Notes from a Small Country

Zoom, zoom, zoom, we’re going to the moon.

“Can you hear me?”

 “Can you see my screen?”

It’s been 7 months since I last wrote Notes from a Small Country.

There’s a reason it’s taken so long. Covid19 has had a significant impact on many of us, and in the land known as one of the happiest on earth, I’ve been busy in Denmark surviving the ups and downs of this pandemic most of us didn’t see coming.

To reboot this series I’ll start with a story I didn’t plan on publishing. It was a recent journal entry for my eyes only. Yet, maybe there’s something in here that can help others? Maybe not? I figure at a minimum it’s a welcome break from all those posts about leadership, building your brand or how to get noticed more on LinkedIn.

Ready? I’m not sure if I am as it’s the most vulnerable post I’ve written here…

Here goes…

We don’t grow old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals

At some point in early October, I realised I was having a crisis. You know, one of those midlife things.

I reached the age of 47 during the summer of Covid19. Up until that point I hadn’t really thought about age, yet something stirred in me this time, deep down in the depths of my soul I felt an aching. Was I really doing what I wanted to do in life? I had serious doubts.

At the time I did what any typical self-respecting adult would do, I ignored it. I didn’t mention it to anyone, least of all my wife and family. Why worry them with something that would go away if I turned a blind eye?

I went out and bought the Lego Technics Land Rover (I couldn’t afford a sports car in Denmark, the tax is 150%). Nice! I had my dream vehicle at last (at least an accurate replica of one).

I’m pretty convinced this strategy would have worked if not for Covid19 life and being on Zoom calls for 8 hours a day. But then, I’m probably wrong about that too, we’ll never know.

Life is an onion and one peels it crying

What I do know (and you after reading this) is that the deep soulful aching turned into crying alone and then crying alone into drinking and then drinking into constant tiredness.

I had mouth ulcers appear. I had eczema pop up at random and then disappear again. I started to get headaches, and on top of feeling tired I felt an overwhelming sadness, a sadness I hid away inside me.

Life was not what I’d dreamed it to be.

I kept going, ignoring the obvious. I have a full-time job, I’m a husband and father. What I was feeling was nothing compared to the real problems others around the world faced. My commitments were many, my problems small, they’d go away over time. Or so I hoped.

So I hid my feelings from my family, I hid my problems from my coworkers and I hid them from my friends.

Given how I’ve spent years learning how to become effective and even share habits and tactics for living an effective life, the irony of my situation was not lost on me.

The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining

One sunny autumn day in October I found myself crying in my small office area in the spare room of our house. It had all become too much. The constant pressure of meetings, the constant lack of human contact, the constant lack of going out and enjoying time with friends, the inability to visit my ageing mum and my twin brother back in the UK, and the realisation my life was 45 hours a week in a room looking at other people on a monitor.

I was broken on the inside, and acting on the outside.

You’d think I’d have seen it coming, given all the warning signs. Turns out ‘ignorance is bliss’ is not a phrase to live by…

If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello

Before moving into software I was in a band, I wrote poetry, I wrote stories, I liked to draw. I wanted to be a rock and roll star.

Cliché I know.

What Covid19 showed me was I’d become a 47-year-old sat in a small room staring at video calls throughout the day, all without a sense of achievement.

Then, on a Monday evening not long ago I felt a rash appear on my back. I felt it grow, it was the weirdest feeling, I asked my wife to take a look, and she watched in horror as it appeared real-time.

Oh, the pain.

It wasn’t insignificant.

The doctor prescribed medicine. I’d broken out in Shingles. A nasty side effect of having Chicken Pox earlier in life. Commonly brought on by stress and a reduced immune system.

Oops, I should have faced that feeling back in June. I should have talked about it. I could have bought the Lego technics Land Rover anyway.

To be happy you don’t need to be perfect. You just need to be real and accept yourself as you are because you are already enough

What if we were exactly what’s needed? What would happen then? How would we live if we were exactly what was needed in the world?

I’d read about being exactly what’s needed in the world and forgotten about it. Now it popped up again as if my subconscious was showing me the first step to take.

