I’m learning french. This is the main thing I have learned so far…

I am currently in a transition phase: I left my job at SYPartners in July and I’m currently doing some advisory work for Google while I explore my next steps. I have transitioned before, but this time my aim was not just to find the “next thing” but also to really thrive in the process. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from my former client and now very dear friend Fabian who has written most wonderfully about this in his Transition Notes.

Two of the most important lessons I’ve taken from him are:

  1. how useful it is to have really good daily and weekly habits and rituals.
  2. how important it is to manage my own energy and do things that I enjoy (and not just spend all my time and energy chasing after something)

So when I started this transition phase I saw it as an opportunity to learn to speak french. It’s something I have been wanting to learn for at least a few years now, but I have postponed it. Until now!

And I can’t say it enough how much it has helped me in this process. I’m taking private lessons for 1 hour twice a week and supplementing with Duolingo just to get more repetition of the simple words and sentences. The combo is incredible. I have never had any training in french ever before.

This is the most important thing I have learned so far:

— Attitude is everything. In my first lesson the teacher asked me about my attitude towards France, french people, culture and the language. His point was that if I harbor negative feelings towards it, it will be much harder for me to absorb. Language and culture are deeply interwoven and you can’t just have language as a rational thought process in your mind. It’s an expression that you absorb. So in order to learn better I am adopting a highly positive and enthusiastic attitude.

This attitude, however, doesn’t just influence my absorbtion of language, it also seems to spill over into everything else I do. It means that whenever I meet someone for a job interview or just an informal coffee and the inevitable question “what are you up to?” or “what’s new?” comes up, I don’t need to share that I just got another rejection for a job I applied for (I mean, this is part of the game, but it’s still an emotional challenge) instead I get to talk passionately about something that I am extremely enthusiastic about.


It’s been just three weeks now, and I’m having my sixth lesson later today. What’s unbelievable is that I have already been able to have three short but meaningful exchanges in french via text message with friends I know who speak it fluently. I make lots of mistakes, which in a school teaching we pay a lot of attention to. But what my teachers helps me realize is that what matters more is that I am already able to exchange meaning!!! I organized a meeting with a friend and it worked. I still struggle to fully fathom and internalize how incredible that actually is.

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