Sunday Column (438)

Sunday night’s routine is tiring. I try to spend as much time with the boys, then I do what I have done for the last few weeks. I fold two shirts. I pack my gym gear, I pack my stuff for a few days away. The youngest often tries to help me, the eldest usually sits in the bath. As I pack my stuff, I realised that I most probably won’t be home for my son’s birthday. I plan to not travel for two weeks in a row, yet then I have to travel over his birthday. I better warn him early and suggested we can celebrate for three days before. Happy days, he is good with that. Balancing life is not easy sometimes, and tiring when you are worn out. Having had a virus, it seems as if I am running on 80% on a good day.

Whilst siting at the airport I managed a good catch up with a dear friend of mine. We discussed work life balance and challenges for having a high pressure job and a family. Coincidently I listened to a podcast re work life balance and blocking time (The1thing.com again) and wonder if work life balance is only becoming a practise now, after we had years of talking about it. Often good ideas take a while until we put them into daily practise. This is fascinating to watch and luckily not a big challenge for me, given the understanding and support of my company.

There was a minor incident on my flight, no nothing serious. My seat neighbour decided that he had to have more arm rest space than me and really started to get irritated when I pushed back and he pushed back himself. Wow, given he was middle seat and I was in the aisle one and we could have shared….I never experienced so much negative energy about something like that before. I backed down, breathed in and out, and moved on. I haven’t experience the sense of righteousness over something so small for a long time, and got really irritated. Seriously, an armrest space, that bl* important. No way.

Irritation is present for me, and I still find it difficult to deal with imperfection. This is because my high standards are often portrayed to others, and my expectations on myself are high. So when finding trainers, I spend another 2 hours trying trainers on Saturday, I want to have some that I know will eradicate my pain. But I cannot do that until I start running 10Ks in them. So I gave the one I chose a few weeks ago back and got two new pairs, hoping that one of them certainly works out. Given they didn’t have my size, I had to order them and hence didn’t have trainers for my trip to Germany. We are so spoiled to have things now and immediately, that waiting and being patient is not something we are good at anymore, or ever were.

It took me a few years to learn that actually. To understand that things are out of your control and that the person serving me dinner on Saturday night is not as sophisticated as I would have hoped for. But on the other hand, my confidence is growing to ask for things and offer compromises when food isn’t up to scratch or products I buy aren’t that great. Life is a learning process, and I hope I could just take half my life’s learning and pass it on to the kids. But that ain’t working, I guess my parents have tried and I didn’t want to hear any of it. Speaking to a good friend later in the week, the same pattern emerged. It was about work, about dreams, and how our experience benefits companies massively. Why wouldn’t it. And as someone said today, as you climb up the career ladder, or ladder of life, make sure it is leaning against the right wall. Moving forward is only progress if it is in the right direction.

Interesting, on a completely different note, I started drinking less coffee. I am not sure if I spoke about it, but I there are two subtle changes I have been making. One is to only drink a double espresso a day. No more caffeine after. A long coffee at the weekend, but I tend to change that too, I think. I find that I am less adjutated and less irritated. See above 🙂 Given I drank 5 or more cups of coffee/espresso a day, I am surprised how little I miss the caffeine intake. Then I try to eat healthier again, which I think is working most days. When I say it is more difficult whilst travelling, it is a sad excuse. You can always eat healthier, despite being on the road. Yet the stress and the temptation of junk food around you …. I took on more of the weekend cooking or reducing the take away in-take (sorry!). BBQs with veggies and lean meat and salad, smaller pizzas and some more salad / veggies at work. I still don’t loose the weight I put back on yet, but I am not gaining more. That’s a progress right? A bit more discipline, maybe less snacks, chocolate and beer, should do the trick. Again, it is a eating balance, finding the right balance in a life that is trying to determine how you feel and what you should do. That’s the key.

However, I started Monday with a bang – we did a big restructure in the German office, and this week was all about change. It is great to be in the midst of turning around a company and helping to facilitate change and perception. Life is good and I hope it is seen as a good change, if not now, then certainly in the months to come. Believe! It comes back to experience (see above), trust (see above) and stamina. I am planning my next trips. Things are moving in the right direction, and I got buy in from my eldest. Could things be better?

Honestly? They always could be. But then, if you take a moment to breathe, to stop and smell the roses, you will realise that we are in the midst of war of life. We are in the trenches for survival, and we are doing pretty well. There is no reason to complain, and things work out in the end. Life is happening now, not tomorrow or yesterday. Seizing the moment to catch up with my brother on Monday night in Hamburg was great. Being spontaneous. Living the life and pushing yourself, yet stretching your legs at the weekend and letting go. If you ever stop and think about it, life is amazing and every moment matters. Every little thing is giving you so much back, why not enjoy that ride. That’s what it is all about.

