Archive for category Sunday Column

Sunday Column (459)

Monday again – ok Sunday when you start reading this. A mixed week is behind me which started with a Monday flight to Belgrade, Serbia. I have never been, heard a lot and went to see the operations office of the company, Sizmek, that acquired the company I work for, Rocket Fuel.

As a VP Client Success I joined Rocket Fuel back in January, anticipating that they either sell or be taken private. I have seen their history from being a competitor to being a partner to being a supplier and knew most of the people there. And I have been around in programmatic for 7 years, so a good fit I thought, but also a bit risky. Then the sale happened this summer and we are now part of Sizmek, backed by a P.E. Company (Private Equity) which originally took Sizmek private last year. So we have two ex public companies joining forces to build the biggest independent demand side stack in the programmatic space. This is a very promising proposition and I was very excited to be part of this. A great proposition.

With my commercial background and in depth operational knowledge, I was hired to align the back office, operations and analytics, with key accounts to drive further growth. Using my commercial acumen with the understanding of the space and experience of how to run campaigns, aligning back office with client growth. We never quite completed that as I was pulled in to run the German office where I successfully managed a turn around. So two senior jobs since the beginning of the year, lots of travel, lots of time away from the family. Now, the structure moving forward will look different. Less client success, more of an operations and sales divide. So things will change with the company and ultimately for me.

Belgrade. Air Serbia, and again a bit of nerve wrecking when my ticket had a spelling mistake, but everything was fine, and a very hard landing with squeaking brakes. I trust old planes 😉 Air Serbia got me there and back again. Belgrade is a city which on first sight resembled the Eastern part of Berlin 20 years ago, yet it turned out to be beautiful and full of the nicest people ever. Lots of meaty food, lovely people and very rich on culture with influences from Russia, Turkey, Hungary and Greece. It took me back to a trip I made to Istanbul a few years back. The merger of East and West, the tradition, cultural influences from all over the region and the amazing, well flavoured food. I believe I got a good feel for the people and the country. Essentiallly, due to travel times, we only spend two days in the office, however those two days were action packed and we learned a lot.

You remember when I spoke about experience in last week’s blog? That’s what it is all about. Understanding. Listening. Sharing the glass of wine and good food. Making friends and bringing people together. An amazing trip, not only for work and the extension of what we are doing in main markets, but to understand the challenges and opportunities in the Serbian market.

What did I noticed most in terms of the cultural differences – besides a noisy hotel that felt like a youth hostel on the first night (and the manager emailed me to apologise) – people still smoke a lot and you can still smoke in restaurants and bars. Yes, this is more of a Southern culture I suppose. Funny how after only 10 years (the smoking ban was introduced in the UK in 2007), we got so used to having smoke free clothes. I quit chain smoking in 1998, then smoked on and off until about 2004 before I finally gave up. Even that is crazy to think now. And given the lack of sleep, I introduced a second espresso again, and I really needed it 🙂 Not only because of the noise but we wanted to make the most with our hosts to get to know them in and out of the office.

So you would agree I suppose that this week was action packed. Enjoyable, tiring, yet encouraging and full of learning. A roller coaster ride on emotions and reflection on strengths and experience. What else to ask for?

Over the forthcoming weeks I can be more detailed about some personal developments, plans and some ideas; I prepared a few posts on life, work and priorities. Christmas is coming up and Tesco has already filled a whole aisle with things that are Christmassy. Oh yes, the joyful season. We had friends over for dinner, went bowling and enjoyed this autumn weekend.

I hope you did too. It is great to hear from more and more people that they enjoy reading this column. For the forthcoming weeks, keep reading, I will go deeper on a few things. And feel free to let me know what you want me to write about.

Have an amazing week ahead,
Volker

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Sunday Column (457)

Monday Monday. Oh yes, nothing like a 2 hour drive in the taxi on a Monday morning to Heathrow. Longest ever; normally it takes 1.5 hours max. So a bit of adrenaline this week to get to my flight, which ended up boarding late, and everything was fine. Being rushed I ended up grabbing the wrong breakfast and feel just so much better about the week ahead 😉 BBQ Pork for breakfast. Yeah 🙁 Calm, breathe. Life is good, and fingers crossed, I have yet to miss a flight. 25 trips this year so far. That’s on average every other week, and more to come. Wow, the most I have travelled in years. And I keep saying it is getting less, but I haven’t got any more news on that at the moment. I believe it isn’t actually the travel as such but doing an additional job that takes focus away from what I wanted to do in the first place. However, I know there are changes on the horizon, and hopefully they will be good for me. One must believe that moving forward things will turn out the way they should. Believe in the future and that the dots will connect looking backwards. And they always will.

Weekends. Trying to spend more bonding time with the boys we went on a long walk down Littlehampton beach last weekend. It was nice and we all just love being close to and at the sea. The noise of waves coming on shore and then the water disappearing into the pebbles. It is great and calming, it makes you feel far away from home, on holidays. Balancing life.
We also upgraded to the latest iPhone 8 this weekend. A bit of a hiccup, we had to go twice as only passports or UK driving licenses are accepted for having a credit agreement – no German driving licenses or ID cards. But we got there in the end, and it was probably the first time I used my UK passport for something official. The new phone is great, but not much of an advancement in comparison to the 7, and just a slight improvement from the 6s I had before. The main differentiation is water resistance, wireless charging and an improved home button. Having a hardware contract with Apple now, means we are eligible for an upgrade from 12 months and have a 12 months pay monthly deal with Vodafone. This gives us the opportunity to get a new iPhone every year, something I always aimed for. But nowadays the innovation year on year is getting smaller, hence the need to upgrade yearly is less. Anyway, let’s speak about that in a year’s time, as technology and face recognition will move on.

