It’s no wonder that we as a society are such consumers and create such financial issues for ourselves all in an effort to keep up appearances that we have money and are successful. You can’t go anywhere without seeing ads showing what success looks like, and therefore what we need to strive for. The bigger question that we forget to ask ourselves is, “What does success mean to us and who are we trying to look successful for”? It all seems to be relative though, driven mostly by how you define success. When you’re constantly looking forward striving for bigger and better and more, at what point do you declare yourself successful enough?
Then what measure do you use to determine “success”? Is it having enough free cash to do what you want with? Is it the “He who has the most toys wins” mentality? By those standards, I should keep the job I have now for many more years, and spend money like I have a good oil-field salary. Why can’t I have a boat? I love to spend time on the water, the kids are old enough to enjoy it now, and we can afford it. Check – we’re getting a boat! We should get some nicer cars too. Right now we can drive past people and they don’t realize the kind of coin we’re bringing home, not anymore. Check – we’re getting newer, fancier cars! Plus, we need something to pull the boat! Now that I have a boat, I don’t want to spend 1-1.5 hrs on the yard each week to save $25 and I like boating better, so we should get a yard guy. Check – we’re getting a yard guy! You know what, now that I think about it, I like eating out for lunch at the office. I’m tired of my home made sandwiches and chips and apple every day, day in, day out. Check – I’m eating out more! We also need to vacation more, because we don’t get a lot of down time to reflect on our “success”, so you know what, we’re taking more vacations!
Dude, now this is success!! I’ve got a nice boat, a better ride(s), no lawn worries, and I get to have someone else make lunches for me and they’re WAY tastier than my ol’ sandwich. Plus, I get to plan our next vacation for the end of the year and the ones for next year. Talk about living the good life! See, it’s pretty easy to measure success, just look at all our stuff. We have SO much stuff, we even have a storage unit now to hold our extra stuff. It reminds me of when Homer told Monty Burns he was the richest guy he knew, and Monty responded with, “Yes, but I’d trade it all for a little more.” So does more stuff equal “more success”?
What would it look like if I defined success by a different measure; a measure of time and freedom.
If I tell someone that instead of pursuing all of that, I want to quit my 6 figure job, give up the boat, give up ever owning a fancy car (goodbye BMW dreams), eating out all the time, and give up a “big, fancy house”, so I can try to live off of $50k/yr they’d tell me I’m nuts.Heck, I told myself that before I got on board with this whole lifestyle change we’re striving for. Honestly though, after reviewing our spending this last year or two, I don’t see why we would need to live on more. Yes, more money could be more comfortable, but I’m already comfortable now. Yes, we could feel a little more secure having a paycheck show up each week, but I’m okay with withdrawing money as needed from our savings, as per the plan. You know what I will get more of though? Time and freedom.
I can’t BUY that right now. Let me rephrase that. Right now, I am currently buying future Mr. and Mrs. SSC time and freedom by forgoing the boat, the BMW, a bigger house, and bringing my own lunch to work each day. We still vacation enough for me, and after our lifestyle change, we’ll have more time to do more of that. So I can buy time, but it’s in the sacrifice of current convenience and luxury stuff now. But what about being successful, because I’ve worked my whole life to be a “success”!
Seriously, I don’t know how you could be more successful than by choosing to dictate your life how you want to live it. For me, I want to spend more time doing more family things, and to paraphrase the great Winnie the Pooh, I want to do more “Mr. SSC things.”
Even more importantly, I want the freedom to do them when I want to do them. Not when they fall into an empty slot on my schedule and I also have the energy to do them. My current schedule has openings between 7pm and 11pm weekdays, weekends (sort of), and every other Friday (sort of). The sort of is a reminder that I still have “life things” to do like dentist appointments, car maintenance, house maintenance, errands, groceries, yard duties, and appointments for who knows what else, like haircuts, kids haircuts, kids dentists, kids birthday parties, dog things, and more. It’s amazing how easy it is to fill those days with things I’d rather not do in my “free time.”
In the end, it’s all about how you decide what success looks like to you. As the Grateful Dead put it, “sometimes we live no particular way but our own” and this rings true all over the PF blogosphere and life in general. We all have different ways we want to live our life, and we all have a plan in place to get to achieve those dreams. Some of us will get there sooner than others and some of us may never get there, although I hope we all get to where we want to be. But I guarantee that none of us will get there if we try to measure up to someone else’s definition of success.
What’s your definition of success? Do you have something you see as a success that others might think “wouldn’t count”?