Mountaineering Purpose

In the post mountaineering motivation I described some of the be benefits of mountaineering. It lists the reasons why I enjoy and how I profit from my endeavours into the mountains.

It must be told though, that these reasons are not the real cause why I go into the mountains. They are the grapes that I harvest from the grapevine, but they are not the reason why I planted it in the first place.

I had almost forgotten that. Until recently. When I set out to climb the highest mountain of the world outside of the Himalayas: Aconcagua in Argentina. Highest mountain of the Americas with an awe-inspiring height of 6.960m.
Almost 7.000m high. I had been above 5.400m before and knew people die in the Alps every year at or even below 4.000m – and sometimes they’re saved.

6.960m is another 1.5km higher than the highest point I had been to before. And it’s more than 2 kilometers higher than the highest point of the Alps: Mont Blanc in France.

The reason or first cause why I had to climb Aconcagua is that it was part of the training program for Mt. Everest. It’s technically not a difficult mountain to climb but it offers the opportunity to slowly get increment the height before approaching the 8.000m mark.

In my early twenties I decided that:

If I could climb Mt. Everest with initially no mountaineering experience whatsoever, then anything is indeed possible for me!

The mind cannot remain unaffected when confronted with an extreme environment.


While climbing Aconcagua and staying in the tent on 5.000m and 6.000m respectively, I realized that I already know that anything is possible for me — if I really want to achieve it. The project I set out to was suddenly finished. Sooner than expected and quite unexpected.

It was a realization beyond just realizing it in my head and with my mind. It was a feeling. I literally knew the project was finished. There was no need to climb these mountains anymore for the reason to find out something about my capabilities. No doubt had survived.

It was  a great and emotional moment for me. What had been my main focus for the past 7 years was now coming to an end. All the hard work, the hardships, the surmounted fears had paid off. I had arrived.

A week later, coming back from Aconcagua, I still don’t feel any urge to return to these mountains. I will return to the Alps for sure and probably other mountains as well. But I don’t have the feeling I need to. I can and will out of joy and passion for nature and sports and the fun of it.

My ego is somewhat upset that I didn’t go all the way to the summit of Aconcagua though. I made it up to 6.670m to the beginning of the Canaleta, where everybody makes a pause before continuing to the summit. I arrived a couple of minutes before 10a.m. on a beautiful day. It would’ve been about two more hours to the summit — but while everybody else proceeded to the summit, I returned down to the camp at 6.000m and after some rest down to “Plaza de Mulas” basecamp at 4.300m.

I cannot claim to have been at the summit, but I found what I came for or even more.

How I saved a man’s life (and why I regretted it)

The highest peak of the Alps is Mont Blanc. Situated on the border of France and Italy and high above the streets of Chamonix, vivifying every mountaineer’s heart.

I climbed all the way up to the summit at 4810m in 2008 with my fellow Nils (who was more experienced than me at that time). The normal procedure is to do the climb in two days. The most popular route starts from the tramways uppermost exit Nid d’Aigle (eagle’s nest), passes by the Refuge Tête Rousse, traverses the greatly feared Grand Couloir (you’re better not there on a day like in this video) and ends at the Refuge du Goûter on the first day. On the second day you depart early in the morning way before sunrise, climb up to Dome du Goûter, pass the Vallot Bivouac and ascend the Bosses Ridge up to the summit.

The climb is technically not difficult – it is said. While that is true in good conditions and for experienced mountaineers, it can quickly become an unsurmountable challenge in bad weather, especially for not so experienced climbers. Also the effect of the height must not be underestimated.

The next day promised good weather and to be a good summit day. It turned out to be true, but still more than half of the aspirants turned around on the way, because it was miserably cold before sunrise.
The day before, when we ascended to the Refuge du Goûter hut, was not only miserably cold but miserable in every way. Rain in the lower parts of the mountain, soon turning into snow when we gained height. Remember it was a summer day. But in the mountains summer days often look like this (or worse, but then the photo is just grey):

A not untypical summer day at around 4000m in the Alps.
A not untypical summer day at around 4000m in the Alps.

Mont Blanc is the highest point of the Alps, which makes it a very appealing goal for a lot of people (which was also one of the reasons why I found myself on this mountain). Some of them are well equipped (warm, functional clothes, ice axe, crampons, …), well prepared (good stamina and acclimatization) and well experienced. Others lack one or more of these requirements and are – of course – more prone to accidents.

