7 important things learned in 25 years.

Being on this world for a quarter of a century now, I think it is time to summarize my most important personal findings. Here they are.

Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

In general, everybody would agree. The reason why it is not as easy as it looks like to put it in practice might be two reasons. On the one hand, to measure a person by the size of their heart, you have to get to know the size of their heart in advance. And that can be difficult because it requires empathy and holding back your judgment in the first place. On the other hand, it requires ignoring social status. Achievement cannot only be measured by money and workplace position, but also by helpfulness and how much love you spread. Way too often I think we tend to prioritize the first kind of achievement when forming an opinion about another person. When I did my internship in Singapore, I had a great time there. During work, I had a relationship with my supervisor which was pretty much okay. But on my pre-last day, there was one moment which is still really special to me. After my final presentation, my supervisor — which by the way was a young woman from India — wanted to give me feedback. The feedback itself might have taken about 10 minutes, but in the end, we were both sitting on the rooftop, drinking Coke while enjoying the sunny afternoon and talking about the world, life, and society for hours in a very personal way. This was superspecial, as I figured out at this moment how much gratitude you can experience when people are opening up to each other although they have no extraordinary connection. Being gentle and lovingly should never be limited only to your beloved ones.

Don’t let anyone rush you with their timelines.

Maybe it got better within the last decades, but there is still enormous pressure within our society regarding the issue of following the ‘rules of life’ which were set up in the last century. Your education is good if you get good grades. Your job is good if you get enough money. Your social life is good if you have a family. And the earlier you get there, the better you are. That’s how many people still measure success in life — and in my opinion, this is just toxic for the one and only life goal which really matters to everyone: being happy. I will finish my master’s degree in Engineering Management this year, and currently, I only have a rough idea of where to live and what to do next year. And to be honest: I do enjoy that. But of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t care — I work hard and try to stay focused. But what I always keep in mind against this background is one sentence which is so simple, but also so true: “Right now, you actually have no problems.” Once you realize this feeling of hyperpresence, it is much easier to ignore this artificial pressure from society and people who think they know what is best for you. We do not have a lack of money in western civilization, but a lack of patience. And by this, I do not only mean taking your time to figure out who you really are and what you really want — but also having the trust in yourself to wait for the things to come. There is nothing like an overnight success, neither in business nor your personal life. Acknowledging this wisdom took me a huge step forward.

Stay hungry, stay foolish.

I truly believe that everyone on this planet has the potential to make a significant contribution to improving the world. Of course, not everybody can run a billion-dollar business, and not everyone can get head of state, but everyone can make an impact. And I also believe that once you have realized that there is this one thing — which you are talented in, which you have fun doing it, and which you can help other people with — you are not keen anymore on wasting your time with other stuff. Especially since I started blogging, I feel like getting much more closer to this one thing. Thinking about and expressing how to connect the dots of progress in various fields, that’s what makes my time fly. I can feel my strengths, I can feel my impact. and I can also feel my joy while doing this. Of course, I cannot predict precisely what the result of these efforts will be within the next years, but I do know that it will pay off someday if I continue working hard and being patient. And in the end the most important question, in my opinion, is not that much about how much money you earn — it’s about whether you have spent your time well and achieved the impact you dreamed of. Realizing that you can get there should be enough motivation. Or to frame it by the words of Steve Jobs: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

True leaders don‘t create followers. They create more leaders.

There are many people out there, which lead the way in this direction. It does not matter whether you name them Steve Jobs, Barack Obama or Pep Guardiola — but what they all have in common is a remarkable attitude of delivering extraordinary results while providing a huge amount of inspiration for people in their fields to do better in the future. They share an understanding of leadership which is about empowering and serving others. And in almost every area, the world is so complex these days that you won’t accomplish any great achievements on your own. As a result, it is more crucial than it has ever been for leaders to have the ability to grow organizations by making people grow. In this regard, I also have a personal experience which often reminds what to expect from people in leadership positions. When I was writing my bachelor-thesis back in 2014, I had an interview with a high-ranking manager from a famous German company. As we have not even talked to each other in advance because his secretary made the appointment, he absolutely could not know what kind of person to expect. In the end, he spent over one hour with me sharing his knowledge and opinions a very gentle and respectful way. Looking back this was huge as it completely destroyed my imagination of managers behaving somehow distantly and always being under pressure. Since then I am sure about what leadership does mean to me — and what it does not.

Stop complaining and take action.

Even when I was young, I often could not really understand the people who were complaining unceasingly to the referee after he or she decided against their own team. That just does not make any sense. Such things can only make it worse, but not better. And in addition, you put yourself into a victim role of your circumstances, which makes you feel bad and bitter. In this sense it can make a huge difference, being able to accept not only the status-quo but also the things to come just the way they are. And of course, nobody might be keen on keeping the status-quo in the long term, but this change won’t happen by accident. Therefore it is indispensable to pursue your dreams and goals consequently — hard work works. At the end of last year, I was doing some research on the unsustainable conditions in livestock farming. This issue made me really angry, but one moment I realized that it is not the fault of farmers or politicians. It’s my fault to support this system by eating meat. That’s why I am going vegetarian for at least one year. Change starts with you.

Don’t be afraid to fail big.

Although this may sound like a truism, it is not less true. I think life is about making progress in different ways — and therefor it is unavoidable to go through moments with a tremendously high amount of insecurity, which also includes the possibility to fail in a certain way. That in itself is no problem, as it can be a very effective way to progress through making your own experiences. But if these failures lower the trust in yourself and the things you are deeply convinced of, it is a real problem. In this sense, failure is mainly about perspectives. “I never lose. I either win or learn” — that how Nelson Mandela has put it one day. And I could not agree more with this statement. After my I had finished my bachelor’s thesis, I still had to pass one exam, probably the most difficult one during my whole period of study. It was already my second attempt, so there was some pressure on my side. And I failed, so I had to give it one more try. Nevertheless, I decided to make a huge next step the months in between by getting student representative on the board of ‘Association of German Industrial Engineers’ for one year. From my personal point of view that was risky because I always had to keep in mind that there was only one last shot which will have a huge impact on my future. And what would it look like if I fail to get my engineering degree while having such a responsible and well-known job to do? These weeks were tough, but in the end, I managed everything for good. And I do not regret it for one second having stood on the edge of a big failure. Being afraid is never good advice.

Start before you are ready.

At first glance, this seems to be a contradiction. But most important in this regard I guess is the fact that, no matter what thing to do, there is never a perfect moment to start. Somehow you always seem to be unprepared in many ways. If I would have waited for the perfect point in time to travel to the edge of the world, to start my own project or to become vegetarian — I would have done nothing of these things so far. The happier I am I did it. I this sense, there is nothing truer than the advice of following your heart. And there is also nothing more powerful to achieve fulfillment than by trusting your feelings. Following such an approach will never be straightforward, but so will life never be in general. To me, it was huge realizing that life is neither about being perfect nor getting perfect. Rather is about steady growth and progress as well as making continuously new experiences. And nothing in the world can go upwards in the long term without sometimes going downwards in the short term. If we embrace failure as an ultimately necessary thing to get in touch with for getting ahead, life seems to be much more relaxing. The weather in New Zealand was not always perfect, working on my blog is sometimes really tough and eating no meat is not fully accepted by everyone — but all these things took a huge step forward to since then. The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.