How Success Keeps Us Trapped And Our Great Mind Shift

Growing up along the 128 beltway, we were surrounded by the epitome of success. Our paths were seemingly predetermined, and we never once thought that there could be an alternative to how we should live out our destiny. We were expected to follow suit in our mission to be successful, and had falsely believed that the map of our lives should adhere to what mainstream society dictated.

But, once we discovered that the game was rigged, we could see clearly the brainwashing that mainstream society had forced upon us.

We needed to be honest with ourselves and admit that we were nothing more than conformists, who were wrongly impelled into believing that there was only one road to take in life. We never bothered to think outside of the box, but instead followed in the footsteps of what mainstream society expected from us.

Let’s take a look at the path that mainstream society has conditioned us to follow:

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  • Graduate high school
  • Go to college
  • Get married
  • Buy a house
  • Have a family
  • Work until you are at least 70
  • Retire

The way we see it, we were born into a system that requires us to be consumerists. It’s all about the money and how much we put back into circulation. This is Keynesian economics at its very core. Our system relies on a perfect economic equilibrium which requires us to participate in the endless work/spend cycle to keep the economy strong .

We are convinced that our excessive spending habits and debt burdens are a normal part of our existence. We are made to feel as though we are indebted to society, and that we must make a contribution in order to keep the economy going for the good of our nation. And despite the illusion of our economic sovereignty, we are constantly reminded that we must do our part for the benefit of the world and for the sake of globalization.

Society depends on us to be successful, because success by its very nature keeps us on the wheel of consumerism.

Here are some of the things we are persuaded to buy in order to show that we are successful:

  • Fancy cars – We are convinced that our car says everything about us. Leasing a brand new luxury model every two years proves just how successful we are.
  • Lavish vacations – We feel we deserve to treat ourselves to expensive vacations because of how hard we work.
  • Designer clothes – We feel it’s important to impress everyone around us and show that we can afford a $600 handbag or $1100 dress shoes.
  • Restaurants – We don’t think twice about eating out where we work so many hours. We feel we owe it to ourselves to indulge on these shortcuts in pursuit of saving time.

We realize that our way of thinking may appear as though we are going after success with a pitchfork, but we must digress. We have worked to achieve success in our own right, and feel as though we owe it to ourselves to improve our standard of living. We are just more aware of the lifestyle inflation that can sneak up on us as a result of being successful.

We appreciate our success, because it enabled us to experience a great mind shift in how we view success.

When we had our epiphany, we realized that success in and of itself was the very thing that had made us feel trapped. Mostly because we felt as though we were suffocated by our long hours at work and endless pursuit to get ahead. We no longer cared about battling our coworkers and strategically finding ways to shine brighter in the eyes of our employers. Those elaborate titles no longer meant what they used to, nor did we care about that extra boost in salary that disguised itself as a time thief.

For us, this was a personal decision. We felt that mainstream society sold us a bill of goods that we didn’t bargain for in our daily existence, and we believe very strongly that there has to be a better way to live than to give the majority of our waking hours to an entity that doesn’t care about us. Time is a precious commodity and we want to be able to make our own choices on how we want to spend our time. However, we are both very uncertain as to what those choices will be.

Therefore, in our quest to achieve FIRE, we must dig deep and ask the following questions:

  1. Who are we really?
  2. What are we about?
  3. What are our dreams for the future?
  4. What are our basic needs in life?
  5. What are we looking to get out of life?

Sadly, we are still trying to find meaningful answers to these five questions. However, we must continue to ask these questions. For we both know that it’s much easier for us to conquer our dreams if we are able to identify what they are.

And thanks to our great mind shift, we are now able to face our future without immediate answers.

Looking back on our financial behavior, we now realize just how much the people around us influenced our financial decisions. It was almost as if we fell victim to adult peer pressure. It didn’t seem wrong for us to spend our money as though we were rock stars  because everybody else was doing it. We wanted to prove that we were just as worthy.

But, now that we don’t care what other people think, and we have freed ourselves from the material competition brought on by success, we are much better for it. We know that one day we will have the answers to all of our questions which will eventually lead to a new path, our path, and not the path that mainstream society dictates.

Do you find success to be financially draining? How do you feel about the path that mainstream society dictates?

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27 thoughts on “How Success Keeps Us Trapped And Our Great Mind Shift

  1. it continues to amaze me that such a big shift in thinking can now feel so right. We really are swimming against the mainstream, seeing excess in spending in so many places, and those around us similarly trapped. I feel quite evangelical about it and have to bite my tongue frequently!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It seems so obvious now doesn’t it. I was talking to a Danish couple yesterday and they were telling me how they are used to doing with less with regards to housing and “stuff”. We Americans can’t comprehend that as we equate items with success. Amazing how we get used to having excess of everything and we feel we have to have it. I grew up in Dorchester and we had nothing, literally. I need to get back to being lean and mean when I all I cared about was friends, family, food, and a warm place to sleep. Thanks for the great post !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak to others who are content with living a simple life! Especially since they already realize the importance of life’s basic necessities. You said it best when you stated that all we really need in life is family, food, friends, and shelter!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good post. I think America and some other countries as well need to change their definition of success. Don’t leave it behind. Just learn what it really is and what it isn’t. Then live for that success and reach for your dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We couldn’t agree more! To so many of us, it’s all about the bigger houses, cars, etc.. There is nothing wrong with that if this is what someone wants out of their lives. We just believe that there has to be more to life than making it our mission to acquire excess stuff.