The way from the Grand Couloir (no rock fall and rather good conditions on this day because of the snow) to the Goûter hut is rather steep and requires the use of the hands more often than not. Subsequently my fingers got wet (despite of wearing waterproof gloves…) and cold. The climbing wasn’t pleasant either: the snow made it impossible to see which rock was good to hold or stand on, so it was a lot of digging for good rocks before getting to the next passage with nothing but snow in sight…

…unless you turn around a corner and see a man sitting in the snow. While only my gloves were wet, this man had managed to be swathed in snow all over the body. His crampons didn’t fit on the boots or maybe the boots were inappropriate. In any case the crampons were dangling on a strap next to the foot, obstructing instead of helping. The man came with a group but for whatever reason his group had abandoned him and already was at the hut.
He was exhausted, hypothermic and in desperation. This is a common pattern how people die on high mountains: feeling too exhausted to go on, sitting down, becoming colder and colder as they’re not moving anymore and never standing up again.

The next day was his birthday and he had come to the mountain to celebrate the birthday on the summit. Without the proper equipment, preparation or experience. And being part of a stupid group was the icing (haha! 😉 ) on the birthday cake.

It’s always deceiving how warm it is in the valley. The weather can always be or turn fierce in the mountains. You should be prepared and better take the gloves and the cap one time too often than not having it when desperately needed.

We roped up our “new friend” and while Nils pulled and belayed him from above, I literally pushed him up the mountain. The man barely could climb up even with our help and the ascent became so much more exhausting for us, than it had been before. But I think it’s just human nature to help a fellow human being. And wouldn’t I be glad to be helped if I needed it? Yes.
We were overtaken by a mountain guide with his clients who felt it was needed to snarl at us: “You shouldn’t be here! Get off the mountain!“. Well, thanks, buddy!
Admittedly, he apologized the other day when he got to know what had really happened. Unfortunately it’s quite common for people to judge others before they even tried to assess the situation appropriately. Don’t judge me till you walk a mile in my shoes or live a day in my life.

We safely brought the man to the hut in about two hours for what normally would’ve taken us half an hour or so. His group greeted us at the entrance, with a beer in their hands. Cheers! Of course “our man” was thankful and he promised to buy us a drink later on. That didn’t happen later on and it never happened (the hut was overcrowded and we had to sleep in the dining room on the floor/table and I didn’t even see him again.). I felt resentful for the better part of the next day. We (probably) saved his life and this guy isn’t able to even buy us the promised drink?

Having these thoughts, I even regretted having helped him!
It was only later that I realized it wasn’t the most important thing that he was thankful to us (or “appropriately” showed his gratefulness).
Even now, six years later, I remember this day very well and it’s one of my cherished memories. A day where I was able to make a substantial difference to someone else’s life. A day where I took action in a meaningful way. A day which taught me more than one lesson; for example about the dangers of overestimating oneself, prematurely judging others, helping and needing help.

In this sense, the act of saving the man’s life was at least as important for myself as it was for him.

Me on the summit of Mont Blanc on the next day.

How to make the impossible possible

One of my favorite quotes for many years now is

Start by doing what’s necessary;
then do what’s possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
– Francis of Assisi

I could (almost) end the article here, because this quote summarizes what I believe and what I learned about doing the (seemingly) impossible.
I remember the first books on personal development I ever read, which was Power Play by James Brennan (you can buy it at for as little as € 3,01), which emphasized that all limits just exist in our minds (With some exceptions of course, but we should be very careful about labeling them. A lot of these widely accepted exceptions turned out to be possible later on). Accordingly the impossible just seems to be impossible and is actually possible. Thus we need to change our perception in order to make the impossible possible.

There are various ways to achieve this transformation. Some focus on the internal part, working with the mind and others are focusing on the doing-part, as in the quote. Ultimately both sides are always involved and any sincere internal work influences what we do and what we do influences how our mind works. So there is really no right or wrong here.

A lot of times things seem to be impossible because they’re just too far out from what we currently believe or focus on. The long jump world record is currently 8,95 meters. So we might say 9 meters or even 10 meters might be possible. But 20 meters seems impossible (and might be just that?!).
Those who focus on the many tried and failed attempts to build an airplane (at that time) might more easily be discouraged and think it’s an impossible task than those who focused on birds already showing us that flying is possible – somehow. That’s common sense, but it’s an important realization for our own dreams that we think are “impossible” for us. Change your focus and you change your possibilities.

Another important part of what we deem impossible is the perspective we take on the matter. Things that seem impossible from one perspective are actually easy if we look at them from another perspective. The little anecdote on how to eat an elephant illustrates this point.

How to eat an elephant?

There’s a saying that answers this question very intelligently: One bite at a time.