In terms of data, it was easy to restore the iPhone. Everything gets backed up in the cloud but my gratitude journal didn’t. Since February I have been writing a daily gratitude journal which seems to have vanished. This is a bit of a shame. It is a great practise to reflect once a day on all the positive things in life. I wondered if I ever look back at it…guess for now I won’t 😔 I will no longer trust an app, but instead will write the journal on Evernote. Maybe it is my fault for not backing it up properly and then restore it, but then again if it isn’t an obvious process in the app. Never mind. The NHS app I used for 5 years with my BMI/weight data has also vanished, but luckily I had a back up in Evernote. I just love Evernote! So for anyone who hasn’t seen my posts about it, please do use Evernote to track everything. I write my blog on it as it syncs cross device and I can edit it on the go, then copy and paste it later. I collect my Thursday Flash links in it and take all my meeting notes on it. Evernote for everything!

Germany. If short, I stayed two nights in Germany, Hamburg, this week. I went for a walk after work as I still can’t exercise, go to the sauna or gym. I overworked my back after the initial minor surgery, so I now need to wait until it heals properly. It takes longer of course. I reflected on my relationship with Germany, thought about whether I could live there again. I like Hamburg, enjoy the organised life and the city is just georgous. However, I also feel like that about Munich. In Germany, the cities are nice and green, not too big, and one can find a good life life balance within the city or close proximity. It is just right. But it doesn’t feel right. Just because things are ticking all the boxes doesn’t mean they are right for you. Logic doesn’t always prevail. Does that make sense? If your mind isn’t in it, it doesn’t make sense.

I suppose you can achieve the same in the UK but maybe not in London, maybe in smaller cities, or only at a price that is reserved for the few. Yet, I am very happy with my life in London, being able to have the best of both worlds, balancing both village life and city career. Germany yet somehow doesn’t appeal to me anymore. The latest elections aside, and the negative movement towards right wing politics, Germany is just another country – and where I grew up in. After moving to the US 25 years ago, I learned what life could be like in a wide open space and I enjoyed something bigger than what I had at the time. Germany, and to a certain extend Europe, is a place that can get too small. And if not physically, I feel like I couldn’t permanently live in Germany, as it would be too small for me. Not sure if that makes sense. Sometimes village life gets like that too, and without the escapes to London, it might not be for me either. Freedom – that’s what I associate with the open space I experienced. Like the pubs in New York that just have space. Or you find a 20 lane bowling alley in the middle of town with 15 pool tables. The space you have, the freedom you feel. And, as Europe moves towards Brexit, maybe Europe is just not the place to be in a few years time. We shall see.

Those are my thoughts this week. Of course there are more but I don’t want to bore you. Interesting chats about politics with a taxi driver in Germany. Booking of my next trip to Belgrade, Serbia, which will be new experience.
There were days I took the kids to school and felt very privileged to spend more time with them. They are my purpose and priority.

Another busy week and a week of no travel ahead. That will be nice and I have lots to do with the team this week in London.

Love and Kindness from my corner of the world,
Volker

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Sunday Column (456)

Is it Sunday again? This week flew past. Literally. I enjoy flying somewhat, but as you know, long distance flights and change of sleeping and training patterns, I am not a fan of. I flew out to New York last Sunday. A packed plane. Not a week long trip like last spring, but this time it was a breakfast meeting with my new boss, team meetings, team social, team meetings and flight home. It could have been any city I stayed in. Home, taxi, plane, taxi, hotel, walk/taxi, office, taxi, plane, home. But it was New York, and it has its charm. I love NY. Seriously, this could be a city to live in. I was back early Wednesday, and the flight back was a bit bumpy. It was a good trip, and it feels like I am now where I wanted to be when I was a freshener at university: high jetting lifestyle.

That was then, in terms of objectives. What is now, is different. It took me all summer to finally go on a bike ride with my eldest last weekend. Bad excuses and not wanting to disappoint my youngest who still hasn’t managed to learn cycling. That is due to a muscle underdevelopment challenge he has. Nothing to worry about, but strength and muscle build up are difficult for him. Anyway, just going out and doing that bike ride felt good. No more excuses. On Sunday we did his homework together and my youngest won with a huge advantage in Monopoly. With my constant travel, and it isn’t as glamorous as I thought as a freshener, I want to make the most out of my time with the boys. Yet, at the same time, I need to carve out enough recovery time for myself too. It is that balance where I am still struggling and trying to find the right way of dealing with it. But I am getting better I believe.

