How Do We Measure Success?

success, wealth, measuring success, money, personal finance This post that I’m about to write is a pretty deep one. I suppose for today we can call it the personal deep journey. When someone asks me this question call “Why?”, it completely boggles me. I look back at the direction in life which I took and wonder why did I take this direction? For some aspects of my life I have a clear answer to the “Why?” and for other parts of my life, actually a lot of other parts, I don’t have an answer to why I took this certain direction.

Very few things that I’m doing these days — including the businesses that I own, home that I live in,  or this blog that I write for — were a part of any plan.I didn’t plan any of them – honestly! How could they possibly be on a plan? I didn’t imagine them when I was younger. In high school I was solid with  “A” in computers and wanted to become a computer nerd. This dream fell apart after the first year of university when I dropped out after realizing that the program wasn’t for me.

My life has always been fast, but in the last few years it’s in overdrive. And I’m not complaining, in fact I thrive in my fast paced lifestyle, where sleep comes in spurts, you’re always on the go and you need to be prepared for whatever. Those who know me in real life can attest to my 60hr work weeks, they often wonder how I do it all. However, recently, as in a few nights ago,  someone asked me a question recently that really made me think: “How will you know when you’ve reached success?”

I have an idea of what success is, but than again success has a different meaning for everyone. And if you ask me whether I feel successful, the honest answer is “not yet.” By society’s standards, I am enjoying more success now than at any other time in my life, but I still don’t feel successful. This is what makes the question that was asked quite intriguing. If the ultimate goal is to feel successful, what is the measurement we should be using to achieve that feeling?


Is Money A Measure Of Success?

In modern society, the most common standard measurement of success is money. Our bank accounts indicated that and  that’s how so many people measure their success today. Imagine a high end networking event. A room full of executives and entrepreneurs, and the question that gets asked, “How many of you have achieved financial success?”. What do you think the answer would be? I think a majority, probably 7/10 people would answer that they’ve achieved some sort of financial success. And who’s to judge, maybe they did achieve financial success, while some other may be fibbing.

Out of the 70% of “financial successful”, how many do you think actually feel successful? There is a difference between financial success and feeling financially successful. I’m certain the percentage of 70% financially successful people, a mix between executive and entrepreneurs would drop down to less than 25%.

I’ve never been motivated by money. Ultimately I have to a sense of fulfillment of some sort in order to keep my interest. On the same note, I’m not against money, heck I love money, but I’m anything but motivated by it. Take this blog for example. I don’t make a boat load of money. I write a lot, do a lot of work in the background, run around conducting interviews and network in between, yet my hourly rate would probably equate to a little over $15 per hour (a good guesstimate). And that’s fine with me, I’m above minimum wage, so there should be no reason to feel unhappy.So, why do I  spend a lot of time on this blog with average return? Simply because I enjoy it. I’m not motivated by money that comes of it. And at the same time I’m fortunate for the side income generated from this blog.
I’ve always kept an eye on how much I made each year. And I’ve been keeping tabs ever since my first job at a very young age of 14. Fourteen years later I can proudly say that my income has steadily increased over the years.  Slow and steady. And I’ perfectly fine with that. Each year during tax season, my accountant makes a point to highlight the increase of my income from the previous year. And it never phases me. I don’t let it get to me. It’s just money after all. I’m not the type to get hung up on numbers. The numbers change hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and annually. And if money were the only measurement, we’d all have a number in our minds that, if we reached it, we’d stop working. And most of us don’t.
Circle of Friends

Some associate success with one’s circle of friends. How many friends they have, what they do and their power in today’s modern society. Certainly there is a connection between our friends and who we are. After all one of the best saying goes something like, “Who you’re with, that’s who you are.” But can we really measure our success based simply on the company we keep? We’re not all fortunate as Vincent Chase’s buddies on Entourage because they hang out with someone rich and famous. If I were to ask my self the question, “Do I hang out with anyone rich?” The clear and honest answer is NO. Sometimes the opposite happens. Sometimes spending time with someone who is perceived as “successful” can make us feel less successful. The irony is that regardless of how successful we think someone may be, we actually don’t know whether they truly are. Looks can be deceiving.

