Steli returns to Germany: A lesson in presence and priorities

I’ve never had a great relationship with my Germany, even though I was born here, I grew up here, I have family and friends I love here. I never liked living here. And whenever I came back to spend time in Germany, I always like coming back to a place I didn’t belong, nor wanted to be.

But because Germany is such a big part of my life, I wanted to find a way of coming back without feeling that way. And this time around, I asked myself a very simple question to create clarity. I asked myself: What’s the most important thing for me during the first few weeks here in Germany?

To me, the answer was simple: I want to spend quality times with my loved ones here. And as long as I accomplished that every day, as long as I shared real quality time with loved ones, where I’m fully present in the moment, then for me, that’s good enough.

I won’t stress about anything else. If I’m not as productive as I want to be, if I don’t get all the things done that I want to get done, if I don’t work out as much as I want to work out, if I don’t give my time and energy to every friend in Germany that asks for it right away, if I say no to people when they make requests I don’t want to fulfill, if I don’t eat as healthy as I want to eat, if I don’t sleep as well, if I don’t stick to the routines and habits I’ve established for myself, if I don’t practice being the best version of myself in every aspect of my life—that’s fine. I won’t stress about it, I won’t beat myself up about it.

It means that I’m fine saying no to a lot of things. Funny enough, I’ve given entire talks on that topic for startups.

But in my personal life, I struggle with it myself.

Because when you know how to say no, you know how to say yes to the few things that really matter.

In the past, when I’d spend time with my loved ones, I’d be really present for a while—but then all kinds of thoughts crept up on me: ‘Oh, you gotta take care of this, oh and you have to call that person back, and you gotta get this done.’, and before I knew it, even while I was still physically present to my family, mentally and emotionally, I was there only 30%, and the other 70% of me where busy managing my mental to do list.

