How To Make Sacrifices Without Losing Sight Of What's Important On The Road To Success

by Dennis Chen

It’s rare to hear the term "success" not immediately followed by "sacrifice." Ask any entrepreneur, small business owner or anyone chasing a dream.

We use the word sacrifice to describe our professional and personal lives when we want to change things for the better. We all know that sacrifice is a necessary ingredient, if not the most important.

Setting our priorities

On some nights, you have to explain to your drinking buddies that you can’t rage with them downtown because you have to go to dinner with a client.

On other nights, you have to tell your girlfriend you can’t have a movie night because you have to practice writing. “Practice?” she says. “There’s nothing due? It’s just practice?” Yes, because practice makes perfect.

You have to skip out on getting that new tattoo you’ve been craving because the Adobe Illustrator class you want to take is going to hurt your wallet.

Sacrifices are important and absolutely necessary to attain success. However, it’s important to make note of what you’re sacrificing.

If there’s an important networking event on the horizon, but it costs $200 to attend, you might have to sacrifice eating out for a week, or delay buying that herringbone coat from H&M.

If you want to lose 10 pounds in time for swimsuit season, you may have to fight off those late-night munchies and sacrifice your favorite snacks. These sacrifices are okay.

Materialistic goods can be purchased at a later time and money can be made again. However, you never want to sacrifice certain things -- the most important of which are your relationships with friends, family, significant others, etc. These will be very difficult to fix later down the line.

Avoiding the mistakes

Many people say that our 20s are for us. They’re our golden years; they’re our selfish years. They’re our years for self-growth, personal development and for pursuing our dreams.

You’ll hear many people say things like, “I just don’t have time for a relationship,” or “I’m dating my job.” Many may skip a friend’s birthday dinner or put off catching up with an old buddy for another few months.

It can be difficult to juggle many things at once or find time for everything. So what do we do? We set priorities and we put some things on the back burner.

Relationships are like cars

A friend of mine has a father who is very into cars; he has a small collection of vintage cars tucked away in a private garage. One day, I asked him what the most difficult part of owning a car collection was.

His answer surprised me. No, it wasn’t buying parts or waxing a brilliant coat of shine onto them. He told me he once purchased a new vehicle he absolutely loved. He drove that thing for years, leaving his other vehicles tucked away.

However, when he finally got over the new car and tried to take his other vehicles out for a spin, he realized many of his cars were in need of repairs. Many didn’t start, had dead batteries or parts that had begun to rust. He had forgotten to periodically take each car out for a drive in order to keep them in running condition.

I don’t know anything about cars, but here’s what I took away from his misfortune: Each time we skip out on building our relationships with our families or loved ones, we are putting cars into storage.

We spend years being obsessed with our careers and advancing ourselves, causing us to put our relationships on standby. We store them in a garage.

Later down the line, when we go to drive those cars, we may find that they are rusted and damaged and may never be the same. Relationships need to be nurtured, developed and maintained, much like the cars that belonged to my friend’s father.

It would be very costly and exponentially more difficult to rebuild those relationships, and they would likely be a lot weaker than they'd be if the right work was put into them. When evaluating our priorities, it's easy to put our relationships in storage, but it is probably the biggest mistake we can make in our 20s.

Living a healthy life

What’s the point of having money and power if we have no one to share our success with? During our weakest times, it’s our loved ones who come to the rescue and lift us up, not our checkbook.

During the best of times, it’s our loved ones who are eager to celebrate our success with us, not our financial advisors. I’m personally guilty of doing this, as well.

Since graduating from college and living on my own in the city, I’ve found that I have become increasingly more introverted, staying in to write or work late instead of spending time with family or friends. I haven’t seriously dated in three years. I no longer take dance classes, which was once my strongest passion in life.

I don’t allow myself to grow distracted by other people or things. I remember how time-consuming dance was. I remember how distracted and ineffective I was at my job when my relationships failed.

I remember deciding to invest in only myself. I remember staying up late studying by myself. I remember landing that job I was working towards. I remember working hard and excelling.

I remember turning down offers from competitors. I remember stopping by the local bar after a successful project and having a drink to celebrate. I remember feeling the crumbs of success, being on the right path, but that’s just it.

Years down the line, I don’t want to be saying, “I remember when...” I want to be surrounded by friends, family and loved ones, sharing a warm laugh when someone recalls a memory.

It’s better to have a successful and fulfilling life than a successful and fulfilling career. It’s not that our careers shouldn’t be taken seriously — I still take mine extremely seriously — and we all should; however, like a healthy diet, a healthy life is all about balance and being well-nourished.

Life is the same way, but instead of vitamins, it’s our lasting relationships that make us healthy.

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