No, in all honesty, I do not enjoy the weekly travel. It should get less now but I keep saying that for a few weeks now. Normally it is just one night a week, sometimes two. And that is ok, and particularly if it isn’t every week. Even New York was only two nights. For me, who works on a running and my new weight training routine and trying to improve my fitness, the constant travel makes it more challenging; this is particularly true as I overworked the scar on my back from the minor surgery I had a couple of weeks ago; I am now listening to the nurse and will stop exercising until it is healed up. Anyway, I am getting better to work around those challenges and the travel to achieve my goals, and whilst I am not shedding lots of weight, I am not gaining any at the moment either. This is a result, as muscles are heavier than fat anyway 😉

So much about travel and routines, and about having the feeling to neglect the boys every now and then. The fine balance between allowing yourself your own time, and doing things with the boys that they enjoy more than me. I am not beating myself up here, and wouldn’t in public, but I do want to share my feelings. The dads I discussed this with and who are in a similar situation, agree. It is a fine balance, and sometimes the weekend ‘hamster wheel’ just ends up wearing you out. Birthday parties, swimming, activities and taxi services. And then the pressure to be the bread winner and be the best you can be. I love my job and enjoy the work I am doing. And without a family I most likely would end up being a work-aholic. That wouldn’t work either.

Life-Life Balance is what I called it in my productivity book #BeBetter. Being able to balance your life at home with the one at work, and being a coach, mentor and trusted advisor to your spouse and children, whilst still pursuing and succeeding in a career. Living healthy on top of that and being a good husband. That is success. Either one of those could be classified as a success but you need to master all! That is key to not loosing it or loosing in life. And that’s really the content of my book, to balance the pillars of life, and making sure you are the one in the driver seat. You need to be in control of what you do and how you do it. Identifying when things like a bike ride is important or when you start a new project which is only between the boys and me. We want to make birds nesting boxes over the winter months. The shared experience and trust you build now will last a life time.

Coming back to New York, if only two days, was an experience. Once again, I fall in love with that city. It has space, you have a chance to buy cloths and food at a fraction of the price in the UK. I spilled gravy all over my jeans on the flight out and picked up (as a necessity) two Levis cheaper than buying one in the UK 🙂 Amazing. Food is just great. Particularly, but not exclusively, I love the burger and wine at the gate, just before you board the 10 pm flight. Then you sleep the whole way back home. And no one makes burgers like the Americans do. As a matter of fact I did sleep almost 5 hours on the flight back. The city just speaks to you, it attracts you, it is full of differences and great architecture. I love New York, you are just very special.

The trip was great. Getting the right heads together to discuss what is happening with our company moving forward. It feels good to be part of creating something bigger and amazing. Our ecosystem is ready for what there is to come. Or is it? I am not sure if I felt the jet lag or not, or if I just went with the flow, or I am just super excited, but the trip was great. Maybe it was to short to really get jet lagged. I will look back at this time in years to come to kick off something big, something industry changing. Isn’t that exciting?

America. Its service culture, its multi-culture, its burgers, its finger food, pool and bowling. I am going to miss you. Always will. Ever since I lived with you over 25 years ago, I have the urge to spend more time with you. That’s just the way it will always be. And I will be back.

Have a great week ahead, I am off to Germany tomorrow, not quite so exciting at all, and the flight is a lot shorter too 😉 No burgers at the gate for me, it is time to shed more weight.

Cheers,
Volker

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Sunday Column (455)

Autumn has arrived. A cold, rainy and windy Sunday last week, building rafts, then a hot bath for the boys and a nice warm fire for all of us, cosy. The natural things, the things we have always known, like fire and blankets, provide shelter and comfort on days like that. We cleared away our garden furniture, cleaning the BBQ and prepare for winter. It isn’t quite there yet, but it won’t be long. Comfort. With hurricanes sweeping over the Caribbean and the US, we can consider ourselves lucky. Yet, the signs this might be global warming can no longer be ignored. Raising sea levels and different sea temperatures make nature more powerful. This is scary as this is only the beginning and seems far away. That might and will change. And I have been saying that since I joined a local environmental group in my early teens. And what have we, as human kind, done to prevent it?

9-11. It happened 16 years ago, just when I arrived in the UK. We seek comfort, we never forget. An event that changed the world and influences our generation as much as the wars have influenced our parent’s generation. Troubled times. We are lucky to not have seen more attacks of similar scale over the years, and I hope that we never will, given improved security at airports etc. We cannot be scared of flying or getting around following our daily business. We shouldn’t. We must trust that the majority of people on this planet are good people, looking after one another and share love and compassion. However, Korea is trying to prove us wrong. Another missile towards Japan. 9-11 is a reminder for us to not forget what has happened, why it has happened and how we learned from it.

Germany hosted the biggest digital advertising exhibition and conference dmexco this year. It has been 11 years since I started attending that event, and I since missed it once or twice. It has grown phenomenal and the owners are doing an amazing job to deliver an event relevant to the industry. Globally. I noticed that I have been in digital marketing for over 10 years, and 8 out of those I deal with programmatic. Even back then I said that the ecosystem will just adopt programmatic as standard. I wasn’t wrong so far. Yet the hype isn’t over yet, it takes 10 years for things to normalise I suppose, hence we seeing so much consolidation in the industry. When at the show I heard that my old boss said to someone at a meeting that ‘I was the best sales person he ever hired’. It is nice to have these things said about me, of course it would be nicer to have heard it from him. The industry is a village, lots of familiar faces, networking, and shaking hands. That’s what I love about it, some great friends you find, connections you make.