And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve realised I’m exactly what’s needed. I’m living each day knowing I’m what’s needed in the world. We all are, we just don’t all realise it.

I’m not out of the woods yet. The fatigue isn’t over, the rash is still present (though no longer painful) and I need to continue to journal in order to know if the path I’ve chosen is the path I want to be on. I’m using Morning pages as my daily practice to creative recovery.

Either you run the day, or the day runs you

How has the pandemic impacted your life? Are the words you hear most often in front of your computer “Can you hear me?” If so take a look at the changes I’m making to my daily routine, I hope they can inspire you in some way, and remember, if you feel any kind of aching, doubt or sadness, don’t just buy a Lego Technics Land Rover, talk to someone who loves you.

The 7 Habits for mental wellbeing while working at home.

  1. Early to bed, early to rise – Rise early and read, meditate or go for a run. Before starting your day, do the thing you need most for your mental well-being.
  2. No matter your job, take control – try to limit video calls to 3 or 4 hours a day.
  3. Ditch video – In fact, for calls where you’re one on one and don’t need to review documents, take them by phone and go outside, your mind will thank you.
  4. Prioritise those small moments of joy – that call with a friend, that funny cat video, that song you love – this is more important than staying glued to Slack or email.
  5. Be kind to yourself – Instead of just keeping a to-do list, consider the addition of a “got it done” list, tracking your accomplishments, big or small, throughout the day.
  6. Choose a wallpaper you love – when you logon, when you minimise your active work pages, you’ll see your wallpaper. Make it something you love (I have incredible mountain bike moments). You’ll be amazed at how much this lifts you.
  7. Hydrate – It’s easy to forget to stay hydrated. We’re not talking coffee, find a herbal tea you like or just drink plain water. When you drink enough throughout the day it’s amazing how much more energy you have (forgetting this was a mistake I made for several months).


I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? I’d love feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

Notes from a Small Country

Notes from a Danish lockdown

“Take my internet.” Said my neighbour.

“You need to work” He continued.

My wife and I were in the unfortunate position of having to move house 2 weeks ago, right in the middle of Denmark’s COVID-19 lockdown.

Our move was organised before the pandemic hit, and we couldn’t delay as the landlord wanted their house back.

The wait on getting the internet installed at our new rental was over 2 months, mostly due to the number of people working at home and needing fibre optic connections (a super-fast pipe).

One of the most difficult things to give away is kindness; usually, it comes back to you

The next morning the doorbell rang, and there on the doorstep was a small wi-fi router.

On it was a note with the password.

My previous neighbour had left his 4G sim card router, so I could get set up for work that day. I was due my own but it was not scheduled until the following day.

“You’ll need a car, how can you move house without a car?” Said friends whose son attends the same Kindergarten as ours.

“We’ll drop it around with the keys, we have 2 of them and with the lockdown, it will just sit on the driveway anyway.”

So for the day of our move and 7 days after that, we had a car. It was amazing. We would have struggled without it and could not be more grateful.

Every single time you help somebody stand up you are helping humanity rise

COVID 19 has brought out the best in many people. Above are just 2 examples of kindness towards myself and my family. There are many more around the world involving people helping those with illness or isolating alone at home.

I hope you’ve been experiencing the best of the people around you.

Denmark certainly has it’s share of kind and good people.

Recently it’s been praised for it’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even before the official lockdown, many Danes (including myself and many of my colleagues) had decided to self-isolate.

The lockdown was a soft one compared to many other countries. There was no stay at home order and many shops remained open.

It seems the Danes didn’t need fines and policing to follow government and WHO advice on social distancing.

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them

The trust in government is so high it’s almost bewildering.

And the government trusts its people too.

It goes both ways.

And pays off nicely.

I’m seeing the government and its people work together, with almost perfect synergy. The type of synergy larger governments in other countries can only dream of.

Compared to those other large countries, Denmark moved early. Restrictions were announced on 11 March, by comparison, this was a full 12 days before lockdown measures were introduced in the UK.

It appears to have helped contain the spread and give time for local healthcare to prepare.

And although there were some problems with people, overall the success of the isolation in Denmark is evident from the number of people admitted to hospital along with the death rate.