How do you run a marathon? I already ran two, so I have some authority to talk about that. As opposed to eating elephants, so I will stick with this theme. You run a marathon one step at a time. The first step is said to be the hardest. I didn’t find that to be true. Once you’re at the starting line the first few steps are actually quite easy. And you can run quite fast in the beginning. But later on running fast while having cramps from kilometer 25 km onward are impossible (I speak from experience… the cramps will prevent you from running fast). But still, it’s possible to crawl on!! (Or walk at a moderate pace.)
The hard part of a marathon is km 30 to 42 out of the 42,195 km! So don’t get faked out by its easy beginning and overestimate your strength. Or do so, learn a real lesson and struggle until you cross the finish line nevertheless 😉

Some people say they could never finish a marathon. They believe themselves to not be sporting enough. They deem it to be impossible for them. Will they ever finish a marathon? Not as long as they keep this believe. They won’t even try it. They will never sign up for the race and never start it. Acquiring the right attitude might be the first step for these people and might also be the hardest one.
For me on the other hand this first step was seldom a restricting factor considering outdoor adventures, because I tend to just try if I can do it. I try to take only calculated risk but if you want to push your boundaries, you always have some risk involved that you can’t really calculate; risk that is new and unknown. If you would know it, it wouldn’t be outside of the own boundaries. Makes sense, huh? 🙂

I guess this quote contains some truth:

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
– T.S. Eliot

But when you risk going too far, you’re on a knife-edge.  And do it often enough and you will find out what going too far means.
Going too far might mean being thirsty for hours in the blazing sun (in the Alps on a rocky plateau), freezing like hell (bivouacking in Corsica), being scared shitless (solo climbing and slipping off while one shoe is stuck behind a rock; dogs and horses attacking me; lightnings while sleeping outdoors in the Alps …), hopping into a hovering helicopter (from a snowy ridge in the Alps), thinking you will die (crossing a dangerous current while trekking in Swedish Lapland),  and much more.
It might also mean that any of the above happens for your travel companion.

Are these pleasant experiences? No.
Am I proud of these experiences? No.
Did I go too far and risk too much? Probably.
Were these experiences necessary? Yes and No.
Do I want to miss these experiences? No.
(Do these experiences make good stories? Yes.)

While experiences of going too far are not pleasant or something to be proud of, they are inevitable and the result of learning how far you can go. They are the failures of the learning process. And failures are an essential part of learning.

So they might be the the price that we have to pay to make the impossible possible. Some people are willing to pay it and others don’t (the smarter ones?! Probably depends on what you value most in your life.)?

One of my “impossible” goals is to climb to the top of Mount Everest. Most of the going-too-far-experiences listed above are part of making this goal possible for me.

Matterhorn Summit with Iceaxe

Climbing Mount Everest

About ten years ago I read the book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (buy at or This international bestseller tells the story of the 1996 tragedy at Mt. Everest where a number of people had died. Somehow I decided it would be worthwhile to summit Mt. Everest after reading it. Not being a mountaineer myself (but an outdoor guy) at that time I didn’t believe it would ever be possible for me to climb that mountain. Others would probably have agreed (“This is only a mountain for experienced alpinists, it’s dangerous and it’s too crowded and expensive anyway.”), which is why I never talked to anybody about it. But the dream and appeal didn’t become less powerful as time went by. So I took baby-steps toward it. Some easy mountaineering were followed by a training class on the glacier, to learn how to handle the crampons and iceaxe I gained more and more confidence and experience.
As of today I climbed a lot of mountains in the Alps with a much higher technical difficulty than Mt. Everest. Along the way I was fortunate enough to summit Mt. Blanc, Matterhorn and many more beautiful, challenging and less known mountains. I learned more than expected from these endeavors.

In December I venture to summit Aconcagua, the highest mountain of the Andes and the American continents. Its altitude is almost 7.000 m. That’s still almost 2.000 m lower than Mt. Everest. But now earth’s highest mountain is already in the realm of possibility. Just two or three more baby-steps 🙂

Around the world in an airplane – how much does it really cost?

Truth be told, I didn’t make it all around the world (yet)! But I made it halfway around to New Zealand and then Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean. Then I came back the same way I traveled there (via Australia, Kuala Lumpur, United Arab Emirates. You can view my travels of the last year on my Travelmap.

Initially I had just booked a return ticket to Bangkok, Thailand with a stopover of a couple of days in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. My flight back would’ve been a few days before Christmas so I had the chance to spend these days with my family back home. I ended up staying in Boracay in the Philippines for Christmas, New Year’s Eve and some more weeks.
Actually I had wanted to travel to Laos and Vietnam after Thailand, but it all came different and I was glad I didn’t have a fixed itinerary (destinations or dates) as you (kind of) have when you book an Around the World Ticket.