First couple of days back in Germany, usually this would be the time where I’m in emotional turmoil and pain. Not a happy camper. It’s almost like they caught me again, you know, and they brought me back to jail.
[00:00:15] I’m a, you know, like a breakout of jail once in a while and I’m gone and then they catch me somewhere. They get me back and never a happy camper. The first, Couple of months, two years was a couple of days for sure. And this time before coming back, one thing that I did was I spent some time in presence thinking through what my first few weeks back in Germany can look like.
[00:00:43]And being aware and mindful of the fact that I usually have all this internal resistance that I have all this resentment that I feel like I don’t want to be here, but I have to be here and I’m forced, and it’s a lack of freedom. Somebody’s stealing my freedom and it’s a burdening of my life. And so I thought this time around, I don’t want to feel that way anymore.
[00:01:05]So since I do have a say in how I feel and what stories I tell myself, what do I want to experience this time around when I’m back in Germany? How do I want to feel? Because it’s my free choice. I don’t have to be here. I choose to be here because of family because of children, but it’s still a choice to me.
[00:01:22] It might feel not like a choice because not being close to family is not even an option, but it is. People choose not to be around their family. I choose to be, so it is a choice of mine. It doesn’t matter if I personally feel like it’s not. And honestly, I’m spending, I’m going to be spending a good amount of time in Germany for the rest of my life, because I have family here and I want to enjoy the time when I’m here.
[00:01:52]I don’t want to suffer, like either I’ll decide not to be here. Or if I’m deciding to be here, then it might as well decide to be here. Happy. The, I made one small change this time around before coming back any, you know, it’s early. So we’ll see if this is gonna endure and last, but the last three days since coming back, I have.
[00:02:24] Almost none of the things that are usually need to be happy and be fulfilled and excited and functioning. I made all the right wrong choices in almost all categories except one. So in the morning, the last few days I’ve been eating carbs in between sugar wrapped in carbs. I have been, you know, not working out, I’ve been eating shitty.
[00:02:50] I’ve not been meditating. I went to bed way too late. I slept terribly last night was horrendous. I woke up at 1:00 AM and I couldn’t fall asleep for hours and hours. Jet lag, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, lack of good food. Then last night I watched a bunch of YouTube clips. This is something I haven’t done in a long time.
[00:03:15] Lots of bad choices, basically. Didn’t do my typical routine in the morning was stretching with journaling the way that I used to do it. And I’m still in a pretty good mood. I’m not saying that that will stay that way. If I continue making bad choices, many, many small, bad choices every day, but also give myself permission that after a long travel and a big change, again, like wrapping up my.
[00:03:42] My old homes and men like wrapping up my life in one point of the world. And then unwrapping again, that this part of the world, the last and having the travel, the added stress of travel traveling during COVID times is not fun. Traveling always is tiring, but it’s extra tiring when you have to have a mask on all times and you have to do it COVID test before you fly.
[00:04:06] And after you fly and you have to do all this. Registrations with these different countries and you have to prove that there’s a reason why you’re traveling into it. And it’s all this extra baggage allowing myself to say, well, the first couple of days, if I’m not the perfect version of myself, that’s fine.
[00:04:24] And I can like ease into getting back into a groove. But the number one thing that I changed that has made a big difference in my mood. Is that before coming back, I had a vision for what I wanted the first week to be about what is going to be my focus, my purpose, and what are all the things that, although I’d like to do them, I’m going to be okay if they’re not going well.
[00:04:55] And to me, that was a super simple question to answer and clarify, which was. The main purpose I have in the first couple of weeks is quality time with my boys. Quality time with my family. And as long as every day, I spent some quality time with my family. If I’m not as good at my workout routine, if I’m not as productive at work, if I haven’t figured out all the little details I need to fix in my apartment, if I haven’t taken care of all the friends that want to meet the need help, if I am not doing all these other things, that’s fine.
[00:05:33] The main priority is family. And spending quality time with them, not just time, but quality time with presence, with awareness, mindfulness being really there and really enjoying these people because I’ve missed them. And I’ve fought that before and I’ve spent as much time as I spent the last few days with my family before, when I just arrived.
[00:05:58] But oftentimes. The first couple of days, when I would be back, I would feel this incredible pressure to get a million things done. I would feel the pressure to get everything done all at once. And this is something I’ve talked to people in many other areas in life where I’m much more mature than I am in my private life.
[00:06:17] Sometimes where, you know, a sales rep that does a million things a day and gets nothing done. It’d be simple. Hey. One thing at a time, what is the thing that really matters this week? We’re just gonna do prospecting or this week, we’re just going to focus on this one thing. Same thing with entrepreneurs, they all startups.
[00:06:32] They all try to do too many things too quickly. You get nothing done. So prioritizing thinking big picture, saying no to things I’ve given a whole talk about the art of saying, you know, is the superpower that successful startups and entrepreneurs have because when you know how to say no, you really know how to say yes to the few things that truly matter.
