Audi R8 by 29 or Bust: Success for 20 Somethings

by Alexander Heyne · 22 comments

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”

Dale Carnegie

My friend and I have a running game — every time we see each other and talk about the projects we’re working on, we say the goal is owning an Audi R8 by 29.

Of course, an Audi R8 is just a material measure of success, not sanity, and unless you’re multi-millionaire or have another car, it’s pretty impractical.

But joking about having our Audi R8s made me think: what the hell do I actually want?  What would I consider to be a successful life for me?

I mean, our concepts of success vary.  A lot.  It varies based on how good you think you are, what you think you deserve, what you’ve been given, what you think you’ve been given, and a ton of other factors.

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The irony of lost 20 somethings is that – despite having way more time than most people – we rarely spend time thinking about what we want out of life or what we would define as being “successful.”

We let others do the thinking:

  • “Go get a high paying, safe job”
  • “Travel the world while you’re young, because it’s work from here on out”
  • “Now that you got your pay raise you can one-up the Joneses by having a newer BMW”

Dunno about you. But that’s a pretty surefire way for me to be fucking miserable every day.

Why would you play by someone else’s rules? Playing by someone else’s rules means you have zero flexibility.  Playing by someone else’s rules means they define failure, and they define success.

When you accept society’s rules you accept it’s game: failure means you don’t have a lot to show for your time, success means you have a lot to show.  It’s all downhill from there.

Today I challenge you to actually sit down, forget the expectations and definitions given by your parents / family / friends / society, and decide what you think is a successful life.

You’ll Never be Successful Until You Define Success — Or Let it Go

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be”

-George Sheehan

So have you actually thought about what would define success to you?

Like most others, I bet you don’t really know what you want from life. You’ve never thought about it.

And like others, you joke about a million dollars, an Audi R8, and living in Barcelona drinking wine – because they are convenient responses, funny, and a way to relieve the stress of actually thinking about what you want.

They are socially acceptable responses, and just like most other conventional wisdom, lack depth or real consideration.

But what do you actually want? Do you want to be really rich? Does money not matter so much? Do you want to own a company? Do you want to work for yourself? Do you want to live in the city? In the country? In a foreign country? Speak 1 language? Speak 5? Marry someone from your own country? Marry a foreigner? Become a doctor? A pro athlete? 

You need a vision of where you’d like to be, with an idea of what you want to do. Specifics are unimportant; just get an idea of what would be a “cool position to be in” in the near future.

From Killing Your Old Life and Living the Dream 

So many people never realize that they aren’t happy or successful because they don’t know what they want.

They just assume it’s because their boss is a dick.  Or because they don’t have enough money. Or because life is a cruel bitch that screws them over every chance she gets.

They never sit down and think: What is my definition of success?

There are a couple steps you should take that will immensely help define your ideal successful life.

#1 Defining Anti-Success – The Not to Do List

In the manifesto I wrote a couple ways of figuring your definition of success.  The easiest way? Figure out exactly what you don’t want.

Let’s face it, your definition of success probably revolves around not doing shit you hate as much as doing stuff you love.

There’s no worse feeling than your day to day life revolving around shit you hate — hating every facet of your day. Going to work, work, coming home from work, the time wasting after work, the pointless-ness of the same stuff over and over again on the weekends.  The chronic time delaying and wasting.

The Not-To-Do-List

But as a society we are pretty focused on the addition of things: finding happiness, adding value, and acquiring benefits. In reality, the very act of subtraction is much, much more valuable. Why?

  • #1 Subtraction leaves fewer options (analysis paralysis anyone?), and thus facilitates decision making
  • #2 Sometimes you don’t actually want more, you just want an alteration of the current situation. Bad job ==> Good job. Meaningless life ==> Meaningful life. Determine for yourself the things you never want to do again and it will be much easier to determine which stuff you do want to do again.  If you know what you want from life, you’re already further down the path to success, greatness, and fulfillment than most people. 
What things do you never want to see again in your ideal life?
Working 60 hours a week on projects you don’t care about?
Vacations only when the boss says so?
Reliance on living in one, fixed location on earth?

#2 Defining “Utopia” – Audi R8s & Unlimited Chocolate Chip Cookies

So what about the other side of the spectrum?

What stuff sounds awesome to you: and be unrealistic here. 

It’s boring if you say “well, I’d like to go to some parties, maybe an exclusive one occasionally, and I’ll have a safe car that’s reliable, and I’ll hike my work hours down from 60 to 40, and I’ll have a cute little apartment, and i’ll go to Thailand once every couple years.”

Dream bigger, dream much more unrealistically.

Not only are easily attainable goals worthless because they don’t push you, they’re boring. And I assume you want to create a fucking epic life.

So what does your ideal life entail?  What is success for you?

Society is filled with people that have myriad definitions of success:

  • An Audi R8
  • A million dollars
  • A big house
  • A trophy wife
  • Waking up excited & day to day enjoyment
  • Vacation time
  • Time spent with friends and family
  • Low stress
  • General free time

… And many others

But the unfortunate thing is that not all of these definitions of success contain the same underlying principles.

