Why Pretending to Be Successful is Keeping You Broke

There’s a crazy amount of advice out there on how to be successful, and I’ve read and lived a good amount of it. I have so much sympathy for everyone out there who is confused by all the conflicting information! One issue I see coming up constantly is this: people think that by acting successful, they will be successful.

The Temptation

Now, I believe in the Law of Attraction, so on the surface this idea makes sense. Walk around like you’re already worth a million bucks, and pretty soon you really will be. Law of Attraction gurus tell us we not only need to act like we already have the things we want, we need to come from a space of gratitude for having them. Kinda tough to do if all you’re thinking, feeling and seeing is lack.

And the practical folks who don’t believe in such new-age concepts, have a different reason for “acting” successful: they want other people to be impressed by them. Maybe just for an ego boost, or maybe so people will take them and their business seriously.

Whatever your motivation, it’s tempting to go buy a house, lease the shiny new car, build up a flashy wardrobe, take people out for lavish business lunches, and rack up your Visa with dozens of other purchases that can be justified under the guise of needing to appear successful–either so you believe it, or so that other people will.

The Problem

If you don’t actually have the money to do all of those things, you will find yourself scrambling to keep up. You’re still coming from a place of lack, only now you have a whole boatload of debt to weigh you down even more. The less money you have, the more debt you accumulate, the less you’re able to fund and invest in your business.

After my first bricks-and-mortar store was starting to pull the cash in, I didn’t succumb to the temptation to raid the piggy bank and reward myself, even though I had worked damn hard to make that money. I reinvested the profits and stockpiled savings, because I knew the business would go through ups and downs, and I wanted to be prepared. I told my partners I would only pay them dividends once the business was in a secure position, with predictable returns.

Be smart – not “impressive”

My employees teased me for driving to work every day in a 1988 Toyota Corolla, expecting their boss to have a more impressive ride than they did. My partners may have been surprised to see me showing up for business meetings in comfy Lululemon pants rather than expensive suits. And another local business owner chided me for not owning a more impressive house. “You should really buy a newer place, Natalie” he told me, as if I looked like a failure for not living in a brand new mansion.

The truth is, I love my home. Sure it’s older, but to me It’s beautiful, comfortable and filled with character. I wouldn’t dream of dressing up to impress others, although I do think it’s important to look clean and presentable. And that Toyota was a reliable gem–although I did replace it with a newer Toyota 4Runner a few years ago, I treated my Corolla as if it was my dream car, and took great care of it until I could save up enough money for my next vehicle.

The Bottom Line

Accumulating unnecessary stuff and the debt that usually goes with it doesn’t sound like success to me. It sounds like a massive burden. Borrowing money is way more expensive than most people realize, because banks and other lenders do their best to distract you from the real cost of doing business with them. Before you consider that flashy car, find out exactly how much interest you’ll be paying each month and what the total cost to you will be after financing. If you pay another $10,000 in interest on top of the sticker price, does it still seem worth it?

My point is, don’t let other people pressure you into buying things you don’t need. Don’t worry about impressing other people with material proof of your success. And don’t buy into the belief that you need to start spending lots of money just so you can attract more money. Practicing gratitude for all the abundance in your life right now will bring more good things your way. And when you can genuinely afford it, do buy good quality things for yourself if–and only if–they are truly beautiful or useful to you.

My definition of ultimate success is having the freedom to spend your days as you choose, and feel joyful while you work. This is what I want for you.

6 Responses to Why Pretending to Be Successful is Keeping You Broke
  1. Yanni
    May 16, 2011 | 5:24 pm

    A wonderful description of why it is important to hold up a mirror to our individual reality+expectations, work or otherwise.

    Before looking for, and being able to measure, success, it is an absolute must to establish a “Goal” to define success. As you describe, using the measures of others helps us little, if at all.

    And the 2nd to last sentence pretty much sums it up:
    “My definition of ultimate success is having the freedom to spend your days as you choose, and feel joyful while you work.”

    Terribly well-written & constructively honest. :D

    • admin
      May 19, 2011 | 1:38 pm

      Thank you Yanni – may you always feel as joyful at work as I do!

  2. I Love It!
    May 19, 2011 | 8:48 am

    A truly great article – you’ve managed to sum up in this small article what it takes others a whole book to just skim the surface of… if I had read this article about 10 years ago there’s so much I could have done differently without having to first experience the other end of it.

    You’re a brilliant woman wise beyond your years, I hope others can benefit from your knowledge!

    • admin
      May 19, 2011 | 10:34 am

      Thank you – I’m hoping to help others avoid 10 years of hard lessons :)

  3. Dominique
    May 19, 2011 | 10:21 am

    Hi Natalie

    You are absolutely right! Well put. You are a very good example of how to attract “good” for yourself.
    Keeping up with the Jones has put most North Americans in credit card debt.

    Thank you.

    • admin
      May 19, 2011 | 10:30 am

      Thank you DD :)

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