Tag: scotland

The times they are a-changing

Bob Dylan wrote this song and published an album with that title many years ago, ‘The times they are a—changing’.

As many of you, if not all of you, we as a family spent a lot of time evaluating things during Covid. From what we could do to the house, increase and change living space, to extensions. Are we living in the right area, will Brexit affect us, and what is the way forward? How and where do we want to spend the next 10 years of our lives. These questions and more went through most people’s heads during the pandemic.

My wife and I did the same. Given she is from Scotland, and that’s where we met many years ago, in Aberdeen, and I am from Germany, there could be two obvious choices.

To a cut a long story short, we made up our minds. Edinburgh it is. Back home for the wife, free universities, and a possibility to join the European Union (if ever so small). A city called ‘Athens of the North’ (although some say Paris), not much bigger than Brighton, on the coast with some amazing outdoor activities, lochs to explore and mountains to climb. We are all excited, although it took the boys a few days to get over the initial shock but they took it very well. And of course, we are close to the mother in law too. Germany just doesn’t seem to be a possibility for any of us to move to.

My biggest question was around ‘can I continue my career’, and it turns out that my current contract is very happy for me to move. Given the changes in the way we are working and companies being more open to remote working, and I am confident they will not change, location is less of an issue in the future. As a matter of fact, it hadn’t mattered whether I was working from just North of Brighton or Land’s End for the past year. Whilst I believe that I need access to the next job’s HQ, it might just be enough to do so every couple of weeks. If you look at our US friends, they work remotely for many years. And it works. My biggest fear was to not be close to London. All I am changing though is the access from 90 minutes door to door on a train, to a plane (maybe 2 hours all in) or early train (4 hours) – and the certainty that this will be less often. So I am sold, besides there are some very interesting start-ups and companies in Edinburgh too!

Plus, and I look forward to that, there is the chance to stay a few nights in London as I did in other European cities. This always allows for nice dinners, activities and enjoying a city properly. Something I haven’t been able to do in our current location as late night trains weren’t reliable.

Now the search begins. Which area to move to? Which house? Temporary accommodation? Schools, school intake? It is going to be a stressful time. With the lockdown easing, I cannot wait to spend some evenings back in the Scottish pubs, sample the local ale. Even for me, after many years in London and the South, it is a homecoming. I cannot wait.

And we have settled on an area for now, South Queensferry, and plans are firming up.

Will it all be better?
Will the grass be greener?

No, of course not. And to be honest, house prices are not too much different to where we live now. However, there will be some things that are better, some things that are worse. As always. Anywhere you go. At least we still got the same super markets, take-aways and language, so it will be very similar 😉

What I am looking forward to?

It’s the independence from London. A new beginning, new networking, and the access to a city with a culture that resonates with me. London got a bit too big and too far away from where we lived. As a close friend of mine said when we moved out here, it’s a long way out. And it is, particularly with a unreliable train service. I felt I didn’t have access to London as much as I would have liked. For the past 12 months I have been sitting in a room in front of a camera. This room could have been anywhere, but soon will be within throwing distance of mountains, outdoor, and the sea. We can pop up to my MIL for tea, see family and make new friends. The boys will have access to excellent and free education.

And I can’t wait to see an opera. Silly, because I don’t even like operas. But I could, if that makes sense. And then take a taxi home. Living quality just moved up a notch.

Our house in Hassocks is on the market, and the journey has begun. Come and buy, Hassocks is one of the 10 most sought after areas in the country!

We cleared out years of stuff, despite having done that already a year ago. It’s the ‘second round’ where you go a step further in terms of what you keep. We made cash on eBay and local selling sites. It’s liberating, and soothing to be honest. I find that anyway. It’s that time when you evaluate what’s important.

Anyway, here we go. Wish us luck. It might be quite a journey until we settle into our new place and got it the way we want. Time will tell they say, and we are confident we made the right decision.

And that’s all that matters, isn’t it?

See you around!
Volker

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

——

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

Ballueder Thinks (7) – Summer innit?

