Posts Tagged christmas

Sunday Column (470)

What a Christmas we had. Lots of driving to and from Germany, but the main challenge wasn’t the driving itself but the weather. No, not really snow or anything like that, but it was grey and dark. Things were just miserable, no light, the sat-nav had a dark background, literally thinking it was night time, the whole drive both ways. Some delays but overall we were lucky enough to make the journey without an complications. I guess that’s all what matters. And then, we relaxed.

Christmas in Germany seems different. Maybe because that’s where I ‘learned’ Christmas, and it always feels home and secure, and comfortable. Maybe it is the Christmas decorations or the family bond you have at Christmas, and anyway, we had a fantastic time with mum serving my favourite food. Needless to say we had a lot of it, plenty of wine and lots of laughter. A Christmas market, some shopping, and seeing friends and family. But it was dark and grey. Just saying, I guess I have to move to the other end of the world in order to have a sunny Christmas.

As I seem to settle a bit on Christmas Day, just after watching the Queen’s speech, I am reminiscing about the old and the new. You might have read my blog posts over the last couple of weeks, looking back at the year. I am pleased with the differences I have made to some people’s career, how I have been able to change people’s life for the better. I also had to make some tough decisions, which resulted in people not having a good time. But we are forced to make those decisions, and we are mature enough to make them and move on. And take those of others 🙁

So I closed 2017 in my mind. Particularly, I have been brainstorming my own future for the past 6 weeks, trying to figure out what the next moves are. And I found a lot more focus moving forward. The new. I am keen on exploring new opportunities, but I want to move away from just having a job. What I mean by that is that I don’t want to fall back into a position where I just execute for the sake of execution but rather being part of a bigger solution and a long term plan. There are a few of those nuggets around and I am keen on finding them. As and if I make progress I shall let you know.

2018 – for me this is about a few things. Today, being the eve of the new year, I think the main focus will be to maintain an exercise routine but cutting it down to 4 days a week with one 5 am start focusing on writing. I have pushed my body too far before Christmas, and the break was good – sometimes less is more. I am fit though, feel healthy and good.

Also, I am planning to launch a podcast to interview people on their stories of succcess. A focus of this is European success stories or success stories of European leaders. Why? Because I believe too many success stories are not focused enough on the challenges in Europe. So as I launch the website and have sorted the details, I will announce further info on here. Personally, I see it as an extension of my blog in audio format.

I also want to make sure I make my time with the kids count more. So more uninterrupted dad time will be a key focus for me, and have regular date nights with the wife. Less travel, more time at home, more support for my first priorities. They are well worth it. And, last but not least, find a job I enjoy and I can settle in, as of above, and maybe do a 5-10 year stint, wouldn’t that be nice. Having a normal life? However you define normal LOL

I know that some people think that’s not possible in our industry to have a more regulated life, and maybe it isn’t. But I also believe it is time to find that nugget and move forward. Give it all and expect all too.

That concludes my 2018 wishes. Hopefully I didn’t forget anything and if you think I did, please reach out via the usual channels.

Have an amazing, happy 2018 !!!

All the best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (469)

Merry Christmas.

Given today is the Holy Night, and Christmas morning tomorrow, I don’t anticipate many people reading my column. That is fair enough. It should be a time of year when you don’t check your social media and relax a bit. You should have down time, and you should not have to worry about what is happening in the world. Christmas for me is all about having a week off, knowing everyone else is off, and you are not missing out on anything.

Merry Christmas to you, peace and happiness.

I want to use this week to look back – personally – on the year. It has been a turbulent one to say the least.

First things first: family. My first priority. We keep on learning how to bring up our children, we make things up as we go along, and I am absolutely enjoying it. From holidays in Centre Parks, travel to Legoland and day trips down the coast, Brighton football games, grandparents visits and trips to Germany, and time for the wife and me in Edinburgh or London. It has been an eventful but good year, and – being hopeful to say that every year from now on – we are getting better at being a family. Not that we weren’t before, but I am a strong believer in a growth mindset, and a collective unconscious. I feel like things are falling into place and we are growing together, and that is so nice to feel and experience. To speak of two things that made my year, I’d say the youngest starting and enjoying Karate classes, and the oldest working hard for 6 months to win a trophy in football. I couldn’t be happier or prouder of my two boys, and without my wife, Jenny, I couldn’t be doing all this. She has been on my side for 10+ years and I love you more every day! I am very grateful, thankful and full of appreciation of what we have.

On the other hand there is my career, which still takes up most of my week. That’s true for work for most of us. In January I joined a plc which I knew might be sold or change its proposition in one form or another. It was somewhat a gamble to join them, yet you never know who might buy a company. Looking back it was the right decision as I got to work with some very talented people, joined a fantastic culture and got a lot of learning from it. Unfortunately, I spent 2-3 days a week in Germany from April to October. That took time away from the family, and juggling two jobs, this put a lot of strain on me, family and the job I was originally employed to do in the UK. But I made it work, working from taxis, airports and making up with the family at the weekends. I loved the experience and sincerely think that I made a difference for the company. I lost out on a lot of things at home and burned a lot of energy.

