Success or Happiness: Do Entrepreneurs Have to Choose?

Would you believe me if I told you that Usain Bolt, the fastest person in the world and holder of six Olympic gold medals, still gets sick during his training sessions?

A close friend of mine wonders how quickly she can quit her prestigious job and move back to her hometown to be surrounded by the people she loves. Another friend of mine creates an online project in the hopes of eventually quitting his job to work on something awesome. Almost everyone who reads my work says their #1 goal is to work on their own, on a project they love.

In my book, I call this The Itch—that desire to break free and do something meaningful coupled with an absolute bewilderment about what could happen once the first step is taken.

In the age-old dilemma of happiness or money, what are we to do?

I recently came across the words of Thomas Fuller that provided a sort of relief from the internal debate:

Contentment consists not in adding more fuel, but in taking away some fire.

I recently spent a lazy Sunday watching documentaries with my husband, a hobby we discovered through Netflix. One documentary in particular stood out: Usain Bolt: The Fastest Man on Earth.

Watching the hour-long video, I learned that Bolt’s life is a science. He lives with other athlete friends in Jamaica to keep him in line, and he has an in-house cook to prepare the foods that fuel his performance.

He trains intensely, as you’d expect. What I never expected was that he’d continue to push himself so far past his limits.

During one training session in the documentary, Bolt’s coach calls to him repeatedly, but Bolt is bent over on all fours in the middle of track, sticking his fingers in his mouth deep to regurgitate.

At a recent event held in Fargo, North Dakota, I watched a screening of another documentary, this one titled Lemonade. It’s a mash-up of different stories—profiles of people who’ve lost their jobs and found incredible new beginnings in their newfound freedom.

The stories are uplifting and heartfelt, but they also drove home another important point: people wanting to quit their job and work on something meaningful usually don’t know where to start.

When it’s forced on us, though, as it was on the individuals featured in Lemonade, the lemons we’re handed are more quickly turned into something delicious.

The dilemma isn’t really about choosing happiness or money. The true dilemma becomes which to put first.

Do you choose success and fight for happiness or do you choose happiness and fight for success?

If my friend moves home to be with her family, she’ll be happier, but success will be harder to find. If she stays in her job, she’ll have more success, but she’ll have to work hard for her happiness.

Many of us may have both, but our decisions and priorities will put one at the forefront more quickly than the other.

The fastest man in the world, the man who stretches his arms out in victory meters before reaching the finish line, the infamous Usain Bolt needs relief from his constant pushing.

I have no idea how happy Bolt feels, but I know he’s successful.

But I ask you this: if winning, if being the best of the best,means constantly pushing yourself past your human limits, do you still want it?