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I Cannot Stop Thinking

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I Cannot Stop Thinking

I came to know Klaus, a German consultant, during work. When we first met, what I knew about him was that he was already an old man probably and worked in Fraunhofer, a famous research institute in Germany. He used to be a professor in a Chinese college, and had worked with many institutes in China. Out of courtesy I addressed him "Professor" when we first met, but he said to me rather seriously that it's okay to call him Klaus.

But as I came to know more about him, I found that we could learn a lot from him.

Just a few days ago, I was preparing the presentation document for a meeting, and Klaus was to help me review a part of it. As the time was limited, I told him that I hoped he could have it done by tomorrow morning. He smiled and said to me, "When is it that you need for tomorrow morning? 1 a.m. is tomorrow morning, so is 3 a.m., or 8 a.m." He said that he had an important meeting with a friend, but would have the document revised no matter how. The next day when I checked my mail at 8:30 in the morning, I found that Klaus had already sent the file to me, with very careful revision comments. The mail sent time showed that it was 3:21 a.m.

The other day I was discussing the time for a project status meeting with him, and Klaus took out his notebook and carefully checked his timetable. To my amazement, I found that he had made the plan for the whole year: going to city A from this date to that date, flying back to Germany from this date to that date, etc. I asked him, "Is it really necessary to plan for such a long time ahead? What's the good of a plan if anything unexpected happens?" And he said, "That’s why you need to plan in case such changes happen."

Klaus worked with quite a few projects during his consulting days with us. Sometimes I would talk to all the project managers and found out how he helped us. All the PMs said that he provided unique values in helping them mastering future direction and architectural design. He believed that these things should be clarified first; otherwise, any changes and improvement could be a waste of time.

There was one time that a PM came to me and complained that he could not communicate with Klaus. This PM wanted to launch an improvement on Quick-win, hoping to solve a problem in the current business. But every time he went to discuss with Klaus, Klaus would never ask about the content of the business, but instead asked its future direction and relation with other businesses. Later, Klaus came to me for a few times and said that there could be risks in the project. The solving of this minor problem might bring up greater problems in the future. He explained by showing the direction of the business and how we should design the business and IT structure. After a few rounds of discussion and communication, the PM finally understood the intent of Klaus and the project went on smoothly.

After working with Klaus for some time, we would chat about life. He told me that he never slept for more than 4 hours a day, even during his seventies. When I told him that it is good for one's health if one sleeps about 7 hours a day, and sleep deprivation is bad, he laughed and told me his story.

When he was in his twenties, he used to be sprint runner and had been enlisted in the German Olympic team. But unfortunately, over-exercise during training damaged his tendon, and he had to abort his athletic life. Later, he suffered a bone fracture in his legs during a traffic accident in Syria. The doctor said amputation was necessary, but he declined. "How am I going to walk without two legs?"

"Look, they are doing fine, aren't they?" Klaus smiled to me as he patted his legs.

Later, he had a kidney problem, and one kidney was surgically removed. The doctor prompted him to accept another surgery on the other kidney, or he would have no more than three months' life. I was shocked, "but you looked even healthier than most of us. How did you get through this ordeal?"

His reply again amazed me. "Just thinking."

When he was suffering from his leg injury, he was pessimistic in the beginning and even wished he would die very soon. But later, he came through this bad time, and decided to do something during what was left of his life time. He diverted his attention to work and contemplation, and his legs miraculously recuperated. And this is how he survived the next several serious illnesses. "If I stop thinking, I'll die at once," he said.

This is how this man in his seventies, who sleeps less than 4 hours a day, drinks coffee and coke and smokes cigarettes against doctor's advices, survived his illnesses.

I asked Klaus what he had in mind for his future. He said the short plan was to clarify the architecture and direction of the projects; he could not see us walking off the right direction because the project would fail. As for the next plan, he said, "I've got to go back to Germany when I have time, or my dog will not recognize me."

By Leo,translated by Roger

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