Sunday Column (414)

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Life is heavy going at the moment. I am loving it though, or do I? Of course I love it? Where do I start? We had a great weekend with my folks, discussing some heavier topics. Guess that’s what you do when parents reach a certain age. Then Monday I felt rubbish. The virus that has been lurking around hit me hard. I should have stayed at home but went in instead. Result was that I worked from home Tuesday trying to rest up a bit. It helped so by end of week I was back on the treadmill. Still not 100% but 100% better than Monday. Then last night a temperature hit me, I felt rotten most of today. I guess it is end of year and I am running on empty a bit. Lots to do, lots to sort out before the end of the year, and not much time left. We will be ok. I envisage myself to sit there on Christmas Eve with a glass of wine in my hand, looking back at the year, and smile. And to be honest I will. I know I will. There are some other challenges going on I cannot speak about in public. Things I have seen and experienced before, but to see them with closed and loved ones gets harder. They touch you differently. It is different. But before you panic, it won’t be as bad as it might sound. Sometimes it is difficult to share things here which I cannot speak about as people might interpret it the wrong way, so don’t even try 😉 And just when you think you got things aligned to work through, someone hit our car at the car park and made a runner. WTF is going on? It feels a bit like I cannot win, which makes me even more determine to succeed. In ALL aspects.

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So what’s the exciting bits at the moment? My book is almost there. I’d say end of year is the time I publish it on Amazon or find a publisher, who knows. Yes, I am very excited about it. Another deadline to become more British. I signed up for the next attempt to pass the Life in the UK test. Actually it seems rather simple (touch wood) once you lived in this country as long as I have. It makes sense in the process, yet the first time around they didn’t accept my ID. So the pressure is back on and I am planning to do it all before Christmas. Fingers crossed. Another step closer to Brexit and Naturalisation. A friend of mine is considering to leave the UK, another one already has. Theresa is aiming to negotiate better deals for European Citizens to stay and vice versa, British people to stay. There is a lot of insecurity in the air, making life a bit daunting. Hammond fights with the budget, as more people getting self employed to evade taxes. I totally get all that, yet I couldn’t leave Britain. I love it here. I consider myself more British than German. And where would I go? Even the wife isn’t considering NZ anymore, so it might be Hassocks for a while longer. Or Bali as a friend suggested, but I have never been. That is, if Southern gets their train services sorted. Whilst I had one train this week being early, next week the drivers start striking on top of the conductors’ strike. I guess I will be working from home a bit, and the economy will suffer more. Southern is so sh*! The only silver lining are a compensation of one month rail ticket and delay repay for 15 minutes delay. Wow, that means I can claim every other train! The next weeks are going to get tough train wise but we will survive. Think Christmas. Think wine.

The kids are excited about Christmas. They wake us up early and ask if Christmas is happening yet. Bless. I thought they might have got behind the Santa Claus story by now. But they haven’t, which is really nice. Of course I could do with a lie in rather than being woken up at the weekends but who am I to complain. An afternoon nap in front of the fire sorts me out.

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I look around the train, then out of the window, as I started writing this post, and the houses on my early commute and a touch of frost covers most roofs. It looks idyllic. Life is great. There are millions of people that got up this morning, thought it was cold, put the heating on and a cuppa. However, then I am thinking of those that are not. Not getting up, not getting a warm cuppa. We are in a very fortunate position where and how we live. And in times like these, when winter blues sets in, I keep reminding myself of it. My wife said she read a ‘rubbish’ article suggesting the world comes to an end in 10 years time (see quote above). Let’s assume for a moment that this could be right. What would that mean for you? What if you once of a sudden had a deadline to miss. Would you pack your bags and live your dreams? And if so, what are your dreams? What is on your bucket list to do in the next few years? What is the plan if it fails, either the world coming to an end or your dreams. I don’t believe that dreams can fail. You don’t want to look back in ten years and have regrets, do you? If the prediction fails, you would just go back to what you did. You cannot loose. It is not possible! So you would try and do what you should and most probably succeed, as your energies align positively. Wait for my book!

As I am sitting on another train journey, studying and reading, I think this was a good year so far. I am in an amazing place with amazing people doing some outstanding work. I feel I am making a difference, and touching lives for the better. That’s amazing. That’s fun, and it gives me a great inner satisfaction. As I am getting older, I am more intrinsically motivated, a discussion I had with one of my staff this week. I blink against the morning sun and see the world go by, listening to my favourite tunes. Life is actually quite amazing.

Have an outstanding week. Touch some lives. It makes you feel great.

Best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (413)

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Friday. Around 2 pm and I am sitting on a train home. I have a half day and enjoying myself. Kind of. Light Up Hassocks awaits me. The yearly highlight of switching on the Christmas lights. I am doing the school pick up, my parents are coming. By time of posting this will all be past. It is nice to take a half day, get some initial work done, then chilling in the afternoon. Particularly at such a gorgeous day like today. It is almost too bright to work. And it is almost December too. And it got bitterly cold later on. Light up Hassocks was nice, the weekend with my parents was nice, so all good. The routine starts again tomorrow.

I summed up my life on Facebook on Friday, I thought I share it here. It sometimes feels that simple:

Ok. Left work early to attend light up Hassocks. Parade and lights and fair ground rides. Kids and parents and wife had a fab time. Feeling ripped off paying two months of pocket money on light sabres but hey, it’s for the greater good and the kids. When parents went to bed I finished off work and now reflecting on the day. Remembering the youngest saying ‘Daddy,I haven’t seen you all week and I don’t remember what you looked like’ (which isn’t true). But sometimes feels like it. And what if (not unlikely) Southern rails had had another 20 min delay on top of what they did. I would have had to have a contingency plan for pick up. I did. I didn’t need it. But I cannot trust Southern.
Doesn’t that sum up my life? Dominated by Southern (yet hey are not accountable or responsible), great friends and a full on life.
Enough for tonight. Weekend. Looking after the loved ones. Time to chill. Moaning over.

