Even those who would be considered poor by most standards across our country could still end up being a big fish in a small pond in certain communities. The economic spectrum exists even if it’s a small one so success (a.k.a. influence, power, prestige, etc.), at the end of the day is relative.
It’s extremely important that people understand this aspect of success so there are realistic expectations. It’s also important that people (especially your children), understand that achieving success doesn’t guarantee happiness and that you can achieve happiness without success.
The important questions people should ask themselves are what does success look like and do they want peace and happiness more than they want to achieve success? I have a feeling that if you ask most young people what it means to be successful they’d probably have a difficult time describing it besides saying when you’re rich and famous. You might hear a variety of answers if you asked them how much money someone needs to make to qualify as being rich; once again it’s relative.
For example, as I climbed the corporate ladder I moved a few times to neighborhoods that were nicer than the one I came from. In the neighborhoods I’d leave I was considered successful but generally when I moved to a nicer neighborhood there were a lot of people who made a lot more money and had better job titles. I wanted success and I achieved it but I came to realize it was relative and could come and go based on my environment. The truth is when it comes to being successful people bestow it upon you because you don’t achieve it until they say you have it.
I think a lot of young people and even some adults don’t truly understand that you can be successful at something and enjoy the pleasure it brings but not be successful in the eyes of society. There are way more people experiencing happiness by being successful at things they enjoy (i.e. nursing, personal training, policing, teaching, etc.), than those with a lot of money and things (i.e. big home, fancy car, etc.), who society typically considers successful.
There’s a reason why Hollywood has more plastic surgeons, psychiatrists, and rehab facilities per capita than anyplace else in the world. Successful marriages like Tom Hanks’ and Rita Wilson’s are few and far between in Hollywood. There are millionaires galore in Hollywood but not a lot of contentment, happiness, and/or peace. This should tell us something.
More than likely based on the demographics of this site, you understand the difference between happiness and success but is it something that you teach your children in order for them to have some clarity entering the real world? Sure jobs like being an EMT aren’t lucrative but if it's something that your child would love doing and it can pay the bills, then enjoying her career would bring her way more happiness than a big house, fancy car, and impressive looking business cards.
It took around 20 years after leaving high school for me to figure out that success wasn’t something that mattered to me that instead peace and happiness are what I really wanted. Not everyone is this way and that’s fine. Some people are happy when they have prestige and a lot of nice things. The important thing is to be clear in mind what we want, and then go after it with discipline and resilience.