What does success mean?

What does success mean?

Mehmet Öğütçü
I have been asked to address a group of graduates from the London School of Economics about my achievements and how I have come to where I am over the 52 years of my life, so as to inspire their choices for a future career path.

I was brought up in a humble and not so well-off family with five children. My work life started at the age of 10 as an apprentice at my father’s ironsmith workshop.

Then came so many and so diverse roles, one after another – in Mulkiye, İş Bank’s Inspection Board, the prime minister’s office, London School of Economics, NATO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ankara, Beijing, Brussels and Paris), College d’Europe in Bruges, International Energy Agency, OECD, BG Group, Genel Energy, Invensys, Global Resources Partnership and the Bosphorus Energy Club.

Most peoples’ bookshelves are weighed down with self-help books. I have no intention to give another potential book script here, but outline some basic principles, which have helped me achieve my “success” in life:

1. Get to know – and like – yourself. See yourself in the mirror as you are. Work very hard on getting rid of any negative emotions, so that your mind can concentrate on achieving your goals. Be polite and helpful, keep away from people who drag you into pessimism and negativity.

2. Capitalize on your strengths, and do not get distracted into doing something simply because it looks important. You may have great talents in areas you had not thought of. We have seen examples of accountants of becoming interior decorators or lawyers moving into organic farming in their mid-life era.

3. Do not have a crowded agenda and mind. Set a realistic goal, achieve it, and then set another. Success is not one occurrence, but a series of small steps. Focus on things (i.e. relationships, friends, job, hobbies and social work) that are really meaningful for you. Eliminate the drain of incomplete tasks and do not leave today’s work for tomorrow…

4. Avoid being over-ambitious and aggressive – it is great to have a healthy dose of ambition based on your strengths. Be very wary of defining yourself according to ambition in business and politics.

5. You will only be successful if you are happy and content. The things in life that best make you happy are: a commitment to doing a good job (particularly a skill), friendship, a sense of faith, music, a sense of humor and an appreciation of the natural world. Take good care of your family, friends and colleagues. Establish a life that combines all of these.

6. Give back as much or more than you receive and establish a trust-based network of relationships to help you along your life cycle... Be passionate about what you do, or do what you are passionate about—follow your passion and natural instincts.

7. Listen and don’t take yourself too seriously – it is important to listen to other’s ideas with genuine interest. Never stop learning from others and from your failures as somehow they could become a treasure for your future bigger moves. Have the guts to adapt and change course if necessary.

8. “Ask repeatedly.” Even though 5 year-olds know this, as adults we are conditioned to forget to ask again, or we take “no” as a personal rejection or we just give up. However, conditions and people change with time and a “yes” on the third try can be just as sweet.

9. Network – but be very careful how you network. Let me tell you what doesn’t work: forcing yourself on people who don’t know you and trying to get them to do something for you. The best networker is a servant. Everything else is just sleazy self-promotion and in the long run, it doesn’t work. If you help enough people fulfil their dreams, they’ll eventually help you with yours. Generosity is contagious.
The most important thing to bear in mind is there is no single blueprint on how to achieve in life and pursue a successful life as you see it. Nor is there the possibility of one’s own success story being replicated by others. We only learn from others’ successes and failures to draw lessons from our particular circumstances.

We all will develop our own way of building successful lives. If you ask me to put all what I said in a nutshell, “success” can be defined in three words: Health, happiness and prosperity – three simple words, but they are not always easy to achieve.