Tag: 2020

Ballueder Thinks (11) – Merry Christmas, the year in review

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year 2021!

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!

Best wishes,
Volker

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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.

Oma Erika

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.

I also attended my first funeral, losing one of my mentors to Cancer.

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.

Have a great 2021.

Love and Kindness, Volker

New Year Column 2020

It’s 2020 – so what’s now?

Happy New Year, and maybe a happy new decade. If you ask some people, the decade doesn’t start until the year 1, e.g. 2021. If you ask me, let’s go for it and call it the roaring 20ies. I always admired the 1920ies, and when did they begin? 1920 or 1921.

We are in times of change. Having started the delivery of my first mindfulness course, I noticed two key learning points already. One was that I have been involved in meditation and mindfulness since 2006. I have studied, practised and developed my mind. This, in all fairness, probably made me cope better with life, and what life threw at me, over the years. I haven’t suffered a burn out or depression, and I am grateful that I didn’t. But mindfulness has been a key part of my personal journey and I feel privileged to teach it to organisations, individuals and showcase the benefits in our ever hectic world. If you are interested in finding out more, please download my pdf on my website about mindfulness.

The other point I noticed is a quote from Eric Schmid. In 2010, so 10 years ago, he said that we generate the same amount of data in 2 days that we did from the beginning of civilisation to 2003. This has surely increased since, and I am not sure what that is in MB, GB or whatever ‘measure’ you have to give it, but the sheer amount of data and information we have is too much. The mind is not made to cope with that long term.

Steve Jobs

2020, a year where the information overload probably more than doubled, e.g. exponentially increased, since 2010. This is a year where I want to help more people coping with that. Whether that is through my involvement in Moment Pebble, Coaching or Mindfulness. However, I continue to consult with a few companies, and still love the buzz of my old industry.

Particularly, there is one company which goes from strength to strength where I can add so much value. That means opportunities and I am a bit torn where 2020 leads me. At the same time I am exploring new industries, the ones that can cope with the information overload, and are able to use new technologies to make sense of it all. There are two conversations I had this week which were mind boggling. One I don’t want to talk about yet, the other is at the forefront of building a new industry on my doorstep.

And maybe, we can connect the dots looking backwards in a few years time. Wouldn’t that be great?

If I say it is an exciting time to be alive, it sounds very cheesy. But I believe it is. When you start to connect your calling with what you do, you create an energy and momentum that really catapults you forward. And, there are more plans for 2020. Let’s just see.

My 2020 plans – what are yours?

I have been debating what 2020 has in stock for me. Of course we don’t know, and we will never be able to live anywhere else than the here and now. But if I had a wish for 2020, I’d like it to continue the way 2019 ended.

As people know, I left what we call a ‘permanent’ job in order to pursue my passion: working on projects I enjoy and where I am in charge, where I can make a positive difference. I found a few of them. One in the data space working with very talented data enthusiasts on exciting projects. This actually is the most enjoyable job in adtech I ever had.

My mindfulness journey lead me to work with another company called Moment Pebble. Their aim is to revolutionise the way we are being more mindful at work and life, reducing stress and becoming more skilful around mindfulness. This goes in line with my latest course I took. I am super excited to scale that business and bring more of the skills around our pebble to the masses, and I will deliver my first Workplace Mindfulness course from early January.

Lastly, I work on a few other projects, such as D:PULSE, a new conference concept for 2020/21 and supporting other companies on their business development efforts. I am happy to be able to split my time between so many talented businesses and people and work in areas I enjoy. This includes new areas too, being a trusted advisor and board member.

I was born to be a consultant, so if someone now asks me, I am a business consultant and trusted advisor. Within the trusted advisory ‘box’ you find executive coaching, my book on productivity principles which sold over 7,000 copies so far, principles for success, my podcast on success and mindfulness practise. It is all coming together, and it becomes an ever bigger toolbox with one aim: to support and help businesses and people to achieve more. Simple. And the real satisfaction I get, is to see people and business thrive on the back of my input.

In the meantime I am blessed for having a healthy and fun family. Anyone with kids around the age of 10 knows that those little people growing up very fast, forming their own character and challenge you. Every single day. It is fun though, isn’t it? I have been able to spend more time with them, more connected time.

So for me personally, for 2020, I want to learn more about health, and go deeper into that topic. Whilst in 2019, thanks for some external influences and people, I had to learn a lot about mental health; 2020 is about my physical health, maybe shedding a few more pounds. It has been over a year since my last marathon, so maybe….just maybe, but then there is food and drink. I have a healthy relationship with alcohol and that won’t change, but drinking less alcohol and eating less meat, becoming a more sustainable ‘element’ of humankind, that’s a goal worth pursuing. And if I learn how to cook some healthy meals, then this is a bonus. It’s an area I still want to be better in. I just love learning new skills.