In between coming back from Germany and going out to New York, I try to spend as much time as possible with my boys. Travel is full on again, and more than planned, but the job needs to be done. It isn’t glamorous. On Tuesday I got a chance to take them to school and chat with them in the morning. A lovely autumn day it seemed. I missed them coming home delayed and exhausted on Thursday but we made up for it on Friday and Saturday. They do not like me being away and I do not like the travelling either. But it is part of the parcel and it will get better. Important in my opinion is that we talk about it, and that I carve out the time with the family when I can. This is to make sure you do not neglect the most important part of your life. They need to feel valued and given attention, being the most important things I have. Given I love my job, always enjoyed working, family is still there forever, and building a relationship with your kids starts now. As my boss once said, success doesn’t mean being successful in your job only, there is family and other things to consider too. That goes in line with a book I finished reading this week which examines how we – you – measure your life.

In other news, after my wife gave me an amazing bracelet for my birthday, a Buddhist one that makes me feel more grounded and reminds me to be mindful, I got myself another one. It has seven different coloured beads, representing chakras and remind you of virtues too. I enjoy wearing them, alongside my colourful and changing watch straps, in order to remind myself daily of how grateful I am. When on flights and trying to relax my brain and taking a moment to just not think, I touch those beads, reflect on what’s happening in life and cherish the love and focus on the important things in my life. This is important to me, and I am pleased to have those reminders with me.

Before I finish off a few thoughts on the Apple event this week. The iPhone X is amazing. The technology is the future of what is there to come. In my opinion Apple has pulled off an amazing phone packed with mind blowing technology. I also believe that technology will become available to mainstream iPhones in the years to come, and for now is more a gimmick. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have one, but I cannot justify the money for it. So I might just hold on to see how the technology will find its way in the more affordable versions over time. Hence I need to check how to upgrade to the iPhone 8 for now.

It has been a busy week. Exciting with the official showcasing of our new company joint proposition at dmexco. Fully booked, exhausting flights. Networking, fun filled conversations, discussions, open exchanges about the things there are and things to come. I am happy, content about the life I am living and the situation I am. Zen. It is busy but change is good. I am excited about change, whichever way it might turn out. When you read this on Sunday night I will be on the plane to New York for a quick trip. Life isn’t bad as long as we are aware what is important to us, how we measure whether we prioritise correctly and as long as we are in zen with ourselves.

Thanks for reading and tuning in. Have a fantastic week,
Volker

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Sunday Column (454)

This week was an awkward one. Somewhat anyway. I left the house on Monday, just as the installers of our new multigym arrived. My kids had their last day of holidays and went back to school on Tuesday. Daddy left Monday morning and came home late Tuesday night, important meetings with dinner/drinks in the evenings. I was home on Wednesday though, partly to make up for it, but mainly because I had a small surgery, removal of a mole, nothing big. Nothing serious. Yet with it all taken a bit shorter than anticipated, I managed to pick the kids up from school. That was nice.

Those weeks make me think of what would it be like if I am not around at all. No, I am not afraid of dying, or that the mole might be cancerous, it is more about prevention. Hence the multigym, my runs, the diet. I want to be fit as long as possible to see as much as possible of my boys. Guide them, listen to them. Yet, and partly this is due to our choice of moving that far out of London, I often don’t see them. And with the three busiest travel/trade show weeks in the industry, September is a tricky month. I have to admit. Long hours, out of the office, late nights. This is just part of what I do. And I was around a lot in the summer. Not that I need to justify myself, but somewhat this is what I do. At the end of the day, you cannot make up for lost time. The age they are in makes them notice it a lot more. Hence when travelling for most of the week, I try to work from home a day a week.

So when you come home only after being away for one night, it is great. It feels like being away for ages, as you missed them so much. School started. The wife shared some amazing pictures of the boys, and the little one does so look like me! Very proud!!! And when you come home late, and they are asleep, and you tug the oldest in, without waking him up. The moment he turns to his side, enjoys the comfort of the blanket, sighs and continues to sleep. Priceless. That’s when I feel humble, sentimental and I am full of love. Or the youngest, after taking him to the loo, snuggles up with his soft toy and goes back to sleep. And they feel that you are back, and that you are watching over them, care for them. And you feel their love and that they feel safer and more comfortable with you being around. That’s the bond, the invisible touch, no one will ever explain to you, cannot explain to you, but every parent feels it. It’s a mixture of love, trust, comfort, protectionism, challenge as well as fear and safety at the same time. It works both ways. That’s when I feel truly blessed.

Work: we finally announce the merger/take over. I knew when joining my company in January that either we will be sold or we will have lots of challenges. I cannot speak about it in detail, neither do I want to, but we officially sold to Sizmek this week. That puts us in an amazing position within the ecosystem. A full stack solution. End to end demand side. Creative, DCO, DMP, AI, execution, ad server, reporting, analysis, brand safety and much more. Amazing, and exciting times ahead. The potential we have moving forward is immense. My third exit in the industry and I am excited about the prospects. The meeting this week actually showed me how much I care about building a useful and exciting demand side technology stack, yes I can actually get excited about what I do! I usually do 😉 Anyway, I keep you posted on any developments but for now I am super pumped.

