Being in Your Element

21 November 2023 | 3 min read


Did you know a Gentoo penguin can swim at a speed of up to 35km/22 miles an hour? You’d never know when you see it on land! You might think it is slow and clumsy, but you’d be mistaken: its true talent is in the water.

I remember an important interaction I had over two decades ago while at Daimler.

I was working on an Asian HR conference in Beijing. This particular year, we invited a Guest speaker from Hong Kong. He was a charismatic man who spoke about stuff I can’t remember.

But I do remember our conversation in the evening.

At the end of the event, the two of us hung out at the hotel bar, chatting. We had an excellent connection, and it was so lovely we started to talk about life. It is one of those precious conversations that happen out of the blue and impact your life.

He said something I’ll never forget:

  1. Focus on your strengths and talents, and do more of that.
  2. Be the best you can be.
  3. Learn other things.
  4. But always cherish and nourish your natural strengths.

What he said touched me; I didn´t know why then. But today, I see it.

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn new things or experiment with different roles and activities. Life is playful, and we need those experiences to grow and broaden our perspective. Sometimes, we also have to learn new skills because they are just part of our roles and the evolution of our work.

But knowing what we are good at and being the best we can be there is a gift. It gives us strength, deep satisfaction and a strong sense of direction.

Like the penguin’s water skills, what you are really good at is not a role or a comfort zone; it is more subtle than that. It is a set of skills, talents, callings and strong preferences that come from deep inside and are unique to you.

It can take some time to find out precisely what they are, but it’s worth being aware of them to be guided in your life and professional path, especially when you feel a bit off as if you have walked too far away from them.

What we are naturally good at is different from what we think we do good or should be doing. Our heads are not always the best to see that in ourselves because of too many self-judgements and overthinking that are often at play.

But our hearts and souls know, and those who genuinely care for us can also see that in us. And you can see that in others, too. You can help others see that in themselves so they can better appreciate their strengths and talents.

Working on becoming the best we can be and experimenting with new sets of skills outside our comfort zone are two different and beautiful experiences, but knowing the difference between when and where we are in our core element and when we are expanding is really important for our development and well-being. It helps us feel confident and relaxed in the areas where we are not (yet) super comfortable.

Penguins know that. They spend most of their time at sea and come ashore for breeding. For expansion, so to say. They do both regularly and are comfortable with both.

Because both are essential parts of their life, they know when to do one or the other and have no judgment about any of it.

Are you now at sea, thriving in your natural element, or breeding and expanding? Are you appreciating, respecting, nourishing and cherishing both sides of you and your work? Or are you fighting?

Those phases of thriving and expanding are totally normal parts of our development. It would be a pity not to enjoy both.

With Love,


Drissia Schroeder-Hohenwarth is a Psychologist and a Transformative Coach for Leaders, Teams, and Organisations with a fascination for the endless potential of the mind. /


Written by Drissia Schroeder-Hohenwarth

Transformative Coach for Leaders, Teams and Organisations with a fascination for the endless potential of the mind.

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