Category: Ballueder Thinks

Ballueder Thinks (4) – London & the lockdown

Hello again. I mentioned previously that I didn’t want to write every week. However, I do enjoy the process, and particularly after the loss of my grandma, it helps me to write, and deal with things.

Last week was a bit of a roller coaster ride. A few good news, a few bad news, and Oma’s funeral on Friday. It was an emotional week, with things coming to an end, and new things starting. This weekend is all about processing, drawing a line in the sand, looking forward and making new and bigger plans.

I wanted to thank everyone for the messages I received regarding my Oma.

Ideas come to those who wait. I am eager to tell the world about my latest consulting project, but things aren’t quite ready to be taken to market yet. And, things might still change. So I am quiet, and wait until it is all good to talk about. In the meantime, I am connecting with my network, I work quietly away and enjoy things – as much as you can. I do the school runs, join our family dinners and tidy things in my life. It’s almost as if I make life more efficient, for a smoother start, like tidying a place before a big event. Working with one of my mindfulness groups over the past few weeks, we have been looking at things we are grateful for during lockdown. The summary for me is quality of life, being able to chose when to work and how to work, and when to focus on the family, being in control of one’s life.

Isn’t that crazy? We are admitting that when we work for others, we aren’t in control of our life, and let others and others’ schedules taking over our life. Particularly in sales, we want to close the deal, and we are ready to make sacrifices. I am not sure that this is right, and I have been very guilty of that myself. Covid puts that into perspective for me.

One of my OLD rules was that I had to work, no matter whether I was sick, or even worse the wife and kids were sick. I didn’t understand the concept of taking time off because a family member was sick. I was wrong, so wrong, and apologised to my wife multiple times. It’s the rules we take for granted, we don’t question. Rules we likely inherited. And, as I found out this week, a child’s brain doesn’t question anything until the age of 6. So anything we feed our kids’ brains up to the age of six becomes a rule for them which they don’t question.

On that note, I am deciding to join the London marathon. Part of me wants to do it, given it is London; the other part of me thinks it’s not great for my knees. I will let you know which way the pendulum swings.

My podcast which goes live in 2 weeks, the last one before the summer break, is talking about gratitude as well. What does it mean to have gratitude, and how does your life change when you start focusing on being grateful, showing gratitude? A bit like the Secret, whatever positive energy you send out, you get back. Try it. I have had a gratitude journal for many years, and I learned a lot on how I can fine tune it still. Thanks Lisa.

Also, this week I went back to London. I was a bit apprehensive. Face mask on, onto the train, onto the tube, into an office. Socially distancing. It is all about confidence, and being mindful. Do not touch things unnecessarily. Don’t get carried away and fall back into the ‘old normal’, and appreciate that whilst you are comfortable with a 1 meter distance, others might not. Show respect.

The trains were empty. The tube was. I travelled during the day. How did it feel?
The trains felt fine, just a bit warm around my face 🙂 And on the way back? It was again very quiet. However, in between it wasn’t difficult to find a pub with take away pints in Soho. After a longer business session in an empty office complex, we ended up sharing pizza and beer socially distancing in the middle of Soho, the heart of London. It’s different, it’s what it is, and as a Londoner, you just carry on. Like after 7/7. That’s the British spirit I am just too well accustomed to. We saw some proper Londoners, no tourists, and people like me, foreigners that lived in London for ages. We made it work that summer’s night, drinking and enjoying ourselves, without putting others at risk.

It is of course more quiet, and almost pleasantly quiet. A day out, a bit like “28 days later” if you have seen the movie. The new normal I guess.

Whilst I appreciate this is not going to last, e.g. people will consume more booze and then start being closer to each other too, it can be done to socially distance and enjoy a pint. Let’s see how this weekend works out with us being allowed to go back to the pubs.

Anyway, I have done it, and I can’t wait to go back. That’s the thing. It is the new normal, and I am ready to tackle work and meetings again. But until everyone is, zoom is a great alternative, and does the job. It makes things easier, more efficient and I suspect it will be around for a long time!

That’s all from me this week. Stay safe, and enjoy your pint responsibly with a distance.

Ballueder Thinks (3) – Goodbye Oma Erika

It is with great sadness to announce the death of my grandmother, Erika Störmer.