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  4. Great post. The more I follow your blog site, the more I feel we have so much in common. I truly feel that if people got to pick for themselves without any judgement, they would pick a simpler life. Like you explained so well on this post, its all about appearances. I think it takes a strong person that knows who they are and what they want out of life to go against the ‘status quo’ of materialism. Till this day my parents and some of my siblings don’t understand why my husband and I do what we do.

    The long and short of it is, our society values the perception of wealth that they can see, not necessarily wealth itself. Telling someone you have $500k in a diversified portfolio that brings you a 5-6% return annual on average, but they see you renting/living below your means even though you have no debt is not sexy. Take that money and spend it on an overpriced house, newest model car and a manicured lawn and now that is considered sexy. Even if it means being pickled in debt to do it.

    I choose peace of mind and a stress free life, even if it means I don’t meet the status quo. The intangible things in life are WAY more important anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love your example of the $500K portfolio! It really is true that if they can’t see it, then it doesn’t mean anything. It’s too bad that your parents/siblings are lost on this, but you two should be so proud of the fact that by living below your means, you were able to pay off all of your student loan debt. I’m sure the reduced stress level has only increased the quality of your life.

      We do have a lot in common! It’s nice to see that we have fellow Escapadians out there!:)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can relate to the job titles and such becoming less meaningful – a lot of it doesn’t seem worth fighting for – I still work hard because the more we make the faster we can retire (now that lifestyle inflation is in check)

    The consumerism way of life is alive and well, it’s a 100 lane highway compared to our responsible personal finance goat path unfortunately

    Hopefully some shifts start to happen soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We understand the desire to work harder in order to achieve FIRE, especially where we are doing the same! In fact, we are HUGE advocates of working hard and becoming successful. We just believe that the idea of FIRE is still unaccepted by mainstream society where so many have been convinced that there is only one path to take in life.

      By the way, we’ll take the goat path any day over that 100 lane highway! 🙂

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  6. Australian society is so similar to your own. It’s the same treadmill of life so that I can buy the flash car(s), live in the flash house in the right suburbs, got to have the weekend toys (boat, jetski, trail bikes), go on the expensive holidays etc etc.

    I am often incredulous at how much money people around me spend on junk that they just don’t need. And then I remember that I was once like them. So hard not to be judgemental now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We try not to judge either where we also participated in acquiring excess *stuff*. In fact, looking back at our own history, I think we were some of the worst offenders!

      We are just trying to show that there are other paths one can take. That maybe it is possible to retire at 50 and not 70 like mainstream society dictates.

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  7. Perfectly written! I feel so alone in my epiphany in real life, surrounded by consumers focused on the standard design for life. I see people mindlessly spending and passing time everywhere. Reading posts like this are quite refreshing. I love that there are so many others who are realizing that there are other options.

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    1. We are definitely a community that makes up a very small lot where we are going against the mainstream line of thinking. It’s easy to feel as though you are an island by yourself, but we believe that one day this small community will be THE mainstream line of thinking. Maybe not anytime soon, but one day! 🙂

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  8. At first I could see a lot of the excesses of life, but now we seem to have become a bit immune to it. The only real time we really notice it is on the roads – we see a lot of expensive new cars, Mercedes etc, and instead of thinking ‘wow what a nice car’ we think – wow you’ve probably spent over $75K on that car, probably with debt, you’re a couple of years further away from FI because of that. Not in a mean, condescending way, just in a sad realization way.

    People earn more to spend more, they never quite have enough stuff. This Toyota isn’t enough, I need a Mercedes. This Mercedes isn’t enough, I need Porsche. This Porsche isn’t enough, I need a Ferrari. This Ferrari isn’t enough I need a Maybach Exelero.

    Society focuses too much on the wrong things. Too much about appearance.

    I think there’s nothing wrong with questioning yourselves, it’s part of being human.

    EVERYONE has the power to become FI, there are many people that earn a lot more than any of us do, yet we’re the ones closer to FI than they are. Mindset is hugely important to focus on what’s actually important :).

    Tristan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very well said!:) I was just reading an article this morning about the lack of savings/retirement for those individuals in the higher income bracket. It was from this past January, but it said that over half of the high income earners they surveyed could not cover a financial emergency of $2000 or less. This is really sad given that most of these people, as you pointed out, see no problem in driving Mercedes, BMW’s, etc. in an attempt to show how wealthy they are. I wish I had bookmarked it so I could share the link!:)

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  9. Like so many other LGBT people before me, being a non-conformist has been a matter of life and death. If I did what everyone else at my high school did, I would be married to a man and have 5 children. Instead, I am in love with an amazing woman in a city a whole world away from my high school and living as I see fit. I’m seeing more and more parallels between being a lesbian and wanting FIRE. Questioning everything about culture has gotten me to some truly love places.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So nice to hear that by following your own path and not the path mainstream society dictates, that you were able to find true happiness! 🙂 You understood exactly what I was trying to explain in this post. Especially like how you are able to see the parallels between yourself and FIRE!

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  10. I couldn’t agree more, yet I still find myself being drawn to material status symbols (house, cars, clothes, business titles, toys, vacations). Honestly I think most people *do* want these things. What makes us different is that we aren’t willing to mortgage our future to today’s luxuries like the Joneses.

    Thanks for the post (love the title!) I was a great read this morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We couldn’t agree more! Throwing good money after bad just to keep up with the status quo is definitely not worth it. But, like you, we do understand the draw. We would be hypocrites if we didn’t where we once thought the same. Happy you enjoyed the read! 🙂

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  11. It’s definitely easy to let lifestyle inflation creep up with you as you succeed in life. Thankfully, I’ve come to the realization that financial independence and saving for my daughter’s future is way more important than getting a fancy Lexus. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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