Posts Tagged karate

Sunday Column (511)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week.
Volker

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Sunday Column (509)

What a great week, wasn’t it? Sunny, yet cold mornings. Proper autumn with lovely sun sets. Nothing else to ask for. I felt I made a huge leap at work, and my marathon prep is going well. I left the house early Saturday before dawn, had some lights on, and came back about 3 hours later. 20 miles done, some walking though. This was tough. I call this success, or achieving means goals, goals that mean something towards an end goal. That’s a new thing I learned this week. The end goal is the achievement of running a marathon, the means goal is to hit 20 miles. As satisfying as it is, it is bl* hard.

But let me have a rant at cinemas, or showing my pure ignorance that I don’t understand the value it brings to me. I work in advertising and I love it. But when I go to the movies, I hate the ads prior to the movies. You cannot skip them, and I always wonder how relevant they are. First of all, you almost always rush to the movies, get there just in time, and your boys want sweets. When you finally settle in your seats, you spend up to 30 minutes watching adverts. Those additional 30 minutes are ‘make or break’ whether you have to have a toilet break with a 7 year old throughout the movies. Again, no chance to pause it either.

If you think of someone going to the movies with their children, maybe a Halifax mortgage ad is fine. I don’t think it is too relevant for the kids, but I can understand the thinking of showing it for the parents. Seeing babies and follow on milk for Aptamil, maybe justified as you have some mothers there. They could have another child at home, as the Incredibles age range is far too old for follow on milk. Maybe someone has a huge age gap. In my opinion not the right audience at all. Most kids in the movies would be around 5-7, so yes they could have smaller siblings, but relevancy isn’t that high I don’t think. Worse even was Qatar airways. Nice ad, fun to watch, but no relevancy for children. Maybe for adults? Same as Comparethemarket, kind of being funny with the meerkats, the kids laughed, but just because I am a parent, insurance isn’t really relevant.

Of course you cannot target products at kids, and the restrictions and all, but on the other hand, come on, some ads are just not relevant whatsoever. Why not show family holidays or Nintendo game stations or something like that. And why show a short movie in front of the main movie. An irritated 7 year old blaring into your ear that we sit in the wrong movie. I started considering that possibility.

Now to the economics. For my two kids and myself I paid £30 for the tickets and another £15 for drinks and snacks. Sitting through 30 minutes of awful ads that I cannot skip to then see a pre-movie and having to have a toilet break wasn’t the best experience. The movie was ace though 🙂 So do the experience outweigh the costs? In my opinion not at all.

I just cannot see how cinema is surviving. The appeal is getting smaller. The dreaded arriving in time race, overpriced snacks and then irrelevant ads you cannot skip and toilet breaks without pausing the movie. The bigger screen and sound is the only argument but with home hifi system and decent TV sizes, it just doesn’t cut the mustard. For me anyway. For £45 I rent up to 6 or buy 3 movies for the kids which they enjoys multiple times at home. Peace of mind there.

Rant over. I guess I enjoy cinema again when I can go there to escape. From home, the kids and watch a nice movie with the wife. As if that happens often. Is there a future in cinema, what do you think?

I finish writing this during my youngest karate grading. That was the most important bit of my weekend. Another money making machine but here I see the value for money. And really, I am just annoyed I never founded a karate school or similar. In the end, he passed. Proud daddy.

Until next week,
Volker

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Sunday Column (491)

Monday morning. All change. No, no new job but new train times. After lots of engineering works and the opening of London Bridge for Thameslink Services from Brighton, we got a lot of changes on the train times across the main line from Brighton to London Victoria. Allegedly this means only Gatwick Express services will go from Hassocks to London Victoria during peak time. That means Wi-fi on the trains but also that trains won’t stop at Clapham Junction anymore, and less direct services to East Croydon. A pain for a few people. Luckily I am not affected but I totally feel for my fellow commuters.

Let’s look back at last weekend for a bit. The Royal Wedding, Harry and Meghan, watched by billions. I am not sure what I found more noteworthy, the relaxed atmosphere of the wedding, that he married an American or that she came from an ethnical minority background, and that particularly black people were well represented at the wedding. Isn’t that a great sign that the world is coming together? The US-UK bond, the Royals accepting things they would have not accepted 50 years ago. Halleluja as my old physics teacher in the US, ‘Dr. Stone’, would have said. He would have been as good as the reverent speaking about Love and Fire.

