Editor's Note: Huffington Post has teamed up with Roadtrip Nation, an organization that travels the world to interview people who have built lives around their passions. Keep an eye out for more stories in the coming weeks for insight into your own path.
April is a time to enjoy the weather, explore the outdoors, and figure out what the hell the difference is between a 1040EZ and a 1040A form. That's right: it's tax season, and all this rummaging through bank accounts is enough to make anyone long for the days when humans bartered real goods like sea shells and mammoth pelts instead of meaningless paper depicting grumpy-looking presidents. But alas, millions of years of innovation have brought us to this point. And while societal progress has produced advances like heart transplants and heated toilet seats, it has also created a world that is fixated with money. Let's face it: We are a society that creates TV shows based around 16-year-olds having really, really expensive birthday parties. Media, social networking and even well-meaning friends and family hammer into our brains the idea that success is all about making and spending money. But is it really all about the Benjamins?
That pressure to prioritize money above all else is especially acute when we start planning what to do with our lives and how we're going to
finance our online shopping addiction pay the bills. Throughout the college and career-planning process, we're told to comb Department of Labor statistics for average salary projections in various fields. Our moms nudge us into money-making pathways with folklore about how our 3rd cousin twice removed makes bank in [fill in the field]. We're taught the age-old formula for finding a career, and it goes like this: first, think of your end goals (like money). Then, jerry-rig yourself into an occupation that fulfills those goals -- regardless of whether you actually like it or not. After all, who cares if you have to drag yourself out of bed for a job you hate if you can afford walk-in closets! Culture and tradition from long ago have gotten us here, but anyone can see that this paradigm is totally ass-backwards (or back-asswords if you wanna get semantic about it). Who says wealth is an accurate way to measure success? Why do Work and Life have to be two separate, opposing concepts? What about those stories we hear of people who ditched their high-paying jobs to do what they love, like comedy, or writing or art?
Van Taylor Monroe -- seen in the video above in an interview for Roadtrip Nation's documentary TV series -- was one of those guys on his way to making $200,000 a year. All he had to do was commit to a vocation that didn't interest him (finance), and put the one thing that did interest him (painting) on the backburner. Oh, and wear a starchy suit and tie. (Sorry, Justin Timberlake, but a suit and tie isn't that sexy when you're sweating in it on your 15-minute break to grab coffee and escape the office). Van could have had everything everyone told him he should want, but he was being driven by societal expectations, not his own ideals. So, he quit his job and started painting on shoes. Sounds pretty crazy -- maybe even stupid -- right? Maybe... until Will.i.am started wearing them. Then came the call asking to showcase his 'Obama' shoe in the Smithsonian. And the pièce de résistance: a feature about his success in the financial-centric Wall Street Journal, despite the fact that he had ironically turned his back on the financial world. Pretty sure that calls for a 'Booya, bitches.'
These days, Van feels far more successful heaving his creativity onto a canvas than he ever did working in finance, even without the six-figure paycheck. So clearly, success has to take into account things other than just money. Genuine success is defined by each of us for ourselves based on our own interests, values and goals. For some of us, that might mean being creative and making buttons with images of pandas and Marilyn Monroe for a living (seriously, go to the link. We know someone who does this and loves it). For others, the fast-paced world of business might spark joy, which could lead to high earnings. And there's nothing wrong with either of those paths. They're each a success story in their own right if we're doing what we're passionate about. But ultimately, wherever we lie on that spectrum, our objective should go beyond dollar amount. Money might be the outcome of following what we loved in the first place, but if it's the primary reason for doing something, we might find that there's a gaping void even if we can buy ourselves a $2,000 gold-plated stapler. So, as you finalize those tax forms this year, don't freak out about what you are or aren't making -- or even what you could be making in the future. Find the thing you're stoked on, and the money will follow. And hey, maybe you won't end up making the kind of cash seen on My Super Sweet 16, but who cares? No one needs elephants and P. Diddy at their birthday anyway.
To watch more interviews from Roadtrip Nation, head to roadtripnation.com
By: Alyssa Frank