Oma Erika

I wanted to write something personal, yet timely. So let me start with Covid19 which killed hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. It is sad to see what happened in our societies, how things were handled by some states and some leaders, and how intransparent things were handled by some. We all have a personal story about Covid19, from job changes, job losses, hard times, home schooling, working from home, and so on. I wrote a daily diary for a while. And yet, the world will never be the same.

Oma didn’t die of Covid19 – as far as we know of course – but she was old. 99 years is quite an achievement. But I wanted to put Covid19 into perspective with what my Oma went through.

Imagine you were born in 1920. On the back of the 1st World War you were raised in Europe. You grew up on a small farm in the heartland of Germany before you somehow ended up living more central in Germany, marrying an older man, and raising three daughters, with the oldest being born at the end of the 2nd World War, 1944. Just imagine for a moment that life wasn’t plain sailing, and nothing as ‘comfortable’ as ‘staying at home’. It must have been incredible hard work, not a lot of technology either. Manual labour, rebuilding a country, and then seeing it being destroyed again.

Your husband didn’t have to go to war. He made tents for the German Army, and therefore was needed on the home front. You ran the books and an ironing business, owning a huge rotary iron. I remember, when I was a young boy, that she worked hard to do other people’s ironing, big sheets. Hence, my mum always ironed her bed sheets too. As far as I know, these businesses hardly exist these days, at least I haven’t heard of many people ironing their bed sheets anymore. But that was her business, long until she should have probably retired, long after Opa died.

The house they owned was old. It had a small basement with lots of homemade jam, covered by loads of spiders and spider webs. The office for the business just above. Her husband, Wilhelm, liked his cigarettes, beer and a good laugh. That’s what I was told, as I never had the chance to meet him. He died at a young age of 68, 6 years before I was born. He would have lived through the 1st world war as a teenager. Hard to believe. Erika, his wife, and my grandma, lived by herself in the big house ever since. Until of course, over 20 years ago, she moved to an elderly home.

The only bathroom of the house was half way up the stairs, with the kitchen still being supplied by gas from a gas bottle in the outbuilding to the back. That outbuilding burned down at some point, as some insulation material must have caught fire by the sun shining through some glass. At least that’s what I’ve been told. There was also a big chicken coup. We played in there as kids, years after the chickens were gone.

Oma had three daughters, and 6 grandchildren of which 5 are boys and 1 is a girl. Her great-grandchildren came to 14, with interesting enough a 50% split in gender. Not that it really matters, however I find it fascinating to look at that data, coming from a household of two boys, being the youngest, having two boys of my own, and my dad being the youngest of two boys. Family history is fascinating I find.
Oma taught me how to make pasta, bought me sweets and Kinder Surprise eggs, and when I stayed with her at her place over my Easter vacation, I was allowed to sleep in her bed, watch TV and we went swimming a lot. She had this fish tank which I enjoyed looking at and we went for walks, and ice cream. We spent hours in the little Italian ice cream shop, talking. We went to the graveyard most days, where Opa was buried, and I must have asked a lot of questions about him. I vaguely remember visiting other people who were extended family, and they told me about Opa’s brothers and family. Some of those stories never made sense to me.

The town she lived in was close to the German border. Imagine. Not only did Oma see the aftermath of World War 1, lived through World War 2, she also saw Germany being split und and re-united. What a time to be alive. When I was a bit older, I was put on a bus to see my other grandparents who lived about a twenty minutes bus ride away, even closer to the German border. Oma sometimes drove me in her Golf 1 which, when she stopped driving, only had 40,000 km on the clock and was in immaculate condition given it was 14 years old and kept in a garage. Every time I sit in a new Volkswagen, the smell reminds me of her car. And it always will. The bus took me along the German-German border. Along the cherry trees so famous for the area, and my grandparents would pick me up at the other end. They didn’t have enough room for me to stay over night, so I stayed either with my cousin or took the bus back. No one had mobile phones, GPS or any worries about me doing that, being probably about 10 years old. Sometimes Opa would drive me too. His Jetta couldn’t live up to Oma’s Golf though 😉

Can you imagine, Oma never went on a plane in her life. She never visited me in the UK, and had a hard time selling her family house in Mühlstrasse number 13. The number 13 always meant luck to us, just because it was her house number. And now, I cannot come and visit her to say goodbye, because of travel restrictions.