It’s hot at time of writing. 27.5 degrees in the car, as I wait for my son to finish his karate lesson. The first ‘real one’, face to face, since March, and parents are no longer allowed to watch. Life has changed. Next time I take the bigger car with the air conditioning. We adopt to the new rules of course, as we all do.

Today, at time of writing, we were supposed to go to Ashford, then Folkestone tomorrow, drive to Germany and celebrate my parents 50th wedding anniversary. The government put Belgium on the list of countries to not stay in and if you come from there, you have to quarantine for 14 days. Surely driving through it would be an exception. But it isn’t. Several calls to the government hotlines got us the same answer and it was: if you touch Belgian soil, even in a car, not stopping, you have to quarantine. Loose your income for 2 weeks. Can’t train for the marathon. WTF. This got changed at the time we rebooked…but hey, you have to make decisions when you do.

So with a heavy heart we postponed our trip to Germany, fearing that France would end up on the list soon too. And it did when we were supposed to be out there, alongside the Netherlands. Why risk it? I haven’t seen my parents for 8 months, yet they can’t postpone their anniversary. The original plan was to go on a cruise, which ultimately got cancelled. And our flights got reimbursed. So that’s good at least.

Cut a long story short, we went to Scotland instead. Staying in the Greater Manchester area over night, driving on the M6 through a lockdown area. No quarantine necessary, despite my arguments on the phone with the government, this isn’t the same use case. There are no restrictions to do be on ‘Manchester soil’. Nevermind. I would argue otherwise, but who am I to criticise the government?

Actually I do. I think they properly f* it up. The UK as it was 19 years ago when I was attracted living here, is no more. The handling of the Corona crisis and the amount of dead people speak for itself. The recession and Q2 GDP contraction figures higher than any other country. I am hugely disappointed with the state of affairs and handling of the situation. Nothing screams ‘Brexit will be a mess’ more than looking at the clowns on the top. Never have I felt more passionate about politics in any country. And looking at A-Level results, both in Scotland and England, I can only say WTF again. Sorry, this wasn’t meant to be a political or blog post ranting, but I guess sometimes it just needs to be said. But what’s the alternative?

Maybe it was naive to think we could leave the country in a pandemic in order to travel. Or it is naive to think we are out of the worst, and that there won’t be a second wave. I don’t know. Looking back at the first half of the year, I have been lucky to have work, as a contractor, and actually uncovering opportunities, regardless of the situation. Things might not be as planned, but who had planned 2020 and actually got what they planned for? Hence, I am actually very grateful for what we have, the health we are in, and the prospects we have. It confirms my decision to go freelance. To be my own boss, and make it happen, without relying on others. This is a huge blessing to be honest, even if it is hard. But why would I want to rely on others to have a job at this stage? I am not saying I am not tempted to join a company full time, but that needs to be the right opportunity. Anyway, not pitching 😉

As anyone at the moment, I just like to have a good life and want this virus to go away. Yet we need to think what life would be like if the virus won’t go away anytime soon, or ever? How will our lives, jobs and situation change? Location won’t be an issue once of a sudden. Barbados, New York, Toronto, London, Singapore – as long as you can work in the time zone of the company you work for, you can live anywhere. It also means that education for your kids and living standards, e.g. activities, are key for location preferences moving forward.

There is something else I read in the Financial Times: a lot of people used the lockdown to clear out rooms, cupboards etc. However, a lot of people also cleared out emotional backlogs. I agree. As a matter of fact we cleared a lot of stuff from the loft and garage at the end of last year, and emotionally I have been on a journey to change and clear things out for about a year. I made huge progress, and recently went through some more hypnotherapy sessions. Contact me if you want to find out more, but I find it super useful to clear out any blockages, and explore what is holding me back. My confidence and self awareness took another step up, and I highly recommend anyone doing it. It’s like clearing out your garage, your mental one.

