Over the weekend, I heard the phrase, ‘He had all the trappings of success’.  Instinctively, the word ‘trap’ leapt out at me.

Google dictionary defines trappings as ‘the outward signs, features, or objects associated with a particular role, situation or thing’.  Not coincidentally, the second definition is, ‘A horse’s ornamental harness’.   Sometimes it feels like we spend too much time trying to attain the ornamental elements of our lives- cars, expensive clothes, nicely decorated apartments- without putting as much emphasis on inner satisfaction.  The stuff other people can’t see.  A lot of us are indeed ‘trapped’ by our own desire to be viewed as successful.

Al Humphreys says that he feels a lot of people are mindless engaged in a ‘race for the biggest gravestone’, i.e. the accumulation of wealth.   Too often we put all of our hopes and dreams onto some distant point in the future where we can finally sit back and say, ‘Now I deserve to make my own choices’.   It is easy to be seduced by thoughts like, ‘all I need is another £X 000,000 and then I’ll be able to live life how I want’.

But it’s dangerous to confuse the trappings of success with success itself.  In fact,  it’s easy to miss the point of success altogether… success is engineering a situation for yourself where you can live for now rather than living for later.

After spending some time at Escape the City, I’ve read countless stories of Escape Heroes who have achieved success without being compromised by their circumstances, their jobs, their locations, or social norms.   These people have traveled to crazy places, worked unconventional hours, and in a lot of cases, made a great deal of money doing it.  In other cases, they’ve tailored their jobs to fit their lives, so that they can do the things they want to do, and not the other way around.  Do they have Lamborghinis in their garages?  Most likely, no.  But are they happy?  It certainly seems like it.

I’m inspired by these people, and by articles like this one, by Tim Ferriss.   For the time being, they have helped me remember that inner satisfaction is potentially one of the greatest ‘trappings’ of success, without in fact being a trap at all.

‘Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan—there is no need to wait and every reason not to’. – Tim Ferriss

More on the deferred life plan, by Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Corner

‘The Time Is Now.’  On Creating Legacy by Alexa Ispas

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