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From Where We Sit

Who is successful?

Anton Ng

Today, we consume a great amount of social media, and we do not expect it to lessen anytime soon, maybe never. As we survey through the different social media platforms, we can see what others have been doing, where they are now, and what kind of life they have been living. With so much information, it is becoming more and more difficult for us to avoid comparing what we are seeing with what we have been doing. Not only do we compare ourselves with our friends and colleagues, we are also exposed to a new breed of individuals whom we feel are having such a great gig: the travel vloggers, the e-sports professionals, and the social media influencers. Heck, we even dream of our kids having their own YouTube channels with millions of subscribers. All these information we are seeing every day are affecting how we are scrutinizing our own lives.

No matter how many times we hear the advice to avoid comparing our lives to that of others, comparing ourselves seems to always creep into our heads. Doubts, regrets, and even depression are just but a few of the negative implications that we experience. Every so often, our views on success might change, depending on whose social media account we are analyzing.

Each of us live our lives differently. From the moment we were born, we faced different circumstances that led to different paths. Some were born in a war-torn room, with no father in sight, while snow is falling outside. There are others who were born into a pool of warm water, surrounded by several doctors and nurses, while their father is excitedly taking pictures, in a midst of horns blowing, because of the horrendous traffic in the metro.

Some are born with physical disabilities and to a loving family, while others have a perfect bill of health, but will go straight to the orphanage upon release from the hospital. Some grew up with their grandparents, because their parents are working abroad, while others have a stay-at-home mom as their teacher. Circumstances contribute to who we are today and what choices, if there are any, are available to us. For some, they were born into privilege: complete meals and vitamins when they were kids, or private education with a tutor.

On the other hand, there are others who were born with skills in singing, dancing, and sports. Some people are just exceptionally pleasing to the eye, while there are those who seemingly do not have anything good going for them, with no access to good education or even basic human needs. We have heard of college dropouts making it big or somebody who used to collect trash, but is now a successful entrepreneur. Others became a somebody upon turning 50, while a 16 year-old recently won $3 million for playing a video game. We also hear of young adults who were born into a prominent family, but were never able to live up to their parents’ economic and social stature.

Our lives are different from each other. It may not be obvious at times, but they are different. Yet, here we are, trying to define our own success through the lens of some other person in an Instagram post.

Let us not let another person’s life (tweets included) define what success is for us. How we define success would define how we would live our lives. Success should not be about money or one’s status. Neither should success be tied up to an individual’s relationship or the amount of time spent with family.

Success is being able to maximize everything that was given to us as our raw materials: our country, institutions, family, resources, skills, and talents. The more we are able to use all of raw materials to provide for the needs of others, the better. Needs that are not only financial in nature, but also emotional, mental, and spiritual needs.

Whatever our definition of success is, whether it is world-changing, may it not be simply an excuse for us to run away from an unwanted situation. Do not hide from the noble excuse of living a simple life when quitting your corporate job. There is nothing wrong with choosing a much simpler life but, if it was just an excuse, no matter where you pursue your career, you will never meet your definition of success. Do not waste your talents and the privileges afforded to you all your life.

Other people’s lives may serve as an inspiration or a learning experience, but they should never become our benchmark to define our own success. At the end of the day, it is not our peak as compared to others that matter, but is our peak, the very peak that we can reach after considering everything provided to us.

Anton Ng is a Partner in the Audit and Assurance division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory, and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 23 partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to or For more information, visit our website:


As published in The Manila Times, dated 07 August 2019