Twelve years ago, my life looked successful and positive from the outside. I had a good job as a senior supply chain director at Procter & Gamble, was paid a handsome salary, and lived in a high-end property overlooking the Singapore skyline. But something was missing. I felt unfulfilled somehow … lost and trapped. After a string of spectacularly failed relationships, with my health not the best, and ‘handcuffed’ to the golden cage of my well-paid job, I found myself in the middle of a classic midlife crisis.
SO … on May 5th, 2012, I did something to shake things up. I set out to walk 800 kilometres on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
This strenuous adventure transformed me. It broke me apart, rebuilt me, and gave me the courage to find and go my own way. One of the many transformations since then has involved quitting my stable corporate career to become a full-time executive coach.
As the result of working with my clients, I’ve discovered a variety of common challenges we seem to face in our professional and personal lives. Beginning of 2017, I wanted to understand these challenges better and share their “learnings” in the form of engaging anecdotes and stories, as presented via the format of a monthly newsletter.
Over the years, I have produced more than 75 such newsletters, with each being the product of a remarkable global collaboration. Every month my English draft is expertly and skilfully edited by Tom Wadenfels in the US. After that, it is translated into German by Christian Henkel, a gifted freelance journalist, before it is given a final check for grammar and “de Kommas” by his brother and good friend Martin. Celine Binder, based in Singapore, then publishes each newsletter on the website and via email.
The feedback on these newsletters had been quite positive and so during a walk with my friend Sebastian Michael in London, I shared with him the crazy idea of gathering them into a little book. Being a professional writer, Sebastian did not find this crazy at all and challenged me to develop an overarching storyline.
As a German mechanical engineer, I went about this systematically by creating a little ‘thumbnail’ for each newsletter and personal milestone. Then, on a cold and rainy Sunday at the beginning of 2022, I laid out all these thumbnails on the floor in our living room in London, carefully guided by Chief Enjoyment Officer (CEO) and resident housecat, Rosie.
When all the paper slips were on the floor, a flow emerged … a common thread. I saw there was something that linked the mosaic of personal experiences to the learnings presented in the newsletters: The common thread was my life.
It was my own personal journey with its knocks, transformations, and changes that was the common thread that magically wove a narrative from the seemingly unrelated newsletters. Suddenly, there was structure. I could conceive of what the book might look like, and so it was time to start writing.
With the great help of Sebastian and Christian, we churned out an English and a German book together. After I thought we were done, another good friend, Philosophy PhD and workhorse, Detlef Thiel, took a look. Initially, I struggled with his more than 250 comments, but in hindsight, it substantially enhanced the quality of the book … even though I had to rewrite part three from scratch.
We then felt ready to work on the book design. Here I got support from a friend working in publishing, linking me up with Andrea Päch and Jörg Metze, who developed an appealing concept for the book. Another good friend, published author Karen Sawrey, designed the covers, and I also got expert help from David Haviland and Stefan Kahlau, who proofread the English and German versions.
Throughout the journey of creating the book, my wife Anne has been by my side, as my biggest critic and my biggest cheerleader, keeping me going through the many ups and downs. With all this support, both the English and the German book are now inching towards publication in the coming weeks.
The title is “Go Your Own Way.” But it is essential to note the book would have never come to be if it were not for the many remarkable individuals who have helped me so much along the way. The journey felt like walking the Camino De Santiago. At times it was very challenging, hard, and hopeless. At other times, it was pleasant and fulfilling.
Like a pilgrimage or writing a book, our daily life is divided into many unique adventures, experiences, and learnings, which fold together to form our life story. For me, one of the most important things to appreciate about our life experience is that we are not alone on our journeys. There are people around us who walk with us, who can help us at times of need, and to whom we can give our own support, no matter how small that contribution might be.
My two challenges today are simple.
First, I want to ask … Who are the people who have supported you or are currently helping you on your journey? Who is there when things get tough? Who supports you no matter what? And who is out there that could do with a little help from you at this very moment? Reach out to some of these people who have been there for you and thank them. And touch base with someone who can do with a little support from you.
It’s all about making sure you and your friends never walk alone.
Second, I ask you to stay tuned until the book is finally on the market, then go out and buy as many copies for all your friends as you can :-).
I am sure this will be a wonderful Christmas present.
Watch this space!