A New Measure for Success?


By Kenneth Justice

~ Have you ever been truly honest with yourself and acknowledged what your true measure for success happens to be?

What does success mean to you?

–) Wealth

–) A big house

–) Expensive automobile

–) Early retirement

–) Public accolades

–) Becoming a celebrity

–) Being at the top of a fortune 500 company

We all measure success differently, although there tends to be a trend among women and men living  in Western societies in that we often measure success as an extension of our personal wealth.

Money = success

Many of us would argue that money does not equal success, but when we consider what we think about the most…..money jumps to the top of the list.

What does it say about a culture that we tend to value wealth and possessions as a primary measure of success?

Hey, we can say that we don’t measure success by money and our personal possessions; but when we find ourselves spending the majority of our time working and logging in more consumeristic hours than other cultures….well I think the facts speak for themselves.

Western societies tend to consume; that is we tend to buy, buy, buy…..or to put it another way; spend, spend, spend.

–) Gotta buy the new Iphone

–) I need to buy the new tablet

–) I wanna buy a new car

–)  I’m gonna get  a new outfit

–) It’s time for another new pair of shoes

Working in the human service field I found that I was more likely to run across people who were more likely to spend too much money rather than people who were more likely to save too much money.

Statistically; even though we often have the ability to save our money…..we usually don’t; spending it is far more fun!

A good friend of mine blames the media for our spend-thrift ways; “It’s entirely the media’s fault for influencing people to live consumeristic lives; the media needs to be stopped!” he tells me.

My friend is something of an anarchist who believes that the only way to help people is to stop the ‘things on the top’ which are influencing people to live a certain way.

I don’t think anyone denies that advertisements, the media, etc. attempt to influence our spending habits…….but that doesn’t mean we should outlaw advertising…..does it?

I think many of us realize that we could be saving more………but Western Culture is in many ways is designed to live a lifestyle of ‘spending’ that to do otherwise would be rather odd…..wouldn’t it?

I spent yesterday afternoon talking to a man from Yugoslavia. He is a first generation immigrant to the United States and was explaining to me the most striking difference he had observed since moving to America,

“At 4:00 every day in my hometown most all the workers finish their vocational duties for the day and men, women, and children gather together in large groups of friends, cousins, and families to share meals together for the rest of the evening. Our days were not geared toward luxuries or entertainment  but were focused on getting to 4:00 where we spent every evening enjoying each other’s company”

Such is life in a more communal culture……but as sociologists will tell us there are definitely drawbacks to living in a communal culture.

Yet, this man who left everything to come to the United States because of the poor economic conditions in his homeland……spends everyday of his life dreaming of moving back.

“It is a much harder lifestyle here in the America” he told me, “Even though I make so much more money by living here in the States, my cost of living is so much higher that I often wonder if I did the right thing in moving my wife, children, and parents here to the U.S.”

There is something to say for living a more simple life.

But then again……perhaps our way of life is here to stay and there is nothing we can do about it.

–) Perhaps people like me shouldn’t complain about our consumeristic tendencies here in the U.S.

–) Perhaps I should be more accepting of the way-of-life we have created for ourselves

–) Perhaps I should stop looking at other countries and comparing our way-of-life to theirs

–) Perhaps I should just go to the store and buy something to get my mind off of all of this

What I do know is that I’m due for another cup of coffee,



Categories: Culture & Society

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

25 replies

  1. Shit and I just decided to upgrade so bought myself a new iPod.
    What you say is all true, we put too much emphasis on the materialistic and money value of life rather than actually saying it, and living a relatively simple life.

  2. and I need a cup of tea … and no money doesn’t drive me but sadly we need it .. but yes I do like things … love a good bargain and enjoy creating new from old .. so maybe my consumerism is a big circle or old and new … definitely need a cup of tea to ponder

  3. It seems like we’re nothing without money nowadays. And in a way it’s true (sadly)… I would also love to focus more on communal culture. The stories of the man’s homeland sound wonderful to me. I can imagine he misses it. If all of us just could look beyond money, wealth, etc… Wouldn’t that be great? There’s so much more than money that can make you happy!

