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

Erion Shehaj
3 min read
Inspirational Success Stories Are Great—Unless They Lead to Goals You Never Wanted

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.

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.


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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.

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

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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.