It’s perfectly normal for young people to dream of all the riches they’ll wring from the world when they have their chance to grab it by the throat. We all want to make a difference, to be remembered, and sure, to make a load of cash while we’re doing it.
The truth is that the word is called “exceptional” for a reason – and that’s that the majority of us will never come anywhere close.
We all have to accept at some point that we’re never gonna be rich and famous, and these people don’t mind sharing when that moment came for them.
1. You’re actually better off than most.
I tell myself often that I’m living a life that most people in the world can only dream of: good health, a loving family, a safe house to live in and good food in the table. It really is enough.
2. We’re all lucky in some ways.
I’ve decided it but I’m still not ok with it lol tbh I don’t think I ever wanted to be loaded, just enough to not have to worry about going over my overdraft all the time.
I’m more bothered by the fact that I’ve worked hard and studied to end up in a minimum wage job which bores the pants off me.
But I have a roof over my head and a loving partner and family so I’m still lucky
3. It can open your eyes.
I was in Vietnam 4 years ago (almost to the day actually) and we went out into the Mekong Delta during Tet. Met with a bunch of people along the way, ended up eating with a family who invited us to their house. These people had very little.
They had each other, a giant wild 13 foot Burmese python that they fed live chickens to, a 30 second walk to the river, and the plot of land they lived on where their ancestors were buried (they make them bury them there so that the family never sells the land, supposedly). That was it. Nothing more. They were all incredibly happy people you could tell. Just living life.
Not worried about which car they wanted next, or which phone they had versus their neighbor. They were a farming family and had a little plot of land. In that respect they were successful. We’re conditioned in the western world by capitalism. The constant barrage of instagram, commercials, ads on bus benches, billboards, in video games, etc.
We’re conditioned to always want more. Spend, spend, spend. I realized during my time in Vietnam that none of that shit matters, it shouldn’t affect your happiness, and that it was simply a device that we’ve been programmed by every day of our lives.
I already knew that, but seeing other people with so much less than I have being so much happier was something that stuck with me.
4. Times have changed.
I’d be fine with having the middle class life my parents had. What is difficult is wrapping my head around just that being so difficult to achieve.
My mom stayed at home, only my dad worked, we had a comfortable house with a yard and a pool, 2 cars and my sister and I went to private school. My dad definitely had a good job but nothing extreme.
My husband and I both work and we can’t even afford a house. I feel like it will take me 10-15 more years to get to where my parents were at the age I am now.
5. Be free to change your mind.
I was the top student in my class, I took all the advanced classes in high school and set the curve on most tests. I had really high expectations for myself, and so did everyone else. My teachers told me that they thought I was going to be very successful. Honestly, it felt like someone had turned the difficulty slider for my life way down. Everything was working exactly as I wanted, and everything was easy.
I knew which college I wanted to go to and got which degree, I didn’t even apply for any other university because I knew I would get in where I wanted. But they didn’t have enough room on campus for me to stay, so I had to get an apartment. At the time, I thought that was awesome! Especially since it was a rule that all freshman had to stay on campus, I loved the extra freedom that gave me. But I had to get a job to pay for my apartment, so I got a temp job at a local factory in the evenings, and went to class in the mornings. I should say tried to go to class, I was late to class almost everyday.
I couldn’t handle going to school full time, working full time, and living alone for the first time, it was just too much. I went to my advisor and explained my situation, and he recommended that I drop out, and look into online college. I didn’t even go home and think about it, I went straight from his office to the dean’s office and filled out the paperwork to drop out. I went home, cried, called my mom, cried some more, and then fell asleep. I felt worthless, like I had failed everyone that had ever believed in me. Over and over I kept telling myself that I would look back on that day with regret for the rest of my life.
Luckily I was wrong, it’s been almost 10 years since then and I’ve managed to make a pretty good life for myself without a degree. Turns out, I’m really good at factory work and I’ve managed to get 5 promotions since then and now I make pretty decent money. I live well within my means and I’ve managed to avoid getting into any debt besides my car and my house. I’ve invested a lot of my money over the years (investing, not day trading, so I didn’t get in on the GME deal), and those investments have done quite well. I have a decent car, but nothing fancy. I’ve got a fairly small house, but it’s more than enough for me.
My income may not be as high as some of my classmates, I may not have as prestigious of a position as I could have had, but that’s totally okay with me. I’ve worked to earn everything I have, and I have enough.
