Dear Grandpa. Or: What does it need in life to get ahead?

The street of life can be narrow at times - do you still have it all to get "ahead"?

The street of life can be narrow at times – do you still have it all to get “ahead”?

When Woodpecker was a young boy, my grandfather (may he rest in peace) was a very impressive person for me. A man of high figure and of very resolute statements. And of scary yet fascinating stories from the past.

One of his prefered wisdom I remember was:

“Im Leben da kommt nur voran, wer arbeiten, rechnen und sparen kann”.

“In life only gets ahead, he who can work, calculate and save.”
(Well, the rhyme only works in German.)

So today, when I was cycling to work, this slogan crossed my mind.
I started to think about how I would score on these three ingredients – work, calculate and save – and I really had to smile:

Because, let’s be honest about it, you might have guessed it already, and I have to admit it frankly now:

Woodpecker really is kind of a lazy shit when it comes to working!

I mean, we all, we who are reading these downshifting and early retirement blogs are, aren’t we?

And why not, because laziness is human nature.

It even is said to be a strong booster for creativity and development. Some historics claim that laziness is one of the primal drivers for invention – as people are lazy, they try to find ways to make their lives and work more easy, so they invent things.

Anyway, standing up for your laziness is a difficult thing in todays work-manic and ever-hectic world.
At least in Germany I’d definitely not recommend to boast about this anywhere outside your close friends (Comments welcome on other countries!)

But let’s come back to the slogan.

Self assessment:


How do I score?
Lazy shit yes. Oh yeah!
But then on the other side Woodpecker is quite efficient at his job.
And this isn’t a co-incidence.
You too can find that job where you are really efficient at. If you are searching very hard, if you find courage to swap jobs a few times in the beginning (I had 6 positions with 3 employers in my first 8 years of career), plus if you avoid the career trap, i.e. better think carefully before climbing a ladder as fast as possible simply because it is there. And of course always prefer efficiency over perfection. Perfection seldom is needed, and generally is way too inefficient to reach.

So that’s the fun thing:
Due to the above and despite being a lazy shit, I receive some signals that obviously I do quite good work at my current job. Feedback is excellent and trust by management is high.

It took me a while to understand what is going on here, because there are so many colleagues out there who seem to achieve less or the same while investing much much more time and effort!
Note that I don’t think I am more clever than them, but so many of them just seem to work inefficiently – and/or they are simply so keen on career that they spend endless unnecessary extra hours in the office just to be seen, to impress someone or whatever!

Strange world.

Anyhow. Summary: Overall score 6/10.

Not too much, grandpa would be shocked, but let’s move on to more cheerful things than work:


I think I am good at that.
And besides I like it.
Already as a kid I was boring others by introducing extra-hotels, debts, interests, special rents and huge new banknotes  to any Monopoly game, so that we could play on for 3 days while accumulating the big money.

Good thing is, calculating is a skill I can use at work as well – comes in very handy, because if you are good at it, you are actually very quick, whereas others grant you quite some time to do the task.
So no matter how unsexy it was at school – better at least know your maths if you are already a lazy worker like Woodpecker.

Overall Score 9/10.


Not too bad as well.
I mean I am not nearly as bad-ass as many of the hardcore early retirement fans out there, nor do I want to live up to this extreme. But, compared with the average modern consumption addicted family, the Woodpecker clan is doing fine I think.
I even came to enjoy the slightly embarrassed looks when announcing in the canteen that we are going on vacation to lets say Romania / Poland / Slovenia. Or that we stay at camp sites or in Youth Hostels. For e.g. 4.000 EUR  total budget for 4 weeks.
Instead of flying to Bali for only two weeks, staying in a fancy resort with the family and throwing 12.000(!!) EUR down the drain, like my colleague did recently. (i.e. for his budged in one day, we can travel 6 days)

Overall Score 8/10.


So, do I get ahead in old grandpa’s sense?

He might not fully agree, as his own focus was on this strange “work” thing,  but I think: Yes! At least I’m not at all unhappy about how things develop.

