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As athletes become older, they develop a keen sense of pacing themselves. Roger Federer used to run out every ball, tried to make every shot. Now 37 years old, he’s careful when to go after the ball. He makes a conscious decision when to engage in a long rally.

Whether it’s Roger Federer, a marathon, a project, a speech or life: the ability to pace yourself is a marker of experience. And the key to long-term success. A good concert doesn’t go into top gear from the first second and keeps going at the same speed. You can’t turn up the volume first thing in the morning and keep it up without tiring out yourself and your environment.

A sense of urgency is important to get things done but it needs to be aligned with the ability to pace yourself and be ready for a quick burst of energy when it really matters.

 

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The people that change your thinking, the ones that energize you, the unicorns that make you dig deeper, think harder and work with more passion…the people that transform a conversation, invigorate you, the ones that make you better.

Cherish these people. Do anything in your power to keep them around.

They are a gift to you. And there are only a few you will ever encounter.

Sure, you’ll be totally ok without them. But without them, you are not as good as you could be.

Why would you not cherish them?

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People love to hear the same thing over and over again. Just ask my daughter. She must have heard Drake’s ‘God’s Plan’ at least 5,000 times. And I heard it 4,987 times. At least.

To make an impact you have to repeat yourself. When you repeat yourself, you are more likely to become known for what it is you repeat.

People feel smart when they know what you’re going to say. They are the insiders.

The outsiders want to become insiders and need repetition to achieve this.

Seth Godin quotes Jay Levinson in his latest book:

“Don’t change your ads when you’re tired of them. Don’t change them when your employees are tired of them. Don’t even change them when your friends are tired of them. Change them when your accountant is tired of them.” 

Understood?

Or do I have to repeat myself?

 

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It’s launch day. Excitement is in the air. Many customers sign up. The early adopters, the ones that try out everything, the ones waiting for your product. The low-hanging fruit.

Some stick around, others leave. There’s always something new, something more exciting, dopamine hits are addictive.

It’s reality check time. The remaining early adopters are not enough to keep your company afloat. And the remaining 99.9% of your prospects are hard to reach. It takes time, deep insights, money and a lot of sweat to get them on your side.

Two options: You stay on the dopamine path and continue to innovate, bring new stuff to the market. You will stay small, it will be fun but it will also be exhausting. Just like a wandering circus.

Or, you stay where you are. Turn your best customers into your brand ambassadors, don’t buy influence, work for it, overdeliver. Be committed to the audience and stay put. Develop roots in the community and let the community work for you. Be such an anchor in the community that people can’t live without you and will convince others. Less fun but much more rewarding. And the only way to grow, change behavior and culture.

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It’s easy to get nostalgic about being a father. 6 years ago in Vietnam when she was mesmerized by her book after a long swim. The cute pictures when she was small, front teeth missing, the little fingers.

In this fragmented world, we have to work together to find things we both enjoy. Oddly, football is one of these things. Especially the German team in big tournaments. Last year, when they deeply disappointed, we kicked a few minutes before matches, got ice cream and chatted. And we found new favorites: Belgium, Croatia. Yup, they all disappointed in the end. That’s how football life goes.

Our weekly Saturday trek to the Farmers Market where we end up chatting about everything and I learn more about her life in 2 hours than in one week of asking at dinner how her day was.

In general, men are better enhancing relationships side by side, doing things together than sitting down face to face. Or maybe it’s just me.

It’s even more important for me being a father. I don’t care where we go on vacation, I’m more concerned to spend time with her, just being there without the daily “How was school?” “It’s 9.30, you need to go to bed.” nonsense. The older they get, the harder it becomes to keep the communication channels open. They tend to clog up with daily angst, emotions and minor resentments.

Doing things together, that’s where relationships are made, fortified and enhanced. It might be an interesting brand positioning for an athletic brand. Less about achievement, more about relationship building.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. We had a few hours to kill and I asked her if she could help me clean the boat. We worked together for an hour, scrubbed and cleaned. We achieved something together. After all that hard work, we had ice cream, watched an amateur cycling race and were discussing where to take the clean boat the next day. I couldn’t have asked for a better Father’s Day.

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The things we love the most are frail. So easily broken and crumpled. The balances in our lives are so delicate, the difference between happy and distraught so slight, the stay on this earth so short. We know of this frailty but we don’t appreciate it enough. We tend to live like we have a plan without knowing the universe really has the plan and we are just short-term travelers. While we know of this frailty in us, we don’t appreciate it enough in others. How much they struggle, how much they feel like crumpled petals.

