8 Signs of a Successful Life That Have Nothing to Do With Money or Fame
You’re told you need to set goals.
You’re told you must be driven to make it to the top.
The truth is, you don’t have to do anything. Contentment provides happiness just as much as success does. If you want to strive to be successful, I applaud that, but it’s easy to be seduced by ambition if you’re not careful.
If you’re not careful you can chase the wrong goals for the wrong reasons.
Often people’s goals are associated with making money or achieving a high level of status, which are fine in an of themselves, but they don’t tell the whole story.
If money and fame weren’t part of the equation, how would you define success?
The Biggest Misconception People Have About Success
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself” — Viktor Frankl
When you see someone who is wildly successful you look at their success in terms of the rewards it’s granted them. It might even lead you to believe they’re greedy or selfish. But oftentimes their wealth and status came from working on something important and valuable.
Take Bill Gates for example. Many people dislike him because he’s filthy rich, but do you think his primary aim in creating Microsoft was getting rich? No. He loved computers and loved building things.
Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t chasing billions. He started by trying to create a better way for Harvard students to connect. His passion for coding eventually led to those billions.
Sure, there are some people who have a primary aim is to make money and nothing more like Wall Street executives, but their success is hollow and they know it.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, but without having non-monetary or status-driven reasons behind this want, you won’t be successful anyway.
Extrinsic motivators — meaning that which comes from the outside — don’t keep you motivated very long. Just ask every person who’s had a “million-dollar idea” that didn’t pan out.
You need intrinsic motivation — a driving force inside of you — to put in the work it takes to succeed.
A healthy combination of both keeps you in the game. The extrinsic motivators get covered a lot, so let’s focus on the intrinsic.
Today I’m going to share some clear-cut signs of success that have nothing to do with money or fame.
“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.” — Marcus Aurelius
Success happens when you quit living your life to please everyone around you.
It happens when you quit listening to the noise of the world and focus on what’s important to you.
It happens when you quit thinking reality is anything but what you want it to be.
Quit viewing the world with the preconceived notions you were taught growing up. Quit being “realistic.” Quit worrying and start living.
You Try Things With Uncertain Outcomes
“It doesn’t matter how many times you have failed, you only have to be right once.” — Mark Cuban
All of the world's most successful people had to try something with an uncertain outcome. Even if things don’t go your way you learn a valuable lesson — it’s not the end of the world. You can try again and again. Success and failure are intertwined with one another. Find someone who’s achieved success and you’ll discover a string of failures along the way.
Once you start to enjoy the process of experimenting, the results get better.
I had no idea whether my latest book would do well, but it didn’t matter. I had the pride in knowing I finished something and bet on myself.
When you bet on yourself and face uncertainty, you create the type of confidence that’s unattainable otherwise. Staying in the same routine without trying anything new is like trying to get stronger lifting the same weight — it doesn’t work.
Once you leap into uncertainty and come out the other end without dying, you realize the power of facing it in the first place.
“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” — Dale Carnegie
One of the most successful self-help books of all time, How to Win Friends And Influence People, offers these simple pieces of advice for being successful.
- Be polite
- Praise others for their good work
- Don’t argue with other people
It’s astonishing how many people don’t have good manners. Treating people the right way pays dividends. Every person you encounter is the most important person in the world in their eyes — successful people know to treat them as such.
Imagine you’re heading to a meeting with a potential client or business partner. You’re a little bit frustrated with a phone call you just had as you walk into the office.
The receptionist greets you warmly, but you’re rude to her because you’re still fuming about the call. You collect yourself before the meeting and you’re a class act during the meeting.
You think it went well.
What you don’t realize is the fact your potential client considers her secretary her right hand. She trusts and respects her so much that a negative opinion from her is enough to pass on potential business.
Little did you know, you’re rudeness just cost you, big time.
As a rule of thumb, you should be as nice to the janitor as you are to the CEO. First, because it’s the right thing to do. Second, you never know when karma will come back to you.
You Have Many Moments Where You Lose Yourself
“If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them.”- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
A life well-lived has many moments in a state of flow, otherwise described as being in the zone. Doing this type of deep work will leave you feeling fulfilled afterward. Think back to a time where you’ve lost track of several hours while doing something — that’s flow. Your mission is to find work that allows you to experience that feeling as much as possible. The value of engagement trumps the value of money. Search for work you get completely lost in.
How do you find flow?
You start by finding your raw talents and strengths. I wrote an entire book on the subject.
Next, you reinvent your life and start experiments to help you find flow. I wrote my second book detailing that process.
Last, you repeat the experimentation process over and over and over until you leave this planet.
Someone Has Thanked You For What You’ve Done
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. -Marianne Williamson
Has anyone ever gone out of their way to thank you for your work? That’s success. No matter how bad you want success for yourself you’ll never get it until you find a way to provide value to other people. Your business isn’t about you — it’s about your customer. Your creative work isn’t about you — it’s about touching others. Every time someone leaves a kind comment or sends me a message thanking me for sharing with them it gives me more motivation to keep creating. Find success by giving.
Maybe you’re filled with self-doubt about the way you’ll be perceived if you pursue something meaningful.
Think of it this way. It’s not about you. If you don’t share your gifts with the world, you’re robbing us of something we need. You owe us your effort, talent, and creativity.
Pay the universe back for your life with your contribution to others.
You Pissed Someone Off
If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud. — Nassim Taleb
Because you believed in something. Because you have a (well-informed) opinion that others may disagree with. Because you had the audacity to say what we’re all afraid to say. Successful people don’t seek to maintain the status quo. When they see that the system’s broken they look for ways to change it and find like-minded people to help them.
You Do Things That Excite You
“The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is boredom.”- Tim Ferriss
Most people’s lives aren’t necessarily bad, but they’re terribly boring. This is why they need constant entertainment via television. You’re successful if you trade comfort for excitement, a job with decent pay and benefits for a vocation, a monotonous existence for a life filled with rich experiences. Successful people collect memories, not dollar bills.
I’m not here to tell you what should or shouldn’t excite you. That’s none of my business. Nor am I here to even tell you that you must find what excites you.
It’s a suggestion — a door to walk through. I won’t push you through it.
Ask yourself — are you living? Does what you see ahead of you in the next five years excite you?
If not, aren’t you afraid of your situation staying that way?
You’re going to die. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, maybe in three decades. Think of how you’re living now. Do you want your book to end in this chapter?
You Lived A Life That Met Your Expectations
“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” — Marcus Aurelius
That’s happiness in a nutshell — the only thing you have to do to be successful is live up to your own standards. Not the standards of society. Not the standards of your friends or family members. Definitely not my standards.
Your dream doesn’t need to be predicated on money or status — being able to do what you enjoy and afford to go on the adventures you seek is all you need.
If your dream is to be a world-class chef then cook your ass off. If your dream is to be a writer then write. If your dream is to raise a family and you do that well, then you’re successful.
We all deserve to be fully present — to live in a way that’s satisfying more often than not. Money and status are great, but as I said before they’re usually bi-products of working towards something with meaning and doing it well.
Define what success means to you and do whatever it takes to become it.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.