I haven’t written a lot recently. I love writing, and I love sharing, but the honest truth is, there isn’t much to share. Whilst I write regularly on mindfulness over at Scentered and in my monthly newsletter (SUBSCRIBE HERE), there isn’t much else to share or think about.
Yet, I thought I’d give it a try. Let’s see what comes to my mind. In all honesty, there are a few thoughts I had which unfortunately I couldn’t share at this point in time. Teaser, I know, but I will share them as soon as they are ready. In the meantime, I wanted to update you on a few things.
Family: Ever since the boys are coming of age, grow up and I am around them so much at the moment, I seem to really understand what family actually means. I see the influence we as parents and carers have on them, and how much they need our support to grow up. But, I also see how much they support us through difficult times, as their horizon is different to ours. Whilst this sounds so super obvious, I cannot stress this enough. Over the past 12 years, since I first became a dad, I learned so much about ‘being a dad’, and ‘what is expected’ and where to put your priorities. It has been, and still is I suppose, a process. And no one ever prepares you for becoming a dad. Let’s say it didn’t come as natural to me as it seemed to have done for others.
Someone mentioned a cartoon (which unfortunately I couldn’t find) which showed someone time travelling from the future, asking what year it was. ‘What, he said, 2021, you are still in year 1 of lockdown?’
Not encouraging, but given the current UK announcement that we might get out of it mid March, this would pretty much make it a year. A year without going to London, with business moving online. A reason I started focusing on work that I can do location independent, as the appeal of London, the appeal of living somewhere for jobs, has just worn off. I am free to go wherever I want to, wherever family is. That’s where home is. The other day I got myself a bottle of Lagavulin and said to my wife it smells of home. She asked where it is. I still owe her the answer.
When you are in lockdown, at least for me, you evaluate everything you do and have, possess I might say. So I upgraded my desk with an ergonomic chair, a new 27 inch 4K screen and other bits and pieces. Spending 8+ hours on there, it needs to be super productive, supportive and comfortable, good for my back, shoulders and easy on my eyes. A great investment.
I also invested in an air fryer, I always wanted to try it out. As of lockdown 1.0 I started cooking more, which is also partly due to me becoming vegetarian (see earlier posts). So I cook more, try more and gain confidence in cooking. Whilst I have been exercising a lot on the treadmill, I didn’t enjoy the repetitive workouts on the multi-gym I had for 3 years anymore. So I sold that on eBay and focus on kettlebell exercises again. It helps as I don’t have to go into the cold garage, and we got a lot more space too. So as lockdown continues, we evaluate what we need, don’t need and what we learn.
On that note, I am in the process of finishing my Diploma in counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy. It was a drag, but I enjoyed learning the content, and now being able to apply some of it with my executive and leadership clients. Whether that is in relation to stress prevention and resilience courses, leadership trainings, or as part of me coaching. I recently took on a job coaching outplacements, e.g. helping people finding jobs, which also involves me writing CVs and cover letters. That, and my skills in sales, made me an excellent headhunter, so I am doing some work in that space too. All can be done from any location, no matter how this lockdown turns out to be.
What we learned during lockdown will stay with us our whole life. I don’t necessarily mean the courses, but how we approach life. Are we having a positive outlook, are we ready to tackle loneliness, are we pro-active or not? How do we cope with job loss, quiet periods, home-schooling, our partners and family? Which decisions do we make towards finances, home improvements, cars? Do we go for walks, exercise or push our limits? Do we watch Netflix and don’t exercise, stuffing our face with take aways?
Lockdown hasn’t been easy for anyone. I am hopeful we are on our way out, and that by Easter we are free to travel within the UK again. It must be happening, and I am confident it will. I have a few more projects I want to finish before my birthday that I cannot do myself. And, I don’t want a 2nd birthday in lockdown 😉 So let’s hope!
What are my asks?
My asks are for you to stay
– Mentally sound, learn to meditate, appreciate the moment and get out and get some fresh air, socialise online and stay in touch with friends
– Physically sound – exercise or at least walk, keep fit and eat healthy
– Thinking positively – there is always a silver lining, no matter how off the situation looks
If you have any challenges you cannot cope with, and you know me, give me a ring. My (virtual) door is always open to help, to support. That’s why I like recruitment, I can actually make a positive difference to people’s life. That’s why I enjoy coaching. Whilst my consulting is getting really busy, I want to continue doing those two things. Helping has always been important for me.
Stay safe, this too shall pass.
Have a wonderful day. Greetings from my little corner of the world.
2020 – most of us would love to wipe this year out. Forget about it. It is weird to think that a year ago, most of us could have guessed what was coming. However, the Western world was ignorant about the new ‘flu’ that was going on in China, and slowly spread across its borders. In hindsight, a friend of mine mentioned that he saw his work colleagues from China hardly making it on or off the plane in London – he knew it was coming. Why didn’t we act sooner?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so in hindsight I want to reflect on what was my 2020. A year that brought change, challenges but also a year that wasn’t too bad for us on a whole. We are truly grateful and hope that 2021 will be even better. There are good things that happened. Small things, like being able to book a barber’s appointment, or spending more time with the family, less of a commute, discovering the country side or just how grateful one should be.
My 2020 thoughts were all about healthier living and building my own business. I said it then and say it now, I am more of a consultant, working on different projects and that’s what I enjoy. In 2021 you will see my positioning change more towards Strategy and Leadership Consultant. I will still continue the same I have before, but my focus will shift towards a more teaching and skill based training approach which incorporates elements of my leadership research, mindfulness, counselling and coaching skills. I am brining the best of my abilities together, to build training programmes for leaders, middle management and individuals to become better in what they do.
But enough about work. I want to provide a personal review of this year, looking at each month, providing some thoughts on what I felt was important. And as I have been writing it, I noticed I got events muddled up, but that’s ok. It’s how I see it from and end of year perspective. And if you are sitting down with a tipple, you might not even notice it 😉
What I do know is that in January, I became a vegetarian. I tried vegan but without eggs and cheese, life wasn’t quite right. I also enjoy knowing this is good for the environment, and I stuck to it most of the year, with the exception of the odd piece of chicken and prawns. I would say I am 95% vegetarian, without wanting to beat myself up for eating a small piece of meat now and then. This resulted in me learning how to cook proper veggie meals, particularly whilst training for my marathon. Overall, my carbon footprint from food would have gone down massively. So that’s a good think I believe.
