Learning, Earning, Returning

Having some short time-outs, I have been living in this lovely city for about thirty years, but there are still so many places which I have not yet explored. Istanbul is a city where you can always discover something new and come face to face with a novelty every single day. A resident of Istanbul knows some unwritten codes and rules specific to this city, which are mostly good to know things. You never want to say something negative about Istanbul, except one big issue “the traffic”. Sometimes I spend so many hours in traffic that I start thinking of these hours as time stolen from my life. While waiting for a radical city-wide solution for the traffic, one of the recent solutions I have found is listening to “audio books” while driving. These days, I am listening to the book “Where have All the Leaders Gone?” written by Lee Iacocca in 2007, the former CEO of Ford and Chrysler.

Istanbul, the only city in the world built on two continents. Photo by Osman Orsal, Reuters.

Lee Iacocca reads his book himself. It is a manifesto on American business and political life with also sincere reflections on his own life. The book is interesting as a whole but what has left the greatest impression on me is the chapter about his retirement. Despite a business life full of success, he admits that his transition to retirement was a real fiasco. After he retired, he left Detroit, the heart of the automotive industry where he had spent his whole life, moved to Los Angeles, bought an expensive house in a fancy district of L.A. He then tried to get into in golf, the most popular sport among American business man, but as he said “the golf bug didn’t bite me”. Soon he realized that it wasn’t golf, or any other pastime, that would make him wake up early in the morning, but “work”; “being active and engaged in life”. Iacocca defined the life-span simply in three phases:

1. Learning

2. Earning

3. Returning

According to him, retirement is the time for “returning”. Being retired and still having a meaningful life is possible with the virtue of returning. In order to achieve this, you should find something that has a meaning for you and this must be something “real”. The greatest fear of Iacocca and many of his fellows is having lives which are not worthy any more. He recommends that you can overcome your fears about the value of your life by returning back to society what you have learned and earned till then. Iacocca has been ‘returning’ ever since he retired through the foundations he has founded and supported, the books he has been written and the numerous voluntary activities he has been engaging in.

Having a meaningful life is a basic human need.  This need leads you to strive for a happier, healthier and longer life and whatever the life phase you are in or whatever your role is, there is a way to embed meaning to your life. It is just a matter of state of mind.

Remzi Kitabevi in Kanyon, Istanbul offers a wide variety of Turkish and English audio books. I have chosen my my next audio book. It will be “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell.

My suggestions for further reading:



Edited by Neville Wells

Pygmalion in the Workplace

During my undergraduate studies, one of the things I found most compelling about my psychology classes was learning about experiments and their results. In most cases, these experiments were designed as longitudinal studies and conducted against a control group. They were excellent guides to explain human behaviour. Some of the experiments were conducted with children and the results had helped to shape or redefine new approaches to education that were or would be applied. 

One of the most interesting experiments that affected me was one with school children conducted by social psychologists Rosenthal and co-worker Jacobson in 1968. In the experiment, the positive and negative effects of expectations and prejudices on children were tested. Rosenthal and Jacobson gave an intelligence test to all of the students at an elementary school near the beginning of the academic year. Then, they at random selected 20% of the students without any consideration of their test results. They reported to the teachers that these 20% of students were showing unusual potential for intellectual growth and could be identified as academic bloomers during the academic year.

Near the end of the school year, they came back and re-tested all students with the same test and the degree of change in IQ was calculated for each child. Those labelled as intelligent children, for whom the teachers expected greater intellectual growth showed significantly greater improvement in the new test than the other children who were not singled out for the teachers’ attention. This means that the change in the teachers’ expectations regarding the intellectual performances of children had led to an actual change in the intellectual performance of these randomly selected children. This phenomenon, in which expectations placed upon humans lead to a better performance, is called the Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect.

The name Pygmalion comes from a Greek myth. A sculptor named Pygmalion falls in love with his creation.

Thirty-four years later, in 2002 Rosenthal continued his research with adults from different professional groups. He found out that expectations and prejudices don’t just affect children in the educational settings, they have the same effects on adults in numerous settings including business environments. While displaying expectations about employees, the difference which could be created with positive communications is worth taking into account since all human beings, children or adults – because of their nature – will produce results parallel to the value put on them.

 References for your further reading:



Edited by Neville Wells

Photo Credit: Google Images

Key to Growth is Self-Awareness

Nisantasi Anadolu Lisesi, formerly known as English High School, was established in 1905

I recently attended my high school’s 20th annual reunion and met up with many old friends, acquaintances and classmates. I have managed to keep in touch with some of my class mates and have also remained close friends with some who I have managed to see regularly, but in the meeting I came face to face with some classmates who I hadn’t met at all for more than 10 or in some cases 15 years. I also asked one of my old class mates about her new born baby to which she replied with an ironic smile on her face “My small three and a half year-old baby is doing fine, thanks.” I felt taken aback and somewhat helpless against the pace of the time.

At the gathering everyone was wondering what each one had been doing in work and lives, those with children were showing off their photos. Some small groups were taking group photos together and everyone who entered the hall where the event was held was greeted cheerfully. After a while the discussion moved on to how much we had changed since our high school days. One of my friends in the group said that “in fact we hadn’t changed at all and that we were just the same as we were in high school”; while some agreed, some didn’t. I joined in the discussion by telling everybody about the Big Five Factors Theory which is based on a series of research conducted in the early 1900’s. According to the theory, there are five personality traits that don’t change. These are:

  • Openness is a general appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, curiosity, and variety of experience.
  • Conscientiousness is a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement.
  • Extraversion is characterized by positive emotions, surgency, and the tendency to seek out stimulation and the company of others.
  • Agreeableness is a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.
  • Neuroticism is the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression.

Which traits describe you best?

These traits are unchanging parts of the personality. In time what changes is just our behaviour i.e. the observable manifestations of these traits. We may make some improvements and changes according to the necessities/requirements of the environments that we are in. As an example, imagine a person with a low extraversion trait who has to work in a team, act as a leader and be an active member in social settings. While the person still has a low extraversion trait, she or he may develop some behaviours which make him or her well adapted to his or her current environment. The Big Five Factors Theory is very influential since it has become an inclusive model covering all the models and measurements that have been used. It has also become a basis for a very powerful tool called Neo-PI-R Personality Inventory, which is used by most companies in Turkey.

Do we know what our unchangeable traits are?  Do we really act on the behavioural changes that we desire? I bet you will say sometimes yes, but mostly no. The first step to any behavioural change is self-awareness. It could be defined as one’s understanding of own knowledge, attitudes and opinions. The self-awareness about my unchangeable traits has increased first with the developmental necessities of business life, then with the ongoing communications with my kids. Although it has taken some time to identify and act upon my developmental spots, with my increased awareness, this has become a results giving process in the end. Sometimes I find myself happily doing things that I never imagined I would do. If I tell you I am not surprised with myself that would be a lie!

Edited by Neville Wells

Photo Credit: Google Images