Success - Is Money A measure Of Success In Life

In a world where money is important for most things, money success in many ways signals success in life. However, that is where it starts.

By Suresh Sadagopan

Money is very important for all of us. For most things in life, we need money. Money is the grease that lubricates the cogs of life.

Hence, having money does seem like a good marker of success in an increasingly materialistic world. No wonder, Madonna, in her song titled Material Girl, makes no bones about her love for money, in a material world! There are many like her, who would choose money over almost anything else. That seems logical when there are a dozen things that one may want, all of which need money.

Take the case of a woman who had remarked, “I know that Money cannot buy happiness. But, it is far more comfortable crying in the backseat of a Mercedes than on a tram!” This poignantly illustrates the primacy of money! Some even claim that money makes the world go around!

At the same time, there is also a realisation that money can buy things, but not allow one to experience feelings like happiness, contentment, or peace. They say, you can buy a bed, but not sleep. In that sense, money is a means to an end - not the end itself.

But, is having made money by itself a badge of success?

Even this question is somewhat straightforward. In a world where money is important for most things, money success in many ways signals success in life. However, that is where it starts.

Success can mean different things - For most people, once most of their needs are met, success in life means many more different things. Many start prioritising people & relationships. Success also would mean how well their wards are doing at school and college and how well placed they are in life.

Power and position are other common measures of success. This typically comes somewhat later, after one has made enough money and all major needs have been met.

Politics is one area, that is different. Here, Power and position are what gets them the money! So many who come to politics want to capture the position and the power that comes with it, so that they can make money.

The other measure that some people use is how successful they are in their careers. Some people leverage their career success to gain name, fame, position, prestige, and maybe even power! For instance, a successful lawyer who runs and gets elected for the local council is probably leveraging his successful career, to get all those mentioned above.

Respect - One of the most important things that people crave for, is respect. This cannot be bought. This requires not just competence but a certain higher X factor that comes from being head and shoulders above the rest on most parameters.

But respect is one of the most difficult things to achieve - for, there is no recipe to ensure that one can command respect. So most people end up ticking all boxes, except for this one.

People are willing to pay enormous sums to gain respect. They get associated with causes or organisations that are respected and hope that there is a rub-off on them! Some wrongly demand respect and are satisfied with that, though that is not genuine respect at all.

Doing good for society - A few go beyond these markers of personal success and want to do good for the community or society. Some people are genuinely community-minded and want to give back to that community, once they have reached a certain station in life. For them, doing good for society through community work or philanthropy may be their purpose in life, from there on.

Philanthropy is big game today with many wealthy committing a good portion of their wealth to charitable causes. However, we cannot cheapen the genuine altruism of people and attribute it to just their crass pursuit of name, fame, respect etc., even though such acts invariably brings all these in their wake.

Many people stop at this.

A personal measure of success - Thus far we have seen some of the commonly accepted measures of success in society. There are going to be multiple ways to measure it, with nuance attributed to various success attributes that the community and society we live in celebrate. So till this point, most of it is validation-seeking from people, society.

There are a few who go beyond this and see what it means to be successful in life - for themselves! These people may look beyond money, power, position, respect, etc., and want to be successful in the way they define it.

Such people may look at what will give them a sense of purpose, achievement, happiness, contentment etc. Such people may also evaluate what their peak potential is in various realms of life. It could be in the area of their career, education, intellectual pursuits, sports, arts, hobbies, etc. It is that rare person who aspires to this and pursues these, in a bid to experience life at its zenith.

For these people societal definitions of success don't matter and they pursue their deep-abiding interests and pursue that calling, without even looking at the monetary rewards that their pursuit may bring in its wake. Such people are idealists and are very rare, as this is a difficult pursuit.

Money is probably a good indicator of success only at the start. But there are several rungs that people aspire to ascend, well after they have made enough money. And the rare few, transcend what society imposes and look at success from their view point.

But, you may ask why most people hanker after money, well after they are wealthy! Good question. It is probably our human fallibility to be satisfied with the mundane and not aspire for the sublime!

(The author is the MD & Principal Officer at Ladder7 Wealth Planners and the author of the book “If God Was Your Financial Planner”.)

Disclaimer: Views expressed in the above article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policy of the Outlook Media Group or its employees.

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