Thanks again for all your support this year. Without you, my friends, listeners, readers and mentors this would have been a harder year than it was. Let’s hope 2021 will be a new, amazing year!
January – I started the year knowing that my contract might be up for renewal. Things weren’t moving as expected, yet a new product with one of our partners kept us busy. So it was a bit ‘business as usual’, a lot of working from home, as gloomy January. It was miserable in my memory anyway. I just kept on working, and I was waiting to see what the year would bring. Two jobs, one paid, one for sweat equity, awaiting 2020 to shed some light on what was there to come. I also went on a retreat in Germany, which I truly enjoyed. That was my last travel for a long time, who would have guessed.
February – Mid February, just after my wife had a second wave of her ‘illness’, I got it. A day of fever, the kids off school for a day, and this ongoing cough. My throat was so sore, it kept me awake at night. When the first wave was over, the cough persisted, and the second part of the illness left me a bit breathless, as if I had smoked a few joints. People moved away from me on the train when I was coughing. As people became more knowledgable about this ‘virus’, I realised that my sense of smell and taste slowly recovered. I am certain I had the Coronavirus, but at the time, I didn’t have a clue. Maybe I should have, and I probably should have worn a mask.
Also, I had my first hypnotherapy session, I would have another one later in the year, dealing with some childhood issues. It’s fascinating what you can do with the mind, and it made me even more interested in studying hypnotherapy at some point.
March – I stayed home from mid March. Meetings were moved online, and people didn’t want to meet. Events we planned were cancelled. I received notice on my contract and was looking for a new one, yet no one wanted to commit to anything. A look around the globe gave us some warning, but little time to prepare for what was called a lockdown. The kids went off school, home schooling was a joke, and juggling a contract, finding new work and home schooling wasn’t happening at all. It all felt very surreal. We spent time going for long walks in the countryside, walks down the beach and kept ourselves sane. I am so proud of my boys, and wife, for coping so well this year. It was a hard time, yet we managed. We had outside space, running water, a toilet and enough food. We were the lucky ones, and I reminded myself daily of this.
April just became more of it. Any breaks we planned weren’t happening, ground hog day. Hustling for work, activating your network, speaking to people about work, reducing your outgoings. Yet I picked up some mindfulness training courses, and helped a couple of companies through the lockdown. For us digital folk it was easy to get used to the ‘new normal’, the video conferencing, remote working etc. I had my most creative time, and came up with new business ideas, yet nothing of those materialised in the end. But I learned a hell of a lot!
We moved from grocery delivery to click and collect; I ran half marathons on the treadmill to keep me sane. This month wasn’t the best, I want to be honest. And it ended with my birthday, a first birthday in lockdown.
But, we were alive. We had food on the table. We did better than a lot of people in this world, again being very grateful for what we have.
May became the month of hope. We slowly came out of lockdown, and thought we managed to put most of the virus behind us. Little did we know. Some people returned to their offices, or were planning to. Other companies decided to work from home indefinitely. Things changed, opinions of right or wrong, and what to do and not to do split the nation. I started cooking more for myself, making sure I get the right vegetarian fuel to sustain myself. I learned all about veggie BBQs too, sampling every veggie sausage on the planet. My conclusion: the Richmond veggie sausages are the nicest and of course the Beyond Meat burger.
June was when things slowly normalised. We still had a long way to go, but it was as if there was a new horizon. I picked up a new contract which helped immensely, and continued to have discussions what the best way forward was for me. Even for a mindfulness practitioner, the mind f* is real. No one could help you to determine what is right and what is wrong. What should you focus on, what not. It became a time for me to look inwards, looking what is important to me, the family and how we can best make it through those difficult times. Luckily, our kids went back to school until the summer break, but a lot of people were struggling.
On a sad side, my grandmother passed away age 99, 3 months before her 100th birthday. She had a blessed life, and I sometimes think it was good for her not to understand this Covid-19 thing.
July was the month it became real. For many years I fancied a tattoo. I never did it, and when lockdown hit, I decided to go for it. And when I was allowed to, I did it. My first ever tattoo. Amazing 🙂 I never looked back, and the buzz you get from getting one is so amazing. I spare you more details, but this is epic. Why didn’t I go for it in 1996 when I wanted to???
I also finished off a contract which in total lasted a year. To make my business operations easier, I decided to move all my work related stuff to www.balluederpartners.com to separate work and life emails. I don’t want to lie, it was a quiet time from a work perspective, so I had a lot of time to position myself, the company and make plans. And plans I had plenty, some which crystallised and others that didn’t.
As a family we fancied the idea of a hot tub. So we tested a few of them, but ended up with a blow up one later in the year, as we are planning to make some changes to the house and all. I guess 2020 was about making your home as comfortable as possible, knowing you would spend a lot of time in it. We still haven’t decided what to do next, but hey, there needs to be some excitement in 2021 😉
August was a month I wanted to take off. Summer holidays. The plan was to go to Germany but the government decided 2 days before our departure that if you drive through Belgium, you had to quarantine on return. Instead we drove to Scotland for a great week and stayed in Preston on the way. Not sure if the latter was safer than driving through Belgium, but given France was added to the list in the meantime, we could have not escaped the quarantine. Covid made re-booking things and changing bookings a lot more flexible. It was a also a month we started clearing out a lot of stuff. Sometimes you just need a proper clear out. Towards the end of the year I rediscovered eBay, selling my old Apple Watch (I went all Garmin in 2020) and my humidor. It never occurred to me how much money you can make by selling some of the stuff.
September brought on some unexpected positive changes. I picked up a contract which went from strength to strength since. A position I really enjoy and I hope will be a long term engagement. The kids went back to school, which was great. Don’t get me wrong, great for a) education but b) after home schooling and a long summer break with no childcare or appetite and options for holidays, it was good to see them back at school with their friends. They need the social interaction.
It was then that I saw a few doctors, for palpitations, stress related hearing issues etc. What aspired then was that I was stressed from everything that was going on which was 2020, but also the marathon. My body was knackered from the training. Since increasing my distance above 25K I had had the above problems which all disappeared after the marathon. The good things was that the NHS was great in getting tests done, and reassuring me that I was fit as a fiddle. Two doctors independently suggested to me that I should change to decaffeinated coffee. Which I did, and I have not looked back since. I discovered a variety of coffees since September that are really nice and decaf. Here we go with a healthier life in 2020.