Maybe to add, a friend didn’t get home in time because his train was 40 minutes delayed. Life could be so much better without Southern, or with any reliable train service. I know I am going on about train travel but it is just so unreliable.

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Yet the week was kicking off with a media owner event. It was great, yet one thing I noticed (and no, it isn’t criticism): breakfast was from Pret. And so is most day’s breakfast if it is from a media owner or when I go into the office early, or when I have a quick snack for lunch or in between. Where is that obsession of us Brits (and want to be Brits) with Pret coming from? A quid for a decent brew of filter coffee, Apple pay accepted from day one, a sandwich for everybody’s taste, cookies that taste nice, breakfast that seems to cater for everyone and it is convenient too. Not one street corner without a Pret it seems. There is even a vegetarian one. The first one opened in 1986 and they look like a great corporate, with a CEO blog and apprenticeship schemes, organic food without additives, and used to be owned partly by MacDonalds. It’s sister company is Itsu, the up market sushi shop, which can be found most often in close proximity to a Pret. Maybe they need an agency, what a fantastic brand to work on and take to the next level. The love for standard good food seems to align us – the nation – in Pret 🙂 And I love the salmon and egg baguette for breakfast, unless I have a hungover and prefer their sausage muffins….yes, I am obsessed too 🙂

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Another phenomenon that kicked off this week seemed to be around programmatic. A few people keenly voiced their opinion on programmatic being overrated. I have said that before. Where are we with programmatic advertising? I did present that to a client too. Back in the days we were keen on having real time bidding (RTB) to make impression by impression decision making in real time via a bidder. Nowadays, we execute that and a lot more all from one single line item, highly targeted and across multiple channels. Whether that is real time or not, it is programmatic, it is traded in a programmable fashion. So what does that mean? The whole industry gets automated, and we call it programmatic – for some companies a great chance to be ‘specialists’ and to hide margins, for others it is just another acronym that confuses their clients. As a friend on Linkedin wrote this week: the bottom line is whether we answer the question what value we add to the client. And of course, this is a ‘yes we do’ or ‘no we don’t’. Yet the main differentiator is not whether we execute programmatic, but whether we know how to navigate the ecosystem, understand limitations of ‘make or buy’ and use data in a clever way to our clients’ advantage. That paired with excellent planning makes a good agency (and a few other ingredients). But this wasn’t supposed to be a sales pitch, yet my astonishment of how advertisers just cannot understand my part of the industry. So feel free to look up my Linkedin article on AI – take it with a pinch of salt – but aren’t we falling into a big trap of complicating things? And that is why some programmatic consultants still get paid a high day rate without being questioned. As you can clearly see, I am settling in well in agency land. It is time to get closer to clients and make them understand what adtech is all about!

Another theme, a red line throughout my conversations with some mentors and friends this week, suggests that there is more out there to which people and companies aspire to or should at least. As I reviewed my productivity book this week, where I am addressing those situations, I am wondering how to best help. How to best move things along vs. moving things up, vs. making the first move to take massive actions. Where I am leading with that isn’t quite obvious. I guess it is about doing your daily job and thinking beyond and taking over responsibility and accountability (spot a theme, Southern?). To perform beyond your duty and to use what’s in between your ears: no not your hair, your brain! To do what we preach and suggest to our kids. I see that across people and then across organisations. One changes the other, pushing the next. By being able to be consciously aware of what is actually happening around you, what happens in life, and how it is portrayed to you, how you portray things on the outside too. Exciting mind games, great discussions are fuelled on the back of these discussions I had this week. And it is exciting and it makes me grow and want more. I hope my book will reflect that too. And the more people I can get on board, the more exciting it gets for the journey along. It is about my 5 people I spend the most time with, they challenge me, they move me along.

And then there was the guy on the train, after a few beers, who explained to me how he works for a German bank, has an MBA, hates Brexit, worked in Switzerland and wrote a book. Lots of synergies there. We had a good yupp and catch up and I truly enjoyed speaking to him. These are those above random conversations that push you over, take over your thoughts and influence you. I might never meet the chap again, or maybe I will. But he would agree with all of the above and how you need to look in and take it beyond, and it all will fall into place eventually.

Enough of a brain-drain this week. Hope it was useful and sparked some thoughts.

Best wishes,
Volker

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Sunday Column (412)

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The week started off nicely after a relaxing weekend. Desperately needed. Finally, after 4 years in our house, the work started to get our driveway done. Those who know me know what that means. On the one hand it means that we got all renovation done in the house, yet started over again thanks to the wifey, but it also and foremost means that we soon can park more than one car off street. It will be practical and a feature to the house. Parking is awful in our cul-de-sac thanks to commuters and people going on holidays from Gatwick, parking their car for weeks at a time. We are now independent and Daddy can consider his mid life crisis dream. We shall see. It feels like a long journey in this place comes to an end. We made it ours.

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Whilst we enduring the mild weather, we still get a bit of mud into the house. All be done by next Friday they say. Everything is going to be done some time, isn’t it. No, I am not having thoughts about dying yet, still far too early and too many dreams to finish, but we had a big presentation this week. I knew it would be done by 11.30 on Thursday. I knew that a few weeks ago. The same as I know that some other meetings, next Tuesday, next Friday etc. are coming and going. And they will be over and I will survive them. Some I have prepared better than others and some I have to shine and sell, others I just ‘attend’. My point I am trying to make, and this isn’t different to any other job I ever had, is that time doesn’t stand still. We have all the same time, 24 hours in a day to be precise, and we sometimes start with the end in mind, the task for a presentation. And as we go along the journey unfolds, and eventually we will get there. You don’t let yourself fail, do you? And if you fail, that’s good, as you learn from it. So not that failure is bad but you wouldn’t want to fail on purpose. At a presentation on Friday someone quoted Edison, not that he tried to invent the lightbulb by failing but by trying 1000 different ways. Language is beatiful, isn’t it?