With the pain in my back (see above minor surgery) I  didn’t exercise the rest of the week. So I took a break and caught up on some sleep. The next few weeks will be rather sleep poor, as I also just confirmed another international trip. The joys. But I love what I do, see above, and shall not moan.

Saturday happened my long planned ‘boys day out‘ of the year. A few friends of mine and I met in London to hit the pubs, eat lots of food and play some pool, drink some whisky and so on. Yes, it was a great day! Whilst on the one hand I dread those days, they give you so much back by just letting your hair down a bit, talk ‘men talk’ and having a good time, forgetting about everything else. So another long sleep on Sunday and a first trial at getting back into exercise despite the back strain.

Anyway, have a fantastic week ahead.

Volker

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Sunday Column (453)

Welcome back. Yes, another very quick week passed. Last weekend was actually the hottest August bank holiday I remember. We were spoiled and spend most of the weekend at the beach – a variety of beaches to be precise – and enjoyed the BBQ weather. I love a sunny Bank Holiday in August! Didn’t I write about it being autumn already in last week’s blog? I guess it is getting colder in the evenings, the sun is lower on the horizon, and we nicely move into the Indian Summer. If it wasn’t getting colder, this could be my most favourite time of the year. It is I suppose. It almost seems as if the summer in England shifted to June/July and end of August/September. Maybe that’s the way forward and we plan our holidays accordingly next year. Rain July/August. Take notes.

This week was short. On Monday I managed a 10 mile/16 km run. I was struggling to be honest. Whether that was the elevation or the weather, I just don’t feel that fit at the moment. Similar on another run later in the week. With my diet on the go I eat slightly less than I should, but my multigym arrives next week. So full steam ahead to loose a few kilos which I will notice when I go to another running event. No decisions as of yet. With busy weekends ahead, I don’t see myself doing another 16 km for a while. Maybe I rest my ambitions until I know whether I was accepted on the London Marathon and once I have done some more strength training. I guess 15-25 km per week is enough to keep fit.

Whilst running I love listening to podcasts. Usually at 2x speed, I get through a few. One was about ‘when do you know when to quit’. And I believe it was Seth Godin who described things not going well as either being a dead end or a slump. So you need to evaluate quickly if it is a temporary slump you get out of again or if it is a dead end. That’s true for business or private life. For the dead end, there is no escape: quit. Even the most persistent sales person won’t be able to make a difference to a product that is a dead end. He also suggested that most ideas have been taken to market before. They have been tried and tested in one form or another. Learn from industry peers, understand the market, get an understanding of what is happening. Then re-evaluate before making a final decision.

The business and life advice I am getting through podcasts is immense. I almost believe it is too much at times. Physically I cannot read or listen to more advice, and everytime I think I heard it all or listened to all podcasts, read all the development books, there is a new spin, a new angle to a similar story. And I love reading about different spins of the same thing. Because essentially, most personal development theories are similar. So is mine. I actually noticed that some of my book #BeBetter looks at similar theories as the Energy Project: it is about bringing your life systems into balance. And this summarises most theories, yet every bit looks as a slightly different way of doing so, with a different emphasis on what’s most important, depending on your slightly different approach to work and life. And some focus on one area only and go a lot deeper. Fascinating – I find anyway 😉

On Tuesday something interesting happened. Instead of my usual breakfast I had a protein shake for breakfast. This is part of my exercise and weight loss routine. Accidentally, as a few other things were going on at the same time, I ended up forgetting to have my daily double espresso. At work we don’t have the greatest of coffees, so I decided to wait and see. By the time I got home my headache was that bad, that I needed a coffee. Unbelievable. It is interesting to see how dependent you can get on caffeine, yet an article I read this week suggested that three coffees a day really prolong your life. So I should be good 😉 As my mentor Darren Hardy says, every now and then you should give yourself a break from something, just to make sure you are still in control. I am. I decide what I do. I am in charge.

Travels went well this week. Another couple of days in Germany, supporting the team and meeting some important people, catching up and strategising. The hotel was noisy, sleep poor and I am struggling to come to terms with the quality that Hilton offers vs. my recent experiences. It must be very hard for a brand to represent values and standards and enforce them across a variety of businesses on a global basis. I suppose it is part of my job to ensure exactly that on a B2B level. Not always easy, yet my team is excellent, I have to say. The team at the Hilton in Hamburg seems to be not so well trained, particularly to the Hilton I stayed in in Düsseldorf, and the difference is mind blowing.

More disturbance happened when two appointments that got confirmed got moved last minute, then moved again and I got different confirmation from different people. Again, people in client services. Very frustrating and in line with the service level I mentioned above. I guess it all turned out ok in the end, and it always will, but time is passing quickly and there is so much to do and so much to sort. Time flies, literally. I am struggling sometimes to focus on the right things and channel my energy to the right things. There were some aggrevations this week where I clearly wasn’t in charge of my energy, and then I have had a few situation where I decided how I felt about where to channel my energy to. Balancing my energy system and being on top of the feelings is not always easy, rather hard at times. Keeping my zen and adjusting, learning. But I am managing better as I get deeper into meditation and balanced life, mind and better sleep 🙂

On that note, I had a relaxing weekend. Travel makes you tired.

