What is success, and how do I achieve it?

What is success? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, success is any sort of favorable or desired outcome, or the attainment of wealth, favor, and eminence.

Success is a tricky beast. Taking a look at a past example I’ve used, let’s look at two people. One works at McDonald’s and has a cost of living of $15,000 a year. His salary amounts to $30,000 a year, so he is taking home roughly half of his earnings, or putting $15,000 a year into his savings account. Meanwhile, another person around the corner is making $80,000 a year.

At first glance, most people’s immediate assumption is that the person making 80k a year is more “successful” than the person working for 30k a year. But let’s look at the person making 80k a year. Do they have kids? A mortgage? How many cars? What is their cost of living? What if the person making 80k a year has living expenses of $75,000 a year between the kids, the mortgage, 2 car payments, health insurance, and all the other sundries. At the end of the year the person making 80k a year is only putting 5k a year away into the savings.

15k versus 5k. Who is more successful?

According to the official definition as per the dictionary, the person working at McDonald’s is more successful, because he has obtained the most amount of wealth at the end of the year, thus advancing his position more favorably than the other person.

These are purely examples, but it’s a valid reason when looking at why you should never attempt to judge whether another person is successful or not based solely upon the amount of money they make per year. A rather disappointing trend with many freelance writers on the Internet is to bash others who make less money than them, and brag about how much they are making on a per-year basis. Unfortunately, these types of braggarts only show their lack of education and understanding of global awareness.

Having the opportunity to travel around the world over the past decade with fair regularity, I have been blessed enough to have my eyes opened when it comes to looking at how the world works. Many people simply assume that because they live in the United States they are “better” than anyone else, because they make “so much more” than people in other countries. But when you look at the actual numbers, Americans are actually some of the least successful in the world in terms of how much money they actually take home at the end of each and every year because they live in a type of society where they are literally thousands (and in some cases hundreds of thousands) of dollars in debt. Sure, the average citizen makes 40k a year, so the average married couple’s combined income is 80k a year, but how much of that goes towards the cost of living?

Using my own example, we live in a beautiful country with the exact same modern amenities as any other developed country in the world. We have the exact same amenities we had in Colorado, but whereas the cost of living there was close to $50,000 a year for the two of us, our total living expenses here are under $10,000 a year. That’s a difference of forty thousand dollars a year! Think of what you could do with an extra forty grand a year.

This is one of the major reasons I preach about working and living abroad for people working in digital positions. Why remain in a place where the vast majority of your income goes to pay for amenities that you can have in any developed country in the world, and for literally a fraction of the price?

Take a look at your life. How successful are you? At the end of the year, after your taxes and cost of living, how much extra are you putting away (or how much can you afford to spend on non-specific necessities)? 5k? 15k? 30k? That amount is the true determining factor in how successful you are, not how much you grossed. It’s all well and good to make 100k a year, but if your cost of living is 98k a year, have you really made any progress forward?

What do you think about success, and how successful are you? What are you willing to do to obtain success?

T.W. Anderson is the founder of Complete Writing Solutions, and is a freelance writer specializing in travel writing, website content, interior design and home improvement, green-related topics, as well as anything else potential clients need him to be.

Posted in Freelance Writing 101 Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
4 comments on “What is success, and how do I achieve it?
  1. Anne Wayman says:

    Sigh… the reason I stay in the United States is to be close to my grandkids… working on their parents to move; my kids might, but their spouses all have family.

    But yes.

  2. You know, Anne…the hubby and wife team behind the
    LIP website are getting ready to launch a channel specifically focused on how to live a Location Independent lifestyle with kids. They recently had a child (in 2009) and I know they’ve been talking a lot on their website about how to have a family and stay on the move :) Very interesting stuff!

  3. Lucy Smith says:

    Why do people insist on equating success with money earned? Who decided that if you don’t earn a pile of money, you’re not successful?

    To me, sure money helps (heck, give me all you want!), but it’s only one measure of success. My goals in life aren’t centered around the pursuit of dollars; I’d consider myself more successful if I was happy in my life and work and comfortable, albeit in a small house, than if I was miserable working all hours to live alone in a mansion. I’ve been there, done that (bar the mansion), and frankly, it sucked.

    Since I took a pay cut and time out to figure out what I wanted, things have been much better and I find I’m actually proud of what I’ve achieved in the last year. And I think that’s a true measure of success.

  4. That’s why I’m more comfortable with the dictionary’s version of what success is, Lucy. Basically it’s any sort of “forward” progress in a person’s life, and not always associated with money.

    Still, monetary gain is the traditional measure of one’s success. It’s easy to get caught up in that when it’s been drummed into our skulls since the time we were old enough to earn a tax return. But there are absolutely many other ways a person can be successful, and not all of them have a dollar sign attached.

    The birth of a child, for example, is a form of success. Finishing a painting is success. The list could go on.

    Thanks for your comment, and Happy New Year!

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