Life is intense at the moment. This is due to work being busy and I am still finding my feet. But I am settling in very well, really enjoying the challenge. I finally find a bit more of a routine and seem to get things done. That’s what I like. And I enjoy being busy. This week I also managed to catch up with some friends, long overdue, which I haven’t seen for a while. That was very nice. I also managed to to do my back in. Despite having pain last week and a massage last weekend, I must have pulled a muscle in my back. Spasm whilst running and difficulties getting out of bed. Ibuprofen and a bit of rest should do the trick, but one feels unable. I find I almost got addicted to running and exercising, so not knowing what to do with myself at 5 am is difficult 😉 I pass the time, don’t get me wrong, I am actually reviewing the next productivity book at the moment, so a bit of extra time helps. Not being able to follow your passion and get that energy out of your system is difficult though. I’ll make up for it. In most areas life seems to fall into place. Exciting.

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Home. That’s the place I am far away from London and work. It is not so much that I am bothered by either, but about having a physical distance to the place I spend my week at. Looking out of the living room window and seeing a lot of green, a lot of trees and being able to walk into woods or fields within 5 minutes of leaving the house is priceless. Nice clouds, lovely sunrises and sunsets. A short drive and we are at the beach. The fire in the wood stove that goes on when we are cold and the gym in the garage for my every day routine. The place I feel safe and happy, confident and relaxed. And so does my family too. Peace. Looking at recent house prices it also seems as if we gained a bit on the house over the years, which of course doesn’t really matter. We are here to stay.

Yet, with the nights getting longer, and it getting darker and colder outside, it is nice to sit down, relax and reflect. Where has my journey taking me? Where have I been coming from? What have I learned? I am content. Happy.

From my little corner of this world, I wish you a nice autumn and relaxing weekends. Not long before Christmas now.

Best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (411)

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When a week starts with little sleep, you know it is going to be a long one. Hey ho, no surprise then. Additional to little or bad sleep came a virus. Nothing serious but I caught myself drifting away in meetings and just falling asleep. I felt knackered all week but surprisingly pulled through. Tough lad 😉 I couldn’t stop exercising, needed my daily early morning fix. To top a Monday after a busy weekend, we had a trespasser on the line and it took me 3 hours to get home at night. Some kid wanted to go on YouTube and ran on the tracks. WTF? To not miss my appointment with the embassy, I was worried and panicking about trains on Tuesday morning. But I made it and soon I have a German ID card. Why? See below. And I wondered then, whether this week could be any more eventful…

The non reliability of train services is something I am fighting since I moved to Hassocks. The challenge of not knowing whether you make it home or when. The “no control” of what’s happening and the “no information” drives me potty. Our old place, Beckenham would have been a 60 GBP taxi ride, this could have been done. Hassocks is more like double that. So far I always managed to get home and that’s the main thing. Having said that, I shouldn’t jinx it, but I am sure it is fine. One day the train companies won’t strike, the company will understand the needs of their customers and so on….anyway. I am learning to not get annoyed about it and accept it. Not always easy though. Yet whenever there is a delay, plans and meetings need to be re-arranged and cancelled. This shines a bad light on me. But I made it home every night. Not like others. The news about the tram accident hit me this week, how awful. Too well do I know that bit of the tracks, having lived in Beckenham and used the tram regularly.

Coming back to trains for a minutes. I am not accountable for Southern’s f* ups but I am responsible for my own work. I worked on the train Monday night, got a seat (commuter experience I suppose and a bit of luck) and got a lot done. There is a silver lining. You trade that with no dinner, not seeing the kids and an early start the next day. Another bad night sleep, it was a few times my youngest woke me this week due to nightmares or needing the loo. Thanks R, anytime 😉 At least it is not our new mattress which I believe is great: less back pain unless I sleep beyond 8 hours, which doesn’t happen very often. I can live with 6 hours sleep but would prefer a good 7 hours now and then. Never mind, avoiding alcohol and eating little keeps me focused and productive. I like to think so anyway. My exercise on top and energy is flowing. I am winning first thing in the morning, so how can Southern take that away from me? They can’t and won’t. I resent them. I am not even hating them, they are just not worth my time. So I stop writing about them, shall I 🙂

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I haven’t shared my thoughts about the new Macbook yet. My watch is great, an expensive fitness tracker with some nice features. Exactly what I wanted and I am enjoying it. Then I am debating to get a new Macbook. But the tiny one is not very powerful, yet enough for what I do. The Pro is nice but not necessary, too powerful almost but has this nice bar. Is it really useful so? I bet it is but not for me. So balancing that it comes down to my tax return next year and timing. Maybe the Macbook Air gets a facelift in Q1 and I get a new version then. Or they stop productions it. We shall see. But nothing out there that excites me but our new stove fan, which essentially just circulates hot air. However this is useful if your wood burner is buried in a hole in the wall like ours. So that was a good investment. Speaking of which I had to buy a new rucksack for work. My current one, after the first one broke within warranty, broke again. This time outside warranty. I opted for a cheaper version, why buy the same again if I anticipate it not lasting longer than 18 months. Bad quality, overpriced. Amazon review is not pretty.

