Tag: christmas

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

Sunday Column (520)

The end (of the columns) is near. It’s Christmas soon. The days are short, it’s getting colder and the booze is flowing, like any pre Christmas period really. Life is busy and life is good. If I look back a year or two, life has changed for the better. The last two Christmas I was without a job but never without an opportunity. Those moments of change, when you make decisions, that’s when your life is formed. That’s when you become who you were set out to be, consciously or unconsciously.

Today is column 520. Actually it is more like 512 as I missed a few counts a couple of years back. Never mind. It doesn’t matter. I am glad though that I numbered them, rather than having had to count them now and then. 10 years is a long time, but more about that next week.

This week, as a bit of a summary, was almost the pre Xmas rush already. A lot of folk are off next week, so I anticipate this being a quieter week. I got plans, from 2019 planning to recapping, to organising, to tidying. The usual year end stuff you never finish as you are busy with so many other things that come in ad hoc.

I managed to fit in a trip to Stafford this week. One of our offices in the North, and I love a good trip to the North. It reminded me when I was going to York almost weekly for 2 years working for an agency up there. The early morning starts, the cold air, the hot coffee, then the endless train journey with the beautiful view. I love the English country side and I love those trips. I would miss them; same as Scotland, where we booked our summer holidays. It sounds awful but with Brexit, I do not know what our decision has to be, clearly there is no decision on Brexit before Christmas.

Opinions vary from ‘Brexit with or without a deal’ will lead to a recession and then we will get out of it stronger….to ‘Brexit will be a mess and within 10 years we vote to be back in the European Union’. It all sums up for me that no one really knows, and more importantly, this is a mess and no one wants it really. No point of worrying about it, what meant to be meant to be. It was my mantra for a couple of years and I continue to believe in it. It’s the moment of decisions your destiny is formed.

As I stare out the train window early in the morning, the sun is just coming up over the trees, my mind drifts for a moment. I am thankful and grateful for what I have and what I have achieved. I love and adore my two little men who are growing up so quickly. I enjoy living where I am. I enjoy my job and the people I work with. There is not much I am asking for, yet the uncertainty of the country is making me think. Let’s hope that’s over soon, and we can concentrate on the important things in life, like the NHS, education for our children and life in general.

The winter is getting to me, don’t you think 😉

Have a great week.
Volker

Sunday Column (516)

Would you believe what I did this week? I spend my evenings, or I shall say my wife and I spend our evenings, filling a basketball hoop stand with 150 kg of sand! Through a 3 cm hole with a funnel and spoon!!!! This was the early Christmas present, not only my youngest was looking forward to, but also myself. It takes me back years, and reminds me how well I played and how much I enjoyed it back in the days. Yet, I never took it forward, or was pushed out of my comfort zone to do it. No regrets, a lot of learning for how to bring up my kids though. Hence, no compromises, and we got a proper basketball hoop 🙂

Christmas is coming around quickly. I have a few business trips coming up, loads of projects to finish and lots of planning to do. I am settled in the job and being busy, drinks are flowing pre Xmas already and it gets more difficult to fit things in. Blimey, how did I miss that season.

With the marathon over, the post marathon blues over, I am trying to get back into a routine. I said I wouldn’t write a diary here, yet I find it difficult not to. My knee is hurting, needs resting and I am overall exhausted. A slight cold, a change of diet, warm weather, new routine, exercise and getting back into things isn’t easy. Next week will be colder again. I will persist and have plans. Patience. No other way but patience, nothing can be rushed on the road to recovery and change. I am rather excited.

I found myself reflecting a lot this week. Not only did I meet some industry friends at a remembrance party for someone in the industry who suddenly passed away, I also met a mentor and tutor who showed me a new way of living. And, with my anticipated 120 years of life, how will my life change in years to come? Then I met someone who changed their life completely, giving up media to follow his passion. What a transformation for happiness.

