The meaning of success …

If you’re a new reader, you’ll pretty quickly find out that I only write when I think that I have something useful to say …

So, the best thing to do is scan this post and if it’s interesting, subscribe by e-mail / RSS and I’ll pop a quick e-mail into your in-box if the urge to write does strike.

Today, I am inspired by a post written by moneycrush about success:

“Big goals take time, which means it can be especially hard to stick to them when they require both time and sacrifice.”

Here, moneycrush equates success with “reaching your goals”. giving an example of getting your house paid off.

So, this got me thinking about the nature of success:

On the surface, I am successful.

Certainly my friends and family talk to me – and, of me – in those terms.

Now, they don’t necessarily know my net worth (after all, that’s why I write here under a nom de plume), but they do know that I sold three businesses in three countries … so, they can connect the dots.

They don’t realize that, by their measure of success = money, I was already ‘successful’ well before  before I sold my businesses, and well before those businesses even made any serious money.

Because I was quietly doing what I advise my readers to do: take your income and use it to buy income-producing assets instead of spending it. What my family and friends don’t realize is that’s how I made I made $7 million in 7 years, starting with $30k in debt.

In any event, I still don’t consider myself successful.

That doesn’t mean that I’m one of those guys who chases ever bigger and bigger financial wins …

It just means that I measure success differently:

To me, success is when I am living my Life’s Purpose. And, money is just one of the enablers.

In 1998, I discovered my Life’s Purpose; it was simply to “always be traveling mentally, physically, and spiritually”.

Now, that means nothing to you … so, let me translate that into some practical incarnations of that Purpose:

– Travel … a lot. This takes time and money.

And, comfortably. For me, this means about $50k a year of business class travel. I’m about to experiment with a roll-up mattress on the business class ‘lie flat’ seats; if that doesn’t work, I’ll need to ‘upgrade’ to first class because lack of sleep on the long-haul flights from/to Australia kills me.

– Personal Finance & Public speaking … twin passions of mine. I hope to be able to combine these, one day. The money I might earn is irrelevant.

I rarely get to indulge in public speaking these days; the hidden cost of no longer being attached to the corporate world. But, I discovered this passion about 30 years ago, yet have spoken publicly less and less as time has gone on. This blog, as well as being a passion in its own right, is one step towards resurrecting myself as a public speaker. My book (out soon!) is the second.

– Venture Capital … this goes with the ‘traveling mentally’ bit.

I must admit I was worried. Stories about VC’s investing in 10 businesses in order to (hope) that one may succeed scared me, with typical (VC-like) bricks and mortar investments requiring upwards of $250k each. Fortunately, the internet came along and I’m happily working on my little angel investing fund, which allocates $25k+ per investment. If 10 fail, well, it shouldn’t hurt much more than my pride. Fortunately, success rates are closer to 30%, so I’m told (hope!). In either case, but don’t tell my partners this, I’m only in it for the stimulation and … fun!

– the touchy/feely spiritual stuff. I’m not exactly the next great guru, but this doesn’t cost any money – or much time – and feels … well … nice.

So, for me success is more about what I do than what I have.

But, I am just starting to live my Life’s Purpose: I’m beginning to travel more; but, I am just starting my venture capital activities and my book isn’t out yet (hence, the speaking offers haven’t exactly flooded in) … so, I am working on my ‘success’ but am clearly not there, yet.

Now, I suggest that you find out what REALLY matters to you and go about becoming ‘successful’ too 🙂

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13 thoughts on “The meaning of success …

  1. Glad my post inspired you. I suspect my title may have been misleading though, because I meant it more along the lines of “people who successfully achieve a big goal are in it for the long haul”. That does get me thinking about success in general though…

  2. My friends have always called me successful to my face.

    Little did I know they were saying I was a successful wanker behind my back.



  3. @ Jackie – True. It was the title that inspired me; but, I committed the sin of omission so that my readers would click through and read what you had to say anyway 😉

    @ Mike – It’s called the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” here, in Australia. It might be hard for my US readers – where success is celebrated – to believe, but Aussies tend to try to cut successful people down to size 🙁

  4. AJC,

    3 things:
    One, I equate success with Choice. You choose to travel, you choose to work, you choose to invest in the businesses you WANT to invest in…etc.

    Second, I’d love to hear more about your online VC fund! Why don’t you write about it more? What you are working on? Lessons? etc.

    You HAVE to build on the differences between Americans and Aussies and success

    /Done with Demands

  5. @ Evan – Hmmmm …. the differences between Americans and Aussies and success. That would mean analyzing the human psyche. My brain hurts! But, I’ll see what I can come up with 🙂

    As to the VC fund, etc. I only contribute where I think I add UNIQUE value … and, I see that mainly in the field of personal finance (with a few exceptions, such as my ‘anatomy of a startup series’) because very few self-made multimillionaire INVESTORS (remember, I made my first $7m7y by investing in RE and stocks) actually write pf blogs. So:

    For offline businesses read anything on; for online businesses read anything on; for anything on startups, well, read, and for anything on VC funds (particularly for very early stage startups) read Paul Graham’s essays ( ).

  6. Hi Adrian

    Regarding the roll-up mattress on long haul flights. Try to pick airlines that have the Airbus A380. the Business Class comfort is pretty close to First class on most other ‘planes. The seat is still not 100% a bed, but mattress comes standard and it’s pretty comfortable. I slept solid from Dubai to Hong Kong the other night, for the cost of a Business Class ticket.

  7. @ Ashton – I flew one of this class of airline (might have been the smaller one) BA from London, but it was First Class & spectacular (!) … on the other hand, I flew First Class on my national airline (QANTAS) and was sorely disappointed.

    Thanks for the advice, as I don’t need the service, just the bed … even then, now 99% of our readers feel that we’re just spoiled brats! :))

  8. Adrian,

    Take SQ (Singapore Airlines). It is an extra layover but usually has a comfortable business class. I prefer the A340 – they have direct flights from Singapore to LAX and Singapore to Newark (16 and 18 hours respectively)- it is an all business class jet and feels close to a private plane.


  9. So Adrian, here is an idea for your next venture. Here in China, there are things that we call “sleeper buses.” Bus travel is very popular, but it’s a big country. So a sleeper bus has beds, instead of seats. There are two rows vertically i.e. one bottom and one top row, and three horizontally. A row against the window, a middle row, and a window row. It seems as if with this configuration they get about as many beds into the bus as a normal seater bus.

    You leave here @ 20:00 in the evening, and the next morning you wake up in another city, having had a relatively good night’s sleep.

    So here’s the idea – how about an airline with sleeper aeroplanes! Because I agree with you. I don’t want the service, just the bed.

  10. @ Ashton – “Fly Ryokan Airlines Where Your Flight = Good Night”?!

    @ Evan – [see above] that’s one VC investment that I’ll DEFINITELY talk about! 😉

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