I loved the total flexibility of choosing the next destination as the journey unfolded. While I was price-conscious when booking my flights, I didn’t always book the cheapest one. Sometimes I valued convenience over cost (especially my flight from Australia to New Zealand for € 325. I wanted to travel NZ from the South to the North. And the departure airport was quite exotic as well. You get fights from Brisbane or Sydney to Auckland, NZ for around € 100 if you book in advance and are flexible with your schedule!).

I hadn’t planned to go to Australia actually. But when I saw an AirAsia promotion on Christmas with flights for as low as € 100 form Kuala Lumpur to Sydney, I knew I had to take this opportunity! I had always wanted to travel to Australia anyways, but didn’t expect it to happen so soon 🙂
And then New Zealand was just a couple of hours of flight duration away and I definitely didn’t want to miss that. As an outdoor lover NZ is just THE place to go. It’s amazingly beautiful. Having arrived in New Zealand it dawned on me that Fiji was just a three hours flight away. And I had desperately wanted to go there for more than half of my life. That’s how it went… the path naturally unfolded itself step by step.

Here is a list of all my flights with the price tags attached for your reference.

Cologne Amsterdam Train € 24
Amsterdam (AMS) Abu Dhabi (AUH) Etihad Airways € 506
Abu Dhabi (AUH) Bangkok (BKK) Etihad Airways
Bangkok (BKK) Düsseldorf (DUS) Etihad Airways (I didn’t use this ticket)
Bangkok (DMK) Hong Kong (HGK) AirAsia € 105
Hong Kong (HKG) Caticlan (Boracay, MPH) Cebu Pacific Air € 143
Kalibo (KLO) Singapore (SIN) TigerAir € 62
Singapore (SIN) Medan (KNO) TigerAir € 36
Medan (KNO) Taipei (TPE) AirAsia € 102
Taipei (TPE) Sydney (SYD) AirAsia X € 187
Mackay (MKY) Queenstown (ZQN) Virgin Australia € 325
Auckland (AKL) Nadi (NAN) Qantas Airways (operated by Fiji Airways) € 221
Nadi (NAN) Düsseldorf (DUS) Qantas Airways (operated by Fiji Airways and Emirates) € 850
€ 2.561


During my six months of traveling I paid a total of € 2.561 on air fares. That’s € 427 per month on average with two flights per month on average.

Of course my numbers are not really transferable to other people’s plans and situations. I traveled to many different countries, didn’t always take the cheapest options but was quite flexible when booking some of the tickets considering the departure and destination airports as well as the exact timing.

How to save money on airfare?

I saved some money by being flexible. Flexible with the dates and the airports as well! When I left Boracay, I didn’t depart from the closest airport (Caticlan) but took a flight from Kalibo a few hours bus ride away. I wanted to go to Medan in Indonesia. Actually I wanted to go via Kuala Lumpur, but I changed plans because flights via Singapore were cheaper. And I like Singapore anyways and loved my stay there for a couple of days (the duration was actually also determined by the cheapest flights arriving and departing; and I didn’t care whether I had a two nights or four nights stopover).

Of course you can save quite a lot of money especially on the low cost carrier’s flights when you travel only with hand luggage. Some digital nomads do that. I had a little bit too much stuff in my backpack (and I already tried to leave as much home as possible – my father thought I went crazy 😉 ).

I booked the first tickets during a promotion of Etihad Airways and found the deal via Urlaubspiraten. I booked some of my AirAsia flights during a promotion as well!

When looking for a good fare, I came to love Skyscanner! Especially the function where you put in the departure airport and leave the destination blank and get the cheapest results for flights for a whole month to anywhere in the world. It’s great to find low priced flights if you don’t exactly know or don’t really where you want to go next. Just put “Everywhere” as the destination airport and click on “whole month” for the date (or even whole year if you want).

When I looked for my flight back from Fiji to Germany, the prices were quite high for most dates. For the Easter weekend there were some reasonably expensive flights. I didn’t book right away and sure enough the prices increased during the next couple of days. Damn!
Interestingly I couldn’t book NAN to DUS on the Fiji Airways homepage, the Emirates homepage or the Qantas Airways homepage. But Expedia had the bookings available with Qantas, even though Qantas did not operate any of the flights. But they are in an Airline Alliance with Fiji Airways and Emirates and they operated the flights. I didn’t expect to find different prices on different Expedia webpages! Most of the sites (,, …) had a similar price in its local currency. But had a much cheaper airfare for the same flight! So even after credit card fees for the currency exchange it was much cheaper. So I obviously booked with them.

Book a flight, cancel it and save money

I booked two additional flights during my six month traveling time, which I cancelled afterwards. And I already knew I would do so before booking them and it saved me some money. I’ll tell why in another blog post shortly, as it’s quite a nice trick but it’s out of context here.

