Financial Focus

How to clearly navigate your financial life

We Are ALL Terminal: A New Definition of Success

Who defines your success?

"We are all terminal" declared the retired minister with a big smile on his face. I wondered what he was so happy about. After all, the prospect of the end didn't seem like the dinner conversation I was expecting nor did I wish to ponder my demise. As I allowed his statement to sink in, I immediately thought, "Since we are, in fact, all terminal, why plan? My life was rendered meaningless in four simple words; pass the Krispy Kreme's and Kool-aid."

You could take the tact that since we are all just worm food anyway, what's the sense in working hard, achieving or making efforts to improve anything—there's no point. The point, however, is deeper and more meaningful. If we are destined to dust, we do not need to spend so much time and energy engaged in destructive behavior. Look around, there's more than a boat-load of suffering out there.

For example, suffering that derives from striving for the acquisition of possessions as a means of self-efficacy—not values. I read recently about a house being built in Florida which, when completed will be around 90,000 square feet and carry a price tag of around $200 million. Talk about "needing" to prove one's wealth! There are stories like this, albeit an extreme, on every level; from the middle manager who HAS to buy a home in a very expensive neighborhood, regardless of his inability to furnish it-to the person who runs up credit card bills to buy expensive clothes to show their success. They are all examples of valueless values (unnecessary suffering) or put otherwise, an internal need for external approval of others. "I need you to validate my success through my spending." Talk about skewed thinking and a sure fire formula for misery.

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And then there are those, like the gentleman who reminded me of our impermanence, he knew exactly who he was and what he cared about and it was clear he didn't need me or anyone else to validate his life, his success or his values. I can't think of a better definition of success.

Michael Kay, a Certified Financial Planner, practitioner and a CPA, is president of the firm Financial Focus.

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