The main reason me bringing this up is as I have been speaking to more and more people experiencing anxiety. The lockdown and loss of human contact, will result in a huge crisis from a mental health perspective. I am super proud of the companies that have worked with me throughout the lockdown to teach their employees mindfulness in the workplace ; one group in particular has done very well by allowing for a weekly session discussing mindfulness, and any mental health issues. The group coaching sessions are ongoing and helping massively to put the lockdown into perspective, whether that is from a mental health or personal perspective. If you or your company employees are effected, and they likely are, you should consider having similar sessions. I am not saying this to advertise my services, but highlight the importance of doing it. Whether with me or any other mindfulness coach or practitioner. The hungover of mental health after the pandemic will be huge; combat it today! Be proactive, you will thank me later.

Our holidays ended up being fantastic. We had splendid weather in Scotland, and hardly any rain. It was warm, and allowed for me to continue my marathon training. I will update everyone properly once it is all confirmed, but the London Marathon 2020 will be a virtual one, and all donations roll over to the next physical one, which I plan to run in October 2021 or April 2022. I prefer the former, so let’s see what we get. I shall update my Justgiving page as soon as things will be confirmed. Bear with me, not a logistical walk in the park for the London Marathon organisers.

I love being in Scotland. It’s a rough terrain, friendly people, good greasy food and lovely ale. Walking, running, or just enjoying the countryside is fab. We rented a wee flat in Inverness and visited the MIL up North frequently, whilst doing our own family things, like looking at amazing forests, Loch Ness of course, or just shopping in town. Visiting a white sandy beach.
Scotland is a lovely country, and if we knew we could work remotely forever, I would go and buy a wee house in the middle of nowhere. However, we don’t know, and there are question marks around some infrastructure here, but that’s for another time. The idea sounds lovely though.

As you can imagine, running your own business, you still work all week. However, I have been lucky as I wasn’t that much in demand, and people respected me being slow to respond. I actually didn’t do much work at all, and we enjoyed a lot of quality family time, a change of scenery, and just doing nothing. Yes. I managed to just sit there, and do nothing. Not like me, but it is so important to reflect, drain your brain and just sit and think. I enjoyed the time off, the company and making memories with the family.

When you read this we are just back. Time to kick-start my 2nd year as a contractor/freelancer and kicking some ar*. I am ready to make a difference, take on more project work, run a marathon and conquer the “world”. Get rid of the virus, spend more time with the family and balance work and life. A holiday puts so many things into perspective, so does Covid, and there will be more decisions coming our way. That’s certain and that it’s certain that I lost all confidence in trust in this government.

For now, enjoy some time off, disconnect and make memories with your children and loved ones. Time you never get back.

Love and kindness from my little corner of the world.
Volker

Sunday Column (398)

The news is out this week. It is official. I am leaving my current job, and I will be officially leaving the end of next week. I has been a great 2.5 years of exploring a slightly different angle of the industry, going through another acquisition and finding new friends and colleagues across the world. It was nice to hear just last week that clients would have loved to work with us, just because it was me. Those compliments are amazing and make me appreciate the lives I am touching, and the lives I am touched by. I am a people person, I care about people, in business and private. I am feeling flattered and it shows that sales and business relations still come back to personality first, product second. Sustainability, honestly and win/win go a long way. I was always keen to deliver on promises, and learned lessons early in my career that you don’t over promise and under deliver.

Now, the new role is different. It is still about promising to clients, internal and external, yet it is also about evaluating the sales people and technologies I have been representing in the last 6+ years! I am turning the table and apply my knowledge on the other side. It feels like I move from sales to procurement, get a lot more managerial and strategic tasks and joining a company that is on the edge to really move the needle in the space. I like to hope so anyway, and I cannot wait to join them at the end of August! I am going agency side. When working agency side in 2007, being responsible for sales, I enjoyed it and then got dragged into the tech sales, which in all honesty I enjoyed a lot too. Now I am back, with more experience and knowledge about the space, and I am excited to not pay the bills for lunch and ask those questions to sales people trying to sell me the latest tech. If you cannot summarise your solution in 30 minutes without a powerpoint…. 🙂

So the news is out, and the dates are set. I am very much looking forward to my new direction and another step in my career.

hand-over

I kicked the week off with another 25K run. I started early at 5:30 am and was back just around 8 am. It was fantastic, running with the sun rise, overlooking the South Downs being dipped into the golden morning light. Not a lot of people around and it was great to just get on. It cleared my head, made me think and came up with some solutions and ideas. Great start to the week!

