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Archive for the tag “small gestures;”

Multiple ways how not to put the odds in your favor

Multiple ways how not to put the odds in your favor Smaller FB

Putting odds in your favor is typically fairly straight forward. All it takes is a little self-awareness and opening your senses as to what else is going in and around your life. What better way than to illustrate this point with stories of mine when that did not go so well for me. I think you will catch the drift of what better choices I should have made.

How to not put odds in your favor:

  • Not changing the engine-timing belt as per the operating manual of a Subaru GL with close to 100k miles on it. This was topped off with a trip with business friends from another country and going to Atlantic City in the winter. W had a great time – at first. The breaking of the belt and the immediate engine failure followed by a 2 mile hike back to AC on the Parkway has made for great stories, but they were a great pain in the romp.
  • While embarking to visit a friend in Southern Germany I was checking a roadway map in an overtired state. I drifted to the side of the road and then hit the roadside markers, crossed a four-lane highway because of losing control over car and trailer in tow, went down an embankment, rolled over, and then crashed into a fence. Only forward thinking moment here was that I wore a seat belt.
  • I went down a familiar local road leading to a river, but I forgot that the river is flooded turning the car into a k. Well, my car floated only for a minute or two before it bottomed out and then I found out that the water does not leave the car as fast as it had entered. Result: windows needed to be de-iced inside and outside due to the high moisture content and the winter weather.
  • Fixing the transmission on the car requiring mounting the front wheels again after finishing the repair. I forgot to tighten the lug nuts and leaving for a test ride without packing the car jack and the lug nut wrench. This stuff was lying in the driveway while I took my sister and self on test ride. Wheels made a terrible noise and there are only a few houses where help could be asked for. It was a Sunday morning around 9am. It made for a really awkward bell ringing.
  • Taking car and pet dog on joyride through town. Dog loved hanging out side of window while resting his head on rearview mirror. I forgot to hold on to legs in right hand turn. Dog falls out of window doing 15mph. Dog is ok and hops back in car and wants to look outside window again.
  • While on a roadtrip in Stuttgart Germany I lost my orientation and I had not checked which biggest city lies North (Autobahn road signs do not tell you whether or not you are headed N, S, E, or W). 2.5 hours later the Swiss border makes an appearance – final destination is located 180 degrees off.
  • After moving to the U.S.A. my first load of laundry turned into an adventure. I had no idea what Bleach was. That and regular detergent emit strange smoke when added together in washing machine. Laundry included my favorite 80 Dollar sweater that then looked like an experiment from a tie-dye course.
  • I installed a washing machine at home and did not pay attention to the installation warning locating and actually shutting the main water supply off before installing hoses. Hot water valve breaks and shut off was not in reach. Neither was the telephone. This happened at an apartment complex on the second floor. My thumb turned white from holding the water from coming out the valve.
  • I adjusted the idle speed governor on my riding mower with the engine running. That was a thing the manual tells you in detail not to do under any circumstances. It results in parts flying apart in engine. Fix turned out easy, but engine had to come apart.
  • I bought a new sliding door for the new to us house. During the installation process I found out that the original door had been a custom designed one leaving a 2 inch gap over top of the new door. Hmm.
  • We bought a new premium fridge at a local scratch and dent. I came home proudly with the new device just to find out that it would not fit in the space of the old one. Upper cabinets were ok to stay put, but the lower one neededl.;l.l. to be moved.
  • How many examples can you think of where you did not put the odds in your favor?

While there are many more examples where I did not make sure that I would do a better job putting the odds in my favor, the ones above will most likely do a pretty good job in illustrating what little effort doing the right thing would have made all the difference. Keep your senses alert and your mind open to what the surroundings are trying to tell you. Listen well and contain messes early and often.


Are you a catch and release kind of a friend?

Are you a catch and release kind of a friend? Ralf a

The term catch and release comes from the fishing world of things and refers to folks catching fish just to later release them. The “thrill” of the catch is, I suppose, why they do it. It serves only the fisherman and there is no further purpose to this kind of fishing other than to bring some sort of pleasure to the person doing it. The fish’s purpose is merely to be around and to play its sorry role in this sad play.

I use this analogy because I think we approach friendships the same way too often. We get close to people because it can serve us. It may be fun to be on the lookout for prospects and then to connect with them. We may even have the audacity asking them for favors. Are we in it for the long run though, or is it just another form of friendship “catch and release”?

Perhaps we are just not using the correct term for this. A friend is someone who will bail you out of prison in the middle of the night. It is someone who has got your back no matter what. True friends look out for each other and lift each other up. They see the potential that each person has. It is someone whose friendship does not come with an expiration date. Once you “catch” and connect, you stick around forever. Anything else would need to be called an acquaintance, I suppose.

Growing up I really liked going fishing. There was a lot of catching, but we never released unless the fish were too young to keep. It served a purpose and I might add a sacred one to us. Whatever we caught ended up as food. It sustained us and no creature needed to suffer for the mere gratification of the hunt.

That’s how I feel it ought to be with friends. If it only serves one party or the other you are acquaintances. If you are in it for the long haul you are friends – true friends, forever. So how do you treat your friends? Happy pondering.