I am sure she was lonely. She understood that there was ‘an illness out there’ which she didn’t want to catch. Hence she didn’t leave the elderly home during lockdown and after. Of course, being almost 100, you are in one of the most vulnerable group. She didn’t like her food in the end, and like many old people didn’t remember everything. A day was a day and a visitor a visitor. It became more difficult for her to differentiate between people and what was going on. I believe if she had turned 100, it would have been for us more than for her, as I am not sure she would have fully understood.

She was in hospital a few times, scaring us every time, but she always recovered. Oma was tough. She was hard working, organised and what I would describe a very well structured person. She looked after others and was looked after by great staff in the care home. She never went beyond a TV in terms of technology, a mobile phone or a smart watch wouldn’t mean anything to her. She never had an email address or send a what’s app, played computer games or knew how to use Excel. The meaning of global warming was a term she probably could just understand, but whether she really ever grasped what Covid19 meant and how it might change the world forever, I don’t know. Probably she didn’t, and she didn’t have to. And I am glad she didn’t. There are so many things that I am glad she might have never seen, or has to see.

She cared about her family, and I only have very fond memories of her. I of course remember her being angry, and I am sure she had good reasons for that, but that’s what happens with children and their grannies I suppose. When she retired she worked for a charity, always giving back.

Close to 100 years is a damn long time to be on this planet. Particularly the last 100. So much change, and yet, we might say the same in 60 years time. Will we live that long? Will the planet survive? Will we move to space?

It doesn’t matter to us today. Neither did the technology revolution and the internet matter to Oma.

Let’s enjoy the moment we can feel, understand, and comprehend.
Let’s enjoy every single one, and make this the most important thing in our lives. Ever and forever.

I will miss you, Oma Erika.
I will keep you in my memories. Forever.
For my boys you will always be the ‘old lady in Germany’ and it is a privilege for them to have met you.
You are a cornerstone of my family, and I hope that in years to come, my grandchildren will look back to me, read this article and think the same about me.

Goodbye and Amen.

Ballueder Thinks (2) – I believe in you

To believe in someone, you have to believe in yourself. That’s my opinion anyway. Did you know, according to Coach George Ravelin who was interviewed on Tim Ferris’ podcast the other day, not many parents tell their children that they believe in them.

The coach, now 82, also talks about ‘staying alive’ was his goal for most of his life, living in America as a black man. Every time he got stopped by the police, he feared for his life. A sad, yet fascinating podcast. It takes me back to my life in Kansas. A year as an exchange student, being pressurised into (soft) drugs, guns, drinking, sex and witnessing racial discrimination. It might sound horrible now, but at the time, I thought that’s what America was like. This is over 25 years ago, and I had a teacher back then, I might add a black teacher, who told me that he believed in me, and that one day I will become someone great. Whilst I still wonder when this might be, I wonder if I am already there. Who knows what ‘great’ really means?
You were a great mentor, Dr. Stone!

I have witnessed racism against me at the time, and against black people. I have witnessed a lot in my life, that I have forgotten, or pushed aside. But I believe in myself. That’s the main thing. And, I am very keen on making sure my kids believe in themselves, and their lives moving forward. When my son had his birthday recently, I wrote exactly that in his card. Hopefully, he will read it over again. And he starts believing in himself.

Whilst this is all 25 years ago, it sometimes comes back to the top of my mind. Just recently I remembered some scenes from that time, and it feels wrong now. No one would blame me, being 15 at the time, to not stand up for things I felt were wrong then, but felt I couldn’t speak out about back then. This is all a very long time ago, but you sometimes wonder what I have learned from all that. A whole lot I’d say, as I am someone who processes things and likes to reflect on things. And, I am willing to learn, to strive and make things better.