My honest answer is that I do not know what life looks like 80 years from now. Who does? Look at the mess of Brexit this week. What will that mean in years to come. Will the UK be the best place to live and bring up kids. What are the alternatives? With 80 years left, health is important, sustainable jobs and income, as well as plans as to where to live. You know, when I grew up I didn’t plan life much, thinking I finish uni get a job and get on with it. Now I think, I might have more time left than I ever thought I have – that means focus and doing things that are sustainable and important. Hence I am considering selling off my fish tank. Life is changing. Anyone interested?

Albert Einstein said, life is like riding a bicycle. You have to keep peddling to not fall over – I just started reading his biography. A fascinating story of a fascinating man. Given my 7 year old is doing the time tables out of joy, my oldest seems to be the best in some maths thingy at school….it runs in the family. I am an engineer, my dad was a maths teacher, my mum worked with numbers and on my wife’s side maths was never a problem. They, my boys, are talking about space and how they might change the world, building things in space. We can’t but encourage that and who knows, 150 years from now, they might look back at their life and, reading this post in a history book of the family and wonder.

And so do I. I wonder. I wonder what is there to come, and I am excited. Excited of the prospects to bring up those two mnonkeys to better the world. To follow their passion, to be happy. And if I don’t make it to 120, then I should really look back at my life daily and think, I did the best I could to bring life forward to everyone I could help. That of course includes the kids, and other people’s life I can touch.

I am getting carried away.

Have a great week ahead,
Volker

Sunday Column (470)

What a Christmas we had. Lots of driving to and from Germany, but the main challenge wasn’t the driving itself but the weather. No, not really snow or anything like that, but it was grey and dark. Things were just miserable, no light, the sat-nav had a dark background, literally thinking it was night time, the whole drive both ways. Some delays but overall we were lucky enough to make the journey without an complications. I guess that’s all what matters. And then, we relaxed.

Christmas in Germany seems different. Maybe because that’s where I ‘learned’ Christmas, and it always feels home and secure, and comfortable. Maybe it is the Christmas decorations or the family bond you have at Christmas, and anyway, we had a fantastic time with mum serving my favourite food. Needless to say we had a lot of it, plenty of wine and lots of laughter. A Christmas market, some shopping, and seeing friends and family. But it was dark and grey. Just saying, I guess I have to move to the other end of the world in order to have a sunny Christmas.

As I seem to settle a bit on Christmas Day, just after watching the Queen’s speech, I am reminiscing about the old and the new. You might have read my blog posts over the last couple of weeks, looking back at the year. I am pleased with the differences I have made to some people’s career, how I have been able to change people’s life for the better. I also had to make some tough decisions, which resulted in people not having a good time. But we are forced to make those decisions, and we are mature enough to make them and move on. And take those of others 🙁

So I closed 2017 in my mind. Particularly, I have been brainstorming my own future for the past 6 weeks, trying to figure out what the next moves are. And I found a lot more focus moving forward. The new. I am keen on exploring new opportunities, but I want to move away from just having a job. What I mean by that is that I don’t want to fall back into a position where I just execute for the sake of execution but rather being part of a bigger solution and a long term plan. There are a few of those nuggets around and I am keen on finding them. As and if I make progress I shall let you know.

2018 – for me this is about a few things. Today, being the eve of the new year, I think the main focus will be to maintain an exercise routine but cutting it down to 4 days a week with one 5 am start focusing on writing. I have pushed my body too far before Christmas, and the break was good – sometimes less is more. I am fit though, feel healthy and good.

Also, I am planning to launch a podcast to interview people on their stories of succcess. A focus of this is European success stories or success stories of European leaders. Why? Because I believe too many success stories are not focused enough on the challenges in Europe. So as I launch the website and have sorted the details, I will announce further info on here. Personally, I see it as an extension of my blog in audio format.

I also want to make sure I make my time with the kids count more. So more uninterrupted dad time will be a key focus for me, and have regular date nights with the wife. Less travel, more time at home, more support for my first priorities. They are well worth it. And, last but not least, find a job I enjoy and I can settle in, as of above, and maybe do a 5-10 year stint, wouldn’t that be nice. Having a normal life? However you define normal LOL

I know that some people think that’s not possible in our industry to have a more regulated life, and maybe it isn’t. But I also believe it is time to find that nugget and move forward. Give it all and expect all too.

