Sunday Column (280)

Here is the summary of my last weekend, as promised: We made it. We survived!
Not only did we go up the South Downs to fly a kite, we also went to a Birthday Party, had a picnic in the living room and played in the garden. Mummy can go away again ;-) They did miss mummy though and didn’t enjoy to only have daddy around but it was fine. Daddy enjoyed it.

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And of course, we made it as a German team. We won it, the World Cup. Which is, after 24 years, a great effort. I couldn’t get the kids involved too much as the games were past their bedtime. Hopefully in 4 years time, them being 10 and 7, they can get more involved and time zone wise the games should be at a more kid friendly time, Russia being the host.

Also this week we (almost) reached another mile stone. My oldest finished reception. He will still have a couple of days next week but overall the year is done. Wind down. His first year in school is finished, and off into 1st year this autumn. How quickly do they grow up?! Isn’t it fantastic to see them learn, understand the world and make friends, coping with first challenges etc. I really enjoy it!

This weekend my parents came to visit. They brought lots of wine again, just to stock up the cellar ;-) I have reduced my wine/alcohol intake as I have been very focused on getting to the next level re fitness. With this in mind I bought a new bike, a road bike, on eBay. I believe I got a bargain on a Fausto Coppi Lombardia in my size (XXL) and what a beauty it is. Finishing the auction during the world cup final really helped me to get this at a decent price :-)

I took it for a first spin early Thursday as I had to fix a puncture when it first arrived. Yet some adjustments needed and maybe a couple of new ball bearings. Future rides will show. But I love the need for speed. The riding on a road bike is different to a mountain bike. Different enjoyment. Still the same satisfaction…if not better.

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My plan is to not only get fitter in terms of weight loss and muscle gain but also overall by increasing my physical activity by riding mountain bike as well as a road bike, latter also on my stationary bike stand during the winter. Running is still part of the fitness routine as it seems to loosen up my back a bit which gives me trouble during sleeping. However this seems to be improving too.

The only addition I now need is a pool to complete a triathlon from the comfort of my home. Maybe not. Let’s see if I manage a six pack by Christmas or not. The biggest restriction as it seems is time, whilst I believe running on the treadmill and being on the stationary bike, I can train late at night and/or in the morning. Onwards and upwards.

This really concludes a busy week. Yet the holiday season is kicking in and things at work seemed to slow down a bit. But this changed mid week again, and I can’t complain about being really busy again. But also a good time to get on top of a few things, admin and planning the months/quarters ahead.

Exciting times.

Have a fantastic week,
Volker

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Sunday Column (279)

I seem to write the blog posts a week in arrear. Whilst I would love to speak about a great weekend I had with the kids, the wife was away from Friday morning, I wouldn’t have any time finishing it in time for you to read it. So if anything eventful happened, you will hear next week.

I cannot wait to spend a boys weekend at home. Hopefully we can make it a regular thing in the years to come, maybe away from home going fishing or surfing. We shall see what the future holds and where their interests lie.

So let me start with last weekend. I finally got off my butt to organise a night out with Jen. We went to Brighton for a superb Thai. I asked a good friend to recommend a place that is neither posh nor awful and he suggested just the spot. It was good to date again, be away from the kids and we hope to finally make this a regular thing again. Onwards and upwards. It seems like we are getting a better family routine now that the kids are older. Even mum can go away for a weekend.

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Then Germany played Brazil this week. I am not really into football and not overly interested but what a German efficiency! An awful playing Brazilian team slaughtered by a German war machine. At least that would have been my headline if I was editor of the Sun. Never mind.

I have given my thoughts on Germany many times before, on the history, self confidence and being able to just get on with the job at hand. Here we go, a great testament. A good team, efficient, just getting on with the job. Now by time of publishing we will be playing in the finals. That means you probably won’t read my blurb just now and Germany might be on our way to become world champions. Wouldn’t that be great?

I would love Germany to win. Naturally it is the team I’d favour but also as it shows the team has such a strong commitment to fitness, team spirit, tactics, endurance and ‘once you got something in your head you will end up achieving it‘. I never thought about it in greater detail before but if you see all those Mittelstand, medium sized companies, in Germany, it is nothing but entrepreneurism, making their own work best, growing it to a decent size and getting on with it. Efficient, stubborn, driven.

