≡ Menu

I love this quote by motivational speaker and coach Tony Gaskins that I saw on facebook yesterday:

If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help you build theirs. It is so true. The irony is, 95% of people I know are doing nothing to build their dreams, not even to find out what their dream is! So many people are working so hard getting a job, getting next month’s pay check, when they have a job they worry about what their bosses and colleagues think and when they are getting a promotion or a 5% raise.

If you are in that situation, don’t forget you have dreams yourself and that ultimately they need to be taken care of. Don’t let ten years of 60 hour weeks pass until you realise you made everybody else rich and happy but yourself.

How do you do it though? I remember being a student myself, and only ever thinking what profession I was going to choose and which big company would hire me. This is what everybody (unless they’re lucky enough to be surrounded by entrepreneurs in their family or among peers) is told to do – to find a job, to get a salary to cover rent and food and holidays, with a few hundred bucks left for savings at the end of the month, if you’re lucky. If you have no financial buffer and that next rent payment is looming, of course you will stop thinking and just look for a job in a frenzy, and you will be so happy when you find your first job. If you are a student at university, I say you are one of the luckiest people on this planet because you have a couple of years to work on your dreams while using the cover of being a student to be immune to questions about why you don’t have a job.

If you’re studying, don’t forget that your number one job is not taking exams and fulfilling the curriculum, your number one job is to take care of yourself, your passions, your talents and your dreams. Excel at exams only to the extent that they serve your purpose, not as a goal in themselves.

If you’re working already, also start shifting your energies to all the activities that are in line with your dreams – make sure you learn a lot and build relationships that could be useful to you in the future. Ironically, this could actually enhance your job performance, because you will shift from an employee mentality to the kind of big picture mindset that (hopefully) the senior management in your company has, and you will likely identify opportunities for efficiency gains or growth.

Make sure you stop and think. Are you currently focusing all your energies on building someone else’s dream? What are you doing for yourself? What have you done for yourself? For your family? Your friends? Who is benefiting from all your hard work? When are you going to take care of your dreams?

Did you like this article? Then you will also enjoy Nobody will give you your dream job – you just make it! and Top 5 book picks for aspiring entrepreneurs! Please share and follow me on twitter!

This site has moved to ueberflieger.net

Dear readers – I am moving this blog to a new domain under the URL www.ueberflieger.net . For now, the new site will look identical so you won’t miss anything if you’ve been a content reader of this site. The main reason I am moving is that I want to change the focus of “high flyers” to a broader, more entrepreneurial concept. Ueberflieger.net will continue to cover similar topics to this blogs but also cover more start-ups, entrepreneurship, and inspirational stories. I hope to see you on ueberflieger.net !

On my way home today, I saw the shocking video of Michael Marin, a millionaire business man, mountain climber and socialite who appears to have poisoned himself in an Arizona court as he was convicted guilty of arson and insurance fraud – he was accused of burning down his $3.2m mansion to claim fire insurance. As it turned out, this so-called high flyer had seen his bank account balance shrink from $900,000 to $50 over the last year due to a lavish lifestyle and crippling $17,000/month mortgage payments. He seems to have chosen death over facing humiliation and shame in front of family, friends and the public.

It made me remember the equally tragic case of 24-year-old investment banking associate Anjool Malde, who jumped to his death from a fancy rooftop restaurant in the City of London following an investigation into prank emails he may had sent from work. It seems to have been a relatively harmless matter (in the grand scheme of things) that might have just led to a short suspension, but the possibility of losing his job or being humiliated in front of colleagues and superiors seem to have played a motive in his suicide.

Why is it that many people in business cling so much to their image of a high flyer that they are willing to give up everything, even their lives, rather than admit defeat or failure? I am starting believe that the whole notion of being an awe inspiring success is what sets people up for failure. How can you live up to this idea of perfection? Who can earn a lot of money, do a great job, be extremely popular, and have an active social life, all at the same time? This is how aspiring high flyers like to see themselves. But it is such an image of perfection that they are setting themselves up for disappointment. If your aspirations are so high, and you cannot accept weakness in yourself, you are bound to fail yourself – and you will be under pressure to maintain the notion of perfection at the same time, alienating you from friends and family.

I have observed such personal tragedies many times in my professional life. I need to be vague about it, but I can tell you I have worked with millionaires who went from successful executives to unemployed and divorced within a matter of a couple of years, because once the pressure increased and first cracks appeared in their superstar image, they lost good judgment and sacrificed their family lives and careers to keep up the notion of spectacular success. Even on a much less dramatic scale, I know many guys (and some women, though less) sacrificing their health and spare time for money and fast advancement at work, and often what they get in return does not compensate them for the loss.

