter to you.
As for Mr. Pomp and my Napoleon reference, the bigger they are the harder they fall is not always accurate. Sometimes, living with the life we manifested and created for ourselves is much more difficult than falling. One of the other downfalls for measuring success by someone else’s standards is that you also end up measuring failure by their standards too.