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Enough about it now. I had a good catch up this week, with lots of different friends and people in the industry. My company sponsored a summer party, we had a blast. The amount of people I don’t know in the industry seems to be getting smaller. My generation are now in key positions driving the digital market in the UK. I find that exciting. What started as a sales job years ago turns out to be a job for life in an industry I love. Sounds cheesy? Probably is. But it is also true.

The reason I bring that up is that I start getting this connectiveness feeling from people that we can achieve something together. We are on to something, driving the evolution of digital media across all channels, particularly in connecting TV to digital. Latter is the very exciting bit, whilst of course we still have to master mobile. You might read my regular thoughts over at MediaPost. Every month I come up with another digital thought and my view of the industry. I enjoy doing that and have many thought pieces out there.

Anyway, I guess this is enough for this week’s thoughts. Whilst the wife is enjoying a weekend away, I had lots of fun with my boys. Nothing like it in the world.

Have a great week, I will tell you all about it next week.

Cheers,
Volker

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Sunday Column (278)

Life needs to give you a kick in the arse sometimes. That happened last weekend. My wife signed Colin and myself up for a 4 mile bike ride. The first time ever we went on a bike ride together.

My excuse is simple: I don’t like a lot of uncertainty in life. I couldn’t take my youngest. I prefer my routine, don’t like adventures that much. The only situations I like coming out of my comfort zone is when I am at work. When a client comes up with questions, thinking on my feet. But at home, I like it when life just goes as planned.

We saw a few people having child seats on bikes, something we never considered but just bought one from eBay this week which we picked up on Thursday. Adventurous enough for me tbh. I am not sure if it is safe and comfortable for either mum or child. But it is good. Colin enjoyed the bike tour and when he fell over in the first 500 m due to some child undercutting him, he cried a bit, picked himself up and went for it. Amazing. Great attitude, never giving up. What a proud dad I am.

And from now, triggered by the event, we are good to go as a family with Rohan sitting on a bike seat on the back of my bike. Happy days.

After that warm up I went for a cycle ride myself. I first wanted to beat last week’s record but ended up trying a different route, ending in a 29 km ride on the South Downs to Lewes. Amazing. I am still sore as I write this as I had to do it again this weekend. This time against the wind, with lots of muddy puddles and the other way around. I also decided to shorten my circuits to the most essential strength exercises, still 6 minutes, to keep doing some of that on my ‘rest’ days.

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Talking about challenges. We all got them in life. Whether it is a thing people do differently from birth or due to different education or upbringing. We all have different models of the world, different needs for adventures (see above), securities, growth, charity, importance and love. Those six human needs that have been identified for many years and sum up most challenges you encounter with people. But it isn’t unsolvable.

Another challenge is staying away from certain foods. I gave up cheese last year to loose weight and now started eating some again. The odd indulgence. Same with chocolate or crisps. Yet, I have been good this June. One take away, only very little chocolate (3 bars maybe), hardly any crisps (but pork scratching in the pub). In return I ate a bit too many sweets and some cheese as well. I already had more chocolate this month ;-)

Now for July I had planned to be tee-total. But with an off site sales meeting, a summer party and an invitation to a BBQ, this seems unlikely. However, it won’t happen in August either. So I will just pretend to be tee-total whilst being in situations I don’t want to drink, and drink on the occasions I want to drink. Simple….I hope. Sad when I think about society almost predefining whether you are drinking. When I was at a German networking event the other day they served, as standard, alcohol free beer. No questions asked if you didn’t want to drink. I assume it will be another few years before this will be commonplace in the UK.

Enough about challenges. Go out and enjoy yourself. Carpe diem.

Have a fantastic week. Less time to Christmas this year than last year’s, we are more than halfway through the year. Mad!

Take care,
Volker

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Sunday Column (277)

When one travels, the little things become important. Getting to the airport, having the same (or similar really) bacon baguette you had since flying in 2006. For over 8 years I travel for work on a regular basis. Knowing the little treats on the way is what makes the journeys more pleasant. The bar in Dusseldorf just before you board for instance is a treat. I have spent many hours discussing the world with industry peers and friends. The moment you go through security and catch the train in time to be home for the bed time story.