Have a great week ahead,
Volker

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Sunday Column (452)

If feels like autumn, no? I went back to work. It surely doesn’t feel like summer anymore. The sun seems gone, the warmth, yet the golden summer or Indian Summer hasn’t arrived yet either. A great week to get back to work. Five days of full on fun and then 3 days off for the last bank holiday weekend of the year. Yeah! And not long now and the kids go back to school. They missed me this week as I went back to work rather than continued to be at home. Bless. Yes, one can get used to just sitting around doing nothing I suppose 😉

The commute. Did I miss it? A bit. Seriously, I have got hardly any reading done. Now I got my 1-2 hours back where I sit on the train, read, write or listen to podcasts. I am back. For those actitives, I don’t mind the commute. The only challenge is either the length of the journey when you are in a rush to get home or of course delays or cancellations. But my major aim this week was to continue changing my routine. Small things in the morning, staying within the flow, cut out calories, and keeping a relaxed and sane mind. Is it working. I am not sure 😉 But I tried.

I love those first days coming back to work. Things seem in harmony, your body and mind are relaxed and you go with the flow. You breathe differently, you get wound up less, and you seem to be full of energy and anticipation of what is coming next. This feeling usually lasts about 4 weeks max before it returns to normal. Actually by Friday, I was almost back to normal. Crazy. Maybe a 1 week holiday every week, will that keep us sane? Kidding aside, if you are as self conscious as I am, you will notice the effect of full relaxation and, how as a matter of time, it wears off and you fall into old habits. A few small habits but habits never the less. To change those all will be difficult, just conquer one at a time. As my mentor Darren Hardy would say, improve 1% at a time at everything you can. All small changes are adding up.

Talking about habits, I changed a few and made a few tweaks to my morning routine. Given I don’t run for 10K any longer on most mornings, I tuned down to 5 and 7.5K and some weight training, it gives me more time to sort other things and catch up on emails etc. prior to work. Less rush. Also, I am keen on catching up with more friends after the holidays. It seems like I am always rushing, so given that approach, my Tuesday night beers turned into a few more. Lack of sleep, short nights and I was in bed at 9 pm the next day, feeling like newborn on Thursday. I love random weeks, but reduced calorie intake and bad sleep do drag you down 🙁 Full on, one week in. And yes, I am loving it, and truly enjoyed the catch up too.

In life, I am still trying to figure out what the best approach is. In my diaries, and I found an old letter from about 20 years ago, I wrote that in life you can either be the CEO of Mercedes or the Shepard in Australia. The text book career or the wild life. Now, given I am neither, and given I have family, the latter is probably out of question. However, I do question if the CEO of a big company is actually the goal. Does it matter whether I work for a big corporate with a big name or for start ups and small challenger brands? Exactly the same discussion came up with a friend who I met randomly on the street this week in London, after we tried catching up in Hamburg for the past 4 months. And if it matters, to whom does it matter? Will it be reflected in money and status? And if so, what is the tradeoff? Politics vs. Fun? Reputation and CV vs. Being in the Flow, hoping for the big exit?

For now I don’t have to worry about this question. Watching the TV Series (season 4!) of Silicon Valley brings back the dream, and reading this 20 year old note, almost makes you melancholic. What was it like to grow Mexad from zero to multi million? Often, most thoughts we have in life, have already crossed your mind at some point. You remember my post about me inventing both Facebook and Twitter. But wrong time, wrong place. Will I be smarter next time, or am I just not the Zuck of the future. Did you watch The Founder, the story about McDonalds? As a 54 year old, a sales man, the chap spotted the opportunity to go for it and build a franchise. He succeeded. And why wouldn’t have he? I love those stories, and miss the newest inventions of Steve Jobs – not saying Apple will not innovate, but I guess it will never be the same. The new iPhone is coming soon, then copying Amazon Alexa, Netflix. Are they catching up or are they ahead these days? I don’t really know. Anyway, maybe that is a discussion for another time.

To relax from my first week back, I enjoyed the long weekend, or will still tomorrow.
Have a great, if short, week ahead.
Best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (451)

The second and last part of the holidays took us to the Isle of Wight. We wanted to go for a long time. Unfortunately we didn’t have a whole week, so left on Sunday and spend the most day on the beach. I even went into the sea. The next day we spent at the Needles, an old navy outlook and defence system dating back to the 19th century. We didn’t expect an old ‘fort’ but had an amazing walk along the seaside. Attached to it was an amusement park/tourist trap where the kids saw how glass and sweets were made, and we ended up on a beach with different sand colours via a cable car – I decided to walk back as those heights still freak me out a bit. Before heading home from the short trip we experienced an amazing Indian meal. Yes, the food on holidays has been treating us well! We also spend some time at the sandy beach in Ryde which we very much enjoyed. Not to mention my slight red face too 😉

Again, whilst not going very far, we had a fantastic time away. Just being able to spend time with the boys in a relaxed atmospheres, learning about things like how glass is made (this is so comforting to watch) – all those things are precious and it means we are growing closer as a family. I genuinely enjoyed our holidays this year. Let’s see what we are planning for next year. The kids however were glad to be back home. 10 days away is still very long for them. The remainder of the week we spend at home, chilling and getting ready to go back to work really, whilst the wife was away for a family matter.

