Sunday Column (519)

Lovely people. This is the 3rd last regular column. And notice the ‘regular’ bit, I might be back 🙂 If you believe it or not, and of course given I am German and organised, I started writing most of the blog posts already. I have always done that, prepared the blog posts and just published them in advance. As far as I can remember there has been one or two occasions where I sat down Sunday night to draft and publish.

It is less the time impact that makes me stopping it. It is the refocus on other things. I am changing my life. The base stays the same, e.g. job, family, house – the stability and foundation remains the same. But I am working on other things that just need more attention.

The week started off awful – if you like – last Saturday with a delayed Southern train from Victoria after the footie. 2.5 hours for a 50 minute journey with an exhausted 9 year old. Just imagine you leave on an 8:41 train, go up to Manchester and back, and it takes you almost as long as that getting home on the final stretch from Victoria. As one tweet suggested it is Network Rail and not Southern Rail – I get it, but my contract is with Southern, and they are the ones responsible for me. My boy was good though and we had lovely company. A retired scientist that told a good story or two, and it is in those moments when you look at life from a different perspective. Or, when the wife texts that Venus is next to the Moon on the sky early mornings when she went to work.

Maybe I am a bit melancholic, sitting on a rather empty commuter train into London, I reflect on how small we are. The climate conference this week showed how much we destroy our planet. The boys are talking about settling on Mars and building the next ISS. We put up the Christmas tree as if we can cut down trees as there was no tomorrow (I know those are sustainable farmed etc. so all good 🙂 ) – the human race must change. We need to change what we eat, how we treat other people and sentiment beings and of course our planet as a whole. At the same time we got our first smart plug, not only out of convenience (to turn the lights on the above tree on and off) but also to realise how much energy you use. A smart meter has been high on the list, let’s see.

What will life look like 50 years from now. The constant change will not be stopped but will rather accelerate. Depending on our life span of 120 years, we might see the colonisation of space or the oceans. Where would you rather be? I know, the planet itself. But will we have the option?

It’s not all doom and gloom. I am more and more convinced Brexit won’t happen and some things stay the same and we might have another 10 years of a good and unchanged life here in Britain. I am hopefully of course and maybe that’s what I want to be and how I should think. I have no ambition to move to be honest and if I had to, I would of course. Wouldn’t I? I must. I must ensure that the next generation, our kids, have the best possible start to make an impact on this planet. For all the reasons above.

Those are my thoughts this week. Maybe triggered a bit by the latest Outlander episode, the cold weather and dark nights.

Have a good week, wherever you are.

Love and Kindness,
Volker

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Sunday Column (518)

Last Sunday my fish tank was sold. After 6 years I gave up on my hobby. When you buy a fish tank, the value you spend on it is high, yet the value you get for it is low. Just like a car it depreciates. You could sell the fish and the equipment separately but I decided to shift it together and make it a quicker sale. Hopefully the new owner, an “older” lady, will get much joy out of the tank and enjoys my fish. It is with a bit of regret to shift those fish, but neither the boys or the wife really enjoyed my hobby. And I didn’t enjoy it enough to invest more in it. Time to move on. When speaking about it to a mate who has three tanks, I already started thinking what kind of tank I could get next….no, it is time to move on and simplify my life. Another thing done. What is next?

Going out of your comfort zone is one thing. Whether that is training for a sports event and completing it, or just learning a new skill. My new job is full of those, sitting more over Excel sheets and PowerPoint recently than talking to people. I am learning a lot, and I really enjoy the new challenge and the balance. It is a different way of working, and it is good. Of course I still speak a lot with people and met a few new colleagues this week. I am enjoying the variety of the job.