Also I started my podcasts again. Season 4. There have been some amazing episodes since, yet I plan to take a longer break next year to revisit the show and look what’s on the horizon next. New projects etc. But not yet, we finish season 4 next summer, I already recorded episodes up to March and they are good and educational! It’s a fun journey, but I think I need to reflect on a few years first, to then fine tune it for a relaunch in 2022. We shall see.
We also had trouble with our Skoda. However, we got it all fixed in the end, but lost a bit of trust with the garage. It’s always worrying if a part breaks after they had the car for a check up. And then, once of a sudden, it gets really expensive. With the new regulations coming in for petrol and diesel cars, I am thinking we are waiting until electric cars are mainstream to get a new motor. The current one will do for a few more years, and the money we wanted to spend on a fancy new car this year is better spend elsewhere.
October was the month where things fell into place a bit. We got more of a routine. The new iphone came out and I was quite excited to upgrade on my usual 2 year cycle. I also finished the London virtual marathon in aid for the RNIB, and I got a space for the 2021 marathon in London. Fingers crossed we can run it in London and I won’t have problems again. 3rd time lucky, but recovery was quick and smooth.
Since we couldn’t go away for half term, we spend a long weekend visiting Dover Castle and staying in the pre-booked Premier Inn for our planned Germany trip. A change of scenery was great, and we had lots of fun as a family, creating memories. Positive memories in 2020. We tried really hard this year to make it as positively memorable as possible for the kids – and ourselves of course.
I also joined a charity to help them as a volunteer, which hopefully leads to a trustee position in the new year. This is another focus for me moving forward. Giving back and helping others with my experience. Ideally, I want to join companies as a non-executive director next year, helping them to understand digital transformation, marketing and sales as well as positioning.
November saw me finishing up a smaller contract but also discussions around new opportunities. The good thing about consultancy is that if you loose one contract, you normally have another one still. The bad thing is that you still need to find new ones all the time 😉 It’s about networking, knowing people, connecting to people.
Lockdown 2.0 saw some personal plans shattered, yet schools continued, and really it was just miserable due to the darker days, daylight saving, rain and all. And, you couldn’t plan anything. So having a hottub, and enough food, log fires, wine, and cheese fondue boosted our morale. I am not sure how often we said that we are grateful for everything we have. The kids seem to suffer too.
Also, Apple released the M1 chips in their new MacBooks. Unfortunately, when I got my MacBook 3 years ago, I thought 8 GB of RAM would be enough. Working as a consultant, having different programmes, millions of browser windows, and two external screens to power, 16 GB are a must. So it was a nice coincidence to combine the upgrade of RAM with the upgrade of a new processor. I was astonished how much of a difference it made.
December was another month where we came out of a lockdown. So the mood was more positive. As I got into artwork this year, this was the time to add more, and finally I was allowed to do it. Finally something to look forward to. I also completed the first half of a diploma in counselling and learned a ton about inner conflicts. This year has really been about learning, about looking forward, looking inward, and making it work. Particularly the latter, you come up with so many ways to spin a positive story, to keep the kids entertained, to make it through this year. Helping others, helping yourself, and supporting each other.
We made it in the end. We are still alive. I will have 2 weeks off which are desperately needed. New ideas for 2021. New hopes. New plans. And on top of that, we are so grateful for what we have. I don’t know how often I cried this year, but more often, and more often for good reasons.
A quote I read was ‘maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.
This sums up 2020 a bit for me. I looked inwards a lot, and I discovered a lot in there too.
We wish you all a Merry Christmas. As you might read in my newsletter, I am not religious. So however you want to spend this Christian based holiday, spend it with your loved ones, and enjoy some quiet time.
Maybe look back at 2020, see how much you have learned and what you can be grateful for, and make some plans for 2021.
For me Christmas is about time off, nice wine, cheese, food and log fires. Time with the family and sharing the love. No excesses this year. We want to be humble.
If there is ever anything I can help you with, don’t ever hesitate to reach out.
I am finishing this post as I unwind for the night. A busy day ‘in the office’, lots of zoom calls…but a good day, as most days are at the moment.
When I started writing this post, it was a week after my marathon. My columns here become more of a diary which I publish on an irregular basis. I hope you continue to enjoy them. Please reach out to me and let me know, so I can use your feedback to improve.
That in itself is an important point, if you don’t seek feedback, you never improve. I guess that’s why my coaching clients come to me, they want to be coached from an ‘outside-in’ perspective, someone giving them feedback and suggesting how to better themselves. It’s great to be able to do that, as I really enjoy doing it too. Reach out to me for a free consultation on how I could help you to achieve more in life.
In terms of my running, I recovered from my injury from the marathon and I am slowly going back to training again. For now, I decided I will take it easy for a month, focusing on weight loss, muscle gain and maintaining my fitness level. This means a split half marathon on Mondays, and a further 10K later in the week. That’s plenty to maintain the level for now. I never felt so fit before. Interesting enough, I noticed that I cannot cope with alcohol that well anymore. Even the ‘normal’ amount gives me a slight hungover the next day. Whether that is down to the theory that muscles which are well trained soak up any fluid in order to hydrate, and therefore cause havoc with alcohol, or if it is age, I do not know 🙄 So my beloved wine needs to be a weekend thing for me to continue to perform at my peak during the week. That is a good problem to have IMO.
What keeps me up at night is productivity and performance. You might think that’s a bit geeky but I have two interesting projects which both need high performance from me, for the little hours I have. The balance when working as a consultant. I hopefully add a couple more projects by the time I finished this post, and also add more coaching clients. As a matter of fact I added a voluntary role in the mindfulness space to the portfolio; more info and announcements next time, when things are officially formalised.
I also got approached for full time roles recently and have engaged in a few conversations. However, I am still not sure. But never say never. There is loads going on, and I shared 10 open positions on LinkedIn the other day that randomly appeared in my newsfeed. To be honest, I am very curious how I split my time in the months to come. All I can say is that I truly enjoy what I am doing and the people I am working with.
Things are moving, and are in constant change. Change is good. My podcasts are well received and I enjoy interviewing guests from a variety of topics. Watch the space for some really interesting, mind opening conversations I recorded.
