Posts Tagged life

Sunday Column (438)

Sunday night’s routine is tiring. I try to spend as much time with the boys, then I do what I have done for the last few weeks. I fold two shirts. I pack my gym gear, I pack my stuff for a few days away. The youngest often tries to help me, the eldest usually sits in the bath. As I pack my stuff, I realised that I most probably won’t be home for my son’s birthday. I plan to not travel for two weeks in a row, yet then I have to travel over his birthday. I better warn him early and suggested we can celebrate for three days before. Happy days, he is good with that. Balancing life is not easy sometimes, and tiring when you are worn out. Having had a virus, it seems as if I am running on 80% on a good day.

Whilst siting at the airport I managed a good catch up with a dear friend of mine. We discussed work life balance and challenges for having a high pressure job and a family. Coincidently I listened to a podcast re work life balance and blocking time (The1thing.com again) and wonder if work life balance is only becoming a practise now, after we had years of talking about it. Often good ideas take a while until we put them into daily practise. This is fascinating to watch and luckily not a big challenge for me, given the understanding and support of my company.

There was a minor incident on my flight, no nothing serious. My seat neighbour decided that he had to have more arm rest space than me and really started to get irritated when I pushed back and he pushed back himself. Wow, given he was middle seat and I was in the aisle one and we could have shared….I never experienced so much negative energy about something like that before. I backed down, breathed in and out, and moved on. I haven’t experience the sense of righteousness over something so small for a long time, and got really irritated. Seriously, an armrest space, that bl* important. No way.

Irritation is present for me, and I still find it difficult to deal with imperfection. This is because my high standards are often portrayed to others, and my expectations on myself are high. So when finding trainers, I spend another 2 hours trying trainers on Saturday, I want to have some that I know will eradicate my pain. But I cannot do that until I start running 10Ks in them. So I gave the one I chose a few weeks ago back and got two new pairs, hoping that one of them certainly works out. Given they didn’t have my size, I had to order them and hence didn’t have trainers for my trip to Germany. We are so spoiled to have things now and immediately, that waiting and being patient is not something we are good at anymore, or ever were.

It took me a few years to learn that actually. To understand that things are out of your control and that the person serving me dinner on Saturday night is not as sophisticated as I would have hoped for. But on the other hand, my confidence is growing to ask for things and offer compromises when food isn’t up to scratch or products I buy aren’t that great. Life is a learning process, and I hope I could just take half my life’s learning and pass it on to the kids. But that ain’t working, I guess my parents have tried and I didn’t want to hear any of it. Speaking to a good friend later in the week, the same pattern emerged. It was about work, about dreams, and how our experience benefits companies massively. Why wouldn’t it. And as someone said today, as you climb up the career ladder, or ladder of life, make sure it is leaning against the right wall. Moving forward is only progress if it is in the right direction.

Interesting, on a completely different note, I started drinking less coffee. I am not sure if I spoke about it, but I there are two subtle changes I have been making. One is to only drink a double espresso a day. No more caffeine after. A long coffee at the weekend, but I tend to change that too, I think. I find that I am less adjutated and less irritated. See above 🙂 Given I drank 5 or more cups of coffee/espresso a day, I am surprised how little I miss the caffeine intake. Then I try to eat healthier again, which I think is working most days. When I say it is more difficult whilst travelling, it is a sad excuse. You can always eat healthier, despite being on the road. Yet the stress and the temptation of junk food around you …. I took on more of the weekend cooking or reducing the take away in-take (sorry!). BBQs with veggies and lean meat and salad, smaller pizzas and some more salad / veggies at work. I still don’t loose the weight I put back on yet, but I am not gaining more. That’s a progress right? A bit more discipline, maybe less snacks, chocolate and beer, should do the trick. Again, it is a eating balance, finding the right balance in a life that is trying to determine how you feel and what you should do. That’s the key.

However, I started Monday with a bang – we did a big restructure in the German office, and this week was all about change. It is great to be in the midst of turning around a company and helping to facilitate change and perception. Life is good and I hope it is seen as a good change, if not now, then certainly in the months to come. Believe! It comes back to experience (see above), trust (see above) and stamina. I am planning my next trips. Things are moving in the right direction, and I got buy in from my eldest. Could things be better?

Honestly? They always could be. But then, if you take a moment to breathe, to stop and smell the roses, you will realise that we are in the midst of war of life. We are in the trenches for survival, and we are doing pretty well. There is no reason to complain, and things work out in the end. Life is happening now, not tomorrow or yesterday. Seizing the moment to catch up with my brother on Monday night in Hamburg was great. Being spontaneous. Living the life and pushing yourself, yet stretching your legs at the weekend and letting go. If you ever stop and think about it, life is amazing and every moment matters. Every little thing is giving you so much back, why not enjoy that ride. That’s what it is all about.

Have an amazing week.
Volker

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Sunday Column (437)

Another crazy week. I am getting used to it and honestly, actually I am enjoying them a bit too, those weeks. I flew out to Hamburg on Monday, this time with Easyjet again, and it went ok. The seats, non emergency exit, are awful, but other than that it did the job and got me there on time. Just too small for my long legs, so no proper sleep. Back in an empty Eurowings with a glass of wine, needed after a back to back day. I try to maximise the time I have in Germany. And every time I believe things are all dealt with, something new comes up. Amazing.

