On a conversational journey: You only learn more about yourself and the possibilities when you reveal more about yourself.

I have been on a conversation journey since 2019. At the beginning, the journey did not have a name because it was not consciously designed as a journey. Only after a few more steps along the way did I title it a transformation journey, so that I could convey it meaningfully as a conversation seeker. Communicating it to others, but also to myself. And since I feel that the word transformation is already being used in an inflationary way, I quickly renamed it a conversation journey. Because conversation sounds less mainstream, but perhaps also because the conversation seems to be more open in its outcome than the transformation, which wants to be completed at some point. However, my view of the topic has already begun to change during the journey.

But let's start from the beginning...

My name is René, I live with my family in Hamburg and I am a lecturer, designer, mentor, founder and much more. It's hard for me to be content with just one mention. Curiosity drives me incessantly, and not always in just one direction. A curse and a blessing. I started out as an electrician, did my civilian service as a paramedic, and later moved to Hamburg to turn my hobby into a profession through a second course of education: Design.

After studying design in Hamburg, freelance years followed and I set up my own small agency. Synchronously, I gave and still give my experience to younger people as a lecturer and accompanied some of them into their jobs. But even the best of times has a clock, and so after a successful 12 years I connected the agency to a larger one and took on employment myself in order to be able to accompany the construct cleanly. An entrepreneurial pit stop, catch my breath, sort things out and then ... find and tackle something new. But what that could be was not clear to me. Stay in the agency world, move more in the direction of education, something completely new? To find or create something that combines the different experiences, passions and also growth potentials in order to reduce the friction of different construction sites. But where or how to start?

In the regained free space for rethinking, I began my conversation journey. How did this come about and what does it look like in concrete terms? It has to be said that I have hardly ever sought dialogue about concrete future considerations. I always made up my own mind, decided intuitively and spontaneously, and did what my gut told me. It was out of the question for me to bother someone with what they would do in my place. Who should care, who can seriously think for me, do I take myself too seriously? And doesn't it also show weakness?

Mindmapping as a starting point

After introspection and some mind mapping, I felt a strong need to talk to someone. Just as I can only look at my questioning face in the mirror, I now need people who want to listen to my pot full of old recipes and new ideas and then give me their view of my hot plate. To tell me honestly for once how they would approach the matter instead of me. I would find that exciting! Because can I really still surprise myself, convince myself, reinvent myself? 

Just start, I thought, and began by looking for some headhunters (recruiters) who I already knew from my job. Why them? They know me and they know the market. They were looking for staff for my agency and I sent them young talents from UNI for placement. Surely they know many scenarios of how people have repositioned themselves out there. No sooner said than done, I grabbed the email and the phone and tried my luck. Who would take the time to talk to me about my future! 

The first talks

The first conversations took place. Mostly in the restaurant, at lunchtime, I started to tell my vis-à-vis my brief life story and a possible tomorrow as a topping on a filled plate. This was followed by interested questions and first pictures of what my counterpart sees in my current situation. It was interesting for me to see which of my points were connected, especially if these connections were different from mine.

The conversation time always flew by. We often both felt that we could sit longer and we often said yes to the idea of a continuation. But I wanted to take something more away from the conversation than just the promise of a continuation. I already had the first answers, new questions in my head and I knew one person a little better now, but I still wanted to take something tangible with me. Something that would keep the energy between us going. And so, when I said goodbye, I asked for a recommendation for a next interlocutor who would intuitively be a good fit for me and my situation. Maybe someone whose life situation was similar, who had an overlay of themes, or someone who always had good advice ready, no matter what. This wish always worked well. Often there was even a quick reply "I was just thinking of someone anyway" or something similar. Great, I thought!

After a warm farewell, I promptly sat down and wrote to this person directly. I explained where the contact came from and why I had been given that recommendation, combined with the wish for a get-to-know-you lunch. And so I met a new person who was well-disposed towards me and was able to have another good conversation. Similar script with me, but different reaction, reflection and input. Queries in unexpected places, different ideas, personal anecdotes - great. And again I asked for a recommendation at the end. So a stretch of conversations developed, the first time I counted was when someone asked how many I had already led, imagining they had already heard of me through third parties. Not the worst I thought, and at that moment I already counted over 50 conversations. I beg your pardon? I wouldn't have added up that many in my head and I was flabbergasted myself.

