Five Strategies for Career Success and Happiness

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Conventional wisdom leads us to believe that in order to achieve success people must take a nose-to-grindstone, burn-the-midnight-oil approach and personal happiness is an afterthought—if it’s a thought at all. But that’s the wrong way to look at things, according to Scott MacDonald, author of “Saving Investa: How An Ex-Factory Worker Helped Save One of Australia’s Iconic Companies” (Next Century Publishing, 2016) and a successful CEO with a history of turning around struggling companies. “Hard work absolutely is important, but I’ve met plenty of people who worked hard and never made much money or achieved satisfactory career objectives,” says MacDonald. “Working hard is just one part of the equation for success. You also need to be organized, plan, work smart, and choose to focus your effort where there’s reward.” Throughout his decades of experience serving as a senior consultant for Morgan Stanley, president of New Plan Excel Realty Trust, and CEO of Center America Property Trust., MacDonald has discovered what works when it comes to career success and personal happiness. Here are five lessons you can apply to your own career.

Don’t expect anyone to give you anything. In grade school and junior high, MacDonald earned money by doing yard work for neighbors, handling a paper route, and washing dishes at his junior high school. As a teenager, he bagged groceries, stocked shelves in a pharmacy, and worked in a fiberglass factory. “If you want something, work for it,” says MacDonald. “You will appreciate it more and not be indebted to anyone.”

You make your own luck. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” says Darrell Royal, former University of Texas football coach.

MacDonald agrees. “Nothing in my life that I can think of has been the result of luck,” he says.

Losers have the best excuses. Winners find ways to succeed despite the many roadblocks and unexpected difficulties they encounter. People who are unsuccessful reach for excuses. “Whenever things go wrong, and things always go wrong at some point, look in the mirror for answers,” says MacDonald. “Successful people focus on what they can do to respond to setbacks and don’t waste time playing a blame game or feeling sorry for themselves.”

Players score points, but teams win games. To be successful, any organization must have a culture of teamwork. Individual stars need to be supportive of the team concept, or those individuals should be moved on. MacDonald once fired a top chief financial officer who was good at his job, but didn’t see the necessity of working with colleagues and was dismissive of others’ ideas. “The entire company performed better after he was gone,” says MacDonald.

Life is too short to deal with ‘jerks’. No matter how important the project, if someone can’t deal with you professionally and ethically, just pass on the deal and move on. “There will be other deals,” says MacDonald. “I may have lost an occasional deal, but overall my companies enjoyed good success and reputation, which led to other and better opportunities.”

Ultimately, people can moan about how unfair the world is, but all that griping won’t get them anywhere. “There’s no doubt that the competitive work environment places huge pressures on your time and energy,” says MacDonald. “But the quicker you understand that you’re responsible for your own destiny, the happier you’re going to be.”