Define Success: Lifestyle or Pot of Gold?
Somebody asked me how many millions I got when I sold one of my businesses. He seemed a little stunned when I told him I didn’t. I told him that it was never about the money; it was mostly about doing something I was good at and enjoyed and found rewarding and interesting, and secondarily about making a lot of money.
His idea of “success” was different than mine. He expected that entrepreneurs would start a business just to end up with a fat bank account. But, there are really two definitions for success: lifestyle or pot of gold.
I’ve known people who are so focused on making money that they work all the time at something that they don’t really enjoy. Their goal is to make it to 60 years old and have an awful lot of money. And, I know people who just want to be happy and fulfilled in the moment, not too concerned about the future. For me, I think success is all about balance between the two. I have always been engaged in an enterprise that made me get up in the morning, one that generated sufficient income so I could do about whatever I wanted, within reason—that’s lifestyle. But, I made sure that I was creating something of value at the same time so that when I decided to pack it in, I’d have something of value to sell. I opted for the “best of both worlds” approach. A balance. Family and enjoying this wonderful world is too important, but so is carefully preparing for the future.
An entrepreneur has to understand their goals, and this decision is a big part of the design of their enterprise. My lawn guy worked 25 years, 6 ½ days a week cutting lawns and retired at 60 being able to buy a 36’ mobile home. He also sold his business for enough money to generate a portfolio that produced about $30,000 in dividends. That was his goal, and he accomplished it, but at the cost of not going to many little league games. I knew a guy who worked 80 hours per week to build his manufacturing business and sold it at age 68 for a couple million, then died three months after retiring. His kids didn’t even come to the funeral; they said they really didn’t know him. I knew a woman who built a graphic design firm. She was the happiest person I’ve ever known. Every day was a wonderment, she said. She lived well, raised a beautiful family, and put a little away every year. She will retire with enough money to travel and not worry about money. Not millions, but enough.
How do you define success? What are your real business goals? If you start a business, how will you run your life?