Last night I went to a Herbert Groenemeyer concert (Germany’s biggest rock star and musical artist) and the lyrics to “Mensch” touched me deeply:

and it’s, it’s ok
everything is on its way
and it is apparent time
unclouded and easy
and the human is called human
because he errs and because he fights
and because he hopes and loves
because he sympathizes and forgives
because he forgets
because he represses
and because he raves and believes
leans and trusts
and because he laughs
and because he lives
you are missed
He wrote this song after his wife died young, dealing with grief and children at home in desperate need of his support and belief that everything will be ok.
It was a beautiful moment when 15,000 people sang the lyrics, all little petals with hopes, fears and tragedies. Everybody just looking for nourishment through love and empathy. All in that moment. A moment that will never happen again. We sang through our frailty and individual desperation. And it was more than ok.

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We had plans who we wanted to become when we were children. I wanted to be a pilot, a surgeon, Jesus (don’t ask) and German Chancellor. Suddenly, life takes over. Energy is used to manage life and you become more focused on incrementally improving what exists than creating something that doesn’t exist at all.

And, then you lose sight of exactly who you want to be. It becomes a story to tell your friends (“Can you imagine, I wanted to be surgeon at one point?”) Another beer and you forget about it. You stall.

That’s a nagging realization I’ve been dealing with for a while. And you ask yourself: Is this the best I can be? Or, is there a better me that I want to become?

Life becomes so much easier once you know who you want to be. You can craft a plan, make choices who to meet, what you need to learn, what skills you might have to perfect.

You have a problem when you don’t know who you want to be. You are just floating, relying on fate and luck. You will get by, you might even be successful. But you are never going to become who you want to be if you don’t deal with the constant push, the constant resistance. You might want the world to work a certain way but the world is strong and will push back. And you need to keep going, no matter what. I guarantee you will give up if you are uncertain who you want to be.

Here’s a secret I want to share with you: You will grow older (if you’re lucky and healthy), over time you will become irrelevant, your views outdated, you will die and you will be forgotten.

That’s the plan of the universe.

What is your plan?

Vernon Johns said: “You should avoid hedging, at least that’s what I think. You should be ashamed to die until you’ve made some contribution to mankind.”

Let’s get to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For the last few years, I replaced New Year’s Resolutions with One-Word Intentions. It feels more valuable to have an intention as a guide for the year.

2019 will be the year of depth.

The real magic happens when you focus, do deep work and don’t get distracted by the outside world, trying to capture your attention.

Real moments with your family and friends happen when you are in the moment.

It’s deeper than screens down or limiting your social presence. It’s letting go of optimization and focusing on transformation. It’s about contentment with the path, not getting to perfect. Deeply exploring opportunities, emotions and realities. And it’s about being present.

The vision for 2019 is to go deep through experiences, conversations, life, and work – delving into what really matters and what really makes a difference. This will be my journey for 2019. What will be yours?

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The role of a teacher is a challenging one. The teacher has to think on her feet. She must understand the different levels of knowledge, emotional readiness and required processing of information to make her students successful. Some people are better at this than others.  The good teacher knows the answers to questions that could be found in a couple of Google searches. But those well-worn answers are not the ones that transform a good learning experience into a great one.

A gifted teacher will offer answers to the questions that the student hadn’t thought to ask. She will empathize, anticipate and delight—going out of her way to be creative and do work she’s proud of—just because she can.

It’s possible in every job to learn your lines, stick to the script and offer the required solution. Nobody will question your competence if you show up on time, put in the hours and don’t make mistakes. But the work that’s most appreciated and valued now isn’t simply the compliant or the competent—it’s the creative work you do, not because it’s required, but because you can.

 

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Shane Parrish, author of the highly recommended Farnam Street blog, had a great post  about defensive decision making – the type of decision making that focuses on what “looks right” vs. what “is right.”

Defensive decision making is the “IBM” option. Since “no one got fired for buying an IBM,” it is intended to protect the decision maker. Organizations can often create a massive decision-consequence asymmetry in that they become so risk-averse that most decisions come with small upside if they go well and large downside if something goes wrong (e.g. get fired).

The natural reaction is to just make the “default” decision. Nobody has to worry about their reputation and negative outcomes can be easily defended. That’s why so many companies ask their stakeholders to think outside of the box but rarely implement any of those ideas.

And, that’s why culture is more important than hiring the right people. In general, smart people prefer to choose solutions that are right. But it requires the nudge of a culture that incentivizes attempting decisions that are right instead of rewarding those that look right.