Tag: work

Sunday Column (413)

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Friday. Around 2 pm and I am sitting on a train home. I have a half day and enjoying myself. Kind of. Light Up Hassocks awaits me. The yearly highlight of switching on the Christmas lights. I am doing the school pick up, my parents are coming. By time of posting this will all be past. It is nice to take a half day, get some initial work done, then chilling in the afternoon. Particularly at such a gorgeous day like today. It is almost too bright to work. And it is almost December too. And it got bitterly cold later on. Light up Hassocks was nice, the weekend with my parents was nice, so all good. The routine starts again tomorrow.

I summed up my life on Facebook on Friday, I thought I share it here. It sometimes feels that simple:

Ok. Left work early to attend light up Hassocks. Parade and lights and fair ground rides. Kids and parents and wife had a fab time. Feeling ripped off paying two months of pocket money on light sabres but hey, it’s for the greater good and the kids. When parents went to bed I finished off work and now reflecting on the day. Remembering the youngest saying ‘Daddy,I haven’t seen you all week and I don’t remember what you looked like’ (which isn’t true). But sometimes feels like it. And what if (not unlikely) Southern rails had had another 20 min delay on top of what they did. I would have had to have a contingency plan for pick up. I did. I didn’t need it. But I cannot trust Southern.
Doesn’t that sum up my life? Dominated by Southern (yet hey are not accountable or responsible), great friends and a full on life.
Enough for tonight. Weekend. Looking after the loved ones. Time to chill. Moaning over.

Maybe to add, a friend didn’t get home in time because his train was 40 minutes delayed. Life could be so much better without Southern, or with any reliable train service. I know I am going on about train travel but it is just so unreliable.

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Yet the week was kicking off with a media owner event. It was great, yet one thing I noticed (and no, it isn’t criticism): breakfast was from Pret. And so is most day’s breakfast if it is from a media owner or when I go into the office early, or when I have a quick snack for lunch or in between. Where is that obsession of us Brits (and want to be Brits) with Pret coming from? A quid for a decent brew of filter coffee, Apple pay accepted from day one, a sandwich for everybody’s taste, cookies that taste nice, breakfast that seems to cater for everyone and it is convenient too. Not one street corner without a Pret it seems. There is even a vegetarian one. The first one opened in 1986 and they look like a great corporate, with a CEO blog and apprenticeship schemes, organic food without additives, and used to be owned partly by MacDonalds. It’s sister company is Itsu, the up market sushi shop, which can be found most often in close proximity to a Pret. Maybe they need an agency, what a fantastic brand to work on and take to the next level. The love for standard good food seems to align us – the nation – in Pret 🙂 And I love the salmon and egg baguette for breakfast, unless I have a hungover and prefer their sausage muffins….yes, I am obsessed too 🙂

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Another phenomenon that kicked off this week seemed to be around programmatic. A few people keenly voiced their opinion on programmatic being overrated. I have said that before. Where are we with programmatic advertising? I did present that to a client too. Back in the days we were keen on having real time bidding (RTB) to make impression by impression decision making in real time via a bidder. Nowadays, we execute that and a lot more all from one single line item, highly targeted and across multiple channels. Whether that is real time or not, it is programmatic, it is traded in a programmable fashion. So what does that mean? The whole industry gets automated, and we call it programmatic – for some companies a great chance to be ‘specialists’ and to hide margins, for others it is just another acronym that confuses their clients. As a friend on Linkedin wrote this week: the bottom line is whether we answer the question what value we add to the client. And of course, this is a ‘yes we do’ or ‘no we don’t’. Yet the main differentiator is not whether we execute programmatic, but whether we know how to navigate the ecosystem, understand limitations of ‘make or buy’ and use data in a clever way to our clients’ advantage. That paired with excellent planning makes a good agency (and a few other ingredients). But this wasn’t supposed to be a sales pitch, yet my astonishment of how advertisers just cannot understand my part of the industry. So feel free to look up my Linkedin article on AI – take it with a pinch of salt – but aren’t we falling into a big trap of complicating things? And that is why some programmatic consultants still get paid a high day rate without being questioned. As you can clearly see, I am settling in well in agency land. It is time to get closer to clients and make them understand what adtech is all about!

Another theme, a red line throughout my conversations with some mentors and friends this week, suggests that there is more out there to which people and companies aspire to or should at least. As I reviewed my productivity book this week, where I am addressing those situations, I am wondering how to best help. How to best move things along vs. moving things up, vs. making the first move to take massive actions. Where I am leading with that isn’t quite obvious. I guess it is about doing your daily job and thinking beyond and taking over responsibility and accountability (spot a theme, Southern?). To perform beyond your duty and to use what’s in between your ears: no not your hair, your brain! To do what we preach and suggest to our kids. I see that across people and then across organisations. One changes the other, pushing the next. By being able to be consciously aware of what is actually happening around you, what happens in life, and how it is portrayed to you, how you portray things on the outside too. Exciting mind games, great discussions are fuelled on the back of these discussions I had this week. And it is exciting and it makes me grow and want more. I hope my book will reflect that too. And the more people I can get on board, the more exciting it gets for the journey along. It is about my 5 people I spend the most time with, they challenge me, they move me along.