Have an amazing week.
Volker

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Thursday Flash (20)

Flash….

Execution Discipline – yes, similar to my mention on Essentialism a while back, Michael Hyatt writes about how execution discipline leads to corporate success.

This post on over analysing and over thinking stops you from moving forward. Stop over thinking and just get stuff done. Get on with it, and think about it later.

The last article this week is about caffeine and whether you should kick the habit? I have been, without any reason, reducing my caffeine intake. Instead of a few mugs of coffee a day, I now have a double espresso with breakfast and weekends one cup of freshly ground brew. That’s it. Not loads of cups of coffee for me anymore. I am not sure it changes anything but it makes you less edgy I think.

Hope you enjoyed this week. Please share with your friends.

Cheers,
Volker

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Sunday Column (437)

Another crazy week. I am getting used to it and honestly, actually I am enjoying them a bit too, those weeks. I flew out to Hamburg on Monday, this time with Easyjet again, and it went ok. The seats, non emergency exit, are awful, but other than that it did the job and got me there on time. Just too small for my long legs, so no proper sleep. Back in an empty Eurowings with a glass of wine, needed after a back to back day. I try to maximise the time I have in Germany. And every time I believe things are all dealt with, something new comes up. Amazing.

Some of you might read this and go ‘Why is he doing it, why is he loving it?’. Let me tell you the story of my life, which you might have heard on here before. I enjoy being busy, sorting things, helping people, supporting and developing people and work. Yes, some people call it work, I call it fun. I don’t mind burning the candle on both ends and push things forward. 10 years ago I would have worked 24/7, and sometimes it felt like that. Why? I don’t know. Just what I enjoy doing. What do I really want to do, someone might ask. I enjoy running, and taking companies/company units forward, working with smart people, being successful. That’s it, simple. Learning.

There is a flip side to that too. Since I had kids, priority shifted. So I am not burning candles on both ends anymore and look for a more balanced life. Running, enjoying a glass of wine, good food, a BBQ at the weekend, quality time with the boys, the wife and friends. I enjoy my fun life too and I do enjoy things outside work. Listening to the OneThing podcast, there was a chap on there the other day, re-iterating that the first thing he does every year is to plan his holidays, then the kids’ school events and he never works beyond 6 pm. And he is mega successful. Similar to the Energy Project, it is about renewal, boundaries, regular breaks and refuelling and regenerating. I learned that over the years, moving from start up to start up, and apply it now. Not every day but most days. This is mega important and should have been more of a focus when I was younger. So when I can, I still work a lot, and if I have a higher priority, then so be it. As a matter of fact I was reading my emails this morning when my youngest woke up. He looked at me and I said, that I should really put the phone away, and he nodded. I did. No question. We must set examples, and make sure they balance life from the outset.

So with all the travelling, cudos goes to my team in the UK for being so patient with me and going through video conference sessions to catch up and the team in DE for the support and commmittment. We are a great team, great company and everyone is working so hard to make things work. Our earnings report this week shows we are so on track to win. I am loving it. Well done all (if you read that anyway 😉 ).

I am buzzing. The biggest cudos of course goes to someone else. My wife and children for putting up with my absence and supporting me throughout. Whether through endless WhatsApp emojis in the morning or funny videos. I love them all and really appreciate their patience. Particularly if I am not feeling too great at the weekend due to some virus. But that seems over now too. So this weekend was family time. Full on.

As I am flying back and try to catch up on some admin, I am wondering about a few things that have happened this week. The days melt into one, from early morning runs, early mornings in the office, discussions with old friends over beers, or endless meeting marathons. It is a lot to take in and as my brain digests this over a glass of vino, I am remembering the often quoted phrase of connecting the dots moving forward. Steve Jobs.

Yes, it all works out in the end. And everyone understands and works in the same direction. Life is for living and moving and looking forward. However YOU want to define that. I am reading an amazing book about evolutionary coaching. I listen to my podcast and I am learning constantly. I am buzzing with new ideas. Life is there to grab it and be successful. Again, you decide and you define what it means to you. Not to look back, regret. But what I also notice is that it is a lot about living and representing values. About agreeing or disagreeing on the path. And that’s the secret. In a relationship with a partner or in a relationship at work. Trust comes to mind. Openness. That’s what life is build on. Maybe not a secret. It all comes together as you get older.