Every time I go on holidays in the UK, I keep thinking of having a holiday home we could go to everytime we have time off. The challenge is simple: costs first and foremost, but then location. And how often would you go, based on location. Can you drive/fly there and be there within 2 hours? Can you rent it out 20-30 weeks a year through AirBnB? Most people I spoke to that have holiday homes, don’t like the idea of going to the same place every year. So you are bound to a certain holiday destination or you consider renting it out the whole year, probably yielding more than you do on a second home. It sounds quite appealing to me, whether in Devon, Isle of Wight or the Scottish Highlands. Yet the financials aren’t there yet, still saving the pennies for my beloved Jaguar.

Holidays, and I wrote about that last week, make me feel detached. It makes me realise a few things. I do love work. Yep, I am happy to admit it, I actually like to fill my days with commercial and management challenges. It’s my idea of fun and I always enjoyed doing that, developing staff, solving problems, making things happen, GSD. It also makes me realise that my biggest hobbies are fitness and family, as well as my fish tank. Hence the need for a hobby like a car or holiday home to keep me busy with things 😉 Guess not for a while. But by spending more time with the family I realised that I should do that more often. Get away with them, or have 1-on-1 time with the boys and spend quality time together. Things come up which normally we only scratch the surface on in our day to day life. And that is important to form the relationship with our kids.

On the other hand there is fitness. Yes, I decided to invest into a multi gym for home. Delivery should happen within the next couple weeks, luckily they also assemble it for me. This and my new regime for eating (I am using my fitness pal again to track what I eat), should counteract my weight gain. After loosing a lot of weight in 2014/15 (my guide here is pretty much two years old) it slowly started creeping up on me again. It settles differently to before, so instead of just being blown up and fat, I have an ever growing gut. Saying that, the holidays and lots of food didn’t help, but a few runs counter acted it to a certain extend. Speaking to a friend it is simple why that weight came back: change of routine, new job, more snacks. Then a lot of travel with no routine and in my case lots of bread in Germany. Whilst you would say it is up to me to decide what I want to eat, you are somewhat bound to the availability. So the fight is on, from Monday I will count calories again and follow my own guidance on loosing weight again. It will significantly improve my running performance too and the weight training should do its part. Fingers crossed.

Now, going back to work on Monday will be great. I do miss my team and getting involved. Likewise, I will miss my long sleeps and live into the day. I will miss the time with the boys.

And the days are not getting longer. I am not sure if it is only me, but it seems to be dark towards 9 pm already, some trees have brown leaves, and I wore my jumper more often than I used to. It is only mid August, the time I consider to be the height of summer. But autumn, the golden autumn usually in the UK, is around the corner. Two more weeks and we enter September. Two months of my favourite time of the year, before we enter into winter. Before we know it is is going to be Christmas.

Ok, I stop with those depressing sounds. Let’s focus on the good things, the good times and the quality time we spend with friends and family. Let’s cherish the moments of love. And, let’s share the love amongst our friends.

Love and Kindness from my corner of the world. Have an amazing week!
Volker

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Sunday Column (450)

What a fantastic week we had. Taking some friends’ advice we went to Longleat Safari park. Monkeys all over the car, pooping on it too, yet no damage compared to other cars where rubber parts where hanging off after leaving the enclosure. Lions, Tigers – a proper safari out of the comfort of your own car. The boys absolutely loved it and we went on to see a few more animals, played in the play park, did some rides and went into a maze we almost didn’t get out of again. A full on day and three exhausted boys by the end of it.

Holidays. I never was one for taking much time off work, but given the last few months, which have been very intense, it was good to get away for a week. Centre Parks – you either love it or hate it – an organised week of relaxing, too much food, activities and family fun. Even on holidays I wake up early. Good for runs, taking care of the kids and letting the wife sleep. The weather wasn’t too great but we made the most of it.

We did a lot of swimming. What strikes me most is how grown up the boys are. You can let them go down the slides themselves, watch them loosely around the pool and things are alright. They are growing up so quickly. Too quickly sometimes. Having just finished their swimming lessons, they are now safe in most waters, subject to its depth. This takes so much pressure away. Food wise, they are still not experimental. That is a bit of a shame given the international cuisine available in the park. So pizza, chips and fish fingers are still winners 🙁

Then someone shared a video about the Buddha and the Beggar.

This story reflects on any life. You trust that things work out. That life is going to be ok. Your job is ok. That you can continue to provide for the family. You give to others, as you are better off than others. I am trying to teach that to the boys that there are people that need help more than we do. They understand that, they donate to a partner school in Madagaskar, Africa. Everything you give comes back in life. This is like the energy system in mechanical engineering, mechanics. All forces in the system have to be equal. You give, you will be given. The forth dimension, time, is not being taken into consideration.

But let’s not be sentimental on holidays, you might think. The weather wasn’t nice at all, until finally Wednesday night we lit the BBQ. Yes. Result. I have been waiting for this the whole week. LOL. Burgers. Bacon and Cheese. Wine. Holiday mood, that’s it. Thursday turned out to be even sunnier. I managed to slightly burn myself playing tennis.

