How my childhood experiences became valuable life lessons
By Alkis Marangos
People who are close to me know that I am not one to philosophize about life or try to find answers to life’s most complicated questions. I consider myself rather a ‘shallow’ guy who enjoys living in the moment and making the most of every day in this journey. I do, however, believe that what has defined my character and personality over the years are certain experiences and memories of my childhood years. Every now and then I like to reflect back and recollect some of those childhood memories and try to understand how they have influenced me in creating some of my life’s most important values and rules.
Set goals to fulfill your dreams
Harvey Specter from the popular TV Series “Suits” said in an episode: “I don’t have dreams, I have goals.” Unlike Harvey, I like to have both.
There is a fine line between dreams and goals. When I was 10, I would dream of being a soccer player who is idolized by fans around Europe. That dream was rapidly shattered because of my lack of direction combined with a tad of laziness and my illusion that talent can make up for any hard work required. It was a good lesson however that taught me much later in life that if I want to fulfill my dreams, I have to set goals, accompanied by objectives that would help me achieve my goals. When I set my objectives, I follow a few simple rules that have been so much discussed in many business textbooks, but often overlooked.
First and foremost, I write them down so I don’t forget them or lose direction. Secondly, I make them specific so that I always know what I am trying to achieve, and finally I make them measurable so that I can make myself accountable. Whether it’s a new client project, a work task, a New Year’s Resolution or a dream, I follow these little rules with my objectives. If nothing else, it helps me stay focused, be more productive and work efficiently.
You will be rewarded when you work hard
The 4am summer wake up calls as a young kid to go to the farm with my dad, and the natural progression as I grew older to spend summer days at my mother’s office to help with data entry are now just a distant memory. It was later in life that I realized that my parents’ persistence to do something productive with my summer vacations was not just about learning a few new skills. It was their way of instilling a culture and work ethic, and making me understand that good things in life will come when you put in the time and effort.
I always set the bar high and I like to push myself to the limits to reach the bar. Unfairly sometimes, I expect people around me to do the same. I think that this little push over the boundaries is what contributes to personal and professional development.
Do the little things that will give you peace of mind
It is true that life obligations increase at an exponential rate as you get older. The little carefree kid who dreamed to be a soccer player has grown to be an adult striving to lead a balanced life. To achieve that, there are a number of things that I do on a regular basis to keep me grounded. Every morning after breakfast I spend 10 minutes on the floor giving love to my two Chihuahuas. At lunch time, I Facetime with my parents to hear about their day and tell them about mine. At nights, I enjoy a glass of wine with my wife over a good TV show. After work, I spend time with my daughter trying to get some smiles out of her. During the day I check in over text messages with some of my best friends who are now a few thousand miles away. On the weekends, I religiously sit in front of my computer to watch my soccer team play. These are just a few of my personal moments that make my life so much less complicated, keep me happy and give me the necessary peace of mind to keep the balance that I need.
You have the strength to get up when you fall down,
All of us have fallen down at some point in our life; it’s inevitable. It could be a stressful day at work, a bad meeting, an argument or some sad news. What distinguishes success from failure is our ability to stand back up and chase our dreams.
In the summer of 1974, my parents with my then 3-year-old brother were forced to evacuate their home because of a Turkish invasion in the north of Cyprus. Within one night they became refugees in their own country, losing their house and belongings, and were stripped of their right to peacefully raise their family in the place where they grew up. What was not taken from them was their desire, passion and ability to make things work for their family. They moved countries to get jobs, they worked hard to climb up the career ladder, they sacrificed family and personal time to make sure that their family was not short of anything. They rebuilt their life and two houses; one that is only a few miles away from the ghost town of Famagusta and their still occupied house. 4 decades, 3 sons, 3 daughters-in-law and 4 grandkids later, they are a living proof that nothing is too major to get you down.
I only lived this experience through the vivid stories of my parents and grandparents but it was certainly one of life’s most valuable lessons; a lesson that taught me to remain calm during unfortunate circumstances and to always have the courage to stand up to my feet when I fall down. To use every bad experience to my advantage by asking myself what went wrong, how can I prevent it from happening again and how I can improve. But most importantly, it taught me to stay positive for the good things that will come in my life.
Become the change you want to see
Last but not least, I consider myself lucky enough to have been raised and influenced by two of the most important women in my life. My grandmother was one of the leaders for women rights in Cyprus, fighting for their right to a decent job and salary. My mother went from the struggle of landing her first job (because she was a married woman with children) to climbing the corporate ladder and becoming one of the first and most successful businesswomen in Cyprus; at a time where there were huge gaps of gender inequality.
I could not have been raised to act any differently; it is an unconditional rule in my life that every individual should be treated equally and with respect, regardless of gender, nationality or race. Regulations and policies that are in place only slightly contribute to the equality that each one of use deserves. The change that I want to see in this world comes from the little actions of each individual; the way we treat and talk to other people, the equal opportunities that we give them, the respect that we pay to them, the lessons we learn from their culture and background, the acceptance of their struggles. Like Mahatma Gandhi said “We must become the change we want to see in the world.”