Then over the summer things got quiet and the company sold. It became apparent, that moving forward, my role might be made redundant. I did what I could to avoid redundancy but likewise appreciate the help and support I got in the process prior to leaving last month. Whilst redundancies are never nice, I have so far enjoyed the time off to re-position myself, to re-evaluate my life and career. I might even go as far as saying that I have grown and gotten more confident. I know what I am doing and got confirmation of that a few times in the past few weeks. New projects will be announced early 2018. Based on the first few months of the year, I shall decide what the long term plans are. Most importantly, I am looking forward to align work closer to my values and my life expectations. Similar to the family, I am growing up too, still, always growing. And the break of a few weeks was needed, I felt burned out a bit. But I got my energy back, and that is the most important part, and of course I made up for some lost time with the family.

In the meantime I want to spend as much time as possible with the most important people in my life. As I do over Christmas. My family. Having had the privilege to spend more time with them over the past few weeks was amazing. From school drop offs and pick ups, them helping me testing some new equipment, watching Star Wars and making a routine and habit work at home. I am training them well I think 😉 They make me realise every day why I am doing what I am doing. They are my inspiration and motivation. Somewhat I enjoyed working and juggling two jobs and a family and going out of my comfort zone whilst upholding a 5 am routine and exercise, and meditation and personal development practise. As I said, I grew over the year, and that is the most important thing for me. It makes me who I am. I am happy. Yet, closer to Christmas I did notice my body getting tired, so time to have a few days off and relax.

A turbulent year. Just as well I am now relaxing and unwinding for a few days. And so should you, to my point earlier, there is nothing to miss out on. Don’t feel guilty and have another glass of wine, the extra piece of cheese or turkey/goose/duck. And if you are a grinch like me and don’t like Christmas, or you might not celebrate it due to religious reasons, enjoy the quiet time. Enjoy not having to read emails, not having to watch the news and spend some time looking deep inside yourself. Embrace yourself. And hug the person next to you, show them appreciation for them being them and being here.

And thoughts for 2018….you are the one that already knows where you want to be, what you should be doing and what is right in life. And you must always trust that the dots connect looking backwards. Hence, move forwards, always, and the right path will open up. You know it will. Trust in the future.

Speak to you in the New Year. All the best for 2018.

Love and Kindness, Peace and Happiness, and of course a Merry Christmas.
Volker

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Sunday Column (468)

This week’s post is written on a keyboard I still need to come to terms with: My new MacBook Pro. Since Southern Rail reimbursed me my travel card, I could justify the hefty price tag to get a new laptop. It sounds crazy but the MacBook or the MacBook Air just don’t have enough power to really justify any investment past 1K. So the MacBook Pro, without the fancy touch bar, seems like the only reasonable machine out there if you want to buy an Apple. And I am overall quite happy with it. The keyboard, as said, needs getting used to, the touchpad too but you already know it is better than the old one on the Air, and definitely is similar to the external one; and last but not least, the display is amazing. Particularly compared to the Air. However, as friends warned me, connecting it to my 10 year old Dell screen, just doesn’t cut it. It feels like the Dell is fading, and I prefer to do the main work on the Retina display. Maybe there is another investment coming soon.

First world problems I suppose. On that note, Arnold Schwarzenegger was very outspoken this week about climate change and someone in a podcast said that we are the first generation that actually has enough data to make an informed decision. And, we cannot ignore the fact the world is changing. Minus degrees, snow, it being cold and the fire is on, cosy nights with wine. The next day T-shirt weather and rain, it being around 10 degrees. No, this isn’t normal, and I don’t need to be a meteorologist to figure that one out. What to do? I am still thinking of how I can contribute to the greater good moving forward.

A friend of mine had a website a few years ago about connecting dots. And Steve Jobs is most famous for saying you connect those dots looking back, even if looking forward we can’t see it yet. And it is Anthony Robbins who said that the brain is wired to avoid fear, because that’s how it was millions of years ago. There is history and if we look back, we cannot predict the future – still. But with climate change we can say: it is real!

I figured, sometimes in life we just need to sit still and listen. We need to connect with friends and family, new people and get input. And based on the input we get, we redefine our lives. We all do that, all the time. However, doing it consciously, and deliberately reviewing your life’s purpose, is something else. That’s what I have been doing over the last few weeks, since I took redundancy. I am open about it, because I am wired to talk, to write, to share thoughts. I am not wired to be a great motivational speaker on a stage, as my background is very scientifically grounded. Of course, one doesn’t exclude the other. What I am trying to say is that what I like to produce is profound, which is why I was successful in my sales career: no BS. Ever. Win/Win. Always. And the input this week was as good as last week, maybe a complete different directions. That’s what I call a growth mindset, and I am keen on not doing anything for a few days over Christmas.