    • Justme,

      of the things I’ve noticed about the United STates compared to other smaller countries is that here in the U.S. there is not as much to do ‘for free’. In other countries, life is so much simpler and therefore costs a lot less.

      This isn’t to say that other countries are ‘better’ than the U.S…..but merely to point out an interesting difference.

    • Indeed an interesting difference… For the Netherlands it’s true. We even have free concerts sometimes 😉 That doesn’t necessarily makes life simpler or less expensive though. But the fact that it’s possible to do things for free sure says something about the differences between countries.
      Well, no country is the same, and actually I’m glad it’s that way 😉

  4. Your culture teaches you what’s important. The people who OWN the media, control what you see. We have no other guidelines and most of us do not know what it’s like to LIVE (not visit) in other cultures. Change the media output and you change your society. We only think we have choices…we are led by the people who own our country and the media. Fewer independents are out there so our choices become even more narrow. There is no freedom of the press. The owners of the press show you what they want you to see. We are being manipulated by the elite who have us dancing on strings. But they’re good at what they do so most people don’t usually think about it. Our government is putting cameras on every corner and only a few groups are up in arms over that…everyday we lose more of our freedom FOR OUR OWN GOOD, as if we were children but we are easily amused because of the big signs showing the new phones and latest 6″ heels…so we are distracted by bling and meanwhile…our rights are being taken away and everyone is too busy looking the other way to notice or care. Success? Waking up, I guess.

    • HitandRun,

      Interestingly enough…..people are taking so many photos and using their smart phones so much that the government didn’t even need to rely on their own photos to apprehend the Boston bombers; they just used the images taken by the public!

      Makes me think that we won’t even need ‘big brother’ because we ourselves might eventually become big brother!

  5. I hope that your friend from Yugoslavia will adjust and create his communal culture here. We do really need to feel we belong with other people. Whenever I want to buy something to “make myself feel better” I know it won’t really last. A successful life for me is being the best parent and friend I can be. That includes taking care of my own happiness.

  6. As far as the media driving our rabid consumerism, I agree. But, personally, it really annoys me. I watch commercials and think “Are they F’in serious? That commercial made me decide I’ll NEVER buy that product/service”. The majority of advertisements are simply an assault on my intelligence. There was a commercial last night where a person was described as “debonair and tells a good joke” WTF? So my brain automatically thought “douchey and lame”, fortunately it was a commercial for a beer I’d never drink anyway.

    I’m jealous of the life your friend had back in Yugoslavia… just like I’m jealous of my neighbors, when their entire family is visiting. I don’t live close to my family 😦

  7. It is not a matter of spending or saving. Capitalism is in fact a system that tries and many times succeed in monetarizing all kind of values. As such, we have now the price for a car and the price of a human life in the stock market of our mind. Isn’t it weird?

  8. There is much to agree with here.

    For me, success is the achievement of peace,
    by which I mean peace of mind.

    As for money, having too little is not good
    and can plainly be corrosive.
    As can having too much.

    When it comes to saving, there is now a problem where I live,
    The YUK (Yunited Kingdom).

    Interest rates are being kept artificially low,
    which means well below the rate of inflation.
    So, if you save, you lose.

    By this method of financial repression, governments which print money
    (whatever they choose to call it, ‘quantitative easing’ etc)
    are trying to inflate away part of their mountain of debt.
    It is really a stealth tax.

    Faced with this reality, spending money can make sense,
    depending, of course, on what you spend it on.

  9. Don’t worry about the shoulds. Just contemplate… over that next cup of coffee, of course.

  10. Having had many discussions with people from various countries around the world, the one thing that most of them say is missing in America, is family. Sadly, money and greed has taken over many peoples’ lives and now they fail to focus on what is truly important. Not only are we losing the true sense of value and importance in this life, our morals are quickly diminishing as well.

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  12. People usually want what they think other people want and usually it is money. If everyone valued pink underwear then that’s what everyone would be striving for.

  13. a very interesting take on how success is so subjective

  14. banning advertisements won’t necessarily change anything; if people can’t think for themselves then we have bigger issues than just being materialistic. i do agree, however, that it would be good to find other ways to measure success than just having material items and knowing that each person’s success is going to be different from everyone else as each life varies from everyone else.

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