Just when I thought I covered the week and wanted to congratulate the first female president of the United States….I was equally shocked to when I woke up and saw the results as when I woke up and saw the Brexit results. Donald Trump winning the election. Is that the dawn of a 4th Reich? Will he be as bad as people make him out to be. Surely not, one would hope. But we said that before. I am scared a bit. Markets are down. Brexit. Now Trump. What has the world come to? An article I shared on Facebook points out what we have been seeing for a while, something I strongly believe in. As we humans going through phases in our life, following patterns, so do nations, so does the world. Up and down. From liberal to radical and back. As if each generation needs to re-learn what we just been through. As if we cannot learn from the past. And some don’t. The article I read can be found History and Brexit and Trump:

Challenges for people seem to be the following:

1. They are only looking at the present, not the past or future
2. They are only looking immediately around them, not at how events connect globally
3. Most people don’t read, think, challenge, or hear opposing views

Isn’t that scary. And analysis shows it isn’t really the blue collar, low income class that voted for Trump. We cannot pin it down to intellect, probably American working class has a lot more common sense! Adolf is long out of most people’s mind. Most Americans (no generalisation intended, but I remember conversations when I lived in the states…) won’t even know about the 3rd Reich, or even think that’s just something in history that happened. And it did. But how could they learn from it given the distance they had to it. They are too far away, even Europeans have difficulties remembering it, which is even worse. I am scared. I am afraid that the things that changed in this world and made this world a better place come to an end. The fall of the Berlin wall. The end of the wars. Stabilisation in the Middle East. Peace across the world, or the majority of it.

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When I grew up I was dreaming of things based on what I knew. I now know things have changed. Technology has advanced. I dreamed of having two phones, one downstairs and one upstairs, to make private calls. I had no idea that I wouldn’t have a landline today. We cannot anticipate that things stay the same, so maybe change is good. We must be hopeful and we must believe in better. Look forward as Tim Cook said, moving forward together. That the human kind, which is a surviving kind, will pull through and will ensure us surviving and creating a better world. It strengthen my belief that it is down to us to make things happen, take massive action, to educate and to explain this to our children. We have to take on the challenge and responsibility for generations to come. I tried speaking to my 5 year old on Wednesday morning, and he asked if the world cracks when the “bad man” wins. I kissed him and said that love will always win, and that the world won’t fall apart and that we humans are a surviving species. And here is another dad trying to explain things to his daughters. And from one dad to another, let’s hope our children understand and never differentiate people on the basis of gender, race, religion, belief or origin. Never again. Aaron Sorkin’s letter is Vanityfair.

I am putting in for a British citizenship, hence needed the ID card. I am hoping to create a better future for my children. I want to stay in the country I love. That is what I am hoping for. What I cannot control is people and people’s decisions. Or maybe I can. I guess anyone reading this post will be influenced by my thoughts. Maybe I should go more public trying toI will continue to observe this thought.

We could discuss life purpose and all, but I guess that’s for another time. This post is a lot longer than anticipated. But what a week? Most people will get on with their daily life, go to work, do what they always done and end up shrugging their shoulders, thinking Trump is only in America, far away. We cannot do that and make the same mistake that in my view the Americans have done in the 2nd world war. We cannot wait until late to get involved. We must be aware and step in soon enough to stop anything awful happening. That is what scares me.

I am not someone for praying and above shows there can not be any evidence to do so. Yet I would suggest us all to pray, to gather and hope for the world to turn better again. And hopefully it will, one day anyway. We must believe in the love and the good in people and help educate the world. I fear to answer to my children in a few years time, and I cannot not be accountable for this world going to shambles. We must take responsibility for our nation and world. Everyone together, baby steps, and forward together.

Before I ramble on, I better stop. I am sad, not even angry. 9/11 passed this week. 11/11 passed this week. Lets not forget.
It’s the end of the world as we know it. Times are changing. Let’s hope and action for the better.

God bless America. God bless the world.
Volker

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Sunday Column (410)

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What a week. A great week actually. Being in pitch season we worked a lot. Nothing extreme yet it was close to 60 hours. I am loving it though. Because it is fun, a great team, and a great goal. And for those who know me, if I say we worked a lot, we really did. Long hours. Early hours. Collaborative. Successful. Amazing team. One team, one dream – that’s what they say! I do enjoy my job and I mean it. Whilst I am self conscious that people in my company read my blurb, I am also conscious that this means there is an interest in my person. That is nice to know. I am no celebrity, but in my little world of online and digital marketing, people seem to know of me at least 😉 That’s not a bad thing.

Anyhow, I am due to present 5 facts about myself later on this month for the company. I am excited about it. Not that anything isn’t known about me, there will be (hopefully), some new things coming up that people didn’t know about me. I might just put them on here then too. We shall see. Every time you join a new group/job people need to get to know you. It is a chance for you to redefine yourself, and reposition yourself, but also things that other people that know you take for granted, will have to be re-established, e.g. working hard, being reliable, not being good at visuals.

Actually this week was the first week back from holidays too. An amazing week off that finished with the annual fireworks. We took the kids and they loved it. And the bonfire afterwards too. And I enjoyed it too. We as a family had a great time, and given the age of the kids now, we can do those things, go to bed a bit later and do things we could never do before. That is so nice. But of course life is changing. The wife goes back to work, so on Sunday I couldn’t take the youngest to his best friend’s party because she needed the car. Luckily we got a lift in the end. Yet another excuse to get myself the midlife crisis Jaguar. I am saving up for it!