Stop blaming others: They is us – we is they

Stop blaming others: They is us – we is they Smaller FB

It is so easy to shift blame to others. Let it be conversations at home, with neighbors, and of course at work. “They” comes up a lot, just pay attention to it during your upcoming conversations. Management did this, so-and-so did that, department x did not include this, those guys at the office goofed up, sales never cares, and on and on goes the list of what THEY did or did not do.

Although the complaint voiced to others may make you feel better, at least initially. Have you ever wondered if this changed anything for the better? How would THEY know that there is something amiss? That is my call to action for you. Pull yourself together and put your energy into approaching the entity with which you have an issue. Encourage a discussion in which you make sure to use all the courage that you can muster to provide candid feedback. Acknowledge your contribution to the issue (if any) and make sure to portray the actual root cause of the issue. Mention that you want to improve the situation and if need be meet again to collaborate some more.

Please think twice about using the ambiguous THEY word in your conversations with others. You are amongst the THEY people you are pointing out – you may just not want to admit that.


Memorial Day – Losers can be winners too

Memorial Day – Losers can be winners too 20150524_075128

Depicted here is Herrmann Sommermeyer – my Granddad. He was a loser; in the beginning of May 1945 him and his comrades threw their guns in a ditch in Russia. They came home as losers of a tragic war that had changed their lives and that of millions of others. No one but your family roots for you when you come home and are a loser like that. Herrmann was a winner too though and that was his long lasting contribution making sure that so many allied soldiers did not die in vain.

If you have never watched Saving Private Ryan than please do so when you have a chance. In it there is the closing scene when retirement aged Ryan is shown asking his wife whether or not he had made a great life providing for others and bettering other’s people’s lives. A lot of GIs had died saving him and Tom Hank’s dying character had asked him “to earn this” 9- his life. That is when I think of my granddad. He tried very hard to earn his life every day.

I am fairly certain that he had always been a just man with great core values, but the war must have made another deep impression on him as to why Germany lost and that all men are indeed created equal and shall always be treated the same. Many of his traits rubbed off on his children, grand-children, and now also his great-grand-children:

  • When you lose, do it graciously: Never once did I ever hear him complain about losing the war. He treated this with a matter of fact manner. When you lose, you lose. Accept the facts and move on with your life.
  • Play the cards that life hands to you: PTSD was not a thing back then, but if he had it then he hid it very well. Top this off with challenging monetary and family tragedies (his wife of only a few years died during the war while he was at the front). He stoically went on with life and he selflessly helped his family make it through the toughest times of their lives. He never asked for anything in return and managed to muster a smile and even a good laugh along the way. He stuck it out and created a fantastic life for him and his family.
  • Treat everyone fairly – everyone: “Wir sind alle nur Menschen” (we are all only humans) he used to say. Him and grandma opened their doors to a Turkish man and a Portugese family who rented a small apartment during the 70s and 80s in the old family homestead of over 100 years. “We had better learned our lesson” was another saying that stuck with me since then and that was probably why I never heard him discriminate against anyone.
  • Enjoy life while you can and make sure that you share that with people who mean the most to you: Case in point was that for instance him and grandma gave us grandkids our inheritance while they were alive. Everyone always got the same as the others and they were so right to watch us receive their gracious gifts. “We would rather watch you guys enjoy the money and what you will do with it; it will not do us any good after they plant us into the ground”.
  • Make sure that you fight for the rights of others – period: As a rebellious and all-knowing teenager this was the toughest value to understand and to turn into action for me. It stuck with me though and after having gone through getting bullied in school and apprenticeship I knew what it meant to be at the receiving end of it. It taught me well though and ever since I have been trying my best to fend for people who cannot do this on their own.
  • Make sure you stay physically and mentally active: “Who and whatever rests, rusts”, meaning that you need to have a healthy and active body in order for it to support our brilliant brains. Working out exactly those gray muscles and using them for doing good for others was his favorite thing to do. He stayed active until the end when cancer claimed his life.
  • Be curious, courageous, and determined: Make sure that you are always inquisitive and have the courage and determination to plan and execute upon what you set out to do.
  • Respect nature and be just as fair to it as you are to your fellow man: He was not necessarily a fan of the green movement and yet ironically enough he instilled much of their values and strategies in his family. Thanks to living to the economic depression times of post WWI and then sifting through rubble again after WWII nothing would ever go to waste. Our households were pretty much self-sufficient well into the early 80s(!). Going to the grocery store was a rare occasion.
  • Last but not least – war is never the first answer: He was convinced that the vast majority of military or any other form of violent conflict was / is not necessary. It certainly should never be the first answer. There are times when war is justified and necessary, but let’s never hastily risk our service people’s lives needlessly.

I prefer to think of my Granddad Herrmann as being a winner even though Germany had lost the war. Transformed through war for the better he changed countless lives for the better forever. With that our Allied Soldiers and all other innocent souls that were lost along the way of the conflict did not die in vain. I can see some of the same values reflected in his grandkids (my sister’s and my cousins’ kids) to this day.

With that I dedicate this post to all the folks who either lost their lives or are currently risking their lives such that we may live a life in safety, comfort, and freedom. I encourage you never letting us forget how great a risk and sacrifice this really is. Most of all I am hoping that our future Commander in Chief will reflect and respect the core values and aspirations I tried highlighting with this post.


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