6. You can’t put a price on happiness.
The moment I stopped trying to be rich and exceptional was the moment that I finally accepted myself for who I am. My only goal from that point forward was to be happy.
Now, that does involve financial goals to a degree and also feeling useful, so I may yet be rich and exceptional, but I’m going to be happy regardless.
7. Do what you love.
I’m a professor, and I was at an R-1 university. There you are expected to write grants, and usually the professor opts to pay themselves out of the grant money for the things they are doing. Professors can get rich from this, especially in engineering, medicine, etc. It is how you become famous in your field.
I hated it, I moved to a teaching focused university. I like to be done when I go home at night. I like snowboarding & LEGO. I am infinitely happier. Less money & fame, but who cares.
edit/ note: The idea is that at an R-1 the base salary after tenure is usually around $100,000. Add on contracts, grants, speaking fees, etc. can double that. In most college towns in America if you make anywhere near $200,000 you can pay your mortgage off in less than 10 years and you will never worry about money again. I mean normal person rich, not yacht rich.
8. It’s called low expectations.
I never thought I’d be rich when I grew up.
I’m content enough with a simple, stable life.
9. You have to let it go.
Early-forties was when I finally realized none of those big expectations would come true for me.
I held on for a long time. But it’s all okay because life is still great without the big dreams I had set for myself when I was young and naive.
10. Nihilistic Millennials.
Same. I’m not ambitious at all despite working very hard in uni. I just want a stable job that allows me to provide for a family and be relatively comfortable financially. Nothing extravagant.
I think partly it has to do with the fact that my generation grew up with the 2008 economic crisis and now Covid, so we’re naturally not very optimistic about the future.
11. Swim against the current.
I read a quote in a wishy washy magazine or blog that said “you are enough”. It was about how consumerism makes you feel like you have to buy stuff. It wasn’t like I linked my goals or finances to that or made any quick decision, but it led to a path of self acceptance and contentment that changed my perspective on a lot of things.
But I grew up on the verge of poverty and benign neglect so pretty much anything is okay by me anyway. I read another phrase once “the hopelessness of growing up poor in a rich country”.
I think a lot of people live with that hopelessness and never had a dream.
12. Regrets are for other people.
I was smart as a kid, in the top 1% of my year and therefore smart enough to realize that I had choices.
I chose to live a happy simple life over one with wealth and stress. No regrets.
13. You know you’ve got to earn it.
Late teens is when I knew I would never been rich. As a child I was certain I’d never be exceptional. I was never ever ok with it.
Now I’m 41 and have more than I could ever imagine. It’s really funny how things work out!
14. A job he loves.
I knew I wasn’t going to be rich when I found the job I love.
Its seasonal work (early spring to early winter), with chaotic hours (I find out my shift the day before I work it, usually working 8-15 hours), and lower pay (13.50 an hour) but I’ll be dam*ed if I don’t love it.
I get paid to sit on my ass all day, reading books, and checking a sample every 15 minutes. My office is amazing, as I’m about 100 feet from the Mississippi River, and I dont deal with people.
Its easy to get time off, my coworkers are super laid back, and my boss is fantastic. Nobody yells at me, I dont have any high expectations held to me.
I adore the job, and it makes me very happy.
15. You’re making it on your own.
Same with me.
I’m 44 and as a kid with a learning disability (which was probably ADD) I never thought I’d own a house, have a family or any sort of decent employment.
I’m not rich but I’m way better off than I thought I’d be.
16. It’s the little things.
I was about a 30 year old chef . 50 now. Still love it, have a family. Work too hard for too little.
Don’t get to see them as much as I like, but if they need shoes or money for sports registration…I can provide.
17. Too many expectations.
When I started taking antidepressants. I used to be so sad about my life and really suffering from gifted kid syndrome. Everyone told me I’d be something and I was struggling with self hatred for not living up to that. Once I got my depression under control, I realized how comfortable I am with my life.
I’ve got a job with good benefits and a respectable salary. I live in an apartment that’s comfortable for me, not too huge, but not a shoebox. I realized I don’t want or need to make a ton of money, or live in a big house, or have a fancy car.
Middle of the road is peaceful, and fulfilling.
18. Just take the time to breathe.
My life got a lot better and I became much happier when I embraced simplicity.