By the way: my most recent booking is a € 250€ return ticket to Chile from Germany. I also found it via Urlaubspiraten.

Make your Life a Free Fall Life

The (current) title of this blog is “Free Fall Life”. What do I mean by this? What is a free fall life?

Free fall obviously describes is the act of unobstructed falling, as when skydiving. We have the same experience when jumping from a diving platform or bungee jumping – for a shorter time span of course. For those who haven’t experienced none of these adventures, you probably know the feeling of free fall from your dreams. Most people know the feeling of free fall from their dreams. Sometimes we dream of falling into a bottomless void and … wake up.

Before a skydive sitting at the edge of an airplane or when we stand at the edge of a platform and when we’re about to let go of the security of the known world, we trigger an almost intolerable feeling. The body wants to refuse to cooperate and the mind explains in all vividness why it’s just madness to jump. And still we came here to jump. So we recognize the loud warning voices in our head, but we don’t listen. We step forward despite these feelings. And quite miraculously we will never regret it!

Sometimes decisions in life are like jumping out of a plane

A Free Fall Life is quite similar to this experience. There are decisions where we need to take a leap of faith and let go of our old lives. Our mind comes up with myriads of reasons why we should not “jump”. And after letting go we are indeed in a state of free fall. We find ourselves in a new situation and don’t have (m)any known reference points to hold on to. We may find ourselves tumbling, feeling less clear than normal. Our body and mind need to adapt to the new circumstances. This takes time. And after every jump into the unknown, we will find ourselves again in this state. Then it is good to know what to do when you don’t know what to do!

After some time of tumbling we have adapted to the new circumstances and we can enjoy the new freedom. We find that we don’t even need the old reference points for orientation. When skydiving you can rotate, roll over and do all kinds of things, create formations with other skydivers and much more. Similarly life feels freer after we have let go and made an important decision in life. There’s a caveat to the analogy though: With more and more experience, you get used to skydiving. It’s nothing new anymore. Whereas in life there are always new and fresh experiences that don’t resemble anything you’ve experienced before. Life has a never-ending potential to amaze us. “How could I live all my life not knowing this?” Or how could I believe this was true only to find out now, that it’s just bullshit and it has restricted me all my life? Just the feeling of not knowing what to do becomes familiar.

When falling ends

On earth there are no bottomless voids that would allow us to fall forever. So sooner or later every free fall comes to an end. We can interpret this as having become accustomed to the new situation. So now we don’t feel the newly gained freedom anymore. In contrary over time we find numerous restrictions even in our new life. What felt so free in the beginning begins to become a prison (again). We have hit the ground and there’s nothing fresh about this life anymore. We have to walk again instead of flying. Naturally we’ll strive to jump again and feel free again. Even freer than last time. Only to find out later on, that this wasn’t the real freedom either. It is not to be found in this cycle of actions. It can only be attained on another level altogether. And it also ends the free fall – at least in the way we know it.

Falling ends when we hit bottom

The second possible interpretation is that as every fall is over at some point, our lives aren’t limitless either. At some point in time we will hit bottom. We cannot help it, it will always be merciless, abrupt and it will never be beautiful. We cannot reduce speed by flailing about or panicking. We even can’t really accelerate it. It may come sooner than expected as the speed distorts our feelings. Skydivers always need to wear an altimeter and check it regularly. We don’t have an altimeter for our free fall life.
That leaves us enjoying the fall while it lasts. I don’t mean that in a hedonistic way necessarily. For me – as I described earlier – the journey is often most enjoyable when I can help other people and see that I make a difference in their lives. Ultimately you are the only person who is responsible for how you lead your life. And you’re also the only person who you can hold accountable for how your life works out.

Is it right for you?

Perhaps a Free Fall Life isn’t right for everybody. I understand that. Some people prefer to stay on the ground. And why bother with all the effort to flee your current prison only to rush to the next?
It’s simple. It not only makes me happy but it instills me a feeling of fulfillment – a life worth living and worth having lived. A life of no regrets, of giving 100 % of peaks and valleys. A life where I can say: If my fall would end tomorrow: I’m ok with that (while I don’t hope for it, of course).

How Toastmasters turned me into a better person

Actually I never had to ask myself the question whether I wanted to join Toastmasters! From the first time I heard about Toastmasters, I knew I should actually join it even though staying away would have been the easier decision. The official Toastmasters International claim these days is “Where Leaders are made”. To phrase it more easy to grasp: Every single person who joined Toastmasters while I was there and put a reasonable effort in it, made a huge (!) progress in its personal development. Toastmasters is one of the best personal development tools I have come across. You can’t help but grow!

What is Toastmasters?

