7 Ways to Tell If You Are on the Trail to Success

By Al Jacobs

At some point in most people’s lives comes a realization that the dreams of youth and more sober aspirations of early adulthood may never come to pass. A childhood fantasy to become a famous movie star, a teenage obsession to excel on the athletic field, or a young worker’s aspiration to be a millionaire, are among the hopes that remain a distant vision. But as years pass and illusions fade, each of us must come to terms with the success we achieve—or fail to achieve. Success may be defined in different ways, such as gaining the respect of friends and relatives, attaining proficiency in the arts and sciences, or living a satisfying domestic life. However, in our culture the very word success denotes financial achievement. It is in this context that we shall evaluate whether you’re headed in the right direction.

1. You regularly take in more than you spend.
As a first step toward success, you must embrace a fundamental concept: Income exceeds outgo. This is the most important principal to which you must adhere. It goes without saying that there are times, such as medical emergencies or personal mishap, when unanticipated expenditure is incurred. In these instances you’ll vary from our rule of frugality. But, at other times, you will consistently live below your means. Persons who fail to comply may expect a series of misfortunes with no relief.

2. You honor your financial commitments.
Persons who promptly fulfill their financial obligations will find all involvement more profitable. Conduct your affairs in this manner and success will court you.

3. You owe no debt.
One important factor separating winners from losers is debt. Although mortgage financing to acquire real estate, as well as wisely arranged business loans, can prove beneficial, personal borrowing is normally a mistake. This means that the clothes on your back, the furniture in your home, and the vehicle you drive, are owned without obligation. I’ll concede that you may appear prosperous behind the wheel of a newly financed Mercedes Benz, but your actual prosperity is vastly enhanced if your auto is fully paid for, even if you must drive a 1984 Toyota Corolla. And concerning debt, credit card use is particularly insidious. It’s my belief that a credit card serves a single purpose: a convenience when neither check nor cash is handy. Most importantly, when the monthly statement arrives, pay the full cash balance due before the date that interest is charged. Follow this rule and success will follow. If you cannot regulate your credit card use in this manner, destroy your cards and fashion your life accordingly.

4. You control the present.
As we journey through life, there are three principal objects upon which we may fixate: the past, the present, and the future. All three serve a function. It’s important to reflect upon the past, for by evaluating earlier performances we fashion a guide for handling new demands. It’s equally vital to keep an eye on the future, as how a course is steered determines its outcome. But it’s neither the past nor the future over which we exercise control. It is only the present that affords an opportunity to grapple with events and arrange favorable results. If you regularly conduct your affairs so to resolve situations in ways that satisfy you, you are exhibiting qualities that lead to success.

5. You are a skeptic.
In navigating the perilous waters that lead to prosperity, you’ll encounter shoals. Avoid them by demonstrating skepticism, defined as the recognition that ninety-five percent of everything is nonsense. Your thoughts then run in the following manner. You find it baffling why anyone buys a lottery ticket. You understand that the variable annuity your neighbor just invested in is a sad mistake. You entertain no illusions that a financial advisor will provide sound counsel merely because of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation held. You’re not tempted to invest in something because of a hot tip from a friend or relative. It’s beyond your comprehension why anyone not certifiably insane purchases a timeshare property. Such is the mindset of one who is successful.

6. You are able to retire at 50.
Admittedly, this is arbitrary, but there is something significant about reaching this particular age. Perhaps it’s the undeniable realization that there are fewer years ahead than behind. If the first half of your life is spent working for your assets, is it unreasonable that during the second half your assets work for you? This doesn’t mean you must actually retire at this age, and indeed most successful people pursue gainful—and usually enjoyable—endeavors as long as they are able. Nonetheless, the option should be yours.

7. You have a reputation for honesty.
It’s my firm conviction that a reputation for impeccable honesty is among the most valuable assets you can possess. There are no limits to the doors that open and the opportunities afforded a man or woman whose words and actions can be trusted. Whether you are of truly high moral character, or possess the personal values of an eighteenth century London pickpocket, is not the issue. From a purely pragmatic frame of reference, conduct your affairs in a way that your reliability can never be questioned, even if it goes against the grain. This quality is truly a mark of success.

I’d like to share a final thought on the matter of success. Wealth, at least a certain amount of it, is a necessary criterion for success. However, the possession of wealth is not in itself sufficient, and I know persons with net worths of seven and eight figures that are abject failures in every respect. It’s the combination of assets, lifestyle, and attitude that engenders success . . . but this is a subject for another time.

Original article here.