That leads me to another topic. As a family we have been putting our thinking hats on too. From whiteboard sessions around the kitchen table to discussions how we want to live, and what is important to us. As some ideas and plans are shattered, other opportunities are opening up. Again, I am not sure how it all pans out in the months to come, but I am sure we will be fine. As a family we grow stronger, the boys are getting older and things are happening. And that is the most important thing. It showed massively when the youngest had to quarantine due to a Covid case in his school bubble recently. I am sure we see more of that to come, and I am worried about a second lock down tbh. Sometimes I fear the virus will never go away, so we just have to accept it and live with it.
Anyway, given the circumstances,
I am happy.
I am grateful.
And I am immensely positive.
I couldn’t wish for anything else atm. We have always been ambitious and positive thinking. This means we are ready to take on whichever challenge life throws at us, and I am confident we master it. And the boys are growing up with that attitude and learning from us to become more resilient.
This all goes in line with a lot of patience, resilience, and communication with a 9 and 11 year old, who of course see life from a different angle than ourselves. Life is challenging to be explained to some, and making decisions is what we have to do as parents and carers, and we hope we make the right ones. You cannot always please everyone which means, sometimes things just have to be done.
There is of course a negative side effect to what I do: I am working too much. I just love to. Whilst I am contracted by days/hours/projects, I often end up clocking a lot more hours and neglect the family or myself. The other week I realised I hadn’t left the house for 3 days! I made up for it with a session in the pub, and that felt really good! Just the other day I coached someone on work life balance, and how to separate life and work when working from home; from physical distancing to breaking up the day, carving time out for lunch, school runs etc. Don’t forget, we are all in it together, and a small change can go a long way. It’s like the discussion around wearing face masks. They don’t protect yourself, but protect others. And for that reason, unless you are selfish, just wear one. A small price to pay if you ask me.
Whilst we didn’t go out for a few days, we got some life admin done. It’s nice to feel to be on top of things, cuddling up with the boys, spending proper family time together. The fire was on, nice food was cooked and you are creating that home family atmosphere. Isn’t that brilliant? As mentioned above, we are still learning to become the ‘perfect family’ (define that how you want), but open communication and support for each other is key. How do we stop daddy from shouting? How can I trust you more? How can I get you to listen more?
It’s a bit like a board meeting. The application of leadership and management to small independent family organisations 🙂 I can see a book coming soon. As a matter of fact, a discussion last week sparked my interest to write a book called ‘what I learned now and would pass on to my younger self if he was listening’. But it’s true, I remember a friend of mine doing a whiteboard session with his parents a few years ago. It works, and visualisation and communication are key to any team you are working with.
Since I last published a post, there have been a few things happening. I got a new veggie cook book by Jamie Oliver which I love; I ordered the new iPhone (2 years upgrade cycle) and it will arrive soon. It is crazy to think how far technology has come, when I compare that with my first HTC smart phone running on Windows back in 2006. The connectivity or even the camera compared to my first digital camera at university. I am a bit technology geek, and I cannot wait for the machine to arrive. The pictures are soon available in RAW format, not that it means much to me, but this will be a breakthrough for professional photographers. In line with that, we are consuming more, and I got myself convinced to add Netflix to the mix. So between Apple TV, Prime and Netflix, we now have 3 subscription services. I am monitoring this closely, as I don’t really like to pay for many. We also pay a subscription for FreeTV which I happily get rid of. However, that’s just a hidden tax really.
Now, on the weekend of the 17th, I heard the sad news that my old manager and mentor, Andy, passed away. He was fighting cancer since 2016 when he collapsed in the office. I will re-publish a podcast I recorded with him at the end of 2019, in memory and in warning, somewhat, that we cannot escape death. Andy had cancer, an evil one, and we openly talked about it. He made peace with himself, and was ready to go – as ready as one can be. He leaves a lot of friends, a fantastic family and a legacy of a life behind. He influenced my life over the years, and those many others. It sometimes feels as if the good guys go to early. One just doesn’t know how much time is left on the clock. You must make the most of it. Life can be cut short.
On that note, if you knew Andy, please contribute to his chosen charity Garden House Hospice, mentioning his name. I will miss you and our chats.
No matter how many people die, it isn’t getting easier. The closer you are to them, the more memories you shared, the more it affects you. This year I lost two loved ones already. Many people died of Covid of course. It’s not the year to sit and wait. It’s those experiences that make us more determined, to spend more time with our family, to make more things happen, to work harder, yet make every moment count with your loved ones.
Andy and I shared a ton of memories, attending events across Europe, where we spend long days and nights, having lots of fun. We shared good and bad moments, and he will be truly missed. I loved working with him, and loved taking advice from him. Rest in peace.
I think this is a good time to end this column.
Covid, Brexit, life in general – there is so much uncertainty. As I am learning to embrace fear more and more, it doesn’t make it easier. I sometimes think I need a year off, maybe 2021, to reflect and do what I want to do. Lottery win my way please 😉
Give your loved ones a hug tonight. Reflect on what you have, and be grateful. Life can change in a heartbeat, so cherish the precious moments.
Love and Kindness from my corner of the world!
At time of reading, if you read this when it is published, I am running around Hassocks, my local village. I committed to fundraise for the RNIB and run the London Marathon. Today is the day, and as you might have your first or second coffee, sitting in the warmth and reading the paper and my blog, I am out there clocking the miles.
26.2 miles or 42.2 km.
The training has been intense. Falls, scared knees, early weekend mornings, and almost being hit by cars or motor bikes. And it is getting colder, wetter, windier, and it is dark.
I decided to not do an ultra marathon for now, and the main reason is time. Training for anything takes away a lot of weekend family time, even if you start running at 6 am and you are back by 9sih. You feel knackered afterwards. Half marathons seem to be a good distance, with not being too tired and doing them in about 2 hours. I also want to run more with the local people too, maybe I find someone else who is crazy enough to train for something bigger.
Anyway, I have done it, or hopefully have done it, and thank you for your support. I guess you read on my Instagram feed whether I succeeded.
Did you know 93% of blind and partially sighted people can see something? And that there are over 200 eye conditions?
Let me fill you into other things that are going on in my life:
At the time I started writing this post, I am a bit down. When I say down, I mean ‘too much going on’, ‘overwhelmed’. I spend the morning sorting things out for one company, admin, processes, operations etc. I enjoy that kind of work, and knew I had a longer lunch break. A lovely sunny day, lunch with the wife in our favourite spot, nap on the beach. Then another longer session for another company, doing similar things….until the early evening hours.
