Life Compass - Chapter I / Reflection


Towards the end of each year, I take time off from work to reflect on the progress I did the past year and to define, where I stand in Life.

I summarize a letter, in which i share about my desires, my perspectives, my motivations, my thoughts and my struggles.

This manifesto is my compass, my north star, a map that guides me along the road that I wish to journey. I first started sharing a few lines with friends and family some years. I felt that this roadmap was of support and guidance to others that seek for a better path or have a higher motivation than just to survive their youth.

That is why I started to share this raw and honest manuscript to a wider public.

This year, my letter will consist of three chapters, reflecting both my personal and my entrepreneurial journey. The first part is a brief reflection of 2019, followed by an outlook and goals for 2020. The final part consists of different notes, thoughts and selected quotes about how I look at life and our society from a more abstract point of view.

Chapter I – Personal Reflection 2019

2019 - According to the Chinese calendar, the year of the brown earth pig that promised much good. After all, I’m 50% Asian. From an overall perspective, it was a very good year with only a few the struggles and little bumps. The headlines / essence would be:

  • A step towards clarity, how I want my life to unfold

  • Better understanding of what i will do with my time, talents and resources

  • Great results at work due to good teamwork and personal enjoyment (FLOW)

  • Living fulfilling relationships

Here are some experiences I want to specially mention:

My New Life in Switzerland:

I feel, i have almost arrived, emotionally and physically and doing so, I have discovered a few of my happy spots in the region. It has only been this year, that I have decided to finally move back to my hometown Roggwil, after being based in Asia for almost a decade.

Luxury in numbers:

  • Nature in front of my door

  • Kybun and Joya Office – 500 M

  • All Family – 800 M

  • Lake to swim– 3 KM

  • Town St. Gallen – 8 KM

  • Ski / Mountains - 80KM

  • Airport to fly anywhere – 80 KM

My “minimalistic experience”:

Towards end of 2018, I started to read books on how, living a minimalistic life, can increase your life quality and decluttering your home and possessions will increase your happiness – I started my own experiment. My first move was to discard as many of my belongings, with the aim that I could move my apartment within 3 hours.

It helped me to increase my own immunity to the omnipresence of seductive advertisement and the philosophy of consumerism. Let’s see how this lifestyle I have chosen evolves as my character continues to develop.

Living fulfilling relationships:

I’m thankful as I could spend much time with our parents, the siblings and the kids. Our annual Family holidays were a great memory as our traditional Easter and Christmas gathering.

The annual trip with my brother-in-law Murat to the champions league final lead us to Madrid this year, where we convinced a DHL driver give us a ride back to the Hotel due to the lack of transportation possibilities.

I managed to do a trip with my father to the USA; to open our first Kybun Joya shop there, yet, failed to go with my mother on a vacation.

I did not have much quality time with my friends. It was a fast-paced year and i was on a tight schedule as I spent many weekends in the air, travelling on a "workmode" to make it to the Monday meetings.

Still, we had a few of those unforgettable afternoons that turned into evenings, that I cannot fully recall. This point needs some more extra attention in 2020.

Being the best version of myself:

I maintained my passion for a healthy lifestyle. With my almost 35 years in age, I feel the healthiest and fittest today. I continue to follow with my morning routine with discipline. I use the first 2 hours of the day for workouts, meditation and thinking. This has been one of the game changers of my life and improved my clarity, focus and overall life quality.

I finally managed to cross out a long-awaited bucket list goal by finishing a half marathon over the 21km distance in 2 hours and 2 minutes. I started to enjoy my running and do about 20km a week, any time of the year.

Besides the busy schedule at work, I managed to allocate enough time to continue to discover our beautiful earth. I can look back this year at an amazing trip to the east of Indonesia and a wild and inspirational journey through the deserts, highlands and forests of chile and Colombia.

My role as a son, a brother, a friend, a partner or a leader, I feel that I have improved showing empathy and the ability to listen without judgement. I got better in motivating and praising people; even to say sorry for a mistake or accept to lose an argument feels natural.