Unfortunately my adidas Adistar Boost trainers are broken again after only 350K. My first pair was broken, the 2nd pair lasted, the exchanged first one now broke and I am ‘breaking in’ another pair just now. Definitely my last Boost pair, I can assure you. Having said that I went to sweatshop on Saturday afternoon and tried the new UltraBoost trainers. They are amazing, very soft and cushioned, and feather light. I am keen on getting a pair but it all depends what adidas says about whether the old pair was a manufacturers fault. Given I contacted Sweatshop 3 days after they sent the replacement, I have to take it up with adidas directly. I emailed them, let’s see, sending off the old pair on Monday. Definitely something wrong with that shoe! I did a cheeky 7.5K later in the week with the new pair of Adistar’s, just to be ready to hit the 10K in them next week again. Over are the days where a pair of trainers lasted me beyond a year.

adidas-ultra-boost-deep-sea-blue-1

Then I have been back to Scotland this week. I flew up on Wednesday and then drove the family down again on Friday, with another stop over in Preston. This time the journey was a little bit more pleasant as traffic was better then going up. So we arrived on Saturday morning. Enough time to get the washing on, settle back in and be home again. It was good without the family but it is even better with the family! I missed my two boys and my wife of course. Now the cats pester the others not me 🙂

Also it marks my last flight for a while. At least my new job won’t demand me to fly regularly around Europe. An era of good 10 years in a European role coming to an end. There will be travel and potentially more international ones but for now I can hope for some fewer flights and hotel stays abroad. This will be nice for a while.

Some people asked me what I did, 10 days without the family? I can tell you that much: it felt a lot shorter, as I had been very busy. Partly I was working on some forms and test assignments, and on the other hand I made progress with my book. Yes, I now need to find the best way of drawing up some nice graphs, put the overall flow together and get it finalised. The end is in sight, early 2017 I should be able to publish my new Productivity on Life book. I thought of calling it #bebetter but feel free to come up with better suggestions.

I also found a lot of time to watch TV, movies, chill out and read. It is almost weird to be able to organise your own days and work around your work. Not sure I ever watched that much TV in a long time. And I also ate healthily, didn’t drink a lot (besides the stag do without a stag at the weekend in Brighton), and overall got a lot of chillaxing time in. A holiday as it should be on my own terms.

Now, having the family back is great. Catching up on 10 days of excitement and experience with my boys is fantastic. Almost a lifetime at their stage. The next break is with them, and I look forward to sharing experience with them too and maybe give the wife a wee break too. Life is hard, yet beautiful 🙂

That’s about all folks. I love driving the new motor, particularly the cruise control that breaks on your behalf and then accelerates if it can. Just like a self driving car.

Have a fantastic week.

Volker

Sunday Column (397)

bright side

I have been to Scotland over the last week. A long drive up, a short and delayed flight back. I love Scotland. It is a peaceful country. It feels kind of rough and you feel close to nature. Whether that is the rain, the cold or the rocks and trees. It is an outdoor country where you don’t necessarily have the weather to be outdoors much. So the coal and peat fires go on. The heat from the natural resources keep you warm. You are close to the heart of yourself, the earth and close to what’s happening deep inside this planet. We did a 25K run which was nice too. Very connected to the elements I have to say.

That’s how I feel. I also felt a bit detached from civilisation. Whilst of course Tesco is still there, same products and offers, which gives you the consistency you are not necessarily longing for, there are a lot of new things. Paying with Apple Pay got a reply from the waitress that ‘this is the first time she has done this’ or looking at the mobile phone reception, you might think you are somewhere in the bush in South America. Other than that, it feels so good to be there, and maybe it is because of these isolation that it does.

