What is the Price of Success?

What do we want out of life? One common response is to “be successful.” Of course, who wouldn’t want success? Conventional success — money, prestige, and self-satisfaction — are all fine aspirations. Yet, there is an unspoken dark side to high-achievers. What is the price of success? What should we do about that?

The Sacrifice of Success

Success requires hard work, determination, focus, an open mind, and luck. Although demanding, these characteristics are desirable and contribute to a good life. They are not the price of success.

The actual price of success is sacrificing other meaningful areas of one’s life to achieve excellence in a narrow domain. For example, a CEO must sacrifice something to thrive in his role. He might ignore his wife to focus on work, pushing her towards adultery. He might miss seeing his children grow up, never spending much quality time with them. And the stress of working 80+ hour weeks for 10+ years might have contributed to his heart disease.

No matter how we optimize, being exceptional requires sacrifice. It’s impossible to be simultaneously great at everything. To get something great, we must give up something good. This is clear across a variety of top performers.

Elon Musk has gone through three divorces. Two of those were to the same woman. Warren Buffett separated from his partner, Susie Buffett. He also had a distant relationship with his kids until their middle adulthood. Recently, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates have dealt with marital conflicts.

We don’t know the exact reasons behind these problems. But, there is a trend. The intense dedication to their careers appeared to strain their relationships.

Sacrifice by necessity is not bad. We need to sacrifice to reach our goals. The problem arises when we believe we can have everything. Time is limited, and we can only do so much.

We need to set boundaries on what we’re willing to sacrifice. We shouldn’t blindly pursue success, as we’ll realize the damage caused too late. Instead, ask yourself, what am I willing to sacrifice for this goal? Once answered, communicate that sacrifice to those close to you. Then, they won’t feel blindsided or lied to if our sacrifice stresses the relationship.

Change the Definition of Success

It is easy to get hung up on chasing success. As soon as we climb one mountain, another appears in the distance. We fall into a cycle of achievement seeking, never feeling satisfied for too long. It’s an endless quest for absolute success.

But what if we change the game? What if, instead of following the dictums of society, we define our specific success, set our priorities, and do what makes us come alive. What if we change our definition of success?

Why follow society’s cookie-cutter template for success? Why not instead follow what appeals to our peculiarities? This way, our goals become more personal. With more personal goals, we derive more meaning from our accomplishments.


  • Success is a common and good aim to have.
  • Conventional success almost always comes at the cost of other areas of our life.
  • We should set a strict limit on what we’re willing to sacrifice and communicate those sacrifices to those important to us.
  • Instead of chasing traditional success, we can define our specific success (The activities that appeal to our unique genetic and personality makeup) and pursue that.

Please leave any feedback, questions, or thoughts in the comments. I am trying to write better, and I appreciate your input! And as always, let’s make being better!



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Jackson Upmann

Jackson Upmann

Hey everybody, my name is Jackson. I'm a blogger at jacksonupmann.com writing about topics that inspire me!