The lifelong journey to lifelong learning

The first time I consciously reflected on becoming a beginner again – learning something new and entering unknown territory – was just before my son was born.  In my ‑ as I like to call it – “old life” I was a successful manager in the international advertising industry. I felt knowledgeable and competent in my field of business and I lived with the self-perception of being a pro.  I liked the status of being a master in my field, and I spent many years on my home turf in Germany where I felt safe and good about myself.

It was not before motherhood, relocation to California and the sudden end of my beloved advertising career that I found myself at the beginning again – the beginning of a journey in which I had no clue or sense of direction and I had no idea where I was heading.  –It was a new beginning – the start of living a conscious life as a beginner.

When I found out that I would be moving to California with my husband, I wondered, would I move to the big cities like Sacramento, San Francisco or possibly Santa Barbara or to a small community.  My journey led me to Paso Robles – the starting point of my ‘new life’.

I became a mom at the age of 44

I can honestly confess that my professional background was not necessarily useful in this arena.  My son did not respond well to my leadership skills.  He would not always cooperate and made me learn all over again how to be a different kind of leader – this time I learned to be a mom and not a manager.  Children show you your boundaries just as much as it is your job to show them theirs, and this is a skill moms better learn fast before the kids take over control.

When we moved to California I started my whole life from scratch.  Suddenly the former pro  became an unknown woman with a toddler in the park.  I had to learn to survive and at the same time keep my self-regard and dignity.  I exchanged the laptop bag for a diaper bag and I had to learn that people don’t love you for what you represent but for who you are.  I had become a “nobody”, and I learned to accept this and actually found it to be fantastic.  This recalls one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson.


I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish — you know!

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!


Shortly after our move to California I started coaching training in San Francisco and became a certified business coach which showed me my limits big time.  I finally learned to live the life of a beginner consciously and thoroughly.  Many doors opened during that time that I had not seen before.  It was o.k. for me to start from the beginning again.  It was o.k. not to be a pro, and it was finally ok for me to ask for support.  I discovered an unlived potential of learning anything I could get my hands on to grow as a person.  I discovered the path of self-development and personal growth.

Being a lifelong learner is like a journey without a final destination – it is full of fun and worry.  You never know where the path is going to lead, and this is the real challenge.  We like to keep control of ourselves and others which is an effort that creates so much stress and pain.  Instead you learn that control is just an illusion and that you are so much happier if you stay open to whatever comes up.

I invite you to live your life as a beginner again.

No matter where you live – in a small town like Paso Robles or a big city like San Francisco, Sacramento or Santa Barbara – never give up learning about yourself, about others and about life.  Take the writers class you always wanted to attend.  Pick up a skill you never dared to attempt.  Attend a summer workshopRead interesting books, find an inspirational leader and do whatever you feel an urge to do.  Don’t worry about switching to beginner mode again, because this is your only chance to grow.


I love what Lao Tzu said:

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

Take this single step today and begin your very personal journey as a beginner.

I invite you to comment on my blog (below) and let me know about your own “Beginning” experiences.  Thank you.

Be a woman and act like one.

Love, Hertha

About Hertha Wolff-Arend

I am a business coach and writer located in Paso Robles, California. I am the author of the book Be a woman and act like one. Succeeding in business and life’’ and I write a blog for women with the same title. I give motivational speeches and offer leadership and personality trainings to women. I also work with business owners and managers to support them in their leadership skills and personal development. As a strategic consultant, I also help companies with their communication and marketing strategy. Born and raised in Germany, I spent most of my adult life in Europe. I have a German university degree in languages and economics and I worked for many years in the advertising industry as one of the few female managing directors in Germany for major international advertising agencies such as Young&Rubicam, TBWA and Bates. My client list consisted of mainly blue chip clients, where I was responsible for their communications strategies and the development and execution of the advertising concepts. Just to name a few clients: Lufthansa, Danone, Kraft Foods, Bosch, Singapore Airlines, Ericsson, Campbells etc. In 2004 I relocated with my husband and son to California. I graduated from New Venture West in San Francisco as a Certified Integral Coach and started my own coaching practice in 2007. I am fluent in German and English and have conversational skills in Spanish. Aside from my dedication to work and family, I am a passionate dressage rider. I am devoted to supporting women in business, with a focus on women in the lower and middle management who are aiming at a career in the higher ranks or who want to develop their own business.
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2 Responses to The lifelong journey to lifelong learning

  1. Carol Agon says:

    Hello Hertha,

    Once again I am aware of your excellent ability to express yourself. Always I enjoy reading your musings on life and your sharing of your life with us.

    I too am a life long learner and have re-invented myself more than once in my life. My most recent re-invention was also because of my move from a metropolitan area, Southern California, to Paso Robles.

    In that move, I found a new home town that suits me to a T. Also, I created a new career as a Realtor/Broker. I am coming up on my 11th year in real estate and am happy to say that not only am I successful, I also enjoy the challenge that each new transaction brings to the table. Definitely life long learning.

    Another time I re invented myself was at age 50 when I married Lee. And before that, at age 30 when I started my own business (a temporary help service like Kelly Girls. “Kelly Girls”, how’s that for a company name in today’s culture?).

    Before that, at age 26, becoming a single mother when my husband decided after 5 years that he didn’t want to be married and didn’t want the baby I was expecting. A baby we had planned for together.

    My life long learning includes many things that are not the life changing kind like those I mentioned above. My love of theatre, books, art, travel, gardening, cooking, entertaining and the loving companionship of family and friends, these are the things that have kept me engaged in a wide variety of interests, adventures and misadventures that all add up to a life well lived, and a life well loved.

    Well my dear Hertha, you know much more about me now than you did a few minutes ago. thank you for this opportunity to take a moment and reflect on some of my life long learning experiences.

    Love, Carol

  2. Hertha says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. It sounds like you are living an accomplished life and that is wonderful. Love, Hertha

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