It isn’t always easy, and I am by no means a pro at it.. there are days when I lament that the opportunity to somehow greatly contribute to society has passed me by.
But, then I remember that quote, and that many small good things / acts of kindness can add up over the course of a simple life, and be remarkable in their own way.
19. Your own terms.
I’m a recent college graduate who used to have huge aspirational dreams, but I think I’m quite content with a “menial job” if that means I can pay for what I need to pay for and live my life how I want to.
20. The system is stacked against you.
When I was a kid. I was born poor. Grew up poor. Saw how damned difficult it was to just go from poor to not poor; much less from poor to rich.
21. Explanation, please.
I volunteer at a food bank relatively frequently. The women who work there are very sweet, but they don’t get paid very well. My mom told me “you’d better get into a good college or you might turn out like one of them.”
What do you mean? Turn out happy? Help people for a living? Make enough to support myself while having free time to do what I want?
22. Just “stable” can be a goal.
I was born poor too. Im so sick of the “hmm do we pay rent or the car loan or food+heat” life.
Happiness rises with income up to about $80k -ish for the household (location relative). Which is ABOUT the point of “financial stability”. That there I think is my personal goal.
I dont want to be rich, but Ive always dreamt about what itd be like to have “enough”.
23. You have to do you.
When I decided the only thing I care about is playing music and I wanted to do it for a living.
24. College isn’t everything.
When I first moved out of home and realized that my Bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean SH%T, because I’m now living like people who’ve never went to college in their lives.
25. Trade school is valid.
I’n still in high school, I’m a gearhead who wanted to own several cars. Then I realized I’m not going to be a doctor or an engineer.
I realized I’ll just buy one of my dream cars that will never be a headache to find parts for.
And I also decided I’ll become a journeyman mechanic because my welding teacher really showed me that working in the trades are not something to be ashamed off.
26. Dogs are better than people.
I work with dogs for a living. I make enough to pay my bills, but I’ll never be rich. I’ll never own a home of my own without roommates. One of my biggest pet peeves is the fact that people often shit on me for having a “menial” job. They basically call it a cop out. It’s too easy, I’ll always be poor, why don’t I find something better..
But I wake up every morning not dreading going to work. I don’t fantasize about strangling my boss because she’s flipping awesome. I don’t come home completely stressed out and hating life because I’m stuck at a job that I hate with people who annoy the hell out of me. A bad day with a dog is still better than the best day with humans.
“It must be nice to go to work at 10 and be home by 3,” my roommate regularly scoffs.
You’re right. It is nice. And my rent is paid soooo enjoy your 8-5 buddy. ?
27. I felt that.
When i realized i couldn’t do Mathematics worth a sh%t.
28. We make our own happiness.
As a matter of fact, as long as your basic needs are met, your happiness is solely up to you, and no amount of money will change that.
This is called the hedonic treadmill
If you’re unhappy at $80k a year, and you get to $120k, you might feel superficially good for a little while, with your better house and new toys, but then you’ll get used to it and feel just like you did when you were at $80. Rinse, repeat.
29. It’s only a fantasy.
Since I was a kid. I have never had an expectation of becoming rich.
I mean I fantasize about winning the lottery but its a fantasy.
To actually become rich and work for it? Never. I am not smart enough for that.
30. A little meaning goes a long way.
I’m in the same boat. I work in an animal shelter.
The pay is crap, but I benefit from the fulfillment it brings.
I’m the kind of person that gets depressed if I feel my daily work is meaningless, so the feeling that I’m making a difference for animals and people is worth it
Though if anybody calls working with animals “easy”, all of the bruises, bites, scratches and emotional scars I and my coworkers have sustained would like to say otherwise
31. Wealth has its own problems.
Being rich is a nice fantasy but going through the grind and bullshit to become rich never appealed to me.
Like if I got lucky and somehow came into a shit ton of money I wouldn’t complain.
But I have no desire to work myself to death for some goal of being able to buy a mansion and 5 sports cars.
All I desire is enough to get by without worrying about how to pay the bills.
32. Money isn’t everything.
There’s more to life than money.
I’m 39 and I’ve just come to realize I’d rather have an easy life than be stressed beyond belief because I’m thinking about work all the time.
Keep living the dream for as long as you can.
I think one of the greatest gifts a person can give themselves is just to be satisfied.
Harder to do that to say, I know.
Tell us what you think about this topic down in the comments!