5 things Africa taught me | Martina Ressmann | TEDxKlagenfurt


Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Denise RQ Let me quickly introduce myself. My name is Martina, as you already heard. I’m 35 years old, and approximately
two and a half years ago, a phone call totally changed my life. Back then, I was working
for a German news agency. I was in charge of the Business
Development Department, in charge of the Austrian market
and a so-called “high potential”. And then, my boss called me and said, “Martina, did you realize
you didn’t get your last pay check?” And I thought, “Yes.”
And I said, “Why not?” And he said, “Well,
because we’re bankrupt.” And I thought, “Bankrupt?
I’ve never heard about that before. What is that going to be like for me,
and what does it mean?” Anyhow, that night I stayed
in the office until quite late and made sure that all
the customers and clients knew first-hand from me
what was going on. But when I came home, I realized
that a lot of things had changed. My whole home had changed. Everything that I was living in, everything that surrounded me
was based on a regular income, on something which I couldn’t
actually even influence anymore. I was trying to do everything I could in order to make sure
that the Austrian market was doing fine, and still, I had the feeling
I had failed personally. Now, as you can imagine, that was a quite interesting
situation I had there, so I had to try to find a new job,
or at least I thought so. And then I realized I don’t want to do
the 9-to-5 job thing anymore. I just want to get rid of all this system
we have, which surrounded us. And I got really angry with this system
I became dependent on. So, here’s the thing:
we’ve got our lives here, right? And then, we’ve got
the backup system to our lives, meaning we’ve got
an insurance for everything: we’ve got an insurance
for our car, of course, we’ve got an insurance
for our health system, then we’ve got an insurance for our pets. Even if you want to take
a flight somewhere, you could still pull the card and say,
“Insurance. I want to have my money back.” Right? So, I wanted to get rid
of all of this backup system because I wanted to enjoy my life again
and to live my life based on me, myself. So, I have no clue how I found about
Horizon 3000, but I applied. That’s an NGO, an Austrian NGO, which sends people to go
to different countries and supports people there
by doing a training on the job. So, capacity building. I thought, “It sounds good. I’ll try that.
I’ll do the reality check there.” I applied: between the day I applied until the day I really left
to go to Tanzania, I had exactly ten weeks,
ten weeks of total chaos, because I had to restructure everything, I had to bring all my stuff somewhere,
sell the other stuff, meet friends, prepare myself, buy all the things I might need
in Tanzania, right? And then, I arrived there with all my plans, and all my ideas,
and all, well, myself. And it took me
other two months to settle. I learned some Kiswahili, got to know
some new people, new friends, and of course, I could finally
find a new home. And then, I realized that I had
no security system any more, like, well, what we call
“security system”, right? No more luxury, no more
classical security system. There was just me, and a lot of me. Now, after these two years,
which have passed just now, I can tell you I’ve learned
five core things, and I want to share
these five core things with you, because I do think
that it’s not just important for you living in Tanzania
or abroad, but also here; it might make your life much easier. Number one is do your homework. Do your homework, or don’t do it at all. Being unprepared is an active decision. So, if you guys are going
to come up and say, “I didn’t have time, it’s a sunny day.
No, no, no, no. I’m going to stay outside. Oh, on Fridays, I normally
don’t work, I always party,” then, the ugly truth is
it’s not important enough for you. I had to prepare myself
when I went to Tanzania. I had to think of all the possible
situations I would go through. And still, I had some situations
which I weren’t prepared for yet, right? The surprises which came up, I still had enough energy
to deal with them and take a decision
in these very situations. So, do your homework. Number two is stay open, stay curious. Ask yourself the question, “Why not?”, because “why not?” will embrace
all the opportunities you have. It will lead you straight
to the point of solution, while “why?” will constantly
question all your activities. It will slow you down
and, at the end of the day, it will block you in anything you’ll do,
because you’ll be full of doubts. So, stay open, stay curious. Personally, I had the feeling
that when I told my friends that I was going to go
to Tanzania, they said, “Well, Martina, Tanzania, let me see. It’s going to be dangerous. People will kill you
for little money.” Of course. “We’ve got wild animals.” Of course. “And then, last but not least,
malaria. Right?” And I said, “Yes, sure. But why not?” And I can tell you one thing: I have never regretted the fact
that I went to Tanzania. So, stay open, stay curious. Number three: share your knowledge. If you want to see something grow,
never keep what you know. I shared all the information I had. I went there, OK, it was my duty as well, but I shared all the information I had
about PR, communications, web development, project management. And I still got in return, quite quickly, all the information I needed
on law and society, because I was there in an NGO
which was dealing with law and society. And, as a matter of fact, if you share your information
or the knowledge you have with people, they will always give it back to you
at a certain point. So, share your knowledge. Number four: follow your instincts. Very important. If you’re the kind of person waiting
for the perfect moment, here are some really bad news for you:
it’s never going to happen. There’s no such thing as “perfect”. And innovative people would even say,
“Better done than perfect,” and it’s true. I tell you guys, I had situations, I had road blocks,
with police standing there, and I did not have the time to think
whether that was a trap or not. It was pure instinct which led me through
and gave me a strategy to get through it. So, follow your instincts. And last but not least,
number five: passion. I love passion.
Passion is really important. If you google “use your passion”, you’ll get approximately
122 million results. So, it seems like a whole lot of people
are talking about passion, but it’s a common phenomenon that people won’t be able to transform
that passion into action. Now, I want to invite you today
to think about that, and not to be the next one who just says, “Yes, I’m passionate,
but I’m not going to go the next step,” because passion
is our biggest drive in life. Passion will push you much further where others have already
lost their interest long ago and stopped working. For instance, I’m going to give you
this one example. I’d been working there
in a two-year contract, right? I tell you, we had rainy seasons
with one meter of water on the road. I did not know who was going
to show up in the office, and even half the people
didn’t show up because they couldn’t, because of traffic jam,
because of any other situations. We had power cuts,
we had problems with the Internet, and still, at the end of the day, passion was the thing
that kept us pushing, kept us working. And now, if I look back
on this two-year project, I can see that I have changed
a lot of people’s lives to a positive side, because we were all so passionate
working on this very one topic, which made us move forward. So, use your passion. Now, I hear some of you saying, “Hmm, yeah, it sounds easy.
But what if I fail?” Well, the fact is, there’s
no such thing as failure. The only thing you could call a failure
is if you don’t do it, if you don’t dare, because it will start to turn into regret, and regret is going to haunt you down
for the rest of your life, and I think that’s much worse
than anything else you can get. So, even if you have
the feeling you’ve failed, you’ll still learn, you’ll still gain
a lot of more knowledge, even if it’s just for your next project
or the next step you want to take. So, if there’s anything
you’ve been dreaming about, anything you really, really want to do, then do yourself the favor:
get out there and dare. And take care. (Applause) (Cheers)

5 thoughts on “5 things Africa taught me | Martina Ressmann | TEDxKlagenfurt

  1. Is it a sin not have passion? Are such people condemned? I am not very passionate, and I think it has neither helped nor hindered me. I think there are many people who would like to live a low or medium intensity life and not worry too much about goals, or many things this lady feels passionate about. But then I could be mistaken and or I might have wasted my life. But strangely it does not feel so bad or so full of regret. Ambition is probably good for many people, but then again it might not be so good for some others. MTCW.

  2. Was your ngo job in Tanzania research on how to re colonize Africa.A suitcase filled with Euros and a Mercedes Benz.

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