One of my colleagues said the other day “I wonder whether this is really how I wanted to live my life?” This statement threw me a little as I realized that I had never seriously asked myself this question. Life just happened and while I made decisions to go into certain directions, I never had an overall view of what life should be like.
This observation, in combination with my reading of the inspirational Guardian Small Business series “Letter to my younger self” had me wondering what I actually had learned from this approach. So I embarked upon writing my own little “Letter to my younger self”. As it turns out, I learned quite a lot when life just happened. Some lessons may be more obvious than others. So here is my letter to my younger self ….
Letter to my younger self
I’m grateful and excited about the opportunity to write to you today as there is much to talk about.
First of all, congratulations that you made it to Cambridge on the scholarship. I know you still think someone made a terrible mistake in the admission process. The feeling will last a while and you will work as hard as you never have before to just to be able to keep your place. But it will be worth it.
At some point you will be able to acknowledge that it was quite courageous what you did – moving to a country you have never been to before, leaving everything behind and following your dream. This is when you will have the necessary distance and clarity. Hindsight is a beautiful thing.
This is first time you go after something you really feel passionate about: the quest for the answer as to why people act the way they do and make the decisions they do. As it turns out you were wise not to think too much about things in advanced. Otherwise you would have been frozen in fear.
It will be several years (well – let’s be honest here – almost two decades) before you will follow your passion again – unconditionally and full of energy. These years are your time to learn. To grow. To despair. To rebuild. And you will identify the one challenge, that accompanies you, wherever you go: to overcome your fear.
Don’t be alarmed. With your move to Cambridge you have embarked on a fantastic journey with lots of “firsts” – just how you always imagined it. You first love. Your first job. Your first child. Your first house. And eventually your first own business.
In between however, life will throw some amazing curveballs at you. And no, you cannot prepare for this. But this is a good thing.
When you return to your home country after 13 years away it will not be as it was at the beginning of your journey. You will feel like a foreigner in your own country, playing a game for which you don’t know the rules.
As it turns out, how you were professionally raised in the UK does not entirely match with how things work in Germany. But you will understand eventually, and these lessons are invaluable. I know this sounds like a cliché, but you need to go through this experience to become who you are. And you will get through it.
The answer to “why” you so desperately search for during that time will not come. It cannot come. Not every question has an answer. But something amazing will come of all of this, as you will rediscover what you are passionate about and you will finally reconnect your head to your heart.
You will use this to build something new. You will build your own business with a purpose that truly transfixes you: helping organisations and people to fulfil their potential and become who they are. This will drive you from now on with great passion, working with amazing people on interesting assignments.
I know this is hard to imagine right now. The thought of setting out on your own scares you too much. But growing your own business is an amazing feeling. You will still be scared, but much less so, as you have learned so much on your way.
If I may, I would like to give you four pieces of advice. You don’t have to follow them, but I wish I had known them a little earlier …
- Don’t define yourself through your work. Live your values and follow your beliefs, but don’t think work is all you boil down to.
- Follow your passion. It will be worth it. The pond is big enough for many fish.
- Be kind to yourself and forgive mistakes. Nobody is perfect, least of all you.
- Take on the curveballs with open eyes and make them into a boomerang.
Lots of love,