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"There are no graduates in leadership, we are all students and always will be," is a quote fondly remembered from a speech on the occasion of a global leadership graduation ceremony. Attending a business management congress on "Disruptive Leadership" with a number of "thinking offers – Denkangebote" to the audience in the lecture hall brought back memories of a very personal change journey...
On our way to a very interesting and eye-opening project simulation seminar.

Postgraduate Studies: A Personal Change Journey

As Time Goes By is not only the theme song of the all-time movie favorite Casablanca, it surely also comes to mind when thinking of how fast the years have flown by since we had decided for signing up to postgraduate studies. It had been a long way to go through two master programs next to a full time job; "a brader Weg" in Austrian dialect. At the same time, it was a self-experiment in practiced change management, conducted in the shadow of the fabulous lindworm, landmark of the university city Klagenfurt, and by coincidence the nickname of an elderly friend with similar surname, who had told me as a young adult that he believed in me. In the end, the investment began to pay off. Looking back at the same personal change journey, we noticed an incredible experience gain during a most intense time period, where we had been stretched up to a point that we almost didn't know any more, which end is up... but only almost that is.
Thesis and Book. Preparing my master thesis over summer after absorbing such concentrated knowledge, it was especially my academic supervisor, who helped me to structure to my chain of thoughts and in the end complimented my rewritten conclusion: "Honestly, I couldn't have written the final chapter better myself – really professional." The suggested faint chance to submit part of it to an international conference, a scientific magazine, or a future project at work motivated me to write both in German and English. And so the scientific lead welcomed me to a status review with a twinkle in the eye: "I am disappointed in you... where is the French version?" Later he commented: "Your performance is truly amazing, especially under health circumstances that are more than burdensome." The bigger was the happiness when a publishing house agreed to issue my conglomerate as a book. Slight rework and a new foreword were quickly applied during a few extended evenings.
Years of learning and great group dynamics just flew by. I was surprised that during the final exam and defense of the thesis the professor took a picture of me presenting the last slide with words of gratitude and e-mailed it to my thesis supervisor from the university.
Numerous hours of investigation, formulation, and wordsmithing in two languages would pay off in the end, as the resulting thesis was sensationally well received by the examiners and could be afterwards released as a book. Thanks to those, who motivated, supported, and believed...
Judgment Day. The year surely had been a rollercoaster. Looking forward to an intense autumn at work, I finished the private learning target up front as much as I could, when a completely different challenge put me out for a short time. Half a year later, the day of the final exam arrived. As with high school graduation, I would draw the biggest happiness from a friend passing the test. Back then we had prepared together for maths, now for strategic management, operational controlling, excellence in leadership, or just regularly exchanged ourselves on writing progress with the thesis. "D-Day" was rather hectic, as I was getting ready for an overseas trip on the same weekend. But the defense of the thesis and answering additional questions on the "hot seat" worked out well. My first stop after the exam should be with another friend, who had just been transferred from intensive care to standard ward. Seeing him was what really made the day (with Clint).

Juggling Act.  The next half year at work was once more very intense, but we kept calm and cut over. A batch and thought process ran behind the scenes, whether to continue postgraduate efforts. It had been so intense, hadn't it? Then again, if one doesn't tackle things immediately, a second chance may never come along. The next major project usually waits right around the corner. Timing is never perfect, but with the help of our study group and some preparation up front the goal was achievable. One could call it active participation in a lifelong learning process, providing additional security to family, offering a positive example to the kids and for sure looking forward to writing that sequel! Driven by a motivation to secure the future, yet another graduation and a celebration would mark the end of an intense journey and the beginning of leveraging new perspectives.
Onto New Heights. The class representative did a great job in delivering words of thanks. His speech compared our educational journey to a joint expedition and noted a number of parallels among conquering a mountain and concluding the study program. Overcoming glacier crevasses would be a synonym for passing exams on the way up. Unforgotten is a comment about half way through the academic course: "Now they increased the blow count  Jetzt haben sie die Schlagzahl erhöht!" Despite the rising pressure, the rope team would make it to the top. It has been a couple months since. Revisiting these notes and quotes that I had taken over the years surely brings back memory of very intense times that opened us new perspectives, had an influence on our vocabulary, and our approach to certain situations. We found out that growth is always a balancing act between challenge and support: "Fordern und Fördern," how does that sound in German? It changed us, hopefully for the better.
Dragon's Tail: The lindworm became a symbol of our change journey. We'd gather in late evenings around the landmark of the city of Klagenfurt, which we quickly nicknamed stone crocodile. We hope that the tail end of our journey had to do with inner growth.
Three photo books, which we shared with different audiences, represented the three "juggling clubs" work, family, and education. Titled "Together We Succeeded," "Family Album," and "Masterpieces," they would capture moments with great people on a memorable journey.
And believe it or not, on the occasion of a high school reunion, faint memories resurfaced of a picturesque "class trek" going camping in Hungary after graduation. "Come with us and waste your time" as a motto for party & fun, then on the way to new horizons in life. Later, with my own kids I'd like to refer to the high time during high school as... High School Musical?
On the next page, enjoy a couple more of Parallels.
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