Each semester I asked my students to identify people who they considered to be successful. Most would pick a professional athlete, the head of a large corporation, or some other person in the news. When asked to explain why these individuals were successful, the most common response was that they had made lots of money.

My follow-up question was always: “Who is/was the most successful?” And of course the answer was “the one with the most money.” I pointed out to my students that if one judges a person’s success, including their own, by economic criteria only (i.e., the size of the house, the annual income, the stock portfolio, the retirement nest-egg, etc.), then most of them would “grow up” to be failures.

A small number of my students identified parents, other relatives, or close friends as being successful even though these individuals had accumulated relatively few economic assets. They realized that asset accumulation is only part of what makes a person successful.

I guess “the million dollar question” is how does one become a success?

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