When he crossed the Delaware River to attack Trenton, George Washington was 44 years old1. At the time, life expectancy for an adult male was 35 years old2. Due to the temporal disconnect we have with our history, it becomes pretty easy to compare your life to that of someone you’ll never know, whose lifestyle was completely different from your own.
As you can probably guess from the observations above, that as I celebrate my 44th year on this planet, I am feeling rather unaccomplished. I feel like I’ve gotten to this point where I’m midway to the grave and that I have nailed very few items on my bucket list, and I can say that I am definitely not a success at this point, at least by the standard of the day.
Quick — name a successful person. Chances are, you named some titan of business worth billions. That’s not the interesting answer. It’s when you start listing them and you start realizing that it’s not the first answer that’s interesting — it’s when you realize that you need to define what constitutes success that you can really nail down an answer. Success as it’s culturally defined seems to be have a ton of money. But as Tim Ferriss pointed out in his new Tools of Titans, if Richard Branson wanted to live a quiet life in the country, but has this horrible, uncontrollable psychological compulsion to start and run businesses, he really can’t be considered a success.
This was a thunderclap realization for me. The key to happiness isn’t chasing some weird brass ring where I have a corner office, the cash rolls in, and I someday have 8 or 9 figures in my bank account just before I die of a massive stroke behind the wheel of my Tesla Model S. The key to happiness befgins with defining what success is, realistically, and then living my life to that metric, and not to the metric of a materialistic, greedy society that places money above all else and treats overwork as badge of honor.
And herein lies the problem. How do I personally define success when I’ve spent the previous forty-four years believing in the culturally-acceptable model of success?
So, as I’ve now spun around the sun 44 times, I am contemplative.
Image Credits: pedromomx8/.