This feels like a year end post already. Despite being a bit put off by ‘my’ digital industry, I cannot stay away. Having been at a few Christmas drinks this week, it is so great to see people from the industry I have known for years. That is fun and continues next week, with even more and closer friends. The industry is part of me, and I am part of it. I love technology, and particularly technology pushing boundaries and being in a position to improve the ecosystem and deficicies. My tasks got bigger from selling ads to influencing the way we see the ecosystem and how we approach it. Things are changing. I am changing. And some of the tech I have been speaking about over the past few weeks has been amazing.

I am also deep into personal development and change. Not only in theory with my book about productivity and articles on growth mindsets that I write and that resonate well, but also the application of this on a daily basis. Being one of the few that never struggle with their workloads and emails for instance. It’s about getting things done and putting out more than others at higher quality. But at the same time looking at your balance and work culture for your team. This is difficult when we look at value creation versus hours worked. Quantity vs. Quality. Another discussion this week.

So I have been thinking on how to best combine the two things. In the New Year I will make a few personal announcements. I plan to launch a few things that are more personal development related, that fuel my passion and hopefully your interest in the personal development space. And the main thought for me: focusing on Europe, rather than the US. There is a lot of good influence coming from the US, but I believe we need more focus on what’s happening in our world. Things we can apply to what’s in front of us. There is a lot of great stuff coming from the US and I love those motivational gurus and ideas, but the market is so different to Europe, to the UK. Size and scale are only a small part of it, culture is another.

On the other hand I will continue to focus on changing the world, changing the ecosystem we are living in from a digital and technology perspective. Helping others to understand what’s happening and how to be back in control. Being able to change the world, maybe, and even if it is a little bit at a time.

As Christmas is around the corner things are slowing down. Decision making is almost coming to a stand still. I have taken more online courses and made first decisions. I will disclose at the appropriate times but two projects are secured. Both are, so far, unfunded, e.g. freelance without pay. That is ok though, as there are thoughts behind it. I keep you posted. You, my friends, will be the first to know about my new endeavours and ideas. No, they aren’t related to climate change but there is no reason they won’t be moving forward. One just doesn’t know, do you?

Just finishing the week, we went to the Brighton game on Saturday. I wanted to go back for over a year, when I first took the boys to a football match. And my first one too. So this time my wife joined and we had a great family time. My youngest missed out on his best friend’s birthday party in favour of the game. Creating those experiences are fun, and then it doesn’t matter whether you win or loose. To be there, engage fully, and being part of something, that is key and much more valuable than winning or losing.

Have a great Christmas. Wind down, give your loved ones a hug and make sure you stay warm and safe.

All the best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (466)

We are expecting the coldest night this year…or by time of reading, we would have had it. Nice, finally winter, and again from tomorrow it should get warmer. Is that global warming? Is that the beginning of the end? Anyway, the cold days are lovely, particularly if you have time to spend it with the family in front of a fire, after attending the annual ‘Light Up Hassocks’, the annual pre Christmas fair.

Some of you have noticed my more spiritual approach to things, my motivational quotes on Instagram. I have daily mantras, LOA (law of attraction) and believe the mindset is key to survival, future developments and success. Part of it is getting out of bed at 5 am – despite not working 9-5, I am still getting up at 5 am, go running or do my weights. It is getting harder, mainly because I challenge myself a bit more, but also because it is so cold. However, the effort is worth it, my circumference is back down to where it was a year ago, my weight is on track. I stopped counting calories and continue the journey. That’s what it is: a journey to weight loss, a healthier life. The bigger picture: a journey of life to survive, to live happily.

Having time is one thing. Starting a business is another. And combining the start of a business with having time is a good thing, I suppose, as you can focus on the business and have time for it too. Yet there is no income as you start and build your pipeline. There is time to do some training, hence I got a certificate for business and life coaching last week, but really I need to balance all those things “I would like to do” with “business essential things I want to do”. I am very positive about it. Before Christmas, there will be little work, and just enough to justify some business expenses. From January it looks more promising, and I am hoping to sign a contract before the end of next week.

What does that mean? It means I am now committed to work for myself in Q1. A big step. I am still keeping my ears to the ground, keeping that safety net with me. And, if there will be a big job, a great challenge, I could be tempted to go back into the security of a regular income. There are reasons for it, a master plan. I cross that bridge when I come to it, and running my own business also means I will be pickier in what I do. It comes as a gradual process going from doing a 6 months project at an agency to a 10 months project at an adtech provider to new projects next year. I just didn’t call them all consulting but essentially that is what it was. An article on that is still to come. I enjoy writing articles and hope you all read the one on DMP and CDP predictions for 2018?