Conversations became routine

I am not the most sporty person. As a child, for example, when asked about my favourite sport, I often replied chess or fishing and perhaps learned to be funny about it. But seriously, I can develop a certain sporting ambition on some subjects, except that I tend to do the fast laps in my head rather than in the field. If I enjoy something and my passion is aroused, then it can be quick. And I was passionate about it! The countervalue of facts and wisdom from the other person, information about myself were and are great.

I kept going, about two talks a week, sometimes more. It became a routine, or even better, a ritual for me. If a talk was cancelled or postponed at short notice, I was even a bit crestfallen. Something was missing. In total, I had 98 conversations up until shortly before the first Corona lockdown and also took away a lot of input in the following remote conversations. 

The "automatic" recommendation led me to a colourful array of people, from the industry, self-employed or employed, consultants, artists, new thinkers, aged from mid-20s to late 60s, in a balanced woman-man distribution. From walks and picnics in the park, at the snack bar to the living room of a four-star hotel.

There is a "final" answer?

How many conversations have I planned in total? When do I expect "the" final answer for my further path? These questions have become unimportant. I have also lost track of counting the conversations, the exact number is not important. I have met and continue to meet with many of my interlocutors in order to carry on, to stay on the ball, to initiate projects and to have other people recommended to me. The follow-up meetings are also different from the first, because the foundation has already been laid.

The initial script was replaced, changed, with the opposite, with time. Some things have become clearer to me, or at least clearer, I understand more connections and there are also exciting condensations of topics. I can now exclude things for myself that were previously on a maybe list and have also been able to create entirely new lists. I would never have been able to do that alone in an inner dialogue, because each interlocutor brought me an individual reflection, an "outside" reflection, which figuratively also contributes to the saying "how reflective" someone is. 

So has the conversation journey helped me with my questions? Definitely yes! Did it give a concrete answer to the one big question, what will I do as an alternative career in the future? Yes and also no. Some things you let go more, others you exclude less. Very different. 

These are the top 5 learnings from my conversation journey

  1. News about you. If you want to see yourself, look in the mirror. If you want to learn about yourself, engage in conversation.

  2. You think you can't tell your story well enough? As with so many things, it takes practice to become good. You will also hear many stories from your counterparts that you need to learn from.

  3. You only learn more about yourself and the possibilities when you reveal more of yourself, true to the quote by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, "What you give is yours forever. That which you keep is lost forever."

  4. Diversity vs. simplicity. A multitude of new answers to your question makes it less important or raises it to another level. The word experience contains the journey.

  5. Self-confidence and self-worth experience a boost. Telling your own story again and again, expressing your wishes, asking questions, lets you hear yourself mantra-like and it can strengthen your self-confidence.

Along the way, I also came across an interesting aspect of Jim Rohn: "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." Interesting, isn't it? So to change also requires the courage to want to break free from a circle of people who keep you in your comfort zone through affirmation. This happened automatically for me. Today I have many new people in my life, but also old acquaintances whom I see less often as a result. 

I like the idea of sharing this story to inspire others on their journey! Very much! Passing it on is to a large extent something that is in line with my set of values: Giving back one's own experiences to society and thus helping it to develop positively(-ier). And with that I would like to close and wish all those who feel inspired by my lines a lot of strength to get going. Perhaps we will even meet in the process. Dare, you can do it!

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About the author

"My name is René, I live with my family in Hamburg and I am a lecturer, designer, mentor, founder and much more. It's hard for me to be content with just one mention. Curiosity drives me incessantly, and not always in just one direction. A curse and a blessing. I started out as an electrician, did my civilian service as a paramedic, then design, and turned my hobby into a profession through a second course of education. I've been on the road for three years."