Simply put, Toastmasters is an international organization where you can improve your public speaking skills. But it’s way more than that! You learn to listen more carefully, to improve your analytical thinking, to understand why a speech is effective or is not effective. You get tons of feedback – we like to call ourselves Feedback-Junkies. You join a local club (there are more than 14.000 worldwide, so there’s a good chance you can find a club or two in your home city!) and meet with other “Toastmasters” at the weekly meetings. You’ll quickly pick up on the meeting structure and how things are done. Toastmasters are very guest-friendly, so feel free to join a meeting to just see if you could like it – or not. There’s no costs or obligations accompanied by a visit.

My Toastmasters career

I joined Toastmasters in fall 2007 – seven years ago! I have since served in several officer positions on club and regional level, delivered around 50 prepared speeches and evaluated countless speeches of other club members. Recently an old friend of mine told me, that I had problems participating in a discussion with even just five people in my teenage years – I was so intimidated by what other people would think of what I said. So you can imagine that only the imagination of give a speech on a stage to an audience was very frightening to me. Actually doing it was even more frightening. I was shivering all over my body when I presented my first presented speech.

The first speech should take between four to six minutes. For me it felt more like 1 second. I remember going up on the stage, starting the speech and then my next memory is how I had finished my speech. I was no conscious at all. So how did the audience react? One of the very beautiful things about Toastmasters is how encouraging the other members are. And everybody remembers his or her own first speech. So you get especially positive feedback for your first speech(es). That doesn’t mean, that it is not a sincere feedback. Every speaker brings some strengths to the stage right from the beginning, which he or she probably isn’t even aware of. I couldn’t believe it: I won the award for the best prepared speech of the evening!

Of course there were many things to improve. Above all my eye contact with the audience. It took me more than a year until this item didn’t appear on my feedback slips of paper every single time anymore. This progress went hand in hand with me becoming more conscious during the speeches and shifting the focus from myself delivering the speech to the audience. Finally I was able to totally focus on the audience, connecting to it and ensuring I was adding value to them with the message of my speeches. And I had fun, a sense of contribution and feedback that I inspired people with my speeches.

Talk about a change! From shivering to compelling and inspiring – and having fun while giving a speech. I’m still nervous before a speech, but now I can channel the nervousness into concentration and in this way it’s not intimidating anymore. Now when I think about giving a speech, I’m excited. I think about being able to make a change in other people’s lives. It’s a great feeling.

Of course all of this is just one component of my personal development in the past seven years. But it has been an important component to say the least. I would go as far as to say that it altered how I connect with the world and how I feel in the world. So I sincerely recommend to you to visit a Toastmasters meeting in your neighborhood if you think you could profit from the experience as well.

One more thing

All these fine words didn’t even address the most rewarding part of my Toastmasters affiliation. For me it was most rewarding to see other members grow and to accompany and helping them on this path. Nearly every guest at the meetings says “I really like what you do, but you’re all so accomplished. It’s another level.” And guess what: The members in the audience who are on the other level said the same thing some time ago, when they were guests themselves.

It is very rewarding and gratifying to see the potential in other humans and to know you can help them unlock this potential. Of course I can only assist and show the path. Everybody has to be willing to walk it on his own and put in the necessary effort.

To sum it up, the personal growth I gained from Toastmasters is about more than just learning to deliver solid speeches. While this is definitely part of the process, I also learned how to work together with in an executive committee team, to lead this team and to motivate members to grow the best way they can. Initially I volunteered to work in the executive committee because I was so grateful for all the things I had learned and wanted to give something back to the club. In the end I couldn’t help being just grateful as I learned more and more in the various roles even after some years of membership in the club.

If you’re interested in visiting a Toastmasters meeting, there’s a webpage to find your nearest Toastmasters club!

3 working sales tactics I learned from an Indian carpet salesman

In 2009 I spent several months in India. One of the most memorable things was to see the behavior of the people there. Oftentimes quite different from what I was used to living in Europe all my life up to that point. Sometimes it was interesting or funny, at other times it was shocking or exhausting and annoying. In any case, wherever I went somebody wanted something from me. Most of the time my money. Sometimes just my attention.


I became friends with a young carpet salesman who was about my age or a little bit younger (I was in my early twenties at that time.). Salesmen above all were what impressed me in India. They all seemed to possess a natural talent to sell things, which tourists didn’t know they needed or wanted beforehand. Salesmen out and out. And they were really successful, I can ensure you!

But they never attended a seminar with a renowned sales trainer who taught them the best sales tactics. They learned their sales skills on the street. A lot of times the best teachers are our own customers. The numerous experiences teach us – the more the better. Plus, if these salesmen don’t sell, they won’t have enough money to get something to eat. So it’s self-evident that they need to become good sellers.