Life isn’t too bad you think, and despite a longer lunch break I still clocked 7 hours of work. Early starts, late finish, longer breaks. The beauty of working for yourself, and having clients that don’t care when you work, as long as the results come in. And they do I might say.
I shouldn’t and I am not complaining, I got work, and I got enough atm. That is great, and I also announced a new partnership recently and will do more work in the consulting space in the near future. But, it is a lot of work whilst juggling family, being home all the time, and of course promoting yourself and running a marathon. People often forget the impact all those things have on your life. Hence, I always suggest to the people I work with to take a step back, reflect and take stock. Reevaluate what you are doing, and how and why you are doing it.
I love making my own decisions, not being bound by company politics, but I do miss the office banter, the connection to a company. Yet over time, that all comes regardless. As a freelancer, however, you can decide how you work, and which projects you prioritise. That depends on pay, urgency of course, commit and family. Flexibility I suppose is key, but also being organised and determined. And I am certainly that.
On a Tim Ferris podcast the other day, someone said that he teaches his children to understand that there is nothing on the other side of fear. Having said that, I got myself a T-Shirt saying, everything is on the other side of fear. It’s probably the same saying from a different angle. You cannot go wrong by conquering fear and going for something. You cannot loose, fear should not hold you back, you have everything to play for. I guess that’s what it is. And, on a recent podcast I recorded, the ladies I interviewed suggested that lockdown made us go back to our roots, and we created life, rather than reacted and tried to thrive too much. The episode goes live in a couple of weeks, so make sure you listen in. We cover resilience and stress management, from various angles and opinions. Definitely worth your time.
My mission over the next 6 months is to work more on personal development projects, or move more into strategy consulting. I just had a few opportunities come past me, for both objectives.. People often ask if I don’t know what I want, and I say I do. I am really good in coaching and enjoy strategy, but also working with people in sales, which is a combination of both: strategy and coaching. Anyway, the future will be interesting, no doubt. Combining those two areas as much as I can is the ideal case scenario. Let’s see….
On the coaching side of things, I want to deliver more workshops on resilience, and meditation, mindfulness and stress management. There are so many ways you can utilise your skills and teach people how to become better. And that’s my mission and vision in life, despite my love for digital marketing. And, having said that, 😂 – I do love the data area I am just working in, and the companies I work for. The future is bright, let’s not fear it!
Now, to finish off, let’s talk about my marathon training. I never felt more ready for the big run today. My fall a couple of weeks ago is almost completely healed. I was shocked when it happened, afraid I couldn’t run the marathon, crying. I am ok with crying, out of shock, pain or whatever. Despite, I finished the run I was on, and almost got run over by a car, not being with it, being shocked a bit I suppose. Your mind changes, the body mind connecting is so key, and observing it, and understanding it, then counteracting it, is key. To resilience, stress management, and in my case survival. It’s a dangerous world out there. This is also why I need a break first before I embark on my next adventure.
When I signed up with the RNIB to run the London marathon for them this year, I didn’t know if it was going ahead. I knew it might not but I was determined to run it anyway. Now I run the virtual one, and another one next year or year after. Finally, running the London marathon. I cannot wait. I am in top shape, good form. I enjoy the long distance runs, endurance rather than speed. That’s me. Building up resilience to pain, to niggles, and being in the zone to survive and zoning out. Literally. Who knows why I enjoy that. But I always have done. I used to run 2 hours at University in Aberdeen, slow but for two hours, and I loved it, down the beach. No one measured distances then, or had a smart watch, but I reckon I did a few half marathons then too. In the end it doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy yourself.
A few other things happened since I last wrote and I want to mention it, mainly to get help and input on alternative solutions. Evernote got a new update which totally wrecked my confidence in the app and my productivity system. When you cannot trust your trusted system, there is a problem. I am disappointed to see that an app releases such a buggy update and cannot fix things within a couple of weeks. I tried notion but I am not 100% sure that’s the best replacement. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know. One solution could be of course to have notion as one app for projects, and Evernote as an archive. Any ideas are welcome.
Then there was a water leak, just the day before the rain started, and the sun disappeared 🙂 A day without water. Not a big deal you think, yet for me it put things into perspective. I looked up a few stats and a huge amount of people (up to 35% I believe) are without toilet/sanitisation. And we complain if we cannot run the water tap or the dishwasher or washing machine for a day. I could go off on a rant about the privileges we have in the 1st world. Or so called 1st world, seeing what’s going on with Covid and Brexit in this country, you sometimes wonder. Trying to ignore politics has been a difficult task for me.
Watch this video explaining privilege which recently popped up in my newsfeed again:
Just by having a good education, being white and male, you seem to have a head start in life. You seem to be ‘privileged’ not by who you are and what you do, but because of the background you are from. I had a private healthcare appointment too, and this normally goes against my belief. Not that I don’t approve of private healthcare but it puts you in a position to be able to jump the queue. I always had that as a child and only recently went back to private healthcare in the UK. To see a specialist in the NHS for the problem I had would have been 40+ weeks. That’s almost a year. I appreciate Covid isn’t helping, but we cannot go on like this.
I personally believe that this country needs to change. Fundamentally change. Even the world. You cannot have people in power because of their background and education, a birth right. And those of us who are a minority, for whatever reason, are not accepted in society or left out. Just recently I had a longer discussion with an Indian born friend about that, who has lived in the UK, and has been a British citizen for over 20 years. He experienced discrimination. It’s a name, an origin or the colour of your skin. And this is so wrong. I cannot say this often enough, and hope that this will change – globally!
Enough about politics. You get me started on a topic you don’t want me to rant on.
As you finish this post, I am coming closer to the finish line too. Thanks again for your support, for this race, for the RNIB but also for my life, my career, my family.
Whoever you are who is reading this has a connection to me, and if you feel that it is strong enough, reach out and let me know. I love to connect, network, chat, be friends, share a pint, virtually or real.
Have a wonderful rest weekend and weeks ahead. If you are interested in receiving a short newsletter on a monthly basis, please subscribe to it here. I share updates and great article on leadership and personal development.
It’s hot at time of writing. 27.5 degrees in the car, as I wait for my son to finish his karate lesson. The first ‘real one’, face to face, since March, and parents are no longer allowed to watch. Life has changed. Next time I take the bigger car with the air conditioning. We adopt to the new rules of course, as we all do.
