If you know anything about the history of the Miss Hong Kong Pageant, you must have heard of Mary Cheung, the winner of the 1975 show. Fast-forward 22 years, and Cheung is the founder and managing director of Mary Cheung & Associates, which provides professional image consulting and business etiquette training for large corporations and professionals.
The multi-talented Cheung – who is also a writer, painter and photographer – has won plenty of awards along the way, including the Hong Kong Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award in 1988 and Top 100 Outstanding Female Entrepreneurs in China in 2006.
But Cheung, who grew up at a Po Leung Kuk orphanage, does not view these awards as the top achievements of her life.
“Success is just a station among many. However, it’s futile if you make no progress after one-time success,” she said.
Cheung, who is also the host of Merry Marry – a weekly music radio programme which airs on Metro Info FM99.7 – added: “It’s most important to seek continuous growth and act on it.”
To help her students, Cheung created a mnemonic for a system to summarise her seven ingredients for success: “OK, I Love You Very Much.”
“O” stands for opportunities. “I believe the world is filled with opportunities,” she said. “The question is whether we are prepared for them.” However, she warned people to “not be blinded by one single success ... because then you’ll risk seeing opportunities in front of you as unnecessary, and you will miss them.”
K, the second element, is knowledge. “Knowledge can reshape your destiny. Your education offers you more choices in life,” Cheung said.
You have probably heard your parents say similar things, but Cheung explained it is all about the quality – not quantity – of the choices we make: “The more knowledge and experience you acquire, the wiser the decisions you make.”
She has received a lot of support along her own unique journey, and as a result, has been giving back to society in her own way – coaching and mentoring whenever possible.
“You should be very interested in what you’re doing, because only then will you have the passion and perseverance to build on it,” said Cheung, who has been involved in professional image consulting and business etiquette training for 22 years.
“I” stands for “interesting” and is for identifying what’s most interesting to you. The “L” in “love” and the word itself reminds us to stay loyal. “You have to choose what you love, and love what you’ve chosen,” she said.
Success is also about uniqueness (You) and value (Very), which reflect our relationship with others.
“Everyone has a different fingerprint. God made each of us unique,” explained Cheung.
Cheung insisted that although we cannot control external factors, we can always change our own perception.
“You might encounter people who are harsh towards you, but don’t let their negative views reduce your own value,” she said. “Your success is not dependent on how others look at you, but how you look at yourself.”
Last but not least, the word “Much” stands for “meaning”, which carries a lot of weight in Cheung’s definition of success.
“Many people are successful, but some of their achievements don’t enrich other’s lives or aren’t related to society; they are mostly about satisfying their own ego. My belief is that we should share,” said Cheung. On
top of opportunities, knowledge, interest, loyalty, uniqueness and meaning, Cheung explained failure can also be a stepping stone to success.
Cheung recalls that despite preparation, she was unsuccessful in attempts to become an air hostess, her childhood dream job. “I don’t know why they didn’t offer me a job, even though I speak Cantonese, English, Mandarin and Japanese.”
However, misfortune could be a blessing in disguise. “I would not have walked the path I am on now had I not failed,” she said. “It is important to be introspective and not think that it is just someone else’s fault.”
So that she can continue to help others achieve success in the future, Cheung has converted her course content into e-learning material: “Even when I stop teaching, I have already done the preparation to help more people who might need them.”