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The Price of Success

Now let me tell you something, as much as we all long for success and glory, once you have a taste of it, it might not be as enjoyable as you think. Cars, stacks of cash, fame, fulfillment, relationships, parties by the pool and endless vacations in the Caribbean: sounds familiar? I hate to break it down for you but success as you visualize it isn’t an easy ride, and can come at a costly price, especially if you’re after it only for the money. If you are one of the Wall Street wannabes or a dreamer whose only aim is to make it to the top and be able to afford seven Ferraris, one for each weekday, then hear me out because with every product comes a disclaimer, and if it says that “cigarettes can kill you” on your morning pack, then here is the disclaimer for the success you are dying for.

Sorting out friends

First things first: you are the average of the five people you hang out with. Plain and simple. So if you are used to hitting the gym with your best friend or grabbing a bagel with your besties, once you start playing the game on an upper level, things change. You cannot move your average up unless you change the five people you hang out with. Your new friends will have to push you further in order to keep up with the level of success you achieved. You cannot expect to play in the major league if your entourage still wants to be satisfied with an average life in an average house, working an average car. The question now is not changing your friends and rebuilding your social network, but how? You’ll either have to make it quick and smooth, or you’ll have to drag on forever in a painful process god knows you’re too busy to afford. Once you start making more money, allocating more time to your work instead of hanging out, attending meetings without necessarily having your friends included or mounting projects without having your best friend awarded an executive position, that’s when things get rough. The negativity, accusations, and hostility grow bigger and bigger. You’re seen as arrogant, too good for your friends or too busy to be a real buddy. You start doubting yourself, thinking that maybe they’re right, maybe you’re having a delusion of grandeur. Maybe friendships are more important than pursuing your dream and that it’s time you drop off everything and get back to the old habits. This is how it unfolds, and in most times you’re the loser since you live and die alone no matter what others tell you. As harsh as this process can be, it is possible to go the other way and avoid being eaten from the inside. You can make it quick and cold, professional in another word. Cutting friendships down is something you’ll do again and again throughout your life, whether you like it or not. Know who is of no use to you, who’s going to drag you down. You have to identify the weak ring and drop it down. Maybe that friend is good at cheering you up when your feeling down or is fun to be around when pranking your next door neighbor, but as you set your sight on making money and climbing the ladder of success, that might not be as beneficial as you thought. Humans are selfish by nature; our survival instinct overrules any moral considerations. A friend who is going to hold you from moving forward is no different than an individual pointing a gun at you: what’s at stake is your life, your dream, and as it turns out, no matter how kind hearted you are, your drive for survival will dictate your next move. Your kindergarten BFF doesn’t have to be your life long partner. When it comes to business, money and success, you have to pick the right team, period.

Money and relationships

Some call them gold diggers, I call them collateral damage. As you grow bigger, wealthier and more successful, the dollars in your bank account will attract all sorts of people. Some of these people are like sharks, they smell blood miles away. You might grow up believing that people will love you for who you are, that you’ll earn respect just because you’re a decent individual worthy of it, that the love of your life will stand by your side for better or worst. Wrong. Sometimes you’ll think you have friends but in fact what you have is a mutual friend. You know who’s the friend you both know? Your fat pockets or shiny suit under the spotlight. Remember that day when you show up to class with a nice car and suddenly everyone wants a ride? Those who barely talked to you are now complimenting you on that amazing piece of engineering you got rolling? Now imagine what the case will be when we’re talking about a level of success and wealth much bigger than that. You want to have terrific goals in life, you don’t want to settle for less than a billion or a CEO position at that Fortune 500 company? Then be ready to lose the ability to distinguish who’s your friend and who’s not. They’ll all put on happy faces and big smiles, but inside each has a different intent. You’ll have a hard time sleeping because you don’t know whether that beautiful person who came and invited you over for dinner is doing it of kindness or selfishness. Your lifelong partner might not be in it because of love but because of financial security and fame. That’s a tradeoff you have to make, unless you want to declare bankruptcy every month in order to see who will leave you and who won’t, but then again who’ll take you seriously after the 3rd time?

Work becomes your pastime

You know what’s funny? We think that the more money we make, the more successful we become, the less we’ll have to work and the more time we’ll have to enjoy our lives. Sorry again but I have to stop you here. The more money you make, the farther you reach, the less you can afford to have a pastime or a break. People become invested in what they do, and they lose track of when to work and when to call it a day. When you breathe, eat, sleep, see and smell money, you become an ATM, a money machine whose job in life is to make more, more and more. When you run your business or make it to the top, you realize that maintaining that stature is possible only if you give more of your time to reach perfection. You invest so much time to reach that standard that you become the best at it, the only issue is you stop doing anything else where you cannot be as good. Taking a coffee break? The first thought that comes to your mind is that you could be using that time to do something productive. You cannot afford spending a minute which otherwise could be invested in making you greater. In other words, you become a workaholic. Some do this not because they have a compulsive drive to do it, but simply because they love doing what they do best. People are comfortable when they can be on top of their A game, when they can do something nobody else can beat them at. Comfort breeds confidence, and confidence breeds happiness.  Why spend time listening to someone who talks and talks about something you’re not even remotely interested in, in a café you hate sitting at, when you can be making magic happen in your workplace or office?

Careful about every step

You wish you could be Jay-z or Beyonce? Listen to them complain about the paparazzi or about how they can’t say or do anything else without having their actions passed under the microscope in the late night show. He crossed his hands? That’s an illuminati sign. They put on a green sweater today; they must be making a fashion statement. They ate at that low-end restaurant? They must be going broke. Every word you say can cost you your career or your business deal. How you talk and wear clothes must be in line with the financial and social status you are hovering in. Nothing can be left to chance, because chance opens up opportunities for interpretations that can backfire anytime. You cant talk politics or religion because the people your cashflow depends on, the giants who play in the major league you play in, are of different opinions and orientations. You have to be a republican when dealing with a republican group, and you have to be secular this day and right wing fanatic the next. Your choice, your freedom of thought is a luxury you cannot afford, because a lot is at stake here. Always picture a lens over your shoulder, a microphone under the table. If you make the mistake of thinking that your words and actions are insignificant, then you’ll be sure to be kicked back to that insignificant social circle of yours when your tweet on topic X or Y goes viral because you happen to be so and so. You wanted to draw attention, you wanted to be taken seriously, well you got it, for good or bad, so use it wisely.

Morale of the story, there is a tradeoff when you pursue grand ambitions. Nothing in life comes for free, and neither does success. You’ll have to give up a lot in order to gain what you want, and it will not be an easy process. Money can’t buy happiness or family, but being powerless because you could not buy that treatment or because you didn’t get the attention you deserved can’t make you happy either. It’s all about knowing what you want and what you’re willing to sacrifice for it. It is in some sense like selling your soul to the devil, you might enjoy it at first, but soon you’ll realize that it wasn’t such a great bargain after all.

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