There seems to be a measure in western society that we are all trying to live up to.  An unseen, unagreed to yard stick that we are measured against.

Do you have a degree?  Do you have a nice car?  Do you own your own home?  Do you have pets?  Do you have kids and are married? These are the questions society (people around us) ask to find out if we are succesful.


Alan in a suit? Does this mean he is succesful? Intelligent? Heaven forbid respectable??

They want to know what school (university) you went to, what car you drive, where you live?  Then last one really defines you.  Which neighbourhood, which town and what location tells us everything we need to know about you.  Do you live on the right side of the tracks, do you live in the nice side of town?

Do you measure up to societies description of success or sometimes do you feel like you don’t fit in?  Don’t measure up?

What do you do?

I have enjoyed messing with people a bit for the last few years.  Katie and I have finally sold our home and rental properties, we don’t have proper jobs and when people ask us what we do (if I am feeling mischievous) I tell them we are homeless and unemployed.

Technically true.  I don’t have a job and we don’t have a home we own.  We rent by the day.

Some people react in shock telling us they are sorry, others see the smile on my face and start to ask questions and want find out more about us.

How do you know if your kids are succesful?

​Do you have kids?  What do you want for them?  What is the measure of success for them?  How do you know if your kid has “made” it?

Is it the car, the house or their happiness?

I think people in the western world want us all to be happy.  They have just conflated happiness with the accepted route to happiness.  They think the car, house and kids is the route to happiness.  If you have all these things then you get to be happy.

That is what the boomers and our parents want for us.  If we fulfil these requirements they get to feel like they are good parents and obviously we will be deliriously happy forever.  Who wouldn’t be happy with a 5-bed house, a job at the bank and an Audi?

Well intentioned advice with poor results

My Granny wanted me to find a good job and stick at it, my Mum wanted me to get a good education and a good job.  This was the route to happiness; partly in response to the failed attempts at entrepreneurship from my dad.

My Mum has incredible intentions, she wants me to be happy.  My Granny wanted me to be happy and thought that the route to happiness was to get a good job and stick at it.  She was trying to help me to be succesful. Great intentions but that path did not lead to happiness for me.

I challenge you for a moment to think about what success really is for you.  Is it the awards, the cars, the clothes and houses or is it something else?  Is it being a published author?  Is it recognition from others?  Is it  nice clothes?

What truly brings happiness for you?

For me success is happiness.  If I feel happy and feel good then I am succesful in my view.  Happiness (for me) comes from contribution, growth, time with my wife and friends, self-expression and looking after myself.   If I am learning, growing, contributing and having fun then I feel good.

If I stop learning, growing and producing for too long, I lose purpose and direction and start to feel down.

Cars don’t make me happy.  Well they do for a while but then it stops. Read this article from Mr Money Mustache about hedonic adaptation.   Hedonic adaptation is the concept that you get a boost from something new (car, house, new clothes) for a a while and then you get used to it and that becomes the new baseline and you are no longer happy from it.

A nice house doesn’t make me happy, well it does for a while and then I am back to what do I do with my time?  Having a nice house is an amazing thing but if you just sit there in it and rattle around you aren’t going to be happy for long.

You can buy all the flashy cars, posh clothes and mansions possible but does that really make you happy?  Has the western world forgotten the route to happiness or have we really begun to believe these trophies are the true sign of success.

My Dad had it all.  Bentleys, houses, Mercedes, succesful businesses, more money that he knew what to do with and did it lead to happiness? The opposite.

The true definition of success

Instagram shows us a world of jetsetters, beaches and mega-wealth.  It shows us fancy cars, planes and hotels and makes us believe that if we don’t have it then we are missing out.   It shows us fitness models working out, people eating weird and wonderful foods and staying trim, it shows us glimpses of perfection.

If you compared yourself to the people on Instagram it is a sure fire way to feeling bad about yourself and like you don’t measure up.  The real question is “Are these Instagram influencers happy?”

I am curious what success is for you?  Can you answer the question “How do I know if I am succesful or not?”

How do you know if you have won the game? How do you know if you are succesful?

My definition of success comes more from what I do on a weekly or monthly basis than it does from what I own or have achieved.  I have been thinking about this a lot recently and my definition of true success is living my life by my values.

I haven’t lived a life true to myself,  is one of the regrets of the dying.  It means that they had not done what they wanted, what they dreamed of, instead they did what others expected and demanded.

​Are you living a life true to yourself?  Are you living by what is really important to you?

Living by your values

​Every single year I do an exercise to uncover my values. By values I mean the things that are important to you; the things that you place value upon.  It might be family, health, work, love or something else.  My values are:
  1. Health, vitality and energy
  2. Personal development & reflection
  3. Creativity, collaboration & contribution
  4. Fun and adventure
  5. Inspirational environment
  6. Connection
  7. Finances and money

Alan Donegan's Values: What's important to you?

Alan’s Values

These are the things that I say are important to me and I feel like I have been living them for the last two months really well.  I have been going to the gym, running along the beach and losing weight.  I have been journaling in the morning, doing a Masterclass on screenwriting and learnt so much from running the extraordinary life course.

I have been creating podcast episodes, working closely with Simon and Katie and feel like we created something amazing in the extraordinary life course.  We have done chocolate making workshops, gone to shows and hiked.  We have stayed in a beautiful place, connected with friends, spent time the two of us hugging and watching shows.  And our finances are in a great place ready for the next bull run.

I have been living by my values and feel like I am doing pretty good right now.  I feels happy, succesful and like I am really living the life I want to live.

Are you living by your values?  Are you living a life true to yourself?  Do you even know what your values are?

I am not entirely sure that my definition of success: living life by your values; is the right one but at the moment it is helping me to feel good.  I chose my values, I chose what is important to me and I am doing it, living it, making it happen.

I am curious to know what your definition of success is?

What is your definition of success?

By traditional measures I am pretty unsuccessful.  I don’t own a house, I don’t have a degree, I don’t have a good job.  But I am happier than I have even been and I am living the life I want to live.  Not one that other people tell me is important.

Are you living the life you want to lead?  Are you doing what you want to do?

I wrote this article to inspire you to create the life you actually want to live.  Don’t try and live up to some definition of success that was created in the 50s and passed generation to generation, work out your values (what is important to you) and live by them every single day.

Don’t end up on your death bed wishing you had lived a life true to yourself.  Start now.  If you are still breathing it isn’t too late to start making changes and living the life you want to lead.

I give you permission to ditch the traditional view of success and re-write your own version.  Success can mean something different to every single one of us.  What does it mean to you?

I would LOVE to know.  Please leave me a comment or tell me what you think!  Please share this article with someone that is struggling right now as it might just help them to change direction.




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