What have you done 25 years ago when you look back? It might sound as if I was a total idiot. Actually, I don’t think I was, given the environment I was in. But comparing it to the environment I came from, maybe I was 😉 It’s all good, wounds heal, yet it also gave me a deep inside into the heartland of America, the Mid-West. I learned a whole lot, made some really good friends too, and to this day would like to visit again. And what we Europeans often forget is the size of America. Kansas, where I was, is only about 20,000 km2 smaller than the UK as a whole. Or, to put it into perspective, Kansas is the size of the UK minus Wales. That’s a big country for one member state of a bigger United States, and it would have its own dynamics.

Enough about that, as with everything in life, we live and learn. I recently decided to launch a business with someone else. This is very exciting. And of course I will reveal more as we go along. We are still pretty much in stealth mode. We spoke the other day and had a good chat. Business for us is about TRUST. Trust for me comes back to belief. I believe in him, and he believes in me. We believe in what we do and how we will trust each other. That’s more powerful than a contract I suppose.

There is something else I wanted to write about. Teaching. Now, my dad and uncle both were teachers. Both in Germany, both successful in moving up the teachers’ ranks, and both have had a good life, brining up a family, owning a house etc. It is pretty much a good middle class family job. When I grew up, and most children do, I wanted to become a teacher. I wanted to do what my dad did. Thinking back, I am glad I didn’t become a teacher. Despite Covid19, and teachers going through a tough time, they also have a secure pension and a secure income. However, the income of a teacher will most likely always be lower than the income of someone in the open economy, however that’s not why you become a teacher. It’s because of passion.

I know that now, but back when I finished high school, it was all about the money for me rather than the passion. I wanted to become a CEO, a manager, and that was it. And, to a certain extend, I still love working with people, grown ups, and manage and coach/consult them. Now, you could argue, I am an adult teacher. Not quite, but kind of fulfilled two areas, e.g. being an expert in what I do, and passing that knowledge on to others. I couldn’t be a teacher, that’s for sure. In the UK, teachers are worse off financially than in Germany too, but that is another topic in itself. And me dealing with more than two children at a time isn’t my idea of fun either.

The point I am leading to, is that in life you should follow your passion. Which, to a certain extend, I did. I did it without the right reasoning. In NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming), we differentiate between two motivational directions, e.g. moving towards something and moving away from something. In my case, I moved away from teaching for the reason of earning potential and moved towards consulting for the reason of earning more money and having a ‘career’. Coming to a point in my life where I am launching my own business, working with my own clients, I essentially realise I got the best of both worlds. I am teaching, training and helping people to achieve their goals. I guess I arrived at my destination, didn’t I?

Let’s stick with that thought for a moment. What if, based on what was mentioned above, I am already great and where I should be in life, then the next few years will be key to proving that what I am doing is successful. As you know, based on my podcast, success is defined by your own individual perception of success. So it could be money, or building something, or proving something.

For me, the next few years are about building a business that I can take with me, no matter where in the world I live, and which I can operate remotely too. This way I want to be Covid19 safe, and add value to anyone globally. I want to help people achieve their dreams and tell more people that I believe in them, and that they can achieve their dream. Things will always fall into place, no matter what.

And whilst I fear Covid19’s impact on the economy as much as the upcoming recession (or the recession that’s here already), and Brexit, and whatever else might come, e.g. a 2nd wave of Covid19 or another virus or global warming – for me it comes back to believing that anything is possible. I believe, despite fear and anxiety of the future, that we as humans will survive. We will find a way off this planet before we destroy it, or we find a way of not destroying it; and I find a way of making my business grow during a downturn. And, in the end, I want to look back in years to come and be proud of what I have achieved.

But I don’t want to be alone on the journey. I want to have enough time for my family, help them to believe in themselves. I want my friends, mates, coaching clients and consultant clients to believe in me, and them to believe in themselves. I want to help and give people confidence in what they do, and support them on the way. If I can achieve that, and make the world a better place in my circle of influence, I achieve success.

Now that’s something to live for.

And every time I think about that, there are people that come to my mind, people I met in Kansas, people I met in London and elsewhere on my way, that do not get it. People that tried to f* you over, that couldn’t be trusted, that treated you like sh*, and didn’t care. People I sometimes think about with compassion, sometimes with anger to be honest, how they could treat me, and a lot of other people, in a certain way. I don’t wish them bad or anything. I am not an evil person, just the opposite, I hope they find peace in what they do. And more often than not they were obsessed by either a wrong ideology or greed. Latter, mainly in the business sense.