On the note of fire. The Grenfell inquiry began this week. Videos of people telling their stories and getting their burned belongings back were shown on the BBC news site. I am still devastated to hear about it and don’t think this should have happened in 21st century Britain, or anywhere really. Cheap quality build on the back of greed and shortcuts, leading to loss of life. Maybe it isn’t that black and white but I am still angry as to how this could have happened. Let’s hope justice will be served.

Talking about inequality. This week, sparked by me finding 20 pence thinking I should give it to a homeless person, I was told about a problem homeless females face: they cannot afford sanitary products. What? I never thought about it and I was disgusted to hear that those products are not widely available for free, similar to condoms. A quick calculation. About 4m people in the UK live in poverty, that means if 40m people in the UK were to give 10 pence (!) a month, we could probably easily pay for sanitary products for the female population that cannot afford it. Is that thinking to easy? I am disgusted that in a first world country we still have these problems, and maybe I should get into politics.

Donate today to your local food bank! Exactly, it is as easy to buying some sanitary products and donate them where you would normally donate food.

You know when I say life is constantly changing. I cannot wait any longer to put things off, so I decided to start on one of my greatest bucket list items: another book. My working title is ‘Halftime’ and it is the story of my life. It might not be interesting for you but I hope it might be interesting for some. And by the time I finished writing up my 40+ years, 10 years of blogs and thoughts in two smaller books (150 pages each) of memories, I might be closer to 50. I always thought I start writing once I have been in a new job for a while but it felt right to pull the trigger this week. I am excited.

That sums up a nice week. I started another contract with a lovely start up which I hope I can help massively, even if I only do a few days for them. Things are moving in the right direction and blimey, it looks like we are already in June next week. Time flies but it seems to be ok. A podcast about sleep made me think of sleeping arrangements and productivity again. I just cannot stop improving my life and mastering what is there. A sunny bank holiday weekend, the Championship finals, a hangover from the dad’s night out and another grading for my youngest to receive the orange belt. Plodding along as they say. Plodding along.

Hope all is well with yours,
Volker

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Sunday Column (474)

I thought I start differently this week. The weather: cold, yet warm. Sunny yet rainy. Lack of Vitamin D (supplements!) and it all seems slow. But, there is energy. Positivity. Fun times and conversation with people that make you rock. A hot chocolate with a neighbour who just gets it. A benchmark to mastering life and to understand I am not alone with the problems I face. The challenge with the kids to make their bed, wash their teeth, get dressed in the morning and eat breakfast. Being at home brings those things into focus. It is good to be home, and it has been a fun time, but it is time to go back and work, to contribute, to make a difference.

Anyway, next week Tuesday, my 2nd interview goes live on my podcast. I cannot wait. I got loads of feedback (shoutout to Debbie, Anna and Spencer) and the third episode will see some changes; from the 4th episode onwards the quality should improve. I am recording 4 (!) podcasts next week. So this week it is going to be a different angle on Stories of Success. Another great industry friend, a fun conversation about life. As I investigate jobs I think about what he said:

1. Can I make a difference to the job?
2. Can I learn something?
3. Is it going to be fun?

I found a few jobs where that is the case, e.g. where I can say YES to all of those questions. Some are more formal, some are more fun, and at some I will learn more, others I can make more of a difference. Weighting, values, priorities and what I learn more and more, there is an emphasis on meeting your manager early on. If the chemistry sucks, you are out. For both parties this makes a lot of sense.

However, the companies need to want me first. And I am not at the stage yet where that’s necessarily the case, and I update you as I go along. I am hopeful though, and everything else would be worrying. The pipe isn’t as big as it could be but things only started to pick up. When I first left my last job I had one verbal offer which turned into a ‘no more recruitment before Christmas’ and another where I lost against an internal candidate. Things happen for a reason and things will work out in the end. I am very positive about things and I am keen on moving on.

That’s my update. Or is it?

The most important part happened over the weekend. My youngest got a red belt in Karate. Only a few months in, he managed to get the first accreditation. He was chuffed and proud, and so should he be. And I am too. I am very pleased he enjoys it and keeps going at it.

We also saw my mate who recently had twins. It is somewhat weird to see these small babies. It is as if it never happened to us. It seems so long ago, I feel so old ;-( No, actually I don’t, but I am glad the days of nappies are over. It was a great afternoon with lots of industry friends.