My friend lived in Jaisalmer in northeast India, at the edge of the desert. A number of tourists strayed around in this small town after returning from a camel safari to the desert – and didn’t know they would buy a carpet later this day. I don’t remember the name of my friend and maybe he didn’t even tell me his real name. He called himself Al Pacino. Initially he wanted to sell me one (or more!) of his carpets, but he changed his mind when he realized, that his business would profit much more by having a “western partner” than by selling me just a carpet. So he befriended me, showed me around in the city and later asked me whether I could help him selling some carpets. Why not, I had nothing to do, and Al Pacino was a polite and genuine fellow. So I helped him bringing tourists to his house where he stored the carpets and as a side benefit I could witness and he explained me some of his most successful selling tactics. In this post I pass on three of these working sales tactics that I learned in India.


1. Befriend the customer first

When we approached new potential customers we weren’t telling them, that we wanted to sell them carpets or anything at all. We talked to them about their travels, their recent safari tour in the desert, where they came from, etc. etc.

As the home of Al Pacino was nearby, we casually invited the potential customers to a tea at his home. It was served in the showing room and naturally the question came up what we were doing and what our vocation was. So Al Pacino had a natural transition and opportunity to explaining about the different kinds of carpets, how nice they were, how they were produced, how his mother had one of the most beautiful carpets at home etc.

This was already the second phase of the selling process. After befriending the potential customers Al Pacino was now explaining the benefits of his product and also enquiring about what kind of carpets the tourists had at home, what they liked in a carpet and which of his carpets they found nicest.

2. Don’t accept a no as an answer

It could happen that the tourists didn’t see the need for a carpet. For example as they planned to travel on for several months. And why would they need a carpet on a trip around the world? One could think this is the end of the game with these tourists. There’s obviously and understandably no need for them to buy a carpet at this point. But a good salesman knows how to handle objections like this. He even knows HOW to handle at least the most common objections in an effective way. So Al Pacino asked for example if the tourists already had presents for all of their relatives. Or whether they could imagine that one of the relatives of friends would appreciate such nice carpets. And as he did a good job before in presenting the benefits and making the carpets tempting for the tourists, they would often think it’s a good idea to buy them as a present. If the objection was, that the carpets were too heavy, Al Pacino would propose to send them by courier. And so on… you get the idea.

3. Make the customer feel bad

One unusual selling tactic that I learned was to make the tourists feel bad in case they wouldn’t buy. I don’t want to judge whether this is ethical or not. I just observed it and want to pass it on. Also for other tourists to be aware of what happens when somebody tries to sell them something.
I often learned that in order to sell the only thing that counts is the perceived benefit to the customer, but I think that’s only half the story. I’m not talking about coercing the potential customer to buy. This normally won’t work and would lead to high cancellation rates later on and a low customer satisfaction level.

The sneaky way to improve the sales probability is to interconnect the buying decision with the “fate” of the salesman himself. As the tourists know, they’re way richer than an ordinary carpet salesman in India. Al Pacino would tell the prospects that they’re the first customer of the day. Along with this information he said that the first customer of the day always brings good luck for the sales of the rest of the day. The effect of this is twofold: First the tourist now “knows” (In fact he doesn’t know. There might be several first customers on the same day 😉 ) that Al Pacino didn’t sell anything today. So he didn’t earn any money to pay his rent, for his food, etc. And this “poor” guy even gave away the tea for free (as various studies show, when we get something we naturally and automatically want to give something back, to “even out” the transaction. This is called reciprocity). Second the customer now has the power to turn the salesman’s day into a good or a bad day. As he was befriended before, of course he wants to help out! It just makes sense now, to buy at least a little carpet, doesn’t it. As a little favor – and it’s a good deal anyway, isn’t it?


Al Pacino
Al Pacino

It works like magic! I saw these same sales tactics used by good salespeople all over the world. It’s so intriguing how it works! And there are so many more tactics – material for another blog post in the future!

Mountaineering Motivation

Why would one climb high and dangerous mountains?
Why would I climb these mountains?

One of the pioneers of mountaineering who tried to make the first ascent of the summit of Mount Everest was George Mallory. When asked “Why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?” he answered “Because it’s there“. A similar answer would be: Because I can.

This answer doesn’t really satisfy me. It seems far too superficial and not to contain the real reason.
I think the motivation is created by several factors. Some of them are certainly ego-related: the sense of achievement, pride, competition …

But then there’s also another factor: The extreme situation on the mountain, which is exhausting for hours and hours and demands the highest concentration of the climber. All everyday problems fall off and become irrelevant. What remains is the climber – me – and the mountain. The mind becomes empty and it’s possible to experience a state which is often described as Flow or Satori. The dangerous climb suddenly becomes an enjoyable dance on the razor-sharp ridge.