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Not seeing the kids during the week isn’t nice, but when you see them it is more intense, which is nice again. Not sure that makes sense. Yet when I was working on a document at 6 am on Thursday and the oldest woke up and sat next to me, wanting to download his week, I couldn’t. He isn’t self conscious enough yet to mind, and enjoyed watching some TV (whilst I had my noise cancellation head phones on), but it isn’t nice. Yet, when you think you get a little bit of a rest and the youngest wakes you at 3.30 am on Friday, and you cannot go back to sleep, that’s not great either. So Friday was a bit of a struggle to stay awake and focused. You just cannot win, and I am not complaining. Having seen one of my supplier earlier in the week, he looked shattered. New borns, yes I remember them, however it is getting better. So a 4 hour night is fine once in a while. Just always happens on the wrong day 🙁

Brexit is another topic this week. Look at what is happening. The government now needs approval from parliament to trigger article 50. Wow. That’s going to be interesting. Does that mean we might not have a Brexit. It looks like the whole country now understands which consequences a Brexit might have. Are we back paddling? Hopefully we are. I have an appointment with the German embassy this coming week to get an ID card. This way I can start the process of sending off for a naturalisation to become British hopefully early next year. A lengthy process but I should be alright. I am married to a Scot. But, and I think I mentioned it before, if Scotland joins the EU and splits from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, what is going to happen? Maybe my wife has to rely on me to become an English citizen? What a mess! For the time being I am glad Brexit isn’t Brexit yet. Maybe it never comes to it, yet I am sure Britain will negotiate different terms with Europe regardless. Whatever happens, I hope I can stay and don’t have to worry.

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There wasn’t much else going on this week to be honest. Work, a bit of play, some sleep and my exercise routine. I really try to not miss my runs. Another train strike on Friday, some early days in the office. Getting shit done. I am buzzing of the thought of work. I know it’s sad, but that’s how I roll. Yet the weekend was all about the boys. To unwind, to spend time with them and make sure to make up time. Birthday parties, playing in the forest. Then again you can never make up time. But you can be more in the moment and be more with them. And they are giving back. They are enjoying to have me around for different input to their mum. We can do boys stuff 🙂 So to my earlier point, once I get a (car) toy, maybe they help me maintain a semi classic car? We shall see.

Next week is another busy one. There are a few people I would like to catch up with. I had to postpone a few meetings and lunches and catch ups due to train strikes, work and other matters. Back to a more regulated, more normal life. Nope, won’t happen, illusion. Yet that’s the game I am in now and I love being centre field. That’s where I excel.

Onwards.
Upwards.

Have a good one,
Volker

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Sunday Column (409)

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Having a week off is nice. Isn’t it? You are able to connect with yours, yourself and your family. You focus on the very important things in life. And you realise your biggest hobby is actually writing. I spend a few nights just drafting ideas. Drafting this blog and think whilst doing it. It is my outlet, my sanity my idea of fun. I am not good at taking pictures, not good at videos, not patient enough for miniature modelling, but I do like to tell a good story and develop, and challenge people. Meet me 🙂

The day before going on PTO (I adopted this term over the years, having worked for a few American companies), is always hectic. You want to finish everything you can and cannot finish. And just as I was heading out the office more things kicked off. You have this moment where you think that you must stay and fix things. But you have a team, and they will do a good job, and you are not irreplaceable. So it took me the weekend to put together some thoughts and guidance, some additional finishing touches, and I was off to slowly relax for half term. You never finish. And you need to let things go. A few texts and emails on Sunday night confirmed that people could do without me. Not permanently though 😉 And I shall see the outcome tomorrow.

A relaxed weekend, tired kids, anniversary dinner (nice Thai), and loads of ice cream, followed by a Monday drive to York. On the way a burger at BK with 1,680 calories. WTF?? I didn’t believe it and felt really bad. Or was that for the whole meal? Sitting most of the day didn’t help for me to feel sluggish. I feel like I put on a few kilos this week. Anyway, we went through York after we arrived on Monday afternoon, a nice walk, the Minster, some pub food (just to top up) and a nice Yorkshire ale. We also met an old work colleague of mine. I met him in York 8 years ago, he worked with me in London for two. He now moved back to York. Anyway, York is mystical, a nice town, a bit spooky, old, yet charming and lovely. We loved staying in a great AirBNB just five minutes walk from the city centre. Great. The leaves were turning, it was cold but not too cold and we had a great time.

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However, somewhat the kids saw it a bit differently. Not sure what is driving them at the moment, but they just wouldn’t listen. Not the most fun part on half term. They had to touch and climb and question everything. We tired them out going to the railway museum, which I thought would take half a day. However, we ended up staying the whole day and took pictures that looked the same but different to 11 years ago, the last time my wife and I went there.

Wednesday ran away a bit. Another museum, a lot of walking, a late lunch and a stroll through York. It is a lovely city, great for shopping and discovery at this time of year. The boys got a toy and couldn’t wait to get back to the house. I soaked in the autumn atmosphere. Thinking about work a bit to be honest, why certain people buy and don’t buy. I thought about motivation and what attracts us to certain brands.

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It is the feeling we associate with a brand. It is the smell of the pizza you only get at Pizza Express. The feeling of being welcomed in a warm cosy pub. The feeling and smell if you sit down in this brand new car. The joy of eating this chocolate bar or what we remember when we last ate this cheese. Maybe it is sad but that’s also what attracted us to spend time in York. For the wife having been here with her family many years ago. For me having worked for a York company and been up here many times; and as above for the wife and I to visit 11 years ago. Couldn’t you just imagine one of our boys to study here?

Anyway, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. It was a fantastic break. A much needed wind down, yet you never really wind down within a week. A great time to reflect, to see things in a different light. I came back with lots of todos how to change things at work and in my daily routine. There is a book to finish. That’s what those breaks are good for.

One last word. I read, in a museum, that Andy Warhol once said, in 1965, ‘In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes’. How right was he? Through twitter, social media in general, we all get these 15 minutes at some point. When we shine, get a few likes and are famous for a moment. I had those moments, and everyone did. We are enabling sharing and opinion pieces widely these days. We are all a bit famous and known for what we do. We are heard. Is anyone listening?

So I finish this blog whilst watching one of the boys playing transformers on the ipad, the other one building a LEGO model. They are having so much fun. We looked at some soldiers one can paint and build a war game with (Citadel/Wargames). The kids seem to enjoy that and were quite good painting those figures given their age. It is an interesting concept to get them involved into, and why not, just because I never have been doesnt’ mean it is the wrong thing to do/. I can see the appeal, and whatever it is, they do enjoy a good game. I keep trying to get them into chess but drafts is winning out right at the moment. Never mind.

