Sucess is not about making money

Do you ever look at a colleague or a friend and think, “I wish I had their life.” Or “I wish I had their money.” I know, I have. Growing up in a tony neighborhood in Mumbai, I studied in a school that had kids coming from very rich homes. Think owning multiple cars in the 80s.

I was the daughter of a bureaucrat and commuted to school in a public bus. Yes, there were times when I wondered what it would be like living in those big homes (correction I lived in big government-provided homes in the best addresses in South Mumbai but you get what I mean) and having swanky cars.

Just sometimes. Most other times, I knew they wanted to be in my shoes. I was the class topper and the teachers’ pet.

The grass is always greener on the other side.

How many of us see the success of someone and feel envious? Oh, what we wouldn’t give to be like them? It is so easy to want to be in someone else’s shoes. What we don’t realize is that money is just a means to an end. When our life becomes about making money an end, there begins the trouble.

Being happy and being rich are two different things and not necessarily related to each other.

Are you shaking your head?

Let me share an experience.

There was a time in my life, when I had a toddler son and struggled with a full-time career and home. Life was tough. There were days when I did not wish to get up in the morning. As I usually left home earlier than the husband, most days I left behind a wailing toddler. Bone-tired when back, I had to head out again to get the son back from the crèche. I went on in this manner for many months. My life was on auto pilot. I hardly enjoyed life. I just lived it. Struggled would be a more appropriate word.

Why? I was ambitious for one. Success in life was having a designation next to my name and money in my bank account. Success was also about the perceptions of others about me. So, I had to be a career woman. Only looking after home and family for a well-qualified woman like me was beneath me.

And then came a turning point in my life. The husband had a 3-month project in a European country. There was no way I could get that much leave, but I negotiated for a leave of about a month. I was looking forward to getting away.

That one month in Amsterdam was the best time in my life. I was stress-free and enjoying myself. My son and husband were the happiest I had seen them in a while. All because we had time for each other.

That hole in my heart due to the guilt and stress I lived with on a daily basis had vanished. Wasn’t this how life was meant to be lived? Not as a struggle to make money at all cost. But to be enjoyed, with family. Whose parameters were I living my life on? And why?

I took pen and paper and actually made a list of my life’s mission. What were my priorities? What did I want from life? Surprisingly money came way down in the list. Writing it down cleared my head. I made one list, scratched it, made another one, till I was happy with what I had written. That helped me reach a very important decision.

I came back and put in my papers. Just like that. Without another thought.

It was one of the best decisions of my life.

I moved on to better avenues professionally later, but this time with better work-life balance. I have worked as a consultant for many years now. On my own terms. Enjoying what I do. But never again making money as a measure of my happiness. Other more important parameters are my yardsticks for success and happiness.

Sure money is important for comfort, but it does not give you happiness. If that were true, we wouldn’t see so many people leaving plum jobs to pursue their dreams.

The day you look inward and treat yourself as your only competition, your life would have taken a turn for the better. True happiness is the pursuit of our life, not money.

Do share your thoughts on success versus money.

Pic courtesy: Jason Stitt on Shutterstock

52 Thoughts on “Why Success is Not About Making Money

  1. My very first job as a teacher was one that I did because I loved it. I hardly got paid much but the idea of walking in and looking at students every single day made up for anything else.

    Cut to 9 years later and this time I took up a job and I’ll admit one of the biggest lures was the money. Nobody else was getting paid that much in my position. It was also a cause for envy in the office and I remember feeling stressed about it. Plus, leaving my daughter in day care, although a wonderful place, somewhere gnawed at me. I quit after 9 months in that job and took up freelancing, because it made me feel better. Best decision ever.

    Success cannot be measured by money, although many people would have you believe that. I think if we can see money for what it is- a means to a good existence and not as the goal of our lives- then we’re pretty set in terms of how we want to live. Lovely, thought-provoking post and so glad you’ve found a balance that works for you 🙂

    • That was such a comprehensive comment, Shy. I really treasure the experiences you’ve shared. Glad to know that you feel similarly. I know that many people cannot look beyond seeing success as only earning money. Unfortunately, our society has some set behaviours. But with our own experiences, we have seen how completely happy and successful we feel in doing things that are our passions.

  2. Absolutely, Rachna..Success can never be measured in terms of money. I love writing more than my job as an Engineer. But I feel happy having a job and it’s even better that it pays. Somehow, I feel free and liberated having a place to go to every morning. But that’s just me. Staying at home during maternity leave made me realise I need the job not only for financial security but for my sanity. Yes, I have S and as long as he is there I don’t need to worry about money and god forbid something bad happens, my dad is there too. But I’m scared what if I’m alone and then what? But that’s just me. I wish I reach a leave of maturity like you where if I decide that I need to or if I have to, I will be able to give up this job without worrying about the future or something bad happening.