That concludes my 2018 wishes. Hopefully I didn’t forget anything and if you think I did, please reach out via the usual channels.

Have an amazing, happy 2018 !!!

All the best,
Volker

Sunday Column (469)

Merry Christmas.

Given today is the Holy Night, and Christmas morning tomorrow, I don’t anticipate many people reading my column. That is fair enough. It should be a time of year when you don’t check your social media and relax a bit. You should have down time, and you should not have to worry about what is happening in the world. Christmas for me is all about having a week off, knowing everyone else is off, and you are not missing out on anything.

Merry Christmas to you, peace and happiness.

I want to use this week to look back – personally – on the year. It has been a turbulent one to say the least.

First things first: family. My first priority. We keep on learning how to bring up our children, we make things up as we go along, and I am absolutely enjoying it. From holidays in Centre Parks, travel to Legoland and day trips down the coast, Brighton football games, grandparents visits and trips to Germany, and time for the wife and me in Edinburgh or London. It has been an eventful but good year, and – being hopeful to say that every year from now on – we are getting better at being a family. Not that we weren’t before, but I am a strong believer in a growth mindset, and a collective unconscious. I feel like things are falling into place and we are growing together, and that is so nice to feel and experience. To speak of two things that made my year, I’d say the youngest starting and enjoying Karate classes, and the oldest working hard for 6 months to win a trophy in football. I couldn’t be happier or prouder of my two boys, and without my wife, Jenny, I couldn’t be doing all this. She has been on my side for 10+ years and I love you more every day! I am very grateful, thankful and full of appreciation of what we have.

On the other hand there is my career, which still takes up most of my week. That’s true for work for most of us. In January I joined a plc which I knew might be sold or change its proposition in one form or another. It was somewhat a gamble to join them, yet you never know who might buy a company. Looking back it was the right decision as I got to work with some very talented people, joined a fantastic culture and got a lot of learning from it. Unfortunately, I spent 2-3 days a week in Germany from April to October. That took time away from the family, and juggling two jobs, this put a lot of strain on me, family and the job I was originally employed to do in the UK. But I made it work, working from taxis, airports and making up with the family at the weekends. I loved the experience and sincerely think that I made a difference for the company. I lost out on a lot of things at home and burned a lot of energy.

Then over the summer things got quiet and the company sold. It became apparent, that moving forward, my role might be made redundant. I did what I could to avoid redundancy but likewise appreciate the help and support I got in the process prior to leaving last month. Whilst redundancies are never nice, I have so far enjoyed the time off to re-position myself, to re-evaluate my life and career. I might even go as far as saying that I have grown and gotten more confident. I know what I am doing and got confirmation of that a few times in the past few weeks. New projects will be announced early 2018. Based on the first few months of the year, I shall decide what the long term plans are. Most importantly, I am looking forward to align work closer to my values and my life expectations. Similar to the family, I am growing up too, still, always growing. And the break of a few weeks was needed, I felt burned out a bit. But I got my energy back, and that is the most important part, and of course I made up for some lost time with the family.

In the meantime I want to spend as much time as possible with the most important people in my life. As I do over Christmas. My family. Having had the privilege to spend more time with them over the past few weeks was amazing. From school drop offs and pick ups, them helping me testing some new equipment, watching Star Wars and making a routine and habit work at home. I am training them well I think 😉 They make me realise every day why I am doing what I am doing. They are my inspiration and motivation. Somewhat I enjoyed working and juggling two jobs and a family and going out of my comfort zone whilst upholding a 5 am routine and exercise, and meditation and personal development practise. As I said, I grew over the year, and that is the most important thing for me. It makes me who I am. I am happy. Yet, closer to Christmas I did notice my body getting tired, so time to have a few days off and relax.