Sunrise at Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Sunrise at Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland

I relaxed a bit. My MIL helped with the kids, I had snoozes, was cooked for and enjoyed some down time. I shared my bed with my eldest and he was literally heating the bed whilst outside it was down to 3 degrees. Yet it was bright light at 9 pm at night. So when I came back to London it was dark at 9 pm, I thought of putting the fire on and with the drizzle it felt like October or November even. Autumn arrived, the summer is over. Yet we managed to have a great sunny day out on Saturday – boy’s day out.

So I chilled out on the flight back, to turn on my phone and got a message from someone on Facebook. Nothing too uncommon but that I haven’t spoken to her for 21 years. If I say I had forgotten about her, some memories came back. We met 21 years and for some reason she went through some old stuff discovering my name, looked me up, and got in touch. That was rather nice. A blast from the past. Sometime in 1995 our life lines touched. We then went off in different directions. She got a kid, I got kids, I got married and to be honest, the past 20 years, I probably forgot who she was, and this is not meant in a negative way. I am fascinated by those stories of people that come to your life and the reason they do. Some show you a different side to yourself, sometimes you help someone and sometimes you just have a fun time together. So it is without offence that I forget about people sometimes. I discussed that with a friend this week, that we both had friends we tried to find closure with. A few years ago I sent out a couple of letters to reach out to people, thanked them that they were part of my life, and that I never intended us growing apart without clearing some things. Some never got back to me, and of some I don’t even know if they ever got my letter. That’s life I suppose. Life’s little stories.

ppl in life

This week was very productive in terms of getting a lot of reviews done for my next productivity book. No, it is far from being finished, yet I made some progress this week. Now a lot of tidying, adding and stuff to do. But my hope is that by end of year this should be finished. Fingers crossed. All depends on undisturbed time I suppose, which is getting less. There are so many plans moving forward and life will change a lot. But it can only get better, as things always improve in life. Things change for a reason, and those reasons are always worthwhile. I have been meeting up with interesting people over the past few weeks. Again, everything happens for a reason, some reasons to be discovered further down the line. Job opportunities, product discussions, industry discussions, chewing the fat, discussing life over lunch and wine, partying even with friends. I am having a great time. Every now and then I am in the position to reach out to my network and give back and receive. This was one of those weeks, amazing people!

People are fascinating, so is life. It seems a theme this week, which makes me think how much I appreciate the life I have. The people that are close to me which I miss. The people worth dying for if you like and the people that are close to me, part of my life, and the ones, like above, who came into my life. And I could fill a whole life just to speak to people and philosophise on things, but then I have to focus again on everyday work, and do what I have to and what I want to do. That’s happening too. And then you bring focus back into your life and push back on some meetings. You naturally prioritise.

And I guess that’s how we all live our lives. Bound to our own little back yard, own little circle of friends which every now and then expands. And you suck a few new ones in the circle and you get sucked into other people’s circle, and then you continue as you were. A pulsating way of extending your horizon and circle of influence. I am pulsating. I am breathing. I am alive and I am enjoying my life and my circle of influence and friends. I appreciate you. Thanks for being part of my journey.

Have a fantastic week and make the most of the summer!

Volker

Sunday Column (396)

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The end of July. Wow. This year flew past. It is Thursday when I start this post, and this week passed quickly too. I don’t even know what I did on Monday. Amazing, and good to see I am busy. There are so many things I need to be sorting.

Let’s see. I updated you on my job situation last week. More updates to follow, once hopefully things get a bit clearer, once people are back from holidays. Emails are quiet. News sites are quiet. I keep writing my own news on Linkedin, so if you haven’t seen my articles there, please have a look. Holiday season means slow response times, no decision making. Hey, keep looking forward, enjoy the quieter time, and some of the nice weather. It will get busier before you know it.

In Germany we call it the Sommerloch, literally the summer hole. No, nothing rude, not an a*hole, but the hole the press and everything else falls into when it gets really quiet. My FT is getting smaller by the week, and the content worth reading too. Hibernation almost. I did notice that I got more tired, but a few runs sorted me out again. Some more sleep would be good but too many things are going around in my head. Summer hole. I like that term. It reminds me of home, of the smell of grass from the fields, the freshly cut one. The one they collect later on in the year for hay. It is like the beginning of Autumn, my most favourite season. I know we make it to the end of the year. Things are moving forward. When I grew up I didn’t have hay fever. I now seem to have some allergy. Things are in constant change.