That’s it for me. 2019 is almost over. 2 weeks of hibernation, editing podcast, preparing some work, good food and wine over Christmas, celebrations and gifting. And dwelling on what’s happening with this country moving forward. A topic we can cover some other time.

If you need help formulating your 2020 goals, need a shift in your direction or just want to have a sounding board, schedule a call on calendly.

Let’s have a chat and see how we can work together in 2020.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Volker

Sunday Column (521) – the end for now

Farewell, Goodbye and Amen. That’s how Hawkeye Pierce said goodbye to his friends at MASH. I adore Hawkeye and loved MASH and think the same. It’s not a goodbye though, it is a creative reshuffle, to focus more on my podcast and less on the weekly blog. So please check out my podcast where I continue to interview successful people for their Stories of Success.

Looking back over the past 10 years when I started this blog, my wife was just pregnant with our first boy. I am reviewing the blog for a book that I shall publish at some point in the future. It is about 10 years of blogging and this is the final chapter. It covers my first redundancy in 2009. Before that it was me making the decision. Then it covers the next redundancies in 2013, 2016, and 2017. 3 out of 4 redundancies were after an exit through a US company buying themselves into the European market and technology. 2009 was due to the recession. Unfortunately this is how the cookie crumbles for mid management in our industry.

It is funny to look back, and this year alone, I learned so much about consulting vs. working full time for a company. It was bad timing with GDPR but in the end I had 4 permanent offers. I made the right choice, and as I recently read, there is always a higher purpose for the choices you make. I will look back to 2018 and the next few years in this job and realise the huge opportunity that was given to me. As I look back to 2010 when I made one of the most important career decisions ever.

What is missing in my blog is people dying. This sounds terrible but I have been extremely fortunate that no one very close to me has died in the last 10 years. My grand parents died long before I started the blog, my MIL’s mum before that too, and my other granny is hanging on with being 98 now! Some industry friends have moved on though. This experience will come to us as well, probably sooner than we wish yet it is fantastic to have so many people still around. I am feeling blessed and apologise for the morbid thought 🙂

I ran a marathon and woke up neighbours being on the treadmill. I lost weight and put it back on again. We moved houses and got a new car. We decided on where to settle and how to live our lives. See last week’s post on that thought. The blog is full of those memories, the trips to foreign countries, the fear of change. The change. Full stop. Whenever I read another post from years ago, I remember where I was, what I did, and it brings back some vivid memories. This is my life. But this is only a 10 year snapshot, 25% of what I should remember of my life.

I have always enjoyed writing this blog. It gave me an outlet, and I anticipate that I will continue to write the odd post, maybe once a month. Maybe I call it the ‘New Column’ or ‘News from the world of Volker’. I will not be gone, I am just re-focusing. My energy is bundled and ready to put elsewhere. Books. Development. Kids. There is so much I could tell you about life, that I will start my ‘Volker book’ soon. Yet it will take years to finish, I am not in a rush, I am not even half way. That’s what I hope anyway. Remember, 120 years we got…

Christmas is around the corner. I am a grinch. I don’t believe in Santa Claus or cutting trees, or putting up decorations. I don’t believe in God or the Jesus child either. I believe in the quiet time and having the fire on, drinking a hot chocolate, a coffee, an Old Fashioned or an amazing glass of wine. I like to overeat, and go for a walk, slumber by the fire and have chats with friends and family. I enjoy the relaxing time. I cannot wait.

And once Christmas is over, it is going to be 2019. The year before 2020. Latter was a big date growing up. It was in the future, flying cars and all. It still is. The future is near though. A new year, a new beginning, new goals, new focus. Given my personal development background, it won’t be all new, because if I wanted to change something, I did it today. That’s why quitting smoking on New Year’s Eve hardly ever works. You need to quit when you are ready, not when the calendar year turns. It would be coincidental if those dates align. Anyway, enough said I suppose.

I want to say thank you. Not least to all the readers but also to my wife for giving me honest feedback for 10 years on those posts. For people telling me how much they enjoyed the columns and how human it made me. I am just a normal bloke, yet ambitious, German living in the UK, married to a Scottish lass, and I love to write. That’s it. I have an opinion and this was my outlet. So thanks for staying with me to the end….the end for now.

So have an amazing Christmas, feel free to reach out, drop me a line, email me, LinkedIn me or tweet me. Whatever works. I am very much in the public domain, hard to miss 🙂 Links in the sidebar.

All the best.

Yours truly,
Volker Ballueder