There are some huge things I am learning at the moment and I am confident you can gain from that too.

– I see my kids almost every day and spend a lot more time with them. Hence I can have a lot more influence on their behaviour and teach them things about the growth mindset, personal development and watch them growing up. I am feeling blessed being able to do that. Also, I understand that will change again whether I do consulting work or a full time job. Either way I will be working more in London or abroad.

– I went through the exercise of a thorough understanding of my finances. Starting at ‘how much do we need’ and ‘how much are we willing to spend’ to ‘what’s the bare minimum’, questioning some of the things we have spend money on. I should add ‘I have spent money on’. Hence I deleted my Amazon app, as it makes it too easy to just spend a few quid here and there.

– Despite being in charge of my own time, I am not having more time. I fill the days with learning, chasing, working on databases, pitching new business and exploring everything I need to know about coaching. It is a fascinating stage and I have met some great people since starting this only 2 weeks ago.

– It puts your whole life in perspective. Thinking about the fear you have, the confidence you need, the admin you have to go through and what you are missing out on vs. what is important in your life. How do you define happiness, and how are you managing balancing fear and happiness?

Whatever comes out of the next 3+ months will be a huge amount of experience. No one prepares you for that, yet it is a mental exercise like no other. That’s it. If I end up with an employer in Q2/2018 then I have learned to much, that I add even more value than I would at the moment. If I continue as I am, then I hope I end up in two year’s time where I want to be. And from there, the sky is the limit.

You know, trusting yourself is a huge step. I always have done, and I am so grateful for the support from my family. It bolsters my confidence!

That’s my week really. How was yours?

Volker

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Sunday Column (415)

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2 weeks to Christmas. The kids are getting excited, and before I hear a ‘hello’ in the morning, it is ‘where is my advent calendar’. If I hear them say anything in the morning, as I might be out of the house at crack of dawn. Southern rail put an emergency time table on. Busier trains, less often….great. For 4,000 GBP a year. The wifi stopped working on some trains (I know it is a first world problem), yet what I am trying to say is you getting less and less service for your money. And the price is probably going up by 2.4% again next year. So whilst the train companies get richer, we get poorer and have a worse service. And no choice. We can’t switch providers or drive, really. I heard of the first few people that had to stop working in London as it was too unreliable due to the train situation. Whilst I take that with a pinch of salt, luckily most companies I ever worked for understood, it is probably the bitter reality. Is that ever going to end? Not this year, that’s for sure, but it has been ongoing for 8 months! And my latest app shows me: 1:40 in transit. Yes I work, and yes I study and read, but that’s over 3 hours a day. If you cannot plan that part of your day, it becomes quite stressful to be honest. So I had to cancel a few Christmas drinks already, and I dread leaving our Christmas party early just to be home and not stranded in London. Yes, whilst I could stay over, that just might result in a day on bus replacement services due to weekend engineering works. Not taking any chances at the moment, and I cannot win with Southern.

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After my temperature last weekend, I stayed at home on Monday, without working, so I rested up. Tuesday I felt a bit better but if I compare the status of my wife’s virus with my stage, I won’t feel much better than I did on Monday for another week. Never mind, I just have to get on with it. I hope for the sake of the office that I am not contagious (don’t think I am, otherwise I wouldn’t go in!), and that my output isn’t affected too much. By about 3 pm my brain starts to shut down and needs some relaxation. 10 hour days don’t help I suppose. Fingers crossed it lasts! So whilst I am loosing a bit on the health front, I am also winning. And from mid week things felt better, and I even managed a run on Friday. Fingers crossed this was the last bug of the year!

Yes. I am winning. I am winning in the game of life. You know how I can tell? On Wednesday I had a day off (still having to use a few days before the end of the year) and I attended R’s nativity play. This was great. He was a Robin 🙂 The engagement from his end and the looks, and the shared breakfast, the play time at night. The boys love me being around. When I was travelling a lot to Europe, I didn’t see them for a few days but then worked from home for a day. They loved it. On the other hand, I now see them daily but for less time. Keeping the balance is difficult and the ongoing discussion with my wife is, whether it was the right decision to move out of London. We agree, it was, and that the current state of trains just don’t help the situation. We will get over it, and I will be able to win even more. Life just needs to fall into (the) place that it aligns with your values and proposition. With Jen hopefully going back to work soon and trains hopefully getting better, we should be in a much better place already come my birthday. The big one, you remember 🙁

Anyway…On my day off I decided to spend the afternoon with my friends and meet a start-up. I am crazy, I know. I love doing those advisory roles and helping people and discussing options. That’s what I enjoy doing, yet I was home for just after dinner, time for bath and bed time reading. A full on, full rounded day off. If I had felt any better, and the weather would have been warmer, I would have thought of having some good food, wine, chocolate and maybe a cigar. I haven’t had a cigar for a while but feel like it might be time to have one again – post bug, post cough. We shall see what Santa Claus will be having in s(t)ock for me 😉 But seriously, being able to just have time and not hurrying. Not worrying which train to take. To not worry and just wander around. To relax and spend quality time with the boys. This is nice, relaxing, healing.