As of April 15th, the daily new cases continued to show a decline, with some small spikes.

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Data from

Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders

So, much of the world is now watching Denmark’s reopening due to its successful management of the pandemic.

The decision to soften the lockdown has been popular amongst Danes in general.

The Prime Minister has said one of the government’s key priorities is getting Danes back to work.

She’s leading the way (along with other global female leaders) and the world is watching.

The culture of Denmark is very focused on people being in work, with the children in kindergarten or school. So the lockdown has been hard on the majority of the nation. It’s actually rare to find a family with only one parent working (much rarer than in the US and UK).

Add to that, the number of families living in apartments and you have a cocktail of practical problems that get worse as time goes on.

So, one of the main focuses has been sending children 11 and younger back to kindergarten or school.

This allows those parents working at home with young children to actually work at home.

For my wife and I, we’re lucky enough that she chose not to work for the first 4 years of our children’s lives. So, while I’m working at home, she is working with the kiddo’s (playing and teaching – it helps that she was a lecturer before becoming a parent).

On top of that, the isolation has been ok for myself and my family. We live simple lives, where we don’t focus on external things to drive our joy.

The best things in life aren’t things

Around 10 years ago my enthusiasm for Stoicism and Buddhism paid off, where I became consistently happy and proud of myself for the first time.

This meant I no longer relied on external situations or ‘things’ to make me happy. I choose my attitude and happiness.

It’s the type of freedom I’d dreamed of for years.

Self-isolation is a phase, one we’re coping with well. I’m proud of how my children are happy and finding joy each day, despite not having left home (except for dog walks) for over a month.

I’m grateful to be able to witness the levels of trust, kindness and self-esteem the Danes demonstrate daily.

And more so now than ever.

There are many people suffering and dying around the world, we feel very lucky to be healthy mentally and physically.

I hope where ever you are, you have the health of mind and body, as well as the kindness of others.

And just maybe…the early and gradual reopening of Denmark proves effective enough, that whatever country you’re in, you can follow the lessons learned and get your life and country back to business as usual too.


I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? I’d love feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

Notes from a Small Country

Notes from a Danish lockdown

I’ve been self-isolating with my family for over a week now. All is good and we’re healthy.

What’s been amazing to see is how the Danes have responded to messages from the Prime Minister and Queen.

Upon being asked to take self-isolation seriously and stop panic buying, that’s exactly what most Danes did.

The streets and playgrounds are no longer as crowded and the stores have many of the shelves filled.

Society here, in general, has a culture of caring for others. I’m grateful to be isolating during this time in Denmark (they’re not out buying guns or hoping for herd immunity)

And keeping in the spirit of Danish calm and happiness, here are 2 tips that have been helping me and my family while we’re all at home together 24 hours a day! I hope they help you too.

1. Rewind, Repair and Replay

The 3R’s are a terrific tool for learning to recover when we make mistakes with others. And believe me, when you’re cooped up with loved ones for long periods, you’re going to make mistakes.

My wife and I are getting OK at this now, as we’ve had 7 years of practice (we discovered it through Pam Leo’s Connection parenting), but I do still fail often, and this week was no different.

So, if you find yourself getting stressed and short-fused with those you love, try the 3R’s approach, and remember it’s good for everyone, not just between you and your children.

1. Rewind – Acknowledge internally that you were hurtful or rude

2. Repair – Apologise for what you said and how you said it

3. Replay – Try again, only this time responding with kindness and the intent to connect (this is super important, without replay the repair is not as meaningful)

Here’s a good example from me this week:

In my mind: ‘Oh no, I grabbed Riley (my toddler son) away from the TV as he was pushing it, and I didn’t give him any warning for what I was about to do, he’s now crying and upset.’

To Riley: “I’m sorry I grabbed you without letting you know what I was going to do and why. It was the wrong way to get your attention. I love you (repair)”

To Riley: “Lets start over. I see you were pushing the TV and that’s dangerous, it could break too. Let’s go play with Lego, you’re brother has made a Lego squid, it’s amazing!”

If they can give you context verbally this is also where you listen to them.