Weekends can be super to chill, spend time with family and friends. That’s how it should be!

Have a great week ahead,
Volker

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Sunday Column (472)

Another week in January, already half way through the first month. I started writing this early in the week. I have a new creative outburst this year it seems, e.g. I love putting thoughts into writing and talking (see last week’s post with the info on my podcast Stories Of Success). And I am proud to announce that the first (solo) episode went live this week. Check it out. Also, I conducted first interviews which, post production, will be published over the forthcoming weeks. This has been fun and and exciting.

Not sure I mentioned this before, but on weekends, as you would, time is reserved for the family. That is very important for me, as normally I am not around that much during the week. Having said that, I truly enjoy the school runs at the moment, however it seems that whilst this week was still quieter than anticipated, my diary is filling up for the next weeks. Fingers crossed to get back into the ring and get some, even if temporary work. I am starting to go stir crazy 🙁

Anyway, on Saturdays for instance, I love getting a lie in (that means 7 am for me at the latest) and then have breakfast with the boys who are usually up at that time, before taking the youngest to Karate. When I was a child I wanted to do Judo. Mainly because a friend of mine did Judo. Years later I got into Tai Chi and loved it, and think that hindsight I would have benefited from learning a martial arts when I was younger. If I say it wasn’t done in those days, I would be lying. Everything was done, but a lot of things you did were more conventional, not exotic, and martial arts were probably seen as exotic.

As I describe in my podcast, I used to think a lot about what others thought, and that’s probably down to the way I was brought up. That has changed, and when my boy decided to take up martial arts, I would get up at 3 am at the weekend to make it happen. There are always excuses, unless you just move forward and do it. To conquer a fear or an imagined fear. No one really cares what you look like or if you do one thing or another, and you shouldn’t really care if they approve or not. Who are those people that think they can approve or disapprove what you do with your life? That’s the same with a lot of topics, the immediate one I can think of is your sexuality. You shouldn’t worry if you are gay for instance, and neither do I. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case in our society, and neither was it common place to do martial arts. Life is changing for the better. Just see the #metoo campaign lately. Rant over 😉

You know that I have been looking for a job. No news yet, and I believe it will take another few weeks to be honest. I am not very good at sitting at home doing nothing, and until you know what project you do next, you are a bit restless. Potentially I might sign a short term contract as a consultant, yet it is about the bigger picture, the long term perspective. And there are plans, as always.

There is a thought of moving out of advertising technologies (adtech) industry and move to a different industry. Discussing that with a friend this week showed that I am not the only one 🙂 As a matter of fact most people I speak to think about it. That’s never a good sign, is it? I don’t yet have to make a decision on anything but I have been thinking about that for the past weeks. Adtech has been good to me, and I have been working in it for over ten years, pioneering some of the stuff we are taking for granted and yet still, people make it sound complicated. I love my mates in the industry and it is a fun and dynamic industry too. I speak to more and more people recently that are fed up of people who made it to the top and don’t have a clue about what’s happening. The industry is due a change in 2018, and I won’t bore you with the details here, but I believe that a big change is going to happen. The old model and set up of agencies specialising in different discplines and consultancies being specialist in some aspects of it, won’t work. I see them two joining together, delivering strategy and execution at the same time. What that means is that agencies will become more strategic with clients across the board, not only around media and creative, and consultancies becoming more hands-on with delivery and execution.

Adtech will be at the heart of this merging with Martech. Martech will just become part of an overall technology stack, software essentially. Whilst this transformation will still take 3-5 years, there will be lots of turmoil. M&A will fuel all that and big telecoms will buy those technologies, ending up with a few original adtech players like Google but also telecoms being the owner of technologies. I am excited for that industry and love it. However, being in the middle of it won’t be too much fun, as something will have to give, and quite frankly, I could do with a bit more stability in life on the job front, in order to focus more of my spare time on my number one priority: family and kids.

Now don’t get this as a too negative notion on adtech. I am still speaking to a few companies in adtech and some have some smart solutions. Just this week I spoke to an interesting company which has a niche solution delivering incremental ROI. That is so cool! That’s when I get still excited. And yes, likelihood is I am back in adtech before we know it, but let’s also be honest and watch the space as it is changing.

So, that’s all from me folks. More news next week.
Volker

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