Think Like A Trader Blog

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Is Your Idea of Success Hindering Your Happiness?

Reading Time - 10 Minutes


As I sit in Sainsbury’s café writing this blog post, I can’t help but wonder if I am slowly morphing into an airy-fairy hippie. I seem to drift further away from what I used to think of as ‘successful’ in my youth as each year passes.

Now let me point out two things quickly:

1) I am only 31. That is still young (fingernails grasping desperately to my youth as well as my ever-receding hairline)

2) I should have said a Hilton Café, not Sainsbury’s. I’m a trader after all, and I should be steeped in luxury at every second. In fact, I am drinking a latte in my Lamborghini with my dog next to me in her chauffeured Rolls Royce… with a Ferrari support vehicle behind.

Now for most of my life, all the way up into my late twenties, I ascribed to the fairly accepted notion of ‘success’, and I was determined to work toward it. What that meant for me was: to earn lots of money; to live in a big house; and to have fast cars. I was basically the poster-boy for capitalist trappings.

I have always been someone who works hard and puts in the hours, and I had no problem working myself into the ground trying to chase that dream lifestyle. It didn’t occur to me that I was spending so much time in pursuit of that ‘success’, that I wasn’t doing a whole lot of living. I kept doing it, even though I was unhappy. I had blinkers on. I was focused always on ‘the next step’ and not really paying attention to anything else along the way.

I didn’t really know anything different. You are brought up that way – work hard. Make money. Work harder. Make more money. We are bombarded with the images of ‘success’ almost every minute. On the TV, in magazines, on billboards and now, all over our phones. It is never ending. I think you can see what this has led to most if you pop onto a social media platform and look at the polished, filtered images that people portray of themselves to the world, determined (desperate) to push out the idea that they are living it, that they have found ‘success’. Everyone is happy and accomplished on social media.

But, I noticed something over the last couple of years. Perhaps my receding hairline has allowed air to my scalp and it is acting as a cooling fan for my brain, allowing it to work more efficiently. Nature’s very own sunroof.

What I noticed was that, for me at least, when I thought about what I actually wanted, the word ‘success’ could be interchanged with ‘happiness’. I was pushing forward on this journey of life looking mainly for happiness and contentment. And I had allowed myself to believe that I would find it when I had more money and a bigger house, because that was what had been shoved in my face my whole life. Every time I did upgrade onto the next rung, I started to believe that once again, that success/happiness was again just around the corner, on the next rung. I was almost going through life as though it were a computer game, trying to level up, desperate to become that better character, one that was more fulfilled. And when I got there, everything would magically fall into place.

This reminds me of a quote from Bob Marley –

‘’Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.’’

As I entered into my thirties (thirty is the new twenty!), I really started to think about what I was doing. My income had grown exponentially, and to the outside world I was becoming ‘successful’. However, I still wasn’t satisfied, and I still wanted(needed) more. I wasn’t happy, and it pissed me off. I had been doing everything right – working hard, buying fast cars, flying business class all over the world and partying…a lot. But nothing had changed. I wasn’t becoming that completed article where it really mattered – in my own head.

That is about the time I started to think I was approaching things in the wrong way. The other stressor was that, because I still wasn’t happy and because I thought I just needed to ‘level up’ again, I was failing to appreciate what I had done and achieved so far. I was chasing this idea of life and ignoring what was going on outside of my thin idea of what that meant.

Just take a minute and consider if you are in the same boat. If you are, stop and just think about your own growth for a minute. How far have you come in the past few years? What adversity have you overcome? How much have you learned? And are you still in that position of thinking you need to go further to achieve that success/happiness? Is it still just out of reach, on that next rung?

It was the realisation that I wasn’t taking stock of what I had done and that I was chasing something that in reality would never have an end that made me re-evaluate. At the time, I was looking at new houses with my girlfriend – big, expensive houses. I wasn’t looking at the fact that it would come with a tasty mortgage and that I would then be working for twenty-five years more to pay it off, giving over large portions of my income so that essentially, I had a roof over my head and nice sized rooms. I was focused on the ‘image’ behind it. A bigger house meant more success (happiness) after all.

So, I stopped, and I had a mid-life crisis (impossible at such a young, young age, I know). It really hit me hard, more so the realisation that I just wasn’t happy and I was killing myself putting energy into filling my bank account in order to try and find that happiness. I had never considered that the happiness hadn’t really increased alongside the income. I just presumed I wasn’t quite ‘there’ yet. Have you ever heard the definition of insanity? It is doing something over and over again and expecting different results. Yeah, that was me. In reality, I think it fits the bill for a lot of people.

I decided then and there that I was going about things the wrong way. I was feeding into a system more concerned with growing an already overinflated economy, rather than helping myself. What I valued most was free time and a release of the burden of being forced to increase my income in order to increase my life.