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A friend of mine launched his business this week. Amazing. I have known James for many years and it is great to see that he is very open about his experience, his life and how he came up with what he launched: Measurematch. Another mate published a post on how he set up his own consultancy three months ago. It is fantastic to see how more and more people setting up their business to service the community and help others to understand the complexity of what we are doing. Something I think isn’t actually that complex. Latter is what I discussed with mentors, the knowledge just isn’t there and I feel like nothing is complicated but we have done it for a few years, haven’t we?

Another highlight of the week was that I finally passed my ‘Life in the UK’ test. Yes, the test that I need to become a British citizen. I studied for it in the summer but wasn’t allowed to take it as I didn’t have the right ID (mine was expired and cancelled and whilst they accept expired ones, they don’t accept cancelled ones). So I got my German ID card which took a few months and I studied for the test again. I passed. It was harder than I thought. Some of the questions were completely different to the app that I relied on. Yet I also used a different app before which I believe saved my life. Anyway, it is done. I now wait for my ‘residency permit’ to be approved – this was supposed to take 8-10 weeks but has now been ongoing since early August and should not take longer than 6 months. Then I can apply for naturalisation. Subject to waiting times, I assume at least another 6 months, I should be a British citizen by end of next year. Why I want to? Because I think that I will always live on the island. That I will always work and live here. And I like to be able to not worry about Brexit and what is happening with Europe. Yet, I also keep my German passport. The best of both worlds I suppose.

Today we were supposed to meet with an old uni friend of mine and his family. Unfortunate they had to postpone last minute. We never spend enough time doing those kind of days. We don’t take enough days to just wander and chill. See comment about about not being rushed and hurried. To meet friends. To carve out time for longer than a pint. To not worry about everything else going on. We should. We should stop every now and then and take stock. Smell the roses – I haven’t used that phrase for a while. Apologies if those posts are less inspiring at the moment, but the winter blues has set in. The mad rush to Christmas. There are a lot of things to balance. We try to finish as much as possible before and then realise on the 23rd that we can’t finish it all. That’s fine. We then postpone and go and have a good Christmas break. I will be working a couple of days, catching up on a few emails, some reading and conference videos. And I will wander, I will take time off with the kids and chill. To rejuvenate.

Hope you are planning your festive break and life is good for you!

From my little corner of the world, have a great week ahead!
Volker

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Sunday Column (364)

The year is coming to an end. Same procedure as every year. We are trying to cramp as much work as possible into the last week before Christmas, starting work early, finishing late, and then realising that the day before Christmas, we got most things done, and the rest we postpone to the new year. Every year we are going through this rather stressful cycle. It is what it is and we are doing it for years, don’t seem to learn. Maybe, and a lot of my clients are doing it, I should take 3 weeks off around Christmas to avoid the pressure and the stress.

Never mind, I enjoy a year’s end. I usually get some time to clear out my desk drawers, to clear old folders, tidy things, update my Salesforce and get order into my life. Until January that is 🙂

The kids had their last day at school. They are off and are looking forward to Christmas. They are excited. That is what is most important just now. Christmas. And the kids. How can we make those days special for them? How can we succeed in them always remembering their childhood Christmases as being special?

Merry Christmas

Then there were sick bugs this week. Whether the cough triggered the spewing or it was a combination of both – it is 12 degrees in December, global warming is happening, and whilst it all sound a bit gloomy, I believe the Paris treaty to combat Global Warming is a step in the right direction.

It makes me look back to my childhood. Besides the Christmases, I do remember being part of a nature group protesting against global warming and using certain gases (CFC/FCKW) in spray cans. Did it help? Not sure, but I did my bit and still do my bit when and where I can to preserve energy and to recycle.

Let’s not get too gloomy as December’s lack of light already does that for itself. Life is good. Everyone is in a festive mood, is having a good time and is looking forward to some time off. Well deserved.

What will 2016 hold for us. For your family? For business?

I will write a post looking back next week. I think it will be nice to reflect on 2015 and then subsequently looking to the next year. Like every year. There are unknowns, and lots of things that might change. There are opportunities. There are threads. No one knows what the new year will bring.

Let us rejoice, and let us find some time with our families. Let us go into ourselves. Let us reflect in the run up to Christmas. Let us sit down at Christmas, have a great time, and appreciate what we have. As anything we do not appreciate depreciates. My new mantra.

Have a wonderful Christmas and give those in need and those you love your fullest attention. Share the love in anything you do.

Love and Kindness from my corner of this small world.

Volker

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Sunday Column (303)

The last post of 2014.

