Entrepreneurs

What happiness means to this 26-year-old CEO and self-made millionaire—and how it’s different from success

It's easy to believe that one day, when you have accomplished some specific goal, then you will be happy. That the goal will make you happy. While that way of thinking may be motivating, it's also fundamentally flawed, says Brian Wong.

"Happiness and success are two very different things," he tells CNBC.

Wong knows what success looks like. He's 26 and CEO of Kiip, the mobile advertising company he founded. Kiip is on track to do more than $20 million in revenue for 2017 and works with mega companies including McDonald's and Coca Cola.

Wong graduated from college at 18 — the age at which most people are just starting. (He skipped four grades in primary school and graduated high school at 14.) He launched Kiip at just 19, and at the ripe old age of 20, he was a self-made millionaire. He's also an author. Wong wrote about his tips to success in his book, "The Cheat Code."

Brian Wong, founder and CEO of Kiip
Photo courtesy Kiip
Brian Wong, founder and CEO of Kiip

But success means more than an impressive resume to Wong. Success means having freedom to follow your fancy, he says.

"Being successful is having the freedom and the options available to you to do anything and everything you want," says Wong, who insists — "this isn't just money."

This place is pure magic

A post shared by Brian Wong (@brianwong) on

"You could have all the money in the world, but if you don't have the right person to call or the right set up to travel or the freedom to delegate or to find the right person to help you with this, you end up being stuck," he says.

"When you have as much optionality around you as possible, you're never stuck, and that is what I think is the most conducive to what is defined as ... 'success.'"

Happiness, meanwhile, is dependent on a combination of internal factors, which can be harder to attain.

First, happiness means having some level of satisfaction with your life. Also, it means having self-confidence and a personal support network of friends and loved ones, says Wong.

"To be happy, in my opinion, is to have a combination of satisfaction and emotional support." -Brian Wong, founder and CEO of Kiip

"To be happy in my opinion is to have a combination of satisfaction and emotional support both within and and outside," he says.

"Emotional support within is of course your own peace with yourself yourself — how secure you are, how you feel about your current situation.

"And then outside: Are people around you that can make you happy, keep you happy and if you aren't happy, to help address those things and that you can have that healthy dialogue with?"

A post shared by Brian Wong (@brianwong) on

Entrepreneurs, in particular, need to be sure they have emotional safeguards in place to help them weather the tumult of launching a business.

"This is really a conversation about mental health, because as an entrepreneur there's a lot of moments where you are questioning yourself and then there are also are moments where you're down emotionally on yourself," says Wong. "But it's not just an internal struggle, it's always important to have people around you that can help make sure that you're lifted."

See also:

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How this mom turned $775 into a $65 million company in only 5 years

Why one exec passed up the chance to be president of this $127 billion company