Why success shouldn’t be measured by how much money you earn

Executive Chairman of Halftime Australia, John Sikkema

Executive Chairman of Halftime Australia, John Sikkema

How much do you attribute success to what you earn and your net worth?  I’ve found earning money – even lots of it — can certainly be a by-product of being successful. But wealth is so often not the primary driver for successful people. Many of the world’s big money earners are in fact driven by something they are passionate about not because their sole motive is to be rich.  

Lives transformed is the best measurement

Microsoft founder Bill Gates becomes one of the richest people in the world doing something he was passionate about. And after being so successful corporately Gates found arguably a greater passion: giving his fortune away. He saw that ultimate success was in seeing lives transformed. During a speech in 2014 Michelle Obama said “Success isn’t how much money you make but how much of a difference you make in peoples’ lives.

Throughout history, and even in tough times, people driven by purpose like the Wright Brothers, William Wilberforce, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela are all remembered as being successful. Few are known for their net worth. Earlier generations, shaped by World Wars and The Great Depression, struggled to put food on the table. Today many in developing nations and war-torn countries are still in this subsistence mode. For those stuck in poverty, sadly their options are limited.

However, psychologist Abraham Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs suggests once we are past subsistence living we actually need a greater reason to get out of bed. For many just earning more money won’t cut it –we want our lives to count for something and we want to ultimately leave a legacy.

Downside of money and wealth as a goal

Interestingly we are seeing this more with young people today. Many Millennials define success more broadly than older generations, seeing it as less about wealth and more about a healthy, fulfilled and a well-balanced life. Baby boomers like me signed up for the Vince Lombardi quote “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!”  Those who have pursued business success with the primary goal of making lots of money discover that it is not been fulfilling. In fact, it can actually be destructive as it lacks a higher purpose. Not to mention the very high percentage of people who sacrifice their lives and never actual achieve the financial goals anyway.

The downside of my pursuit of success was it had a negative impacted on my health, finances and relationships with my wife and kids. After a life defining moment where I discovered my life purpose from that moment my focus moved from making money and becoming wealthy to helping individuals or organisations become successful.

Feel trapped? There is a way forward…

I have personally coached and mentored hundreds of people over the last 10 years many seeking guidance around the lack of fulfilment in their lives. Invariably it was because they did not have a clear purpose, had lost their passion, or some cases, could not even identify what their passion is. This resulted in them being trapped doing what they have to do instead of what they want to do. And what’s worse is they don’t know how to change it.

A good example is a successful self-employed HR specialist was exasperated at a job she hated and with no clear idea about her passion or purpose. All she knew was that she wanted a career change. Today she is assisting prisoners with how to write business plans so when released they can start their own businesses. She is earning half of her previous income but passionately loves her work and by all measures is living a successful life of purpose.

How about you are you in a job or in a career you hate and feel trapped? Maybe you need to slow down, and perhaps even stop, and spend time to find a purpose that you are passionate about and pursue it!


About the author:

John Sikkema is a Philanthropist, Thought Leader, Entrepreneur and Executive Chairman of Halftime Australia, inspiring leaders to live their life purpose now.