Redefine Success


The obvious social markers of ‘success’ are usually money and popularity. A big house in a sought-after neighbourhood and nice clothes that demonstrate your lack of concern for financial minutiae.

I tried to stop caring about money. I couldn’t completely not care because sometimes it would be nice not to have to think about whether I could afford that coffee in the morning, and sure if you offered me a stack of free cash I’m not exactly going to turn it down (I might question your source first). But I’m not obsessing about money.

I used to see people with loads of spare cash and assume that they were happier than me. Sure money brings freedom, nicer possessions and the ability to partake in enjoyable experinces more often, but there are two critical things I force myself to remember when I find myself envying that nice watch on the tube :

– I don’t know what that person sacrificed to get that money

– the human brain is the most remarkable learning machine on the planet

Why the second point? Notice how quickly you get used to stuff when you practice a lot? Like driving or using your phone? Your brain adapts to its environment extremely quickly – it’s a very useful survival skill. However it also very quickly starts searching for more – another great way to survive.

I’ve found that whenever I’ve changed something in my routine, such as buying nicer food or getting a new phone, within a few weeks or months I’ve quickly forgotten how much of a luxury it is, and it has become the new normality. My baseline assumption of what I expect my life to include has simply absorbed this new, expensive addition, and business continues as normal. However when I deliberately avoid incorporating something nice that I probably could just about afford into my life, I look forward with a childish eagerness to the one day per week/month/year that I allowed myself to indulge. It’s such a treat to go out for dinner once a month. I get so excited about buying Tesco finest aberdeen angus burgers. It sounds tragic, but it’s the opposite. I get a massive hit of enjoyment off a tiny increase in expenditure, far more than anyone who’s used to that lifestyle everyday, and like an unshakeable addiction, greater and greater doses of glamour and expense are needed to bring such a rush.

What’s my point? By not having lots of nice stuff all the time, I get more enjoyment out of simple everyday things that other people wouldn’t grant a second thought. As a result, buy not having as much money, I’m more happy. Weird.

I just saw a man in an Armani suit walk on the train with his Ipad blasting through his £300 headphones. Poor soul.

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