Some of you might read this and go ‘Why is he doing it, why is he loving it?’. Let me tell you the story of my life, which you might have heard on here before. I enjoy being busy, sorting things, helping people, supporting and developing people and work. Yes, some people call it work, I call it fun. I don’t mind burning the candle on both ends and push things forward. 10 years ago I would have worked 24/7, and sometimes it felt like that. Why? I don’t know. Just what I enjoy doing. What do I really want to do, someone might ask. I enjoy running, and taking companies/company units forward, working with smart people, being successful. That’s it, simple. Learning.

There is a flip side to that too. Since I had kids, priority shifted. So I am not burning candles on both ends anymore and look for a more balanced life. Running, enjoying a glass of wine, good food, a BBQ at the weekend, quality time with the boys, the wife and friends. I enjoy my fun life too and I do enjoy things outside work. Listening to the OneThing podcast, there was a chap on there the other day, re-iterating that the first thing he does every year is to plan his holidays, then the kids’ school events and he never works beyond 6 pm. And he is mega successful. Similar to the Energy Project, it is about renewal, boundaries, regular breaks and refuelling and regenerating. I learned that over the years, moving from start up to start up, and apply it now. Not every day but most days. This is mega important and should have been more of a focus when I was younger. So when I can, I still work a lot, and if I have a higher priority, then so be it. As a matter of fact I was reading my emails this morning when my youngest woke up. He looked at me and I said, that I should really put the phone away, and he nodded. I did. No question. We must set examples, and make sure they balance life from the outset.

So with all the travelling, cudos goes to my team in the UK for being so patient with me and going through video conference sessions to catch up and the team in DE for the support and commmittment. We are a great team, great company and everyone is working so hard to make things work. Our earnings report this week shows we are so on track to win. I am loving it. Well done all (if you read that anyway 😉 ).

I am buzzing. The biggest cudos of course goes to someone else. My wife and children for putting up with my absence and supporting me throughout. Whether through endless WhatsApp emojis in the morning or funny videos. I love them all and really appreciate their patience. Particularly if I am not feeling too great at the weekend due to some virus. But that seems over now too. So this weekend was family time. Full on.

As I am flying back and try to catch up on some admin, I am wondering about a few things that have happened this week. The days melt into one, from early morning runs, early mornings in the office, discussions with old friends over beers, or endless meeting marathons. It is a lot to take in and as my brain digests this over a glass of vino, I am remembering the often quoted phrase of connecting the dots moving forward. Steve Jobs.

Yes, it all works out in the end. And everyone understands and works in the same direction. Life is for living and moving and looking forward. However YOU want to define that. I am reading an amazing book about evolutionary coaching. I listen to my podcast and I am learning constantly. I am buzzing with new ideas. Life is there to grab it and be successful. Again, you decide and you define what it means to you. Not to look back, regret. But what I also notice is that it is a lot about living and representing values. About agreeing or disagreeing on the path. And that’s the secret. In a relationship with a partner or in a relationship at work. Trust comes to mind. Openness. That’s what life is build on. Maybe not a secret. It all comes together as you get older.

I am happy. That’s the main thing. But more important is that my loved ones are and the ones in my care. That’s what I do. That is who I am. That is how I strive and determine success.

With that said, I am off to Hamburg again on Monday. Different meetings, different discussions, and I am looking forward to it. I make things work. That’s what I do.

Thank you all for bearing with me,
Volker

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Sunday Column (436)

The days after a bank holiday weekend seem busier. On the one hand as one thinks the work load has to be caught up with, and on the other hand, when working for American companies, you have a day to catch up with the US’s input. Luckily for me, this isn’t too much the case at the moment, and most of the International territories are still off. So a good few days mixed with work loads and a day working from home on Friday. That is to take care of the kiddies and finalise and review a few projects. Reading a book about ‘Essentialism’ makes you prepare to focus on what’s important and put your energy and focus onto what is really important and makes a difference. Puh, a great week.

The weather. I don’t often speak about it and it had been awful last weekend – to an extend we put the fire back on in May (!) – yet it smells of spring, sounds like spring, feels like spring. A bit too dry, not warm enough but it seems we are getting there. Spring and summer are on our door step. Let’s hope we see some nice weather ahead in the upcoming weeks. It can’t get worse I suppose. We managed a BBQ at the weekend. Just, making use of some midday sunshine.

I feel like this week a lot of things fall into place. Let’s hope this is a trend to be continued. Making decisions and focusing on the essential things, is what is key. Finishing above mentioned book on Essentialism by Greg McKeown, really puts your life into perspective. It is highlighting some topics I addressed in my productivity book about habits, routines and focus. Having done 30K in 4 days this week to focus on stretching my fitness level, followed by a deep tissue massage, stretches my body. At the same time I manage to stretch my mind and thinking beyond what I have done before. Getting more done than I ever have, sorting things and seeing results. From little things like giving away our sandpit which no one wanted at first, to filling the shed with new fire wood for the winter (German efficiency), and more important tasks at work. Sometimes it is hard to make decisions but that’s what you have to do. Life is lonely at the top 😉

Writing this as I am about to come to London on the train, I am staring out of the window. It is grey. London has been grey this week, not a lot of light, little sun. More like October weather than May. It is a bit of a shame. I sometimes wonder if the weather will ever improve or if we have to relocate to get enough sun. I never felt more settled in our house, our community and this country than now. Yet, I never felt so much that in the long run I have the feeling I won’t stay around. As if something inside me tells me that one day we pack our bags. Maybe I am wrong, and I have not had that feeling in a long time, yet it is there. I shall forget about it as I focus on the tasks at hand and enjoy the daily moments. The time with the boys, particularly on days like Friday where I was able to work from home and take them to school. I even picked them up and we played. Moments that never come back, and can only be enjoyed there and then.