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Talking about change. I noticed this week in particular how change is affecting fast growing organisations. I wrote about it a while ago that when people join organisations at the early growth stage, and they then evolve and these people leave, they might leave with a bad memory. Yet a lot of companies then attract new people. I overheard at an event a few weeks back, that someone said ‘how could you join this company, they are not doing well’. I don’t ever say that about any company. And this is not in regards to my current situation. But companies go through changes and if one person leaves, others transition in. It might just be the right opportunity for them at the time, and works very well. They grow with the company probably for another 2-3 years and then a new group of people transition in, the new old ones out. Only bigger cooperations can afford to job rotate you every 2-3 years, and only a few hang around to grow with smaller companies and continue to have an interesting job for life.

That is one of the reasons of digital staff turnover. Too many small to medium sized companies grow too quickly. Some people cannot cope with the amount of change or like more stability. Some people grow and some outgrow a company, growing personally quicker than the company. Then there are changes, and it is very common. Whether that is redundancy, voluntary leave or head hunted to another position, doesn’t really matter. But this change must be managed very carefully. Companies who do, are the ones that survive, grow and outgrow competitors.

No this picture isn't really the way we live in Scotland ;-)
No this picture isn’t really the way we live in Scotland 😉

So when I am speaking to companies about jobs, I don’t only look at the job. Given my experience I can do most senior jobs unless they require a very specific skill I might not have. Equally important for me is due-diligence within the industry. What is it like to work there? How high is the staff turnover? And if high, why? If low, why? What are the points of differentiation? Are we onto a winning organisation? What are the values represented within the company, what do they stand for? I am a people person and my next step needs to be right. Above is just one example of a whole array of questions and talking points when discussing jobs and positions. With the change of guard there are opportunities and they might just be right for one person and not right for another. That’s what makes our industry so exciting.

In the meantime I spent a fantastic weekend with the family in Scotland. I love being in Scotland and enjoy the Scots, their mentally and the fresh air. No kidding. 15 degrees, slight drizzle and some fresh sea air. Nothing beats that. Whilst you looking out of your living window, across the Black Isle, having a coffee, the peat fire on and think about the things to come, the things to accomplish. You hug your kids as they wake up. You makes sure they are happy and you think, that this is now the only thing that matters. Everything else must wait. Everything else is secondary.

I cherish those moment. The moments that fully fill that summer hole for me!

Have a great week,
Volker

Sunday Column (230)

Today my grandad would have been 105 if he was still alive. Strong headed, strong yet open minded. Very smart and great in Maths. He was someone I rate very highly. To this day and beyond.

We went on holidays, or to be precise ‘we went away’, to stay with my MIL (Mother in law) for two weeks. So it was more a change of scenery than real holidays as I continued to work during that time. I got loads done but also spend loads of time with the kids and enjoyed some time off. So almost perfect…

I took my own espresso machine and had great food, drink and fun. Not least at a wedding we went to. And almost daily I spoiled myself with some good food and/or indulgence 😉 Holidays.

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Some nights or mornings we tried to all cuddle up in one bed. The boys enjoyed having me around all the time.

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And we went to a forest adventure park which the boys enjoyed too. Crazy to think that Scotland was once almost completely covered with those trees and woodland. Amazing. Overall the scenery, the outdoors in Scotland, are amazing. Rough terrain yet subtle colours. With the sun shining through the clouds or clouds throwing shadows on the purple coloured hills. I love it!

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The wedding was a great laugh and it was good to see some old friends again and win some new ones. Some people we haven’t seen for almost 10 years, or even longer. 12 years since I left Germany! I met with fraternity brothers and old school buddies alike. It was really nice to catch up with everyone. And this seemed to be wedding number three that my wife and I instigated, so better watch it LOL.

