Sunday Column (307)

This weeks started off with bad news that I need a new filling for my tooth. It would be the 4th time this tooth gets done, and the 3rd dentist doing it. Wish me luck, the date is set for early February. Then I went to Amsterdam for a conference, but due to the lack of early flights on Tuesday, I had to go on Monday afternoon. Never mind.

However, it gave me the chance to watch the movie “ROAD” which is the story of the Dunlop brothers. I’d like to use this to reflect a bit on life and living:

I never heard of those guys before but since my wife forbid me to ever get a motor bike again, and I used to have one back in the days, I was quite interested in their story. This movie got my memories flowing. The memory of sitting on my bike, helmet yet barely any other protection flying down the roads in Denmark. Cutting it fine around tight bends in the alps through snow, wet conditions on windy, narrow roads. Almost causing or having accidents. The adrenalin of chasing one’s fear, testing one’s limits. I enjoyed it. I was able to enjoy it as the only person I really had to think and care of was myself.

But now I understand my wife; the fear that the kids might one day have a motor bike. However careful they would drive, it is the others, the surroundings that could kill them. And we know about that. I knew of it back then and ignored it. And I knew of my mother lying awake at night when I was on the road, on the bike. How awful would a worst case scenario feel, or the constant fear. I’d rather not think about it.

I remember that one afternoon in Ireland, I was ahead of my mate. I saw a light going across the road in my rear view mirror, it was raining. A truck honked and flashed its light. I turned around. I expected the worst case which luckily didn’t happen. A few scratches when my mate didn’t make it around the bend. Not his fault, a pot hole. Pot luck I suppose. We celebrated life that night, a few drums and thinking about how short life could or could have been. That was then. Hungover we continued the next day. Visor shut, brain turned off. We were flying down the country roads again. No fear.

You see some pictures of me of those days then (excuse the quality). That was then. A different me?

I enjoyed those times, yet I don’t wish them back. I had some bad experiences, crazy manoeuvres. We lived it and rode it, close to the limit. And we didn’t even have very heavy and fast machines.

No, I think I won’t encourage my boys to go into any extreme sports. Whether this is road biking, mountain biking or motor cycling. It doesn’t really matter, any extreme sport has its risk. Of course some more than others. I got quieter by now, wiser I like to think…

Just this week my youngest, who isn’t yet four, looked at someone smoking saying “you are going to die”. We have to be careful to not educate them to the other extreme either I suppose. My eldest decided to take his few pennies from his secret money stash and donate it to Africa. He even got a head teacher’s award for it. They both like watching me exercise on the treadmill or doing my weights. How do they come across to others. Is it in a good or patronising way….questions we have to face as parents. Amazing the influence you have on those lives.

Anyway, enough thoughts as a parents, and a trip down memory lane.

Have a great week!
Volker

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Sunday Column (306)

Another week. At time of writing this post, second time around due to the WordPress app not saving the draft, I am sitting on a cold carriage on the 7.29 from Brighton.

This train became famous this week, as it was in the press. I have been complaining about it a lot before, that we always arrive 10 minutes late, but rumours now have it this train is never on time. Even the Prime Minister got involved and journalists flocked on the train to interview people. Allegedly it is on time less than 30% of all journeys. A bit appalling.

It leads me to my most favourite subject, which I was trying to avoid. The train system is in shambles. Worst about it, at least to my mind, is the reliance on the train. Whilst I believe the majority of the population commutes by car, the ones that commute by train, and particular for an hour or more like myself, need to rely on it. With close to a month’s salary this service is not worth what we pay for. The constant rail fare increase without the felt modernisation isn’t fair or value for money, whilst we are stuck without alternatives. And I suppose that is where my grief comes from: I have no choice but to use a highly priced service that doesn’t offer value for money.

Maybe a lifestyle change is in order? A local job, working from home or for a sole online business? Not being able to rely on trains, on a service, which you are dependent on, e.g. you don’t have an alternative for, is crippling. We are in 2015 not 1896.