Isn’t life wonderful and full of surprises?

At the weekend I found out that an old teacher of mine died. Another one, 76, too young. He was a great helper, supporter and mentor. Yet, he moved on to pastures new. RIP.

A full week ahead, so I hope you had a relaxing weekend. I tried to save up loads of energy.

Best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (435)

Happy Birthday to me. The big 40!

So whilst I could write my normal blog, I remembered that I wanted to review my ‘inventory‘, I wrote in 2011. That’s now 6 years ago. A different time of my life.

Each Sunday the FT magazine publishes someone’s, usually public figures’, inventory. They ask about timeless things like

– Earliest Ambition
– Education
– Ambition and Talent
– IQ test

I won’t repeat them here, but then they also ask about things that might have changed. So 6 years on, reflection on my 40th birthday, let me revisit some of the questions.

3 ) Who is your mentor?

I still have several. From mentors I (in)voluntarily choose through work commits, I actively seek industry friends and heavy weights and try to regular connect with them. But also non-industry figures, to keep a good balance of inputs. This is important to me. As Jim Rohn says, you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with the most.

4 ) How physically fit are you?

This has changed. I have done some longer runs, just got new trainers that give me the right support. On average I probably run 30K a week plus some longer runs and weight/body resistance training. That wasn’t the case back when I first filed my inventory. I am fit, can be fitter but overall I am quite pleased. There are rumours about the first races too. I keep you posted.

7 ) How politically committed are you?

Now, 6 years on, I am British. Politics are back on the card to become more important. Time to get involved?

8 ) Do you consider your carbon footprint?

No, despite a lot of travel. Yet this is temporary I hope and difficult to offset. My commute is by train though!

9 ) Do you have more than one home?

I still don’t. Ask me again in 10 years, there are plans.

10 ) What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

Whilst I still follow Buddhist philosophy, meditate daily, I seek a Jaguar XJS. Maybe this year or next year, maybe never. We got the driveway for it, so the chances are increasing. Also, I tend to look at alternatives for the Skoda, upgrading it in 2018 maybe. Or instead of a Jag, getting an old Merc. Time will tell. Again, mid life crisis needs to be planned 😉

11 ) What is your biggest extravagance?

We moved, so a car isn’t the biggest extravagance any more. Having a second one would. Expensive wines, good food and an own treadmill, spoiling the boys and keeping the family happy. Nothing wrong with that I think. I am a man of simple pleasures. Time really is what you want more of and it is the biggest extravagance of everybody.

12 ) When are you happiest?

This probably will never change!
Being with my family: my wife, my two boys.

13 ) What ambition do you still have?

Below’s answer from 6 years ago (in italics) is still very valid. Leading a company across EMEA, looking after 100+ staff and exiting with a nice retirement fund, that would be great. Will the latter be the dream most people in the industry chase?
Maybe launching my own thing one day. But I keep saying that. I do enjoy what I am doing, that’s the main thing. I am progressing.

Making a difference in the world and work for the UN or another big charity, helping others. But before that I want to continue my career in media for a good while.

There are ambitions for my sons, for human kind too. But this would go too far I believe.

14 ) What drives you on?

The constant opportunity to learn and to improve other people’s careers. By doing so you grow as a manager/person and help your own career. The same principle is the same for bringing up your kids. Leading is tough but I do enjoy working with people and making a difference.

15 ) What is your greatest achievement of your life so far?

Writing my book and re-writing it in a better way whilst holding up a full time job. That and my family. I just like getting things done, having a productive 14 hour day, non-stop, just turns me up!
My weight loss, my fitness transformation, giving up smoking 20 years ago. Oh dear, I am getting old, things have changed. Look where I am at now. I have done ok, haven’t I?

16 ) What has been your greatest disappointment?

Not always seeing the obvious. Whether in life, family, job – being a bit naive and fearful. Fear doesn’t get you anywhere, being too uptight just hinders you.
But I am working on that daily and constantly. Going out of your comfort zone once a day, in person or in thoughts, gives you an edge. That’s what you want. Pushing boundaries and learning daily.

17 ) If your 20-year old self could see you now, what would he think?

Life never works out the way you think. Life is unpredictable, but you have mastered it well. Good job.
Or he would say: Told you, just a normal life like anyone else. But that’s ok, you have done well. Well done, mate.

18 ) If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Start again. I am a fighter. – still true but could also be to pack my bags and go somewhere and do something completely different. Making a difference. Why not, you are only on this planet once. No reason to not change what you are doing half way, or less than half way hopefully 🙂

21 ) If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what you score?

9 – You must be happy with your life – and I am – but there is always room to improve. Never give up to pursue.

I hope you enjoyed this reflective post. This week saw more changes. Whilst I am still in Germany a couple nights a week, I am now taking the boys to a childminder so my wife can go back to work. This might mean for me to work from home more often and look after them too. Life is a constant change. Work is very supportive. We cannot and I personally don’t want to stand still.

