The Success Measuring Tape

Last night I was driving down the road and passed a lawn sign advertising a local business. The sign read, “come watch the World Cup on our 50″ Plasma screen!!!”

I guess they missed the memo. Is the “50 inch television” really a draw, considering most people have similar sized TV’s, if not bigger, in their own homes? My friend Gavin said it best, “maybe the sign was left over from the last world cup.”

There was a time, when a big TV was a material possession that showed your friends you were actually making some money.

Today, anyone with a credit card can whip over to Best Buy and pick up a 60″ 3D-Ready TV, and pay the $27 bucks a month until that sucker is paid for. The instant facade of success. Instant gratification.

There was a time when the car you drove was seen as a symbol of your success.

There was a time when the size of your house was seen as a symbol of your success.

There was a time when the type of clothes you wore were seen as a symbol of your success.

Success was once largely measured by the total value and number of material possessions you could acquire and stuff into your home or garage. Many people still view success this way.

My view of success has changed. Here’s how I view success now. I use a combination of four simple questions.

1) How happy are you?

I don’t mean dance around like a fool happy. I mean the type of happy where you wake up each morning energized and ready for the day. The type of happy where you don’t dread Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, for that matter.

You love what you do, and you do what you love.

The type of happy where you can look one or three, or five years down the road and picture yourself doing the exact same thing you’re doing now.

If you can’t, you need to quit.

2) How much debt do you have?

There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than debt. Good debt and bad debt aside, I’m referring to debt incurred to buy things you can’t afford.

Debt is so tempting. I remember a recent trip to Bass Pro Sporting Goods Store. I could have walked away with a gorgeous fishing boat for only $175 bucks a month. Nobody needs to know how I’m paying for it, right?

3) How healthy are you?

I’m talking about physical health here. I’m talking about the successful person who has the personal drive and motivation to take care of his/her most valuable possession – oneself.

And I don’t mean freakish, or obsessive physical health. That can actually be unhealthy.

Oh, but he drives an 2010 Escalade and owns the giant house on the lake…His job is stressful… He’ll start exercising someday……

Sigh.

Finally…

4) What are you doing to make the world a better place?

My wife and I were driving in our car last week, and the guy in front of us tossed his McDonald’s garbage out the window. No shame. Fries and Big Mac containers spread across the road as he sped off. He gets a failing grade in this regard, even if he does tend to sick puppies at night.

It doesn’t mean you have to be dressed as Santa collecting donations at Christmas,  or wiping oil off pelicans, but how are you personally contributing to making the world a better place?

Something tells me it’s not just me who’s trading in my old measuring tape for a new one. Everyone’s measuring tape is different.

What’s yours look like?