And then there was the guy on the train, after a few beers, who explained to me how he works for a German bank, has an MBA, hates Brexit, worked in Switzerland and wrote a book. Lots of synergies there. We had a good yupp and catch up and I truly enjoyed speaking to him. These are those above random conversations that push you over, take over your thoughts and influence you. I might never meet the chap again, or maybe I will. But he would agree with all of the above and how you need to look in and take it beyond, and it all will fall into place eventually.

Enough of a brain-drain this week. Hope it was useful and sparked some thoughts.

Best wishes,
Volker

Sunday Column (410)

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What a week. A great week actually. Being in pitch season we worked a lot. Nothing extreme yet it was close to 60 hours. I am loving it though. Because it is fun, a great team, and a great goal. And for those who know me, if I say we worked a lot, we really did. Long hours. Early hours. Collaborative. Successful. Amazing team. One team, one dream – that’s what they say! I do enjoy my job and I mean it. Whilst I am self conscious that people in my company read my blurb, I am also conscious that this means there is an interest in my person. That is nice to know. I am no celebrity, but in my little world of online and digital marketing, people seem to know of me at least 😉 That’s not a bad thing.

Anyhow, I am due to present 5 facts about myself later on this month for the company. I am excited about it. Not that anything isn’t known about me, there will be (hopefully), some new things coming up that people didn’t know about me. I might just put them on here then too. We shall see. Every time you join a new group/job people need to get to know you. It is a chance for you to redefine yourself, and reposition yourself, but also things that other people that know you take for granted, will have to be re-established, e.g. working hard, being reliable, not being good at visuals.

Actually this week was the first week back from holidays too. An amazing week off that finished with the annual fireworks. We took the kids and they loved it. And the bonfire afterwards too. And I enjoyed it too. We as a family had a great time, and given the age of the kids now, we can do those things, go to bed a bit later and do things we could never do before. That is so nice. But of course life is changing. The wife goes back to work, so on Sunday I couldn’t take the youngest to his best friend’s party because she needed the car. Luckily we got a lift in the end. Yet another excuse to get myself the midlife crisis Jaguar. I am saving up for it!

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Not seeing the kids during the week isn’t nice, but when you see them it is more intense, which is nice again. Not sure that makes sense. Yet when I was working on a document at 6 am on Thursday and the oldest woke up and sat next to me, wanting to download his week, I couldn’t. He isn’t self conscious enough yet to mind, and enjoyed watching some TV (whilst I had my noise cancellation head phones on), but it isn’t nice. Yet, when you think you get a little bit of a rest and the youngest wakes you at 3.30 am on Friday, and you cannot go back to sleep, that’s not great either. So Friday was a bit of a struggle to stay awake and focused. You just cannot win, and I am not complaining. Having seen one of my supplier earlier in the week, he looked shattered. New borns, yes I remember them, however it is getting better. So a 4 hour night is fine once in a while. Just always happens on the wrong day 🙁

Brexit is another topic this week. Look at what is happening. The government now needs approval from parliament to trigger article 50. Wow. That’s going to be interesting. Does that mean we might not have a Brexit. It looks like the whole country now understands which consequences a Brexit might have. Are we back paddling? Hopefully we are. I have an appointment with the German embassy this coming week to get an ID card. This way I can start the process of sending off for a naturalisation to become British hopefully early next year. A lengthy process but I should be alright. I am married to a Scot. But, and I think I mentioned it before, if Scotland joins the EU and splits from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, what is going to happen? Maybe my wife has to rely on me to become an English citizen? What a mess! For the time being I am glad Brexit isn’t Brexit yet. Maybe it never comes to it, yet I am sure Britain will negotiate different terms with Europe regardless. Whatever happens, I hope I can stay and don’t have to worry.

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There wasn’t much else going on this week to be honest. Work, a bit of play, some sleep and my exercise routine. I really try to not miss my runs. Another train strike on Friday, some early days in the office. Getting shit done. I am buzzing of the thought of work. I know it’s sad, but that’s how I roll. Yet the weekend was all about the boys. To unwind, to spend time with them and make sure to make up time. Birthday parties, playing in the forest. Then again you can never make up time. But you can be more in the moment and be more with them. And they are giving back. They are enjoying to have me around for different input to their mum. We can do boys stuff 🙂 So to my earlier point, once I get a (car) toy, maybe they help me maintain a semi classic car? We shall see.

Next week is another busy one. There are a few people I would like to catch up with. I had to postpone a few meetings and lunches and catch ups due to train strikes, work and other matters. Back to a more regulated, more normal life. Nope, won’t happen, illusion. Yet that’s the game I am in now and I love being centre field. That’s where I excel.

Onwards.
Upwards.

Have a good one,
Volker

Sunday Column (406)

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It got frosty outside. The mornings are colder and you can see a nice layer of frost and fog covering the country side. Idyllic I’d say. As I start my morning commute, start writing this post, you can look at the fields and trees covered in white, cold fog. The sun starts burning holes into it as the day goes on, yet the picture is amazing. As so often I don’t get a chance to take one as we are flying past the pastures. Same as the week passes by. This week has been busy but good busy. I seem to be able to manage my work load and slowly get to grips with how things work. A few weeks in, and I enjoy my job more than ever. I feel like I have arrived, and I can move on from saying I have been weeks in the job to months in the job. It feels good.

