Success vs failure

Success or failure is relative. It all depends on your vantage point, and what your measure of success is. For most of my childhood, I lived in a large five-bedroom house in one of the most affluent suburbs of our city. Our house had two large living rooms, a kitchen large enough to comfortably seat all six of us for dinner, a conservatory and gardens front, side and rear.

The childhood home.

We lived opposite a self-made millionaire, then the richest man in Yorkshire — he later amassed billions. We didn’t know him, though, because he lived in a grand house behind a tall brick wall, with extensive grounds including ornamental gardens, lakes and a private golf course. He was well known for hosting celebrities for family birthday parties, who would arrive by helicopter. We didn’t really know any of our neighbours though. I had no local friends at all. It was a pretty lonely place.

The neighbours opposite.

Our house was located on one of the wealthiest roads in the area, and at the exclusive end to boot, beyond the golf course, in a village all of its own. To many people, where we lived was the epitome of success. I didn’t get that though. In fact, how and where we lived profoundly embarrassed me. That was because many people in our city lived in substandard housing, in neighbourhoods afflicted with severe deprivation. I didn’t think it was very fair.

Our house (in white box) and our neighbourhood.

I don’t live like that today. I live in a small semi-detached house on a working-class street, two-hundred miles south of my childhood home. Measured against where I came from, many people would say I am a failure. They would query why I’m not living in a nice new-build townhouse up the road, enjoying the prime of my profession, raking in millions. Surely there must be something wrong with me in choosing to live how and where I do.

My neighbourhood today.

But the truth is, I never had any desire to chase the lifestyle I knew in my youth. I never had those ambitions. I believe in living within my means, which is what we have done. Therefore what you see is not failure; this is success. Success measured against my own aspirations: to build a happy home for our children, to live debt-free, to have a good work-life balance, to escape the cognitive dissonance of beliefs mismatching practice. Oh, and to gaze upon a beautiful view.

In my opinion, you shouldn’t measure yourself against other people’s standards of success. That way leads towards insanity, for it is a moving feast, difficult to ever attain. Aim for whatever sits most comfortably in your heart. Personally, I don’t believe that wealth equates to happiness or self-worth. For me, contentment is the true success. Achieve that and your life will be true bliss.

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