Christmas has passed and it was fantastic. I love my family and wife so much, it is unbelievable. I am very grateful for the happiness I feel when I am surrounded by them. That, I guess, is the biggest present I got this year. Being with them in the moment, enjoying quality time together and also being physically apart without being apart. Not much else to wish for!

What else was great at Christmas? Long walks in the winter sun with our dog. It is amazing what a walk can do to relax and unwind. Particularly when you have lots of things going on. Even in the rain. Long walks, short walks. Then the catch up with friends and family members.

As it is now tradition we had Turkey on Christmas Day and pulled pork the day after. Lots of wine, a new Japanese whisky from the MIL, a train set from Lego and lots of presents for the kids. Almost too many yet we kept it to closest family and friends. Madness nevertheless.

From the 24th in the afternoon, just when the email came in that the last campaign would be set up, Christmas began. New to us this year was the wood burner which kept us going all week, day and night. It couldn’t have been cosier or more homely! Thanks to my wife, for a fantastic year. For sorting out the house, the renovation, the kids, the dog, and our lives I suppose. And of all I remember best this year: the campervan holidays.

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I wrote my yearly review last week. Yet this week is more about focus. Looking at all the great achievements we had. The renovation, the dog, loosing weight and keeping it off, getting fit, getting the oldest son into school, managing day to day, visiting friends….and as I type life in front of my eyes accelerates. We seem to go at a 120 miles per hour, often neglect some things on the way. This is not deliberately, that is how life is. Or we slow down and seem to achieve less.

From my point of view work life balance isn’t anymore so much about the job and family life but about balancing your day life at work and your home life around it, including family but also friends and hobbies, which is maybe for another time to go deeper and discuss how to make a hobby a job. As always, I am lucky. I love what I do for a living, I live what I love. Happiness.

When looking back we also want to look at sad things. We had a few people that left us, extended family, but also last week there were a few famous people that passed on (as I like to call it): Udo Juergens and Joe Cocker.

Latter has been someone I have admired for many years. And below is a video of him at Woodstock. Many many years ago. That’s how I got to know him (from the Woodstock video, not live, I am not that old ;-).

I believe this is a nice song to end the year. Reflect. And wish you all a happy, prosperous 2015.

To you and yours!
Volker

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Sunday Column (250)

Whilst this might not be the last post of the year, I wanted to start reflecting on 2013. I have been off since Friday, and will be back to work on the 6th of January. Now I have time for my family, my parents and mother in law who are staying with us for Christmas, I might get the odd lie in, and I can spoil the boys rotten. Yes, I look forward to Christmas!

Maybe it is my German nature but we got it all planned out. Massage, hair cut, shopping, shopping ordered, shopping and food planned for the holidays. Deliveries to arrive, last presents to be wrapped and slowly winding down for the big day. The day when the kids are so happy and full of joy to get all those new toys. And daddies and granddaddies love it too!

Xmas Tree

Unfortunately there have been some downers put on Christmas. Nothing too much to worry about, but when I entered the year, things looked different. I was, as far as I was concerned, in a secure, well paid job. This ended (un)expectedly due to what I would refer to as “big buys small normal course of business“. Hence it wasn’t that unexpected really, and as they say, things happen for a reason and turn out for the better.

Of course this overshadowed most of the year, put a lot of pressure on us as a family, both financially and emotionally. We got over it, partly at least, and we hope 2014 turns out to be back on track. Less restrictions and maybe more treats from which we currently abstain from. But we don’t know, do we? And, in all fairness, we don’t do too badly. I don’t look back in anger. I drew my conclusions and in the time in between jobs, I had the fantastic opportunity to work with some smart minds from the publisher, agency and broadcasting side. An amazing learning curve. Thanks!

But drawing this year to a close, I look at something more important that I learned. Something I hadn’t realised, had I not been in between jobs. Weekends get a new meaning. Working from home get a new meaning. Being up all night comforting a baby and then winning the pitch the next day – all this gave me more meaning. The learning is that my priorities have clearly changed in favour of my boys, and my family.

When I was in between jobs I didn’t take (but had) the time to take the kids to school daily or relaxed with them, or played with them. I was in survival mood. Normal I suppose, yet not great. When I found a job, I only had a few days before I started. So all hush hush.

little-girl-with-xmas-pkg

But since then, being able to engage with them, becomes so much more important. More important than it ever had been. Now when I work from home or come home early on a Friday, read them the good night story, they love it. Of course it is because they are older and more engaging, but so am I. Because I started to realise that those two boys are the most important thing in my life, and I would do anything for them. Of course I keep forgetting that once and again if they kick me and whinge and don’t eat or want the iPad or mummy or….but hey, that’s exactly it.

