Sometimes you have insights which change your priorities in life.
As I was approaching 20, I had one of those insights.
As unromantic as it is, I believe it was prompted by reading some research by some economists, including Andrew Oswald, which regressed various factors against life satisfaction. I'm fuzzy on the exact details, but the conclusion was that income had less of an impact on satisfaction than other factors, such as being married. Events like divorce and job loss also had a bigger impact on life satisfaction than having a really substantial income.
It prompted me to ask a question. If I had to make a choice, would I prefer to have $2 million in the bank, or a fantastic relationship with a fantastic woman? What about $1 billion?
When I put it in such stark contrast, the answer was clear, no matter what the dollar figure was. Whatever my professional or financial aspirations, they paled in comparison to finding the right person to share my life with, and cultivating that relationship.
As someone who had no problems with studying and passing tests, but wasn't so good socially, this insight reshaped my priorities significantly. Over the next few years, I spent a lot more time improving my social skills and pursuing my "cosmic mission" of finding and attracting the right person.
As a consequence of this, my career started off more slowly than I would have liked.
But I was successful. I'm the luckiest man in the world to be in the tenth year of marriage to my wonderful wife.
I could be a billionaire, but if I hadn't found the right person to share it with, it wouldn't have been worth it. When it comes down to it, I'm the richest man in the world.