My whole life I have and will always try to treat people with the utmost respect. Without prejudice. I hope that Covid19 will help people to see the human aspect more. With all the video calls, we look into living rooms, meet business’ contacts children and dogs. We are getting closer to each other, trying to help each other. That can only be a good thing.

I am a strong believer in Karma. That anything bad you do in life is coming back to you eventually. I also believe that anything good you do in life is coming back to you. The circle of energy, proven in my mechanics class back at university, the forces in any system need to be equalised for the system to be stable. Simple math really.

We are who we are. I am who I am, and you are like you are. Konrad Lorenz, who I read as a teenager, wrote a book called ‘I am here, where are you’ and ‘the so called evil’. I am here, who are you? How can I help you to achieve more? How can I help you to be more successful? How can we avoid evil? I enjoy helping and do that via my coaching. I love helping others to grow and do that via consulting. That’s what I do.

Yes, I could do with more business, but I am confident that once Covid19 goes, and we go back to a more normal business life, that things will continue to flourish. Where would humans be without optimism and belief?

It is key now to not give up. I know a lot of people who are looking for a job, or looking for others to help them. Let me know, I am happy to help you. I don’t have all the answers, but I have all the belief to move forward. Today I am positive.

And when I say today, then this means that some days are dark. Like for anyone at the moment, we have more time to think. Someone I know and lives in the USA, was debating whether to return to the UK. In our times, we have to make decisions where we want to live. How our outer circumstances define our living standards. Happiness, which is the topic of a podcast in a couple of weeks, is key. We, as humans, will always seek happiness. We think that by going somewhere else we are happier, and yet we might find out it’s not the case.

As many in these difficult times, we think a lot. One day this, the other day that. Stay or go. Whatever you are thinking about, you will notice that it changes all the time. And the reason is simple, we cannot plan at the moment. We think that by changing things we will be in a better place. That might or might not be the case, and our thoughts are a bit clouded.

The best thing is to sit down, and take stock. Write down what you enjoy/don’t enjoy, and what is important to you. Look into the future, taking into consideration that you cannot determine the future, and that it is likely to change too. Change is constant. Nothing is set in stone. You can only live in the now.

Then evaluate, talk things through with a person you trust, and wait until Covid19 has passed. Make a decision then, with a clear mind, a mind that can start planning a bit more. Don’t rush into anything that you might regret or didn’t think through, having less information and parameters due to the situation we are in. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make decisions.

At the end of the day we always need to move forward, whatever that means in your situation, and however big or small that step might be.

In the end, you have to believe in yourself and make sure you believe in others.

I believe in you!

Ballueder Thinks (1) – Covid19 Column

Hello.

The regular reader knows that for over 10 years I have been writing a Sunday Column. I kind of replaced it with my podcast, now with some videos on Linkedin. But that’s just not the same.

Let’s face it, I do love writing. No question about that. In my strength coaching profile, ‘writing’ was a number one skill. I am not sure if that is due to my academic background, or due to my intellect. And I am not saying that in any arrogant fashion, but I love thinking about the world, and making connections of how things work.

Just this weekend, I listened to a model called ‘disruption mapping’. Any input that clarifies thinking, any model that helps you to simplify trends is great. More about the mapping soon on my podcast in season 4.

Anyhow, after a few weeks pause of writing about my life, I am back on it. I am not promising a regular column. But if there are a lot of things going on in my head, I kind of need to get them out. And I like processing things that are on my mind through writing. Yet, whilst I write a daily gratitude journal for myself, I want to share my thoughts with you in form of a column.

What I am thinking at the moment? Black lives matter. I am actually speechless that in 2020 people are still thinking that there would be any superiority of one race over another. Whether that is white over black, or one belief over another. This is just something totally incomprehensible for me. Again, earlier this weekend I wrote an article about mindfulness and how it might not fit with a ‘male stereotypical picture’ – again it is totally wrong to think about those stigmas. But, of course, we grew up with that. It reminded me of the movie ‘Philadelphia’ where the ‘white collar, old grey haired lawyers’ sit in the sauna cracking jokes about gay people. This used to be acceptable, but in my opinion is now out of fashion. At least in circles I socialise. So let’s hope that this will once and for all put this inequality to rest, and no more lives will be lost. I am disgusted.

