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Today I’d like to share a story with you, which I saw recently in a cabaret of the German comedian and former clinician Eckart von Hirschhausen. A big hug to Sina, who showed me this clip. It made me reconsider an important decision regarding my studies – but more on this at the end of the post.

penguin

Here’s the story retold in my words, since sadly the clip is only available in German language:

A few years ago Dr. Hirschhausen traveled on a cruiser ship to Norway. Relieved to have solid ground under his feet again, he decided to take a walk and visited a Zoo. In this Norwegian Zoo he noticed a penguin, staying on a rock. And he thought: “Look at this poor thing – such small wings, stocky size and somehow the Maker also forgot it’s knees. Misconstruction, for sure!” But suddenly the penguin jumped into the water and Hirschhausen watched him swimming round and round slack-jawed. Penguins are amazing swimmers. With the energy from 1 liter gas they are able to swim 2.000 km. That is better than anything ever constructed by mankind. And just seconds ago he assumed this stunning animal to be a misconstruction. The penguin reminded him of two things: A) how fast he jumps to conclusions and how wrong those can be if you don’t know a person well enough and B) how important the setting is to bring out your strengths. People cannot change completely and fundamentally: if you were born as a penguin even 7 years of psychotherapy will not turn you into a giraffe. Thus, a good therapist will not start talking to you about why you think having a long neck is so important or what this has to do with your childhood; instead he is going to ask Who are you? What can you do? What do you want to do? Where do your strengths lie?. Strengthening your strengths is so much more useful than meddling with your weaknesses. And if you are one of those people who always think But I should be more like other people, here’s a little comfort: There are already enough other people in this world. Everything we need to do is to determine if the setting is right for us. And if you are a penguin and your are sitting in the desert, it is not your fault if it isn’t working out. You need to pitter-patter towards your water, jump… and then you know how it feels to be completely in your element.

(for the few German followers)

After watching the short (3:30 min) clip I sat there stunned and impressed. My first thought: this needs to be featured on the blog this week. With other posts in line, it did wait in my subconscious and had quite an influence. I mentioned before that I am currently writing my master thesis. I wasn’t sure about a topic when I visited my supervising professor in July. Everything I was passionate about, like non profit, health and social economy, social media marketing, seemed not to hold water for a master thesis, especially considering that jobs in the non-profit marketing sector aren’t a dime a dozen. So when my professor forwarded an offering a company made to her recently, suggesting that I write about a more practical topic and that it would be great for my resume if I created an added value for a company, I was easily convinced and signed the contract a few days later.

Now comes the not so fun part, the topic itself: Customer expectations in the German fiscal advice market. And the company I was writing the thesis for is a big international auditing and fiscal advice firm. At first I thought, fine it’s out of my comfort zone, I will proof to everyone that I can do it and afterwards it will look superb on my resume. But with the weeks flying by my bellyache got worse every time I started to think about the thesis, my motivation shrunk more and more and I became jealous of every other person telling me about his or her exciting bachelor or master thesis. The final push came when I started to look out for jobs. Since I will get my masters degree around next May, I need to start seriously applying by the end of December. Researching which job opportunities are out there, that fit my preferences, strengths and believes, I noticed that my master thesis would do me no favor, since it really doesn’t reflect any of them and most jobs I’d like to apply to ask for skills in fields I merely worked in or studied. Thus I am not only wasting time torturing myself with a topic I’m not passionate about, I also would need to put a lot of extra effort in picking up skills for what I actually wanted to do with my life.

Thursday morning I decided to stop this nonsense. Since then a lot happened: I asked for advice from people who are close to my heart and/or have experiences in this field. The answer was unanimous: change the topic. I asked my professor for a phone conversation, which we had yesterday. Of course, she wasn’t keen about it, but she understood and said that it was my choice in the end. I researched on the topic I’d like to write about: Online Marketing. I got a few e-books and a reference book. I reserved a huge list of literature in the library. I wrote an outline with my ideas for the thesis. And now the only thing left to do is also the hardest one: Talking to the two amazing associates who hired me and telling them that I will quit the thesis. I hope that Tuesday afternoon I will finally get rid of this constant belly ache and worrying and can start to enjoy being back in my “water”.

Props if you made it through this wordy post. I hope you liked this more serious topic and like always I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

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