It’s funny how your life plans out in front of you. Years of doing one thing, a change in industry, offers from the other side, then moving to the other side, further away from what you ever thought you would do….to end up closer to where you ever wanted to be. What else does life have in stock for us? What is planned? Where next? I mean, for now, I would be foolish to change anything and don’t have any ambitions to do so. But where will I be in 5 years? I have to think…but this is a long time to go. Seeing a little baby boy on Friday in the office made me think. 5 years is not a long time since my youngest (!) was filling his nappies.

Life moves very quickly. Just finishing renovating the house we remodelling our bedroom; I think we are done, yet the kids rooms are re-arranged, and before we know it the teenage posters are up and the doors shut. Let’s make use of every minute of our time with them. They are such a gift!

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How goes it? The voice of my friendly Southern Train Services station staff. Yes, those people are affected the same way we are by their company ….poor management and strikes causing grief across the organisation and commuters. On Monday someone was taken ill on a train and we shared a taxi from Haywards Heath. We as in the commuters. That was a bit of bonding, but you couldn’t blame Southern for it. You can however blame them for the poor service and three days of strike coming up next week. Will it go ahead? When do I start re-organising my trips, my exercise routine and evening appointments to make sure that those days aren’t turning into a night mare? WTF is going on – why can’t Southern sort it out. This week I found out a train was cancelled last minute to rush to the station to make my 9 am meeting. It is appalling and utterly disgusting to see a company not being able to sort out their staff and company issues. VERY poor management. Get rid of your top brass I’d say. It is not only the money and inconvenience, it is an attitude problem I have huge challenge with.

Just imagine I walked in on Monday and said to my boss ( 🙂 ) that I am going on strike…not only am I new in the job, he would hand me my P45 straight away. And rightly so. Fair enough, he treats me nicer than Southern seems to treat their staff, but that’s exactly the point. Never mind, my rant won’t help. The only thing that helps is to breathe in and out, and wonder WTF is going on. Never mind.

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Brace yourself for economic disruption. Yes, the strike is one thing, but the other one is Brexit. The pound is on an all time low. After our PM suggested the date of Brexit or article 50 being triggered to be in March 2017, the stock market lost enough money to push us down to 6th place of wealthy nations. Really? WTF. I started swearing a lot more recently. Can you tell? Do you understand why?

Article 50 will be triggered by end of Q1 next year, and then faith decides if I can stay. Why wouldn’t I? It is an insecurity, another burden. I would have until 2019. So that’s ok. By that time we might all be eligible to get American passports, who knows. No point of worrying. Despite, I am looking into Naturalisation. That means, if things go well, I should not have a problem to become a British citizen by maybe mid next year. However, the process is long, bureaucratic and time consuming as well as expensive. Patience Ballueder, patience.

In that sense I breathe in, and slowly breathe out. Time to move on and not worry about the things I cannot change anyway. Life is going to be ok. It is pretty good at the moment, not taking above into consideration 😉 I started reading Bruce Springsteen’s biography which made me revisit some old Pink Floyd and Bruce’s albums. Old times. When I had a bike and was a bit wilder than I am now. Those days I put on my biker jacket, the leather gear and just hit the road, see how far I could lean into curves and push boundaries. Crazy, yet it was nice. I sometimes wonder what it would be like today but the wifey isn’t allowing me to have bike no more. And she is probably right. No, she definitely is. So it might just have to be a smallish sports car, we shall see. I am not 40 yet.

Yet life is now. I am embracing it. Minute by minute. And I am enjoying it.

Best,
Volker

Sunday Column (405)

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I feel tired. Maybe the weather change, maybe the wine, maybe just being on the edge of winter? The fire is on, I am finalising my blog on Sunday morning. Not that it is that cold, but why not. However, I also feel full of energy. I am bursting to put more hours and effort in to get things done. Make this my world, my day, my minute. Make time work. Make this my life. Somewhat, over the last few months, I feel more in charge of what is happening than I have ever done before. This is a new but amazing feeling. As my American friends would say, I am pumped!

Beer. Football. Fun on a Saturday afternoon. Fish and chips, take away pizza and a curry. Am I turning into a Brit? No doubt I still have my German accent, yet I feel, after 15 years, things are coming together, and I am more settled than ever in this society. I love this country. Passport or not, am I turning my back on Germany? Slowly but surely I am I think. Whilst I still have my roots there, no travel is required to the fatherland at the moment, so I get little exposure to it. So maybe I am just properly settling down… nothing wrong with it, life is good, I am happy.

Brexit or not we keep investing. Hopefully into something money cannot buy, but health for my back and sanity: a new bed and memory foam mattress. A bit beyond what I wanted to spend, but I feel this is an investment worthwhile. Our first bed after uni was IKEA. The mattress lasted a few years, then it was gone. Then we had a futon mattress. 4 years, it is gone. Now a memory foam one with 8 years guarantee and 40 days return…we cannot go wrong with that one I don’t think.

