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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Sunday Column (513)

Berlin. Taking the family to Berlin for half term would always be an adventure. A 7 and a 9 year old on a city trip with lots of history? This wasn’t to meet family, it was about showing my family a Germany away from the grand parents, it was to experience Berlin and a couple days in Hamburg. So before we set off, we talked about German history, about the war and how this resulted in Germany being split in four parts; and it resulted in Berlin being split in four parts.

For me, Berlin has always been the capital. From Prussia to the modern ages. I never, probably similar to most Germans, saw Bonn as a real capital city. Berlin just has this charm, this feeling of being able to host big statesmen and to have the space to parade in front of presidents. It is that flair and history that attracts me to Berlin. However, and I want to be as honest as I can be, yet not being rude, Berlin in parts looks tired. My sons pointed out the massive amounts of graffiti and when you started to look under the hood, what we saw at least, was a Berlin that is a bit run down.

I guess, given it’s size, there are different areas. When visiting friends of ours one night, we loved the big side streets, high ceiling flats and quality of living. Our AirBnB on the other hand was in an area which seemed a bit less upmarket, yet had a flair, which at least I love about Berlin. The multi cultural aspect you don’t find in every city around the world: openness, togetherness, community.

So we did what you do with two little ones on a city tour. We visited the main attractions like Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate. We looked at famous squares, hopped on a tourist bus and went for walks in the park, finding some play grounds. We met friends, caught up over locally made pizza, gyros, ouzo and wine. We went up the TV Tower for the sunset and had a drink at the bar, taking in the view. We met with extended family, school and university friends, as well as having a night in whilst autumn weather was blowing the rain outside. We just enjoyed ourselves with no agenda, made our own chocolate, went for our runs, watched TV, went on a boat tour and visited a planetarium. And above all, we had a lot of fun as a family. Thank you Berlin.

On Thursday came the highlight. Something I wanted to do for a long time. We went to Hamburg on an early morning train to see the Miniature world, a model of the world out of minituare trains, planes, cars and everything that belongs to it. It was mind blowing. 3.5 hours of miniature world watching. And, we managed to have a look around Hamburg, a harbour boat tour again getting close to big container ships. For me, Hamburg is a city that portraits itself so differently to Berlin, and we enjoyed our time there very much. It might have been that it is smaller, more affluent, or that the shower in the hotel just gave much more comfort than the one in the AirBNB. But in the end, Hamburg as a city, won over Berlin, it just impressed more.

Now back to reality, back to work.

Have a great start in the week, it got colder out there.
Volker

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Principles of Success – Routines and Habits (8)

Routines and habits are key to help with focus and therefore support SUCCESS.

This is one of my most favourite principles, and I have been banging on about it since the launch of my productivity book. Forming a habit and successful daily routine will help you mastering your work flow and make your life simply easier.

Let’s use Mark Zuckerberg’s or Steve Job’s routine as an example: they both wear the same cloths every day. They never opened their wardrobe in the morning thinking ‘which shirt to wear’. By taking small decisions out of your life, you simplify your life. If you don’t know how to fit in a gym routine or journaling or book writing routine when you are up against it at work, and too tired at night, take my approach: the 5am routine.

Yes, I have been talking about it for a while, my alarm goes off at 5am, and I exercise, meditate and set myself up for the day. That is my time before the kids wake up, before the wife gets up and by the time I have breakfast, I have already had my first wins: I took care of myself. On the flip side I don’t watch rubbish TV at night and go to bed by 10 pm latest, ensuring I get a sufficient 7 hours sleep.

And there are other routines and habits you might already have. When going on a business trip I routinely pack the things I need and prepare the night before….a check list in your head or on paper. Any pilot has a check list and without it they wouldn’t take off. Simple quality control. I have one for when I take the kids to school, to ensure I don’t forget their lunch box or put sunscreen on.