A turbulent year. Just as well I am now relaxing and unwinding for a few days. And so should you, to my point earlier, there is nothing to miss out on. Don’t feel guilty and have another glass of wine, the extra piece of cheese or turkey/goose/duck. And if you are a grinch like me and don’t like Christmas, or you might not celebrate it due to religious reasons, enjoy the quiet time. Enjoy not having to read emails, not having to watch the news and spend some time looking deep inside yourself. Embrace yourself. And hug the person next to you, show them appreciation for them being them and being here.

And thoughts for 2018….you are the one that already knows where you want to be, what you should be doing and what is right in life. And you must always trust that the dots connect looking backwards. Hence, move forwards, always, and the right path will open up. You know it will. Trust in the future.

Speak to you in the New Year. All the best for 2018.

Love and Kindness, Peace and Happiness, and of course a Merry Christmas.
Volker

Sunday Column (468)

This week’s post is written on a keyboard I still need to come to terms with: My new MacBook Pro. Since Southern Rail reimbursed me my travel card, I could justify the hefty price tag to get a new laptop. It sounds crazy but the MacBook or the MacBook Air just don’t have enough power to really justify any investment past 1K. So the MacBook Pro, without the fancy touch bar, seems like the only reasonable machine out there if you want to buy an Apple. And I am overall quite happy with it. The keyboard, as said, needs getting used to, the touchpad too but you already know it is better than the old one on the Air, and definitely is similar to the external one; and last but not least, the display is amazing. Particularly compared to the Air. However, as friends warned me, connecting it to my 10 year old Dell screen, just doesn’t cut it. It feels like the Dell is fading, and I prefer to do the main work on the Retina display. Maybe there is another investment coming soon.

First world problems I suppose. On that note, Arnold Schwarzenegger was very outspoken this week about climate change and someone in a podcast said that we are the first generation that actually has enough data to make an informed decision. And, we cannot ignore the fact the world is changing. Minus degrees, snow, it being cold and the fire is on, cosy nights with wine. The next day T-shirt weather and rain, it being around 10 degrees. No, this isn’t normal, and I don’t need to be a meteorologist to figure that one out. What to do? I am still thinking of how I can contribute to the greater good moving forward.

A friend of mine had a website a few years ago about connecting dots. And Steve Jobs is most famous for saying you connect those dots looking back, even if looking forward we can’t see it yet. And it is Anthony Robbins who said that the brain is wired to avoid fear, because that’s how it was millions of years ago. There is history and if we look back, we cannot predict the future – still. But with climate change we can say: it is real!

I figured, sometimes in life we just need to sit still and listen. We need to connect with friends and family, new people and get input. And based on the input we get, we redefine our lives. We all do that, all the time. However, doing it consciously, and deliberately reviewing your life’s purpose, is something else. That’s what I have been doing over the last few weeks, since I took redundancy. I am open about it, because I am wired to talk, to write, to share thoughts. I am not wired to be a great motivational speaker on a stage, as my background is very scientifically grounded. Of course, one doesn’t exclude the other. What I am trying to say is that what I like to produce is profound, which is why I was successful in my sales career: no BS. Ever. Win/Win. Always. And the input this week was as good as last week, maybe a complete different directions. That’s what I call a growth mindset, and I am keen on not doing anything for a few days over Christmas.

This feels like a year end post already. Despite being a bit put off by ‘my’ digital industry, I cannot stay away. Having been at a few Christmas drinks this week, it is so great to see people from the industry I have known for years. That is fun and continues next week, with even more and closer friends. The industry is part of me, and I am part of it. I love technology, and particularly technology pushing boundaries and being in a position to improve the ecosystem and deficicies. My tasks got bigger from selling ads to influencing the way we see the ecosystem and how we approach it. Things are changing. I am changing. And some of the tech I have been speaking about over the past few weeks has been amazing.

