Q+A | Mark Lyons

Updated: 2013-07-18 05:44

(China Daily)

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How do you spend your weekends amid your busy schedule?

I enjoy spending my free time exploring Beijing and also China with my lovely girlfriend. A normal Saturday might start with going for a coffee and not return until very late at night, traveling mainly by subway. I think this is a great way to see this amazing city. I find Beijing to be an exciting and interesting place, very deep in culture and life.

What are your hobbies?

As I travel a lot, I spend most of my time staying in touch with my friends and contacts around the world. I also like to reflect on topics that interest me and learn more about them so I read many magazines and books and watch far more documentaries than anyone should. Alltech has a very strong running culture and I love running and playing sports. But my next goal is to learn to play mahjong.

What is the saying that you like most?

My mother always said: "To whom much is given, much is expected." We were given a great home, education and opportunities growing up and I believe I need to give a great deal back as well as instill this thinking in others. We are not here to enrich ourselves but to enrich and encourage others.

Which person do you most admire?

There are so many people I admire. It is difficult to narrow it down. One person who left a deep impression on me growing up was Mother Theresa. What she did in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) and the way that she affected people's lives was very special and so selfless. It is so rare to see this type of sacrifice.

What is the book you are reading now?

I normally have a few books on the go at once. I am currently reading the Wisdom of China by Lin Yutang, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and Deng Xiaoping and the transformation of China by Ezra Vogel.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

For me, the perfect idea of happiness is knowing that I am fulfilling my purpose in life - making a difference in people's lives - and also being able to enjoy life with friends and family with fun and passion.

What is your greatest fear?

I have been very fortunate in my life, having many opportunities to learn, to travel and to work with many different people and cultures. My fear is not having enough time to carry out all my goals and dreams or even more so to become distracted with unimportant activities.

What is the quality you most admire in a person?

Whether it's a man or a woman, integrity is the quality I admire most. The strength to stand up for what you believe and to do as you say you will is something that is too rare.

What do you value the most in your friends?

I enjoy people of diverse backgrounds. As we say in Ireland: "There are no strangers here, just friends you haven't met yet." I like people I can trust and who challenge me to think differently. Variety is a great thing.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?

Beauty is only skin deep so I don't worry too much about appearances, other than looking professional. When I am working, I like to dress well to show respect to those I represent and those I go to visit. For those of us with Irish skin the main thing we need to worry about is not getting too much sun.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I have been able to achieve many things including getting my PhD and being involved in some very important projects for the company but I think the greatest achievement has been watching some of the young teams I've been involved with develop and grow into leaders in the agriculture and food industries. Some of the work they will do will be very important in terms of helping us feed the planet in a more sustainable and safer way. This is more than any one person could achieve.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

If I could change one thing, I would try to have a better sense of balance in my life, between my life and work interests. It is difficult to achieve but well worth working toward because in the process we learn so much.

What are your most treasured possessions?

People and experiences are the true treasures of life. The relationships that we can create are what bring happiness.

On what occasion do you lie?

I do not believe there is a time to lie. Sometimes there are situations where we have to tell people information they won't want to hear, but hiding it will only cause greater harm and lead to questions about integrity and trust. Lying normally stems from insecurity. If we are confident and show trust in others with what we really feel, we create a better work and life environment.

Name places in China that impressed you most and those you have not visited but want to explore?

I really enjoy Fujian province because of its beautiful nature and the wonderful tea that can be enjoyed there. The north of the country in the summer is spectacular as well. I plan to visit every province in China. I'm about halfway there.

What's the best way to break the ice with a Chinese businessman you've met for the first time?

Showing respect is the most important thing. Ask about their business with genuine interest. If they are interested, tell your story and why you enjoy China. Don't talk about your business or what you want.

Give three words to describe your impression of Chinese businessmen?

Relationship-focused, curious, pragmatic.

(China Daily USA 07/17/2013 page16)