Life is Actually a Relay Race

The balance of nature requires this. All people are born; they live their infancy, childhood and youth, and after coming to middle age, they get older and pass away.​

This natural course applies for everyone. Life is actually a gift given to humanity and every phase of life, be it childhood or adulthood, has its own beauty that we need to enjoy. Also, we need to be ready to turn to a new page for the next phase when time comes.

Let me give an example from myself: I’m 35 years old. Last year, I opened a new page in my life. I handed all my responsibilities from the family business to others and set up a new business in the solar energy sector. Of course my partnerships and executive board memberships still continue in my family business, but I quit working as an active manager. People still can’t believe how I quit being the CEO of a well-working mechanism like KFC and Pizza Hut (I put a lot of work for the company during the last 2 years. We reconstructed it from head to foot. The company was at its best when I quit my position and it was accelerating for the better. I’ll write an article about this in the future) and went into a shaky and unsettled sector with a startup company. In fact, I made this transition without any hesitation.

Life goes by fast. Everyone survives a phase quickly and we all get older day by day. Yet, I have a little advantage in this case. Because I look younger than my age, everyone asks me “How is your older brother?” for my twin Baran. It has been a while since I stopped correcting this. I experience it everywhere. 4 years ago, I went to USA with my sister for her registration to university and I was waiting in the line for registration, because she was tired. The students in front of me started to chat with me and asked me in which department I was in. I smiled and told them that it had been 9 years since I graduated and that I was there for my sister.
2 years ago, we hosted the President of the Republic of Ireland and the official committee along with him in our hotel. We ran across a family friend right at the entrance of the ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton hotel. My father introduced me to Abdülkadir Konukoğlu, one of the important businessmen in Turkey, our townsman from Gaziantep and the Chairman of the Executive Board of Sanko Holding. The following conversation took place between us:

My father: … Look, this is my son Serhan.

Abdulkadir Konukoğlu: How great! What grade are you in the university?
Serhan (smiling): I’m 33 years old. It has been 11 years since I graduated.
Abdulkadir Konukoğlu (to me): Wow! Look at how young you look! (Then to my father): His grandfather was also mignon, he looks like him.
Later on we all laughed and went into the ballroom to welcome the President of the Republic of Ireland.

Whenever I meet my friends from high school or university, I see that the body type of most of them had changed. Some of them jokingly tell me: “Man, we hate how you don’t change at all!” However, I know very well that in 5-10 years, my hair and beard will start to get gray, maybe I will lose some hair and I will continue to get older. I’m ready for that too: I will live fully in that period of my life as well and will continue to contribute to the people around me and to all others.
All in all, without exception, all people get older, but a lot of them claim that they don’t and they continue to live that way. They never want to let go of their current positions. What makes life unbearable is actually mankind itself. Personal ego, jealousy, hatred, aggressiveness, the wish to dominate others’ lives, hypocrisy, insulting and many other negative feelings, thoughts and actions make life unbearable.

Some people say “live every day like it’s your last,” they act upon this thought and live a one-day life. On the contrary, some assume they won’t die at all, they settle down to a place and try to live the same life until the end. Here’s something that they are not aware of: Nature doesn’t allow this to happen anyway. I mean, there’s a very big difference in the performance you showed at the same work 30 years ago and the performance you will show now. First of all, you get older, you become tired and angry more rapidly and your comprehension slows down.
To me, living a one-day life and trying to keep the same position for years are two extreme ends and both are not right. It is necessary to enjoy life, but there should always be a short, middle and long term plan. If there’s nothing wrong and, God forbid, you don’t meet death early in life, then you should do your best to apply these plans.

In that sense, it pleases me to help the people around me. I give a hand especially to the excited youth who want to produce things and to people who don’t know what they will do in life. Of course I start this job from my inner circle. Last night, one of the youngsters came to me and told me what he wanted to do in life. I asked him three questions: Do you enjoy and become excited about the things you do in internship while studying in the university? Do you have a plan for the next 5 years? Where do you want to see yourself 20 years later? Then, we went into detail and made a reasonable plan. If that kid doesn’t lose his motivation, I believe he will be very successful in his profession. As long as he makes the right moves, he will take over the flag from his predecessor. He will carry this flag for quite a while and will hand it down to those coming after him.

Yes, life is a relay race, but the majority of the people still can’t understand this or they perceive it very late. When they perceive it, most of the time it’s too late. You can see examples of this with politicians, artists, athletes, sports club managers, businessmen and with many other professions.