Never mind. It sometimes makes for good yet boring and repetitive conversation. Sometimes, you get more work done before you arrive in the office. But no 9 am meetings. I am restricted by my train company. The argument of course is to get an earlier train which there are two: one leaves 9 minutes earlier and arrives 10 minutes earlier but is totally full, no seat and standing only for an hour. The one I take has plenty of table seats, from carriage 2 downwards. So quite a luxurious travel in comparison to some services (see, it isn’t all bad). The other direct, earlier alternative train is 50 minutes earlier, yet somewhat it gets me into the office too early, I miss out on breakfast with the children and would have to restructure my whole day. Of course, a train in between would be great, but I don’t say that because it is necessary but because the late running of our service makes it a necessity almost. In other words, bring the “7.29” in on time and we are all happy or make it 10 minutes early to arrive late on the current scheduled time?!

I guess this week was about trains. Much better than the draft I had before. Next week my air travel starts again. Also, whilst physical transport, my physio seems to pay off with less problems and pains during my 10K runs which I do twice a week. It all moves in the right direction.

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I have been up early to do the physio and do it regularly, together with my weight training. I am back to the weight I had 6 months ago! It comes to show that routine and habit is what drives a base line efficiency. I will cover more about that over at tidWOWS in due course. A 5 am start followed by some gentle physio and a bench press session whilst catching up on productivity podcasts set me up nicely for the day. The only drawback is that the kids usually wake up the moment I finish showering, so I am missing almost an hour of early morning writing and meditating. Having said that, to spend the first hour of your day with the two most important people in the world is something I am truly grateful for! I can always work on the train… I very much enjoy the time in the morning. As it happens they sleep longer on the days I take the dog out for an hour in the morning, so it makes me question if they might know?

So back to 2015 and the now. I am pushing forward. Productivity, meeting A-Players and thinking about the future, defining the strategy, my strategy. I am refining my strategy. Improving. Pushing further forward. Becoming and being an A-player.

Life is good. I enjoy what I am doing, the space I operate in. This was a good week!

Have a fantastic 7 days ahead of you, make sure you make the most of every single one.
Volker

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Sunday Column (305)

The first week back is always a struggle. Changing from a 6 am lie in to a 5 am start, new physio exercises, new weight routine and the blimming man flu. Got a few 8 hour sleeps to recover and feel like the week has passed by very quickly. Managed 10K without too much pain at the weekend. Struggled a bit though, coughing and all. But needed to be done.

So besides the car playing up and needing repair and the usual commute, a busy start at work and lots of meetings, there is not much to report. The family is well, the weather was mostly ok but we got some rain and I didn’t miss the booze at all. Drinking is all about habit, having a glass of wine at the fire at night instead of juice. It’s not that you need to have it, and if you did that would be a big problem I suppose.

Regarding the car: we also, additional to last year’s repairs, need a new alternator which wasn’t picked up at the major service. Dispute with the Seat garage too, trying to charge me for a diagnostic which according to the Seat website is part of the major service. Yet, the garage says they only do a visual inspection. To be continued… There is nothing more than bad service that I hate, and people trying to rip me off. Working client facing, I am disgusted, particularly after very bad experience with Volvo a few years ago. Anyway, let’s not assume too much for now.

Yet this week was somewhat funny. Amongst all the daily routine, there were calls from people, visits to people, meetings with friends and clients that suggests one thing, and one thing only: 2015 is going to be exciting. It seems like the digital world is ready to ramp up in Europe!

I can’t put my finger on it yet. Whether this is job related, money related (lottery win?), or exciting in some other, maybe sad way? But when I look back in a year’s time, I will surely say, 2015’s excitement was all about ???.