Today, at time of writing, we were supposed to go to Ashford, then Folkestone tomorrow, drive to Germany and celebrate my parents 50th wedding anniversary. The government put Belgium on the list of countries to not stay in and if you come from there, you have to quarantine for 14 days. Surely driving through it would be an exception. But it isn’t. Several calls to the government hotlines got us the same answer and it was: if you touch Belgian soil, even in a car, not stopping, you have to quarantine. Loose your income for 2 weeks. Can’t train for the marathon. WTF. This got changed at the time we rebooked…but hey, you have to make decisions when you do.
So with a heavy heart we postponed our trip to Germany, fearing that France would end up on the list soon too. And it did when we were supposed to be out there, alongside the Netherlands. Why risk it? I haven’t seen my parents for 8 months, yet they can’t postpone their anniversary. The original plan was to go on a cruise, which ultimately got cancelled. And our flights got reimbursed. So that’s good at least.
Cut a long story short, we went to Scotland instead. Staying in the Greater Manchester area over night, driving on the M6 through a lockdown area. No quarantine necessary, despite my arguments on the phone with the government, this isn’t the same use case. There are no restrictions to do be on ‘Manchester soil’. Nevermind. I would argue otherwise, but who am I to criticise the government?
Actually I do. I think they properly f* it up. The UK as it was 19 years ago when I was attracted living here, is no more. The handling of the Corona crisis and the amount of dead people speak for itself. The recession and Q2 GDP contraction figures higher than any other country. I am hugely disappointed with the state of affairs and handling of the situation. Nothing screams ‘Brexit will be a mess’ more than looking at the clowns on the top. Never have I felt more passionate about politics in any country. And looking at A-Level results, both in Scotland and England, I can only say WTF again. Sorry, this wasn’t meant to be a political or blog post ranting, but I guess sometimes it just needs to be said. But what’s the alternative?
Maybe it was naive to think we could leave the country in a pandemic in order to travel. Or it is naive to think we are out of the worst, and that there won’t be a second wave. I don’t know. Looking back at the first half of the year, I have been lucky to have work, as a contractor, and actually uncovering opportunities, regardless of the situation. Things might not be as planned, but who had planned 2020 and actually got what they planned for? Hence, I am actually very grateful for what we have, the health we are in, and the prospects we have. It confirms my decision to go freelance. To be my own boss, and make it happen, without relying on others. This is a huge blessing to be honest, even if it is hard. But why would I want to rely on others to have a job at this stage? I am not saying I am not tempted to join a company full time, but that needs to be the right opportunity. Anyway, not pitching 😉
As anyone at the moment, I just like to have a good life and want this virus to go away. Yet we need to think what life would be like if the virus won’t go away anytime soon, or ever? How will our lives, jobs and situation change? Location won’t be an issue once of a sudden. Barbados, New York, Toronto, London, Singapore – as long as you can work in the time zone of the company you work for, you can live anywhere. It also means that education for your kids and living standards, e.g. activities, are key for location preferences moving forward.
There is something else I read in the Financial Times: a lot of people used the lockdown to clear out rooms, cupboards etc. However, a lot of people also cleared out emotional backlogs. I agree. As a matter of fact we cleared a lot of stuff from the loft and garage at the end of last year, and emotionally I have been on a journey to change and clear things out for about a year. I made huge progress, and recently went through some more hypnotherapy sessions. Contact me if you want to find out more, but I find it super useful to clear out any blockages, and explore what is holding me back. My confidence and self awareness took another step up, and I highly recommend anyone doing it. It’s like clearing out your garage, your mental one.
The main reason me bringing this up is as I have been speaking to more and more people experiencing anxiety. The lockdown and loss of human contact, will result in a huge crisis from a mental health perspective. I am super proud of the companies that have worked with me throughout the lockdown to teach their employees mindfulness in the workplace ; one group in particular has done very well by allowing for a weekly session discussing mindfulness, and any mental health issues. The group coaching sessions are ongoing and helping massively to put the lockdown into perspective, whether that is from a mental health or personal perspective. If you or your company employees are effected, and they likely are, you should consider having similar sessions. I am not saying this to advertise my services, but highlight the importance of doing it. Whether with me or any other mindfulness coach or practitioner. The hungover of mental health after the pandemic will be huge; combat it today! Be proactive, you will thank me later.
Our holidays ended up being fantastic. We had splendid weather in Scotland, and hardly any rain. It was warm, and allowed for me to continue my marathon training. I will update everyone properly once it is all confirmed, but the London Marathon 2020 will be a virtual one, and all donations roll over to the next physical one, which I plan to run in October 2021 or April 2022. I prefer the former, so let’s see what we get. I shall update my Justgiving page as soon as things will be confirmed. Bear with me, not a logistical walk in the park for the London Marathon organisers.
I love being in Scotland. It’s a rough terrain, friendly people, good greasy food and lovely ale. Walking, running, or just enjoying the countryside is fab. We rented a wee flat in Inverness and visited the MIL up North frequently, whilst doing our own family things, like looking at amazing forests, Loch Ness of course, or just shopping in town. Visiting a white sandy beach.
Scotland is a lovely country, and if we knew we could work remotely forever, I would go and buy a wee house in the middle of nowhere. However, we don’t know, and there are question marks around some infrastructure here, but that’s for another time. The idea sounds lovely though.
As you can imagine, running your own business, you still work all week. However, I have been lucky as I wasn’t that much in demand, and people respected me being slow to respond. I actually didn’t do much work at all, and we enjoyed a lot of quality family time, a change of scenery, and just doing nothing. Yes. I managed to just sit there, and do nothing. Not like me, but it is so important to reflect, drain your brain and just sit and think. I enjoyed the time off, the company and making memories with the family.
When you read this we are just back. Time to kick-start my 2nd year as a contractor/freelancer and kicking some ar*. I am ready to make a difference, take on more project work, run a marathon and conquer the “world”. Get rid of the virus, spend more time with the family and balance work and life. A holiday puts so many things into perspective, so does Covid, and there will be more decisions coming our way. That’s certain and that it’s certain that I lost all confidence in trust in this government.
For now, enjoy some time off, disconnect and make memories with your children and loved ones. Time you never get back.
Love and kindness from my little corner of the world.
This post was started a few weeks ago, as I am reflecting on the first half +1 month of the year. Is it 2021 yet?
Whilst I am not someone who wishes time away, this has been an awful year so far.