Have a great week, for me it is back to work tomorrow.

Best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (408)

happy

In life we just need to keep going and keep looking for the positives. We must continue to tell our story to ourselves and focus on what we want to achieve for us and others. Every story is different and some clash, but most of them just move alongside each other in the greater unconscious. Life is there to make the most out of given your ability and desire. It is down to you to achieve what you can and want to achieve, and it is down to you to react to situations in a certain way. Life is simple, embrace it and make it happen. Action it now. Don’t ever wait.

Another strike commute week behind me. Three days of delayed services and reduced services, early mornings without the kids, changed exercise routine. It is interesting to observe how your day is impacted by the commute. But as of last week’s post, there is no point of worrying or getting annoyed about it. I cannot change it. Things just seem to all happen regardless of whether I worry. Let’s look at the bin men. They didn’t collect our bins on Monday because a commuter parked in a way that the bin lorry couldn’t reach our bins. Of course it was the same car that had parked halfway across our driveway entrance before and half on the pavement of our neighbours. People just don’t think. They don’t think of the consequences their actions have on others. Now, in one of my Buddhist podcasts, they explained that the word Karma was invented to explain that every action has a re-action. I truly believe that.

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But maybe I am sweating the small stuff here, or actually I am not. At least not as much as I used to. 9 years ago it would have been different. Just in time for half term and the arrival of our new bed and mattress, we had our 9th wedding anniversary. There is much to say about that. To be honest, looking back to when we first moved in together, to where we are at now, times have changed so much. To an extend that I don’t even remember my wife not being part of my childhood. The arrival of the little ones, 7 and 5 years ago respectively. Our first house, first pets, first decisions on how to arrange the garden. First time I paid for the full rent in a month when my wife didn’t have a job. That was before we were engaged. Then again she worked when I was still at uni. So many happy and sad memories, we always made and always will make it work. And 9 years on, I love this woman more than I ever have. Could not imagine a day without her. Couldn’t imagine not being with her, not having her as a companion in life, helping me to master the challenges, and to share the joy. I love you wifey! And I believe I am the luckiest man in the world to have you around me.

In line with above, and me being a happy person, I was asked this week whether I will be the next German Anthony Robbins. What a compliment yet I am far from being him, and don’t think I will ever be like him. I might be able to help in a similar way to how he does, giving my studies and background, but in a much smaller scale. Who knows and even that isn’t happening yet. However….I read an amazing quote this week: LIFE IS NOT ABOUT FINDING YOURSELF. LIFE IS ABOUT CREATING YOURSELF. Got it. Simple words, and as my Freedom Fastland podcast put it the other day, you are the one in control of changing the future of your family. You can change the standard path. You are the one creating the new opportunity and become the entrepreneur that changes the income and outlook for family generations to come.

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That’s if you want to be like that. I don’t. I am not born to change the life of thousands by creating a product I can sell. I am not. I love being where I am, changing a life and improving a situation at a time. As someone said to me, you might not become rich with what you are doing but it is going to be fun. And that’s important. I created myself. I didn’t find myself. The “ballueder brand” is being build but I am not creating a new Robbins or Burchard. I am creating a person that is enjoying living my life, having a lot of fun on the way and create a future for my family. The things, the small stuff above, is what we create. And I like to just get on with my job, do it bloody well, and go home to be a good dad. In between I enjoy developing my kids, my friends and colleagues. I love helping and giving. About two years ago I managed a very successful transformation of attitude and it scared me a bit how successful you can be by putting enough energy and change management into a person and process. Great learning. Nothing is impossible and everything is possible. But stop searching for something that someone else wants you to be or you think you want to represent. You won’t find the answers. Life is about creation not copying.

Sometimes those personal development quotes just hit you. They all say the same and someone said the other day, that the ones sharing them, are the ones that least live them and are least successful. I tend to disagree. Each to their own and I personally enjoy a bit of self help banter. However, this is just one way of expressing your emotions, fears and thoughts. No results without massive action. That’s a quote from Anthony, and he is right 😉

And as I progress towards the end of Bruce Springsteen’s book there is more that resonates. The stuff you learn from your kids. They make you see the world differently, make you understand the world. And as you grow up you learn how much you don’t learn and how often you just make things up as a parent as you go along. I love my boys, and similar to the wife above, I couldn’t be happier.

As I reflect on this week, having been fairly busy, yet had some challenges to overcome, life is good. I am happy. Content. I arrived.

Have a great week.
From my little corner of the world, I send you lot of love and happiness,
Volker

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Sunday Column (407)

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Monday started off nicely and when drafting my blog I realised I ended up writing a whole post on Brexit. See Brexit.
So I had to stop myself writing another post just about train strikes on Tuesday. The RMT union, rightly or not, strikes. Again. Overrunning engineering works added to the misery. I finally was on my way on the first train (!) running from Brighton to London. Just before 830 am. Two hours later than anticipated. I am up early anyway. I can change my schedule but my employer expects me in the office for 9 am. And they should do. The ongoing situation with Southern Rail is inexcusable. It is utterly disgusting in this day and age. But I wouldn’t add anything to the conversation by getting annoyed.

So I breathe in and out. I decide how I feel. Southern cannot make me feel a certain way. I cannot change the situation. I can only accept it. Doesn’t mean I like it. Far from it. Totally out of my control. The same is true for my headphones. After spending a small fortune on my Bose noise cancellation wireless headphones I exchanged them on Monday. Interrupted and intermittent connectivity. I have been testing the new ones all week. It seems better and I am in close contact with Bose support. We will tackle that. The sound of the Bose headphones are just too good.