I am not sure what the next 40 years hold. Where I am going to live. If I am going to live. Life is good. And it is there to be enjoyed. Medicine, technology and support is evolving. What is next in life? Whatever it is, we will be part of it. And that’s so exciting. Life is exciting. Daily. Sometimes I think that’s it, that’s where I belong and should be in my life. Then I get this urge, to progress, to do more. Oh life, I just love the way you are!

Let’s hope this isn’t half way, but with advancement in technology this might just be a third. We must think that way. Yet we also need to enjoy every moment. The good thing is, we don’t know. That means we should just live as best as we can. Daily. Focusing on the one thing that is important NOW.

Love and Kindness.

For he is a jolly good fella….

Have a smashing bank holiday and give your kids and partners a hug. Life is for living.
Volker

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Sunday Column (431)

An immensely intense week I may say. A highly enjoyable week though. It went very quickly too. A normal busy Monday lead to a 3 day off-site in London. That meant I stayed over in London, didn’t sleep well and was sitting in marathon meetings, working early until late. But it was inspiring, useful and drove the business forward. Given one doesn’t have a commute, is used to getting up early, a 7 am start in the office is amazing. One gets so much done. Yet it is intense, but also enjoyable. GSD = Getting Sh*t Done! To finish off the week I met with a friend from NY and ex colleagues on Thursday. That was nice. Friday I made it home for bath time and the boys were delighted to see me. So was I.

Having tried to get over some virus earlier in the week and hence didn’t exercise, I just had to do a 7.5K run plus I had to take an early train to get to the Home Office. The, hopefully, final step to get my British passport, the interview where they ask you all those questions to verify you are, who you claim you are. The guy interviewing me tried to make it funny and entertaining. At least that’s how it came across and I felt very awkward. Anyway, my passport should be with me in the next few days. Some questions were who my parents are, where they were born, which way I drive to take the boys to school etc.

It definitely concludes a successful week. A week when you don’t sleep well, feel under the weather, yet have so much energy and drive to work throughout. I was buzzing on Friday. I so enjoy that. What I didn’t enjoy? Not seeing the boys. So coming home on Thursday to see one still awake at 9, it broke my heart to tell him off to go to bed. I would have preferred to cuddle and listen to him about his week but he had to go to sleep. And the other? He woke just before 10 being thirsty, came downstairs and gave me the biggest smile and cuddle. That made my week!

Besides work and life, there are so many things going on in this world. Article 50 was triggered this week. That means Brexit gets real. There is no way back now and just as well I now have both nationalities. I am safe to chose but hope I never have to. As I mentioned before, the future doesn’t equal the past. With the world changing, we need to realise that years from now we might decide to move elsewhere. Maybe years from now I find myself applying for another nationality in a country far (or close) to home. One just doesn’t know. I will watch the next 2 or more years to see what is coming our way. We must stay flexible and vigilant, always trying to better the situation for us and the generations to follow. That’s our duty.

This weekend we did what the boys wanted to do for ages. They were so taken by the lambs last year, we had to go back this year. So we went to a farm to see the newly born lambs. What a lovely site. Also we saw a sheep giving birth, another one trying and a newly born calf. It was amazing to show the kids and even for us. I am not as taken with the little lambs as my family is, but it makes you think about the time your kids were born. How much effort it was and how much we were fearing for them and the mother. How much pain mother had to endure. It is good to be reminded, yet the main purpose was for the kids to cuddle with the little lambs. They absolutely loved it.

Tomorrow I am off to Germany again. I have taken a temporary assignment to help out leading the office in Hamburg. That not only makes me more busy, which is the part I mind less, but it takes time away from the family. Weekends have to make up for it and hence my wife and I, having known each other for 13 years this week, really plan the weekends and quality family time. So far so good. Easter break is around the corner.

So have a fantastic week, stay safe.
From my little corner of this world,
Volker

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Sunday Column (429)

Last week was a turning point. I believe, and I mentioned that to my wife, that the next few weeks will be a turning point in our life. There are changes coming up, chapters being closed. I start writing this as I am sitting to wait for a delayed flight to Hamburg on Sunday night. So a week ago, prior to Sunday Column 428 being published. Crazy, but that is my creative output. I love writing, keeping myself busy with thinking and strategising. About anything and everything really. I was asked this week what my next book is about, and I said, probably it is about my life, or life or something. No plans yet…

At the weekend we started to speak more German at home. My wife started taking private tuition and the boys tried understanding what I am talking about. I translate the sentences simultaneously. This is only the beginning but we try to become more bi-lingual at home. The weekend was productive with us having done some spring gardening and we finally built the hedgehog house. It was a good weekend, the wife and I went out, maybe a few too many drinks, but hey, that happens now and then. Not many occasions when we can go out to celebrate. Then we had our yearly debate if St. Patrick’s day is actually the first time we met and kissed. Anyway, don’t let me get into that.

