Monday, May 26, 2008

The Stigma of Success

While not directly related to personal finance, it does touch on the personal side of our lives that help us obtain said finances.

When did being successful or accomplishing things in your life become such a bad thing? I'm reflecting on this point as I recently made contact with a few high school aquaintances via Facebook. After the initial back and forth messages, eventually the questions were raised from both parties about what I've been up to. I take this as a query into the past 8 years of my life. Therefore I summarized my accomplishments and what I have done to get them up to speed. The list was as follows: I referred to myself as a school junkie: went to UPEI and obtained a BSc in Physics, met my fiance, moved to BC where I spent an amazing two years and obtained an MSc in astronomy, drove back to PEI, started substitute teaching and really enjoyed it, enrolled in the education program at UPEI of which I just finished my first year.

Does the above come off as arrogant or bragging? I am aware that it might given the non-emotional context of electronic communication. I ask because in both cases after sending the above and asking what those people have been up to, I have not heard back from them. Did I just come off as a prick or are they jealous because they don't think they have met with the same level of success?

It ties with something I've read recently that education in the eyes of others = success/accomplishment and is one of the biggest things. However, people don't see the downside to education at least in the short term. I can think of 3 big ones right away:

1. Opportunity cost: the 8 years I've been in post-secondary education could have been doing some job and earning income that could have been invested.

2. Debt: in the majority of cases, people continuing post-secondary studies take on a massive amount of debt that takes years to pay off. I've been blessed with very little debt accumulation during my education as I had a full-tuition scholarship during my undergraduate degree and the benefit of dual-incomes during my Masters and my current degree. However, many people are not as fortunate and put alot of their dreams on hold to pay back the burden of debt. Which leads to...

3. Non-education aspects of life become secondary: this won't apply to everyone, but it definately applies to me. I focus singularly on education tasks such as assignments ans such, often pushing other personal issues in my life to the wayside. It has caused problems in the past and is something I am constantly trying to improve on.

The three effects listed above are some of the downsides to education. What are some others?

On the flip side, those two people have situations in their lives that I would consider significant accomplishments/goals. One for sure is married right now, which is something we're still working on and the other is aspiring to enter the RCMP, a very noble profession.

The point is that we should all learn that success is not measured comparitively with others. You should only compare where you are now with where you were in the past. If you've made decisions that have made you happier now than you were or made poor decisions and learned from them, then that's a pretty successful life in my eyes.


Scholarly Warrior said...

Well written post. Whether it's academia or not, the grass is always greener on the other side. What escapes most is that the grass is just as hard to mow.

/That'll get you an A in debate, but an F in gym class

Schaef said...

Yes indeed, a well written post. I agree with everything you've said, but I'd like to add to the particular issue, which you raised, of education equating to success.

Getting a degree and getting a good job that you enjoy are two COMPLETELY different things. Getting a job is all about personal connections. Keeping a job is all about social connections. An education will serve you well if your social skills are of a high quality, otherwise it's always a struggle.

Figuring out what kind of job to get based on your educational experience is less than straight forward, and it's not uncommon to land a job you're not really suited and not know that until you've been there a few months. So by no means should education be thought of in such a clear cut manner.

Another thing to consider in the lack of responses is that some people just won't have anything to say because they don't know anything about your particular field of study or because you haven't said anything that immediately interests them. And some people are just jerks.

doug said...

DUDE, you've just been featured on Get Rich Slowly. That's pretty friggin huge. Props.

Cheeseburger said...


You are right of course, but I am talking about the perception of education = success. I would wager that the general population thinks that having a higher level of education means for sure that you will be successful. Hogwash.

Doug: I KNOW!! How awesome is that??

schaef said...

Yeah, nice work on getting featured on that there money-saving blogo-ma-jiggy. And now that I've actually checked out Get Rich Slowly, I've noticed that the guy has an ongoing gardening project, which I think is wicked cool. I'll definitely be following that.

/I prefer the term "dreamweaver"