So what do we learn from this little exercise?

I think it’s not “You only get ahead if you can work, calculate and save”, but fortunately it is rather “You only get ahead if you are good at least at two out of the three, work, calculate and save”. I mean, all three obviously is great, but two is still ok!

Good news, isn’t it? Pheeeee…no need to get more ambitious at work in Woodpeckers case. 😉

So what about you?

What’s your self assessment?

Let me know in the comments!





Sad part of the story is that poor grandpa actually died as an unhappy man.

However, this was not because of his philosophy or work ethics or his honorable achievements, but because he had to fight in WWII.

This was an early lesson for Woodpecker what terrible things war is doing to people. In fact I think one should not be too fearful in life. But war, and any other kind of physical violence are the exception. They are to be feared and are to be avoided at any costs.


6 comments on “Dear Grandpa. Or: What does it need in life to get ahead?

  1. Woody says:

    Well looks like we are quite similar. Calculating and saving have always been good friends of mine. That was never really difficult for me and kind of second nature.
    Well, working – in school I was always good in all subjects with little need to just remember a huge amount of data, but “just” getting the right idea and applying it again and again. I.e. math, physics, grammar was always easy. But I was too lazy too learn dates for history test. At work it’s now quite the same. I’m quite efficiently applying best-practice methods and therefore I mostly can reduce overtime to a minimum. But I would say, I’m rather lazy. Some of my colleagues really seem to be much more busy and spend more time at the office. Even though I have the impression that my bosses are perfectly satisfied with my achievments.

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Yes, very much as my experience.
      And in fact a good starting point for further downshifting. As long as bosses are happy and performance is still satisfying to them there seems nothing wrong with leaving even earlier. Only drawback is that in many (german) companies promotions are still handed out on the basis of being present long hours rather than on pure performance.
      In my opinion, besides simply being inefficient, that’s the second main reason for many people to hang out so long at their office while keeping themselves busy with basically useless and superfluous work.

  2. Guidance and failure are one of the great parts of growing up. Your grandfather sounds like he had a very positive influence.

    Everyone can benefit from the sound advice of a mentor. They have had the experiences and the unique stories to go with the.

    We would like our childeren to have someone to talk to and learn from other than ourselves. At least that way they will not be brainwashed by us!

    We feel that too much of the education of the young (we live in the UK) is falling at the feet of the state. The UK workforce works some of the longest hours in Europe hence time is limited for parental educating. What time there is is for fun and games (all a personal opinion!).

    Hopefully blogs like this can be a form of mentorship in the information age we live in.

    (past comments posted as muff)

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Hi Muff/Contender,
      thanks for you comment.

      I agree with you, that kids need good examples to grow up – the more the better (it says it takes one couple to get a kid but a village to raise it).
      As you mentioned, all comes back to people having too little time, thus they delegate education to the state or other institutions.
      This is a damn shame, but oviously not the route we as downshifters should take.

      ps. wanted to leave a comment at your blog recently, but was not able to do so without signing up to Google+ (which I didn’t want):
      Could you also provide an excel version of your timeline Calculater? Liked it very much, but the open office version doesn’t work with Excel.


      • Hi Woodpecker,

        – I have converted the file to excel you can find it here:
        I hope it works for you. It is fairly simplistic and does not include options for specific categories such as any credit card debt – just something to toy around with.

        – I changed the gravatar name to align with the theme of the blog so that everything is now consistent. Something I should have done from the start – live and learn.

        – Google+ yes I must admit I am not a huge fan at the moment. What happened to privicy nowadays! I have turned it off for the comments. WordPress is definately better at quite a few blogging aspects than Blogger. I have been looking at how much work is involved to move to WordPress and it looks fairly substantial.

        – Mrs C has resigned now so neither of us have a job so we have fully comitted to the move to the south of France now. Lets see how long we can wait before needing \ wanting to looking for some (downsized) work!

        Thanks & All the best

      • mrwoodpecker says:

        Thanks, seems to work now, good stuff!
        All the best to you and your “tribe”!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s