Is Success Always About Money?

Does success always mean money?

Everyone wants to be successful. But what is successful actually? Have you ever taken a step to define what success is for you?

What comes to mind when you see or hear the word “success”? Does success in life mean money? Or does it mean something more?

10 Ways People Define Success

Over the centuries, people have defined success in many different ways. Here are the top 10 ways the world has defined success. As you read through this list, think about your own definition of success and if you agree or disagree with any items on this list.

  • Success means money.
  • Success means fame.
  • Success means power.
  • Success means survival.
  • Success means freedom.
  • Success means who you know.
  • Success means happiness.
  • Success means significance.
  • Success means remembrance.
  • Success means legacy.

So basically, people always relate success with money. The more money you have, the more successful you are. But is it the truth?

3 Reasons Success is More than Money

Let’s take a look at three compelling reasons that success is more than money.

1. Not All Successful People are Rich

Even a cursory look at the world and history demonstrates that there have been many successful people who were never rich. It’s probably important to also note that wealth is somewhat subjective.

It really is, right? I mean, how can you measure success?

How one person defines wealth might differ from another person. Perhaps each of us defines “rich” in our own personal way. However, even with a conservative definition of wealth and monetary riches, it’s clear that not all successful people have a lot of money.

Examples abound. Take Mother Teresa, for instance. I don’t know anyone who would describe her as rich in terms of money. Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone arguing that she wasn’t super successful as a humanitarian and human being.


Another notable example might be Vincent Van Gogh, who only sold one of his paintings during his lifetime. Yes, you read it correctly. He only managed to sell only one of his paintings during his life. The painting of The Red Vineyard went for 400 francs in Belgium seven months before his death.

But now, his paintings are worth millions, and he only became well known after his death. So in terms of money-wise, he never did it. So wasn’t he a successful person then?

Mentioning more modern-day success forms might also make this idea very clear. While some social media influencers make an enormous amount of money, there are scores of semi-famous and successful influencers who are not wealthy.

To be sure, neither are they poor or suffering. But that’s not the question here. The question is, does success equal money? On this comparison, I think the answer is “no.”

Then there are the countless unsung heroes like firefighters, military personnel, and social workers who can be very successful in their fields yet never make any significant amount of money. To label them as unsuccessful, I think, would be to diminish the meaningfulness of their work.

2. Not all Rich People are Successful

Many people stumbled into riches by winning the lottery, a game of luck, not skill, or who just happened to be born to wealthy families.

Their families might be successful, but that does not equal their personal success. Perhaps the penultimate example is the richest homeless person in the world. The owner of that illustrious title goes to Lou Dinarde.

Yes, there is a homeless person who is rich by many standards. He received a trust fund of $700,000 and collected a monthly stipend of $2500 plus social security. Most people wouldn’t equate homelessness with success. Yet Mr. Dinarde has access to more money than most people earn in an entire lifetime.

So, can we consider that as being successful? You decide.

The biggest reason why success is not always about money is that money can’t buy everything. Even being the wealthiest person in the world wouldn’t guarantee you own everything.

You don’t believe me, right?

Think about this. Money cannot buy health. Though it might allow you to buy many nice things like healthy foods and supplements. But once you get sick, no matter how expensive the treatment is, if your body cannot recover, it just won’t recover.

With money, you might be able to buy the most expensive foods in the world. But you cannot buy the appetite to make it taste delicious.

With money, you might be able to buy the most expensive mattress in the world. But you cannot buy the feeling of sleeping well, and it won’t guarantee you to have a calm sleep.

And the same goes for many other things money can’t buy, including happiness. Think about it. Would you rather have all the money in the world and live alone, or happily live a simple life with your family and beloved ones?

3. Definition of Success From Successful People

Anytime we’re analyzing a specific group of people, such as successful people, I think it’s helpful to hear from those in the group themselves. Here are some of the things successful people say about success and money:

“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

help quotes Norman Vincent Peale

“Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“If money is your hope for independence, you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.”
– Henry Ford

I think it’s pretty clear from these quotes that not all successful people believe success means money. I think that is enough to pause and make us sit back and reflect on our own inner inklings and belief systems.

If successful people don’t consider success and wealth synonymous, should we? Perhaps yes, but perhaps no. I think reflection and consideration are enough to help us make up our own minds on this important subject.

Let’s Review

What’s our conclusion on the question of does success means money? The simple answer is “no.” However, it’s a bit more complex than that. When somebody achieves success, they also often get money.

A research scientist might say that success and money might be highly correlated but perhaps not causal.

In other words, money and success seem to come along together in a package, but that doesn’t mean having money causes somebody to be successful or, similarly, attaining success doesn’t necessarily equate to wealth.

If success doesn’t mean money, what does it mean? I think we each get to define success based on our own personal priorities and values.

One of my favorite definitions of success comes from Stephen covey, author of the mega-bestseller 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He says:

“Success is when your daily actions match your deepest values.”

Loves to share beautiful things in life. If you think today is your bad day, think of tomorrow as your great day. Everything that happens is on what you think.

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