Good Things Are Easy to Get
by Heiko Lampert
THRIVEnet Story of the Month - August 2001
Here is my small story:
I'm grew up in Eastern Germany when it was under communist control. I studied economics from 1985 until 1990 at the University of Leipzig. I studied to be a teacher of economics, but it was communist economics, a not very useful profession after the Berlin Wall came down in November, 1989. The market economy and knowledge of the western world overflooded the East Germans. Me too. Most of my knowledge, even life experience became obsolete. For example, a meal like a lasagna was completely unknown to me before 1989 in the former Eastern Germany. My first manager invited me for lunch, and I read on the menu the word and asked him what "lasagna" means. He looked at me, explained it with an expression of pity in his face. This expression hurt me more than a real setback.
When the Berlin Wall came down and East Germany became free, a wave of unemployment and helplessness hit most of my colleagues, friends and relatives. I asked myself, "What now? Should I cry for the rest of my life like a victim?"
Two things brought me out from this setback. First, the sport. I trained in swimming since I could think. So I jumped in the water again and swam round for round and got my inner silence back.
Second, I remember my lessons about the Stoics in Philosophy. Epicure had four rules to live by: Good things are easy to get, bad things pass by quickly, don't fear the lord, and don't fear the dead.
The first two rules were impressive to me.
I wrote on a typewriter a simple letter of application to an accounting firm in western Germany. I got the job because they wanted to help the people in Eastern Germany, but no one in their office wanted to move to the East. That's why I was welcome in the west, something I never expected before.
I started to work in 1991 for 5 years for Ernst & Young, later 2 years as a tax return preparer in a small partnership, then 3 years for Dunlop Germany as Manager of internal auditing. I'm with Arthur Andersen in Frankfurt since October, 2000. A change of the employer is always a hard job, but I neither feared the change nor regret the change since that first time. Now I'm a manager with Arthur Andersen.
My life is much better than I imagined it could be ten years ago. I have learned to fly airplanes, speak better English than Russian before and.... swim sometimes round for round....