2. Focus on optimism

Viktor Frankl once said “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

Your kids and partner are at home and you’re all going crazy?

Just think of all that precious time you have with your loved ones now! If it’s your kids, then wow, you’re all really getting to know each. What about your pet? I bet they’re appreciating having you around? I know if I was one of the millions of dogs left at home for 6-8 hours a day I’d be loving it right now.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, remember another Viktor Frankl favourite

“The problem is not the problem, the problem is your attitude about the problem”

Optimism is a strategy, not a delusion.

Here’s wishing you health and wellness!


I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? I’d love feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

Notes from a Small Country

Notes from a Danish lockdown

Day 2 of working at home while Danish schools and kindergartens are closed.

I and my colleagues are doing our part to slow the spread by not commuting to the office.

I went to get supplies from the local grocery store this morning and there was no bread and very little flour. The store was mostly empty. It’s not like this for every part of Copenhagen, but where I am in the north it appears people have gone on a spending spree for supplies.

We do have plenty of toilet paper which is nice.

I’ve worked at home on and off for 20 years, so I’m comfortable. It’s never occurred to me how many people are not comfortable moving from an office set up to a home office setup.

So while many of us settle or try to settle into working from home, below are 6 tips on how to get productive and stay focused.

1. Don’t assume everyone else you work with wants to hang out over video chat and replicate an open office culture.

If you’re more extroverted, working at home can be a challenge, as social interaction is lost. Yet if you’re more introverted it’s heaven, as you can quietly work without losing energy from lots of interacting with others.

If your company is encouraging even more meetings due to WFH, you could become less productive than ever. Make sure your manager knows your preferences. If you’re a manager make sure you understand your teams’ individual needs for effectiveness.

I’m more introverted and so the chance to WFH is like a dream for me. I miss it and have no problem not over-communicating. Yet many want that, as over-communication can lead to them being more effective.

Enabling the needs for all is the key, not shoving down one way for everyone.

2. Use techniques like Pomodoro for focus.

I’ve written about Pomodoro technique before and it’s terrific. It enables you to get the most out of the time you have.

Turn off slack, turn off Zoom, turn off the internet. Set that timer going and crack on with that task.

3. Don’t be available all the time.

I’ve just spent the last 2 days replying to messages on Slack, it’s crazy.

From Monday I’ll be back to normal and will ensure answering messages but not always right away.

It’s not about ignoring people, it’s about carving out time and focusing. Time is precious, and before you know it you’ll have spent the whole day going back and forth on email or slack or in video calls.

A good segway into…

4. Set boundaries.

If you need to work shifts due to shared parenting, then experiment and make sure your employer and team members know. With the schools closed, you don’t want to turn Netflix into a full-time parent.

So work out your hours, just like you do when in an office. Without this, you’ll be all work and no play, or worse, all work, no play and no parenting.

5. Cardboard will save you.

I don’t have a standup desk at home, so I put a cardboard box on my desk, and the laptop on top, standing to work for a couple of hours each day.

Sitting down takes years off your life. When you’re at home and not getting up and going around the office for meetings, it’s easy to forget to stand.

Before you know it you’re stiffer than a plank of wood and unable to move.

Use a box and stand up.

6. Be grateful

When times are tough and believe me they will be. Kids are off kindergarten, being stuck at home, grocery stores lacking basic supplies, it’s all coming.

Be grateful.

Each morning I write down 3 things I’m grateful for and a daily affirmation. Then in the evening, I write down 3 amazing things that happened and what I’d do differently next time.

I use the 5-minute journal for this, though you could just use paper or do it digitally.

It’s a terrific way to help set your frame of mind and be optimistic, knowing that you’re actually privileged and life is good.

Not everyone can keep their job and work from home.

Stay safe! And keep tuned for more updates from the Danish lockdown.

Here are some good resources to get you started:

How to work from home without losing your mind

Staying focused with the Pomodoro technique

Great tips for parents and non-parents from remote workers

5 tips for staying productive while working at home

Work effectively when you’re short on space

Tips for working in teams and being at home during Corona time


I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? I’d love feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!