How to Win One Step at a Time: Chip Sawicki, 'The Gift of Success and Happiness'

May 9, 2011

After six years as controller and chief financial officer for the Dallas Stars and Rangers, Chip Sawicki and his wife decided it was her turn to flourish at work. Still, the stay-at-home father of two didn’t relinquish his business savvy. He applied it to his new role as Mr. Mom, mapping out a step-by-step guide to life satisfaction for his sons. In “The Gift of Success and Happiness” ($16.95, Skyhorse), Sawicki shares his formula for maximizing time management and balancing home-work life.

You say you can transform your life through business processing principles. What are those?
The first thing you do is define the process. Then you figure out how to adopt the process to the situation and make it most efficient. That’s really what I do in the book. I remove the emotional half of the brain and just look at the logical side.
When you look at life as a process, you first focus on yourself: getting an education, getting prepared. Then the next step is starting your career. Once you start that career, then you’re ready to take on a relationship and make that permanent commitment to set a good foundation to buy a house and have children.

You emphasize the importance of hard work early in your career. What would you say to the current generation, which has a reputation for expecting success without working too hard for it?
I call it the trophy generation. They play a sport now and everybody gets a trophy. They get into the real world and guess what? Not everybody gets a trophy. Only the winners get trophies. The great thing is if they realize that’s the environment, I think it will be easier for people to be successful. What I find almost without fail among the successful people that I know is they’re all more successful than their parents. The reason for that is they came from middle-class families and they wanted a better lot in life so they were the ones when they graduated from college who were working the 50-, 60-, 70-hour weeks. People who work quicker coming out of the gate are going to get ahead. People that work hard get rewarded.

But you say promotions can be overrated. How so?
There’s an old famous saying that people tend to get promoted to the level of incompetence. It can definitely exceed your abilities. You get promoted at work and it’s going to stretch your capabilities. Some people will respond. Some people won’t be able to. Initially, across the board, it’s going to stretch your comfort zone.

You could earn zillions of dollars at your job and still be unhappy. Why?
Your success is based on your goals; your happiness is based on your expectations. You set high goals and as you reach them, you set new and higher goals. Expectations don’t change as much. What made you happy years ago probably still makes you happy. You need to meet expectations a lot more frequently than a goal. Set high, reachable goals but keep expectations reasonable. You’ve got to break those two apart.

How do you know when to get a new job?
The best thing you can do whenever you’re not happy is interview. When you interview, you’re going to find out one of two things: One, you’re going to find a better opportunity or there’s nothing else out there, in which case that tells you that what you have is already pretty good.

In our fast-paced environment, every minute counts, right?
Time is really a resource, but when we overcommit our time, that’s when it becomes a constraint. And when we go over that point where it becomes a constraint, that’s what causes the stress. That point is 168 hours [in a week]. If you plan for every minute of 168 hours, you’re going to be in trouble because things just happen. That’s life. If you plan it too tight, you’re going to have a problem, so plan a little bit of cushion in there.

Graduation season is coming up. Got any tips on transitioning from student to professional?
Live within your means, make good decisions and get ready to work hard. This idea that someone’s going to make a lot of money and only work 40 hours a week simply is not the case.

Written by Express contributor Stephanie Kanowitz

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express | May 9, 2011