How do we Measure Success – A Reader’s Take!



What is success? It seems that the world defines success as money and material possessions. And that continues to be more apparent every day.

I have chosen to determine success by asking if ones success is “perceived” or “true”.  If we take a drive down any wealthy area in any city and look at the expensive homes (with all the luxury cars parked out front) we right away come to the conclusion; “those people living there are really successful”.

But if we were to dig deeper (which I have been able to do in my career as a financial planner) we would find out that many are far from being “truly” successful. Behind some of those beautiful homes and luxury cars lies a mountain of debt – and if those living there had their incomes dry up it would cause serious financial distress within weeks. I suggest to my clients to define their own “true” success. And even though we can’t live our lives without money, it usually comes in 4th or 5th on the list when determining success.
Can we actually control our success? Yes and no. I worked at one of Canada’s largest banks for close to 20 years and my last two were horrible. I hated it. We had completely different views on what a client relationship should look like, what was a good use of my time and what wasn’t, and how/what I was going to be compensated for. Many people (if not the majority) have to put their values and beliefs aside for those of the employers. Generally this isn’t a compromise, but a one way street! If we did and said what we truly believed, most would be out of a job by end of day.  And as I alluded to in my first thought above, people become defined by the incomes they earn and, more troubling, the debt they have accessed to maintain “perceived” success. It’s pretty rare someone leaves a higher paying job to go back to school and pursue their dream job. In most (and I mean 90+%) cases that is impossible. So yes we can control our success, but choose not to because we are not willing to change our lifestyles.
Most people “hitting the reset button” are not doing that by choice. Not at all. It’s usually because they have not held on to their employment (rightfully or wrongfully so). I see it all the time; People working for the same employer for 20 years and doing a fine job (I assume so otherwise they would have been let go years prior) and one day they are shown the door (sometimes with a decent severance and other times next to nothing).

People become expendable – at least their incomes do. Thankfully a vast majority find new or similar careers fairly quickly. For me, my “reset” was by choice. I loved my job. But I lost respect for my employer. So I made the choice to reset 18 months before actually stepping off the proverbial cliff. I was going to control my destiny, not the bank. I made sure I was in a good place financially and mentally (hard to say which was more important). And I did everything I could in those 18 months to make sure my move was going to be successful. And 36 months after making that decision, I can happily say I am in a better place emotionally and getting there financially. I left a job that paid me over 6 figures a year to become an independent planner with a starting income of $0.00. So easy to see how that could have prevented me from ever leaving.
Why do we care what others think? Years ago you would have never caught me eating lunch alone in a restaurant. Yikes what would people think? Am I a loser? Now I don’t even care about the people around me when I’m out for lunch or dinner. That person you met that day at the concession stand had nothing to feel embarrassed about. They obviously were concerned about your perception of them and regardless you resolved yourself to having a view of them (based on their job?). We all do it. And unfortunately by looking a certain way (wearing a suit), living in a nice home, driving a fancy car that is how we are judged by those around us (for the most part). These are all material things showing our success (either “perceived” or “true”). The best way to make an accurate assessment of someone is to get to know them. I think we would all be shocked by who is really successful and who is not!
How can I get people to think differently (going beyond that first impression)? I can start with my kids. The great thing about being a parent is we can help shape the way our kids think. My advice to my kids is be a good person, try not to judge others, and most importantly don’t overly concern yourself with what people may be thinking of you. Easy to say but harder to do. By staying true to yourself and your values people will gravitate towards you. Even if they are friends that drift away – they will be back. I know from experience.

This was an email sent to me from a university friend (Kevin Kuryk) in reply to an email that I sent out to my list. I was blown away, tremendously flattered that my content resonated with him enough and inspired this type of reply.


  • I’d love to hear what your definition of success is today?
  • Has that definition changed as you’ve gotten further in to your career?


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