I am also deep into personal development and change. Not only in theory with my book about productivity and articles on growth mindsets that I write and that resonate well, but also the application of this on a daily basis. Being one of the few that never struggle with their workloads and emails for instance. It’s about getting things done and putting out more than others at higher quality. But at the same time looking at your balance and work culture for your team. This is difficult when we look at value creation versus hours worked. Quantity vs. Quality. Another discussion this week.

So I have been thinking on how to best combine the two things. In the New Year I will make a few personal announcements. I plan to launch a few things that are more personal development related, that fuel my passion and hopefully your interest in the personal development space. And the main thought for me: focusing on Europe, rather than the US. There is a lot of good influence coming from the US, but I believe we need more focus on what’s happening in our world. Things we can apply to what’s in front of us. There is a lot of great stuff coming from the US and I love those motivational gurus and ideas, but the market is so different to Europe, to the UK. Size and scale are only a small part of it, culture is another.

On the other hand I will continue to focus on changing the world, changing the ecosystem we are living in from a digital and technology perspective. Helping others to understand what’s happening and how to be back in control. Being able to change the world, maybe, and even if it is a little bit at a time.

As Christmas is around the corner things are slowing down. Decision making is almost coming to a stand still. I have taken more online courses and made first decisions. I will disclose at the appropriate times but two projects are secured. Both are, so far, unfunded, e.g. freelance without pay. That is ok though, as there are thoughts behind it. I keep you posted. You, my friends, will be the first to know about my new endeavours and ideas. No, they aren’t related to climate change but there is no reason they won’t be moving forward. One just doesn’t know, do you?

Just finishing the week, we went to the Brighton game on Saturday. I wanted to go back for over a year, when I first took the boys to a football match. And my first one too. So this time my wife joined and we had a great family time. My youngest missed out on his best friend’s birthday party in favour of the game. Creating those experiences are fun, and then it doesn’t matter whether you win or loose. To be there, engage fully, and being part of something, that is key and much more valuable than winning or losing.

Have a great Christmas. Wind down, give your loved ones a hug and make sure you stay warm and safe.

All the best,
Volker

Sunday Column (466)

We are expecting the coldest night this year…or by time of reading, we would have had it. Nice, finally winter, and again from tomorrow it should get warmer. Is that global warming? Is that the beginning of the end? Anyway, the cold days are lovely, particularly if you have time to spend it with the family in front of a fire, after attending the annual ‘Light Up Hassocks’, the annual pre Christmas fair.

Some of you have noticed my more spiritual approach to things, my motivational quotes on Instagram. I have daily mantras, LOA (law of attraction) and believe the mindset is key to survival, future developments and success. Part of it is getting out of bed at 5 am – despite not working 9-5, I am still getting up at 5 am, go running or do my weights. It is getting harder, mainly because I challenge myself a bit more, but also because it is so cold. However, the effort is worth it, my circumference is back down to where it was a year ago, my weight is on track. I stopped counting calories and continue the journey. That’s what it is: a journey to weight loss, a healthier life. The bigger picture: a journey of life to survive, to live happily.

Having time is one thing. Starting a business is another. And combining the start of a business with having time is a good thing, I suppose, as you can focus on the business and have time for it too. Yet there is no income as you start and build your pipeline. There is time to do some training, hence I got a certificate for business and life coaching last week, but really I need to balance all those things “I would like to do” with “business essential things I want to do”. I am very positive about it. Before Christmas, there will be little work, and just enough to justify some business expenses. From January it looks more promising, and I am hoping to sign a contract before the end of next week.

What does that mean? It means I am now committed to work for myself in Q1. A big step. I am still keeping my ears to the ground, keeping that safety net with me. And, if there will be a big job, a great challenge, I could be tempted to go back into the security of a regular income. There are reasons for it, a master plan. I cross that bridge when I come to it, and running my own business also means I will be pickier in what I do. It comes as a gradual process going from doing a 6 months project at an agency to a 10 months project at an adtech provider to new projects next year. I just didn’t call them all consulting but essentially that is what it was. An article on that is still to come. I enjoy writing articles and hope you all read the one on DMP and CDP predictions for 2018?