I often think about the greater good, about what happens in life and when and why. Looking back, why you met people you did and how some of them turn up in your life again and again. Is there a reason, a bigger purpose? I discussed human design with my wife the other day – how can evolution have created something so special. Is it carved over time? Is anything improving over time or is that a human thing? Ants have been on the planet a lot longer than humans and they never had any ambition to destroy the planet. I suppose never did we – at least not intentionally.

When you stop in your tracks and look around you and realise what you do, others do, and where you sit in relation. When you stop and think, like I do just now. What do you realise? Essentially we are all the same, very similar yet individuals. Not a new revelation. Everyone looks at life a bit different. That’s what makes us individual. I am not sure which point I am trying to make but it helps a lot if you just sometimes stop and put life into perspective. To look around and see what’s happening around you and realising you are as normal as everyone else. And to realise life is what it is, best lived in every moment.

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Looking at personal development and reading an interesting coaching book again, it seems that some people are far too focused on their environment and what others might think of them. Others are the other extreme. They don’t care whatsoever. Whilst you might have social differences, the essence is that you are in the driver’s seat to move the needle in your life to make progress, determine what you like to do and represent and do with your life. No one can make you feel a certain way, it is up to you how you feel. As any feeling created within you is down to you, no one creates a feeling for you. Does that make sense?

If you get angry at the holiday travellers going slowly through security, then this is a feeling you created not them. You decide if you want to feel angry or just let go, focus on other things. The person shouting at you because you squeeze on the tube doesn’t create a bad feeling inside you because that is what they want but that’s the way you react. And it is down to you to change your very inner behaviour.

This attitude, staying positive and accepting that you cannot change a situation, helped me this week again. Three hours delay, lack of information, taking off when the airport was about to close to arrive with little time to spare to make one of every 30 minute trains home. Made it. Just. And meeting fellow travellers, those people that touch your life, share stories of their children. One was travelling alone with four children between 2 months and 10 years from Japan to Europe a few years ago. The traveller that had an almost unnoticeable German accent living very close to me and has been in the UK for almost 20 years.

All those stories, experience and people touch our lives one way or another before they disappear. You might remember them in the future, telling a story about the delay, yet overall what are the chances of ever seeing and meeting these people again? What makes them touch you? Did I manage to make a difference this week? I would hope so, holding the queue to the airplane for two mothers to board before everyone else did. Normal, no heroism. Yet, I hope I touched a life in a positive way this week.

Life is too short to worry. I am learning to be more positive and proactive, following my gut. I am getting there. Nothing ever happens over night.

Bring it on.

Have an awesome week,
Volker

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Wee Man in Germany

The wee man keeps me company as I wait for a flight home from Dusseldorf. He flew with me to Hamburg yesterday and to Dusseldorf this morning. Now our flight home is delayed :-(

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Sunday Column (276)

I felt a bit like George Clooney in the movie “up in the air” this week. On Sunday 9 am I left the house to go to Cannes. A short flight yet to get to the airport proved difficult. Trains cancelled, taxis not available (out of three! companies), so luckily my wife could drop me off.

It was my first year at the Cannes Lions which was fantastic. The adtech sector becomes more important and one meets key decision makers who drive our industry forward. I don’t anticipate to not go next year. Some very interesting discussions not least around TV synced advertising. Our company, Civolution, announced a case study which saw our product helping an entertainment client to improve the click through rate, and ultimately their brand engagement, by 250%.

For me it was fantastic, working with cutting edge technology to evangelise my beloved RTB industry with the latest cross device product, linking linear TV to digital. But enough about my job.

On Wednesday afternoon I came back and on Thursday I caught a 6 am flight to Amsterdam, going to our HQ in Eindhoven. A packed flight, lots of stags and birthday parties, so I didn’t really get any sleep.