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The commuter nightmare. A lot of people feel the strain and pain. It makes people sick. And I wonder why or do I get sick? On Tuesday I couldn’t leave the house before 8 to catch any train. On Wednesday I was in London before 8. Madness. No reliability or consistency. The fear and worries of the train company’s delays reflecting bad on you and your ability to be at work. Companies luckily understand but they shouldn’t have to. And neither should we as commuters. A never ending story but shouldn’t we just get a reliable service most of the time? The other challenge is that most people don’t know how to use the commuter time. I have habits. In the morning it is very much about me-time. I read. Without (many) exceptions I try to go through a book every 10 days. On the bus it is a mix of emails, podcasts, preparation for the day. Depending on the day I might just chill out to some music. On the way back I work on the bus. Time sheets, feed reader catch up. On the train home I usually work. If there is nothing to work on, which is rare, I read or watch some catch up TV, an episode of a TV series or chill out. Moving forward I also will make sure to finalise my next productivity book. Once I finished reading Bruce Springsteen’s biography. Yet without that routine and use of the time to accomplish something, this commute would be hell. Now it is one of my most productive times of the day. The reduced strike service causes less delays and less time to work. I get home quicker. Bit odd, and counter productive 😉

Due to the strike I also changed my exercise routine. A nice run on Wednesday night, given I had time, resulted in a 43.16 for the 10K on my treadmill. Result. My body went in overdrive and resulted in some ‘stress pimpels’. Never mind. I enjoy challenging myself and pushing boundaries. I feel like I am moving in the right direction and get a few things done at the moment, clearing out the old, bringing in the new input. I am looking forward to a break, to recap on a few things, and make sure I am not missing anything in life. Half term is not too far away! On the other hand there are things that seem a bit off at the moment. Without wanting to go into great detail, just when you think things are all happily moving along, more change is in the air. I hope for positive change of course but that isn’t always guaranteed. Sanity is what you must aim for.

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Coming back to Springsteen’s biography I realise a few bits about life. No great revelations but essentially, as you grow up, you notice more and more that your life isn’t at all different to other people’s life. Bruce said in one of his chapters that ‘I loved as best as I could, but I hurt some people I really cared about along the way. I didn’t have a clue as to how to do anything else.‘. I see myself having done that in the past, and had to learn a lot about loving people. Something that just didn’t come natural to me. I am great in building rapport with people, mastering situations, dealing with people and having a higher EQ than some. Yet under the skin, the love and appreciation for people beyond the daily interaction was something I had a hard time learning. My wife would be a in a better position to tell you, but also my kids. It took me a long time to come to terms of what fatherhood means to me, and how to love kids in the right way. To appreciate them seeing the world from a different place and to understand how to change my perception to their level. It is a wonderful world, once you are in it, but getting there didn’t come natural for me.

Where is that coming from? I often had doubts if I could ever learn it. If I say that Bruce gives me the confidence that it is normal, I don’t have many other people I could ask. But that’s what you learn in life, that actually the challenges you have, the things that you worry about, are the same things everyone else is worrying about. With personal nuances of course. Talking about his puberty, Bruce writes ‘I was a punk, grumbling my way through….My dad’s journey on this ship was probably one fo the most meaningful of his life and I couldn’t respect it.‘ – and I can remember those days when I was just a grumpy old teenager, and so can many, that didn’t respect their parents. And looking back we will feel bad. When Bruce looks back and says he would like to turn back time to change it or get a second chance to make it better, we often don’t get this. We often only have this one chance in life, yet we mess it up. And so what, you might be thinking. You are probably right. I have regrets in my life but I am not worried, don’t want to go back to rectify them. I found my closure in life a few years ago. I went through the exercise of writing letters to people asking them for forgiveness and closure. The ones that wanted, replied. And it is good, it is healing for me, and hopefully it was for them too. We move on in life and need to focus on what lies ahead of us, not looking back. We cannot change the past or dwell on it. We would go crazy. Would I love to go back in time to rectify things? No, I honestly would not. Maybe I don’t have enough baggage and my things are small in comparison to others, yet when in puberty, I am certain my kids will go through the same thing and I will experience life from the other side. What goes around comes around I suppose. Cycle of life.

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I am not quite sure where I am leading with that. I look around the full ram packed train which I am on at 7 am in the morning due to the strike in order to get a seat and look at the commuter crowds. If we took a snap shot of those people and ask them the above questions, they would all agree. Life is what it is. No surrender. No regrets. Moving on and up. We can change the now and are obliged to make the now the best one yet. We must ensure that we always give our best, to keep winning and moving in the right direction. I am certain of that.

We sometimes remember snapshots that might be, over time, look bigger than they are. Like the famous objects in the rear view mirror. Yet often the opposite is the case. We lay to rest what we have to lay to rest. It’s done.

I am done. I am done for this week. An amazing week. I feel in more control of things and had a few things I took care of. Nice. I feel like I am winning. In my game. Getting shit done, adding value. But that’s all I want. All I can ever ask for, isn’t it?

Have a fantastic week,
Volker

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Brexit again

I have been thinking about the Brexit again. Not only are we nearing parity with the Euro, we are wiping off money by delivering uncertainty to the markets.

My favourite topic, Brexit, got a new twist last week. Yet it was quickly withdrawn, the argument that every company should list their foreign workers. Blimey, this sounds to me like an outing of some kind. Discussing it with my Irish mate today, it feels like a counting of people with a different twist. Are we going to wear a certain sticker to identify us as non British? What is going on in this country I so felt settled in until the 23rd of June this year?

I am worried, admittedly, not that I cannot stay in this country, but what my chosen home country portraits to the outside world. Whilst I enjoy living here, what is Britain going to be like in a few years time? Nothing is forever, yet what if our plans to retire here won’t work out? Just as we finish the house, could we consider re-locating again, in 2019? Germany, New Zealand, America, Singapore?? I don’t know. There is a lot, if long term, uncertainty out there.