Then there is a journaling routine. Spencer Gallagher talked about it, how he regularly journals. And I do too. Every night I fill in my gratitude journal, reflecting on the good things of the day and things I learned. It’s those small habits that make you go a bit further, reflect a bit more consciously and let’s you win a bit more than the competition out there.

What is your routine and what do you think gives you the extra edge?

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Sunday Column (512)

I wrote this post about mobile usage in Asia during my holidays in Singapore. However, I only got a chance to publish it now. Too many other ideas on content and sharing of thoughts, and new ideas. Seems as if my brain is always buzzing. I suppose it is, and I love writing as my creative outlet.

My recent trip to Singapore, 10 years since I have been to Asia properly with the exception of a trip to Turkey, times have changed with the arrival of smart phones. A podcast mentioned 300m middle class mobile phone users in China, and some research suggests a population of 260m in Asia alone (stats from 2016); in comparison the USA has 325m people (2016) and Europe about double that: 741m. Asia as a whole counts 4.5bn and Africa 1.2bn people. Take those numbers in. Just because I have been to India recently, you can count another 1.25bn people in India alone, an emerging and tech savvy market.

Let’s digest that for a minute and look at (observed) behaviour. People are constantly on their phones. In Europe, London, they are, but Asia I found that behaviour even worse. That is of course if it is a bad behaviour, or is being on the phone constantly the new norm? In Singapore people were on their screens 24/7, playing whilst being on the tube, whats app and wechat when queuing, and voice messaging being quite high. Particularly younger people listened to voice messages on chat applications constantly, recording and sending them. A new generation of people with a new usage behaviour. I bet their call charges are non existent. Some stats already show that phones are used less for voice calls than ever before, and that the use of text, data and internet access has long outweigh the use of the phone as a phone (as in calling someone). Weird no? I just renewed my contract and pay less per month but have 20 GB of data. That’s a lot of data!

So the phone as we intended it has disappeared. People don’t talk to each other anymore but use it to send messages. See the picture, who remembers those kind of phones? Anyway, the intensity and the phone being the main internet access point for a younger generation is new. That means the phone is the gateway to shopping and ecommerce, banking, saving and retirement planning; gaming and entertainment, food orders and life style choices. Anything happens on the phone, from watching movies to news, to reading. And of course social media usage. It’s a mobile first generation (Kudos to Mr. Mobile, Mark W).

From a business point of view I could do the easy maths. Let’s assume 50% of the population is 16+ and in the market for smart phones. Probably even more. But even 50% of a population of 1.2bn or 4.5bn people is a lot. That’s 600m or 2.25bn (!) people respectively. If 10% buy an app or a product they like via a phone for 1 US$, your turn over is in the millions with the app purchase alone. Anyone not getting the scale of things here? It justifies the investments companies like Grab are making, WeChat, Facebook, Amazon and others by accessing any of the markets above. The sheer scale of things is crazy. If you are investing in Grab now, an Uber like service for anything from transportation to delivery, then you are getting an ROI that is manifold. Of course that’s why the big boys are doing it, and why I started investing in Asian tech Fonds 🙂

The recent experience sparked a lot of thoughts around mobiles, mobile usage and how the other part of the world accesses both resources and the internet. It showed me the commerce opportunity and the way we are using the mobile phone in the future, as I am certain our European way of trying to avoid screen time will vanish with the new generation. Not a week my 9 year old is asking for his own phone. Laptops seem old school, tablets with keyboards might just be accepted, but boy, if you have a mobile phone and a credit card, you have all you ever going to need. Or do you?

Life is changing, I keep saying that. Having purchased an iPhone XS recently, the main justification was that I use FaceID. I liked the sound of it, and so far it has been better than fingerprint technology. The Apple Watch is nice, and I love the health tech (a market soon worth over 1 trillion US$), but maybe I wait for the 2019 model. I am not sure yet. Normally, I am not a first mover, but early adopter. But as technology moves on, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up. How will our boys live when they are our age?

