Category: Sunday Column

My Sunday Column

Spring 2019 Blurb – Happy Easter

Hello friends,

I hope you still remember me, and I am allowed to count you as my friends. It has been a while since my last post. No, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. As a matter of fact, I am still writing regularly, I finished the first draft of my book on success, on the back of my podcast, and have drafted a few blog posts. However, I haven’t published any in a while, as you are aware 🙂

Why is that? I find a new peace and reflection in not having such a public life. Of course, I am nowhere close to being famous or feel like I am walking down a red carpet, however whenever I put something in the public domain, I am conscious that people are reading it. This has never been a problem, and still isn’t, but I am currently not keen on sharing too much, unless you ask of course 😉 My focus has shifted from ‘one to many’ towards more ‘one to one’. It allows for deeper relationships I find, so I caught up with a few people over the last few months. And it is good. If we are also friends on Facebook, or you might follow me on one of my Instagram accounts, you might have seen that I am more selective than ever in terms of what I publish.

It’s all about what I said at the beginning of 2019: life is about focus for me, and particularly 2019. I am connecting, to myself, the family, the job, life. I am making decisions and prioritise. A friend of mine uses the expression, that if you want to make an omelette, you need to crack an egg. Changing the form or your state, mind or physique takes time, and it involves giving one thing up and transforming into another. A bit like a butterfly. Do you remember the hungry caterpillar that ate and ate and ate? Whilst weight loss is one of my objectives for this year too, the metamorphosis for the caterpillar to become this beautiful, happy butterfly, is what I was angling at 😉

It took me 5 months since the marathon, half an hour of physio exercises every morning, and lots of patience, to run a 10K again. Never ever give up! I cannot deny that this is something I loved sharing on Strava, and that is something I am proud of. Persistence, continuity, and a lot of hard work. My aim is to recover from my knee injury by summer and run a half marathon, as one of the 12 my wife is running this year for RNIB. She has been busy doing one half marathon a month and I plan to join her for a few if my knees allow.

Focus on what you can change, and there is so much to change and remodel, reframe etc., and one of those focus areas are my knees. Btw, I am drafting this post looking at Bournemouth Beach whilst my wife runs her 4th half, and the kids enjoy some climbing activities. Thinking time is so important, having some ‘me’ time to write and reflect. Another things I got more of this year already. I attended a silent retreat, spend time connecting with myself.

Change work is very important I believe. As a matter of fact, going back as far as 1997, the year I left the navy after my military service, I got involved in NLP and change work, always striving to be a better version of myself. What success meant to me back then, heavily influenced by German society, the navy, school and society – that ‘success’ means something completely different now. If you haven’t heard of Mindvalley, check out Vishan’s content online or read his book. It is one of the few personal development books I happily recommend. The idea of letting go of old BS (Yes, BULL SHIT) rules, and making way for new rules, is so important. What things meant to you 20 or 30 years ago, is not the same they mean for you now or in the future. Change is permanently happening, and you MUST realise that. Embrace it, find your focus, and understand what is happening inside yourself. Be happy, it is that simple.

In terms of success, my podcast has a lot of influence on that change work too, in case you were wondering, and it is still going strong. My focus shifted a bit, away from advertising technology success stories, to people I love speaking to that have a focus on mindfulness and success. Now, to define mindfulness, this is a complete different story, and for another time, but it is about awareness, thoughts and happiness for me, managing change.

Having recently completed an MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course and a recap on EQ (Emotional Intelligence), which I researched back at university as part of my MBA degree, I am now more than ever keen on bringing this to more people. My children love to meditate every night with me, and agree that they fall asleep easier and sleep better. Isn’t that wonderful? With mental health awareness week coming up in the UK, I want to draw some attention towards something that is often hidden to most people, and can be helped with more awareness.

This is just a small part of my happiness I wanted to share with you today. Feel free to reach out to me at anytime if I can help you in any way. Advice, happiness thoughts, or just for a chat over coffee or a pint. I love to help and support, connect one on one, and share my journey with you!

Have a wonderful spring and Easter.
Kindness and love from my little corner of the world.
Volker

Sunday Column (521) – the end for now

Farewell, Goodbye and Amen. That’s how Hawkeye Pierce said goodbye to his friends at MASH. I adore Hawkeye and loved MASH and think the same. It’s not a goodbye though, it is a creative reshuffle, to focus more on my podcast and less on the weekly blog. So please check out my podcast where I continue to interview successful people for their Stories of Success.

Looking back over the past 10 years when I started this blog, my wife was just pregnant with our first boy. I am reviewing the blog for a book that I shall publish at some point in the future. It is about 10 years of blogging and this is the final chapter. It covers my first redundancy in 2009. Before that it was me making the decision. Then it covers the next redundancies in 2013, 2016, and 2017. 3 out of 4 redundancies were after an exit through a US company buying themselves into the European market and technology. 2009 was due to the recession. Unfortunately this is how the cookie crumbles for mid management in our industry.

It is funny to look back, and this year alone, I learned so much about consulting vs. working full time for a company. It was bad timing with GDPR but in the end I had 4 permanent offers. I made the right choice, and as I recently read, there is always a higher purpose for the choices you make. I will look back to 2018 and the next few years in this job and realise the huge opportunity that was given to me. As I look back to 2010 when I made one of the most important career decisions ever.