There are some huge things I am learning at the moment and I am confident you can gain from that too.

– I see my kids almost every day and spend a lot more time with them. Hence I can have a lot more influence on their behaviour and teach them things about the growth mindset, personal development and watch them growing up. I am feeling blessed being able to do that. Also, I understand that will change again whether I do consulting work or a full time job. Either way I will be working more in London or abroad.

– I went through the exercise of a thorough understanding of my finances. Starting at ‘how much do we need’ and ‘how much are we willing to spend’ to ‘what’s the bare minimum’, questioning some of the things we have spend money on. I should add ‘I have spent money on’. Hence I deleted my Amazon app, as it makes it too easy to just spend a few quid here and there.

– Despite being in charge of my own time, I am not having more time. I fill the days with learning, chasing, working on databases, pitching new business and exploring everything I need to know about coaching. It is a fascinating stage and I have met some great people since starting this only 2 weeks ago.

– It puts your whole life in perspective. Thinking about the fear you have, the confidence you need, the admin you have to go through and what you are missing out on vs. what is important in your life. How do you define happiness, and how are you managing balancing fear and happiness?

Whatever comes out of the next 3+ months will be a huge amount of experience. No one prepares you for that, yet it is a mental exercise like no other. That’s it. If I end up with an employer in Q2/2018 then I have learned to much, that I add even more value than I would at the moment. If I continue as I am, then I hope I end up in two year’s time where I want to be. And from there, the sky is the limit.

You know, trusting yourself is a huge step. I always have done, and I am so grateful for the support from my family. It bolsters my confidence!

That’s my week really. How was yours?

Volker

Sunday Column (415)

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2 weeks to Christmas. The kids are getting excited, and before I hear a ‘hello’ in the morning, it is ‘where is my advent calendar’. If I hear them say anything in the morning, as I might be out of the house at crack of dawn. Southern rail put an emergency time table on. Busier trains, less often….great. For 4,000 GBP a year. The wifi stopped working on some trains (I know it is a first world problem), yet what I am trying to say is you getting less and less service for your money. And the price is probably going up by 2.4% again next year. So whilst the train companies get richer, we get poorer and have a worse service. And no choice. We can’t switch providers or drive, really. I heard of the first few people that had to stop working in London as it was too unreliable due to the train situation. Whilst I take that with a pinch of salt, luckily most companies I ever worked for understood, it is probably the bitter reality. Is that ever going to end? Not this year, that’s for sure, but it has been ongoing for 8 months! And my latest app shows me: 1:40 in transit. Yes I work, and yes I study and read, but that’s over 3 hours a day. If you cannot plan that part of your day, it becomes quite stressful to be honest. So I had to cancel a few Christmas drinks already, and I dread leaving our Christmas party early just to be home and not stranded in London. Yes, whilst I could stay over, that just might result in a day on bus replacement services due to weekend engineering works. Not taking any chances at the moment, and I cannot win with Southern.

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After my temperature last weekend, I stayed at home on Monday, without working, so I rested up. Tuesday I felt a bit better but if I compare the status of my wife’s virus with my stage, I won’t feel much better than I did on Monday for another week. Never mind, I just have to get on with it. I hope for the sake of the office that I am not contagious (don’t think I am, otherwise I wouldn’t go in!), and that my output isn’t affected too much. By about 3 pm my brain starts to shut down and needs some relaxation. 10 hour days don’t help I suppose. Fingers crossed it lasts! So whilst I am loosing a bit on the health front, I am also winning. And from mid week things felt better, and I even managed a run on Friday. Fingers crossed this was the last bug of the year!