I joked with the boys the other day, imagine you go to sleep and wake up, and it is 2021. The world is back to normal and Covid19 never happened. Now, discussing this with other people, there were those thoughts of sleeping pods, where you go in and time travel to the future. Why not?
We still don’t know if the virus was man-made, escaped a laboratory or if it was deliberately released. There are numerous accusations from the US to China, from UK to Russia, and the more I look at it, the more bored I get. Is this virus the result of a modern war fare, a new nuclear bomb, paired with ‘virus’ hacker attacks. Is that showcasing how world war 3 might look like? I am not sure, no one knows, and certainly I won’t. And if anyone in politics is reading this, I just want it to go away and have a more liberated life again. And I don’t give a toss about all those conspiracy theories quite frankly.
What came out of it for me? What did I learn?
I found work wasn’t too disruptive. But I am in working in a digital native industry, a lot of video conferencing and phone calls were the norm before the outbreak. Less face to face meetings are not too bad, and less of a commute too. That means, that we might see a decentralisation of the UK and other countries, as more people move to the country side? That would be good in terms of balancing house prices and all.
It was of course disruptive to my job. I managed, just, but a lot of people were out of their jobs, furloughed, or are still looking for their next adventure. Luckily I am a self starter – falling down 7 times, getting up 8 times – and I have pushed and pushed and hopefully will announce more contract work shortly. Do I still consider full time work? Yes, I wouldn’t not consider any options at the moment, but maybe that’s for another time. I also work on some other exciting ideas. So stay tuned, as always, there is never a dull moment in the Ballueder World.
Getting my hair done the other week was great. My first massage post lockdown was amazing. There are things I missed, and I am very grateful for having them back. And next week I am getting reflexology. My egg deliveries every two weeks are back, and enough delivery slots from Tesco.
But are we out of lockdown yet?
At time of writing, the PM announced that there will be less easing of restrictions, as the virus is spiking. Of course, look at the beaches and pubs, what do you expect? Why would a country suggest to start wearing face masks from a time in the future, if it is safer, it is safer now. Anyway…
There is a lot of talk about a second wave, and another lockdown. There is talk of changing measures. More face masks, more social distancing, but no restrictions going to the pub….our government, IMO, has failed massively in having a clear and concise strategy. I am more than disappointed with the Torries, and the way they handled the crisis. Again, I don’t like to get involved in politics, but it needs to be said.
When Boris first came to power, I hoped it might be ok, him as a CEO pulling the strings of very competent people. The problem is, the people around him are everything but competent, and Boris is directed by Dom Cummings. It makes me angry to see this country going down the hill, and IMO it will get worse with Brexit next year.
It’s like sitting in a car and driving down the road of 2020. As you start worrying about the wall ahead of you, let’s call it Brexit, the wheels of the car come off thanks to Covid. The driver is not able to control the car, and we are about to crash the car = country into the wall. I am frankly scared of that.
We are now in August. We are more than half way through the year. August is a quiet month, so from a work perspective, not much will happen. People are away, working from home or the garden, taking it a bit easier. I thought people would be working harder to make up from things missed during lockdown, but people are tired. I am tired. We need a break, recharge our batteries to recharge the country. That’s what it is.
I have been busy still, up to now, I revamped Ballueder Partners’ website, worked on my positioning, edited meditation recordings and so on. Never a dull moment. I have recorded videos, scheduled content on social media and written thoughts. I have been busy, and will take some time off soon. Even if it is just a day here and there.
To be honest, I have been taking a little bit of time off already. Here and there, a half day here, a day there. I will take more time off during August, as I am recharging. I already repositioned, and it is a constant change out there, and decision making is happening every day. Leadership, walking the talk, and making things happen are what we do. And opportunities are out there. The more I talk to people, the more opportunities I discover. I cannot sit still and do nothing, and I am always seeking to BeBetter.
That’s what I do I suppose. Or as Vishen from Mindvalley says, try to be better by 1% every single day. Just 1% better. That’s 365% in a year. If you can keep that up, you enter 2021 on a high, ready to conquer ‘your’ world.
There is something else to consider with Covid. And this nicely leads me on to some fundraising efforts.
As you might have seen, I am getting closer to the £2,000 for which I run the marathon distance in October – regardless if the London Marathon is on. If you haven’t donated yet, please do so here:
I wanted to share some facts people might not be aware of, as we taking our sight for granted. Due to Covid19, and I have heard that from a few people that are blind and had difficult experiences:
66% of blind and partially sighted feel less independent now, compared to before lockdown.
80% said the way they shop for essentials has drastically changed, with the number of blind and partially sighted people who feel confident to go shopping independently, reducing by half.
74% are very or quite concerned about getting access to food and 21% have had to ration food.
I have never been blind, and forbid this will ever happen. But if you think for a moment to socially distance in a shop where you are not sure where things are in the shelf, asking for help….. I’d be terrified. And it seem that this is true for people that are used to not seeing too. It must be hard not to go to work, not being independent enough to go to the shop and get what you want. What about bumping into people? The concern for food is even more worrying.
I want to support the RNIB for all of the above reasons!
The RNIB does such a fantastic job supporting those people. And I am committed to support the RNIB to support those in need.
That’s why I went for a gruelling run on Saturday morning; I went early to be fair, avoiding the above 20 degrees. I didn’t feel it and yet went longer than anticipated.
And if the London Marathon gets postponed, I will run the marathon distance that weekend of the 3rd and 4th of October, and will try to raise even more money for next year. So please give generously.
They deserve it so badly. But I do need your help.
There is so much going on in my life, in anybody’s life. I spoke to someone earlier, that it’s been a weird year, obviously, and that we are all in the same boat. We will get through this and finish 2020 on a high. We must.
We also said that mental health is key for us to bounce back. Anxiety, Depression and other mental health issues would have flourished during Covid and lockdown, and this is scary to think. But the stats from the RNIB are probably true for a lot of other groups too.
Keep it positive, and keep the positive energy going. I am a firm believer that you fall down and get up again. Fall down 7 times, get up 8 times. My life’s motto. We will be alright in the end, and if we aren’t alright, isn’t ’ the end. Giving up is not an option.
That’s why I continue to work on my projects. My podcast is returning in September with a new logo. We are in season 4 and I start recording from next week. I am excited about the guests we lined up so far. People that can help you to make the most of the situation you are in. Coaches, Consultants, Health experts. I have them lined up and will keep you posted.