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Then there were two days in Rogart, an hour and a half on the train, then a night in a retired 1st class carriage. It is called Sleeperzzz and has retired carriages with beds, kitchen, shower and loo as well as an old bus and circus bus/wooden carriage. A great little village with no 3G reception (imagine me) but openBT wifi reception on a pathway between 3 houses on the way to the playground. We had a great family time and two very excited and exhausted boys.

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Last but not least we were lucky with the traffic and made it home in good time on Saturday, after spending another night in a hotel in Preston. The boys loved the sleep over, were amazed by a hotel and we got a good rest before setting off at 5.30 am. This way the boys slept most of the way.

We also managed to hit the 60,000 mile-stone. I love our Seat Alhambra, it serves us well and gives us plenty of space for our rear facing car seats and plenty of stuff we had to take back home from the MIL. No further comments on the latter.

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Next week will be busy. Lots to catch up on, lots of people to catch up with. New routines, better diets and my own bed again.

Welcome home. Have a great week.

Volker

Sunday Column (74)

As of the last two weeks, our wee family has been on holidays. Hence I am not sure where to start. Maybe with a family picture taken in Skye:

We took our XC90 from London up to Scotland on a few hundred, or more over 2,000 miles stretch. Whilst it took almost 2 hours to get out of London, the rest of the journey up North was ok. We drove from London all the way to Paisley outside Glasgow. From there we drove up to Skye the next morning where we spend the weekend with a really good friend who really spoiled us and hit off the holidays nicely. On Monday we went to Dingwall where my wife is from, and from there we drove up to Orkney for the remainder of the week. We stopped at a few distilleries on the way and had a fantastic time. I have to admit that I love the XC90. It is comfortable to drive, easy to drive and one feels safe in it both for us but also, and more importantly, for Colin. The idea of a rear facing car seat and the decision to buy a car that fits those requirements was definitely right. However, being on Orkney, a warning light came on that there is something wrong with the transmission. A local garage checked it and it seemed to have been a wrong signalling from the sensor. Never mind, just getting the car checked every now and then seems to be an expensive hobby 🙁 So far the car has costs more than anticipate, given the size of the engine it also eats on insurance and tax. We shall see how much use we make of it over the next 12 months. Having a family and being able to have a car at our discretion is important and helps a lot. Unfortunately, we don’t have the option to downsize due to the car seat and size of ourselves. And actually, I love “the machine” 😉

And Colin was great too. I finally got time to spend whole days with him. He was ok driving too, and I had a fantastic time being with him in every aspect of his day. It even went as far as that Colin cried when I left the room. Now I know how it feels to be a “mum” 🙂 He took his first steps just before we left London, however being in Skye he walked for at least 15 steps. At the end of the holidays he is walking properly, and he also looks very cute pulling up his shoulders when walking 🙂 His interaction is more fun and he starts tidying things up. At his great auntie Sally’s home he spent all evening tidying away cloth pegs. He also laughs so much. The only draw back of a long journey and the sight seeing is that Colin fell asleep in the car and we had to wake him up every 30-45 minutes to stop somewhere and do some more sight seeing. You felt sorry for him being fed up with being driven and pushed around, so we made sure we put a few hours play into our daily routine in either granny’s house or the local play areas. I managed to spend most mornings in the second week playing with him, and we had great laughs. He is so much fun to be around. I fully enjoy being a dad and seeing my son grow up. We got so many compliments from people of how handsome he is too 🙂 He is really taking after me!

The picture above was taken in Skype, below are the Churchill Barriers where you can still find wrecks of the boats that sank in the 2nd World war at Scapa Flow.