Yes. I am winning. I am winning in the game of life. You know how I can tell? On Wednesday I had a day off (still having to use a few days before the end of the year) and I attended R’s nativity play. This was great. He was a Robin 🙂 The engagement from his end and the looks, and the shared breakfast, the play time at night. The boys love me being around. When I was travelling a lot to Europe, I didn’t see them for a few days but then worked from home for a day. They loved it. On the other hand, I now see them daily but for less time. Keeping the balance is difficult and the ongoing discussion with my wife is, whether it was the right decision to move out of London. We agree, it was, and that the current state of trains just don’t help the situation. We will get over it, and I will be able to win even more. Life just needs to fall into (the) place that it aligns with your values and proposition. With Jen hopefully going back to work soon and trains hopefully getting better, we should be in a much better place already come my birthday. The big one, you remember 🙁

Anyway…On my day off I decided to spend the afternoon with my friends and meet a start-up. I am crazy, I know. I love doing those advisory roles and helping people and discussing options. That’s what I enjoy doing, yet I was home for just after dinner, time for bath and bed time reading. A full on, full rounded day off. If I had felt any better, and the weather would have been warmer, I would have thought of having some good food, wine, chocolate and maybe a cigar. I haven’t had a cigar for a while but feel like it might be time to have one again – post bug, post cough. We shall see what Santa Claus will be having in s(t)ock for me 😉 But seriously, being able to just have time and not hurrying. Not worrying which train to take. To not worry and just wander around. To relax and spend quality time with the boys. This is nice, relaxing, healing.

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A friend of mine launched his business this week. Amazing. I have known James for many years and it is great to see that he is very open about his experience, his life and how he came up with what he launched: Measurematch. Another mate published a post on how he set up his own consultancy three months ago. It is fantastic to see how more and more people setting up their business to service the community and help others to understand the complexity of what we are doing. Something I think isn’t actually that complex. Latter is what I discussed with mentors, the knowledge just isn’t there and I feel like nothing is complicated but we have done it for a few years, haven’t we?

Another highlight of the week was that I finally passed my ‘Life in the UK’ test. Yes, the test that I need to become a British citizen. I studied for it in the summer but wasn’t allowed to take it as I didn’t have the right ID (mine was expired and cancelled and whilst they accept expired ones, they don’t accept cancelled ones). So I got my German ID card which took a few months and I studied for the test again. I passed. It was harder than I thought. Some of the questions were completely different to the app that I relied on. Yet I also used a different app before which I believe saved my life. Anyway, it is done. I now wait for my ‘residency permit’ to be approved – this was supposed to take 8-10 weeks but has now been ongoing since early August and should not take longer than 6 months. Then I can apply for naturalisation. Subject to waiting times, I assume at least another 6 months, I should be a British citizen by end of next year. Why I want to? Because I think that I will always live on the island. That I will always work and live here. And I like to be able to not worry about Brexit and what is happening with Europe. Yet, I also keep my German passport. The best of both worlds I suppose.

Today we were supposed to meet with an old uni friend of mine and his family. Unfortunate they had to postpone last minute. We never spend enough time doing those kind of days. We don’t take enough days to just wander and chill. See comment about about not being rushed and hurried. To meet friends. To carve out time for longer than a pint. To not worry about everything else going on. We should. We should stop every now and then and take stock. Smell the roses – I haven’t used that phrase for a while. Apologies if those posts are less inspiring at the moment, but the winter blues has set in. The mad rush to Christmas. There are a lot of things to balance. We try to finish as much as possible before and then realise on the 23rd that we can’t finish it all. That’s fine. We then postpone and go and have a good Christmas break. I will be working a couple of days, catching up on a few emails, some reading and conference videos. And I will wander, I will take time off with the kids and chill. To rejuvenate.

Hope you are planning your festive break and life is good for you!

From my little corner of the world, have a great week ahead!
Volker

Sunday Column (364)

The year is coming to an end. Same procedure as every year. We are trying to cramp as much work as possible into the last week before Christmas, starting work early, finishing late, and then realising that the day before Christmas, we got most things done, and the rest we postpone to the new year. Every year we are going through this rather stressful cycle. It is what it is and we are doing it for years, don’t seem to learn. Maybe, and a lot of my clients are doing it, I should take 3 weeks off around Christmas to avoid the pressure and the stress.

