Tag: christmas

Sunday Column (250)

Whilst this might not be the last post of the year, I wanted to start reflecting on 2013. I have been off since Friday, and will be back to work on the 6th of January. Now I have time for my family, my parents and mother in law who are staying with us for Christmas, I might get the odd lie in, and I can spoil the boys rotten. Yes, I look forward to Christmas!

Maybe it is my German nature but we got it all planned out. Massage, hair cut, shopping, shopping ordered, shopping and food planned for the holidays. Deliveries to arrive, last presents to be wrapped and slowly winding down for the big day. The day when the kids are so happy and full of joy to get all those new toys. And daddies and granddaddies love it too!

Xmas Tree

Unfortunately there have been some downers put on Christmas. Nothing too much to worry about, but when I entered the year, things looked different. I was, as far as I was concerned, in a secure, well paid job. This ended (un)expectedly due to what I would refer to as “big buys small normal course of business“. Hence it wasn’t that unexpected really, and as they say, things happen for a reason and turn out for the better.

Of course this overshadowed most of the year, put a lot of pressure on us as a family, both financially and emotionally. We got over it, partly at least, and we hope 2014 turns out to be back on track. Less restrictions and maybe more treats from which we currently abstain from. But we don’t know, do we? And, in all fairness, we don’t do too badly. I don’t look back in anger. I drew my conclusions and in the time in between jobs, I had the fantastic opportunity to work with some smart minds from the publisher, agency and broadcasting side. An amazing learning curve. Thanks!

But drawing this year to a close, I look at something more important that I learned. Something I hadn’t realised, had I not been in between jobs. Weekends get a new meaning. Working from home get a new meaning. Being up all night comforting a baby and then winning the pitch the next day – all this gave me more meaning. The learning is that my priorities have clearly changed in favour of my boys, and my family.

When I was in between jobs I didn’t take (but had) the time to take the kids to school daily or relaxed with them, or played with them. I was in survival mood. Normal I suppose, yet not great. When I found a job, I only had a few days before I started. So all hush hush.

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But since then, being able to engage with them, becomes so much more important. More important than it ever had been. Now when I work from home or come home early on a Friday, read them the good night story, they love it. Of course it is because they are older and more engaging, but so am I. Because I started to realise that those two boys are the most important thing in my life, and I would do anything for them. Of course I keep forgetting that once and again if they kick me and whinge and don’t eat or want the iPad or mummy or….but hey, that’s exactly it.

Children teach you life all over again, make you question why you have rules and which rules are valid, which ones are important. They make you feel at home, they cuddle, show emotions and are naive when it comes to Santa Claus. I was fortunate enough to watch both boy’s nativity plays this year and it was fantastic. I sat through both of them, beaming from ear to ear. I am fulfilled. I am happy. This is important to me, no matter who calls or sends me an email – they can wait. Prioritising, being able to juggle work and life, is the challenge, particularly with a 3 hour daily commute. Yet thanks to an understanding employer and modern technology this isn’t a problem for me, and it makes me a better employee too.

2013, for me, means I uncovered that family is the important job of all times. That I can finish my emails once they have gone to bed, and that they give me the strength to excel in my job, pitches, show emotions and at the end of the day work so much harder to provide so much better for them. The sooner I achieve my goals, the sooner I can go home and see them. For realising that, I can only thank my old work I suppose. For being able to view the world differently during my time off this year.

Three years ago in a blog post, I quoted Reinhard Mey’s song about the apple tree, quoting Martin Luther: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” The hope that the world exists past us is one of the greatest gifts.

The text from Reinhard Mey’s song in German can be found here but translates something like this:

I don’t know where to start,
I have so many thoughts, my heart is full of joy,
So many feelings inside me at the same time:
Joy, humility, thankfulness.
In mother’s arm, who holds you quietly,
You start looking at this world.
This is your first morning, and I think,
What a present is this child!

If all hope fails,
With you I start all over again.
And we can achieve unachievable things together,
You are the apple tree I plant.

