This thinking process all started when during our mini-reunion last November 2010, one of my classmates suddenly remarked: "I am really wondering how come you are not that rich as I expected you to be. There are several of us who have always looked up on .... what's your problem?"
I knew she meant well when she made this remark. She is now a successful businesswoman, engaged in import-export business, drives a new car, and even has another house being constructed a few meters away from her home. And she also looks back to where she started, a typical employee in a trading business in Manila. Then, as she narrated it to us, she started exporting a particular brand of a herbal soap ... and the rest is history.
After staring at her for a few seconds, I replied to her query and said: "Well, unlike you who dreamt of getting rich while we were still in high school, I only entertained the idea of having a regular income 20 years ago. And it was only 12 years later since then that I started thinking that maybe it would be good to earn a little more than enough so I can have some savings. And yes, it was only on the last quarter of 2010 when I told myself, hey I want to get rich!"
Pretty soon we were with the bigger group as everyone was excited to hear and share stories; laughing and teasing each other about how we look now, what we used to do way back in high school ...oh our stories were shifting between how it was then and now!
While chatting with another classmate after this reunion, I mentioned this exchange and how I felt about it. I was surprised, felt relief actually when I heard him say, "It's not just money. Being successful is not just about money. Look, I may be earning a lot in my present position with a bank but my work is very stressful. I'm taking several meds for maintenance -- you know, for the heart, to control my blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc...etc... I am now thinking of having an early retirement, maybe 5 years from now, and pursue my involvement in the things that you have been doing in your work."
"You mean, development work? Working with poor communities?" I asked him, just to be sure I heard him right.
"Yes. Our group at Gawad Kalinga is into helping several poor communities build their houses, re-build their communities...It really feels good to be able to help in our own small way," he continued while cruising his Revo through the heavy traffic at V. Mapa. I just sat there silently while listening to him telling me about their experience of constructing those houses which, by the way, are also painted with different colors. :-)
Stepping inside my home, I found myself feeling a lot better, could even feel a smile touch my face. I know and I agree that there are several ways to measure success in life. Getting rich is one, feeling proud and fulfilled with what you have done, that's another one. But for me it's a combination of many things, mostly intangible ones, non-material things ... that really make me feel happy with the choices I've made in life.
How about you? How do you measure success? What is it that sustains you in what you are doing? As a movie title once asked: Are we there yet?