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This is a good feeling to have. New year resolutions are all fine given we are a week in. That means no take aways yet, no alcohol, little carbs and some exercise at least. But that is nothing that has changed from last year with the difference of having less steak for lunch as the Christmas lunches are over. All sushi so far. I am confident to drop a few more kilos over the next three month. Bikini figure for the summer they say ;-)

Ok, enough of that :-) It is great to see how the kids grow up and being able to spend quality time with them at the weekend. Let it be experiments (Colin got an engineering kit from Oma and Opa for Christmas) or watching Tarzan, cuddling because the wind is a thunderstorm, or taking the dog for a walk. Fun, shared experience and lots of love and happiness. That is what it is all about. When you are on the couch, cuddled up with two little boys and a puppy, the fire is on and you watch an emotional movie. Why not just enjoy and let go. Forget about the negativity and bad things in life.

I leave you with those thoughts as there are too many bad thoughts out there this week: the awful things that happened in Paris, the drowning of two people in Brighton over the weekend.

Stay safe! Enjoy and live the moment.
Volker

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Sunday Column (304)

The first post of 2015. Funny that. Happy New Year to all my readers! I hope you had a great start!

I will post some motivational and new year planning thoughts on Linkedin tomorrow, so watch out for another post. And, this year will see a lot more productivity and personal development thoughts over at tidWOWs.

We started off well, sound asleep by midnight, and a long walk with friends and kids in our woods around Hassocks. Afterwards we had coffees, good chats and lots of homemade chili. What a day to start the new year!

So what’s in stock for 2015? What are your plans?
We got our car repaired as it failed its MOT. That wasn’t the best start. Then, I decided, after losing all the fat around my waist, that I need to get rid of is my belly. Nothing better than starting the year with a “dry January“, e.g. giving up my beloved wine and any alcohol for that matter. Time to beat the belly. A better routine, some more physio to improve my running and a lot more focus on weight exercise to shed off the extra belly fat. Wish me luck!

Matt Cutts, ever since I was first introduced to him back in 2008, has a 30 day challenge every month. Maybe something I will consider this year. I keep thinking about it for 7 years now, gave up alcohol or meat for a month, but maybe this year I should look into doing something each month.

The idea is to let go or do something additional for a month. Whether this is giving up booze or writing a chapter of your book every day or just not checking Facebook for a month: it is entirely up to you. Making a difference to a fellow human for a month by helping someone on/off the train or across the road. We shall see what I am going to do this year and if I am working with those 30 day challenges or just add things to my motivation in order to lose weight. The other big aim is to get even happier, more engaged with my family.

The aim of all of my efforts in 2015 is to become a better family man whilst not losing out on my career. Balancing the ultimate home experience with the best work experience. Hope that makes sense. And part of that is to be more in the NOW, more engaged with the kids, be healthier and fitter (and setting an example). Actually, I just want to take the status quo to the next level. Modest as it might seem.

life life balance

So balance is the key word for 2015. I anticipate some exciting times in my job and career in 2015 which will challenge me to stabilise that with the family time. To balance the train journeys with todos on and off the main job. Having enough family time whilst also having me-time and wife-time, ensuring friends and family are catered for. Whilst I am not the most popular person in the world (or am I ;-) ) – I do like to be sociable and hence need to prioritise how to spend my spare time, and with whom. Due to these constraints I have decided to not continue as a Rotary member. Whilst it breaks my heart as I am strongly believing in the good that Rotary offers, it was a decision based on travel, work and home commitments, paired with the thought that Rotary will still be around in a few years. Maybe I join the local club post retirement.

All of that will lead to the decision on our holidays this year, and maybe a new car, some home improvement works but nothing like last year. Who knows what we can afford, needs doing and how to progress in 2015. Without a crystal ball it is difficult to see what is going to happen.

So there is to 2015. A year my gut tells me will be very exciting, very positive and it will lead to something bigger and better. In other words, I will progress in life this year. If that is work or private, or what it is, ….. make sure to stay tuned so I can tell you all about it.

Have a great 2015. A great start back to work.

Cheers,
Volker

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Sunday Column (303)

The last post of 2014.

Christmas has passed and it was fantastic. I love my family and wife so much, it is unbelievable. I am very grateful for the happiness I feel when I am surrounded by them. That, I guess, is the biggest present I got this year. Being with them in the moment, enjoying quality time together and also being physically apart without being apart. Not much else to wish for!