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On the note of health and my wife completing her first marathon, I am getting obsessed with my Apple Watch as a fitness device. Whether to track my runs, or to see how often I stand during the day, how much I move or how well I sleep. The health app and my watch keep me right. A gentle reminder on my arm suggests to breathe, take a minute out and refocus. Nice. I need those reminders and find them useful. I remember too well that my colleagues at uni in halls of residence laughed at me, when I had my first palm pilot, and it reminded me of things. And they said, is that to remind you to breathe, Volker? I didn’t then. My device now does. I think it’s funny now. They probably don’t -) Particularly this week whilst I suffered from the evil man flu. Trying to not fall asleep in meetings and getting any sympathy of course doesn’t work, so a bit of focus on the inner self was useful.

And I am now competing with my friend Adam on performance on a daily basis. How many steps did he take? How long did he stand up? A nice competitiveness. I think my wife needs an Apple watch too. Christmas coming soon.

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Another thought this week. Whenever I start a new job I am getting consciously aware of new people reading my blog. Often I get asked, based on my bio, whether I am a Buddhist, and I guess I am. Why, I wonder, am I classifying myself as a Buddhist. And I guess the answer is relatively simple. As simple as most things in Buddhism. For me it is about the philosophy. The bit about being in control of your thoughts, to be able to help and to be a good citizen. But foremost it is the philosophy of calming your mind, being mindful and present in the moment. Focusing on the one thing that is important. It isn’t a religion for me, it is a certain commitment to be a good human being and focusing on improving my mindfulness. It is that simple really.

Being a good dad. A good father. A good husband. A good manager. I was told this week by an ex colleague of mine, that I am very good with people. A huge compliment. I love people. I love working with people, developing them. One of my biggest things. Hence I love my new job. I can so see how I can help and impact the workflow and people. I enjoy that. Yes, there are things I don’t like, but there always are some in any job. I only started and got a chance to meet the big boss this week. You know, and I would say that, meeting the founder is impressive enough, but meeting the guy who has the vision beyond your little world is impressive … Jim Rohn said to surround yourself with 5 people that help you develop. I am improving my 5. And hopefully I am to others what they are to me.

Jim Rohn. Anthony Robbins. Freedom Fast Lane. The Mentee. There are virtual mentors and instructors, coaches and helpers, yet having people in the real world that talk sense makes you feel good. Who are your 5? Who are the five people that influence you? I enjoy sitting in the middle of receiving but also giving. Helping and being helped. One grows, all together we improve and grow for a bigger purpose. I enjoy that, an environment I strive in.

Hopefully, so will my boys. I haven’t seen much of them this week but when I did, I feel like the bond is improving day by day. I want to be a good dad. A good friend and sparring partner. A coach. All their life. That is my purpose. And the only way I can achieve that is by gaining trust.

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You know, trust is key in any relationship. It takes ages to build, and once destroyed it is difficult to regain. I remember in one of my start ups they gave me the trust to be the sole account holder, I mean kind of. So, when I left, in theory they had to cut my card. They trusted me for so long, would you trust them? Yes you would. And still today you would. This is the key to any relationship. My wife, and we had a great night out on Saturday. Let’s work on that in our lives to improve the relationships we own. Let’s make time for each other, rech out and share trust and love.

I wish you well.
Have an amazing week,
Volker

Sunday Column (391)

This week’s highlight was Cannes I suppose. As every year, at least for the past 3 years, I went to the Cannes Lions where the adtech and martech industry is celebrating itself (actually it is the creative industry and we hijacked it, but that’s for another time). Lots of meeting, lots of yachts, Rose, fun, booze, dancing (not me), an Irish pub and football, good meetings and new developments. A great event. A bit too hot for my liking, national strikes on the way home, but eventually I made it back. I missed my family most of all, and whilst a lot of people think that Cannes is all fun, it is also hard work – just in a very nice (!) environment.

As a matter of fact the week was very productive. Good outcomes that should bear fruits in the near future. The only bitter taste is that last year the Uber strike made it difficult to get home. This year a national strike affecting the airport as well. Air France called off a strike. Some people got stuck. Some missed international connections. What is happening? France just doesn’t come across as a good country does it. But then….

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Then our vote on Thursday. Brexit. I was surprise hearing from someone that he voted to exit the EU. Anyone with a decent education and common sense should have voted to remain. At least this is my opinion. I awoke in shock. 52% of the country voted for a Brexit. The UK is leaving the European Union. You might have seen my comments on Facebook. I am sad. I didn’t expect that. Friends posted from Cannes that investors started withdrawing money from the UK right from 1 am, when the results pointed towards Brexit.

Where does that leave us as a family? Will we stay in this country I chose to live in and have a family? Will we move to Germany, Australia, New Zealand? What does it really mean? I have always said that history repeats itself, the European Union will come to an end at some point. I anticipated this happening via a few bankruptcies of countries and then the union deciding to unravel. Now Britain decided to leave. Scotland will now most probably leave the Great British Union, then Northern Ireland. Will we then see England being on its own?