I am happy. That’s the main thing. But more important is that my loved ones are and the ones in my care. That’s what I do. That is who I am. That is how I strive and determine success.

With that said, I am off to Hamburg again on Monday. Different meetings, different discussions, and I am looking forward to it. I make things work. That’s what I do.

Thank you all for bearing with me,
Volker

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Thursday Flash (19)

Flash….

I love a bit of Tony Robbins. I didn’t use to be a fan but he has done so amazingly well in what he does, creating change, that reading an article about creating brand identity written by him is really good. Simple, yet so effective. I love how he brings things back to the basics.

On the other hand, things I enjoy reading are about staff development. On the back of that there is a topic of employee burnout. Published on HBR, this article examines the story being companies that create people’s burnout. However, as a manager and self-manager if you like, I have the responsibility to pull the cord for me and others to unplug. Working two jobs and travelling takes its toll, but it is my and my company’s responsibility to manage against a burnout. We manage well, and my company is very much aware of work loads. Not every company is and not every employee is. Thats where support is needed.

Last but not least, more of a personal development post. That is my pet subject reallly. This article looks at endurance for your career, using athletes habits and applies them to work.

If you enjoyed this week’s flash, please do me a favour and share it.

Thanks,
Volker

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Sunday Column (436)

The days after a bank holiday weekend seem busier. On the one hand as one thinks the work load has to be caught up with, and on the other hand, when working for American companies, you have a day to catch up with the US’s input. Luckily for me, this isn’t too much the case at the moment, and most of the International territories are still off. So a good few days mixed with work loads and a day working from home on Friday. That is to take care of the kiddies and finalise and review a few projects. Reading a book about ‘Essentialism’ makes you prepare to focus on what’s important and put your energy and focus onto what is really important and makes a difference. Puh, a great week.

The weather. I don’t often speak about it and it had been awful last weekend – to an extend we put the fire back on in May (!) – yet it smells of spring, sounds like spring, feels like spring. A bit too dry, not warm enough but it seems we are getting there. Spring and summer are on our door step. Let’s hope we see some nice weather ahead in the upcoming weeks. It can’t get worse I suppose. We managed a BBQ at the weekend. Just, making use of some midday sunshine.

I feel like this week a lot of things fall into place. Let’s hope this is a trend to be continued. Making decisions and focusing on the essential things, is what is key. Finishing above mentioned book on Essentialism by Greg McKeown, really puts your life into perspective. It is highlighting some topics I addressed in my productivity book about habits, routines and focus. Having done 30K in 4 days this week to focus on stretching my fitness level, followed by a deep tissue massage, stretches my body. At the same time I manage to stretch my mind and thinking beyond what I have done before. Getting more done than I ever have, sorting things and seeing results. From little things like giving away our sandpit which no one wanted at first, to filling the shed with new fire wood for the winter (German efficiency), and more important tasks at work. Sometimes it is hard to make decisions but that’s what you have to do. Life is lonely at the top 😉

Writing this as I am about to come to London on the train, I am staring out of the window. It is grey. London has been grey this week, not a lot of light, little sun. More like October weather than May. It is a bit of a shame. I sometimes wonder if the weather will ever improve or if we have to relocate to get enough sun. I never felt more settled in our house, our community and this country than now. Yet, I never felt so much that in the long run I have the feeling I won’t stay around. As if something inside me tells me that one day we pack our bags. Maybe I am wrong, and I have not had that feeling in a long time, yet it is there. I shall forget about it as I focus on the tasks at hand and enjoy the daily moments. The time with the boys, particularly on days like Friday where I was able to work from home and take them to school. I even picked them up and we played. Moments that never come back, and can only be enjoyed there and then.

Isn’t life wonderful and full of surprises?

At the weekend I found out that an old teacher of mine died. Another one, 76, too young. He was a great helper, supporter and mentor. Yet, he moved on to pastures new. RIP.

A full week ahead, so I hope you had a relaxing weekend. I tried to save up loads of energy.

Best,
Volker

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Thursday Flash (18)

Flash….

This week is a lot about finding yourself and thinking about you and what you are and want to become. You become what you think.

But let’s start with a summary of what successful people do at the weekend. No surprise here but similar to below, a nice guide and summary of what’s proven to work.

10 uncomfortable things that tell you that you are finding yourself and become the person you are supposed to be. A nice little guide that makes you think, don’t you think 😉

How to reprogram your thoughts or how to get your thoughts under control? An oldie but goldie article telling you how to change your thinking and perception. Go for it. What you imagine and map out, you can create. Believe!

