One of the biggest factors we face in our effort towards financial independence is separating what our definition of success is, from what those outside of our life may view as achievement.
In this blog, I am going to cover what the difference between financial “success” and financial “achievement”, are.
We live in a world that is constantly bombarding us with stories of wildly successful companies and start-ups, overnight millionaires, and those who have a lifestyle most of us will only ever be able to dream of.
While it is absolutely ok to have those dreams, it is equally important to define what dreams are actually important to you. I am sure we have all had those disappointing moments where you arrive at your destination, and the journey there all seemed like a colossal waste of time.
I will never forget my trip to South Dakota as a child for this very reason. There were so many promises of grand scenery, good food, and some fun tourist attractions along the way they said. Mt. Rushmore was one of those places you always saw in the history book or on TV, how could it possibly disappoint?
Well, the whole trip was a giant disappointment. Mt. Rushmore was pretty underwhelming, you really just look at a giant rock with some faces carved in it, that’s it. Mitchell Corn Palace (the World’s Only Corn Palace by the way) was more of a cement building with some corn on the walls. Wall Drug Store you ask? A glorified gift shop with some free donuts I could have easily eaten at from the Mini-Donut Truck in my hometown.
While none of these items achieved the hype they were built up to have, the overall trip was a success merely by being able to visit the Badlands National Park. I had never seen something of that magnitude up to that point in my life and was truly amazed by the scenery.
Rarely do events or things in our lives check all the boxes, life isn’t perfect. But, having focus on the right things in life can make it much more enjoyable. If I would have gone into this trip not being told how cool Mt. Rushmore is, maybe it wouldn’t have been so disappointing.
The same is true with our financial lives, and before we get to that, lets get down to the nitty gritty of what success and achievement actually are.
What is Success?
Success, as defined by the dictionary, is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”.
I love this word and its definition for many reasons, but here are two of my favorites:
- It uses the word “accomplishment” instead of achievement. Accomplish simply means to complete or finish, which we will soon see is different from achieving.
2. It revolves around purpose. I am guilty of it too, but many times in life we tend to just “try to do more” for the sake of doing more rather than doing what we enjoy doing. The rushed culture we live in has blurred the lines between needing to achieve in order to be viewed as a success. The “American Dream”, right?
Success, in my own opinion, is being able to follow the path you are most content with on a daily basis. Being content involves removing the external measures that we let creep into our lifestyles, our goals, and what choices we make on a daily basis.
As you can see in the definition, “accomplishment of an aim” is more important than hitting a particular point, or milestone. What you are aiming for may be drastically different than those around you and it certainly can change over time.
We will come back to this a little later in this article after we have defined achievement, and can draw the line between the two.
What is Achievement?
The dictionary defines achievement as “a thing done successfully, typically by effort, courage, or skill”.
While the definitions may sound somewhat similar, there is a subtle difference we need to key in on before tying it into the theme of your personal finances.
- Achievement is simply completing a thing, or something. It involves crossing a particular measure to say we have completed it.
2. When we are dealing with measurement or validation of what we have completed, it must come from outside ourself, and is based on a combination of fact and opinion.
Achievements or lack thereof are used to make distinctions between members of a group. This could be easily explained with levels of performance, education, or other status-based acknowledgements that we are familiar with.
Since it is a distinction, it will be visible to others around you and can contribute to the external pressures we feel. This shifts our aim we heard about during our definition of success.
As you can see in the definition, it also has the word “successfully” right within it. If we go back to our definition of success, we now know that there is a particular aim that we are trying to measure ourselves against when it comes to achievement.
You can achieve financial success, without demonstrating financial achievement.
This is possible if you measure your own finances against your own aim, versus what those around us, or in our social circle deem should be your aim.
When success is not achievement:
I have to give credit to a manager of mine I had early on in my working career who gave me this lesson, as it has been one of the most impactful pieces of advice I have heard.
“Even Hall of Fame baseball players don’t get a hit 2 out of 3 times. If you bat .300 (So 3 hits of 10 at-bats for the non-baseball crowd), you’re going to be regarded as one of the best players to ever play”.
What I really learned from this was, what to make of the 7 at-bats we ultimately fail in. For baseball players, they still love the game they are playing, and if you’re at the pro level, you are still getting paid to play the game you would probably play for free even when you strikeout. You have to enjoy the failures as much as you do the successes.
The same should be true of how we approach our finances. Play the game you would play, even if it means you lose the majority of the time. It is much easier to stomach failure when we are doing something we truly enjoy doing.
If we go back to the definition of success, this is following and accomplishing “the aim”. We may miss the target from time to time, but we were still heading in the right direction.
Going back to our baseball analogy, even if you bat below .300 and don’t achieve making it into the Hall of Fame, it doesn’t mean you won’t have a successful life and doesn’t mean you can’t be a champion. There are plenty of players who have been successful for a long-time, have won multiple World Series titles, and will never even be considered for the Hall of Fame.
The same is true of your finances. You may not be one of the greatest financial achievers that are put up in the headlines, have the private yacht or jet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a champion and enjoy the journey.
You define financial success, and you absolutely have the ability to chart your course to what would be a financially successful life.
I’ll leave you with a few questions to think about until next week. My plan is to wrap up these more thought provoking blogs in a couple of weeks, and launch into a series on playing your own game when it comes to investing.
Here’s your questions to think about until next week:
- What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without? Regardless of if it meant giving up everything else that is non-essential, what would you make sure always happens in your life?
2. What areas of life are feeling like a waste of time when they don’t come out as expected?
If you want to share your thoughts, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org , I would love to hear it!
Until next time, keep working towards harmony in all areas of your life!