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Listen carefully! Don’t respond!

How I decided that nobody would tell me who I needed to be, what I needed to do, and where I needed to go as an order.

“Listen carefully!” 

“Just like in communism, I can only talk to you and give you commands and information. You can’t reply or talk back. The good old times.”

Berlin tour guide

I think it still works in many companies precisely that way (remember Elon Musk), which is another sad story in itself.

The words above were spoken to me by the guide leading a convoy of Trabant cars through the streets of Berlin. I was going to drive one of them, hence the instructions I received.

The guide was a funny dude, full of self-deprecating humor. Given that it was going to be a hot hot day, he advised me to switch on the airco. Meaning we had to roll down the window.

He also advised being in front of the convoy to limit the intake of fumes coming from the car. I managed to get in the middle of the pack but was passed by two Italians at the traffic light. 

FYI, we were not supposed to pass each other. I guess the Italians didn’t like my driving style. The truth is I accelerated a few times in third gear (sensitive hand clutch), which created enough smoke to accelerate smog levels in Berlin.

For those of you who don’t know what a Trabant is. Trabant was the people’s car during the time of communism. Warburg was for corrupt politicians; everyone else drove a Trabant. 

Provided they could afford it.

I bought once a Trabant in Prague for about 15 minutes. It broke down as soon as I left the parking lot, and after a serious discussion, the seller decided to give me back my money.

You may wonder, why would anybody with a clear mind ever buy a Trabant?

You may also wonder if there’s any point to this story, as there usually is?

Obviously, it’s not just all humor.

Depending on the time you’re with me as a subscriber, you know my fondness for Berlin. 

I visited the city in September 1985, long before the wall came down. We spent most of our time in East Berlin, learning how different people’s lives were on the other side of the wall.

The wall fascinated me.

The grey streets and buildings scared me.

The complete lack of service irritated me.

The Trabant seduced me.

The lack of freedom to be who you are, say what you think, and go where you want to go, shocked me.

I will forever remember the six white crosses outside the Reichstag building, symbolizing people who ran for their freedom and got shot.

I remember driving back home and being grateful and appreciative of the freedom I had in my life.

The week in Berlin when I was 18 years old was a defining moment in my life. 

I decided there and then that nobody would tell me who I needed to be, what I needed to do, and where I needed to go as an order.

Without discussion. With the possibility to share my opinion.

Except for my Trabant tour guide.

Your turn: Tell me about a defining moment in your life?

Do more of what makes you happy!

Erikjan

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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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