Month: July 2011

Sunday Column (126)

A Family Man in Digital Marketing – the title of this blog couldn’t have been more reflected this weekend. I finally, after long planning, managed to get a few friends over to my family home: friends from digital marketing.

One ex staff member and his highly successful academic partner, one ex colleague of mine, now coach, with his partner who runs a business in wine (so very interesting), and one close friend who I have not (yet) worked with and his partner who works for the big G. Three friends from different walks of life, all connected through the passion for digital marketing.

You can imagine we talked a lot about work and the industry, but more so about passion, the way the world and life is going, and what comes next. A fantastic day, fantastic people, a really good time. And, they all met with the family: my wife and the two boys. I couldn’t have wished for a happier day. Thanks guys.

The rest of the week, given it was my first week back from my holidays, went “balanced”. What I mean by that is due to Colin having trouble settling at night at the moment, I made a point of coming home early-ish most nights. I still managed to fit in a few meetings with friends, hourly catch ups, and a networking night.

The networking night, and I often don’t think too highly of those forced get togethers, turned out to be really funny, entertaining and great for contacts. I have to say that this was the best networking event I attended in a very long time, if not ever. I met quality people, got some leads but foremost met true entrepreneurs and people with a passion. Fantastic.

However, there was one little cloud in the silver lining this week. And that was communication, or mis-communication. This week made me learn one thing clearly: if you work across languages, which I often enough do, you have to be careful how to phrase things. Some “mini-teasing” phrases in one language can turn out to be quite offensive in another. Not a new learning of course, but astonishing in this case.

Without discussing details here, I want to use this topic to share some thoughts on language. With my wife being British (Scottish), we often enough have mis-understandings. Mainly because I as a husband apply selective hearing πŸ™‚ But often things are clear in my mind, and I just spoke to the boys in German, turn around and don’t know how to phrase simple things. Or I am unsure of certain pronunciations. That is normal.

She also noticed that when I call people for the first time, as I concentrate to say every word as correct as possible, my accent is a lot stronger than when I have a normal conversation. Just this week someone told me “yes, of course you have an accent, but if it wasn’t for your obvious German name, I couldn’t have told you where you were from”. Others of course say exactly the opposite, and my wife often enough doesn’t notice me speaking with an accent.

NLP states very clearly that everyone forms their own map of the world. Some put a high focus on language, some don’t. And, across languages (German-English) or foreigners speaking English together (German/English-Finnish/English-Spanish/English), we have even more problems, as we use a common language that is foreign to all of us.

Hence for important documents, or even for some emails, I get native speakers to review things. I know my weakness and make it a strength by getting help. Something you do with every other task you are unsure of, you get yourself some feedback.

However, the other, probably bigger thing, is that it shows me that I left German and Germany behind. I have left Germany 10 years ago. I have lived in Britain ever since, and English is my main language. And, I wish to believe, in a good enough way to be highly professional with the use of it. Partly, because I ask for feedback and I am willing to learn and listen. And, my map of the world is not as rigid as other people’s thanks to my NLP background and my sensory acuity.

I am ready to conquer the world (instead of taking over the world πŸ˜‰ ), ready to move up and on. Germany was a big part of my life, and I still teach my boys German. But my life is deeply rooted in the English language now, less often branching out to Germany. Whilst some of my roots might still connect to it, I am happy to let go.

I moved on.

Have a fantastic week, and if you speak to a foreigner this week, ask him what he thinks.
Cheers
Volker

Weekly Updates for Volker’s Tweets: 2011-07-29

Sunday Column (125)

This week we went on holidays. We rented a berth at Sandy Balls in the New Forest as recommended by some good friends of ours. The environment our berth is located in is fantastic. Lots of forest (New Forest, I guess you got the hint), open fields, narrow roads, country houses and cottages. England as you love it. It is only about 2.5 hours drive from home, of which Colin slept most of the time. So we arrived for a 3 pm check in and started exploring what this place was about. Unfortunately it started raining, so we ended up in the pub with some great local ale, pub food, and a kid’s disco.

I can imagine, at some point in my life, to move to the country side. The English, Scottish or Welsh country side to re-build a cottage, build a Huf House or just move to a renovated propery. Who knows. Life is great out here.

The moment we arrived you could see that Colin got so excited seeing something else, exploring something new! In hindsight he got over excited so that we only could get him to sleep around 9:30 at night. By that time I had a few naps on the couch and my wife was exhausted too. This didn’t improve over the next few days, no matter how we tried to tire out our wee man, he just wouldn’t settle. I guess an older boy would understand and you could communicate with him, a younger one, like Rohan, just doesn’t bother. The joys of taking 2 year olds away from home πŸ™

So that was day one. I am normally someone that says, I don’t want to go on holidays. It is more comfortable at home, you know what you’ve got, and you have internet. But how important is that all? I can do most things via my Android phone, and a week’s break from my Google Reader won’t hurt (although even that could be accessed via the phone). But you quickly realise how unimportant emails or work become. I am here to quieten my mind, shut up about work and relax. And I did. I finally got some distance between work and myself. For the first time in almost 20 months to not check emails every day. That was about time!