Thursday wasn’t a great day for England. The dream to progress in the world cup came to an end. It was a shame to see grown ups that devastated yet I understand that a football passionate folk would be disappointed. I suppose Germany wouldn’t be different. Luckily I am not a big football fan, not even for big events. So really, I don’t care. Being German seems to at least give me a better chance for the world title than England. Now anyway.

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I missed my family this week, yet in return got extra cuddles from my boys when I was home on Wednesday. That and the weekend was focused on them, and my wife of course. I am off again for a couple of days next week and the week after. Then things should quieten down a bit over the summer. That said I do enjoy the odd trip. And this week was a bit cramped due to organisational challenges.

To be honest there wasn’t much else happening this week. For Father’s Day I got a Landrover Lego model (see picture). I was well chuffed, really like it. WordPress seems to have difficulties resizing pictures when uploaded from my iPhone or iPad. Not sure how to solve that yet.

On that note, and you might remember my post a few weeks ago, I saw the latest Galaxy tab (Samsung) mounted on a keyboard, in Cannes. Not knowing what it was, I thought it was an amazing little computer/laptop. Apple would need to step up their game with the iWatch, iPhone six and what else is rumoured. The battery life needs to improve significantly, and innovation needs to come into play. We shall see.

That’s it guys. A nice weekend comes to an end.

Have a good week.
Volker

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Wee Man in Holland

Coming back from Eindhoven.

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Sunday Column (275)

This week started with more unpleasant commute stories. Maybe it is that I never had as many problems in Germany when I was travelling by train, or because a lot is happening on my commuter line at the moment. Whilst I remember sitting on luggage racks or in the bar in the German ICE trains coming home Friday nights from the Navy or University, and I was a lot younger minding paying less, I now pay over 4.5K for an appalling service per year.

On top of busy, overcrowded and slow trains, we live in a part where it seems too common to have, accidental or purposeful, human casualties on the tracks. With only one track going either way, trains piling up between Gatwick and Brighton, or before that if the casualties where higher up the line, and it disrupts traffic a lot. Whilst I discussed the issue recently, I am still astonished about the lack of action. I understand there aren’t 200 buses and drivers on stand by for scenarios like that, yet why not build an emergency train line or at least train staff to keep you informed. Lack of information, standing in the rain and relying on Twitter updates whilst your phone is dying is just not helping any emergency situation.

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This is the same when flying and or traffic yams. Any lack of information makes any situation worse. I had more bad journeys that week. Due to various appointments I took trains that are jammed pack from Hassocks, and one was short formed, again resulting in standing only. Luckily I managed to get a seat half way through.

Enough about the commute I guess. I can’t really not complain about it. For the amount of money you pay you get a shit service. I spoke to so many people that started working from home for themselves just to avoid the commute. Is that the answer? I am thinking more along the lines of off peak travel, working early, leaving early. But that doesn’t always work. We soldier on.

On to more positive things.

The most amazing thing this week was my son’s 5th birthday. Looking back to where we were five years ago, awaiting our first child, not knowing what we got into. Sleepless nights, sleep training, potty training, smart answers, “iPad therapy”, first feeds, first solid food, driving around the block to get him to sleep, crying when you see him cycling without stabilisers for the first time, and I could go on. We just bought our first house, settling down, newly married, the whole life seemed in front of us. What did we know?

Having children is probably the greatest gift someone can receive. The joys are unexplainable, the inner love you feel that keeps you going day and night. As most dads I was struggling with the first 2.5 years of any of my children. The lack of interaction and communication. Yet over the past years things have changed massively. A day without playing Lego or cuddle from either of my boys seems like a lost day.

With work commitments and being someone enjoying to work, it is a fine balance and I slowly find that I can really commit the weekends to spend time with my two boys, enjoying every minute of it. Making up for lost time. Although video conferencing helps to stay in touch during travels, and really, I am not gone that often.

If I am trying to think of highlights over the past five years, I couldn’t even say. Most recently Legoland of course, the smart outburst explaining the universe or how a certain Lego piece works, defending the baddies. The shoe box that turns into a space ship. The cuddles when he is ill (or not), caring for him and sitting next to his bed, realising how much responsibility one has. You feel humbled being able to give so much back to another human being.