Have an amazing week!

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Sunday Column (435)

Happy Birthday to me. The big 40!

So whilst I could write my normal blog, I remembered that I wanted to review my ‘inventory‘, I wrote in 2011. That’s now 6 years ago. A different time of my life.

Each Sunday the FT magazine publishes someone’s, usually public figures’, inventory. They ask about timeless things like

– Earliest Ambition
– Education
– Ambition and Talent
– IQ test

I won’t repeat them here, but then they also ask about things that might have changed. So 6 years on, reflection on my 40th birthday, let me revisit some of the questions.

3 ) Who is your mentor?

I still have several. From mentors I (in)voluntarily choose through work commits, I actively seek industry friends and heavy weights and try to regular connect with them. But also non-industry figures, to keep a good balance of inputs. This is important to me. As Jim Rohn says, you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with the most.

4 ) How physically fit are you?

This has changed. I have done some longer runs, just got new trainers that give me the right support. On average I probably run 30K a week plus some longer runs and weight/body resistance training. That wasn’t the case back when I first filed my inventory. I am fit, can be fitter but overall I am quite pleased. There are rumours about the first races too. I keep you posted.

7 ) How politically committed are you?

Now, 6 years on, I am British. Politics are back on the card to become more important. Time to get involved?

8 ) Do you consider your carbon footprint?

No, despite a lot of travel. Yet this is temporary I hope and difficult to offset. My commute is by train though!

9 ) Do you have more than one home?

I still don’t. Ask me again in 10 years, there are plans.

10 ) What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

Whilst I still follow Buddhist philosophy, meditate daily, I seek a Jaguar XJS. Maybe this year or next year, maybe never. We got the driveway for it, so the chances are increasing. Also, I tend to look at alternatives for the Skoda, upgrading it in 2018 maybe. Or instead of a Jag, getting an old Merc. Time will tell. Again, mid life crisis needs to be planned 😉

11 ) What is your biggest extravagance?

We moved, so a car isn’t the biggest extravagance any more. Having a second one would. Expensive wines, good food and an own treadmill, spoiling the boys and keeping the family happy. Nothing wrong with that I think. I am a man of simple pleasures. Time really is what you want more of and it is the biggest extravagance of everybody.

12 ) When are you happiest?

This probably will never change!
Being with my family: my wife, my two boys.

13 ) What ambition do you still have?

Below’s answer from 6 years ago (in italics) is still very valid. Leading a company across EMEA, looking after 100+ staff and exiting with a nice retirement fund, that would be great. Will the latter be the dream most people in the industry chase?
Maybe launching my own thing one day. But I keep saying that. I do enjoy what I am doing, that’s the main thing. I am progressing.

Making a difference in the world and work for the UN or another big charity, helping others. But before that I want to continue my career in media for a good while.

There are ambitions for my sons, for human kind too. But this would go too far I believe.

14 ) What drives you on?

The constant opportunity to learn and to improve other people’s careers. By doing so you grow as a manager/person and help your own career. The same principle is the same for bringing up your kids. Leading is tough but I do enjoy working with people and making a difference.

15 ) What is your greatest achievement of your life so far?

Writing my book and re-writing it in a better way whilst holding up a full time job. That and my family. I just like getting things done, having a productive 14 hour day, non-stop, just turns me up!
My weight loss, my fitness transformation, giving up smoking 20 years ago. Oh dear, I am getting old, things have changed. Look where I am at now. I have done ok, haven’t I?

16 ) What has been your greatest disappointment?

Not always seeing the obvious. Whether in life, family, job – being a bit naive and fearful. Fear doesn’t get you anywhere, being too uptight just hinders you.
But I am working on that daily and constantly. Going out of your comfort zone once a day, in person or in thoughts, gives you an edge. That’s what you want. Pushing boundaries and learning daily.

17 ) If your 20-year old self could see you now, what would he think?

Life never works out the way you think. Life is unpredictable, but you have mastered it well. Good job.
Or he would say: Told you, just a normal life like anyone else. But that’s ok, you have done well. Well done, mate.

18 ) If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Start again. I am a fighter. – still true but could also be to pack my bags and go somewhere and do something completely different. Making a difference. Why not, you are only on this planet once. No reason to not change what you are doing half way, or less than half way hopefully 🙂

21 ) If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what you score?

9 – You must be happy with your life – and I am – but there is always room to improve. Never give up to pursue.

I hope you enjoyed this reflective post. This week saw more changes. Whilst I am still in Germany a couple nights a week, I am now taking the boys to a childminder so my wife can go back to work. This might mean for me to work from home more often and look after them too. Life is a constant change. Work is very supportive. We cannot and I personally don’t want to stand still.