What else was great at Christmas? Long walks in the winter sun with our dog. It is amazing what a walk can do to relax and unwind. Particularly when you have lots of things going on. Even in the rain. Long walks, short walks. Then the catch up with friends and family members.

As it is now tradition we had Turkey on Christmas Day and pulled pork the day after. Lots of wine, a new Japanese whisky from the MIL, a train set from Lego and lots of presents for the kids. Almost too many yet we kept it to closest family and friends. Madness nevertheless.

From the 24th in the afternoon, just when the email came in that the last campaign would be set up, Christmas began. New to us this year was the wood burner which kept us going all week, day and night. It couldn’t have been cosier or more homely! Thanks to my wife, for a fantastic year. For sorting out the house, the renovation, the kids, the dog, and our lives I suppose. And of all I remember best this year: the campervan holidays.

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I wrote my yearly review last week. Yet this week is more about focus. Looking at all the great achievements we had. The renovation, the dog, loosing weight and keeping it off, getting fit, getting the oldest son into school, managing day to day, visiting friends….and as I type life in front of my eyes accelerates. We seem to go at a 120 miles per hour, often neglect some things on the way. This is not deliberately, that is how life is. Or we slow down and seem to achieve less.

From my point of view work life balance isn’t anymore so much about the job and family life but about balancing your day life at work and your home life around it, including family but also friends and hobbies, which is maybe for another time to go deeper and discuss how to make a hobby a job. As always, I am lucky. I love what I do for a living, I live what I love. Happiness.

When looking back we also want to look at sad things. We had a few people that left us, extended family, but also last week there were a few famous people that passed on (as I like to call it): Udo Juergens and Joe Cocker.

Latter has been someone I have admired for many years. And below is a video of him at Woodstock. Many many years ago. That’s how I got to know him (from the Woodstock video, not live, I am not that old ;-).

I believe this is a nice song to end the year. Reflect. And wish you all a happy, prosperous 2015.

To you and yours!
Volker

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Merry Christmas

In all German tradition, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas on Christmas Eve!


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Sunday Column (302) – Year review

Merry Christmas, or as close as a blog post can come to it. With Christmas now being a few days away, and me finishing off work on Tuesday, it is time for my yearly review. Having said that, this year was full of so many great memories, experiences and excitement, I just want to summarise a few thoughts in this post. Maybe I do another one or look back at a few events soon. All I can say is that this year passed quickly, in a good sense, and that I developed a lot as a father and person.

Let’s start with the most important thing: health. I have been constant with my weight, lost a lot of it and feel really fit. Two sick days and a healthy period throughout the winter so far (fingers crossed) make a huge difference to last year when I was ill months at a time. I am happier, healthier and fitter. And, I am grateful for this. Next year should see an improvement even to step up the game. This will include running with the dog I hope and maybe some different sports I could add to the mix. My recent visit to the physiotherapist gives me hope that I will be pain free on my 10K adventures. You never know, they might turn into 15 or 20K….

The next biggest thing in my life: family. One could argue family goes over health but what is the family worth without health? We were married 7 years this year, knew each other for 10. We got two healthy amazing boys and a lovely cat and now a dog. We are truly blessed with what we have and we both know and appreciate it. Without them, their love, trust and commitment I couldn’t do the job I enjoy and live the life we do. They give me both strength and purpose in life. I love you all!

The house got an overhaul and thanks to family support we got a lot of things done. One is never finished with a house but the next things are more cosmetic, so no rush :-) Having said that, the outbuilding (shed), new carpets and driveway are all planned in my head at least.

My job is going well. 2015 might bring some changes and I hopefully find more time for personal projects on top. Overall I am in an exciting space of the industry where opportunities and challenges are close together. An amazing and exciting place to be. I am very happy with that.

On that note, tidWOWs gives me a focus outside work to pursue and build a reputation as a coach, productivity expert and personal development trainer. I will continue to write my articles and research topics for that blog. I enjoy it and it is a hobby which of course is very much work related.