Further, I closed the chapter of writing a productivity book. I sent the final drafts off to publishers at Christmas but didn’t get a positive response. So I put it on Amazon Kindle on Sunday, a link is to the right of the post. It is free to download in the first week, but I decided to make little noise about it. A good read I find, and if people are interested, they will find it. I have other focus at the moment than productivity books and worked on them for a few years now. Time to put that to bed. So closing this chapter and focusing on other things is good. Maybe the new book about life 😉

On the other hand I opened a chapter at work. Not only the first 30 minute presentation at a conference for this employer, but also in German! So a double challenge but it went well. So did the panel the next day. I am trying to help out where I can to present the company and hence I flew out to Germany on Sunday. I will continue to be in Germany more often, as I temporary help in the German market. It will be a drag flying, but it is going to be a lot of fun too and a great challenge. Having said that, I had to wait 4 hours for my Easyjet flight coming back, so no more Easyjet for me. The delays were getting to much and I am only back to travelling, so Heathrow it is unfortunately as it is a pain to get there for an early morning flight, and BA or Eurowings instead of Easyjet. The joys. Travelling is never glamorous, and I was hoping to do less, now probably going to do more. But I love a challenge, a chapter and the opportunity to help and support. That’s who I am, that’s what I do, that’s what I enjoy. And work is very good about it too!

As one chapter opens, another closes they say. I travelled with my German passport. I have done since I moved to the UK in 2001. Yet, since Wednesday, I can be hopeful to soon get the British passport too. I pledged my allegiance to the Queen and became a British national. Now I am British and German, soon with two passports. Wow, who would have guessed. It all happened quicker than anticipated in the end. And the application for the passport has been sent. Exciting times ahead. It feels like yesterday that a friend of mine and I discussed this, sitting over lunch in Farringdon. He said, now you know the process, it is easy to do and you don’t know what the future holds. It gives you security he said. He was right. Security and peace of mind. I beat him to it too 😉

I feel at ease. I feel like spring cleaning my life a bit. I put a lot of energy into the new job and really enjoy the challenge. Is it much different to what I am used to? Yes and no. As a friend of mine said the other day: good tech, great people, and you realise how much you know and how much experience you have. Sometimes you don’t realise how much you know, but in this line of work I very much rely on my experience often and enjoy it. Yet, there are new challenges, different experiences, which help me grow and go outside of what I know. Keeping me on my toes. It is great to see the positive difference you can make. And a great team I have!

Then amongst the travel, I listened to a podcast by Tim Feriss, where one of his guests, John Crowley, who has children with a disease, talks about the IPO with his business. His business is in the biotech space to save humans like his children from this particular disease. When he came home after two weeks on the road after the IPO, his daughter woke up when he kissed her goodnight. He said she would be proud of what he has done. And she said, she was proud and that she saw him on TV. He said, what do you think of me on TV? She said he looked short.
In her next breath she asked whether he was around tomorrow to take her to school. That was the most important part for her.
I understand that feeling. The boys aren’t interested if I speak at a conference or close a mayor sales to bring home money to buy the Lego Deathstar (which I refuse to do btw). They care if I bring sweets or if I take them to school the next day. And that’s how it should be. It is important for me to be up at 6 am on a Sunday to do colouring in or build a model of Bumblebee. That should always be our focus, to spend time with our loved ones, to teach them, to help them, to be with them, to share moments with them. And with all the travel, and my wife planning to go back to work, this is still the main priority and focus. And we make it work, as we make anything work we want to make work. Just like turning a page in a book, we move on with life.

Of course we cannot be there 24/7. But when we are there, we need to be in the moment. We must be with them and make sure they see that. We must help them to understand the world and share the experience. I have done that a lot lately with my boys. Individually. Together. I feel better for it and so does my relationship with them.

Have a great week and give your loved ones a big hug.

Love and Kindness from my corner of the world,
Volker

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Sunday Column (428)

Another week. More travel. It seems as if the weeks just blur into one and I spend two days a week in a different place. I don’t mind, being away for a night, taking the Easyjet ‘bus’ from Gatwick to Europe. A 430 wake up call followed by a quick exercise routine, a meditation session, a shower and a ride to the airport. Then an almost two hour delay due to air traffic control strikes in France – I was on my way to Madrid. Those delays are annoying. Having just endured almost 12 months of conductor strikes on Southern Rail, I have no sympathy with anyone striking whatsoever. I keep saying it over and over again, I am thankful for the opportunities given to me in my life and wouldn’t want to jeopardise them due to strike actions or anything stupid like that. So I have little understanding for someone who would go to their employer and say ‘if you don’t do this, then we strike’. There are enough people out there that would take jobs and make it happen. Something I am missing?

Yes, there is an argument that if we didn’t have the unions, companies would do whatever they wish. They wouldn’t I don’t think. Companies have a keen interest in making their employees happy. To work with them, to empower them, to make work a nice thing to do. Maybe I am wearing some pink glasses here or something, but companies who are ‘abusive’ to their employees will not succeed. I cannot see that happen. Maybe I am listening to too many American podcasts suggesting that we are all in it together. That we can determine our destiny and people around us want to help us. We must be under that anticipation that an employer doesn’t want you to fail and want to do the utmost to make you happy and successful. After all they are spending money on you and your career. Mine does, and I am grateful for it.

Working in different places is critical. I love seeing the local teams, connecting and understanding the local challenges. Each market is unique, each view is different. Listen to their needs. It widens my horizon and gives me a chance to review what we are doing in HQ and whether we can change things, adopt some local practises, to improve things overall and to help moving the company forward. I enjoy that and believe it adds a lot of value to the company. I have another two weeks of travel ahead of me. Speaking at a conference in Germany which is tricky and challenging as it is a new corporate deck with a translation into German. I will master it and actually I am excited about it. Just in case I fly out the night before 😉 Then Sweden. Then I shall have a couple of weeks in the office before a family break over Easter. No flying then. As much as it is nice to travel, it is not glamorous and it does tire you out. At least I keep up my exercise routine and healthy eating (most of the time). Yet this week I felt a bit drained. The weather is to blame I guess?!