Providing trust, letting go of control and showing patience are skills that develop not at the pace that I wanted them to progress, but I can see a silver lining. Isn’t self-knowledge the first step towards improvement.

My inner struggles to live the particular/right life:

I frequently ask myself the same questionable question. What is the reason, that I put all the extra effort and sacrifice in building an ever-bigger company and an ever-wider network? I could already live a comfortable life at some beautiful beach for the rest of my life, doing everything that would satisfy my desires.

What is that, what I truly desire? What is my intrinsic motivation, those that give me enjoyment, purpose, growth, curiosity and fun?

Who am I! “Not, who do I want to be today or in this phase of life” – I want to profoundly understand the “different” characters and personas (or even personalities) of Karl.

On my search, I started reading more stories and books about Autism a that has given me a deeper understanding about the trait of the affected characters. The more I learned about it, the better I could relate and apply it to my own situation.

I could relate fully to what is going on “out there” and improved in taking precautions when I felt that my mind was narrowing down or getting entangled. By knowing my mental boundaries, I can channel my own strengths far better and enhance those, by being within my sector of security or daily routines.

I’m reflecting, observing, collecting data about my behavior, receiving feedback from people to their experience with me, to solve the one important question:

What challenge is mine to solve during my lifetime - to discover the “Why”, I was placed on this planet?

To be honest, I have not yet found what I truly desire. I have not yet figured, what I’m great at. I do, what I enjoy and what feels good and right for now. I will keep searching and struggling.

I want to optimize my life by looking out for my distractions. I realized that an “addiction” to any distraction is the end of our creative production. What are those interruptions that disturb me from doing my daily tasks better, what are those delicious super-candies, irresistible but so poisonous? What hinders my absolute focus, what slows me down, what lets me do those extra laps on the same battlefield repeatedly?

Beside those self-made mental struggles, I have been blessed that, no personal tragedies or hardships have crossed my live this year. I understand, they are an inevitable part of our cycle, waiting in line to appear!

365 days in a few lines:

The year 2019 was a confirmation, that I can live life to my own satisfaction and happiness while being constant and continuous.

Values that were imbued in me, from early childhood on, like modesty, a serving attitude, forgiveness, honesty and fairness always kick in at the right time and were a reliable guide this year.

I feel that one of my missions in life, is to transport some of those values to people close to me, creating lasting memories and experiences whenever we meet.

This year has shown me that I can make an impact on the life of others, with the support I give them, with finance, with surprise gift, with my helping hands or a well-placed and honest advice.

Life gives me many reasons to be thankful, not taking a single day for granted.

Reflections about my work in 2019

Let me talk about Joya, our twelve-year-old “baby”.

Not such a long time ago, our company, Joya Schuhe AG was just a start-up, with the vision to create shoes, that help all people that suffer from problems on their locomotor system.

Today, we are a multi-nationally operating company that has grown continuously over the past years to a point beyond 20 Million in annual revenue, employing 75 people around the world.

The recipe of our success sounds simple, whenever I tell my story. We are eager to solve challenges in a modest way, we do not shy away to reinvent our business model as we go; we stress the status quo; we are persistent and do not give up; we enable the right people to work for us, in the field of their talent.

I consider ourselves as a group of “outcasts”; the “unpopular” and the “weird”; who came together to stand up for a shared vision we believe in. Let me tell you, that is already 95% of our secret. (And yes - there is the secret sauce!)

Our naïve and positive attitude led us to chances, those we could not ever imagine. We have been supported and surrounded by the right people, those that wished us well and often provided us with the best lessons and learnings.

We had it all: Luck, open doors, being at the right place at the right time.

I will remember 2019 as the year in which we proved ourselves that our abstract vision of a digitally transformed business model is our promising future.

We optimized countless workflows, invented new technologies and improved our marketing appearance and product design.

