First of all, what is “success”? I believe that success can mean different things for different people. Your particular vision of success depends on what you want out of life and is subject to change as you mature and experience different things.
Success, therefore, does not have to be defined in terms of wealth. Wealth can help you to achieve your life’s goals, but in no way does it have to define success.
Where did America’s Idea of “Success” Originate?
How did American society start associating wealth with success? This has to do with the idea of the “American Dream,” which started in the early 20th century and matured in the post-World War II era, specifically the 1950s and 60s when the Baby Boomers were born.
Society back then was simpler – there was no YouTube, only television with two or three channels. Many Americans were starting to move to the suburbs, which seemed to be the “neighborhoods of tomorrow” every American should aspire to live in. Spacious, clean, and car-centric, the suburb has become one of the most enduring and iconic images in American culture.
The Impact of Media
For those middle-class Americans who lived in these suburbs, life was calm and predictable. Living standards were quite similar – your boss probably watched the same TV channel and the same shows as you did and lived in a similar-looking house.
As the twentieth century progressed, the number of choices exponentially increased. By the 2000s, cable TV had replaced traditional TV, and the Internet was just starting to grow. MTV was one of the most popular channels, and celebrities famed for their wealth, such as the Kardashians, were (and still are) all the rage.
In 2021, everyone receives personalized ads through Instagram, TikTok, and other forms of social media to buy gadgets, clothes, and other hip things. Ever since World War II, we have been bombarded by increasing materialism and, with it, the idea that wealth equals success. “How else can we get what we want?” we wonder as yet another ad bombards us on Facebook.
Think long and hard about what you want to accomplish with your life. From there, you will be able to gradually determine what your markers of success are. If you want to get out of debt, you may want to consider becoming a business owner, so you can have control over your financial future. Owning appreciating assets without debt will give you the control you need to be an owner, not a loaner.
Once you become a creator rather than a consumer, you will find it easier to have the financial freedom you’ve always wanted to match your idea of success.