Further to travel this week I read an article in the FT about citizenships and Brexit. You can read it in detail yet the main take away for me was that if you lived here for long enough – and that is uninterrupted – you can continue to live here post Brexit. Or it should be fairly easy to get a passport/citizenship. Or you leave. I am not judging whether that is fair or not, but what I am saying is that if you have lived here long enough there is nothing you should fear. So why did I get the citizenship? Because I wanted to ensure I can stay and be with my family, plus I feel more British these days than German anyway. I don’t have plans to leave this country other than with my family and then we all would be foreigners elsewhere, on the same passport. That’s really it. I wanted to do it years ago but didn’t want to spend the money on it. Now I could and did it. The necessity felt slightly bigger of course. Anyway, this should all be done by next week.

If you feel I write too much about work, then please let me know. I just realised I wrote all about Brexit, travel and work without writing about work or family. If that makes sense? I love management studies, and I love work. That’s what I do and I enjoy it. Even my taxi driver said that, if he won the lottery, he would continue working. So would I, there is no way I could sit on my bum long enough doing nothing. I’d go up the walls. So I used the flight delay to catch up on some work, prepare a presentation, write part of this blog and think about life. I also caught up on some sleep mid air and arrived refreshed. Kind of anyway 😃

The remainder of the week was nice. It is nice to see trains running on time most of the time. It makes a huge difference to both my mood and my state of happiness. Plus the Friday ‘pale ale express’ session with the neighbours. Then I took the wife out for a meal on Saturday. Nothing fancy, just a very nice Thai place, a good chat and some ‘us time’. There is never enough of that once you got children. We are getting better in carving date nights out of our schedule, more than we used to. Then again the kids are getting older. Life becomes easier from a logistical point of view. Attitude, tantrums and questions and demands are the same pain as before, just different. Growing up I suppose 😃 Yes, I wouldn’t want it any other way!

I hope all is well with you and yours.
From our little corner of the world, I wish you lots of love and happiness.
Have an amazing week ahead, and please share this blog if you like it.
Volker

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Sunday Column (420)

Ok. I have some time on my hands, don’t I. Actually I don’t have as much as I would like, and I got a lot busier than anticipated. That’s a positive thing, things are happening. So what do you do if you have some waiting time in London? People just went back to work properly this week being busy, so I had a few meetings in town, but then a few got cancelled last minute. Then I got some additional ones in. The train strike took me to London Blackfriars and this can be a bit inconvenient given most digital businesses’ location in London. Cut a long story short, I managed to walk a bit in London. Yes: W-a-l-k, take things in, smelling the roses. It was fantastic.

Yes, I absolutely loved it. Not only did I manage to burn some calories and make some phone calls, I also managed to just wander around London. I was thinking for a moment to stop all the time and take some pictures, but I found this would distort my idea of experiencing London. I almost went into the National Art Gallery. When did you last have time to just wander through the streets of London, look up the buildings and take in all the architecture. Did you know that from Farringdon you can see the Shard with St. Paul’s Cathedral in between?

What else did I spot? Lots of people smoking and vaping, more than I anticipated. Hipster cafes where I stopped and rested, starting to write this post. A Ferrari mountain bike. Old writing and signs on buildings just on the main streets. New buildings and building sites. Builders looking bored, some being very busy. A few new building sites I hadn’t noticed, some nice facades, a new hidden Neros off Jermyn Street. And I went with the flow, just chilling out and enjoying myself, looking at the world to go by and take it all in.

How much more time do I have to enjoy some down time? When is it getting serious again to go back to work? When would I have to, when would I want to get back to the grindstone? I tell you all next week (teaser).

I learned about priority this week. I was focusing on two important things this week, and those were my only priorities, but only one at a time. This was important. I tried to blend out any thoughts that would interfere with my priority at the time. Mind games, voices in your head, external influences, ideas. Like meditating with your mind fully switched on. I think it worked well. Being in full control of your mind and thinking really helps.

Then there is another topic I am giving priority and I am looking into at the moment: My 40th. Yes, it is coming closer and I cannot deny it or make it go away. It is coming closer day by day. It will either be a party or a mini holiday – the prices seem similar. We are evaluating. I let you know what we decide, not if it is a party though 😉 Anyway.

There is one theme on Linkedin and Facebook since the beginning of the year: Make the most out of 2017. Celebrate life. I am not sure if that mood is connected to the, as it seems, high amount of celebrity deaths last year, or whether it is a general mood to get on with life and make the most of it? Maybe it has been like that every year, but I didn’t notice it that much. This year I do. As if we, as people, are anticipating the world to end in 2017. I hope not. I have so many more plans, and ideas and want to see so many more places. Yes, maybe I should start doing that soon. I don’t want to run out of time. I must trust that there will be a life beyond 2017, despite all uncertainty in the world.

Life seems to be a bit like evaluating things, making decisions, living with it. Jobs. Life. Parties. The way you bring up your kids. We had tantrums this week which brought back memories of having a toddler. Do you let them cry or use reasoning? I tried both, and the former worked in the end, falling asleep being exhausted. Will they learn from it? Probably not. Just another phase, until in a while that phase stops and another one starts. The oldest becomes more of an adult now, and you sometimes wonder how grown up they seem. Wowsers.

