Faster, higher, further – many students sometimes feel under pressure to succeed. But what exactly is success? Author Daniel Rettig has dealt with this in detail and says: “There are about as many questions as answers to this question. For many years, Daniel Rettig was editor and head of department of the magazine “Wirtschaftswoche” (which, by the way, voted the CBS the best German private university in the field of business administration this year). Recently, he has become the new editor-in-chief of ada, the education platform of the Handelsblatt Media Group. As part of his guest lecture at our semester opening ceremony in 2019, he told us in an expert interview that success has a lot to do with objectives – and therefore varies from case to case.
CBS: As head of the “Success & Founders” department, you have dealt intensively with the topic of success. Is there a universal definition of success or is success always in the eye of the beholder?
Daniel Rettig: Success is totally individual. One person understands it as a corporate career, the other wants to become self-employed. And because everyone understands it differently, there are no general recipes for success.
CBS: Success is often associated with performance. To what extent is this connection permissible?
Daniel Rettig: I think the word performance is correct, but at the same time there is a big misunderstanding: the term success is too strongly related to professional life. Perhaps for some it is also the peak of success to be at home early in the afternoon – and aren’t mothers and fathers who stay at home and take care of their children also successful? One should not be persuaded that success necessarily goes hand in hand with a high position in a company or a high salary. You can also be very successful in your private life.
CBS: Do you see a different attitude to success in the new generation/among young founders?
Daniel Rettig: I find it difficult to deal with the many surveys that attribute certain characteristics to an entire generation and lump them all together, so to speak. As they say in Cologne: “Jede Jeck is anders.” (Everyone is different.) It cannot be denied that large parts of generations Y and Z grow up in material prosperity and the possibilities seem endless. But such great freedom can also lead to insecurity, because freedom to succeed always means freedom to fail.
CBS: Is success always measurable – for example in grades or in a degree within the standard period of study?
Daniel Rettig: It is at least tempting to want to measure success – and indeed: Those who manage to complete their studies faster are considered to be more successful. But those who need more time for their studies should not be discouraged or drive crazy. As long as you can reasonably justify this time at the job interview and as long as it is within a reasonable range, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being successful.
CBS: What do you advise our students to do in times of (failure) success?
Daniel Rettig: I try to see things in relation to each other: In 200 years’ time, no one will probably remember us. In this respect, neither success nor failure should be overestimated. In addition, I stick to a saying by Oscar Wilde: “Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.” I’ve managed quite well so far.
CBS: Thank you very much for the interview!