Monday, February 5, 2018

Does Success Mean Different Things to Different People?

When I was young, the image of success was a portrait of JP Morgan.  Not sure why, but the fact that he had a vest, a tie pin and a pocket watch with the chain across the front of the vest, seemed to me what looked like success.  I know growing up, some people thought success was being able to own a specific car.  As a young adult, success for me was being able to provide a home, feed my family and the ability to ensure my children’s education. 

I can list a series of people that have had, and continue to have, extremely well in running / owning business and in turn made some serious amounts of money.  The same can be said for certain athletes.  I can probably list a bunch of professions and the same initial comment would hold true.  The only potential difference would be the absolute value of the money.  While we would all like to be an Andrew Carnegie, a Richard Branson or a Michael Jordan, the truth is that they are the exceptions, not the rule.  I believe that the definition of success is unique to each of us, what our personal goals are, how we deal with the situations before each of us and where we ultimately want to end up.  While it would be great to spend a day in the shoes of the aforementioned people, I personally would not know what to do with unlimited money (but would have fun figuring it out), how to live on a palatial estate (seems lonely, but would have same awesome band parties and places for people to crash), or managing a different social life (but would be able to afford personal assistants). 

Looking at my grandfather, his father came to America to provide a better life for his family than they had back in their little village of Skalat, where persecution was not unusual.  Even though my great grandfather only had his family here with him a short time before he died, he was successful at accomplishing his goals and changing the path for his family.  While in Hong Kong, I learned over the years, that many families have maids from the Philippines:  they tend to the household, babysit the children and in most cases, cook for the families they live with.  They are paid an amount, that by US standards we would think as low wages.  However, most of the maids are successful, in that based on the standard of living differences between Hong Kong and the Philippines, they can provide support to their families (which remain in the Philippines) in terms of housing and schooling, then retire to a comfortable lifestyle. 

We are taught to use money as a barometer for success.  That is an absolute measurement about one potential facet of our lives, one that is constantly being hammered home to us through media, like the Housewives of _______ (fill in the blank), any Kardashian show, realtor shows on selling mansions, etc.; having massive amounts of money equals success.  I remember as a kid, the only show that stood out showing wealth was the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”  The truth of the matter is that it would be great to have to never worry about money, but to realize that, it takes hard work (i.e., adding value to others), commitment and living a lifestyle that matches what we can afford.  I remember my grandfather telling me that it was important to work hard early in life and reap the benefits as you get older, because if you do it the other way around, you become too old have the strength and fortitude to work hard later in life.  Coming from a small village, being a part of the massive immigration in the early 1900’s, living in a tenement house, and working hard to provide for his family and live the American dream, his words still ring true today.