Whilst being in Centre Parks, we are thinking if we would return again. Two years in a row. The boys enjoyed fencing and archery. We did too. New experiences, new things to do. That is great. A safe environment, lots of swimming, food and little worries. Yet, of course you are confined to the compound. If the boys were older, they could go off, play pool and enjoy themselves without us. They are now in the “in between stage”. They still love crazy golf but are not 100% competitive to play it against each other. They play a bit of pool but aren’t good enough to compete against each other. Same for most sports. Whilst that is fine, I believe, given I grew up with a brother, that if they were 2-4 years older, they would just love to compete on various sports and run around all day. Cycling around the campus and spending their own money, making friends. On the other hand, my wife and I would love to show them more of other countries and experience, more variety of things. So that’s what we are planning for the next few years, yet probably come back to a Centre Park break in the near future. Or we ask the whole family to go somewhere in Europe for a week.

A great week. Just spending more quality time, not worrying about work and being there with the family is de-stressing. I don’t actually feel too stressed so no need to de-stress really 😉 Just not having to worry about day to day was nice. And last but not least, I watched (too many) kids’ TV commercials. Clarks’ ones was the worse. They are getting a beating on social media for their gender ‘enforcing’ models. I asked the kids what they thought the advertising was about and they had no idea. Wow, I understand TV ads build brands but they aren’t really tailored to kids, or if they are, they seem too influential. Crazy. But I guess that’s the industry we live in, and glad we control a lot online in terms of targeting.

Anyway, I hope you had a great week too.

Cheers,
Volker

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Sunday Column (449)

Oh yes. No Monday morning 5 am taxi pick up and a delayed flight after a bad breakfast to Hamburg. No, this Monday it was the normal 7:29 train service to London. No travel abroad and lots of catching up with my UK team. This was fun! I even squeezed a civilised dinner in with our American visitor, and made it home before 10 pm. Great result and great way to start the week. After having spend the last few days trying to cure the man flu, having my parents to visit, and sorting my infected toe, this was nice. Actually, I had a really nice, productive, day. 
The train home was quiet. My inbox also, given it is slowly getting to the quieter weeks of the year. This is nice, as I can focus on some not so urgent but equally important work tasks as well as catching up on some BBC iPlayer videos whilst writing my blog. Having the super sized screen, the iPad does allow for multi tasking, even if your brain doesn’t. Reading a book about the flow of things and how you best utilise your brain to be happy – the flow. I will update you on it as I read along.

The week stayed calm, or did it? Whilst the emails coming in are fewer than usual, the amount of work associated with each seem to go up. In other words, I was booked out back to back the remainder of the week, with requests coming in, needing a lot of my attention. But, and I said it before, I love what I am doing and I am GSD (getting shit done). However, coming home Tuesday night, after having had a few pints instead of coffee, I ended up with a Chinese and more wine. The weekend seemed to have started early this week, trying to cramp it all in. Despite all that, I was back to my first 10K on Wednesday morning at 5 am. Yes, that felt good. The first longer run since the Spitfire event. The first after my toe infection and the first after the man flu which slowly disappeared this week. I am getting back on it. I even fitted in a first weight session on Thursday. Winning it back. One morning at a time. Life is all about the daily routine.

Given the boys are off school and I hear about all their fun activities, I feel like I should be off too. During breakfast, the eldest sits with his huge fluffy teddy bear in the living room reading. The other one sits closer to me, colouring in. I have a rushed bite to eat, a quick kiss to say good bye, and off I go. Back long after they have been to bed. I sometimes wonder what a life would be like where you are home for 6 pm or 7 pm every night. I wouldn’t gain much time I don’t think. Being on the train from 7-8 gives me my hour of work, fun, chill out and declutter my brain time, something I don’t have to do at home. Yes, I miss bath time, but as they get older I see more of them in the evenings. The life and life balance we choose. The choices we make, to live close to London but not in London. To live close to the sea but not by the sea. The choices of houses, schools etc. I feel I made the right choices. However, as a friend of mine said this week over lunch, with Brexit and the current state of affairs, the government is harming it’s own country. Will Britain be strong enough to sustain a healthy economy in the long run. I believe, so I believe things will work out. And if not? I do not know, but maybe we move the family in a few years. Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.

All of that influences our happiness. Our balances, our systems. I wrote about that in my book. It is up to us to define what we would like to do and achieve. What goals are we working towards to, or do we just go with the flow? Which values do we have and what is important to us? Where would or wouldn’t we compromise. I haven’t read a fiction book for many years. I like to spend my time constantly improving myself. I enjoy that. And that is my flow I suppose. My daily flow of things, my busy weeks balanced by chilled out weekends, shared activities with the family. The discussion around success vs. achievement. Being busy vs. productiveness. One doesn’t mean the other, and each of us has to find their own definition of it. Focus goes where energy flows. Focus on the things you want to achieve, that drive you on, your purpose. Remove noise and time wasters from the equation of your inputs, eliminate news and social media input. Strive for being better every single day.
As I prepare for some time off, rushing through things I know I won’t finish this week, and thinking the world will not end if I don’t, I reflect. Shutting down the brain and trying to relax. Letting go and recharge the batteries. The world will be the same but busier after the summer months, leading into Q4 and Christmas. What will it be like? What does the journey ahead look like? 

Trusting in the power of the universe and that things will always work out, I put my head to rest. I had another almost scare this weekend, a worry that comes with age. All is good though. Thank you. 

Time to reflect, recalibrate and learn from experience. 
Have a great week,

Volker

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