And as is stands, a few people that wanted to ‘vote against the system’, never believed their ‘exit vote’ would count. Never mind. We just got through a recession, we are in growth mode and what we do not need is about five years of uncertainty, trouble and bad relationships with our neighbouring countries. Would, post 5 years, things get better? Maybe, but not guaranteed. Let’s face it we are better in than out. And also we don’t really symbolise as a country that we welcome foreigners and immigrants. People we need, the country needs, to fuel growth. As someone said, the people that voted to remain are the ones able to leave; whilst the ones that voted to leave won’t be able to leave and will get the brutal force of the exit. It also seems that more older people voted to exit, whilst the younger generation would have preferred to stay. Democracy I suppose: every vote counts the same.

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Some predict that five years from now we will see a better and stronger Britain. Will we? Maybe. I always say to trust in the future and that things will work out, and that the universe will sort things out. Yes, I say that. Yes, I believe it. But who is influencing it. In our own little world, it would be us. In the greater world, it might be people we cannot trust anymore. Or can we? I am shell shocked. I am feeling sick and lost at the same time. Sick of thinking that you can build something that lasts. A house, a home for the family. Build to last for 20+ years for the kids to grow up in a stable environment, for us to go to work, go on the occasional holidays and have a good life. All that was put at jeopardy now? For what gain? Or will it all come good? Will we be looking back in 5 years time and say that it was the right decision for the future of our country? Will I have a British passport by then? Might I work in Germany, living in England? I guess only the future will tell.

To early to make any rush decisions I suppose. Politicians would have to come up with answers. Quickly. We need leadership and guidance, a plan to become a great nation and to offer employment, security and stability for the people in this country, no matter what their background is. London already said they would put all wheels in motion to help people to stay; a petition to have another referendum was already signed by over 1 million people. I just hope I can stay … will be made welcomed (again) but according to the legislation, after the next two years, I might not be eligible to stay. I was crying. I was in tears watching the news. I didn’t expect this. And I have the responsibility (with my wife) to bring my children up in a country with opportunity and in a stable and secure environment. The next year or so will show whether or not Britain can continue to deliver that. Or England as it looks atm, given Scotland’s looming referendum.

The dust will settle and hopefully settles quickly.
All will be good in the end I suppose. I shall and will not panic.
I don’t believe I ever have to leave the country, probably easily get a passport, but do I want to stay in the long term?

Let’s change the topic:

As you know I am writing a lot on productivity and life life balance. There was an article I read this week about why do we work so hard. A rather long article but well worth a read. Mark Zuckerberg originally shared it on Facebook. It gave some insights on our love for hard work. Quote: “It wasn’t the stress of being on the fast track that caused my chest to tighten and my heart rate to rise, but the thought of being left behind by those still on it.”

Is it perception that drives us? Is it what others think?

Having been, more than ones, in difficult emotional situations, I realise that most of what makes us worry, makes us think, flight or fight, is based on our thoughts. Our brain wiring. Coffee or alcohol can accelerate your thinking and emotional stress. Constant input from emails, tasks to finish, things to do, to remember etc etc. brings strain upon us. We don’t want to fail and want to be winning! Being available all the time and not being able to wind down will become, naturally, challenging for ‘human kind’. If I say human kind, I say that with a distinct thought that we must start to relax more often, take breaks, evaluate what is happening. We should not be constantly available and rely on people getting back to us via emails.

Whilst I am working on my next productivity book, I see the need for disconnection. For down time. There is no way that it is sustainable, let alone productive, to be constantly connected and constantly in touch with everyone. I manage to not check emails and work related things at the weekend. Quite frankly this is down to having no time and all priority on the family. This again happened this weekend.

After being away and really missing the boys, not being able to find the key rings they asked for, I took them to the Zoo on Saturday. That was my highlight. My wife was away at the weekend, so the boys and I went on the adventure to the London Zoo. We left early in the morning, spend 4.5 hours in the zoo, walked 12,000 steps (10K) and had lots of sweets, ice cream and FUN! They were knackered. They loved it. They had a fab day and I didn’t have to shout once. Being able to fulfil their needs and care about them, is fantastic. The possibility to engage with them, bonding and creating shared experience. We missed mummy of course 😉

I hope you had a great weekend too.

Enjoy the time you have with your loved ones and with the ones that are dear to you. Uncertain times ahead, yet let us hope that things will always work out in the end. Because they will.

Have a good one,

Volker

Sunday Column (382)

Last week started on Sunday when I flew to Germany. I piggy-backed a long overdue trip onto a trip to some clients in Frankfurt. Frankfurt is not only a pain to fly to (Heathrow only), there aren’t that many companies in our industry. It has been 18 months since I have been and stayed one day this time to then train it to Düsseldorf. Germany is very scattered when it comes to big cities and there are important people in each one of them. I guess it keeps it interesting.

A bit of travel is essential to cover ground in Germany. One of the few countries without a centralised city for media, not like Paris/France, Milan/Italy, Madrid/Spain and of course London/UK. My next trip to Germany is Berlin in a few weeks time. That again will be from Gatwick, which is a lot easier. It seems that Easyjet changed their flight plan and doesn’t fly to some cities I need to go to. That means a long taxi drive to Heathrow.

On the note of train travel in Germany: my annual travel card from Hassocks to London, which I renewed this week, costs more than a travel card to use the train all over Germany for a year. On first sight my ticket seems like a rip off. Discussing it with people, it seems that Germany subsidises train travel and given you pay almost double on tax, this explains how it works. Guess every country has its pros and cons.