Children teach you life all over again, make you question why you have rules and which rules are valid, which ones are important. They make you feel at home, they cuddle, show emotions and are naive when it comes to Santa Claus. I was fortunate enough to watch both boy’s nativity plays this year and it was fantastic. I sat through both of them, beaming from ear to ear. I am fulfilled. I am happy. This is important to me, no matter who calls or sends me an email – they can wait. Prioritising, being able to juggle work and life, is the challenge, particularly with a 3 hour daily commute. Yet thanks to an understanding employer and modern technology this isn’t a problem for me, and it makes me a better employee too.

2013, for me, means I uncovered that family is the important job of all times. That I can finish my emails once they have gone to bed, and that they give me the strength to excel in my job, pitches, show emotions and at the end of the day work so much harder to provide so much better for them. The sooner I achieve my goals, the sooner I can go home and see them. For realising that, I can only thank my old work I suppose. For being able to view the world differently during my time off this year.

Three years ago in a blog post, I quoted Reinhard Mey’s song about the apple tree, quoting Martin Luther: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” The hope that the world exists past us is one of the greatest gifts.

The text from Reinhard Mey’s song in German can be found here but translates something like this:

I don’t know where to start,
I have so many thoughts, my heart is full of joy,
So many feelings inside me at the same time:
Joy, humility, thankfulness.
In mother’s arm, who holds you quietly,
You start looking at this world.
This is your first morning, and I think,
What a present is this child!

If all hope fails,
With you I start all over again.
And we can achieve unachievable things together,
You are the apple tree I plant.

Look around you, you are now part of that world,
Which constantly questions itself,
Where humans destroy their environment,
Where they ignore all warnings.
A place of contradictions, rich and poor,
Full of hardship and indulgence at the same time,
A place of wars, a place of suffering,
Where humans miss nothing else than humanity.

You are a light in an uncertain time,
A way out of the hopelessness,
Like a signal to continue on our way,
To continue with the challenge (of life).
Where doubts are and despair,
that is where a child makes you forget all about it.
In a world which is chasing daylight,
Children are the only hope we have left!

Now what will 2014 bring?

I might just write about that next week, shall I? I have more goals. Last year I wanted to get involved in more charitable work, and next year will see that being increased. I plan to turn a few knobs up a notch. It is going to be a very exciting time.

And, it will be my fittest year ever, as I have lost almost 10 kg this year, despite being sick for the past 8 weeks and not being able to exercise, I have more big plans.

Have a fantastic Christmas, a great time with friends and family.
Give them an extra hug tonight and remind them, that you love them.

Peace with you all.

Volker

PS: If you haven’t seen this video yet, it is a nice way of companies giving something back to their customers. In a special way.

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Sunday Column (248)

This week I ran for the train and just got it thanks to the staff at the station opening the gate for me so I could run straight for it. Never harms to keep the important guys happy with a chit chat in the morning 😉 I missed another train this week and had to stand for a while on the crowded one after. Happens. The reasons are simple really. I still try to overcome those viruses, so I try not to jeopardise anything by going running in the morning. My alarm goes off a bit later and Rohan is still up at night, some nights getting you right out of your deep sleep phase, making you feel shattered, dizzy and sick.

But there is another reason too. Those mornings when Colin wakes up just before I go downstairs. “Dad, I woke up because the heater in my room makes a noise. Nights are for sleeping and in the morning, you have to get up and don’t sleep.” Yes son, you are so right. Nothing like sharing the joy of him having a new T-shirt with his favourite cartoon character on it. Putting on the TV. He told mummy the other day, after she mentioned we have to look something up on Google: “Google knows a lot of things, it is smart.” He knows what’s right and wrong and in his own little world he is exploring lots of things.

Then I emptied the dish washer, as I normally do in the morning, and find out all those things that have happened the day before. Rohan has a new blue cup as he lost his yellow one in Brighton. I put the wrong coloured lids on the wrong drinking cups and got told “cheeky daddy” from one and “you don’t know much, do you daddy” from the other. The joys.

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I love my family, including my wife, and those special moments are great. When a four year old explains the world to you. Then he goes all quiet and tells you about the Christmas decorations at big school. There are so many things he hasn’t shared with me, as I am at work. I still find it hard not being able to be there when he gets home from school. And, I treasure the days I am, when he has his nativity play in two weeks and I will be there. Seeing him on stage 🙂 I envy parents that work from home, the ones that can drop off their kids to school most days and pick them up on others.

Ever since this summer I am trying to find the right work life balance. Part of me accepts the fact I don’t see them at night but I enjoy seeing them most mornings. And their schedule changes and yours does and you just make those weekends extra special. That is important. For them and for me.

Like this weekend, I helped at a project from some final year students, aspiring teachers, to get dads more involved in school activities. So we ventured down to school on Saturday and did lots of fun games, baked pizza, played and enjoyed daddy time. He loved having daddy around and I heard all about the school. I met one dad who can work from home one day a week and can finish at 4 pm to help out in school with a Lego club. That’s fantastic.