For instance, let’s talk about an issue which concerns Fenerbahçe fans and which occupies the agenda: The issue with Alex. For those who don’t know him (especially for the foreign readers), let us remind who he is: Alex de Souza, a Brazilian, is one of Fenerbahçe’s legendary football players who earned a lot of success since 2004. For instance, he is the one and only foreign football player in the history of the Super League and of Fenerbahçe to become the top scorer twice during the 2010-2011 season. Including that season, he has become the top assister for the 4th time. Other than his successful football career, he is a football player who enshrined himself in others’ hearts with his humble personality and good family life. A lot of Galatasaray fans, including me, like and respect him. Because the technical director didn’t let him play in some of the matches, Alex entered into an argument with him. Later on, the club manager stepped in and exerted his authority in favor of the technical director. To me, both sides have their own mistakes. Aykut Kocaman, the technical director, couldn’t connect with Alex and the fans about these matters. Besides, loyalty is an important phenomenon to me. On the other hand, despite his magnificent technique, Alex forgets that he’s 35 years old and that his physical power is less sufficient than the younger players. Being considered as a player whose statue is offered to be built by the Fenerbahçe fans, Alex shouldn’t put himself in such positions. He should timely quit football and turn the next page in his life. Whether this will be being a technical director, being a journalist or enjoying retirement, that’s up to him. However, I believe Alex should quit football within two years the latest and he should set sail.

Let’s take a look at politics. There’s a Putin-Medvedev phenomena in world politics. Until passing over the country to Medvedev, Putin was a politician who did important things for his country. However, his election as Prime Minister after passing the presidency to Medvedev and candidacy for presidency for the second time was, I believe, the beginning of his fall. If he had quit politics after passing presidency to Medvedev, he could have been one of the legendary leaders in the world. However, his “sham democracy” notion and his will to be always on top caused a decline in his career and caused him to become subject to increasing criticisms and protests.
The situation in our country is also no different. There are hundreds of congressmen, ministers, party leaders and prime ministers who have been politicians for over 15-20 years. These people ignored the fact that politics is not a profession, that service for the people is the main principle and that this service is for a limited amount of time; and they continued to hold their position as much as possible. The fact that there is no democracy inside a political party in Turkey paved the way for “life-long politicians.” Think about it: In a country, the delegates of the party are chosen by the party leader and these delegates vote to elect the party leader in an election only for show. This is exactly “the blind leading the blind” type of a situation. This has appeared in all periods. The limit of politics, to me, is 2 periods and 10 years. If there’s a coercive situation (earthquake, war, flood, civil war etc.), then it is at most 3 periods and 15 years. One shouldn’t go beyond that.
The situation is the same for the businessmen. There are lots of businessmen in the market with a big ego who claim they have set up all the business and who act as if they have created the whole world. These people don’t hesitate to crush the people closest to them, including their families, to keep their positions as it is. Some don’t provide a good education for their children and think that they have fulfilled their duty by only giving money to their children. This way, they sabotage their own future and the next generation. And they come realize this too late. I can explain the situation with a Mexican idiom: Grandfather a businessman, father a playboy, son a beggar…

Similar problems show up in foundations, institutions, bureaucracies, federations and in most of the structures. A president and his team settle down, they get elected again and again with elections which are held only for show and when they are asked “Why are you a candidate again?” they talk nonsense as if joking with the people and answer “Actually I didn’t want to, but my friends insisted on it.” This is a vicious circle.

Here’s a quote of Woody Allen that I like a lot: “If a man sings a lovely song, it is beautiful. If he keeps singing, one begins to get a headache.” The situation is the same in every phase of life.
Finally, I want to explain the “life is a relay race” thought with athletics. As you know, in the Olympic Games that took place in London this year, Jamaica broke the world record in 4×100 relay with 36.84 seconds. You can find the video of the race in the following link:

Let’s now look at some statistics. Michael Johnson broke the 400 meters world record with 43.18 seconds in 1999. In 400 meters relay (although they were carrying a stick), the Jamaican team ran the same distance 6.34 seconds before Michael Johnson. This means that they are 15% faster than Michael Johnson who ran 400 meters by himself. Why? Because in every 100 meters, they handed the stick over to the next runner who is more energetic. Life is something like this. You will run your distance and when you feel that your time is up, you will hand over your stick to the next relevant person. You will raise those people with love and compassion, putting in all your knowledge and giving them self-confidence so that they will carry the stick faster than you without dropping it.

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