Hope this sparked some thoughts. Isn’t it a fascinating world we are living in?
Volker

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Principles of Success – Values and Standards (7)

High standards and values for yourself and others build a basis for SUCCESS.

Maybe not surprising for some, but I was a bit surprised when revisiting all the notes from my podcast recording to find a pattern I wasn’t aware of before. Most people I interviewed had high standards for themselves, and they defined values for themselves and others to live by.

Whether it is high work ethics, gender equality, emotional intelligence or helping others – there are traits that are presented by most successful leaders. I believe Sophie Newton was very self aware and explicit in terms of the values she had, and how she lives by them every day.

When living with high standards, you often have to accept that others cannot live up to them. Something I learned early in my career. Whilst I think something might be right and the right thing to do, others might disagree. And that is ok too. Not everyone can live to my values and standards. Over the years I learned that having high standards and measuring up to them is important, it is like not letting your guard down, no matter what comes your way. You measure yourself constantly. You will make sure you keep up the good work.

And then there are values you define for organisations. Jim Brigden talked about values they set out for his companies, coming from the people who worked from him. Those values are measurement tools too and ensure people are happy where they are if they identify themselves with those values and everyone living by them.

But it is also that balance to let go, to not act too stringent on violation of your standards the values you have, whilst always bearing them in mind and helping you to do the best work you can do.

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Sunday Column (511)

India. This week was my first trip to this beautiful country. Like most business trips I mainly saw the hotel and the office, besides a few bus trips and an additional day spent on a temple tour. So at least I got some flavour of what the old town of Chennai, Mylapore, is like. The temples, the way Hindus celebrate religion and how India developed. Included was a ride on a motorised rickshaw or tuk tuk which was a lot of fun given the crazy traffic. When most people travel to India for the first time, they have a culture shock, I didn’t so much.

I guess I have been in the job a while now, and I have been working with my Indian colleagues quite intensively. So for me it was a lot about putting a face to the name, connecting to real people in person. People I have known. Also, it reminded me of other emerging markets, e.g. Cairo where I spend some time in 2006 and also Thailand in 2007. A combination of emerging, high tech offices and crazy traffic; cows on the road, dogs, and organised chaos. I enjoyed India, Chennai to be precise, and hope to return many times over the next few years.

The friendliness is amazing. I have many Indian born friends in the UK, and I have to say, I love the culture and people. They are very friendly, forthcoming and helpful. The food for one is very flavoursome, yet after a week, I was glad to have something more Western tasting again, I have to admit. Being able to visit the team, and particularly work with my colleagues in one location, was not only useful from a job perspective, but it gives it the human factor. Too often do we underestimate the power of real, personal meetings. There are things you cannot achieve via a video conference, it just isn’t the same. Also, people from a variety of backgrounds in the business joined, location and function wise, which gave it an even more important angle. A fantastic trip!

What I missed most were my boys. Seriously. I couldn’t wait for today, or yesterday for you readers, to take my youngest to karate. That is the thing I do with him, and I missed that last week. Then we had the boys’ rooms re-plastered and made decisions on furniture. Exciting times for us, but foremost for the kids. It’s great to see them excited about their new bedrooms and seeing the walls being done. It feels like the last bit in the house we haven’t touched, and it is good to know we are now 100% done … when do we start again 😉 I suppose with a house that’s how it goes. Once you finish, you start over again. You are never really done.

And over the weekend, and my colleagues said I talked about it a lot, I ran 22 miles or 35K in preparation for my marathon. Yikes, this was hard. Still not 100% recovered from my cold, and exhausted and jet lagged. It had to be done though. I must have spoken about it a lot, as most of my focus outside work is going into it at the moment. That’s a good thing I think, however I don’t like the time away from the family at the weekend. Three more weeks to the big day. Fingers crossed.

Could life be any better I was asking myself this week. What do you think? I am very happy. I find the job is going well, things are progressing and privately we seem to get into more of a flow too. Life is good. Is it good for you?

Have a great week.
Volker

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