With me organising monthly drinks for the dads, I got a few more emails to add to my invites. “The dads of Hassocks”, sounds like a cheap soap, but gives us a great opportunity to exchange notes, sort problems, discuss man issues (we are not at the Viagra state yet), the commute, the work life balance, wives etc. It is good to exchange ideas with like minded people and discovering that the issues I have are common across everyone. I am not alone. A community feeling, like a German Stammtisch.

And we all enjoy and looking forward to Christmas. Seeing the sparkling, exciting eyes opening presents, moaning about the food and having family around us. It is this time of year. Joy. Peace, inner happiness, and lots of love. And unfortunately more bugs….which lead to us cancelling some weekend plans 🙁

Have a safe time in the run up to Christmas. Stay well.

Love and Kindness,
Volker

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Sunday Column (198)

I won. Maybe I was lucky. There was a phase last Sunday and Monday when I thought I would be sick. However, I never felt ill. Maybe the 90 minute nap or my day fast on Monday helped. You never know. So I was sitting on a time bomb that never went off.

So off I went to Boston on Tuesday. I actually started writing this post on the way over. I won’t have many flights next year with my UK centric role but anticipate to do a few long haul ones. You never know. It was my first long haul one for about four years. Not only do I like British Airways, I also like their coffee, service and the overall experience. It was worth it to spend 2.5 hours travelling to Heathrow.

20121216-195240.jpg One of those things about flying in big aircrafts is that you never notice the take off. You just sit down and relax and if you are lucky and keep yourself entertained, you will be at your destination in no time.

When packing I realised I haven’t got a suit that fits me, so next weekend or weekend after I need to go shopping to get myself a new suit, or a blazer and alternate an old suit to on the one hand be ready in my new job (within my company) which might require this outfit and on the other hand my dad’s 70th birthday next year.

I wanted to make a few silly remarks. But maybe someone understands me. I watched The Expandables 2, a movie about a group of outsiders under the leadership of Sylvester Stallones. Ok, there are a few actors in the movie that make it less believable, like Arnie, Chuck Norris, Jean Claude van Damme and Bruce Willis, but I personally enjoy the story. It might come back to my thought I had when I was 18: I either wanted the career, house and family or I wanted to be the lonely wolf, maybe a shepherd in Australia.

Being part of a reliable group. Having comrades. Having clear leadership. Taking risks. Reaping rewards. That is what life is all about. At least for me. And those values, in a different way, are portrayed in this movie. There is no reason you cannot have all of those values ticked in a job. Maybe with a little less blood shed and action, but if you find the right challenge, no one stops you from making it the best gig in your life. I guess I had a lot of those values ticked when I studied amongst my fraternity brothers in Germany. Honour. Reliability. Aiming to be better than the best.

However, sometimes you are missing a big chunk: love and happiness. You know what I mean. You cannot sacrifice yourself. I know friends who lived out of suitcases, one in NewYork, another one in London. No flat for two years but a career. The family came later. Of course you can do it. I couldn’t imagine a life without my wife or boys. Living in the countryside and being “disconnected” at weekends is fantastic. I enjoy it. I want it all, and of course I need to compromise. So whilst I don’t see the children during the week I try to be home every night. That might be less often due to travel, but I wouldn’t want that for the rest of my life. Maybe now and then or for a limited time only. For the foreseeable future I am going to be UK based anyway.

My thoughts were going wild there. You have a lot of time on a plane 😉 It comes down to identify the values and situations that give you inner satisfaction, I guess. You gotta find and live them. Seeing my boys growing up and coming up with the oddest things, questions about life and ideas makes you wonder how empty life must be without any. Having a place to come home to where it is warm, where a glass of wine and maybe a hug is waiting for you is unbeatable. And, this could be the smallest house or the worst wine. It is what you call home.

20121216-195708.jpg Ok, I now made it home from the trip and adjusted to my normal time zone again. I enjoyed my trip despite the hanging gnome at our Xmas party 😉 The only difficulty is to adjust to 5 hours difference in 3 days. So when we got offered $1,300 to take an overnight flight back, I refused and just wanted to get home. Maybe silly but I really wanted to see the boys and my wife of course.

I love America though. The water is too soft and I drank more coffee, coke and Mountain Dew than in total last year, but they got space, a great attitude, are business minded, motivational and natural leaders. At least most of the guys I met. I love working for an American company!

I enjoy being away but also coming home. I spent a fab weekend with the boys. We got an alarm installed, went to a Christmas party where we met many nice people and just had a good time. Happy days. Work seems far away, I am relaxed and look forward to the last week before Christmas. Lots of lunches, dinners, parties….so cannot wait for the weekend 😉 All good though.

Go with the flow. I haven’t really realised yet that we are that close to the end of the year. Christmas is for the kids. My MIL arrives this week. Soon I got my hat on and sing Silent Night.

Happy Christmas.
Volker

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