    • Naba, I actually did not say that you should end up not working or earning. I am working and earning both but not in the manner in which I was burning myself out. We only have one life to live and we all take decisions based on what works for us.

      Whether we work professionally or not is purely an individual’s choice. I am just saying here that money does not equate to either success or happiness. It is a facilitator.

      • Oh no, I get that , Rachna..One of the reasons , I’m still continuing with my job is the money while I want to be successful in writing where I won’t get that much money, at least not unless I’m really good at it. So, I was just saying about myself, that I hope one day I find that balance and let go of that fear of security and maybe then I can actually be successful in writing and be happy too

        • Oh okay, Naba. If your job is not driving you insane and you have a reasonable balance in your life, there is no reason for you to give it up. But yes, if it starts interfering with the larger goals in your life then it is time to re-think it.

  3. It’s quite a coincidence that the other day N asked me ‘What does being successful mean?’ It might have to do something with the fact that exams are coming up and we have been telling them to study hard to be ‘successful’. I was a bit stumped. To be honest I do think money makes up an important part of success. Success to me would be something that allows you to do things that make you happy while making a decent amount of money too. The trick is to find that balance without being carried away either way.

    • We all did, didn’t we when we were growing up? Success is big designation, flashy cars, expensive vacation… Of course, money is a part of the success just not totally a defining factor of it. If we chase money, will there be an end to how much we want? But if we chase our own happiness — our passion, harness our talents then those give us joy and money too.

      I gave up a good career and I earn reasonably well. But I no longer measure my worth or that of anyone else based on how much they may earn. I measure my success first and foremost in how I am raising my family, what are my values, how much do I give back to the society and subsequently on what I do in my work life. In that sense, my yardstick of success have dramatically changed. And yes, I am happier. 🙂 Money will always be important just not as an end but as a means to an end.

  4. I totally agree with you, Rachna !!! Happiness is purely a heartfelt feeling which is never measured with money.

  5. Money brings comfort but not necessarily happiness. And happiness does not pay bills. So both are needed though I would want the balance to tip more in favour of happiness than money!

    • I am certainly not trying to say that we don’t need money. We need money to live comfortably and that would include paying bills. 🙂 But money can’t buy happiness. Unless we modify this mindset, we will continue to chase a chimera. And perhaps in our twilight years, we will just count regrets. Chase passion and excellence, money will certainly follow. Not the other way around though.

      Despite giving up a nerve-wracking career, I can earn pretty well now. But money is not something I measure my success by.

  6. I always have this battle in my mind. What does money mean in my life and how much exactly do I need to lead a comfortable life? It’s very easy to figure out its importance when you write it down in a paper… Like you did. Happiness can never be measured by money. Crying in a limo is still crying. 🙂

  7. I guess this whole rat-race to be rich and earn money has its roots in the ‘assured’ success of certain job profiles. If we all did the jobs we loved, and did it to the best of our abilities, I doubt we’d ever want for more satisfaction in the form of money. After all, at the end of the day, it’s not about the number of cars you have or the wonderful parties you’ve been to. It’s all about how satisfied you are with the way you’ve lived your life!
    And then of course, some may have a different opinion, and may feel that money is necessary for a happy life. But then, it is something that must be managed well, or it could lead to disastrous consequences!

    • You nailed it with your thoughts. Exactly what l am saying. In today’s world, we need some money to live comfortably, pay our bills, get our kids educated and so on. But we need to be happy too. Isn’t it time we looked at that balance instead of earning a lot and being miserable all the time?

  8. Need I say how much I vibe with this? 🙂

  9. I love this post, Rachna. The best life decisions are those we make with a clear head, and no regrets. I switched from a 50K a month (back in 1997) to no job to one that was a part-time 2500 a month. Big step down, some might say, but it was the best decision ever, because I would never be able to rewind my son’s childhood or the happy (if broke) moments with family. The togetherness was absolutely worth it. What a coincidence I am actually half way through a similar post draft. Hugs! I admire you.

    • Thanks, Vidya. I admire you as well. I completely agree to every word you’ve written because for me as well, family comes first. Aren’t we lucky to be doing the jobs we do at our own terms?

  10. I can understand your feelings. Togetherness is important and happiness is subjective. Yes, money cannot buy it. One has to find it for one self.

  11. Money to me means independence, we can’t say how much it can be related with happiness or even satisfaction. Happiness comes foremost from relationships rather than success, for what use are our smiles if they cannot be shared. Success means differently to different people, it depends on our priorities.
    Nice that you got some time out to clear the cluttered mind. We all need to sit down and make that list.

