Spending the summer in the French Riviera working for a multi billionaire I’m surrounded by glitz, glamour, and what most people might consider “success.” I watch as hoards of tourists come in from the cruise ships, posing in front of the Aston Martin’s and the Rolls Royce parked outside the yachts, dreaming of trading in their normal life for the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
I’ll admit, back when I was doing Real Estate and trying to earn my “millionaire status” I tore out the pictures in Robb Report and posted them on my wall as a way to motivate and inspire myself. Even now, I sometimes find myself drooling over some of the clothes and purses I unpack for the boss’s daughter (until I realize a single item would cost as much as a mortgage payment back home.) It has really made me think in terms of success, and what defines whether you are, or you are not.
Shortly after I turned 30, I got into a fight with the captain that I worked for on my first yacht. Doors were slammed, suit cases were packed, and many harsh words were exchanged. Normally the old saying “words will never hurt me” have kept me from taking what anyone says too seriously, especially a man who barely knows me and whose motive at that moment was to get me to want to leave.
But even after apologies were made and the suitcases were put away, the words lingered like a sharp rock in the bottom of my shoe. “You’re a thirty year old failure!!!” They struck a nerve in me that I couldn’t seem to shake off, and part of me began to wonder if maybe he was right.
Irresponsible? I could accept that. I’ll admit to having my share of unpaid debts and creditors trying to track me down for the sake of trying to build a business. Immature? If there was a female version of Peter Pan I would be her. While most women my age have steady careers, a mortgage and a few kids by now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not quite ready to give up my childlike freedom and “grow up.” But a failure? I don’t think anyone likes hearing that word, and even more people are afraid of becoming it. Maybe that’s why so many people live their lives according to the parameters that someone else has placed for them, instead of living a life by their own design.
I pondered over this for a few days to the point of exhaustion. Here I was, half way around the world, away from my family and friends and basically all that is familiar and comfortable. In terms of monetary success, I didn’t have much except what I had made working on the boat so far, and material possessions all had either been liquidated or put into storage. Sure, if you were to look at my assets on paper, I would be on the opposite end of the scale compared to the Bill Gates and Oprah Winfreys of the world, maybe even some other thirty year olds. But weren’t some of the greatest men in history at one time regarded as failures? How many times did Abraham Lincoln run for president before he was finally elected? How many attempts did Thomas Edison fail at before that light bulb was finally invented?
I remember reading somewhere that “success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” If I were to break things down in terms of that definition, then really just the very thought of me being on that yacht…somewhere off the coast of Croatia….even with all the wreckage and turmoil that I was supposedly causing, was a success.
I had made the goal to begin traveling. I worked my ass off so that I could find a way to make it happen NOW (instead of when I had my million dollars) worked even harder still once I got on the yacht (and yes, I did fumble around a bit like Bambi, breaking many things in my path much to the dismay of the poor engineer.) But even despite my failures, (which really came down to a matter of learning a new job) I still finished the season, was able to travel to 15 countries on my own for the next 6 months, and even gave my dad a chance to travel with me and find relatives in Poland he had never met. (Something I had set as a goal doing Real Estate but had not been able to accomplish until then.)