This was again driven home for me at last year’s Decisive Trading seminar. I spoke to a lot of great people, all of them looking to improve their life, not necessarily to become rich, but rather to give themselves more freedom (I don’t think one person mentioned ‘getting rich’). I remember one conversation in particular, this after the seminar when we were all having a drink downstairs in the hotel lobby. I was asking everyone why they wanted to trade, and one person said:

‘I want to have more free time to spend with my family.’

Now this guy was still relatively young and he was wearing a Rolex and was well dressed. The indications were there of ‘success.’ However, he wanted to change in order to have more free time. He told me that he had a good income, but the hours were very long and he had to travel a lot. It sounded like he was right about where I was in terms of the realisation that something wasn’t quite right with the predefined road map for life.

I have now come to think that the accepted definition of ‘success’ is warped. The more I look at it, the more it appears to be designed to ensnare you into a life with less free time, more stress, and although a bigger income, also bigger bills. However, I have also found it increasingly difficult to turn away from that ‘level up’ attitude. Even though I realise that it is not serving me, I struggle to allow myself to look at a different path. ‘Why would you go against the grain?’ my brain asks. Look what everyone else is doing. I think the world has it figured out better than you do.

The reason for this blog is really to get my thoughts out, but also to hopefully reach some people who are in the same situation. Us slowly revealing ‘hippies’ who are starting to detach from the cumbersome and restricting definition of the life plan we have been fed.

When you start to stick your head up for air, you get the chance to look at things in a different way. When I really thought about it, I noticed something peculiar. I have had the opportunity to do a lot of travelling. And throughout life I have also met a lot of very wealthy people. Now, you would expect that the richer the person, the happier. And the poor, especially from the third world countries, would be the unhappiest. That fit with the Western ideology of success, so it had to be correct, right?

Well, I have found that for the most part, the complete opposite is true. Even whilst I was in Peru, helping with disaster relief after a devastating earthquake, the people were happy and friendly. Most of them had lost everything and were living in tents. And yet they would come out to see us every day just to chat, thank us, and help out wherever they could. And more than that, they were often trying to give us what little they had. They would come out with the last of their food or some Coca-Cola for us to drink. They were always smiling and joking around. Now on the flipside, I would say that a large portion of the ‘successful’ people I have met were stressed and tied to their phone. There was also an overwhelming sense that they knew something wasn’t right but couldn’t figure it out – they just needed to get to that next rung. They were pouring their life into jobs and businesses at the expense of everything else.

So, this hippie (a very young one) is forcing himself to look outside of that readily accepted definition of ‘success’. I hope there are some more of you out there. If not, I hope you at least consider that more money and a bigger house, levelling up, isn’t going to suddenly bring you to the door of happiness. Let yourself be happy with what you have already achieved, whatever that may be. Be happy with what you already have – if people in Peru who have lost everything can do it, then so can you.

What does it mean for me? Well, I certainly don’t have everything figured out. I still struggle to have my washing done before I run out of clean clothes, never mind everything else. But I am still young (yes, I am!) But I am trying to slow down and to take stock of how far I have come. I also constantly remind myself that more money isn’t the answer to whatever question life poses. Instead of that big house, I spoke to my girlfriend and explained that instead, we could stay where we are and be mortgage free in a year or two. To me (and she agreed), that seemed incredibly freeing. A different approach. One that isn’t dictated to me by advertising and social media.

PS This does not mean that future Decisive Trading meetups will be conducted in a field surrounded by cow shit, holding hands and singing Kumbaya!

I hope you’ve all had a great week.

James Orr



  1. lol great post :) the field sounds good bud!

  2. I really enjoyed that post James!

    I think the older I get, the more the sentiment you described there has really being hitting home for me too (i'm not as far over the hill as you though, I'm still 26 - joking of course!).

    I can recall all through secondary school, college and university that my aim was just to, as you say, level up as much as I could (I played my fair share of computer games growing up and used that analogy when describing this to my girlfriend, she just laughed at me though!). I started my own business the day I finished uni and haven't really looked back since.

    I'm getting to the stage now though where I look at the people around me (most of my family is older) and try to understand what's causing the stress in their lives. And as you say, it's this confused desire to 'level up' thinking their life will improve with a better paid job or a bigger house. When in actual fact, what I think would make them happier is more free time. Free time to spend with family, invest in hobbies or just slow down for a while.

    In other words, I couldn't agree with you more. I think what you're doing with Decisive Trading and have done already is fantastic. I would also wager you've done as well as you have because you actually enjoy what you do and a want to 'level up' doesn't interfere because it's not there. Just keep doing what you enjoy!

    1. Hi Luke.

      Sorry, I only just seen this post. My notifications weren't set to email me for comments.

      I think enjoyment is a key ingredient to success. And even if it wasn't, why would you do something to be 'successful' if it made you miserable? Seems like an oxymoron to me.

      I've settled down a lot in the past few years. My idea of success now can be as simple as finishing work before midday on a Monday morning!