It’s not about the money.
It really isn’t.
People ask me all the time, “How much money does your blog make?” as if that’s how I judge its success. Problem is, the blog has never been about money. When I write a blog post, I don’t think about how much money it will bring me. When I design the blog, I don’t think about which design will make me richest.
This has become true with everything in life.
When I was younger, making money affected all my decisions. Today, it affects almost none of them.
It doesn’t mean I don’t want or need money. It just means it’s less important than it used to be. To measure success, there are now many questions that come before “How much did I make?”
Did I have a good time?
If my old boss offered me my accounting job back on a million dollar salary, I would turn it down. Honestly.
What am I going to do with a million dollars? I am happy with the things I have. I am happy with the way I travel and live. I don’t earn much money, but I don’t spend much either. A million dollars would have very little effect on my happiness.
On the other hand, working at a job I dislike for a year would have a huge impact on my happiness. I would have less time to do the things I love, my health would deteriorate, I would be tired and unsatisfied every day, I probably wouldn’t even have time to write these blog posts. Most importantly, I would’ve spent a year of my life doing something I didn’t want to do. Can a million dollars buy you back a year of your life?
Money comes and goes, but time is something you never get back.
So the first measure of success is, did you have fun? Did it excite you? Is this what you want to do? Because if you spend every single day doing something you enjoy, it will be impossible to consider anything you do a failure.
Was it good for my health?
Like your time, your body is irreplaceable. Think of all the rich and famous that have died young. Despite the endless zeroes on the end of their bank statements, they weren’t able to buy another day.
So when a decision presents itself, ask yourself – will it be good for me? Will it improve my health? Will it make me fitter, stronger, healthier? Or, will it stress me out? Will it make me tired and unhappy?
These are decisions we’re faced with all the time.
Go drinking on Friday night, or rest up for an early workout on Saturday?
Take the promotion and the 12 hour days, or live with less and take a job I enjoy?
When you put your health before your money decisions will change quickly. You might not drive a nice car, but you’ll be able to scale mountains, surf from high to low tide, live without drowning in pills and enjoy your days without the poison of stress.
The poor healthy man always beats the rich sick man in the end.
Did I help someone?
I believe the things you do should be bigger than yourself. The things you do today – how do they help the world? Do you create a positive influence in people’s lives? Have you created positive change? Have you inspired someone? Did you prevent pain and suffering? Have you made someone smile?
You don’t need to be building orphanages – things like being a good parent, sharing knowledge, recycling, giving good advice – these are all examples of creating positive change.
The things I am most proud of and consider my biggest successes were things that had nothing to do with me. To be selfless is difficult, but will also come back to you in ways you never foresaw. However, this is also the measure where I probably fail the most. I like my work to help people, but I spend a lot of time doing things for me – surfing, meditating, reading, working out. Many of the things I do have very little direct impact on the people around me. Indirectly, however, they give me the peace and clarity of mind to work on more important things that do matter.
Did I learn anything?
Many of you, especially my email subscribers, are probably sick of hearing me talk about the importance of always learning and challenging yourself. But it is a mantra I live by and will always continue to push.
Think about your life’s work. Are you learning something new each day? More importantly, are you learning the things you want to be learning?
We start dying the moment we stop growing. Everybody has the capacity to challenge themselves and learn something new. If we get better each day, it allows us to pass that knowledge on and be a positive influence in other people’s lives.
On the other hand, if you spend your entire day as a robot, never trying anything new, never finding new challenges, you start to slip away. It’s a negative feedback loop, causing you to rot and deteriorate instead of learning and growing.
If your job doesn’t provide new challenges, find them elsewhere – at the gym in the morning, in French class at night, in your meditation at lunch time.
Have I learned something new? Am I learning things I want to learn? Can I do something now that I couldn’t do before? These are the questions that are important.
Did I stick to my values?
If you become a billionaire by selling drugs to children, can you really consider yourself a success?
That’s an extreme example, but hopefully you get the point.
What values are important to you?
I want my work to be honest. It doesn’t need to be squeaky clean, or politically correct, or even agreeable, as long as it’s real and represents how I really feel.
Along with honesty, I need to ask if I believe in what I’ve done? Did I do it for the right reasons? Is it helpful? Did I sell out? Did I work with people I endorse and support? Did I stand by my own ideas?
I’ve pushed the ideas of budget travel and minimalism here since the beginning. I would never endorse luxury cruises, flying first class or six star hotels, no matter how many fat checks those companies continue to offer me.
Similarly, I would never want to own a crappy food or weapons company, no matter how many billions of dollars they earn. Those things do not help us. They hurt us. It’s not good for the world.
We all have our own values, but most of us know in our gut whether something is right or wrong. Listen to that first. You’ll never enjoy the money if you didn’t earn it the right way.
Be about more than money
For most people, “How much money did I make?” is the only question. Many will agree this rarely leads to anything fulfilling, and often results in decisions that add stress and unhappiness to your life, even though we expect the contrary.
How much fun did you have? How good did it make you feel? How many people did you help? How much did you learn? Are you proud of what you did?
These are the more important questions. Apply them to your life’s work, use them to set your priorities and make your decisions. If you answer these well, the money may follow. If you answer them poorly, the money will be irrelevant anyway. Regardless, it can’t only be about the money.
To your continued success,