I guess holidays as such are about choosing. Choosing what you want to do and how you want to do it. A concept that I am still mastering. This sounds sad, but from my personality I like to work, get things done, organise and manage things. But since I got my boys I notice how priorities are shifting. I believe it was the Dragon’s Den Duncan Ballantyne’s wife who said in an interview once that Duncan is very good to judge when things are important and when they can wait. I guess it is just a small step up from my work life balance and productivity theories. It is like productivity of not being productive, a clear form of prioritising as my wife would say πŸ™‚

Now day 2 was rainy. Whilst I don’t want to go into much detail on how we got soaked first in Salisbury, then at Stonehenge, we had a fantastic day nevertheless. Colin was, due to sleep deprivation, very grumpy and slept everytime we were in the car. I was tired beyond normal and got a mayor headache that could only be cured with wine at night πŸ™‚ I learned that day that no matter how tired YOU are, and how awful the weather is, YOU have to be there for your kids. Not a great revelation but more of a “I don’t care if you are buggered dad, you are the one that I rely on, you are the one that makes sure I am safe“. This holiday I am learning to be a grown up, to be a father and dad to my two boys.

I don’t want to give you a breakdown of every activity. We did fantastic walks, got rained on more and ended up in a lovely country pub which home made food and local ale. Colin enjoys using his balance bike, and he just loves to be outside. Rohan is just himself, coping well with his first teeth. My wife and I enjoyed a great time away. Much better than anticipated.

Looking back we had a few fantastic days away. Holidays are good for you, and they give you some distance to everyday life. This let’s you concentrate on what is really important: your family and kids.

So we came home on Friday to a new washing machine as the old one died after I put a terpentine (floor wax) drenched cloth in it and it ruined not only the washing but also the whole machine. We now got a washer dryer, just in time for autumn, at least weather wise it looks like we are moving into the darker seasons again already soon.

I am not dreading to go back to work next week, but for a long time I noticed again that there is a life beyond work. Ask me again in 2 weeks if that feeling persisted πŸ˜‰

Have a great week,
Volker

Weekly Updates for Volker’s Tweets: 2011-07-22

Try something new today….for 30 days

Now, frequent readers of my blog must remember when I got my step counter because Matt Cutts decided that he takes a 30 day challenge of taking 10,000 steps a day.

He now even spoke at TED about it:

Now, 3 years later, the pedometer is out of battery, and every other months or lent I am thinking I need to take those baby steps.

Giving up chocolate – hey I stopped eating 4 Snickers a day which I used to more or less daily between spring 2009 and autumn 2010.

Giving up alcohol – hard one but not impossible, have done it before.

Giving up coffee – tried it but went back to having a regular caffeine boost.

Adding exercise – I am on it, really trying to integrate it again.

Adding compassion – trying to be more considerate and nice to others.

Adding challenges – trying something new today, or for the next 30 days.

I think it is time to embark on these challenges again. Life is more than the routine you are in.

Buddhism – being busy

I get a daily newsletter with Buddhist quotes. Hence I like to collect the most inspiring ones and put them in my blog. Similar to what I did with Balamadana back in the days.

Most quotes have been in my draft folder for a few months, if not years. So here we go with one:

How very happily we live, free from busyness among those who are busy. Among busy people, free from busyness we dwell.

– Dhammapada, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Now I recently couldn’t travel due to the sickness of my children. However, as I had holidays booked, I just ended up with two and a half days without any plans whatsoever but helping my wife and spending time (!) with my kids.

Time. Free time is almost unheard of. We all work a lot, normally 9 to 5.30, often to 6.30 and most often much longer. We are people that enjoy working (and I speak about people like myself), and we should probably or most certainly take a day off. Or compensate for over time. Not because we don’t value time at work or because it might be our right to do so. No, we should take time off because we need to.

We need to relax, unwind and take time for ourselves. Children really help you to de-stress and relax when they are in good form. Of course they can be awful, ill or very annoying at times, but the majority of the time you spend with them, it takes you back to “point zero“. You relax. You see the world with their eyes, more relaxed, more simplistic. It is great to unwind.

You become more productive if you are sitting down and unwind. Taking a break at work helps you to increase your productivity. Employers start realising that.

So as a self conscious Buddhist, someone who is at ease with him/herself, you should be able to have a calm and relaxed mind. A mind like water, being focused and concentrated whilst you ignore the busyness going on around you. You are the rock. You are the one that stays relaxed, not being bothered by what the environment tries to put upon you.

It takes a lot of practise but it is possible. You decide! You are in charge of your destiny and the way you live your life. Take charge.