Another step out of my comfort zone was to go and see a football game. That was in 2016. Now, 2 years later, I went for one in Manchester to treat my oldest to see his favourite team, ManCity. For those who know me, this is going out of my comfort zone again. Relying on trains to get to Manchester, watching a game of sports that I am not overly interested in, and then going on the train home. A full day, yet this wasn’t about me. This is only and solely for the boy. We had an amazing day. And I promised myself to focus more on these little people than I have done in the last 12 months. It seems to work. From playing 30 minutes of basketball before school to going to a football game. We went for walks last weekend and played monopoly whilst the wife was working. Focus and simplification. My two new mantras.

It has been an odd week to be honest. It is the typical end of year wind down. Rushing to finish a lot of meetings and I had a busy week of those. The fish tank and more thoughts of simplifying my life and making things easier, better even. And then the whole Brexit discussion I don’t even want to get into. Meeting good friends, catching up with work colleagues and being social. Always striving and seeing what there is to learn and take onboard.

There are 3 weeks left to Christmas, the end is near yet the diary full. Time will fly past and before we know it, we are in 2019.

Don’t let time run away, live the moment.
Volker

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Sunday Column (517)

At time of writing, late Friday night, the week seemed as if it was extra long. No idea why, it was just one of those weeks, busy and full of achievement; a week that makes you think you are progressing. A nice week actually. It went differently as planned. Instead of going to Germany, the trip had to be cancelled last minute. Never mind, I actually spend a lot of time catching up on some work which meant I got ahead of a few things. Nice! It also meant I worked from home which was nice too.

I am clearing out my blog drafts and noticed that I still had the following draft about reading books: Not many people actually know but I read a reasonable amount of books. Over the years, since commuting an hour into London, I make a point of NOT doing work in the morning but read instead. So unless something urgent is happening, the morning commute is my time. The evening commute on the other hand is different 🙁

I mainly read personal development books and biographies. Steve Jobs’ biography resulted in me becoming an Apple fan boy and I truly loved his story. Currently I read the biography of Albert Einstein. Also, for many years, I have been fascinated by the hippie culture as well as the 70ies free spirit motor bike culture. The 70ies in general have always fascinated me, the idea of free love, free rein, do whatever you want, rebel against the system, be cool and be free. However, back then there were more opportunities than now it seems. Steve Jobs inventing a computer. Have we saturated inventions? Surely not.

So over the years I started reading more books about Steve Jobs. A lot of people seemed to start writing about him, as he became an iconic figure, despite his distortion field and non existing EQ. Hence, when I discovered the book by Chrisann Brennan, his girl friend and the mother to Lisa, the daughter Steve ignored for years, I had to read it. It has been a book that took me away. Not often I get so engaged in books that take me away. I was sitting on the train in the morning and didn’t notice us getting into Victoria station, London. Not often do I read until late at night in bed, but I couldn’t put the book down.

Why? Simple. Chrisann didn’t only tell her view of the story of Steve and their relationship. That for me was only part of the story. But she went into detail how they lived, they as in the generation of the 70ies. How they went to India to discover themselves, lived in communities, how life was simpler. She drew direct comparisons saying, we didn’t have mobile phones back then, no texting. We just drove for 45 miles hoping someone was home, we had no way of knowing. She captured all that in her book, in my opinion, the Zeitgeist of the 70ies. The generation that has fascinated me for so long. And I believe that the challenges she had with Steve, the therapy her and Lisa went through, were very common in those days. Of course, Steve was an eccentric and different, but it almost becomes a side story in the book. At least for me.

I know Lisa published a book too, but I am afraid if I read it, it will water down this experience. We shall see.

And if you like reading about India, read Siddartha by Hesse.

It’s four weeks to Christmas. So this post finishes my drafts. I am reflecting a lot on 10 years of writing and I am sure I keep going on the occasional post. But there are times of change in terms of focus. And that is a good thing. Change is good, otherwise life would be boring.

So, this is it for this week,
Volker

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Principles of Success – Mentors and Coaches (12)

Mentors and Coaches support your SUCCESS

This is the last chapter on my principles of success. Then again they are not mine, they are principles collected from my podcast guests at Stories of Success.