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I seem to hate flying out on a Sunday. It seems like I am cheating on family time but luckily this happens only a couple of times a year. Particularly as I got a good engagement going with the boys, playing chess and doing homework. We had a fantastic weekend.

However the meetings we had were awesome. The industry is very responsive to our solutions and we are pivoting. It is nice to see we offer innovation in a crowded market space and drive business forward. What is not to like?

My Hilton in Dusseldorf was a bit unliked by me. We got to a personal chat with the Operational head and a make good. Actually curious to meet him in person now 😉 He seems very much switched on. Next time. First unhappy Hilton stay so far. That’s a better track record in comparison to IHG. Let’s see how the next three Hilton stays stack up. Being away from home you want to have a good bed and a good service, a good place to stay and most of all, value for money. When staying in a very low frill hotel the other day, it ticked all the boxes. Yet, it didn’t come at the price tag of a Hilton. Same is true when we travel, as a family we go into a Premier Inn for the night. Anyway….I keep you posted, no doubt.

Overall it was a very successful trip. Definitely worth while with some very challenging and good discussions with industry leaders. Just the way I like it.

Work is very interesting at the moment. We are, as a company, innovating a lot around cross device data points. That and us playing in the biggest offline silo, TV, and the most engaging online silo, Social, leads to some interesting developments. It’s going to be exciting over the next few months.

My wife ran another race. I am very proud of her. She managed to hit her anticipated time. She also signed up to more runs. I am a bit afraid I would get addicted if I start signing up to races. Hence I am still refusing to join races but the one in July running a 24 hour relay race over the distance of 10K. Despite my exercises I seem to be putting on weight. Not a lot to be honest but it seems to be creeping up. So this week I have done a few more runs than normal. 30K and 45 minutes Cross Trainer. That resulted in the weight being down again but I was exhausted on Friday.

beard

For the matter of weight I need to look into my diet again. A few client lunches and boozing sessions with lots of finger food and crisps seem to take its toll. That of course is fair enough so I shall try to cut down on those wasted calories of nuts and crisps. Also I am wondering if this high fat diet, having a ham and cheese omelette every morning, is the best idea. I guess I need to do more research. If you look up athletes’s diets they eat ‘normal’ with focus on veggies, carbs prior to events and fruit as well as protein. Yet they never mention chocolate, cashew nuts or crisps as part of their diet 🙂

You only live once I guess 🙂

I am buzzing this week. Overall. The challenge is our bathroom. The tiles just don’t seem to be on there right. Uneven in any of the three directions. The builder keeps trying. I am hopeful we get there in the end. Quite a stressful experience. But for now, it was weekend. Time to chill.

Last but not least I decided to grow a beard this week, then took it off again. I just don’t seem to be able to decide on the right look. And the right itch. The right format of beard. Off again for now….we shall see.

The joys of life. Hope yours is going well.

Best wishes,
Volker

Sunday Column (363)

This week was far from slow going. It started with the little one’s nativity play in which he was a donkey. I loved his outfit, yet his role was all but sitting around doing nothing. He loves acting and in years to come I see him taking on more prominent roles. Just the opposite from what his brother is like when it comes to performing.

On Tuesday I went to a meeting outside London for a big presentation, to come back to our official Christmas party. I stayed over in London, in one of the posher hotels, which didn’t fail to disappoint. It is a shame how hotels in London get away with being so tourist oriented and less service oriented. Not good advertising for the tourists that come over.

lucky happy

Never mind, we had a great night out at one of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants, amazing food and fantastic chats. It is always a pleasure to meet the founder of the company and talking shop. Having said that, it is nice to also not talk shop but about experience, family, and life overall. Working for smaller companies and start ups is great as there is a real connection between the top and the bottom. Not that I consider myself the latter, but speaking about it in a general sense 😉

Not to say it was a rather calm night, but I was on my best behaviour. Some bug is pestering me for a while, and I have been ‘under the weather’ really. So Wednesday passed quickly and Thursday saw another Christmas play. This time it was the eldest play which I truly enjoyed. Off to work, a few meetings, lots of things to take care of and finishing off with a rather busy Friday. Wow.

It is a diary this week really. Not wanting to get into politics but this Donald Trump guy .. anyway, don’t get me started.

More amusing, or not, is a video of myself. My old search agency I used to work for 8 odd years ago, asked me to talk about programmatic, about TV data and made the following video about me:

Volker talking TV Data.
Let me know what you think. I believe I need to work on my eyebrows and my paleness a bit 😉

Saturday closed with a lovely Christmas party we hosted for a few of our friends. However, we went for a ‘Santa Run’ in the morning which really was a 400 m run for the kids and they loved doing it and getting a medal. Having done my 20K this week (2x10K to be precise) on the treadmill, and the treadmill needing a repair, I took it easy at the weekend and didn’t join further running. We went ice skating though, and luckily to our earlier attempt last week which was more a lido than an ice rink, it was really good!

We are getting closer to Christmas. Most presents are bought, most things organised. Work is still very busy and will be for a while, but come the 24th, I cannot wait to sit back, raise a good glass of red and cheer to a very successful year. I consider myself lucky. I consider myself happy.