Life is moving so fast, and we are evaluating. We make decisions and we move on. The flow. Go with the flow, don’t get stressed about it and feel at ease. In the end things will work out, and you must believe in the end. Have trust. Things never stop. You must trust things will be ok, because they always will be. Don’t let others pressure you into a situation you don’t enjoy and don’t let others make you feel a certain way. It all works out in the end. Trust in it going to happen!

If the video below doesn’t show, please see this Joe Biden article.

But then there was one last thing I noticed this week. Whether it was Obama’s speech, his wife’s speech or Joe Biden: some great leaders and people you look up to that, in public and in very powerful positions, admit to something amazing: Emotions and feelings. It is not about crying but about bringing emotions back into what I would call ‘corporate and public life’. Ever since I have read and written my MBA thesis on Emotional Intelligence (EQ), I believe that the human aspects, emotions, feelings and the sharing of values is sometimes more important than red tape. Humanity prevails. I am moved by what happened in 2016. I have shed more tears and shared more emotions than ever before. Maybe that is why, as mentioned above, people are increasingly coming out with making 2017 the best year ever and to go for it. To show their appreciation, feelings and true emotions. Let’s do it. Let’s share more love and make 2017 happen!

I have a great feeling about it.

Love and kindness from my little corner of the world.

Best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (412)

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The week started off nicely after a relaxing weekend. Desperately needed. Finally, after 4 years in our house, the work started to get our driveway done. Those who know me know what that means. On the one hand it means that we got all renovation done in the house, yet started over again thanks to the wifey, but it also and foremost means that we soon can park more than one car off street. It will be practical and a feature to the house. Parking is awful in our cul-de-sac thanks to commuters and people going on holidays from Gatwick, parking their car for weeks at a time. We are now independent and Daddy can consider his mid life crisis dream. We shall see. It feels like a long journey in this place comes to an end. We made it ours.

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Whilst we enduring the mild weather, we still get a bit of mud into the house. All be done by next Friday they say. Everything is going to be done some time, isn’t it. No, I am not having thoughts about dying yet, still far too early and too many dreams to finish, but we had a big presentation this week. I knew it would be done by 11.30 on Thursday. I knew that a few weeks ago. The same as I know that some other meetings, next Tuesday, next Friday etc. are coming and going. And they will be over and I will survive them. Some I have prepared better than others and some I have to shine and sell, others I just ‘attend’. My point I am trying to make, and this isn’t different to any other job I ever had, is that time doesn’t stand still. We have all the same time, 24 hours in a day to be precise, and we sometimes start with the end in mind, the task for a presentation. And as we go along the journey unfolds, and eventually we will get there. You don’t let yourself fail, do you? And if you fail, that’s good, as you learn from it. So not that failure is bad but you wouldn’t want to fail on purpose. At a presentation on Friday someone quoted Edison, not that he tried to invent the lightbulb by failing but by trying 1000 different ways. Language is beatiful, isn’t it?

Life is intense at the moment. This is due to work being busy and I am still finding my feet. But I am settling in very well, really enjoying the challenge. I finally find a bit more of a routine and seem to get things done. That’s what I like. And I enjoy being busy. This week I also managed to catch up with some friends, long overdue, which I haven’t seen for a while. That was very nice. I also managed to to do my back in. Despite having pain last week and a massage last weekend, I must have pulled a muscle in my back. Spasm whilst running and difficulties getting out of bed. Ibuprofen and a bit of rest should do the trick, but one feels unable. I find I almost got addicted to running and exercising, so not knowing what to do with myself at 5 am is difficult 😉 I pass the time, don’t get me wrong, I am actually reviewing the next productivity book at the moment, so a bit of extra time helps. Not being able to follow your passion and get that energy out of your system is difficult though. I’ll make up for it. In most areas life seems to fall into place. Exciting.

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Home. That’s the place I am far away from London and work. It is not so much that I am bothered by either, but about having a physical distance to the place I spend my week at. Looking out of the living room window and seeing a lot of green, a lot of trees and being able to walk into woods or fields within 5 minutes of leaving the house is priceless. Nice clouds, lovely sunrises and sunsets. A short drive and we are at the beach. The fire in the wood stove that goes on when we are cold and the gym in the garage for my every day routine. The place I feel safe and happy, confident and relaxed. And so does my family too. Peace. Looking at recent house prices it also seems as if we gained a bit on the house over the years, which of course doesn’t really matter. We are here to stay.

Yet, with the nights getting longer, and it getting darker and colder outside, it is nice to sit down, relax and reflect. Where has my journey taking me? Where have I been coming from? What have I learned? I am content. Happy.

From my little corner of this world, I wish you a nice autumn and relaxing weekends. Not long before Christmas now.

Best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (407)

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Monday started off nicely and when drafting my blog I realised I ended up writing a whole post on Brexit. See Brexit.
So I had to stop myself writing another post just about train strikes on Tuesday. The RMT union, rightly or not, strikes. Again. Overrunning engineering works added to the misery. I finally was on my way on the first train (!) running from Brighton to London. Just before 830 am. Two hours later than anticipated. I am up early anyway. I can change my schedule but my employer expects me in the office for 9 am. And they should do. The ongoing situation with Southern Rail is inexcusable. It is utterly disgusting in this day and age. But I wouldn’t add anything to the conversation by getting annoyed.