My guests have been fantastic. And whilst some of them have been my mentors over the years already, some became mentors to you and me in the course of this podcast. I love to do this podcast, interview people and understand the key principles of success.

However, as most of you realised when I did ask the question, most of these successful people didn’t make it to the top themselves. They all had mentors, worked with a coach on a long term commit and had input or help from more senior, more experienced people.

Having worked in the industry as a consultant and advisor for many years, I realised that when you are going into new projects, you are the experienced person, someone who has been there, done it. You are the one they look at for advice. That experience helps to examine situations, understand the concepts quickly and then figure out how to move forward and make a difference. The experience is what pays, not the time spend really.

And a coach is similar. Whether you want to hire me as a coach or if I am your mentor, whether I am your advisor or non exec director, however you want to hire me, there needs to be a fit in the way we work together and the way we communicate and cooperate.

Yet this is true for any coach or mentor. Get the best person you can work with and make sure you have great rapport that will result in a great relationship to work and play together. Because a coach and mentor should also be a friend, a sparring partner.

This is not about me. This is not about anyone else but you. You need to be ready to go out and ask the person you seek out whether s/he wants to help you to become successful and coach/mentor you. And if that’s a paid service or a non paid service, e.g. a more experience manager you invite for lunch once a month, that is up to you.

Make it happen today. Be the success you want to be.

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Sunday Column (516)

Would you believe what I did this week? I spend my evenings, or I shall say my wife and I spend our evenings, filling a basketball hoop stand with 150 kg of sand! Through a 3 cm hole with a funnel and spoon!!!! This was the early Christmas present, not only my youngest was looking forward to, but also myself. It takes me back years, and reminds me how well I played and how much I enjoyed it back in the days. Yet, I never took it forward, or was pushed out of my comfort zone to do it. No regrets, a lot of learning for how to bring up my kids though. Hence, no compromises, and we got a proper basketball hoop 🙂

Christmas is coming around quickly. I have a few business trips coming up, loads of projects to finish and lots of planning to do. I am settled in the job and being busy, drinks are flowing pre Xmas already and it gets more difficult to fit things in. Blimey, how did I miss that season.

With the marathon over, the post marathon blues over, I am trying to get back into a routine. I said I wouldn’t write a diary here, yet I find it difficult not to. My knee is hurting, needs resting and I am overall exhausted. A slight cold, a change of diet, warm weather, new routine, exercise and getting back into things isn’t easy. Next week will be colder again. I will persist and have plans. Patience. No other way but patience, nothing can be rushed on the road to recovery and change. I am rather excited.

I found myself reflecting a lot this week. Not only did I meet some industry friends at a remembrance party for someone in the industry who suddenly passed away, I also met a mentor and tutor who showed me a new way of living. And, with my anticipated 120 years of life, how will my life change in years to come? Then I met someone who changed their life completely, giving up media to follow his passion. What a transformation for happiness.

My honest answer is that I do not know what life looks like 80 years from now. Who does? Look at the mess of Brexit this week. What will that mean in years to come. Will the UK be the best place to live and bring up kids. What are the alternatives? With 80 years left, health is important, sustainable jobs and income, as well as plans as to where to live. You know, when I grew up I didn’t plan life much, thinking I finish uni get a job and get on with it. Now I think, I might have more time left than I ever thought I have – that means focus and doing things that are sustainable and important. Hence I am considering selling off my fish tank. Life is changing. Anyone interested?

Albert Einstein said, life is like riding a bicycle. You have to keep peddling to not fall over – I just started reading his biography. A fascinating story of a fascinating man. Given my 7 year old is doing the time tables out of joy, my oldest seems to be the best in some maths thingy at school….it runs in the family. I am an engineer, my dad was a maths teacher, my mum worked with numbers and on my wife’s side maths was never a problem. They, my boys, are talking about space and how they might change the world, building things in space. We can’t but encourage that and who knows, 150 years from now, they might look back at their life and, reading this post in a history book of the family and wonder.

