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What is true "success"?

Career Success

Marty Nemko, Ph.D. (Contributing Editor, Careers, U.S. News & World Report) gives expert video advice on: Why am I unhappy even though I am successful in my career? and more...

What is true "success"?

Success is all about making just enough so that you can live a bare middle-class living. Every study shows that people are not happier when they're more successful beyond a bare middle-class living. Then, fill in your life with as many activities that utilise your best skill as possible. I'll give you an example of my portfolio life. Twenty hours, my best skill is thinking on my feet. That's what I do. So, I look for as many different ways to think on my feet as possible while doing something that I believe is good for the world. So, I am a career counsellor for twenty hours a week and so I'm thinking on my feet all the time; helping people find their work which is very important. I host a radio show about work, a different venue for helping people solve their work problems, and I do it in a very different format. I do three-minute career makeovers, so I've got to work in a very tight time frame when people are calling into the show. I also have a very big artistic side; I was a professional pianist for years. Now, I'm an actor in plays; not for a living but it nurtures my soul. I'm directing the play same time next year. It's all on an almost-volunteer basis. I get paid five hundred bucks to do it; it's nothing, but it enables me to use that artistic side. I also have a very close relationship with my wife because I love her very much, and I've got a couple of very close friends. That's how I create this balance in my life. I also breed roses professionally, because it's something completely out of left field, and I have six commercial roses on the market. So, true success is doing a variety of different things utilising your best skills and different sides of who you are; that is the key to being content, not just successful.

Why am I unhappy even though I am successful in my career?

Well, sometimes you're successful and you're happy, but there's a lot of people who are successful and unhappy, I know a lot of people who sit in their big fancy houses, having drunk their third Martini and are still asking "Is that all there is?" Well, usually it requires one of more things to supplement your successful career in order to give your life more meaning. Very often, in our capitalist society, to be successful, you've got to be pretty focused on bottom line, and, you know, there's a lot of humanity that's drained from you in the process of that. And for the people who are successful but still not happy, what it requires is an injection of humanity. And that often requires and means things mentoring some young person. You could be volunteering for a cause you believe in. It could be something artistic. Very often, getting ahead in corporate America or even government America or non-profit America is very rational, linear, et cetera. There is an artistic component in most of us that needs to given voice in order for us to be feeling fully complete. So whether it be to try out to be an actor in a community theater play or behind the scenes as a set-builder, or writing a great American novel or at least a short story, or taking a course in comedy so you can maybe go on Open Mike Night, it is those kinds of things, whether it be a relationship, finding love, very often people, in order to succeed have to work sixty, seventy, eighty hours a week, so they have no romantic partner, if they have one, that romantic partner's relationship is subverted way down to the bottom. So whether it be a mentor relationship, a closer relationship with your sister, a romantic relationship, an artistic expression, volunteerism, something larger than just the bottom line are often the missing ingredient between being successful and being content.