Some are based on intangibles like time and happiness. Others are based on tangibles like money or possessions.

Some are based on things you can acquire more of – like items; some are based on things you can never get back – like time.

How do you define your success?

Is success for you more of something? (Time/Vacation/Money) Or less or something? (Stress/Annoying Coworkers/Time working)

That is something you’re going to have to answer for yourself, and again, it goes back to the importance of knowing exactly what you want and having measures for achievement.

If I’m making $60,000 a year but with no goal other than “having a job because I’m supposed to,” where do I invest that money? Probably into time & money wasting, because it has no direction.

You’ll be like most people: buy a new car, new TV, drop a load of money at bars and clubs, buy more stuff, make your main goal at work “earning more money,” or “working up the ranks” and then repeat the rat race cycle.

And you are getting no closer to any goal or any form of enjoyment. It’s just mindless misdirected work.

#3  The Art of the Micro Adventure (Doing something)

There’s one other reason why doing the unrealistic really isn’t unrealistic at all.

It’s only realistic for 99% of people, but you’re not the 99%.  You’re the 1%, because you realize that if you say you’re going to build a company that will fund your dream of unlimited chocolate chip cookies, you’re going to have the stones to sit down and work on it, every fucking day.

Dreams are unrealistic to most people because they casually say “they want a million dollars” and go right back to watching tv.

No stones.

Our culture is obsessed with passive watching and playing — not creating and doing.

There is a third suggestion to have a hell of a good time and still be “successful” if you have no idea what sounds ideal to you:

Go on a journey / adventure / mini retirement (a la Tim Ferriss)

If you really have no friggin idea what to do, no goals you want to achieve, and have no idea what the next step is (but want to  take a step), do something like the following:

But there is one important decision that you have to make:

The decision to make a decision.

Just do something

Your ambition needs to match your focus.  Don’t dream about Audi R8s or unlimited chocolate chip cookies if you aren’t ready to bust your ass to make it a reality.

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Option #2, Let it Go: Freestyling Your Destiny

It is your work that is the ultimate seduction.”

-Picasso

Not everyone functions better under the model of goal setting, artists for example describe how much more painful and labored their art is when there are goals, restrictions, and deadlines when they are doing a commissioned work of art.

There is a third option, if you can thrive under chaos, get shit done, and you already know what “your work” is:

Freestyle your destiny.

This is for the artsy-type, extremely focused anti-goal setter.  The person who seems to work worse under pressure with goals, deadlines, and restrictions, and instead wants to play things by ear.

The person who sees chaos and time as opportunities to get obsessed with the work they are doing, jump in and disappear in their work for days on end in a state of flow 

You just need to ask yourself honestly if you can thrive without direction, goals, and in chaos — and if you already have found “your obsession.”

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Being Lost in the 21 Century

When I got my first job out of college, I thought like most other young people — get your job, get a place, work your way up the ranks, make more money, take your 2 weeks vacation leave and so on.

In other words, I had no goals.  Working was pointless, because I was only working because I should be working.  There was nothing I wanted to spend my money on because I was just spinning my wheels.

The moment I realized that there was a lot of shit I wanted to do in my life was the best moment of my life.

Suddenly, after work I invested my time and money into projects that gave me purpose and helped me feel un-lost.

After a year at that job I decided to move to China and clarify more specifically what the hell I actually wanted.  I’ve come to the conclusion that this singular question is one of the most important questions for 20 somethings (or anyone) to ask themselves:

What the hell do you define as successful?” 

—–

 

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Brasilicana January 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm

“Our culture is obsessed with passive watching and playing — not creating and doing.”

^I LOVE this line! In fact, I wrote about it here:
Consumers vs. creators of culture

Success for me? Running my own business, which is successful enough to cover my family’s necessities as well as invest time and money in helping others. Oh, and long-term family travel :-)

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The lamiki January 18, 2012 at 12:25 am

You know, the Audi R8 isn’t that impractical of a car, my husband and I live in the burbs with one car, a Mata. At least an R8 has more power.

Excellent post and road map, Alex. Question, how do you define success for you?

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afheyne January 18, 2012 at 9:49 am

Haha an R8 is a little bit of an investment though. It’ll take me a couple years.

For me? Hmmm. It really changes from year to year — I like to say I want to have a high measure of both spiritual/material success, meaning I’ll be a guy who has really spent his time working towards his vision, while at the same time being down to earth and totally into sitting down with someone else for half a day to help them get started.

The sad part of my vision is that it requires a lot of material success — more than is needed, definitely. That I think stems from hanging out with family and friends who constantly struggle financially which is something I don’t want, if only because it limits your options and potential.

Success for me ultimately is about my sanity I guess — enough money to be able to do anything, but also still be down to earth.

But I do have big time personality flaws – like pride – which make me think I deserve a lot more. I mean as far as 20 somethings go I’m a non-time waster. I don’t watch tv. I don’t eat sweets. I don’t see why I should deserve the same as someone who doesn’t put in nearly the same amount of work as me, who doesn’t sacrifice half as much.