And so do I. I wonder. I wonder what is there to come, and I am excited. Excited of the prospects to bring up those two mnonkeys to better the world. To follow their passion, to be happy. And if I don’t make it to 120, then I should really look back at my life daily and think, I did the best I could to bring life forward to everyone I could help. That of course includes the kids, and other people’s life I can touch.

I am getting carried away.

Have a great week ahead,
Volker

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Principles of Success – Failure breeds Success (11)

Failure breeds SUCCESS; keep trying, learn constantly, don’t take yourself too seriously, and improve daily; be fearless

Similar to last week, when I first heard of a growth mindset, I thought of another management fad. Of course it isn’t, but the growth mindset goes in line with self consciousness and EQ.

When you start monitoring your impact on your environment and see how people react towards you, you can adjust your behaviour. You are starting to learn from mistakes and see what works.

That is true of course with any mistake. If you make a mistake, the key thing is to learn from it. People used to be afraid of mistakes and I often joke to my staff that I never make mistakes. Then I stop and see how they react. I then clarify that I am not serious, as even managers make mistakes. And that is important to admit, because we all fail. A silly email, the wrong wording, the wrong people on the thread, or even something more serious, the wrong amount in the campaign set up….it happens to the best of us. Lack of sleep or not concentrating, distracted by noise or hayfever….the reason doesn’t matter.

Important is only one thing. You have to move on. Learn from every step you take, and learn from every interaction and from every mistake, small or big. Try to avoid the same mistake twice, to improve on a continuous basis.

In line with that the advice given by my guests were to ‘not take yourself to seriously’ which I think was Pascal Finette who mentioned it first. The other one: be fearless, or ‘see it, do it’. Yes, just go for it. Try to achieve the unachievable, and if you fail, get up again and try again. Now you are wiser, try again and again, until you are successful. Because at the end of the day, you will be succeeding.

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Sunday Column (515)

Hello. I got about seven regular Sunday Columns left. That means Christmas is not far away. I managed two early Christmas presents for my boys, one is a trip to Manchester in order to see Man City play; the other one is a basketball hoop. Latter is also an early present for myself, but that aside. I can’t stop myself supporting the boy’s ambition to play sports, be healthy and exercise. How could I?

Today it has been 100 years since the end of World War One. It is hard to believe. My grandparents would be over 100 years old now and the world has moved on. Thinking about it, I introduced my youngest to some ‘oldies’ music from the 60ies and 70ies, another (Vietnam) war generation only 50 years ago. He wasn’t too keen. It reminds you to appreciate the peaceful times we live in. Despite mid term elections in the US and Brexit. A year from now, the world is a different place.

On that note, I read an article on the BBC about the decline in fertility rate. It is scary that we might not have an overpopulation problem but a problem of not too many kids to sustain our ever growing older people base. We are all going to live longer and no one there to follow us, meaning we need to work longer potentially. Our generation will see a lot of change.

For myself, post marathon, I just felt hungry this week. A bit out of place, not having anything to strive for. I was surprised how little I felt in terms of ‘weakness’ after the marathon. My knee felt fine from Tuesday already and all worries about that are gone. Some niggles around an insect bite I got during the run, and still some stiff legs. Nothing a massage, a stretch and a short run on the treadmill couldn’t cure.

The feeling after a marathon is interesting. You are in a hype bubble for a while, then it sinks in. It’s a super high and then a huge come down. It’s a phenomenon called the ‘marathon blues’, I read up a lot on it, and it isn’t nice to be honest. You spent three months or longer working towards something and then it’s done. It’s over. I can see the addiction to do more and more. It reminded me a bit of smoking cigarettes, you get this super high, then the low down, so you have another, and another. It is addictive for sure.

I find, at least for myself, that once it sunk in, it is almost as if it wasn’t there. But then it lingers around, that feeling of achievement. Not that I run around smiling, but it is that feeling of ‘yes, I have done it’. It definitely gives me energy, and wants me to run another one. So we shall see.

