When I began seeking out and interviewing people I considered to be successful, I learned something huge right away. My definition of success was wrong.
As a 20-something who had grown up financially lacking, I assumed that the primary measure of success was money. The more you had, the better your chances at a great life. Sure, you could be happy without money (we were a happy family) - but REAL success started with cash.
The successful people on my original list of interview targets had a net worth of at least $1,000,000, and most of them made more than that every year. It took a while, but when I began to get access to them, I jumped in with both feet to discover their secrets. What was it that gave them such an amazing and full life? And could I create the same for myself?
After the first five interviews, I had an uneasy feeling but couldn't identify the source. Once I had 10 interviews under my belt, the source of my discomfort glared in my face. Some of these people were miserable!
They were men and women, executives, entrepreneurs, and world-class salespeople. They were also hollow, spiritually bankrupt, often chemically dependent, and without any healthy relationships. All they had was money! Their entire focus was on beating someone else, on being the best! Not their best, mind you. The only thing that mattered was that they were on top.
There were also those who genuinely and sincerely wanted a great life for themselves and their families, but couldn't seem to make it happen. They were locked into their businesses and making money to the point where they had deferred the rest of their lives until "some day." I had been taught to admire these people because they were willing to delay gratification for the sake of hard work. But being close to them and looking in their eyes made me feel something other than admiration. I pitied them.
I had wanted to interview them because I coveted their lives and lifestyles. I saw them as having the missing pieces that always eluded me, and assumed that those secrets would change it all for me. They did... but not in the way I expected.
Fortunately, some of those people were more than I thought they would be. Financially prosperous, physically healthy, enjoying great relationships, spiritually growing, and pillars of their communities. Watching them reshaped my entire concept of success.
Talking with this truly successful group gave me a sense of wholeness and power. Their lives weren't picture perfect, but their approach and responses to life were considerably different than anything I had ever witnessed. For them, it wasn't "money first and all other things will follow." They loved life before and during their ascent to financial freedom. And that had a lot to do with their attitude toward their chosen professions. Especially the entrepreneurs.
Let me explain...
Those of us who have the itch to start our own businesses are very susceptible to a myriad of influences. But our reasons for starting a business are pretty consistent across the board:
- Personal freedom.
- Unlimited growth.
- The chance to earn more money.
- We can't stand being bossed.
- We want to make our own schedule.
- We want a lifestyle change.
- We want to make a living via something we're passionate about.
Part of the entrepreneurial condition, though, is that we see how much work a business requires and feel compelled to rise to the challenge. Tell me it takes 16-hour days and I'll put in 18. Tell me it takes sacrifice, and you won't believe how much I'll give up!
We dig in and start building like crazy, because when our business is up and running, we'll have all the things we started the business for. But then, one day, we look up and see that the business we dreamed of owns us. There's no room for the life we wanted because the business consumes all of our resources.
This is what gave rise to the myth that we need to separate our business and personal lives.
It's a myth because, as an entrepreneur, you don't have a business life and a personal life... you have a life. So instead of building a business that will hopefully give you the life you want, you need to determine the kind of life you want and build a business to support it. That's what the truly successful people I interviewed had done.
What do you want your life to look like?
Without that question answered, you are operating in a vacuum. There is no sense of direction to base decisions on. Everything is given over to chance. If you plow forward without determining where you want to go, how will you know when you get there? Life becomes a series of reactions and longing for something different. "Some day" never comes.
So take the time today to answer the question: What do I want my life to look like?
Then evaluate your chosen career path and see what does and doesn't line up. I'm not suggesting that you make immediate changes (unless they fit), but do begin to make decisions that will put you on the path to the life you want.