Happy Holiday Season,
Volker

Sunday Column (362)

This week saw the start of the Syrian war, the time when Britain decided to attack the terrorism in Syria. I am not very political but I remember, as a teenager, to listen to the 6 am news one morning, that the US announced to go into war with Iraq. It must be 20+ years ago. I am still not sure if the world is a safer or better place since. I cannot make those decisions and will just accept things as they are. However, as of discussion with a fellow father, what are we leaving for our kids to be sorted. Essentially we have been at war with terrorism for more than 20 years, right? It is a different war to the world wars. That’s for sure. But isn’t war war?

Another of my lowlights this week was an early morning start. Not because it was early but more because it was early out of the door. And surprisingly to me, when you catch a 6.13 am train from Haywards Heath it is ram packed. That’s a 5.53 am from Hassocks btw. Crazy. No way you can work or get anything done. So I started writing this blog post on my phone 🙁 I am getting too used to be able to get a good hour of work done on the commute each way.

What followed that day was awesome. A really well attended panel discussion, 8 am breakfast meeting, delivered by a few people on the convergence of social and TV. Digital and TV. And it is coming together. Finally. We are far from connecting the dots but we are getting there. I am excited for next year. As the industry evolves, so does the attribution, the connection of the silos and the cross device connection. And we are in the middle of it. Amazing.

tidsoptimist

Then my wife called me a Tidsoptimist this week. What’s that? Oh someone thinking they have more time than they do. And because of that they are late for things. Time, as it seems to me, expands. But it doesn’t. It is the same for everyone. It all started when I worked for a company that made meetings with agencies. I arrived in time and realised that 9 out of 10 meetings started 10-15 minutes late. So I started being 10-15 minutes late, to make my work flow more efficient. In London you can always blame the tube.

Having said that, even when moving closer to my clients, I was still late, as there was always something to finish off taking only a minute. And none of my clients mind, as it seemed to be the norm. I have gotten better again now, as the meetings become more senior. After all, I am still trying to leave a positive impression 🙂 So nothing to be proud of, just I get a lot more done really.

On another note I published another article on productivity. Whilst writing my next book chapters I realise that being productive is actually not that difficult. I also realised there had been one advice I got in 1997 that is still true today: only plan 70% of your time. As soon as you step over that red line something will be left undone. This is because you are having to account for the unexpected. For the unknown. The incoming pitch, the email from your neighbour to help or the information about something you need to action on.

Days sometimes don’t feel busy but turn out to be quite manic. And also over the summer I had little time to breathe and think. Sounds mad but if you don’t have time to think, things will be missed. So give yourself time to think, to breathe, stare out of the window and come up with some cool ideas.

We also managed to get all out Christmas presents ordered. The tree is up and cards sent. We went to Winchester to see a friend and his family. Christmas is all about the children. I totally enjoy looking at last year’s Christmas pictures, and the ones before, to see the glow in the kids’ eyes when we put up the tree. The future, the love, the activities, anything we do, is about the children. And then there is Syria.

It is a bit of a damper for Christmas. However, we decided to give some money to a charity supporting a child that got cancer and the hospital he is in for which they collect money or unused toys to give to the kids for Christmas. Isn’t that nice. Nice to give. Nice to be able to make other kids’ Christmas as special as our own.

No, life for me isn’t about myself. My job is for myself, and my goals. But the greater things in life, they are about the children. And they are who really matter in life. Everything else is just not as important. No matter what it might be at the moment. If you are with your kids, the only thing that matters is them. If you are with clients and something happens to your family, everyone understands if you had to cancel a meeting. It is everybody’s first priority. It took me a few years to learn that too.

We had a blessed and great week overall. Despite some lowlights. We also had plenty of Christmas lights and sparkle!

We are truly grateful.

Love to you all,
Volker

Sunday Column (315)

How has your week been?
How often did you hug your kids this week and tell them that you love them?
How often did you have the fire on, sat back and enjoyed the atmosphere in your living room – your home?

I did that a lot this week.
I also invested in a few new apps, optimising the set up of my MacBook Air. I am, after getting an external screen, now fully equipped to own a productivity machine at home rather than a ‘laptop’. New 2do app and SimpleMind mind-mapping will increase my productivity, making me less dependent on my iPad and having all tools in one place. I am pleased. My new post on productivity over at Linkedin is doing well. I got a lot done this week!

Also, this week started with great news. If the official confirmation will happen tomorrow, I was tested for some potential “illness” which of course I didn’t believe I had. Yet it had been a roller coaster ride, thinking “what if” and “what would happen to the family”. It makes you think, and gladly it came out this way. Maybe it was too premature to assume anything, but one has to check things out. I don’t think it was ever that dramatic, or I was ever really considering the option that anything bad would happen, but it was on my mind. It eats into your thoughts and it does affect your everyday thoughts. Yet it is over now, it is, and tomorrow I should get the official “all clear”. I am grateful.

And given all those videos on Facebook and elsewhere, showing how people don’t help other people that need help made me think too. I finished Anthony Robbins’ latest book on finance and investing and he finishes it off in terms of: ‘make a difference and help others if you can’. He started to pay for other people’s Thanksgiving dinners. Now he is paying for and helping millions of people get fed. Take a massive action to make this world a more positive place. Today. NOW!