    • Yes, money does mean independence. But then how much of it and at what cost is what I was hoping that readers would ponder after reading this post. As you may have noticed, I did mention that my career took off subsequently but this time on better terms. Sure, I do enjoy earning my money. But was I happy when I was earning a lot of it and compromising on other aspects of my life? Making that list surely helped. Thanks for reading, Dashy.

  12. very well said , the title simply describes the whole post in one go . money is important but it is over to you what u put on the priorities .
    thanx for the post .

  13. I have recently joined the workforce again (after a 6 year break), but this time, it’s on my terms. There are stressful days, but work-life balance is something that I don’t compromise on. And family always comes first.

    Success to me has never been about money, but always about happiness. In that sense, I am successful now, and was successful when I was at home full time with my toddler. 🙂

    P.S. I still am not able to log onto your site from my regular devices, but I am able to from work (which I avoid) and from my husband’s work laptop, which he gets home (I am currently using it).

    I have so missed reading your posts, that I was on a binge read session today, and enjoyed every single bit of it. 🙂

    • You are just a woman after my own heart. Exactly, the definition of success is how good we are with what we do with our life, not judged by superfluous parameters.

      I am absolutely stoked that you found a roundabout to the trouble you were facing with accessing my blog. So good to see you here. 🙂 Loved your binge.

  14. This post resonates with me. Success is a very relative concept and it’s how we see it, money, fulfilment, happiness or something else. I always used to compare my life with my successful friends money wise till I reach a lull, read failure three years back. I struggled and struggled to no end. From a company not paying us on time to doing a low job in a place much below my achievement and credentials. One day, I looked myself in the mirror and asked what I am doing to myself. I need to be born again. Went and put my papers. It was a huge risk. There were no savings, pending EMI and loans. But, now things are better and I am a work at home consultant for a British company. It’s how we define success and see ourselves. It’s about self-confidence as well. I also turned down a media group paying me peanuts. Success is also bout learning to value ourselves.

    • That was lovely. Thank you for sharing, Vishal. I am so glad that you’ve discovered yourself anew and are not only doing well but are much happier doing so. Kudos.

  15. Totally agree with you !! Great article. Well penned! Thank you!!

  16. Ironically, to realise money is not important, one has to have enough of it.

  17. This is so true. I can relate to it. Enjoyed reading the post. Thanks for sharing your wonderful thoughts.

  18. I have seen the extreme of having money and not having it at all, thanks to court cases, hospital bills and failed business. Honestly, I feel I am calmer when I don’t run after it. There was a time I wanted to buy the best of things and felt jealous. Then, life told me – cherish life, not possessions. Learnt that too the hard way.

    In a nutshell, one must have food on the table, roof over head and no debt. If you are making that much, running after money is a never ending chase.

    BTW, I am jealous of your one month Amsterdam vacation. 😛

    • Me too, Saru. I am in a much better place and a happier state of mind when I am not chasing money. I do good work and I earn reasonably well. And I do put my family at the top of the pedestal and have no regrets about doing that.

      Of course, the hidden premise is that we must make enough to live a comfortable life. But for some people nothing is enough. Their avarice for possessions is so putting off.

      hehe Yes, that was an amazing vacation. Hopefully, will go again some day. Love that country.

  19. Earnings enough to make the ends meet and some for the rainy day is an ideal situation and enough time to pursue some interests:)

  20. Success is not only making money.It does mean a lot more.Very nicely put Rachna!

  21. Money is actually a relative thing and comes in only when you do a business, success on the other hand is a Psychological feeling – very well separated and defined..

  22. Gone through the post as well as the detailed comments and their replies. Very impressed. Money isn’t everything. However it’s something. And as far success is concerned, if a person is successful in his / her own eyes, he is truly successful because own vision matters more than the public opinion and perception of what success is all about.

  23. Very true Rachna. You have to do what makes you happy. I believe work life balance aligns itself the moment you decide your priorities and decide to live each moment of your life fully. Have walked this path , learnt a lot and each new day I awake with purpose and and happy with the decisions I made.Will share sometime..

  24. Lovely read Rachna..could relate to it. Loved the last line “True happiness is the pursuit of our life, not money”…you’ve got great writing skills 🙂

  25. Hi Rachna,

    You’ve penned it beautifully!
    Money is just a means to get materialistic pleasures,
    but unfortunately we forget this and make our lives revolve around money.

    We need to remind ourselves constantly to not get swayed with the momentary pleasures but look for real happiness.

    Looking forward to more such posts 🙂

  26. Totally i agree with you!!! Good artical!! Well planned!!! Thank you Rachna

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