Look around you, you are now part of that world,
Which constantly questions itself,
Where humans destroy their environment,
Where they ignore all warnings.
A place of contradictions, rich and poor,
Full of hardship and indulgence at the same time,
A place of wars, a place of suffering,
Where humans miss nothing else than humanity.

You are a light in an uncertain time,
A way out of the hopelessness,
Like a signal to continue on our way,
To continue with the challenge (of life).
Where doubts are and despair,
that is where a child makes you forget all about it.
In a world which is chasing daylight,
Children are the only hope we have left!

Now what will 2014 bring?

I might just write about that next week, shall I? I have more goals. Last year I wanted to get involved in more charitable work, and next year will see that being increased. I plan to turn a few knobs up a notch. It is going to be a very exciting time.

And, it will be my fittest year ever, as I have lost almost 10 kg this year, despite being sick for the past 8 weeks and not being able to exercise, I have more big plans.

Have a fantastic Christmas, a great time with friends and family.
Give them an extra hug tonight and remind them, that you love them.

Peace with you all.

Volker

PS: If you haven’t seen this video yet, it is a nice way of companies giving something back to their customers. In a special way.

Sunday Column (248)

This week I ran for the train and just got it thanks to the staff at the station opening the gate for me so I could run straight for it. Never harms to keep the important guys happy with a chit chat in the morning 😉 I missed another train this week and had to stand for a while on the crowded one after. Happens. The reasons are simple really. I still try to overcome those viruses, so I try not to jeopardise anything by going running in the morning. My alarm goes off a bit later and Rohan is still up at night, some nights getting you right out of your deep sleep phase, making you feel shattered, dizzy and sick.

But there is another reason too. Those mornings when Colin wakes up just before I go downstairs. “Dad, I woke up because the heater in my room makes a noise. Nights are for sleeping and in the morning, you have to get up and don’t sleep.” Yes son, you are so right. Nothing like sharing the joy of him having a new T-shirt with his favourite cartoon character on it. Putting on the TV. He told mummy the other day, after she mentioned we have to look something up on Google: “Google knows a lot of things, it is smart.” He knows what’s right and wrong and in his own little world he is exploring lots of things.

Then I emptied the dish washer, as I normally do in the morning, and find out all those things that have happened the day before. Rohan has a new blue cup as he lost his yellow one in Brighton. I put the wrong coloured lids on the wrong drinking cups and got told “cheeky daddy” from one and “you don’t know much, do you daddy” from the other. The joys.

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I love my family, including my wife, and those special moments are great. When a four year old explains the world to you. Then he goes all quiet and tells you about the Christmas decorations at big school. There are so many things he hasn’t shared with me, as I am at work. I still find it hard not being able to be there when he gets home from school. And, I treasure the days I am, when he has his nativity play in two weeks and I will be there. Seeing him on stage 🙂 I envy parents that work from home, the ones that can drop off their kids to school most days and pick them up on others.

Ever since this summer I am trying to find the right work life balance. Part of me accepts the fact I don’t see them at night but I enjoy seeing them most mornings. And their schedule changes and yours does and you just make those weekends extra special. That is important. For them and for me.

Like this weekend, I helped at a project from some final year students, aspiring teachers, to get dads more involved in school activities. So we ventured down to school on Saturday and did lots of fun games, baked pizza, played and enjoyed daddy time. He loved having daddy around and I heard all about the school. I met one dad who can work from home one day a week and can finish at 4 pm to help out in school with a Lego club. That’s fantastic.

With me organising monthly drinks for the dads, I got a few more emails to add to my invites. “The dads of Hassocks”, sounds like a cheap soap, but gives us a great opportunity to exchange notes, sort problems, discuss man issues (we are not at the Viagra state yet), the commute, the work life balance, wives etc. It is good to exchange ideas with like minded people and discovering that the issues I have are common across everyone. I am not alone. A community feeling, like a German Stammtisch.