These stories have convinced me increasingly that the notion that you have to be a superstar at work and sacrifice everything to get ahead is completely misleading. The surprising truth is that to get to the top, at least in the corporate world, very often you need to be around long enough to rise to the top. And if you burn yourself out within 3 or 5 years, you will never get to the level of seniority required to get into a leadership position! Many senior guys in big corporations have been around for 15 to 20 years before they get to the top, and this requires a certain level of balance in their lives to make it that long before they end up divorced or with a nervous breakdown.

Many articles advise young graduates on how to network, how to get promoted faster, rise faster and make more money, and I see a fundamental problem with this advice, based on my experience. This short sighted view suggests that if you work very hard and get promoted fast, you will reach the top faster. But a career is not a sprint but a marathon. Within a 2 or 3 year horizon, yes it matters how fast you get promoted and you may seem to advance faster if you get promoted ahead of your peers. But the reality is that many people who end up at the top are those who didn’t race to the top. I even saw examples at McKinsey of partners who had worked part-time for several years to spend more time with their children (and these were men! – though admittedly McKinsey is the place where everything I talk about her applies the least). I was very surprised at the time. But then I understood. Maybe if these guys had not taken it easy for a few years, they would have realized the job was incompatible with their careers and quit. Instead, they took it slowly for some time, and then just made partner years behind schedule, but they stayed in the game.

I am sure the same would be true for thousands of working mothers, and I can give you a personal example of this. If I had continued in my job the same way I was working previously – being in the office at 6.30am, staying till 7pm or 8pm, always delivering on time, always giving 100% – I would have quickly found my job incompatible with being a good mother, and I would have had to quit. Instead, I decided to take it easier, try to leave work by 5 or 5.30pm every day, only give 90%, be good enough, but not aim to be a superstar for a while, so that I could continue in my job and feel like a good mother, and this approach has worked well. It was very hard for me to make the switch, but then I realized that the fast track just does not work in the long term. I understood that you can either give 80-90%, or you can give nothing, because giving 100% to your job when you have a family is not sustainable.

Which brings me to a provocative point, and it is an issue I have changed my mind about over the last two years. We all know the typical story of hard working, competent juniors doing all the work, while lazy bosses just network, watch football or talk on the phone all day. It is a very popular notion. Then people say how unfair it is that the most ambitious, smartest people do all the work, while the bosses are having a good time and taking it easy. You know what? I think those bosses might be on to something!!! I think they have found a way of doing a good job (which often requires honing relationships, exchanging information and looking for new ideas much more than sitting in front of your computer all day) while also finding a balance in their lives, and this is how they have lasted long enough to rise to the top.

This is my advice to all you high flyers and ambitious graduates out there: continue to perform well and take pride in your responsibilities, but don’t kill yourself working and don’t sacrifice your family life and friends for faster career advancement. Chances are thatyou will get much further if you take it slow.

When two self-made billionaire ladies meet for a chat

I just watched this amazing interview and want to share it with you. Thanks to my sister @MGo33 for sharing this with me! You know it will be special when two of the very few self-made women billionaires in the world start discussing their paths. Enjoy it!


All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten

Yesterday as I stepped into a cafe in my neighbourhood – just after dropping my daughter off at nursery – I discovered a lovely poem they had hanging on the wall on a poster. It’s “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. At first I thought it is just a funny way of looking at life, but the more I read on, the more I understood how true the statement really was. The poem goes like this:

All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.


How true is that? In school, we really only learn reading and writing and a bit of simple maths (and we would probably have picked this up along the way anyway) and we forget 90% of what we learn there without consequences in later life. Same for university. But there’s not a single thing you learn in your very first years that you won’t need to know later in life. All the basics of human life are there. We just need to remember them!


The beautiful thing was, when I left my daughter at kindergarten in the early morning she cried a bit, but when I picked her up she was so happy and excited, they had had a tea party for the Queen’s Jubilee, she had made and painted her very own crown from materials, she had Union Jacks painted on her face and all the kids there were so excited about the party. Whenever I said the word “Tea Party” after she would point to the British flag on her cheeks and laugh.  It was a beautiful way of proving the poem right.

So please don’t forget:

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. 

And take a nap every afternoon.