The first week we went to Orkney on a 90 minute boat journey and spend almost a whole week there. Jen’s family on her father’s side is from Stromness and the person in the garage where we got the car checked out was related to a Clouston too. A small world/island. So we met some aunties of which one had a dog. Colin took some time but ended up loving the dog and play with her. That was fantastic to see him engaging with animals outside his comfort zone. We visited some historic sites like the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae, Maes Howe, St. Magnus Cathedral, Churchill Barriers, Scapa Flow, and the Italian Chapel. You can google them all yourself, but Jen put a very nice programme together. Funny enough Colin’s godfather and his wife were on the island at the same time we were, so we met them too, mainly to see the Highland Park distillery. That was a bit disappointing as they outsource quite a bit of work to the mainland, e.g. the Highland Park Whisky is not 100% made in Orkney 🙁

Orkney is one of those places you automatically fall in love with. So was Skye and the Westcoast. But whilst Orkney is rather cold and windy, the light makes the environment come out in various colours and let’s the island show off its beauty. I find it nicer than Skye personally, although I could imagine living in either of them. However, that wouldn’t be before retirement age unless Talisker or Scapa distillery would offer me a job 😉 It really brings up our current discussion on where we want to bring up children, where we want to live etc. Maybe the UK, maybe Scotland comes back on the decision matrix?

Now I have written a bit about the whiskys. I got some “Distiller’s Edition” of Talisker, Clynelish, and Lagavulin (I know it is an Islay Whisky but they all belong to the Diageo Group which now owns 26 distilleries of the over 80 in Scotland). On the way back to Dingwall we stopped at my most favourite Whisky Distillery in the Highlands: Dalmore. I treated myself to one of the last two bottles of Dalmore MacKenzie 1992 they had sitting about. Ach well, I can either keep it for Colin and by then the bottle might be worth above £1,000, or I can enjoy it. The choice might be clearer than I originally thought 😉 Hence we actually tasted this “golden nectar” with a good family friend in Dingwall.

From the second weekend of the holidays, we stayed with the Mother in Law in Jenny’s home town, Dingwall. We attended yet another wedding where, although we only spend the evening there, I managed to get quite tipsy 😉 Also, we met with good friends from our time in Aberdeen in Inverness. Most have families now, so it is weird to be all “grown up”, seeing them with children (and vice versa I suppose), meeting at places where the kids can play, seeking child friendly places. I still find it difficult to comprehend that I am not “mummy’s boy” any more, not being looked after, not going to university or school with no or little responsibility.

Having some time off, I had lots of time to reflect and think where I am in life and where to go. Jenny and I have many ambitions, plans and ideas but we both agree that we need to focus on where we get the best in life for our children. It is about opportunities for my career, for our children’s education and the society our children grow up in. But it is also about happiness, environment and the combination of all of those factors above. The future will tell, and Scotland is not out of question for a place to settle down at some stage in life….at the latest when I retire 😉 Then I might be smoking cigars similar to the one you see on the “snapshot” my wife took of me on the ferry crossing. Daddy Cool I guess – just being me, being on holiday 🙂

I think that finalises our two weeks holidays, but of course a final and first game of golf at a lovely golf course in Fortrose. I think I might seriously consider playing golf. However, it might have been the last holiday for a while but I explain that maybe next week. Of course my wife will put more pictures up soon and share them with you. Let me know if you haven’t received them but would like to. The collection here are just a few chosen ones, but I have seen some of the ones my wife took, and they are amazing pictures. Yes, I am sure she will be starting a career in photography sometime soon 😉

Enough said. Two weeks. Thanks to modern technology I was connected to work, emails and Facebook. Should have I? Again, a question to be answered once you figured out what is the most important thing is in life. And, currently, that might just be the little fella looking around the screen of my laptop, shouting at me typing.

I better get off now.

Thanks to my wife for organising a fantastic trip and time away.

Volker

Weekend in Glasgow

Hello,

This weekend we went up to Glasgow for Karen & Lewis’ Wedding. Congratulations to you both.

It was a great weekend. Friday we enjoyed some retail therapy in Glasgow – and Glasgow is great for that. Saturday, besides the wedding, it was so great to catch up with friends I have not seen for ages.

So nice to return to a city I have not seen for 5 years, catching up with friends we have not seen for months. Weird how people develop and things change in our multicultural circle of friends.

Today is rather slow. Nice Italian food in Glasgow and picked up a bottle of Dalmore. Nice bottle of single malt! Slowly getting into Whiskey again.

Now waiting for my plane which is already delayed but hope to be home soon.

Enjoy the rest of this sunny Glasgow.