And we all enjoy and looking forward to Christmas. Seeing the sparkling, exciting eyes opening presents, moaning about the food and having family around us. It is this time of year. Joy. Peace, inner happiness, and lots of love. And unfortunately more bugs….which lead to us cancelling some weekend plans 🙁

Have a safe time in the run up to Christmas. Stay well.

Love and Kindness,
Volker

Sunday Column (198)

I won. Maybe I was lucky. There was a phase last Sunday and Monday when I thought I would be sick. However, I never felt ill. Maybe the 90 minute nap or my day fast on Monday helped. You never know. So I was sitting on a time bomb that never went off.

So off I went to Boston on Tuesday. I actually started writing this post on the way over. I won’t have many flights next year with my UK centric role but anticipate to do a few long haul ones. You never know. It was my first long haul one for about four years. Not only do I like British Airways, I also like their coffee, service and the overall experience. It was worth it to spend 2.5 hours travelling to Heathrow.

20121216-195240.jpg One of those things about flying in big aircrafts is that you never notice the take off. You just sit down and relax and if you are lucky and keep yourself entertained, you will be at your destination in no time.

When packing I realised I haven’t got a suit that fits me, so next weekend or weekend after I need to go shopping to get myself a new suit, or a blazer and alternate an old suit to on the one hand be ready in my new job (within my company) which might require this outfit and on the other hand my dad’s 70th birthday next year.

I wanted to make a few silly remarks. But maybe someone understands me. I watched The Expandables 2, a movie about a group of outsiders under the leadership of Sylvester Stallones. Ok, there are a few actors in the movie that make it less believable, like Arnie, Chuck Norris, Jean Claude van Damme and Bruce Willis, but I personally enjoy the story. It might come back to my thought I had when I was 18: I either wanted the career, house and family or I wanted to be the lonely wolf, maybe a shepherd in Australia.

Being part of a reliable group. Having comrades. Having clear leadership. Taking risks. Reaping rewards. That is what life is all about. At least for me. And those values, in a different way, are portrayed in this movie. There is no reason you cannot have all of those values ticked in a job. Maybe with a little less blood shed and action, but if you find the right challenge, no one stops you from making it the best gig in your life. I guess I had a lot of those values ticked when I studied amongst my fraternity brothers in Germany. Honour. Reliability. Aiming to be better than the best.

However, sometimes you are missing a big chunk: love and happiness. You know what I mean. You cannot sacrifice yourself. I know friends who lived out of suitcases, one in NewYork, another one in London. No flat for two years but a career. The family came later. Of course you can do it. I couldn’t imagine a life without my wife or boys. Living in the countryside and being “disconnected” at weekends is fantastic. I enjoy it. I want it all, and of course I need to compromise. So whilst I don’t see the children during the week I try to be home every night. That might be less often due to travel, but I wouldn’t want that for the rest of my life. Maybe now and then or for a limited time only. For the foreseeable future I am going to be UK based anyway.

My thoughts were going wild there. You have a lot of time on a plane 😉 It comes down to identify the values and situations that give you inner satisfaction, I guess. You gotta find and live them. Seeing my boys growing up and coming up with the oddest things, questions about life and ideas makes you wonder how empty life must be without any. Having a place to come home to where it is warm, where a glass of wine and maybe a hug is waiting for you is unbeatable. And, this could be the smallest house or the worst wine. It is what you call home.

20121216-195708.jpg Ok, I now made it home from the trip and adjusted to my normal time zone again. I enjoyed my trip despite the hanging gnome at our Xmas party 😉 The only difficulty is to adjust to 5 hours difference in 3 days. So when we got offered $1,300 to take an overnight flight back, I refused and just wanted to get home. Maybe silly but I really wanted to see the boys and my wife of course.

I love America though. The water is too soft and I drank more coffee, coke and Mountain Dew than in total last year, but they got space, a great attitude, are business minded, motivational and natural leaders. At least most of the guys I met. I love working for an American company!