[00:06:54] Most people think that prioritizing because when they make a list of 35 items, they put the most important item. First that’s not prioritizing. Will you still attempt to do all 35 and maybe even start with item seven randomly because that’s feels good. That’s not prioritizing and in business, I’m pretty damn good at this, but when I would travel.
[00:07:20] I wasn’t good at this, no matter where if I would arrive back to Germany or who would arrive back in the U S or something, or else, I would always attempt too many things too quickly all at once and not make the hard choices of saying what are all the things I’d like to do and I’m not going to get done.
[00:07:36] And what is really the most important things that I absolutely have to get done, because I want it done. I want to focus on it. I want to experience it. And many, many times. I came I’ve come back to Germany and I would be with my family and the first hour or two, I would totally be present kind of by default and have a good time and have joy and laughter and play.
[00:07:58] And then there would be this creeping feeling inside of me of feeling tension and stress and thinking, Oh, but. You also need to get these four things done that are work-related and you also need to get these three chores done, and you also need to take care of these other things and get in touch with these other people.
[00:08:22] And all of a sudden that fun and joy I had spending time with people I really love would quickly after a couple of hours, turn into a burden, I have to carry while I’m trying to have all these other balls in the air and balancing them all. And this is the first time that I can remember it a long time where I have not been going through this experience every day.
[00:08:45] I’ve been enjoying my family more than in a long time. And I’ve been totally okay with getting as little as much done afterwards that I can and being a whole week in like, imagining that by the end of this week, I would have not done any of the produce that I feel like I should be doing would be something that typically would stress me out and make me really unhappy.
[00:09:13] And now I don’t care. Like if I get any of these things done, that’s cool. But if not, that’s fine as well, because what I’m really getting done is the thing that I set as my number one priority. The thing that I really want out of the experience of being back here, which is the reason why I’m back here.
[00:09:30] Which is my family, the people I love. So if I’m back because of these people, then it’s not negotiable that I will enjoy these people and that I will be present when I’m with them. And as I said, I’ve made so many bad choices. I had terrible sleep. I’m jet lag. I’ve not been eating well. I’m not been holding my routines.
[00:09:53] These are all th and I’ve not been super productive. These are all things that would freak me out. Usually. And, uh, so far so good. I don’t care. Like it’s fine because I had three beautiful days so far with my family. I had really high quality conversations, really high quality time fun. Laughter, love closeness.
[00:10:14] I feel good. I’m like, I feel okay now it’s not like the being back in a prison, but actually feeling like I’m back and I’m choosing to be here and spend time with people. I really, really love. So it’s been refreshing. Really good. Yeah. That’s still I can see it. I’ve never tried that, but I love the focus on okay.
[00:10:36]All I want out of these, whatever this first week is just quality time with my family and loved ones. That’s super powerful. And every end of that happens, everything else was okay. Which is the way that you want to do anything in life. You prioritize and decide either right now in my life or today, what is it that matters?
[00:10:55] What is it that I want to show up to fully be fully there? And what is it that is not negotiable. So if today is over or this week is over this month or whatever it is, If that is not something that I showed up for, it’s not okay. It’s not fine. It cannot be done later. I choose to not want to do this later.
[00:11:21] Sometimes it’s things you don’t want to write. Sometimes there’s something really important going on in your life that you really don’t want to deal with, but it’s not negotiable. And it’s important to decide this is the non-negotiable and these are all the things I really, really, really, really, really would love to do.
[00:11:36]But they aren’t negotiable. They’re not urgent or important or whatever, and they can be done later. And maybe like there’s parts of our life where this is maybe more intuitive or easier for me, definitely in business. I’ve learned this over many, many years to be good at it, but there’s other areas in my life where I’m not always naturally good at it.
[00:11:59] And especially the, the. Pattern of coming back to Europe too. My family has built this negative cycle and negative momentum where I would always feel so burdened and stressed and Rob of my freedom for being here. And then, because I was not choosing. To realize that this is my free choice and to decide what about this place is something that draws me back.
[00:12:32] What is it that is good here. And what is it that matters? Because of that? I would fall into a natural behavior, which is because there’s something in me. That’s not okay. I’m trying to fill the hole with a whole lot of activity in mindlessness. And this is just an external manifestation of what’s going on internally.
[00:12:51] I’m not at peace. I’m internally in Turo moral. And so it manifests itself by me trying to grow a million things and feeling stressed and overwhelmed by everything and just choosing not to and do clarifying on what it is I want. it gives that permission to. to not go out and see, right?
[00:13:12] I’m like, it’s almost like a wild storm. And the, the ocean is kind of crazy and I’m in this nice little pup and I’m drinking a hot coffee or hot tea, and I’m choosing to read a book today. I’m not going out. Right. I don’t have to go out on the water right now. I can’t do all these things. I just want to do.
[00:13:30]The thing that matters to me most right now, right here, which in my case right now is just have the greatest time I can with my family.

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