In the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with people I never imagined even meeting. I was fortunate enough to attend FINCON11 in Chicago to hear some of the most successful online entrepreneurs speak. For example, I’ll attend two solid events later this year, both whom happen to be in September – FINCON12 in Denver and Canadian Personal Finance Conference 2012 happening right here in Toronto. Am I stoked? Hell yeah! I will get to meet some fairly successful people and peers that I’ve enjoyed working with over the past few years. However, as much as I admire these people and their success, none of them define me or my circle of friends.
I enjoy people watching in general, including my circle of friends online and offline, and having the opportunity to ask them questions by learning from them. Though spending time with them doesn’t make me feel successful, their ideas and their thinking absolutely contribute to me becoming more successful, which of course helps me advance. So, no someone’s circle of friends does not define their success.
The Car They Drive
This one often gives me a good laugh. People look at the car that someone drives and equate them to being successful. Is this true? Absolutely not. Far too many people drive cars they can’t afford and the only reason that they’re driving that fancy car is due to the dirt cheap interest rates kicking around. Then there are those who get into a car, drop a nice down-payment and drive the car for the next four years. And do it all over again. It’s a vicious circle called car leasing. So, in the end they don’t actually own the car and it’s just a big image thing. So, back to the question; does the car that someone drive measure their success? I think not.
Someone’s Educational Background
Knowledge is power,but it is not the ticket to the top. It’s an accessory that is part of someone and not a defention of them. It’s like a woman having a Gucci purse to compliment her outfit. The purse does not define who she is or her attire. A certain amount of education is necessary to obtain a good career, but how often do we meet well-educated people lacking the people skills necessary to succeed in a certain industry. I meet people like this on weekly basis and refer to them as the book smart type. And then of course there is street smart. The side hustlers of today. Which one am I? The hustler of course. I don’t consider my self overly educated, especially with a college diploma. Just because I don’t posses fancy education, does not mean that I don’t admire educated people. I said it above and I’ll say it again, education is an accessory to someone.
We can not sit at the office nine to five and expect business to come to us, we have to market ourselves. And with education being so expensive today, a lot of people are opting for the basic post-secondary education. A simple university degree or college diploma to get them started in their desired career. For the modern entrepreneurs, education is secondary, to them it’s all about marketing them selves and being innovative at the same time.  Now think for a second, how often do you think that an Entrepreneur gets asked this question; “What’s your educational background?” Not very often.
So, back to the initial question, how do we measure success?
Here’s my two cents. Singularly education, money, cars and the circle of friends do not measure ones success. Success is measured with a combo of all the above four. I could have added more definitions of success, but to keep things simple I went with the above four. I enjoy the journey of hard work towards success, but feeling successful is what I truly desire. Having all the money and no one to share with is a pretty dull life. A solid educational background and driving a taxi cab in New York is surprising. And even though I admire nice cars, I know that they don’t define someone.
So, back to you now, how do you measure success?


  1. My yardstick for success is ‘The continual achievement of goals which are rationally worthwhile to the individual.’ For me it implies an ongoing process rather than an end game result. This is something within every single person’s reach. Without any goals to aim for you’re not going to feel successful, regardless of what you may have or have achieved at that point. Interesting post, thought provoking.

    • Drew,

      Thanks for stopping by.
      I do agree with you, it’s an ongoing process and not the end result.
      Glad you enjoyed the post.


  2. Very nice article Eddie,

    I have stopped considering success as a means to judge a man. I now consider how much struggle he has done. Its because we are all in different shoes. each of us has different challenges to overcome

  3. Hi Eddie,

    I have included this post at my site’s weekly roundup

  4. I think success is something when you achieve or accomplish something that you wanted to achieve or accomplish, but could not achieve or accomplish. Wether it is material, spiritual, personal, etc.