I enjoy being away but also coming home. I spent a fab weekend with the boys. We got an alarm installed, went to a Christmas party where we met many nice people and just had a good time. Happy days. Work seems far away, I am relaxed and look forward to the last week before Christmas. Lots of lunches, dinners, parties….so cannot wait for the weekend 😉 All good though.

Go with the flow. I haven’t really realised yet that we are that close to the end of the year. Christmas is for the kids. My MIL arrives this week. Soon I got my hat on and sing Silent Night.

Happy Christmas.
Volker

Sunday Column (196)

After a bit of confusion and premature publication on Thursday, I have now got the revised version of my Sunday Column ready 🙂

Now this week has been rather interesting. Let me start with my new job role as of first of January. I will no longer look after any international business but solely focus on the UK market. As this has been communicated, I think it is fair to publish it here. There are of course many reasons for it, but the one I am happy to share is the focus for our company in the UK market. Being the most important market in Europe for our industry, we need a strong leader and someone solely dedicated to the market based in London. So come 1st of January, I am 100% back as Managing Director UK.

Then something funny happened. Chatting with someone the other day I was asked “what made you laugh last week”? I was stuck for an answer. Even this week or today I couldn’t tell you. I laugh a lot with the kids and they come up with all sorts of things that are funny, but I don’t really recall anything ad hoc. Work isn’t funny at the moment, however I don’t think there is a bad mood in the office either. Do I focus on the non funny aspects of life, I wonder? Is my map of the world gloomier than I thought it is? I am a very positive person, just remembering laughing at the 2 year old sitting in the bidet. Never mind but this question got me thinking. I don’t take myself too seriously, do I?

20121129-082608.jpg Waterstone’s tube ad grabbed my attention. About “the child in the book store”. That made me think. Maybe another gloomy thought but will my kids actually experience book stores or libraries for that matter? Or will it all be digitalised? Will I ever take them to the British Library and walk around all those millions of books and get them fascinated in reading and writing and history and all those things? Or will they be stuck to a touch screen reading off the clouds. We shall see but I am fearful that some of our history will be archived. Will book stores disappear? Whilst I am not the biggest reader, I always enjoyed wandering around book stores, sitting down in a coffee place and read a book for a while. Then another. There is something fascinating about it. Something peaceful.

Maybe I am just getting into the Christmas mood already. Less than four weeks. The Salvation Army playing Silent Night at Victoria Station, Christmas drinks being arranged. I believe I have a Christmas function every night in the last week before Christmas. Crazy but good. I hope anyway. Then we went to the Hassocks street fair and light up of Christmas lights. I love this little community and people we meet. People live in Hassocks for a reason. A good reason. We all have things in common.

I have been back on the treadmill all week. 5 days. 5 km each. I have also done some weights. Upward spiral.

20121129-182918.jpg I am aiming high. With the weights I am aiming high enough but I don’t want to overdo it either. Achievement. I am getting stronger, things falling into place. My massage therapist was pleased with my back. Good days.

On Friday when I worked from home to take the kids to the “light up Hassocks”, I spent some good time with the kids. I so enjoy spending time with my two wee ones, I sometimes wonder if I should stay at home. However, the mortgage doesn’t pay for itself. Maybe the lottery will help one day 😉 You never know. On Saturday I spent all afternoon with Rohan. Good times.

It got colder now. Winter I suppose. I got my furry hat out. I cleared my Barbour jacket from mould. People give me a smile re my outfit. New fingertip less gloves. My new jumpers keep me warm and overall I am very happy and content. Already in the Christmas mood!

Have a great week, December, here we go.

Volker

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Sunday Column (147)

MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Another year. Another 12 months, 365 days or 8,760 hours of life. How lucky are we? Many people didn’t survive the past 12 months for whatever reasons. Steve Jobs of course comes first to my mind as he had a huge impact on me this year. Or Vaclav Havel who died just a week ago. I was lucky, no family member or close friend passed away.

But life is not about the ones that died but about what you experienced and what you learned and of course what you are going to make out of it. Positive outlooks, the now and the future. Let’s not be morbid but full of joy and look at what 2011 brought us…and ultimately what 2012 might have in stock for us.