The mountaineering experience is thus transcended into a spiritual experience at the same time as the fear is transformed into the flow experience. One of the prerequisites for this process is described by the famous Austrian top-climber Beat Kammerlander as the willingness to die.

To become free and to free oneself from fear, […] like a willingness to die for this passion.
– Beat Kammerlander

Only after you accept death as a possible outcome and don’t revolt against its possibility, can you become truly free. This is the act of total surrender, to let go 100 %: To accept the possibility of death. This possibility is always there, but we normally only become aware of it when we’re in a dangerous situation.
Once we surrender to the flow of life including the possibility of death, there’s no reason to fear anymore.

Mountaineering can help us become aware of the fact that our bodily lives are factually limited. It can also help us surrender to what is and become free as a result.
I think this only happens if we go to the mountains with a sense of humility. If we don’t think ourselves as stronger as nature or think we can conquer it. Another extreme mountaineer puts it very nicely:

We’ll go to the mountains […] with humility,
without wanting to dominate the mountain, because
we know that it’s much stronger than we are and it will
take us where it wants us to go. We’ll learn to
coexist with the real world, the world of rocks,
of plants, ice, the world beneath the cement.
With what was here before us and will be
here long after we’re gone.
– Kilian Jornet

Of course I don’t expect to die, but engaging in objectively dangerous activities – whatever they are – forces us to face the possibility and is a great tool to bring the quality of life to another level even while being back in safety in everyday life. It’s a great teaching coming directly from nature and life experiences. From time to time – when we feel too safe – a refresher is quite helpful as well.

How the difficult path becomes the easy path

Sometimes in life we arrive at the crossroads of a decision. And there are only two different paths to follow.

It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.
– Tony Robbins

The first path is the seemingly easy and straightforward path. We know it won’t be too challenging. And we also know where it will lead. It’s the secure option, to which others won’t object and which seems like a good choice. A choice that a lot of people would make and do make. They don’t only follow this path themselves, but they also advise you to follow the same path. There are two reasons for that: First, it’s the best advice they can give. They learned to value perceived security over the unknown, more adventurous. Second, it reinforces their decision. They don’t want to confess that there’s something missing from their lives and something wrong with their decision to follow the easy path.

The second path leads into the unknown. While the destination may be and often is worthwhile and desirable, it is absolutely uncertain how and if we can ever get to this destination. Right from the beginning there are obstacles on this path, of which we don’t know how to overcome them. It’s not only unclear how it’s possible to be able to follow this path, but it’s also unclear if we will survive the journey on this path. It is a dangerous decision to follow this path to say the least.
And yet we know somehow, that – actually – we are meant to follow this second path. It has an inexplicable appeal and tries to pull us on its way. And while it is indeed dangerous, it also radiates effervescent magic. It has the power to challenge us, to transform us and to fulfill our lives. Only in our heart do we know that we should definitely follow this path into the unknown. That’s why it is also called the path with a heart.

On the other hand our mind, assisted by our fears, will find numerous reasons why we should follow the easy path. Indeed it even makes sense to do so. But doing so will cripple the spirit. Not in an instant but more like a drought cripples the lawn. Slowly and not very apparent in the beginning. But as time goes by the spirit becomes weaker and weaker. For every successive decision it will be harder to choose the path with a heart. Seeing that – also with the mind – we can build up a counterbalance to the rational fallacy that the easy way should be followed. Every day we have the possibility to break our chains, to become finally and truly free, to follow the path with a heart.

Only when we take the first steps on the path into the unknown, we find out that the obstacles are not unsurmountable. We even find open doors, that we didn’t see before so we don’t need to make a detour around obstacles but can step right through it. There is a new lightness in our lives and we can relax more and more even while facing the unknown. We learn what to do when we don’t know what to do. This is also how it is possible to go beyond fear. Not to suppress or reduce fear, but to really go beyond it.

We still don’t know how to overcome obstacles ahead and we don’t know how we can ever arrive at the destination. The path still does and forever will lead through the unknown. But with the new ease of life, this is not something that bothers us. There is a new faith and certainty that we will be able to overcome any obstacle as it appears and as it is needed. Suddenly our journey on the path resembles a dance and we become one with the path. We become one with its magic and don’t work against life. We flow with the path, take its turns, ups and downs and pick up the given, natural speed. That also means that we’re sometimes faster, sometimes slower, have ups and downs ourselves, but things happen naturally and somehow effortless. We don’t feel an urge to change the world as it is and things fall in place automatically.