How the Concept of Success Changes with Age

Remember when you were young and you didn’t have a care in the world. You sat around drinking beer and smoking pot and dreaming of your future as a rock star. Wait… maybe not that young. But seriously, when we’re in our 20s and 30s, we’re more driven to become successful. But for many of us, the concept of success changes with age.

What Mattered Then Matters Less

Honestly, I really did want to be a rock & roll star. I spent most of my 20s honing my songwriting skills and learning how to play all the instruments used in a five-piece rock & roll band. I recorded demos and sent them off to producers and record companies. I even moved to Nashville (yeah, I know it’s country) for a brief period of time in my late 20s.

By about the time I reached 29 years old, I started asking myself some hard questions, like, “What the fuck am I doing?” I had a dream. I’d written hundreds of songs. I could play drums, guitar, piano, and harmonica well enough to perform in shitty bar bands. But I was working in fast-food joints and mini-marts, and living in a 20-foot travel trailer in the middle of an apple orchard.

I realized that I was getting too old to be a young, dumb rock and roller. So I started planning a new road to success. One that included less alcohol and marijuana, and more education.

Education Became My Road to Success

Welcome the 30s. At the ripe old age of 30, I enrolled in college. I started out taking radio broadcasting courses. But after working as a DJ overnights for minimum wage for a couple of years, I decided to get a bachelor’s degree, and then a master’s degree. From there, I got into teaching at the two-year college level.

By this point, I felt pretty good about my life. I’d become something useful to society. I was helping others. I was making more money than I’d ever made in my life. I’d found success. But I still wasn’t satisfied.

By the time I reached my mid 40s, I discovered something. Although I had a good career and a decent place to live, I was still barely making it financially. Student loans, divorce, and raising a kid had led me to spending my paychecks faster than I could earn them. So what did I do? I stepped backwards, back to my rock & roll dream, with a twist.

Rock & Roll Dream, Part Two

Truth be told, I still dream of  making it in the music business. But I’m going on 60 years old. Where the fuck did the time go? In my mid 4os I tried to reinvent the dream. Instead of rock & roll, I turned to writing and blogging. It was more realistic and suitable for a middle-aged guy. Essentially, blogging became my new rock & roll.

I wanted to cash in, make a shitload. After all, I had a toddler to support, and I wanted to offer her a better life. So I got to work. Over a period of about seven years I wrote three books, four ebooks, and operated a handful of blogs. It was a lot like trying to make it as a rock & roll star. For every 20,000 trying to make it, maybe one or two did.

Both this blog and Hip Diggs did reach respectable traffic levels. Both blogs reached the top 100,000 most visited websites in the world at one point. That’s not too shabby when there are millions of websites in the world. But then I learned that you had to reach the top 50,000 to really get into the game. And moving up from 99,000 wasn’t easy.

I was burning myself out, working day and night. And I was still getting older. By my early to mid 50s I started taking another hard look at things. I asked myself, “What the fuck am I doing?”

The Concept of Success Changes with Age

I just turned 57 this week. I’ve got a lot less years in front of me than I do behind me. So naturally, I’ve rethought success. Really? What’s the point to dying rich? Not much from my perspective. Welcome to my new reality. Here’s what matters now:

  • Staying in good enough health to work another 5-7 years.
  • Saving enough money to retire relatively comfortably.
  • Having the ability to help my daughter through her early college career. She’s on her own when it comes to the expensive law schools she dreams about.
  • Living in a small quiet place within close proximity of my basic needs.
  • Continuing to write, play music, and be creative, and having the tools and channels to share that work, even if only with a few.
  • Being in good enough health to do some traveling in retirement.

That’s about it. I just don’t give much of a shit about the traditional definition of success anymore. And maybe you shouldn’t either.

Success is overrated. In many ways it’s a trap, even an addiction. For those of you who are of a similar age to me, you probably get it. For my younger readers, think twice before you work your ass off for things in this life.

I’m not saying you should be lazy and not give a flying fart. If you have the know-how and the drive to become a multi-millionaire doing something you love, more power to you. But chasing success comes with a big price tag. You’ll have to give up a lot of time with family and friends. There’s a good chance you’ll spend all your money on your startup, only to go broke. Before you know it, 30 years will pass.

Trading Success for Satisfaction

The real problem goes much deeper than being successful. The real problem is about satisfaction. Most of us humans are never satisfied. We always want something more, something new, something different. We’re told that we can have everything we want if we just work hard enough. It’s bullshit. Maybe you’ll get a new car and a big house. Maybe you won’t. But in either case, you probably still won’t be satisfied. It’s human nature.

It kind of sucks that it’s taken me almost 60 years to reach this point of not giving a shit. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I care about myself, my family, my neighbors, my country. But what I care less about is getting famous and making lots of money. I also care less about how others perceive me.

My goals have changed. My concept of success has changed. Hell, I’m not even sure it makes sense to keep writing about success. Success isn’t really what most people think it is. True success is about learning to be satisfied with where you are and what you have. It’s that simple.