January saw the last month of Jen’s pregnancy. A time, as everyone could imagine, that is full of emotions, tears, fun, and a toddler that can be annoying at times. Not only did I write my 100th Sunday Column, I also wrote about Cancer and Death in the same month. Are we back to the morbid topics? No, the post about that I may die today was a Buddhist thought on that you should live a great live and a compassionate life to the day of your death, reminding you that death could happen any day. And, that you shouldn’t worry about it but embrace the thought that it might be today. A comforting thought I think.

February was all about positive stuff and LIFE. Rohan was born. A few posts about happiness but also focusing on my work. We got a new member of staff and despite me being off I had to spend a lot of time working from home. I felt a lot of pressure at work that time and over the whole year. Lots of changes but overall this year was fantastic. For 2012 I can only see more and better growth. A stronger team. I cannot wait. But back to Rohan – he is now over 10 months and I can hardly imagine how he turned out to be the way he is. I was carrying him in the hospital: a fragile baby with a bony bump – a wee little tiny parcel. And now he has this cheeky smile, crawls around and cannot get enough attention, competing for it with his older brother. Life has been so good to us and seeing them both now, you wouldn’t think that Rohan had a very hard and dangerous time just after he was born. Thank who you need to thank for healthy children.

March was about coffee, no sleep and of course Iceland. I finally made it to Iceland on a trip where I spoke at a conference. Hopefully I go again next year but I haven’t heard, and March will be very busy with other conferences in other exciting countries. As with all “first baby month”, this one just passed. With probably around 7 hours sleep on average – per week 🙂

April saw me turning 34. My aim to become Managing Director before I was 35 had been fulfilled. How fantastic. Now I put my next challenge out: to be CEO or at least having one or two non-executive director positions before I am 40. We shall see what the future holds. Anyway, I got my netbook in April. I am still happy with it. A bit slow, and maybe I would prefer a tablet with keyboard now instead of a netbook but I wasn’t ready then. So still a good investment. The iPad is coming when version 3 comes out next year.

May – looking at the history of the blog and my notes: a very normal month. Nothing special happened. I had time to tell the world that it was me who invented Facebook. But I am still to receive Mr. Zuckerberg’s cheque 😉

June came with more changes at work. Personally and privately this month was similar to May. I believe you get to this saturation point, particularly if you live of little sleep, where you just live. You are happy in your routine and you just do as you are told. Life is just normal. A few thoughts about life, some about dreams but nothing that will ever change the world.

Now, these were the first 6 months of 2011. I’ll post the next 6 months next week. I thought a marathon blog post on Christmas day might just be a little too much to read whilst you are sitting under the tree, stuffed with turkey, having a wee zip of wine or whisky.

Have a great Christmas holiday!
Volker & Family

Sunday Column (143)

“Wow Wow Wow” were supposedly Steve Jobs’ last words. I read his Biography over the last few weeks, 600 pages, and I couldn’t put it down. This man is fascinating. He sold me Apple from his grave. The product, the philosophy, the perfectionism and that attitude make a lot of sense. I suppose he had a lot of bad sides, and I was told that as an employee of Apple you weren’t suppose to talk or look at him unless he looked at you, but his idea of perfection was phenomenal. I suppose almost on the “sick” side. But as people say, the line between genius and insanity is a very fine one. Easy to cross. Buddha bless my Buddhist friend Steve and I am confident that I will be the proud owner of at least two new Apple products next year: the iPad3 and and iPhone5. We shall see. Everyone who has seen me being transformed from Blackberry to Android to Apple thinks I am stark raving mad. And they might be right 🙂

Another highlight this week was Thursday. Not because my wife felt that ill but that I worked from home in the afternoon. As usual I took Colin to school but this Thursday I also picked him up. I wanted to take him out for lunch but town was too far, and the local Indian was closed. I spend so much quality time with him on Thursday, I really enjoyed it. Still, I managed to keep on top of my work and had a relaxing night in. Not what I was planning this week, and my weekend plans were smashed too, but family is more important than anything else. I sometimes wonder what I would be like if I was single: workaholic, alcoholic, fat. Thanks for being there for me: family!

