Yesterday I was asked what I have learned during childhood and if there is anything that still stuck with me. I believe, Yes, everything! Those young years formed us for our lives and have shaped who we are today. Without a past there is no present.
Yesterday I was walking through Cajón del Maipo, stepping through the snow along a river and this question ran through my mind. What are the most valuable lessons that I have learned as a child? It was a beautiful day and looking back at my younger self made this walk even more memorable. I would like to share three lessons with you:
1. First homework, then play
2. Be in the moment
3. Communicate clearly
As a kid I lived in Italy with my family and then due to my father’s job we moved about 1.000 km north all the way through the alps to land in Germany. This first lesson that stuck with me might seem very German to you: Homework first, then play.
Me and my sister got out of school at about 1 in the afternoon, picked up our brother from kindergarten and then walked home. It was our Grandmother to open the door and greet us at home. We all sat down to eat. After lunch, I would have loved to go out and play in the backyard, at a friend’s house or on the playground but the rule was to finish the homework first. I was jealous of the kids who were allowed to do their work later, at night. Looking back I feel this has taught me to set my priorities – or at least to accept them – to have a clear goal and to persevere it. Mind you, my work would never take me more than half an hour but it still felt like an eternity to me.
During the last two years I have worked in a business accelerator and one big challenge all entrepreneurs face who walk through our door, is setting priorities. All of these small organizations want to change the world, they are full of ideas but they lack a clear goal-setting, strategy and focus. Only if you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, only if you are aware of the ressources are avaible and only if you understand the relation between your actions and the outcome, can you be successful in your endeavour.
In that sense, sticking to ‘Homework first, then play’ has been very valuable to me.
Secondly, I have learned to live in the moment. My parents both worked so dinner and night time were the only hours spent together. Time without tv, games or later without cellphones just to focus on each other and learn about the other’s discoveries.
Right now I am in a point of change in my life and all the possibilities that are open to me make me dizzy and anxious. It is helpful to focus on one thing, to be in the moment, so as to not get distracted by all the background noise.
The third lesson I learned is to communicate clearly. One part of my family is Italian, the other is German so communication has always been very important.
I remember one summer at my Grandparent’s house in Italy, we kids were very young and we had been running around all day, playing at the beach and in the water. At night, I was lying in bed next to my sister and my grandma came in to check on us. She sat on the edge of the bed but also slightly on my foot. I, halfway asleep, turned around on my side and gruntled ‘aua’. She got up, left the room and brought me a glass of water. My ‘aua’ to her had meant ‘acqua’ – water in Italian – whereas I was saying the German way of ‘Ouch, you are hurting me’.
Outside of the family it is just as important to be direct and clear in our message. In the last years, I was responsible for the marketing strategy and thus for our team. I encountered very diverse people and got them excited to work with us. I stayed close to set golas, give feedback and evaluate next steps. Oftentimes when dealing with much more experienced marketers, this has been very hard. Being clear, transparent and sincere in my communication has helped me a great deal. Now, the team is even bigger and I believe that a big part of our success in working together, learning from each other and creating a fun environment,k has been our way of communicating.
Setting goals, concentrating on the present and communicating clearly are the most valuable lessons that I have learned as a child and I continue working on them.