There is a lot of nonsense thrown around when it comes to achieving success. It’s very difficult to distinguish from what’s true or false, especially if it’s something we’re raised from childhood to believe.
You really have to begin to question the validity of these claims. If you find yourself repeating a “fact” and you have no answer when asked why that is, you need to re-evaluate your views. You will also find that you make a lot of enemies if you open your mouth to speak about the issues, but hey, that just comes with the expanded knowledge.
First, let’s define success because obviously it is different for everyone. Although this isn’t my personal definition of success – mine being about passion – many dictionaries cite success as “the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.”
Many people do think of success as being about money and status, so I will address success as if that was the only definition, for the sake of this article.
Here are 6 outrageous lies you probably have been raised to believe about success (money, honor, etc.)
1. College is the ONLY path to achieving success
“Without college, you’re going to wind up on the streets homeless and begging for money!”
Here is what we’ve all been raised to believe from childhood. The golden formula to success works like this: you go to a good school, you get a degree, you’ll get a good job, and you’ll make tons of money (notice the rhyme.)
Being raised in a traditional Asian family, you can bet that I heard this A LOT as I was growing up. I still hear it all the time.
Here’s the thing, college is not the only way, it’s not a guarantee, and some may even argue that none of us should go! James Altucher is an interesting figure on this subject.
Although I agree with a lot of what he says, I would add that it is a decision that people need to think about a lot more. Certain jobs definitely do need a degree (surgeons, doctors, etc.,) but people are fixated on the idea that everyone needs a degree to make money.
What’s more realistic is that college is more of a gamble where you can either get a degree to make enough money and pay down your college debt, or you end up with tons of debt without a full-time job to help pay it down. It isn’t a universal answer that guarantees the former.
2. You need goals and a BIG picture
“If you don’t know what your goals are you’re going to end up nowhere. You’re going to be wandering forever and you won’t achieve success.”
Leo from Zen Habits had an interesting idea called No Goal. I didn’t start using this term until I came across Leo’s article, but I sure as hell have been living through this concept for a lifetime.
The issue I have with goals is that they’re just so limiting. Set goals force you on a narrow path where there is one objective and only certain steps you can take.
I was telling a friend about this idea and I gave him an example using a fictitious entrepreneur. I think the story went pretty well considering the fact that I told it on the fly and made the details up as I went along.
It basically went along like this:
Imagine I am an Entrepreneur who needs to raise $35,000 by the end of this year.
So now I start brainstorming. Okay, so how am I going to make this $35,000 by the end of this year? Brainstorm. Brainstorm.
I’ll get on Kickstarter, pitch my idea. I’ll crowdfund. Maybe I’ll call in several favors. I’ll do a bit more freelance here and there. If I do X amount of freelance work in the next few days I should be on track.
Let’s see… If I do all this then I’ll make $_____ a week. Okay, I’m on mark. I’m making $3,000 a month so I should be good.
Then I stop. Why keep going? I’m already on the right path and if I keep up the momentum I’ll hit my projected goal of $35,000 in 12 months.
That’s where you screw up if you think like this. Your actions were too driven by this one, focused goal. All you have to do is raise that amount and you’re done. You calculated how much work you’d have to put in. You calculated when you can stop.
Instead of working with that passion and going far beyond, you feel satisfied with the progress and refuse to go any further.
Do you see the issue with that?
What I personally do is write everything I have to do on Evernote and I just do them. I don’t have a big picture in my head and you would think that’s detrimental, but it’s actually the opposite.
I don’t have any limits because of goals. I just go through the motion and the rest falls together. It’s very calculated and smartly done, but I don’t consciously stress over the big picture because I’m too busy doing.
3. It’s all about whom you know
“I can’t be successful, start a business, or __________ because I wasn’t fortunate enough to be born in a family of well-connected individuals.”
Have you ever heard someone talk like that? It sounds so condemning! I’m actually insulted because I wasn’t born into a well-connected family either and it’s like saying I won’t be able to get anywhere because of it!
Yes, connections are “everything” and networking is infinitely more important now than ever before. Hell yes, I swear and live by connecting with others, but that’s where most people miss the point.
They look at it as if you’re screwed if you weren’t born into connections. You can make these connections. Through conscious effort and a little “social hacking” you can become a well-connected person.
Then you can have your contacts help you on your mission to achieving success, whether that means passion or just wealth.
4. Success will change you
“Oh, I don’t want to be wealthy. Money is going to change me into a greedy/bad person.”
Isn’t it easy to believe that money or success will change you as a person? I can understand how that may be the case for some people, but that’s more a display of their character than a rule.
You know, I think that if I won the lottery then I wouldn’t tell a single soul. Not my family, not my closest friend, not even my trusty journal. Okay, I lied. I would tell my journal. But that is only because others may treat you differently.
Here’s the thing. If you’re the type of person that even considers the possibility of becoming changed because of wealth then you most likely have nothing to be worried about. Just the acknowledgement of that possibility shows a lot about your character.
Many people are on a bloodthirsty hunt for wealth and to them, money is life. Those people change. That doesn’t mean the green will make you any different.
Be responsible and be conscious of the power that success can bring. If you do that, I guarantee you won’t forget how to be yourself.
5. If you want it bad enough, success will come
“You just have to want it bad enough. The rest will come later.”
I’m sorry, I really am. People who know me can personally assure you that I’m a very optimistic person, but I have to say wishing hard won’t guarantee you anything.
I actually wouldn’t even just label myself as an optimist. Nah, that term is too overused and it has a slightly negative connotation. You can call me… Call me a calculative optimist.
Look, you do have to possess that fiery passion and desire, but it’s not enough to just want it. You actually need talent, a hint of luck, and that passion burning inside of you to propel you towards achieving success. There are tons of other factors but the unfortunate truth is that having only heart won’t bring you to riches.
You know what you can do? Aim for as high as you can, but be realistic. Maybe you won’t be making $50,000 a day doing what you love, but you should still strive for happiness by doing what you love anyway.
My goal and idea of success is to live my entire life making money doing things I love, doing things that don’t feel like work. I don’t strive to be a billionaire and I’ll be happy with money that will keep me alive and comfortable enough.
Redefine success and you can find it anywhere. If you think of success through traditional lens then I’m sorry, but only the desire won’t get you there 100% either. You still need the rest of the equation (luck is one of them) to get to money.
6. Success will make you happier
“All I need is some more money and I’ll be happy forever.”
Without a doubt, people living in extreme poverty would be much better off with more money. There are the basic essentials that need to be met for them.
However, a lot of people living in first-world countries are still stuck in the mindset that they need more and more money. More money = more happiness.
I’ve talked before about how money only makes you happier for a short period of time before returning you back to normal. You are only going to adapt to that level of comfort and you’re going to want more and more.
The way you combat that insatiability is by eradicating your desires through wanting what you already have and by redefining success. Make achieving success more than about making money and receiving admiration from others. View success as doing what you love doing, regardless of wealth.
Question: What else would you add to this list? Do you disagree with any of my points? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Image credit: Tracy Olson