The whole family is also joining us for Christmas. The idea of not having a car is growing on me. Not only do I save money on petrol, insurance and car tax as well as MOT but I also get the whole family to Beckenham for Christmas. Happy days ahead. We are really looking forward to it. And my MIL and I got along fine when she was down last week.

Now this is it really. I went to Berlin this week to speak about my work and had a fantastic night in great digital marketing company. I love my work, my industry and of course my employer 🙂 Seriously, I sometimes think I have the best job in the world, or I am the luckiest guy in the world. The only problem is that I seem to have too much drive to move forward. I am constantly pushing. But that works in my favour I supposed. Onwards and upwards.

To the last 4 weeks before Christmas. The last 4 weeks of work for the year, filled with lunches, diners and great parties. Filled with lots of work, long hours, and good company. But also filled with great family moments and good friends, warm fires. You gotta love Winter and Christmas.

Have a great one.
Volker

Sunday Column (94)

Christmas time, mistletoes and wine…..yep, Christmas is coming and it is coming fast. This week started with a busy Monday, a busy Tuesday in Leeds followed by a diner & drinks with my boss. A Wednesday client lunch, a Thursday client lunch, a Thursday mexad Christmas party, and a slow Friday. Whoop, that week really passed quickly.

And it’s gotten cold again. Minus. Snow. My cousin wanted to visit but couldn’t because of cancelled flights. Here we go again. On Saturday I beat the snow to it and went shopping really early. And, the shopping should last us 2 weeks also 🙂 Roll on Christmas.

I will write a proper review of 2011 but where are we now. 12 months into a new job, a new part of the industry, an exciting company. 2011 will see more growth, more fun and more expansion. I am very excited. However, there growth for the family too. Colin expects his little brother early February, a new life and a new cycle starts over again. It is exciting to see it, to feel it and we are looking forward to it, as the work will be all well worth it. Looking back, 18 months ago, I couldn’t cry I was so overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do when I held Colin in my arms for the first time. And look how he has grown, his personality, his cheek. Time has flown past.

I love my new phone which takes amazing pictures. Not only of the snow. And it is so easy to set up and use. I got more kit for it, including a new car holder, an international USB charger and an external battery to boost the battery in case I don’t have access to a charger. All set now for new adventures, and an exciting 2011.

There isn’t much else happening. My dad was fantastic over the last few months to sell my old collection of H0 cars (1:87). We made about 200 Euros selling them on eBay. My dad is now a power seller 🙂 and my childhood memories are gone. Some went for a price that was below their value but with them sitting in a box in the attic they are no value to me anyway. So another burden gone. Another attachment I got rid of.

I have to say, 2010, given that I try to live more like a Buddhist than I have done before, I tried to get rid of more attachments. The car collection is one. Putting my CDs on MP3 is another. Less attachment makes your life easier.

To finish off the weekend, Colin is ill again, was sick on the carpet and myself spend all morning in bed, not feeling well, coming down with something. Not a good finish to the weekend.

Ok, you read my full year’s review on Christmas day. I hope I get to write it then anyway.

Merry Christmas,
Volker

Merry Christmas!

I was wondering the other day. At our supermarket you could buy the first bigger tins of peanuts designed to last you a few days over Christmas. Some nice decoration on the tin already, I was thinking that is wrong. It is too early for Christmas products.

Saying that, we are all aware that it is getting, or seems to get, earlier every year that the Christmas products come into the shops.

So here we go: Lidl’s weekly offers from next Monday, 13th of October.

Wow, I can now enjoy my Christmas cakes, Stollen and Pandoro 10 weeks prior to Christmas. How nice. Maybe I get an advent calendar for November and one for December – who really cares these days?

HoHoHo, Merry Christmas!!!!