You have can almost anything you want in life. No one is going to give it to you. There is no calvary coming. Your parents, your friends, none of these people can live your life for you. Instead, you have to figure out 1.) What you want, and then 2.) Take specific, targeted actions to achieve, acquire, or experience it.
Figure Out What You Want
If you want to be a success, you need to define what that means to you. There is a passage in the Hebrew book of Habakkuk, Chapter 2, verse 2. It says, “Write the vision on the tablets and make it plain, that he who reads it may run with it.” That is important because you need to be specific. To paraphrase Benjamin Graham, “criterion based upon adjectives are necessarily ambiguous.” Take out a pen, pull out a pad of paper, and write it. Saying, “I want to be a successful musician” is not sufficient; saying, “I want to sell 300,000 albums,” or “I want to make $100,000 a year from my music,” or “I want to be able to earn $4,000 per month, while playing full time with my band,” are tangible. They are concrete. You can tell whether you hit your target or not.
Be honest with yourself. Look into the deepest, darkest recesses of your best and worst self and find out what it is that would cause you to look back on your life and be able to say, like William Parrish, you have everything you ever wanted. The things that you feel are necessary to make your life a success. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, or says, about it.
One warning: Be very careful you don’t mistake the ends and the means. We talk about this from time to time. This site has a heavy financial and economic theme running through it, so we’ll go back to that since it is a base that most of you understand. Don’t say you want to “be rich” if you want money. That isn’t telling you what is really going on with you. Why do you want to be rich? Do you want control over your time? Are you trying to prove something to yourself or someone else? Do you want to escape? Do you want to be surrounded with the best of everything, from restaurants to clothes? Do you want to support causes that are important to you? Do you think money will make you interesting or popular? Do you think money will make you loved? Money can do a lot, and it can achieve some, but not all, of those things.
Likewise, don’t say you want to “get married”. Why do you want to get married? To be able to do things with people? To feel safe? To feel secure? To be able to share the deepest part of yourself that others don’t know exist? To have children? To get a Green Card?
Get to the root core of what you are seeking.
Figure Out How You Are Going to Secure It
To me, how you achieve something is as important as what you achieve. My personal preference is to go the honest route, providing goods and services that society wants, doing so without hurting innocent bystandards, in a way that allow me to convert the claim checks it gives me in return into the things I desire for myself and my family, including control over our time, vacations, charitable giving, and a high standard of living. Whether I am starting a business myself, or making an investment in a business run by someone else, I want to own assets that give men and women things that make their lives better; from furniture and jewelry to dish soap and insurance, varsity jackets to fountain pens, jet engines to apartment buildings.
I am the type of man that believes some things should not have a price tag. Other people disagree. That has not always made me popular. In fact, it has sometimes cost me relationships. You need to determine if the same is true for you. Maybe it’s not. I’m not here to moralize or tell you that you are right or wrong. It is your life, and you have to live with the consequences of your decisions.
What specific actions are you going to take in order to possess, acquire, or experience the things you identified earlier?
This Sounds Like Common Sense … But Few People Do It
Those two items sound so simple that they are almost insultingly basic. The thing is, very few people actually go through life and consistently focusing on 1.) identifying what they want, and 2.) taking specific actions in order to achieve, acquire, or experience it. Don’t ever let that be you. Merely being aware of those dual necessities can change your behavior for the better.