I am also thinking of Covid19. For me, having the Aufbruchstimmung, or in English the Spirit of Optimism, I think it is over. We should get back to work, even if it is 99% remote, and that we need to move on, make decisions and get back to work. Maybe I think it is too easy to do. But what stops us from doing so? Some industries, hospitality for instance, will have difficulties, but some other industries should easily be able to work remotely and do business in a remote fashion, powered by Zoom. Btw Zoom, their share price jumped 90% on going public, good on them. But yes, let’s move on.

And what about my job. Oh….there is a lot I can tell you about. There is this fear of a recession and then Brexit and all. But again, we must think positive, stay fearless and move onwards. It is about making decisions and moving forward. I am in the process of launching something new, adding a new contract to my portfolio and continue with coaching and mindfulness trainings. So I am keeping busy. I will of course share some more news in the weeks to come. But I am very excited. With every fear and downturn, there is an opportunity! To my knowledge, this is what crisis means in Chinese.

I couldn’t give up. Falling down 7 times, standing up 8 times. Let me into a secret. As soon as the tattoo shops will open, I am on there to get this tattooed. Silly? Mid-Life crisis? Maybe. Whatever you fancy, just go for it.
Earlier this year I had some transformational therapy to rid myself of some limitations and limiting belief. I couldn’t recommend this more. I have tried a few over the years, this one was great. There is nothing like experimenting with different forms of therapies. Yes, I have to say that my best therapy is meditation, which I practise daily. Without meditation, and without the love of certain people, I don’t think I would have achieved what I have achieved. Life takes turns, my industry has been full of redundancies and change, but I have mastered it. Without mental health issues. But, looking back, and as explored in a recent podcast, I think I have been sailing very closely to the wind. I sometimes think that my meditation is like a sail that helped me to stay on this side of the storm. Hence, I am so passionate to teach people about it.

And then the lockdown. We are all struggling. Juggling home schooling, family, jobs, progression in jobs, interviews, zoom calls, and the earlier evenings which leave more time for drinks. I have been keeping fit, with 3 half marathons so far during lockdown. I do my weight exercises and added more to the regime, hoping to rid myself of the Covid-Stone. A term I coined for the additional weight I have put on. It’s just too easy to snack all day long. With the return of school runs, I am getting more walking time in again, which is good of course. And, personally, I think it’s a good thing that school returned.

Fingers crossed we are out of the worse and Covid19 will disappear, just burn off over the summer. That’s what I am hoping for. And will we learn anything?

What have we forgotten over the past few weeks?

Brexit.
Whilst the topic is slowly coming back to us in the press, let’s keep a close eye on it. I am still not a friend, but we have to live with it I suppose. A friend of mine posted something awful about the background and intention of the Tories behind Brexit, which I a) don’t want to repeat and b) hope it isn’t true. If it was, I would think this country is going down big time. Let’s hope this isn’t the case. We handled Covid19 very badly from a political and preparedness point of view, so if we handle Brexit the same, this is going to be really bad!

Dom Cummings.
Is he still the Chief Advisor to our PM? This is so bad. Sorry, I am speechless to think that he gets away with it. Not having a backbone to step down and admitting that he f* up. That’s what I don’t get with leaders. I learned early in my life to owe up to mistakes and apologise and trying to make it right. It’s a fundamental lesson I teach my children. For me this says it all about our government, prime minister and political situation. I am actually becoming a big fan of Kerr Starmer, the Labour and opposition leader. There is hope! There is always hope.

And what about ocean pollution?
Will we think about recycling still when Covid19 is over? And how to clean our oceans? Or is that all forgotten? Will we, post Covid19, go back to normal and just pollute our planet, take unnecessary flights, treat others with disrespect and carry on? I hope not. There is always hope.

Over the weeks and months to come I want to pick up more regular writing again. I would enjoy hearing from you what you think. I’d like to hear what your opinion is, so feel free to reach out to me by whatever means works for you.

I enjoy writing.
I want to share.
I want to get you to think.

Thanks, and please stay safe,
Volke