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One of my new year resolutions is to find more mentors, people that can push me to achieve more: A-Players. I still have a long working life ahead and realised when visiting my fraternity in Germany, that within the fraternities there are different attitudes to achievement and success. Most of the people there are achievers, great students and fantastic managers. Pushing the boundaries and succeeding. I look forward incorporating some of that work into my productivity studies, modelling other’s success.

There are things we didn’t do enough this year and there are things we want to do more next year. That is to spend more time together as a family, visit more friends and maybe going to visit Germany. Yet we are thankful and grateful for what we have and have achieved. We have been able to donate a few pennies to charity which fulfilled us with joy. We could help other people to achieve things in their life. I am looking back at 2014 thinking we have done well, we have been good people yet also think we could do so much more. The highlight most probably was our campervan trip. Proper family time, independence and sunny weather.

2015 is about refining for me on one hand – that will be around family and work life balance and managing my private interests. Yet on the work level it is about acceleration and reaching the pivotal point that should catapult me up and beyond from where I am now. Prospects are exciting and we haven’t even started 2015 yet. Things looking great.

I might have a short post next week, however please enjoy the festive season. Look back at the year and be grateful for what you have and thankful for what you have achieved. When feeling blessed and acknowledging what you have, what is happening in the NOW, one can move things forward, moving on.

Enough from me.

Have a fantastic Christmas and New Year.

Love with you all.
Volker & Family

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Merry Christmas – from Apple

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Sunday Column (301)

We are getting closer to Christmas.
My wife took a few pictures of the boys last weekend and I jumped on the bandwagon for some nice new head shots. Let me know what you think?

Subsequently I updated my blog, Linkedin and Xing profile etc. Just to keep it up to date, making sure people recognise me. It happened, believe it or not, that people didn’t recognise me thanks to the beard. Or maybe the grey hair or the wrinkles. Maybe I am getting on a bit?

I write this post whilst sitting in a train from Eindhoven (HQ) to Amsterdam/Schiphol Airport. My last trip of the year. Things are getting more quiet, and the festive season slowly but surely starts kicking in. Catching up with clients, nativity plays from the boys and cold walks with Rosie. My reflective time started, meaning I am now settling down a bit to reflect on 2014.

Reflection is a big part of growing up and growth / development. For me it is to look at the good and bad times, what I have learned in a job or at home, and how I can have more of the good times and less of the bad times moving forward. It is about being honest to yourself and configuring your growth for the next year. Taking into consideration both family, friends, the kids and dog and expectations. As before mentioned, I am very positive about next year and think we will have a lot positive (!) changes.

When looking out of the window I see grey. Grey forest areas, boggy marshland, empty fields and brown grass. Nature is at its low point too. The point where it is too cold to grow or do anything and where it make sense to just lie still until the next spring comes and wakes you up. Business of course isn’t that way. First meetings have been booked into the first week of January already. Things are coming together for 2015, plans are already being made.

Onwards.
Upwards.

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I am excited to see the kids growing up. To grow closer as a family. To cherish the dog. To spend more time with people I like. From my perspective I sometimes think that I am not sure what happens next year or the year after. How long will I still kick about? Seize the day, carpe diem, get on with it and enjoy. Yet we are all worried about things and sometimes, we just over engineer things. True happiness comes from within. Only from deep inside a person. Like love.

When travelling, HSBC had an advert with a cow on the tunnel to the airplane. I loved that cow. I took a picture and share it here. Do you notice why that cow is special? If it takes you a while it is because you don’t look for the differences but the sameness. You are looking at what you are used to. And you might overlook the detail and the difference in (beauty) of the cow.

Yet, don’t worry. You are probably or most certainly one of many. We are living in fast pace environment where we are missing out on the detail, missing out on the slight differences.

And if you still can’t see the world map on the cow….then never mind ;-)

Have a great weekend and see you next week.

Be good!
Volker

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Nothing like the countryside

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