So I was having a conversation with my dad one day and one thing led to another and we got on the topic (as we always seem to) of how much more I could do if I applied myself. He doesn't say this in a mean way he just see's his kids in a certain light and wants them to have done better then he did. Then he said something that surprised me. He said I could have been the CEO of a company had I set my mind to it. I took it as both a compliment and a back handed compliment. The I thought about and and said "what in my personality makes you think I'd ever want that kind of life??". It got me thinking what is success? What makes one person successful and one person not? And who decides who is considered a success and who a failure. Like most things, success is in the eye of the beholder but often judged by popular culture
I got out of college smack in the middle of the "greed is good" era so that was ideal for success of the time. Ruthless, cutthroat business, 70 hour work weeks, stepping on whoever it was needed stepping on. The work was trying but the rewards were great. You'd ride this out into your 40's then cruise the next 10 years and retire at 50. How'd that work out? Needless to say, life didn't go that way for most of us but does that mean we weren't successful? Is a Harvard grad working for a Fortune 500 company pulling down a million a year more successful then a guy who owns his own plumbing company? Then a small business owner servicing his local community for 30 plus years? Then a school teacher molding young minds? Then a mother of four making just enough to scrape by? Then someone who measures success simply by another day above ground? If success is measured in dollars and cents then, yes, he is. If it's based on quality of life, maybe not. I could argue either way.
The bottom line is success, much like happiness or beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For every person that thrives on long hours, titles, prestige and position at the cost of little or no family life there is the guy and his wife pulling down $60,000 combined with 2 healthy children who leave work behind the second they walk out the door. For every person who lives for team building exercises, memo's about the lunch room fridge and inter-office instant messaging there is a guy doing manual labor for 8 hours and leaves work with a smile on his face. For every breakfast meeting, power lunch and client dinner there is someone brown bagging it in the morning and home for dinner with his family every night. No, I'm sorry, there is no clear definition of success. Success is what you want it to be, not what movies, TV, books or newspapers say it is
So, do I consider myself successful? I've been gainfully employed for 21 straight years and while not my dream job I make enough to own my own place and enough extra to enjoy life. While I never married or had kids, work had nothing to do with that and I always find time for friends and family. Could I have chosen a different path? Could I still choose a different path? Sure, but if I don't I have no regrets. So, if quality of life is the ultimate measure of success then hell yeah, I'm one successful S.O.B!