I am pumped. I am worried, but I am more pumped than worried. Because we, as a nation, as humankind will survive and get through this. Like I get through my marathon running and we will make things happen. Always.
It has been another couple of weeks since my last column. Quite frankly, I have been super busy doing things. However, the hassle and bustle hasn’t really equated into the progress I was hoping for, which is why I am always looking for new opportunities. Things are slow, decision making takes time, and building things needs stamina. To be honest, it is like running a marathon, life isn’t a sprint.
However, things are looking good, and I am not complaining. Covid19 has slowed businesses down, everything takes longer, but it all should come good in the end. Stay positive. One dream has been parked for now, but parking doesn’t mean abandoning. I don’t want to be too specific, but my brain is buzzing thinking about a few things – as it always is – and I will soon launch a new positioning and website under www.balluederpartners.com – my new home for my business. Never a dull moment in the Ballueder world 😉
Feel free to reach out and let me know what you are up to, and how my strategic and commercial head can help you to position your company, take it to market or scale it. That’s what I do, from hands-on to process, to strategy, to building successful teams. And if you have idea, I am always happy to chat, network and put my ideas forward. Over the past few weeks, I had some interesting networking opportunities, and hopefully these all lead to something. If nothing else, I already helped a few people connect to relevant others. Let’s keep doing that, we are all in it together.
But enough about work, and stamina at work. It would probably benefit me to take a couple of weeks off anyway. Maybe I will …. but I probably won’t 😉
The thing I want to talk more about in this post, is my involvement in the London Marathon. Of course, we know that charities have been hit hard with Covid19, e.g. funding has dried up and events have slowed down or moved online. In short, they need any penny they can get. Hence, when the RNIB, the Royal National Institute for the Blind asked me if I could run the London Marathon in 12 weeks time, I didn’t hesitate. Yes, I want to raise money and I want to run London. Simple.
My Justgiving page is set up for £2,500 – I hope to raise a lot more but of course I need your help. I believe a few of my contacts don’t want to donate because they don’t know if the marathon goes ahead. But, and that is my promise, I will run the full distance of a marathon on the weekend of the 3rd/4th of October if we raise £2,000 by the end of August. Hopefully, we fill the pot on the October weekend, and then some more when I run the actual event in 2021. Or, maybe it will happen in October regardless. Nothing is certain at the moment, I know the Toronto marathon went virtual – now there is an idea.
I have always been a networker, and I know a lot of people. In simple maths terms, everyone I know on Linkedin has to donate 25 pence for this to happen. With most of my stronger network connections being able to afford a £5 or £10 donation, and some have been a lot more generous already, we should hit the target easily. And that is discounting people that don’t donate, or don’t donate to this charity etc. And that’s fine too. Yes, this is an analytical approach, and maybe too simplified, but it can be done. We learned during Covid, that if we combine forces, we are a lot stronger!
So please give generously, make me run in October and next year, help me to develop stamina, and help the RNIB to help people. Everyone wins! If there is anything I never want to take for granted, then that’s my eye site. Read the full story here.
I have been running for a while, and I did 3 half marathons during lock down. Hence I am confident to manage the race. Yet there is a lot of stamina still to be build. This week I did another 18K or 1:45 long run. Tempo and Intervall runs. Next week will be more. My legs are hurting at time of writing, and I committed to more running next week. I will not stop if you don’t stop donating! The next 10 weeks will be hard, very hard. I trained for my last marathon during the summer, the heat is gruelling, even at 5 am! I am aiming to improve my time from the last event, and really go for it. What a fool I am 😉 It’s about being able to run the whole distance this time, and finish around the 4:15 mark, possibly quicker if I feel up for it on the day. Please help me.
If I am known for anything then that’s stamina, discipline and hard work. Patience. I don’t easily give up, I fall down 7 times, I get up 8 times. The tattoo is booked btw, if you remember my earlier column about this. That’s who I am, and I am super disciplined. I get up at 5 am for 5 years, exercise, meditate and get ready for the day. As a matter of fact, it is early morning when I write this column.
Discipline and stamina got me where I am. Yet, things change all the time. Career wise I have been realising that I am drawn back into my first two loves: search/social and sales.
I remember putting a proposal together in 2008 how to launch the social media arm of an agency. Wow, we came a long way. One of my old companies, 4C Insights, just sold this week to Mediaocean. I love that space, and when I look at my career over the past 5 years, I moved from sales into sales management, client services, strategy and back into sales. Actually, I now have the tools and experience of a CRO, which helps companies to put their proposition on the map, whilst also look strategy and execution. Plus, this is a transferable skill across industries. It’s experience that counts!
There was one last thought I had this week. The summer holidays started. So we are back at March, without the home schooling. The wife works, and I am at home, juggling work and kids. But that’s ok. My boys are older. However, one just finished middle school. We were sitting in the park after school yesterday, and I said, that when he finishes the next school, he won’t be interested sitting with his dad in the park. His next 5 years or so will determine who he will become, what he wants to do in life, and who he will rebel against. It’s a big step, and I am ready to take it on. As a mentor, parent, coach – I want to be by his side and guide him. It’s a different world to where we or my parents grew up, change is constant. Sometimes it is difficult for us to change. I know that my parents generation didn’t respond as well to change, as they didn’t expect too much change. Does that make sense? We have a more powerful computer in our pocket than the thing that landed us on the moon. We call them phones.
Change will accelerate. Covid19 is the beginning of the change that will permanently influence how we work, live, and where we set priorities. Hopefully for the better. We might see more evil coming out of it, or it will go away as a warning. Who knows. I am not a philosopher. As a collective, and with a greater conscious, this period in history will change things forever. The way we greet people, meet people, trust people and what we think is important. We will look back at this time in years to come.
I am getting used to change. Mindfulness grounds me in the moment. My weekly groups help me to challenge my thinking. There is so much opportunity to go deeper and become better, as a human, as a father, at things you do. Nothing stands still, and the thing we need is stamina. I say it again, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Building blocks of things to put together to make it to the finish line. And sometimes we need to drift out of our way to reach our goal. But stay focused, with stamina, a positive outlook, hard work, and a marathon running attitude, you will be successful ! Have faith. Trust in yourself!
Have a good Sunday, and if you have a minute, I appreciate any donations for the RNIB. Because you know I am going to run it.
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.
It is with great sadness to announce the death of my grandmother, Erika Störmer.
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.
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.
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