the correlation between success, money, and doing what you love

In my Business Management university program (BComm), there’s a mandatory course called Strategies for Success. You are basically taught about time management, adversity being a good thing, discovering yourself, and just approaching every single situation in life positively. This learning process involves an hour lecture every week, followed by a 2 hour “breakout session” lead by an upper-year student, where you discuss the lecture and talk about the ins and outs of becoming successful.

The other day, the following question was raised: “What Is Success?”

One of my classmates gave a hypothetical example of a confusing situation regarding success: So you’re great at something, but you don’t get enough work from it to financially support yourself. Are you unsuccessful because you’re not making money? Are you successful because you are good at what you do (but not rewarded), and most “importantly”, you love what you do?

And I realized how relevant that made-up story was to me.

And that’s when one of my classmates made a statement that got my blood boiling: “No. Money is not the right factor for success. You should do what you love, even if it doesn’t make you any money!”

So why did this make me so angry, and create an emotional volcano inside me?

I did competitive ballroom dancing from age 6 until a little over a year ago, at which point I was almost 22. It was exactly what I wanted to be doing. I was living the dream and doing what I love. Travelling around the globe, competing in exotic cities, making foreign friends, and most importantly: dancing my heart out.

Competing was my favourite aspect of it. I absolutely loved it. I still get teary-eyed talking about it to this day. But one little teeny tiny factor made me stop: money. Now see, I was at a high international level (if I do say so myself), winning the Under-21 World Championships in 2013. Flying home from that trip I thought my career would take off right there and then – I thought there would be a lineup outside the studio waiting to take lessons with me, the world champion!

But there wasn’t. There wasn’t a single soul to be seen. And if you’re reading this, never having heard of competitive ballroom dancing, you can probably imagine why. Dancesport was costing me more than a middle-class person’s yearly salary, and I wasn’t making anything (well, very little). And so these life circumstances forced me to quit.

So was I unsuccessful?

I was unsuccessful in making it into a life-long career. Something that was partly out of my control stopped me, although the part that was in my control (my attitude and behaviour towards potential clients), felt out of control because of the stress of not having enough money. It was an endless cycle that got more confusing and frustrating as the last few months of my competitive career moved along.

But I had a background of many wins, world finals, and a lifetime of memories that to an outside person would scream “What a successful dancer!” And I can’t disagree. In terms of my skill, competitiveness, and results, I was definitely a success story.

So what am I getting at?

I was doing what I love, I was good at it (successful if you will) but I was miserable. Saving up my pennies for every trip was a major struggle and I ended up sitting at home in hysterics two hours before the flight crying over the lack of funds in my piggy bank for me to spend on lessons with international instructors and competition entry fees.

My point is: it’s unfortunate, but it’s very rare that you will be able to do what you love as a career if it is not bringing you financial stability. If we are talking about success in your career, then money is definitely part of the equation.

Which I am totally fine with, because after having to drop my dancing career, I found new passions and new interests that involved, well, better money-making opportunities. Through my blog, my new(ish) job in retail, and the introductory courses I had already taken at that point, I’m now on the mission to get my Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing and make a life out of that.

How great is that – my education, my job, and my hobby (thelifestylebistro), all come together for one end result: happiness, money, doing what I love, and ultimately: success.


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2 thoughts on “the correlation between success, money, and doing what you love

  1. Ariel says:

    Ella, you go girl. I’ve been enjoying reading your blog post and your fashionista photos.
    All the best love!

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