“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” – Jim Carrey
Tim Ferriss always asks his podcast guests who the first person is that comes to mind when they hear the word ‘success.’ Derek Sivers gave a deeper answer than most.
He said that person for him is serial entrepreneur Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Group, which is responsible for Virgin Atlantic airlines and Virgin Records, among other ventures. But he gave a caveat on this definition of success:
We can’t know [about success] without knowing a person’s aims. Like what if Richard Branson set out to live a quiet life, but like a compulsive gambler he just can’t stop creating companies. Well then that changes everything and we can’t really call him successful anymore.
Despite outward appearances you can never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life.
It seems like it’s harder than ever to be happy with what you have these days because social media and technology make it so easy to compare what you have with what others have. For some this can be inspirational but for many it’s merely depressing to see others succeed where you aren’t.
Having people to look up to can be helpful, up to a point, but you never really know what a person’s motives are or what their true level of happiness is. Some of the richest, most successful-looking people are also the most miserable.
People can get so consumed with what success looks like for someone else that they rarely bother to figure out what it should look like for themselves. I’m just as guilty as anyone on this, so I’m constantly reminding myself that the grass isn’t always greener. This is easier said than done.
The sweet spot is knowing when enough is enough in terms of contentment and happiness in your own life and accomplishments.
Success in life should be very personal, yet it seems that our society is dead set on using other people’s definitions of success. That’s a game you can never win.
Trying to measure yourself against other people’s career, job title, salary, investment portfolio, house, car or anything else tends to cause more problems than solutions.