I remember having a conversation with a friend in college about success. Having to live on a budget was not something I had to deal with back then. Although he was younger than I was, he seemed more financially aware because I had never payed for anything on my own, ever. So I asked, “how much money do you have to make to be considered ‘successful'”? His answer, “6 figures”. Simple.
Ask most people and they will say that my father’s story is the epitome of success. He came from a family of mediocre means in India and graduated as one of the top students in the country with a degree in Electrical Engineering. After arriving in America with a new wife and only a few dollars to his name, he worked his way to owning a multi-million dollar conglomerate of companies as a result of hard work and intelligence. He became heavily involved with Politics and was well known throughout the Indian community.
What you don’t really see is the sacrifices that he and my mom made to get there. Both of my parents worked ridiculously long hours but my Dad would often leave before we went to school and not come home until 1 or 2 in the morning. My mom had to go to far away cities for weeks at a time to help one of the companies get on the right foot. They provided us with an extremely comfortable lifestyle and allowed all 4 of us to graduate from prestigious colleges debt free. But they never had time to come to one of my choir performances, basketball games, or even a parent teacher conference. To this day at age 67, for my dad, weekends do not exist. Unfortunately, the result was we barely saw him growing up. We barely knew him.
Now that my and my 3 siblings are all adults, we make decisions in our life based on our own perception of what we experienced as a child. One of my brothers often theoretically asks me “If you could make a million dollars and live in Chicago or make 10 million dollars and live in Timbuktu, what would you pick?” He proudly answers his own question without hesitation. He would do anything to achieve that type of success and would choose Timbuktu in a heartbeat. Although I have neither option, I would choose Chicago on that same beat.
There is a study that says that magic number in which money no longer affects your happiness is $75,000. No matter how much more money you earn, it doesn’t buy you anymore happiness.
At 33 years old, I have a stable career after being with my current employer for almost 5 years. I make a decent living and even better have negotiated my way into working from home full time. At this point, it is pretty clear that my bank account will never be as full as my parents. However, I work the typical “9-5” job which means my family eats dinner together every night. I get to watch my children grow up. I help them with their homework, volunteer at school when I can, and am at every single game. I am around to mold them into the kind of people I want them to be, the kind of people who will contribute to society. I am surrounded by friends who I love that hope to grow old with. I am an active member of my community both locally and ethnically.
Obviously there are many different scenarios between me and my parents. But my question to you is how do you define success? Am I considered less successful because I make less money or more because of the enrichment that my life brings?