Children raised in this type of
situation may have formed their definition of success from other
successful people, society and the media. Not having the trappings
of success made them more determined to achieve it in their adult
life. They were going to be "more successful than their
parents." In the final analysis were they?
As a baby boomer I followed my parentsí example after high
school and attended college hoping it would lead to a good career.
Like many I found that it was difficult to land that perfect job
after graduation and I became frustrated that success was still
out of reach. After a period of job moves searching for that
"perfect position" I reached the pinnacle stage of my
career. Like my friends I worked to purchase the biggest house,
nicer cars, better clothes and other material possessions to
validate my success. Each year the debt levels increased that
required a higher salary. The additional debt caused me to feel
"handcuffed" to my job. In our north Dallas neighborhood
there were many of my neighbors that purchased expensive homes but
did not have the money for furniture. They created an illusion of
success on the outside of their stately two story homes. If
success was the accumulation of material things were these people
successful? Almost everything they owned of value was actually
owned by the credit card companies and the mortgage holder. What
price were they really paying for success?
How Do We Evaluate Success?
There comes a time in everyoneís life when one starts
evaluating his or her success. Part of the evaluation is spent
looking at the sacrifices made along the way and what is there to
show for all the effort, blood, sweat and tears. In essence what
was the price for success in tangible and intangible terms? An
example might be the many moves a family had to go through for the
father/mother to get the promotions and higher salaries. The
impact on children frequently changing schools and making new
friends. Stresses caused by increased responsibility with each new
position and the effect that stress had on the familyís
happiness. Once the evaluation is completed many individuals
question the value of "success" even if material
possessions and the money is abundant. Some realize that the price
paid to reach success was too high. They yearn for the happiness,
true fulfillment and peace of mind they never had.
Did I Ever Achieve Success?
I am one that followed the course of success established by my
parents. As a baby boomer societal influences also had an impact
on my definition and striving for success. I climbed the career
ladder knowing that when I reached the top I would achieve success
and fulfillment. I found out I was wrong. A comment that my
supportive and loving wife of 23 years made to me several years
ago during my hectic corporate days really made me think about
what I was doing. One beautiful evening while walking the dog she
said " Fred, you know we were the happiest when we first
started out. You didnít make much money. We had that rental
house, the old furniture and the old car." Another comment
made by my oldest son when he was 16 was "dad when I grow up
I donít want to be like you, you donít like your job and you
never seem happy." When you receive this kind of input you
know something about your path to success isnít quite right. I
have also learned that many children of baby boomers are not
defining success the same way my generation did.
I Finally Found Success
I gathered up the courage and gave up the high paying corporate
job in north Dallas. We moved to a small Colorado town for a year
of college teaching. I remember the reactions I received from
family and coworkers. My wife and children were ready for
adventure but my mother thought I was going through a mid life
crisis. I was jumping off the "success train"
established by her generation. Colleagues at work either thought I
was crazy or were actually envious of my new life change. One
corporate officer said that he wished that he could do something
like I did, but he was afraid his wife and children would be upset
to give up the big house and all of the possessions. Iím sorry
to say that I think he is still searching for success. I quickly
found that giving up the corporate politics and business suits was
easy. So was the two-hour daily commute to my office in north
Dallas. In Colorado I walked across the street to work and wore
sport shirts, khaki pants and hiking boots. Currently I am living
with my family in a small college town in the North Georgia
Mountains. I work at home. My wife is a schoolteacher. I have
reached success at 46. I only wish I could have reached it sooner.
My New Perspective on Success
What I now realize is that success does not have to be a
lengthy journey. Unfortunately most of us have to learn this by
going through life striving for career achievement and paying the
price. True success is based on how we view things relating to our
life and career. Success does not mean obtaining material
possessions or career status. I learned from friends we met in
Colorado that some people with little money are successful. We had
college teaching friends that did not have a great deal of money
but enjoyed simple things like making biscotti, buying a good
bottle of wine, listening to jazz at the coffee shop or exploring
the mountains. They had more than I ever had when I was using
societyís definition of success. True success is genuine
satisfaction, happiness and contentment with yourself and the
world around you. Truly enjoying life, family, friends, work,
hobbies and all that life has to offer.
I invite you to find it and enjoy it.
Fred W. Tanner is a professional life and business coach.
He assists individuals seeking a simpler life, wanting to change
careers or wanting happiness and fulfillment in their current
situation. He also assists businesses in marketing, management and