Never mind, I enjoy a year’s end. I usually get some time to clear out my desk drawers, to clear old folders, tidy things, update my Salesforce and get order into my life. Until January that is 🙂

The kids had their last day at school. They are off and are looking forward to Christmas. They are excited. That is what is most important just now. Christmas. And the kids. How can we make those days special for them? How can we succeed in them always remembering their childhood Christmases as being special?

Merry Christmas

Then there were sick bugs this week. Whether the cough triggered the spewing or it was a combination of both – it is 12 degrees in December, global warming is happening, and whilst it all sound a bit gloomy, I believe the Paris treaty to combat Global Warming is a step in the right direction.

It makes me look back to my childhood. Besides the Christmases, I do remember being part of a nature group protesting against global warming and using certain gases (CFC/FCKW) in spray cans. Did it help? Not sure, but I did my bit and still do my bit when and where I can to preserve energy and to recycle.

Let’s not get too gloomy as December’s lack of light already does that for itself. Life is good. Everyone is in a festive mood, is having a good time and is looking forward to some time off. Well deserved.

What will 2016 hold for us. For your family? For business?

I will write a post looking back next week. I think it will be nice to reflect on 2015 and then subsequently looking to the next year. Like every year. There are unknowns, and lots of things that might change. There are opportunities. There are threads. No one knows what the new year will bring.

Let us rejoice, and let us find some time with our families. Let us go into ourselves. Let us reflect in the run up to Christmas. Let us sit down at Christmas, have a great time, and appreciate what we have. As anything we do not appreciate depreciates. My new mantra.

Have a wonderful Christmas and give those in need and those you love your fullest attention. Share the love in anything you do.

Love and Kindness from my corner of this small world.

Volker

Sunday Column (303)

The last post of 2014.

Christmas has passed and it was fantastic. I love my family and wife so much, it is unbelievable. I am very grateful for the happiness I feel when I am surrounded by them. That, I guess, is the biggest present I got this year. Being with them in the moment, enjoying quality time together and also being physically apart without being apart. Not much else to wish for!

What else was great at Christmas? Long walks in the winter sun with our dog. It is amazing what a walk can do to relax and unwind. Particularly when you have lots of things going on. Even in the rain. Long walks, short walks. Then the catch up with friends and family members.

As it is now tradition we had Turkey on Christmas Day and pulled pork the day after. Lots of wine, a new Japanese whisky from the MIL, a train set from Lego and lots of presents for the kids. Almost too many yet we kept it to closest family and friends. Madness nevertheless.

From the 24th in the afternoon, just when the email came in that the last campaign would be set up, Christmas began. New to us this year was the wood burner which kept us going all week, day and night. It couldn’t have been cosier or more homely! Thanks to my wife, for a fantastic year. For sorting out the house, the renovation, the kids, the dog, and our lives I suppose. And of all I remember best this year: the campervan holidays.

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I wrote my yearly review last week. Yet this week is more about focus. Looking at all the great achievements we had. The renovation, the dog, loosing weight and keeping it off, getting fit, getting the oldest son into school, managing day to day, visiting friends….and as I type life in front of my eyes accelerates. We seem to go at a 120 miles per hour, often neglect some things on the way. This is not deliberately, that is how life is. Or we slow down and seem to achieve less.

From my point of view work life balance isn’t anymore so much about the job and family life but about balancing your day life at work and your home life around it, including family but also friends and hobbies, which is maybe for another time to go deeper and discuss how to make a hobby a job. As always, I am lucky. I love what I do for a living, I live what I love. Happiness.

When looking back we also want to look at sad things. We had a few people that left us, extended family, but also last week there were a few famous people that passed on (as I like to call it): Udo Juergens and Joe Cocker.

Latter has been someone I have admired for many years. And below is a video of him at Woodstock. Many many years ago. That’s how I got to know him (from the Woodstock video, not live, I am not that old ;-).

I believe this is a nice song to end the year. Reflect. And wish you all a happy, prosperous 2015.

To you and yours!
Volker