Personal Development

Inspirational Success Stories Are Great—Unless They Lead to Goals You Never Wanted

Expertise: Personal Finance, Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Development, Real Estate Investing Basics
39 Articles Written
Opposing direction arrows on asphalt ground, feet and shoes on floor, personal perspective footsie concept for finding your own way

The original thesis of marketing was: find a need and fill it. You need to wash your laundry, so a dozen brands of detergent fill that need at your nearest supermarket. However, in a wealthy country like the United States, those essential needs are already filled for the majority of the population.

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The problem is businesses still need to sell their products and services. So, how do they accomplish that in a landscape where essential needs have already been met?

One way they do that is to identify new needs that emerge once as you climb higher in the Maslowian hierarchy. They’ve been whimsically called “rich people problems.”

The other way they get you to buy their wares is to create the need where there is none. That’s how you end up keeping up with the Joneses (or the Kardashians). You currently live in a 3,000-square-foot home, but you suddenly need to upgrade to 4,000 square feet because you need that dedicated theater room and the additional guest room no one ever sleeps in. Your car is practically brand new, but you need to purchase a new one that looks like a two-bedroom apartment, because your kids and their friends are a little cramped on that once-a-week trip to soccer practice.


Related: 5 Highly Actionable Steps to Make REAL Progress Towards Your Investing Goals

Why Do We Fall for It?

Because envy has a way of making us feel inadequate. Nowhere is this more glaringly apparent than in the financial and investing space.

Oh, you make a great income at your job of which you save a good portion to retire, pay your student loan debt, and invest for the future? That’s great, but look at these YouTubers making millions in their spare time in between yacht parties.

What’s that, you say? You’ve acquired three great rental properties in the last 18 months and they’re all doing well? Fantastic—but look at this guy who went from zero to 200 doors in 90 days with no money or credit.

You started a small business that is profitable and that allows you time flexibility to build a life you love? I’m afraid you’re playing small—you should wake up at 3:00 a.m., work 18 hours on your side hustle, work out for two hours, read a book a day, and change the world by building the next Facebook or Uber.

You actually love your profession and serve your clients well with a smile on your face every day? What a sucker—you must quit your job at once, retire, and support yourself by writing a blog about how you quit your job and retired.

The Tragedy of Borrowed Goals

I believe that one of the biggest afflictions in modern life is the tragedy of borrowed goals. Imagine spending precious time on the pursuit of goals that aren’t your own.

Picture striving for and building a life you never wanted in the first place. Envision substituting self awareness with an out-of-the-box template of a successful life. How tragic!

The purpose of this article is to encourage you to become self aware and figure out what makes you tick. I want you to know that you can build a life that serves you, and I want to offer you permission to completely ignore someone else’s goals, strategies, and path if they don’t serve you.

man resting chin on hand looking as though he's deep in thought

Related: Why Following the American Dream Will Rob You of Financial Control

If you’re happy doing your job, do your job and enjoy it. Don’t let anyone make you feel less than because they’re miserable at their job.

If you’re happy building a small practice that serves the local community and helps you live the life you want in the process, do THAT with excellence. That’s not settling for less—it’s knowing what you really want.

If you want to build a small portfolio of rental properties to create a passive income stream, go for it. Ignore the voices that insist you must “build an empire” (whatever that means) or you’re playing small. If you’re building your real estate investment portfolio for income, then choose the simplest, most elegant solution to help you achieve that. That’s usually a smaller, boring, uneventful, plain vanilla portfolio of residential properties.

If instead you’re building your portfolio for ego, then the door count in your portfolio starts to matter. Neither of those options is “right” or “wrong”—you just have to figure out your lane and stay in it. Don’t get your head turned by rags to riches stories that lead to where you don’t want to end up in the first place.

The most important mantra in investing and life has just two words: Know thyself. Simple but not easy.

It’s especially challenging in modern life when we busy ourselves with the pursuit of income to pay bills. There’s no space to become self-aware and figure out what we really want.

But we must make the space and begin to know ourselves, because if we don’t, we will fall prey to the tragedy of borrowed goals. We will end up pursuing someone else’s dream only to achieve it and find out it’s actually an unhappy nightmare.

How do you ensure you stay focused on your personal goals?

Weigh in with a comment!

Erion Shehaj helps successful professionals achieve financial independence using the Blueprint Real Estate Investing™ strategy. By comb...
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    Karen O. from NYC, NY
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Excellent post. Thank you.
    Account Closed from Kyparissia, Messinia
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    My sentiments exactly. Which is why I don’t read , listen or watch a lot of what this site has. A lot doesn’t relate to me or my goals.
    Jerry W. Investor from Thermopolis, Wyoming
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Erion, Extremely good article. Too often we judge ourselves by someone else’s success, not our own. The same way with our goals. It is important to watch others because we can learn from them, but that is different from borrowing their goals or parameters of success. I understand the mindset of the 10X, but it should only be used if it fits your goals and life quality design.
    Angela Holmes from San Jose, CA
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    This is a great article. Borrowed goals are not your goals.
    Barry O. Investor from Imperial Beach, California
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Great perspective on life!
    Carol Rambo
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    I needed to read that kid! I am 54 and own my own home outright. Have the possibility of buying my neighbor’s house to turn into a rental. I am still negotiating the deal. I am so scared. I also realize I had the power to do this kind of thing earlier and did not. Have felt stupid about it. I don’t need a ton of money. I do need to have something good going on for retirement. The stupid comes up for exactly the reasons you cite– comparisons. I don’t need to define myself that way. I do need to get a grip on the numbers. Thanks.
    Anthony Gayden Rental Property Investor from Omaha, NE
    Replied 10 months ago
    Nice article. I realized a long time ago that this website was pushing a reality that did not fit my needs. It was all about bigger, faster, and better real estate investing. People would be talking about syndications, buying dozens or hundreds of units in a year, making huge money. It has the effect of making us average investors with just a few properties feel inadequate. The thing is that I never wanted to work full-time in the real estate industry. I never wanted to build some huge real estate business. I never wanted to own dozens of properties. I never wanted to be a hard charging entrepreneur. I also didn't want to leave my full-time job, retire at 30, or live off of my investments. All I wanted was a supplement to my income and a way to build wealth that was more hands on than my 401K plan.