So I breathe in and out. I decide how I feel. Southern cannot make me feel a certain way. I cannot change the situation. I can only accept it. Doesn’t mean I like it. Far from it. Totally out of my control. The same is true for my headphones. After spending a small fortune on my Bose noise cancellation wireless headphones I exchanged them on Monday. Interrupted and intermittent connectivity. I have been testing the new ones all week. It seems better and I am in close contact with Bose support. We will tackle that. The sound of the Bose headphones are just too good.

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The commuter nightmare. A lot of people feel the strain and pain. It makes people sick. And I wonder why or do I get sick? On Tuesday I couldn’t leave the house before 8 to catch any train. On Wednesday I was in London before 8. Madness. No reliability or consistency. The fear and worries of the train company’s delays reflecting bad on you and your ability to be at work. Companies luckily understand but they shouldn’t have to. And neither should we as commuters. A never ending story but shouldn’t we just get a reliable service most of the time? The other challenge is that most people don’t know how to use the commuter time. I have habits. In the morning it is very much about me-time. I read. Without (many) exceptions I try to go through a book every 10 days. On the bus it is a mix of emails, podcasts, preparation for the day. Depending on the day I might just chill out to some music. On the way back I work on the bus. Time sheets, feed reader catch up. On the train home I usually work. If there is nothing to work on, which is rare, I read or watch some catch up TV, an episode of a TV series or chill out. Moving forward I also will make sure to finalise my next productivity book. Once I finished reading Bruce Springsteen’s biography. Yet without that routine and use of the time to accomplish something, this commute would be hell. Now it is one of my most productive times of the day. The reduced strike service causes less delays and less time to work. I get home quicker. Bit odd, and counter productive 😉

Due to the strike I also changed my exercise routine. A nice run on Wednesday night, given I had time, resulted in a 43.16 for the 10K on my treadmill. Result. My body went in overdrive and resulted in some ‘stress pimpels’. Never mind. I enjoy challenging myself and pushing boundaries. I feel like I am moving in the right direction and get a few things done at the moment, clearing out the old, bringing in the new input. I am looking forward to a break, to recap on a few things, and make sure I am not missing anything in life. Half term is not too far away! On the other hand there are things that seem a bit off at the moment. Without wanting to go into great detail, just when you think things are all happily moving along, more change is in the air. I hope for positive change of course but that isn’t always guaranteed. Sanity is what you must aim for.

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Coming back to Springsteen’s biography I realise a few bits about life. No great revelations but essentially, as you grow up, you notice more and more that your life isn’t at all different to other people’s life. Bruce said in one of his chapters that ‘I loved as best as I could, but I hurt some people I really cared about along the way. I didn’t have a clue as to how to do anything else.‘. I see myself having done that in the past, and had to learn a lot about loving people. Something that just didn’t come natural to me. I am great in building rapport with people, mastering situations, dealing with people and having a higher EQ than some. Yet under the skin, the love and appreciation for people beyond the daily interaction was something I had a hard time learning. My wife would be a in a better position to tell you, but also my kids. It took me a long time to come to terms of what fatherhood means to me, and how to love kids in the right way. To appreciate them seeing the world from a different place and to understand how to change my perception to their level. It is a wonderful world, once you are in it, but getting there didn’t come natural for me.

Where is that coming from? I often had doubts if I could ever learn it. If I say that Bruce gives me the confidence that it is normal, I don’t have many other people I could ask. But that’s what you learn in life, that actually the challenges you have, the things that you worry about, are the same things everyone else is worrying about. With personal nuances of course. Talking about his puberty, Bruce writes ‘I was a punk, grumbling my way through….My dad’s journey on this ship was probably one fo the most meaningful of his life and I couldn’t respect it.‘ – and I can remember those days when I was just a grumpy old teenager, and so can many, that didn’t respect their parents. And looking back we will feel bad. When Bruce looks back and says he would like to turn back time to change it or get a second chance to make it better, we often don’t get this. We often only have this one chance in life, yet we mess it up. And so what, you might be thinking. You are probably right. I have regrets in my life but I am not worried, don’t want to go back to rectify them. I found my closure in life a few years ago. I went through the exercise of writing letters to people asking them for forgiveness and closure. The ones that wanted, replied. And it is good, it is healing for me, and hopefully it was for them too. We move on in life and need to focus on what lies ahead of us, not looking back. We cannot change the past or dwell on it. We would go crazy. Would I love to go back in time to rectify things? No, I honestly would not. Maybe I don’t have enough baggage and my things are small in comparison to others, yet when in puberty, I am certain my kids will go through the same thing and I will experience life from the other side. What goes around comes around I suppose. Cycle of life.

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I am not quite sure where I am leading with that. I look around the full ram packed train which I am on at 7 am in the morning due to the strike in order to get a seat and look at the commuter crowds. If we took a snap shot of those people and ask them the above questions, they would all agree. Life is what it is. No surrender. No regrets. Moving on and up. We can change the now and are obliged to make the now the best one yet. We must ensure that we always give our best, to keep winning and moving in the right direction. I am certain of that.

We sometimes remember snapshots that might be, over time, look bigger than they are. Like the famous objects in the rear view mirror. Yet often the opposite is the case. We lay to rest what we have to lay to rest. It’s done.

I am done. I am done for this week. An amazing week. I feel in more control of things and had a few things I took care of. Nice. I feel like I am winning. In my game. Getting shit done, adding value. But that’s all I want. All I can ever ask for, isn’t it?

Have a fantastic week,
Volker

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