Take massive action

What did I learn, thinking about the scenarios? I learned how to prioritise family. How to be with the family more. More intensive and giving them more attention. Putting my phone and distractions aside. How to cherish the moment, and how to enjoy life. Yet did I really? Yes, it made me think a whole lot and I am improving. I make sure I am. You know when you think of this lottery win, what you would buy and what you could do with the money? One is going on a similar “mind ride” yet less positive. And the lottery win as anything else might never happen, but you never know either.

I don’t think I am a better human because of it, and I don’t want to overdramatise things at all. Yet I like to think that the possibility of not being there in the future, so soon, gave me food for thought.

The rest of the week was less eventful. To be honest, I could do with a week that wasn’t. The first week for months without travel, without back to back meetings and a more relaxed atmosphere at work. It is nice to be able to take it easy-ish for a week 😉 More travel again next week.

My knee after some running two weeks ago is still sore. I had enough todo at work, attended lots of client meetings, a conference and followed up on a lot of stuff. Yet it was nice to not have to work 24/7 for a week and managing to see the family a lot.

At the weekend we had a spontaneous visit from the family: my cousin and husband were here. We also went for a forest educational walk organised by the friends of my oldest’ school. It is nice to be involved in the community and feel at home in the village. A new car tyre, a chat with the local Scots and pulled pork and wine was just what I needed. Not being able to run makes you sluggish but I hope to be back up and running (literally) very soon.

Next week is already the last week of March. This quarter, as aforementioned, really flew by. It is good, I love what I am doing and there are lots of prospects moving forward. 2015 is going to be amazing.

Take massive actions NOW. Don’t waste time thinking about doing good. Just do it. We are here to make a dent in the universe, start somewhere today.

Have a great week,
Volker

Sunday Column (314)

Is it Friday yet?

The week started with me wanting to order some shoes from Marks. After they apologised for their mistake, I got a voucher I wanted to put towards some new shoes. The order was marked as despatched and I was hoping to get it this week. An email, a call and a few more annoyed days later, no shoes as once of a sudden they were out of stock. After they were sent? Never mind, back in stock in a few weeks time….

Now, the official week started with work in Hamburg. The red eye to Hamburg on Monday morning, meetings, preparation, work, long evenings, a conference, more long hours in the hotel room, abrupt changes, more meetings, networking and so on. You get the picture. Just a normal business trip. Great to connect to the online industry in Germany again, meeting old and familiar faces. It has been a good and successful trip, and that is great. I arrived home rather tired on Wednesday night yet somewhat satisfied with the progress.

Travel is a lot at the moment and probably I am living through the busiest Q1 of my career. Not ever do I remember a quarter being that full on from Monday after Christmas to the end of March. It is a good sign. Recovery of the global crisis, an interest in TV Data and TV Sync. I am very excited about the space I am working in, gladly contributing to the strategy and direction for our product in Europe.

Hamburger Binnenalster

So things are good. The family is good too. Speaking to so many people that week I haven’t seen for a long time; it is good to connect, see what familiar faces are up to and how we can cooperate. It is a small industry, many friends and good camaraderie. I so enjoy the space I am working in and cannot repeat it often enough. This must be better than any other industry. It just has to be. And, I am allowed to be part of it too!

Enough about work, really 😉 Then again I saw the family too little this week. I miss them when I travel and I look forward to a week in London next week. It has been busy but Easter in sight, there is a break to look forward to. My camera lens from my iPhone broke a while ago. I figured something wasn’t right and then remembered my youngest throwing it down the stairs and me dropping it quite a few times. Luckily I am due an upgrade sometime soon…in July 🙁 And there was mother’s day. Hurray!

My weight training, physio and exercise along with my weight loss is going well. If we are connected on Facebook you know that I lost just over a stone (7 kg) since Christmas. How did I do that? I foremost started drinking less. I even managed the conferences and networking in Germany without alcohol as they kindly provide alcohol free beer. Not drinking when travelling is kind of hard but possible. I run 2 times 10K a week. This is to keep fit rather than losing weight. So the key are two things: one is to do weight training 4 times a week and then to eat less overall. No snacking on nuts and chocolate unless you have a bad day. Chocolate is a treat now really. Then no more nuts and seeds during the day but bananas. I eat up to 5 bananas a day. Whilst lunch is normal, yet no bread (another key to weight loss), I eat little at night: cracker-bread/Ryvita with humous, an egg or two, some olives or gherkins. That means I have enough energy during the day, I am not hungry at night and won’t put on weight. With less alcohol consumption one doesn’t have to worry about the amount of food one eats, as there isn’t the need to fill the stomach lining before a night out.

Let me know if you have any questions or need advice. I still need to learn to eat a bit more about food for when I am travelling or I am at conferences, to not fall over 😉 But overall I am doing well and will continue the above routine. It is all about habit and making it work, a bit of will power and consistency. But don’t beat yourself up, something I tend to do and get all fussy about what to eat. Particularly not eating bread is difficult.

Now that’s all for the week. May you have a fantastic week ahead. I am sure I will, only travelling my usual 3 hour commute per day. With Monday being my wfh day, so will be able to catch up of this rather eventful week.

Have a good one.

Cheers,
Volker