What is missing in my blog is people dying. This sounds terrible but I have been extremely fortunate that no one very close to me has died in the last 10 years. My grand parents died long before I started the blog, my MIL’s mum before that too, and my other granny is hanging on with being 98 now! Some industry friends have moved on though. This experience will come to us as well, probably sooner than we wish yet it is fantastic to have so many people still around. I am feeling blessed and apologise for the morbid thought 🙂

I ran a marathon and woke up neighbours being on the treadmill. I lost weight and put it back on again. We moved houses and got a new car. We decided on where to settle and how to live our lives. See last week’s post on that thought. The blog is full of those memories, the trips to foreign countries, the fear of change. The change. Full stop. Whenever I read another post from years ago, I remember where I was, what I did, and it brings back some vivid memories. This is my life. But this is only a 10 year snapshot, 25% of what I should remember of my life.

I have always enjoyed writing this blog. It gave me an outlet, and I anticipate that I will continue to write the odd post, maybe once a month. Maybe I call it the ‘New Column’ or ‘News from the world of Volker’. I will not be gone, I am just re-focusing. My energy is bundled and ready to put elsewhere. Books. Development. Kids. There is so much I could tell you about life, that I will start my ‘Volker book’ soon. Yet it will take years to finish, I am not in a rush, I am not even half way. That’s what I hope anyway. Remember, 120 years we got…

Christmas is around the corner. I am a grinch. I don’t believe in Santa Claus or cutting trees, or putting up decorations. I don’t believe in God or the Jesus child either. I believe in the quiet time and having the fire on, drinking a hot chocolate, a coffee, an Old Fashioned or an amazing glass of wine. I like to overeat, and go for a walk, slumber by the fire and have chats with friends and family. I enjoy the relaxing time. I cannot wait.

And once Christmas is over, it is going to be 2019. The year before 2020. Latter was a big date growing up. It was in the future, flying cars and all. It still is. The future is near though. A new year, a new beginning, new goals, new focus. Given my personal development background, it won’t be all new, because if I wanted to change something, I did it today. That’s why quitting smoking on New Year’s Eve hardly ever works. You need to quit when you are ready, not when the calendar year turns. It would be coincidental if those dates align. Anyway, enough said I suppose.

I want to say thank you. Not least to all the readers but also to my wife for giving me honest feedback for 10 years on those posts. For people telling me how much they enjoyed the columns and how human it made me. I am just a normal bloke, yet ambitious, German living in the UK, married to a Scottish lass, and I love to write. That’s it. I have an opinion and this was my outlet. So thanks for staying with me to the end….the end for now.

So have an amazing Christmas, feel free to reach out, drop me a line, email me, LinkedIn me or tweet me. Whatever works. I am very much in the public domain, hard to miss 🙂 Links in the sidebar.

All the best.

Yours truly,
Volker Ballueder

Sunday Column (520)

The end (of the columns) is near. It’s Christmas soon. The days are short, it’s getting colder and the booze is flowing, like any pre Christmas period really. Life is busy and life is good. If I look back a year or two, life has changed for the better. The last two Christmas I was without a job but never without an opportunity. Those moments of change, when you make decisions, that’s when your life is formed. That’s when you become who you were set out to be, consciously or unconsciously.

Today is column 520. Actually it is more like 512 as I missed a few counts a couple of years back. Never mind. It doesn’t matter. I am glad though that I numbered them, rather than having had to count them now and then. 10 years is a long time, but more about that next week.

This week, as a bit of a summary, was almost the pre Xmas rush already. A lot of folk are off next week, so I anticipate this being a quieter week. I got plans, from 2019 planning to recapping, to organising, to tidying. The usual year end stuff you never finish as you are busy with so many other things that come in ad hoc.

I managed to fit in a trip to Stafford this week. One of our offices in the North, and I love a good trip to the North. It reminded me when I was going to York almost weekly for 2 years working for an agency up there. The early morning starts, the cold air, the hot coffee, then the endless train journey with the beautiful view. I love the English country side and I love those trips. I would miss them; same as Scotland, where we booked our summer holidays. It sounds awful but with Brexit, I do not know what our decision has to be, clearly there is no decision on Brexit before Christmas.

Opinions vary from ‘Brexit with or without a deal’ will lead to a recession and then we will get out of it stronger….to ‘Brexit will be a mess and within 10 years we vote to be back in the European Union’. It all sums up for me that no one really knows, and more importantly, this is a mess and no one wants it really. No point of worrying about it, what meant to be meant to be. It was my mantra for a couple of years and I continue to believe in it. It’s the moment of decisions your destiny is formed.

As I stare out the train window early in the morning, the sun is just coming up over the trees, my mind drifts for a moment. I am thankful and grateful for what I have and what I have achieved. I love and adore my two little men who are growing up so quickly. I enjoy living where I am. I enjoy my job and the people I work with. There is not much I am asking for, yet the uncertainty of the country is making me think. Let’s hope that’s over soon, and we can concentrate on the important things in life, like the NHS, education for our children and life in general.

The winter is getting to me, don’t you think 😉

Have a great week.
Volker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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