I was warned. The challenge is really to have the time and commit or sacrifice precious family time to running. That’s the hardest bit. The fitness and the mental strength builds up as you go along. I haven’t really decided yet, the next few weeks are quiet in terms of running, so plenty of time to think about it. But I might have just caught the running bug 🙂 (not that I didn’t run before anyway). Who knows. Maybe time to channel my time and focus to other projects, like basketball or building car models again. Who knows, nothing has been decided.

But those moments are decision moments. When running the marathon I was thinking of situations in my life where I went out of my comfort zone. The navy came to mind, now over 20 years ago. Night marches. Going beyond your limits. And compared to others, my training wasn’t that hard. And university, when being in the fraternity and fencing with sharp blades. Those moments of discomfort and going beyond the usual are moments that define you. They never go away. The wall as I call it, the next wall is there to come.

As I started writing this I am on an earlier train. If you don’t exercise in the morning and your body is used to a 5 am start, there is only that much you can do. My new breakfast routine takes 5 minutes (a nutrition shake), so I will be at work early. There is always something to do and sort. It was occupational therapy this week, work and food, and from next week things will change again. Time to go back to the gym, do more runs and decide on the next wall.

Don’t worry, there are still things on my bucket list. And maybe some of them have less impact on my knees. Maybe I need to learn a new skill. Maybe something to involve the kids. I believe I am through the blues. The weekend was great, getting on top of loads of work this week and being able to have a nice meal out with the wife. For our anniversary, to celebrate life.

I dreamed I had the chance to go up in a rocket to see the ISS (International Space Station) and paid a lot of money for it. And when it was about to take off, I wasn’t sure if I should go. What’s the worst that can happen to you out there? You never come back, you die. But you won’t. You will be fine, and things will always work out. If someone offers you a ride in a rocket, take it. Fear is a good thing.

I felt that last weekend, I went into that rocket, despite fear, and I came back. Yes, it was a hard come down, but now it is time to find the next rocket ride. Some training at basecamp and up to the next stars.

I almost don’t want to quit this post, but it’s time to let go. Literally. 7 more weeks.

Have a great week ahead,
Volker

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Principles of Success – Emotional Intelligence (10)

Emotional Intelligence, self-consciousness, and awareness of others are key traits of SUCCESSFUL leaders.

Key to success is definitely being self aware. How do you react to others? How do you lead others? How are you perceived by others? How do you perceive others?

All those questions are simply answered by being self aware. The more modern word is Emotional Intelligence. When I studied my MBA many years ago, I did a research paper on EQ and my conclusion: it is a management fad. That and the habits of 7 effective people have been frowned upon by our studies. However, nowadays I am a lot more relaxed about management fads and wouldn’t even consider them as fads any longer.

For me it is important that you take away what you need from those books. The seven habits are great and when I first read that book in the late 90ies, it helped me a lot to understand what the key principles of success are. And so does EQ. Whilst you don’t get more out of the theory by reading more books, a good book on EQ will help you to understand and being more self aware of your situation. Whether that is at work or at home. It is about how you respond to situations and how you come across.

In all honesty, when I did my master practitioner in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), I learned how to look at myself from a 3rd perspective. Imagine you are having a conversation and look at the conversation from the corner of the ceiling. Like a surveillance camera. Now look at your body language, and how the other person reacts to your comments. Also, look at how you react, what are you signalling.

These are the small and simple things that make you successful. Just being aware of your surrounding and how you interact with them. Simple. You will just never get to the top if you are not accepted by the people around you, and you will never be respected if you come across as a bully for instance. So be emotional aware, self conscious and make sure to adopt and change according to the situation you are in.

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Sunday Column (514)

This is a special post. Why? You see below.
I have made a few decisions this week, based on having a few hours to think about life and life’s priorities. From January, I will stop writing my Sunday Column. 10 years, over 500 posts and a collection of over 1000 pages are enough for now. It helped me in my personal development, my reflection and I aim to use it as a base for some further book writing, including a publication of the posts in an e-book. It might just take a few months/years to review and publish.