I am not sure what the next 40 years hold. Where I am going to live. If I am going to live. Life is good. And it is there to be enjoyed. Medicine, technology and support is evolving. What is next in life? Whatever it is, we will be part of it. And that’s so exciting. Life is exciting. Daily. Sometimes I think that’s it, that’s where I belong and should be in my life. Then I get this urge, to progress, to do more. Oh life, I just love the way you are!

Let’s hope this isn’t half way, but with advancement in technology this might just be a third. We must think that way. Yet we also need to enjoy every moment. The good thing is, we don’t know. That means we should just live as best as we can. Daily. Focusing on the one thing that is important NOW.

Love and Kindness.

For he is a jolly good fella….

Have a smashing bank holiday and give your kids and partners a hug. Life is for living.
Volker

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Don’t say it cannot be done.

I was very moved and got very motivated today, seeing Patrick Barden walking and finishing the London Marathon.

As the BBC reported: Kent man with cerebral palsy finishes marathon.

What an amazing achievement.

I donated. I don’t know Patrick. But I think what he has done is amazing.

Donation Link.

All the best.
Volker

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Thursday Flash (17)

Flash….

A letter to my younger self in the industry – Whilst I could have written this, the article resonated strongly. Enjoy the flash back to your younger self 😉

On my spiritual journey I came across an article by Marc and Angel, about things we believe. It makes you reflect, similar to the first article, just more generally.

Last but not least this week an article discussing whether you should block time in your calendar rather than putting things on your to-do list. Can time blocking replace todo lists?

What’s your opinion?

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Sunday Column (434)

Easter is over. We spend a lovely week in Germany where we met with lots of family and friends. We chilled, I really came down and relaxed. It was amazing. I was hoping to catch up on emails on the night before I went back to work but just was too involved in the family and too tired. That’s a good sign I think as I really detached from work. Result. And the boys were tired that night. A pizza, some wine and an early night for us, just after the boys hit the hay 😉 Travelling is exhaustive. I also picked up a bit of a tan, so I was told anyway.

Germany, my fatherland, but only one of two nationalities I hold. My relationship has changed a bit. It is a country in which I speak English with my family, feel less connected to and less understood. A nice and beautiful country where the standards of living seem higher than in other countries. But if you pull back the curtain, things are the same everywhere. Where is my home country now? Where do I feel home? I have had numerous discussions, and home is where your heart is. My heart, without a shadow of a doubt, is with my family. My boys. That’s where home is. Will it change again in the future? We shall see.

The future is more unknown than ever. A new general election was called. It won’t reverse Brexit but gives us a chance to change governments. I personally believe it will strengthen Theresa May’s position, catapult Corbyn out of the Labour lead. Then we reshuffle, have Brexit and a new election in 2022 or so. We shall see. We will master whatever is ahead of us. Politics. Oh, maybe Corbyn is underestimated and will make it. Wouldn’t that be fascinating?!

A note on driving in Germany or generally about driving. The speed, 120 miles/200 km per hour is fast. Yet it seems to work without too many accidents. People fill safety gaps I am leaving to the car in front of me, making it dangerous to drive. Yet still we survived but somewhat it doesn’t make sense. Maybe a good thing. But I enjoyed the freedom of driving as fast as I could. As of May the European governments will share a database of all drivers to prosecute beyond boundaries – something that hasn’t been done yet. Having said that, I think I would have had a few tickets. Fingers crossed I won’t 🙂

I also brought back some nice wine from Germany. Tax on alcohol is a lot lower, making it feasible to buy Australian wine or French wine at half the price compared to the UK. Also, just going shopping, taking me back to my childhood with a filled wallet, being able to buy all those sweets and crisps I enjoyed as a kid. Senses, particularly smell and taste, take me back to my childhood. Some things will never change. Just tasting the cherry lollipop I bought for the boys took me back to the doctor’s surgery where I got one after every visit. Strange, no?

In other news, there is a new Star Wars trailer which got my kids all excited. And me. They seem to be a lot more involved than me and understand more details of the movie and the personal relations of the characters than I do. Maybe I don’t concentrate hard enough? Or I am distracted, fall asleep or am less engaged. Great to see them identifying themselves with these stories which I think are brilliant material for thoughts on the future.

But I don’t want to get too sentimental. Life is great at the moment. It is changing, constantly, and busy and challenging. Just the way we want it.

Love and Kindness from my corner of the world.

Volker

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