I am especially proud that the cooperation and interaction among our teams has reached a natural dynamic. It is the year I understood the importance of the meaning of a symbiotic work relation, that I want to anker into our culture.

My ultimate happiness as an entrepreneur is to feel our natural dynamic rise to life.

Joya being features in Nikkei / Financial times Asia

Our Joint Venture with Kybun:

Late 2018, my father and I got together to evaluate how our companies could improve the customer experience and consultation at the point of sales. This year, we founded an independent JV, the Kybun Joya Retail AG, with the goal to operate and manage a new kind of retail experience focusing on health.

I’m thankful, as my brother Mathias decided to lead this business-arm of ours, with the goal to create ecosystems, where people with walking pain will find a solution!

Im happy to see this child of ours growing well. Like every new business, we have and had our structural and communicational challenges. We faced delays and setbacks, it’s crucial how you deal with them; what you learn and how you adapt. Here is where most start-ups I met, lost their start-up energy and passion.

Looking back, we launched five own Kybun Joya stores this year and supported many other stores to transform and follow our vision.

In today’s world, where consumers and investors are responsible that products, brands and concepts are constantly being replaced by the same-same but different:

with Kybun and Joya, we can build something, that will be lasting

Our Family Foundation invests into hospitality:

Besides our footwear related business and real estate, we started to dip our toes into the hospitality business. Ever since I started investing into the operation of short-term rental properties and building hospitality projects in Indonesia in 2011; my family was curiously observing the development of this booming market.

This year, we had the opportunity to purchase four amazing properties and two stables here in Switzerland. Spontaneously, mid-summer, we started with short-term rental that has developed very well. We feel there is a market potential for hip hostels and B&B’s that we are planning to realize soon.

As my sister Esther in planning to move back to Switzerland soon and her husband works in the Gastronomical sector, let’s see how this will influence the dynamics of our family business. We are excited in these times of many possibilities.

Rainbow harvest, our “Utopia”:

Our agriculture and tourism business in Indonesia, that finances our social utopian experiment on Flores island, was without major highlight this year. We upgraded our Hotel and Restaurant Manulalu Jungle and Heaven’s door.

You find more information with #Manulalu on Instagram.

We managed to finalize the long-awaited water hole, part of our improved hydration system for our Banana plantation. Our clove plantation still needs time.

Nature has its own pace and we can’t speed up the growth of it – and it’s good this way.

Building our new hydration system for our Banana Plantation in Flores, Indonesia

Challenges at work:

We had our share of challenges at Joya, which we managed to overcome because of our great teams and supportive partners that have. Two major blows we had that were premieres for me as well, I would like to mention:

Within our main order season, one of our major suppliers declared bankruptcy without giving us prior notice. To our luck, our team in Korea managed to shift those productions to other suppliers in time and everything took the normal path. Looking back, everything looks easy.

It made me realize, how fragile we are

Another blow we had was a labor strike within one of my own factories due to the unsatisfaction of the male workers as we balanced (increased) the salary of our female employee to theirs. In a male dominated society as Korea, this approach was not welcomed.

I remember, driving back to our office with my Partner Claudio, after a business trip from the Emirates when we got the information. I booked a ticket, turned around to the Airport and 3 hours later I was back in the Airplane bound for Korea.

All the challenges we faced, once again are proof to me, that there is a better solution waiting for us. I ask myself first, why is this happening, what better could come – I try to look for those signs and solutions and then let the change (often painful) happen.

Summary of 2019:

I am thankful and much satisfied with the progress of my 34 years.

Those 365 days turned out much better than I would have ever imagined.

I got taught a lot, learned a lot, thought a lot – kept persistent with my eyes on the goal. I spend valuable times with good people, I gave, I shared - aware that our time here is impermanent.

  • · I trusted and followed my intuitions and instincts this year

  • · I let go of control, shared responsibility and received freedom

  • · I accept if the time is not right yet for plans to unfold my way

Please continue to read Chapter II - My 2020 Outlook

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