When I started my blog in 2009 I was childless, working in search marketing and just bought my first house. Things have changed. I have developed over the years and have found my blog both a creative outlet and therapeutical. However, it is time to channel that energy elsewhere. Stay tuned. This doesn’t mean I will stop writing, and occasionally you will find a topical post here. Instead I want to continue with my podcast, another creative outlet where I personally, and hopefully the listeners, gain more from too.

Finding a wall. You might remember that I took part in a 24 hour endurance race last year, having had to pull out due to injury after about 35K. I wanted a new wall, and leisurely went for a marathon. When I say leisurely, training in the heat, on the treadmill during our holidays in Singapore, and running my longest run after a week in India, literally off the plane, jet lagged and having a cold. It was awful and I feared for the worse for this weekend. Life is about those walls, the challenges, the things that push you further. That’s how you learn and grow.

This weekend was marathon time. I spent the last week worrying. As a mentor of mine says you can be a worrier or a warrior. The former dominated my last week. It’s a phenomenon called ‘maranoia’. Any little niggle might stop you running the marathon. The worry something could go wrong. My knees not holding up, too much pain, too much food, etc. – a lot of the marathon training is in your head. You need to be physically fit but the “head fitness” should not be underestimated. And everyone who knows me has said, if I don’t have the headspace to do that, who does? Maybe. Anyway…

And so I did it. Saturday we embarked to Kington upon Thames, for me to run the Thames Meander Marathon. A non gradient run, officially a trail marathon, but really a mixture of gravel, soft and paved grounds. Along the Thames river, watching the rowing boats, and too many people in your way at the water front. But that all aside. I didn’t hit the wall until Kilometer 38. I walked a bit around that mark and closer to the end. Mainly to refuel, to digest, and to drink. It was hard, in my head, in my bones, in my knees. My aim was to run it all which I mainly achieved, and also to come in under 4:30 hours. I did that too.

This is probably one of the few times where I would admit I am proud of what I have achieved. It’s an achievement, and I enjoyed it. Whilst running a marathon is for oneself, it is also the official rubber stamp to have achieved one – if that makes sense. Joining the club. And without my wife, I couldn’t have done it. The endless hours of training, the impact on the family, the grumpiness. And she has done 5 😉

A lot of people already asked me what’s next. You can see above, and I wrote about it this summer, my life gets more focus. I am feeling settled in my job, and I have done a marathon. I will cut back on my blog, focus more on my podcast. And there are more plans, which I will share when appropriate. Life never gets boring.

Love and Kindness,
Volker

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Principles of Success – Journaling and Meditation (9)

Journaling and meditation lead to a balanced mind and reflection fostering SUCCESS.

The last principle touched on routines. Part of my routine is to meditate for 15 minutes every day. I have been doing that for over 3 years. But did you notice what my podcast guests are telling me?

From deep breathing, cold showers, reading novels to martial arts. A relaxation routine, a meditative habit. However you want to call it, meditation and regular relaxation will help you to transform your mind and the way you deal with things. You learn how to control your thoughts. Loads of research has shown how the brain changes over time to cope better, concentration goes up and you are more ready to handle unexpected things that come your way.

There is scientific research suggesting a lot of good things re meditation. I personally find that by concentrating on nothing and reflecting on things, and yes sometimes my mind still wanders, but that’s ok too. What matters with any routine, and that includes meditation, it needs to work for you. If your meditation is a long walk with your partner at the weekend, or taking the dog for a walk, so be it. That’s right for you.

People often underestimate that everyone is different. I believe it is important to set time aside on a daily business to calm your mind, to reflect and to make sure you are able to cope with a lot of input; because inputs are accelerating. More emails, more demands, more of everything. Information overload, less time, too much work. So just be sure to find a way on how to cope with it, relax your brain and train your brain to be ready for it. Mediation is a wonderful thing to achieve just that.

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