Sunday Column (285)

Steve Jobs loved Bob Dylan. I started listening to him after reading Steve’s biography and recently heard that the first album he ever listened to was Blood on the tracks. So I downloaded it in his memory and realised I really enjoy this album.

Going back in time. Looking at the counter culture in SF in the 70ies. Hippies. Campervans and independence. Life was good. Life is great. We just need to make it happen. Yet I am not living in the past, quite the opposite. I am living in the now with a strong future outlook. We can only change things in the now, laying the foundation of the future.

Another week passed with 5 am starts. It is getting better to get up. One morning I go running, 5K, and the next I do some circuits and work, or as on Tuesday end up watching postman Pat with the boys. I don’t do this to be super productive only but to gain back time. I come home from work around half 7 on a normal day. Before I know it I spend the evening not doing much, having my tea and go to bed at 10; staying up longer results in me watching rubbish on TV, my brain just ain’t working that late anymore.

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So I gain 90 minutes waking minutes. Enough time to exercise and shower or to write on a blog post or review a few articles. I even fixed a squeaking door at 5 am, whatever comes to mind, whiteboard sessions etc. There is plenty to do. This also means I can start working on the train or follow up on anything I didn’t do in the morning. If I keep up this routine, I won’t compromise on sleep (6-7 hours are plenty), I get enough exercise (3×30 min/week + bike at weekend), and I should be able to get more things done. However, the transition period is tough, it takes 60 days to form a new habit. Wish me luck.

For the next few months I am hoping to be more proactive over at tidWOWs which is my productivity site. You won’t see much, but might have noticed that I published a book on productivity which also was available for free this week. Plan is to move it into the public domain and make it available for study, research and public editing, very similar to a Wikipedia. I will of course keep you posted on progress.

My wife and kids were visiting grannie in Scotland over the last week and I had the house to myself. It is quiet without them, yet it is nice to be able and just do what you want to do. Cleaning some bits in the fish tank late at night, turning the lights off in the hallway or leaving bits and pieces lying around as reminders. All of those things that ain’t possible with small people being around. And of course a PJ day. A day filled of movies, pizza, snoozes, doing nothing and plenty of it. I got bored eventually but still enjoyed the freedom to do it.

That’s really it. Not the most exciting week, but hey it is still holiday season. We are moving into autumn. It is getting colder, the bike stand is out and the fire has been on a few times. My most favourite season.

Have a great week,
Volker

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Amazing MTB ride #5amwow

Nothing like watching the sunrise as you cycle up the Ditchling Beacon, then across the South Downs, and chase cows down a chalky path. Back home for 7.

Moving down here 2 years ago was a lifestyle choice. And what a life we are living!

Feeling blessed!

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Sunday Column (284)

A first week after a week off is never easy. This week saw one of the oddest days I have had for a long time. You are so tired you are imagining things, things not working not due to your fault and things that could go wrong do. And you are stuck without emails for a day due to a server blackout. I had better days and weeks, yet I started getting up at 5 am again – making it all worthwhile to get back on track to exercise and taking action towards some of my goals.

Family: for the first time since I moved to London, my brother and his family came to visit. This was great. Not only did it give us time to catch up, but the cousins managed to play all day, entertaining themselves. It might sound odd, but we almost get to the point of not knowing what to do with ourselves if the kids play all day upstairs. You still have to be there for them of course but they get really independent. Life is getting better. Day by day.

Also, it seems as if I slowly convince my wife to add a dog to the Ballueder household. Stay tuned ;-)

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Some of you might have seen the pictures of our camping holiday. It was a great time we spent together. Going back to work this week made me think a lot about last week’s break. Nice to be able to just switch off for a week. Nothing to worry about.

Then you come back home and the builders haven’t finished what they promised. The rain keeps penetrating out walls and you get a bit worried. Surely it will sort itself out soon. Maybe some interior work needs to wait till September. We had enough building work for a while, time to focus on something else and not to worry about the house. Given the latest weather this is easier said than done.

I also stayed away from Facebook for a week. Over the past few months I added more people on Facebook, increasing my circle to non family and close friends. As a work colleague said, we crossed the a Rubicon, we can now share things on Facebook. It is fun to connect and one cannot worry about privacy issues. People will see my kids and will see what I am up to. However, I already noticed that I post a lot less. After the week’s break I realised that besides ‘googling’ something and emails there is not much to do on a phone. The news and Tetris, catch up TV, podcasts. But nothing urgent, and playing with the kids takes priority. Lego does anyway ;-)

It is interesting to see that sometimes you just need to remove things for a while to break a habit. In return, to form a habit, it takes 30 to 60 days. That is something I am doing at the moment. As mentioned I started getting up at 5 am again, instead of alternating between a 5 and 6 am start pending whether I exercise in the morning or not. I want to use my mornings. For exercising, meditation, writing, brainstorming. In return I am happy to go to bed early. Routines and habits form our backbone of life. And as mentioned above, with the kids being easier to look after, there is time to be spend on a variety of things again.