There are obviously some bugs to work out ;)

It’s a start. My Annual review gives some ideas, though.

Alex

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Laura Kimball January 24, 2012 at 1:17 am

You deserve to want material things. I mean, come on, the minimalist lifestyle doesn’t look good on everyone :)

Paul January 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm

While I would love the car for a tall person who is a man of stature (290 lbs) I have set my sites on up scale SUV with room. I’m thinking Land Rover! In your article you talk about success and your right it’s a individual thing. Mother Theresa while having no money was a success in her own right. Ok, I’m more into the travel and the freedom to go places.
To me success is debt free living,the ability to travel with family and as you put it no be my boss’s bitch.

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afheyne January 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Yeah for some reason there’s this pre-formed idea of success that everyone tries to fit themselves into..

The big thing these days is location independence and entrepreneurship. Suddenly everyone who is bound to a desk and isn’t a business owner is a loser and not successful. It’s just really not that black and white – success means something a little different to everyone.

The problem is that most of us don’t sit down and really define success. It’s hard to measure progress and satisfaction without those measures though.

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Mike Martel May 14, 2013 at 12:22 am

I know it has been overdone, but it really is the journey. Never get lost on the destination so much that you turn your work/business/project into some sort of death march. It isn’t worth. Make sure you are enjoying yourself along the way…

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john adoiza May 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm

success for me is when you are debt free, be your own boss, with lot of bulks to take care of your family and help a friend that is success

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Daryl March 11, 2014 at 7:05 am

Have you test driven the TESLA S85?
Please…. before you buy the Audi. It will change your car religion .
go to TESLA page on FB and friend it.

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Alexander Heyne March 16, 2014 at 10:47 am

Hey Daryl,

I haven’t, but maybe I should get one of those first? :D

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yuewqeas April 8, 2014 at 8:35 am

So now you write bullshit motivational blogs?
Seems to me like you’re just making money out of people looking for a change or help.

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Alexander Heyne April 8, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Hehe, do you see me making money?

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Zizhaz July 16, 2014 at 7:02 am

What a bitter and non-constructive comment. Whether you make money out of it or not is none of my business, and is irrelevant for the function of your blog or for my enjoyment.

I personally find your blog excellent and inspiring. I stumbled across is today and sent it to 3 other people already, and am just reading your material during work.

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Christina August 27, 2014 at 3:43 am

“Our culture is obsessed with passive watching & playing – not creating & doing” – this thought stays in the background of my head during football season. I’m freestyling my destiny or making my gumbo for success because the things I love fit outside of categories.

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Renata May 18, 2015 at 11:10 am

I figured at 18 (more than 2 decades ago) that what I wanted to achieve was contentment. Unfortunately I did not know how to get there. I thought family was the way. Turns out family life, no matter how close you wrestle it to the picket fence picture, is not conducive to contentment, more like chaotic stressors with some amazing highs… Anyways, marriage and family stage of my life pretty much over now and no stable contentment yet. Far from it. Now I am not able to financially provide for myself (spent my years as a stay at home mom which I don’t regret) and know that relationships don’t of themselves lead to contentment. I am starting the school/diploma/stable office job journey because I want that day-to-day predictability. I do not expect that a job or financial stability or traveling or owning a business or perfect health (so fleeting) or relationships will give me what I want: contentment and inner peace and joy – my idea of success. I have an idea that some practices would get me closer to that – more sleep and meditation and healthy food and in some ways giving to others of my time and energy… And all these require self-discipline. And that has been a problem. So how to get from knowing what I want to actually making it happen when As a single mom I am burned out by parenting, several jobs, divorce, school, house care and so on? I can hardly catch my breath. Contentment is far.

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Marie June 1, 2015 at 8:53 pm

That Audi R8 looks pretty enviable! Who wouldn’t want it?!

Very inspiring blog Alexander! If nothing else, it forces readers to think critically, which is something that is not very common today. Many of us just do the norm, expect the norm, and continue in the same cycle. As you say, “Our culture is obsessed with passive watching & playing – not creating & doing” Thank goodness for the few who think outside the box and innovate!

Success means different things to different people, but the important thing is for each of us to define what success means to us, and work to achieve just that.

Success to me means freedom! Financial freedom, geographical freedom, freedom to go wherever I want, whenever – without any concern of overspending or losing a job.

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Brandon May 20, 2016 at 2:20 am

Great site! Thanks :)

This is a thorough and non-PC hidden island. Sent it to a lot of my friends already.

What I want:
To become a master of boxing.
To learn 5 languages.
To teach boxing to dedicated young men (15-21)
To travel the world and scuba dive in the most beautiful oceans.
To own a Mercedes AMG C63
To have a wonderful love life with women from all over the world – hopefully, one sticks out and joins me on my adventures.
To invest in start-ups that I think will grow into something worthwhile for my return, but also to benefit humanity.

What’s next?! Those goals seem very far away – but totally doable. I’m not stopping!

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Alexander Heyne June 6, 2016 at 10:53 am

BOOM – get started

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