The six human needs have uncertainty as a need, but for me, I prefer certainty over uncertainty. I like my roots, my house, my home, and a regular routine. Doesn’t mean I am not flexible and cannot do my running at 4 am so I am not affected by the Southern train strike. Whilst I try to better myself in my job and my career and being a better dad on a daily, weekly, continuous basis, for my home and life, I like it to just stay the same and never change. Maybe that is an illusion.

That isn’t just me. A lot of people, I might even argue the majority of people are like that. A home, a castle and a place for the kids to grow up. A quality service of trains to and from work. A quality of life. Nothing else. Yes, the odd uncertainty if the exchanged Bose headphone will work better or if there is a problem with my phone. Is wireless bluetooth technology not good enough yet or is London full of interferences. But those uncertainties are fun in a way, geeky and solvable.

My cousin is going to visit from Singapore soon. She lived abroad a lot of her life time, e.g. away from Germany, yet she is happy and young, no kids, not as many roots and dependencies as us. But would re-locating kids mean un-rooting them? Surely not. But as my dad said, it is far too early to think about all that, as we got 2 years to brexit.

By that time, so I think, we will have no EU left. Then it doesn’t matter who threw the first stone. It doesn’t matter which side you are on, and where you live. Or does it? Guess time will tell, but only the uncertainty is certain I suppose. I love Britain, I chose to stay in this multicultural environment and form my life and career here. At the forefront of digital marketing, and I am hopeful, yet not certain, this will continue to be like that for a while.

Fingers crossed and let’s hope we get confidence back in the values Britain stands for: democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect/tolerance.

God bless the Queen!

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Sunday Column (406)

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It got frosty outside. The mornings are colder and you can see a nice layer of frost and fog covering the country side. Idyllic I’d say. As I start my morning commute, start writing this post, you can look at the fields and trees covered in white, cold fog. The sun starts burning holes into it as the day goes on, yet the picture is amazing. As so often I don’t get a chance to take one as we are flying past the pastures. Same as the week passes by. This week has been busy but good busy. I seem to be able to manage my work load and slowly get to grips with how things work. A few weeks in, and I enjoy my job more than ever. I feel like I have arrived, and I can move on from saying I have been weeks in the job to months in the job. It feels good.

It’s funny how your life plans out in front of you. Years of doing one thing, a change in industry, offers from the other side, then moving to the other side, further away from what you ever thought you would do….to end up closer to where you ever wanted to be. What else does life have in stock for us? What is planned? Where next? I mean, for now, I would be foolish to change anything and don’t have any ambitions to do so. But where will I be in 5 years? I have to think…but this is a long time to go. Seeing a little baby boy on Friday in the office made me think. 5 years is not a long time since my youngest (!) was filling his nappies.

Life moves very quickly. Just finishing renovating the house we remodelling our bedroom; I think we are done, yet the kids rooms are re-arranged, and before we know it the teenage posters are up and the doors shut. Let’s make use of every minute of our time with them. They are such a gift!

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How goes it? The voice of my friendly Southern Train Services station staff. Yes, those people are affected the same way we are by their company ….poor management and strikes causing grief across the organisation and commuters. On Monday someone was taken ill on a train and we shared a taxi from Haywards Heath. We as in the commuters. That was a bit of bonding, but you couldn’t blame Southern for it. You can however blame them for the poor service and three days of strike coming up next week. Will it go ahead? When do I start re-organising my trips, my exercise routine and evening appointments to make sure that those days aren’t turning into a night mare? WTF is going on – why can’t Southern sort it out. This week I found out a train was cancelled last minute to rush to the station to make my 9 am meeting. It is appalling and utterly disgusting to see a company not being able to sort out their staff and company issues. VERY poor management. Get rid of your top brass I’d say. It is not only the money and inconvenience, it is an attitude problem I have huge challenge with.

Just imagine I walked in on Monday and said to my boss ( 🙂 ) that I am going on strike…not only am I new in the job, he would hand me my P45 straight away. And rightly so. Fair enough, he treats me nicer than Southern seems to treat their staff, but that’s exactly the point. Never mind, my rant won’t help. The only thing that helps is to breathe in and out, and wonder WTF is going on. Never mind.

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Brace yourself for economic disruption. Yes, the strike is one thing, but the other one is Brexit. The pound is on an all time low. After our PM suggested the date of Brexit or article 50 being triggered to be in March 2017, the stock market lost enough money to push us down to 6th place of wealthy nations. Really? WTF. I started swearing a lot more recently. Can you tell? Do you understand why?

Article 50 will be triggered by end of Q1 next year, and then faith decides if I can stay. Why wouldn’t I? It is an insecurity, another burden. I would have until 2019. So that’s ok. By that time we might all be eligible to get American passports, who knows. No point of worrying. Despite, I am looking into Naturalisation. That means, if things go well, I should not have a problem to become a British citizen by maybe mid next year. However, the process is long, bureaucratic and time consuming as well as expensive. Patience Ballueder, patience.

In that sense I breathe in, and slowly breathe out. Time to move on and not worry about the things I cannot change anyway. Life is going to be ok. It is pretty good at the moment, not taking above into consideration 😉 I started reading Bruce Springsteen’s biography which made me revisit some old Pink Floyd and Bruce’s albums. Old times. When I had a bike and was a bit wilder than I am now. Those days I put on my biker jacket, the leather gear and just hit the road, see how far I could lean into curves and push boundaries. Crazy, yet it was nice. I sometimes wonder what it would be like today but the wifey isn’t allowing me to have bike no more. And she is probably right. No, she definitely is. So it might just have to be a smallish sports car, we shall see. I am not 40 yet.

Yet life is now. I am embracing it. Minute by minute. And I am enjoying it.

Best,
Volker

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