What does success mean to you?
What does it look like?
If we turn our attention to Hollywood and movies like Wall Street, Boiler Room and the Wolf of Wall Street, even films like The Big Short, we are presented with a certain vision of what it means to be successful. These are all coming from the context of working within the financial market and industry in some fashion, but the fundamental principles can easily extend to other professions too.
We Got Ambition Though
We are shown that the successful person is driven by ambition. They have big lofty goals and they are driven by a burning desire to bring in as much cash as possible, typically in as short a period as possible. Indeed, contemporary society has come to fetishize the notion of “hustle.” We romanticize this view of people, particularly entrepreneurs, who put in the extra long hours in pursuit of their goals.
We’ve been told that if you chase these big dreams with enthusiastically intense fervor, if you truly love what you do, then you never have to work a day in your life. Except these are the same people who are putting in 80+ hour work weeks without necessarily showing the big results at the other end of the process. But they’re getting there, right? Even if they are stressed and extended beyond belief. Maybe they just need to take a quick afternoon nap.
This is the life for many professionals who launch or work at an Internet startup. The hours are long, but the visions are bold and the potential is limitless. Who doesn’t want to develop the next WhatsApp, only to turn around and sell it to Facebook for $19 billion? I don’t know about you, but heck I’d probably settle for just $1 billion like Instagram did.
There is nothing wrong with ambition, but ambition does come at a price. Be prepared to dedicate yourself fully to your endeavor. This means working hard, working long, and putting other aspects of your life at a lower priority. Your personal relationships might suffer. Your physical health might suffer. But it’ll all be worth it, right?
But Why Do You Do What You Do?
Now, let’s think about an utterly different conception of what success looks like. You’re soaking in the sun on a tropical beach, sipping on some brightly-colored slushy drink, maybe with a mini umbrella in it. Success is then represented by this life of leisure. Maybe you’re staying at a fancy, exclusive resort. Maybe you flew a private jet to get there. Maybe it’s your own private island.
What if we went humbler, much humbler than that? What if you were no longer bound to the restrictions of a typical 9-to-5 office job? What if you didn’t have to report to some manager you hate at a job your despise, fighting the traffic that abhor to get to a stuffy office you detest? What if you had the freedom to do what you wanted, when you wanted? What if you could have a three-hour brunch on a Wednesday with your family, happily enjoying that eggs benedict at the local bistro?
The “hustle” mindset is diametrically opposed to this perspective. For many of us, this calmer and more relaxed approach to life seems much more appealing. We still have to work, but perhaps we only have to work a couple hours a day to maintain an online business that largely runs itself. Maybe we don’t earn six figures a month, but we earn enough to sustain a comfortable lifestyle in a good part of town. Maybe we can cut ourselves some slack.
A Better Way Forward?
Life consists of a series of choices and trade-offs. By developing passive income streams that continue to earn money while you sleep (and eat brunch), you can unlock such opportunities without really earning all that much actual cash. And you don’t have to drive yourself mad with 80+ hour work weeks either.
How will you balance your unwavering ambition with your overwhelming desire to just relax and enjoy life?