It has been a good week. Despite the slow summer I still manage to fill my diary and have many meetings. Agency wide presentations and individual C-level meetings. I had bad days but also made a lot of positive progress. Life is good. I ordered my Sonos subwoofer and look forward to a relaxing bank holiday weekend.

One sometimes just need to get on with things. Loving life and make it happen.

I have the feeling this is exactly what I do.

Have an amazing week.
Volker

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Sunday Column (283)

Nothing like a holiday. I have been working towards that for a few months. Stress with building work at the house. In a new job for just over six months. New challenges at work and with the family. A heat wave and sticky weather. A road bike and changes in training schedule….all that contributed to us, or to be more precise me, needing a break. Yet you also set yourself a deadline. A date of breaking up from work and routine.

I was actually looking forward to our trip in a campervan. Romantic, yet awkwardly small, a lot of adventure for someone like me. It all started when we picked up the van on Saturday morning. A brand new Volkswagen campervan, 2014 reg, with two gas hobs, a fridge, pop up roof, 6 gear stick shift (not really used to that anymore), and last but not least an amazing amount of storage.

We are not experienced campers, didn’t plan much ahead, so realised as we were travelling along that we needed things like bin bags, wet wipes, frying oil, etc. if it was our own I would add a pre-tent, mobile toilet and some kind of towel holder to it. Whilst spacious, it is all about organising the space, packing cleverly and given some of the camp sites, our own shower would have been nice.

How do you sleep in a van? Not bad actually. Once the kids are in bed you share a bottle of wine and go to bed. You don’t sleep great, the kids wake you up, you hear nature from early morning. Latter is the beauty of camping I suppose. Waking up with nature, feeling tired all day.

What do we do during the day? Actually the same you do with 3 or 5 year olds at the weekend. Swimming, play grounds, dairy farms and pizza out of a box.

With every night being different, I feel like a generation a few years ago…the hippies that invented the VW camper van culture. The free spirit of doing what you want to do, going where you want to go, stopping, starting, living out of the van. No plan, no destiny, living the moment. A smart and true hippy lifestyle. Nothing my or my wife’s parents lived. I never went camping in my life, my wife never saw a cow being milked until this holiday.

There is something romantic about camping. The sun sets, the sun rise, the freedom and independence, the no mobile phone reception, the “I ignore Facebook and the internet” and the non availability. And then it started to rain, the cloths are damp, the trail to the toilet becomes a nightmare, the muddy feet get mud into the van.

When you then sit back, Bob Dylan is playing Shelter from the storm, you feel like life is nothing else than pure happiness. One sits back and wonders what one should teach one’s children? Enjoy life and don’t bother about the future? Be a free spirit? Take drugs and enjoy yourself? Don’t be free, don’t enjoy yourself, have a career and start a family as this is what you have to do? How much of an influence should we take on their direction, or should we ask how much we have taken already?

Each generation is different. And that is what matters, each generation defines their own life and values. Their own way of living. And whilst I have the feeling that my wife and I redefining something new, I would expect that our parents and grandparents and great grandparents thought exactly the same!

We had a great bonding holiday. We laughed a lot, slept a lot, played a lot, were there for each other and bonded as team Ballueder. The boys played football for Germany, made friends, ate icecream, the best fish and chips in their life (and I in mine), and we didn’t watch TV, I didn’t check Facebook or work emails. We had a great time, you never know, we might do it again.

I look forward to the next adventure with the team.

Have a great week.
Volker

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Sunday Column (282)

Nothing like Monday morning. After a nice and sunny weekend, a late Sunday reading my papers and catching up with everyday life, I ended up sitting with C on Monday morning discussing thunderstorms, lightning whilst thunder filled the fresh, rainy air. C sat, wrapped up in a blanket, on our new window seat in the kitchen, just watching the outside. He likes thunderstorms and keeps asking me about whether I liked them as a boy and if he could watch TV, as mummy told him TVs would break thanks to lightning.

Anyway, my national rail app alerted me that trains are delayed due to lightning and I keep wondering if there is any excuse not good enough for train companies to delay or cancel trains? However, coming to the station, meeting a few friends, there were no trains for a while. I eventually got on one and my journey and day/week could begin.

There is some positives here. The garden needed the water, it was long overdue. Then the dust that has been collected everywhere around the house from the repointing got washed away. The car which I hosed down on Sundays got “hosed” down again.

And it isn’t a busy period at work, the summer slump. So whether I sit on the train working through some emails or in the office doesn’t matter too much at the moment. Holiday seasons is upon us. Having said that, the rest of the week got really busy.

Whilst sitting on trains, I noticed an interesting behaviour. Often, and that includes myself, one puts his bag next to oneself when travelling. If someone wants to sit next to you, and I normally sit on the aisle as I am a bit taller and like to stretch my legs, they ask and I happily get up and move my bag. Of course I do! You get the odd people not wanting to ask or if really busy I move my bag, signalling my willingness to make space.

