The Art of Success

Are you happy or or are you successful? Can you be both?


We are inundated with advice on success in business and commerce. The three steps to this, the five keys to that. If we would simply take a timeout and consume all this advice from bestsellers to morning tv to best blogs apparently we could divine the mathematical equation to success in the workplace. Or better yet, maybe take this corrective counsel though an IV so we can continue on the rabbit’s frenetic run and stay focused.

But if we’ve learned nothing else by now, we know that happiness, success and joy are not external devices. They come from within. And as far as the world of work goes, they come from a job well done.

Throughout my career I’ve seen people motivated by money (yes, mostly by money), title, presumed power, notoriety, achievement and so on. Many if not all of these measures are not only extrinsic but temporal. They will not last. If you’ve ever had to lay someone off who’s spent years confusing their role with their psyche – as I have – you know just how painful it is when we are separated from the cocoon of the womb of our job falling face forward into the unknown trying to establish who we really are. Yes, grown men do cry in the office: especially when coming face to face with the nakedness of their unemployed self.

Success is often defined by external measures and scorecards. A friend of mine once told me that we like scorecards and money is the best score, so she worked her ass off to make money. She didn’t actually like her job. She was trying to score more points.

That’s not success.

Real success I would argue is being in harmony with yourself. Yes, I know we sometimes confuse that with being authentic and as an aging buzzword we ignore stories with that label. That’s fine: harmony persists. When are you in sync with your own being, your own ethics, your own purpose? When you do the things you would do despite the scorecard of others. What is that French proverb? There is no pillow so soft as a clean conscience? I like soft pillows.

Making decisions and taking action in the workplace because you think it will score points, make money, increase influence, ingratiate yourself to leadership are all false propositions. The art of success is to do the best you can do. Period. That’s it.

For so many reasons out of our control the jobs we fill (I like to say all jobs are “rented”) often end at someone else’s call. Mergers, restructures, markets, regulatory shifts, leadership changes and so many other causations lead to premature end of lease to our jobs. I often hear, “but I wasn’t finished” when I have to tell someone its over. And its true. We are seldom finished, and our success cannot be given or taken away by others. Only by ourselves.

Whatever your work, whatever your discipline your success can come only from you. The art of success is doing the best you can do with what you have every single day and sleeping soundly every single night.

True success comes from within. And can be yours, starting today.

I wish you all the success in the world.



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