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Those moments when they just go crazy, crying for joy, playing and chasing each other, jumping on daddy. And of course when they throw tantrums, being naughty and you send them upstairs to their room to calm down. I love my two sons, the responsibility and building Lego. This seems like the main focus for me at the moment, this is the thing to live for.

I sometimes fast forward and think what it could be like, when they are 13/14 and have their first girl friend. But that’s not important now, I would rather stop the time and enjoy more if the now.

Happy Birthday Colin!

Have a great one,
Volker

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Wee man travelling (Cannes)

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Sunday Column (274)

This week was a “back to the roots” week. Back to work, busy days, lots of progress, having fun. Yet, as so often, I am thinking of my boys and found this amazing song by German artist Reinhard Mey. I must have listened to it a hundred times but only this week the meaning became really clear to me. I am not alone with my feelings, balancing work and family, yet enjoying both!

Vaters Nachtlied (Father’s Lullaby)

The translation goes roughly like this:

I’m sorry, I could not come home sooner,
We had a difficult negotiation at work, man oh man, lasting until after eight!
Well, you took Benno Bear and Fritz Fuchs to bed
And Cookie Monster too? I have thought a lot about you.
Were the grandparents over, has it been a good day?
And you blackmailed your mother again for an ice cream?
And I? Oh, I’ve only read the stock market report,
and whilst doing that I was thinking about, how I can glue your boat.

Then Doctor Schulze-Wüstefeld invite me for a working meal,
I moved from “one bum cheek to another”
There was “spicy venison stew,” how gladly would I have instead
Had a bratwurst with you and sucked licorice.
Then I completely forgot to laugh at a joke,
Which Senator Kühn thought was very funny,
I was probably just thinking about beating eggs for pancakes
meanwhile one has chosen me for the board of directors.

It is true indeed, since I am here, not only have the balance sheets improved,
the growth rates are doubled, and the index rose.
Today would have been the day to repot our pumpkin,
And then I would have liked to show you how to sow radishes.
Maybe I landed my biggest deal today,
Perhaps the major order of which the whole company dreams,
But certainly, I have not sung with you at bed time,
And a day that never comes again, I failed to be with you.

Now the regular reader knows two things about me. I enjoy working and if I hadn’t had family I would probably do that all day. The other is that I have family and love being with them, trying to be a good dad. Balancing those two powers can be difficult at times, so days like the one I listen to in the song make me think: about both sides! I am not alone with my feelings, it is totally normal and I get a lot of reassurance from the song and speaking to other dads. I guess it is “back to work” this week, a full on one but really enjoyable one too.

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This week we also got a delivery of logs for our wood burner. It might sound funny but I felt like a child. It was exciting to stack wood for my own stove, making sure we have enough for the winter, which actually I am not. It Is only June and the weather should get warmer before it gets colder, but hey, it is an exciting thing to do. A bit of self sufficiency, independence. Roll on winter, or before that our camper van trip, Hippy, self sufficiency, independence. Roll on the 60ies ;-)

There has been one other thing on my mind. And I try not to elaborate on it too much. Friday marked the 70th anniversary of D-day. This is a long time since Britain and the US invaded occupied France to free it from Germany. It has been a dark chapter in Europe, Germany in particular, but it also is history.

Speaking with my 5 year old, asking whether they discussed D-day in school, he said yes. Not that he would really understand. Understand that he is living in a free Europe, being half Scottish (and don’t get me started on the independence campaign there) and half German), growing up in England, and that the privilege to live in a peaceful Europe is down to the brave men who fought in the war. The allies, yet also the resistance in Germany and other countries. But foremost thanks to the guys who on Friday remembered their comrades and all fallen in the Second World War.

Without those I would not be sitting here, working in London, enjoying what I have. I am grateful for that. Grateful for the freedom, peace and opportunity we as a generation need to understand where it is coming from, accepting and remembering the past but letting go of it at the same time.

I think this is a good way of closing this week’s blog. A bit sentimentality about love and war. About how life really is and that there is always something better, something greater, and more opportunities to grasp. Yet, not ever to forget the opportunity we have today, being grateful for what we have. That counts.

Buddha bless.
Volker

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