Yet others don’t. They are holding on to their bags, almost paranoid not to take up space, eager to jump up if someone just looks at the empty seat besides them. I think people can ask. And then again others just plank their bag on the seat next to them, ignoring people standing and use the spare seat as a luggage rack. Those are the ones even I get tempted to sit next to, just to ask them to move their luggage.

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Train life, commuter life. You then get the people playing or typing on their phones and tablets with the sound on, talking loud on the phone or drink and shout on the train. The nervous ones afraid of missing their plane from Gatwick. The studious ones sitting reading their papers. The working ones doing emails, spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations. A train is a micro ecosystem of what’s happening in our society. But more often than not I cannot even enjoy it, as I am busy myself ;-)

Hassocks station got a new train station. A 2 million investment leaving the tunnel connecting the two platforms flooded. These are the things I don’t understand. Or the people trying to dodge their fares. Without wanting to have a general moan, if one spends money to fix things you would expect them to be fixed. Our house wasn’t quite finished despite them saying it would be within one week. It now has been two already.

The joys of life. We just have to look forward, think positive and believe it all works out in the end. And it does. It just ends up costing more money, time and unnecessary hassle. But we are all getting there.

The strong belief, as I was discussing a lot last year, that wherever you are in life, you must believe that this is the right place to be. If you doubt it, change it, but go with your gut. Trust the universe and your gut feeling that life will take you to your (final) destination. Not saying this is easy. It requires a lot of patience and trust in the intangible universe. Are you ready for that?

Have a great week everyone, whilst I didn’t want to complain about the weather, a cooler breeze might be nice for a while.

Stay cool!
Volker

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Sunday Column (281)

Obsession and paranoia – I guess that’s another way of putting efficiency and perfectionism. I am saying that in remembrance of a quote I had on my dorm room wall, something along the lines that there is a fine line between genius and insanity.

I am obsessed with exercise lately, being paranoid with weight gain. Over the past months, I heavily increased my cardio exercise, cycling mainly. Yet cycling doesn’t burn as many calories as running, so I gained some weight, which is also due to muscle increase. However, lots of trips, no regular routine and media lunches didn’t help.

I wrote about this vicious cycle before and I am eager to break it. Not only if you drink a lot at night, you have greasy food the next day, don’t exercise and slump a bit. If you don’t pick yourself up, you end up on the downward spiral, gaining weight and get unfit. I was like that a few years ago.

Hence my paranoia leads me to healthier food, less fried things, more salad and more high intensity workouts, weight lifting, running, longer more intense bike rides. It must be done if I ever want to get rid of the gut and keep it off. Plus I really want to get fitter too.

Then the builders came back this week. New cladding, repointing and some minor tweaks to the house. Repointing is a sh@t job, no automation, monotone, dusty. Yet, it needs to be done. It reminds me of me working as a student having to remove the fascia/plaster from the outside of a house. 8 hours hitting a wall with a hammer. Persistence, similar to obsession I suppose.

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The amazing thing that happened this week was Colin finishing reception. His first year of (pre-) school is over. He was so excited to tell me about him having six weeks off, going camping, going to see nanny in Scotland and to go into first year after that. Bliss. It is great to see him so excited about school, learning and playing with friends.

I remember, vaguely, how my dad was off for 6 weeks during the summer, having been a teacher. We went on holidays for 2-3 weeks at a time, spend the rest at home with my mum. I am now the dad but I don’t have six weeks off. Not like my counterparts in France, Scandinavia, Italy or Spain. In other countries things just slow down, it is hot, people spend the summer with their family. That is nice. The main priority isn’t work but family.

And whilst I am writing all this another train was cancelled and I am sitting on an overcrowded Gatwick Express from Brighton. I am sitting, a lot of people are standing. Business people and holiday makers who arrive at Gatwick will end up having to stand or if they have too much luggage they might have to wait for the next train. A bit shocking really. What an impression are we giving people.

Let me finish with another thought. I remember the summers above, the summer holidays ones, to be spend with lots of ice cream, it being hot and me getting sun burned. I remember not being worried about the sun, not being paranoid about my weight and just naturally cycling and being active all day. Today I moan about the heat. The sweaty days, the fat food and almost force myself to exercise. Times have changed. But actually, we used to enjoy it. Today it seems more a bother than anything. Because our focus shifted so much towards our jobs, towards survival, we took on more responsibility, more burden. Our paranoia takes over. Slowly but surely. Our obsession with the weather gets us to complain about the heat rather than to enjoy it.

With those thoughts I leave you for another week. Enjoy the sun, exercise and stay happy. Nothing more, nothing less.

I am just back from a great weekend with friends. BBQ, fun. No worries, no paranoia, but some obsession with food ;-)

Happy Days!
Volker

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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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