I had lunch today with David O’Sullivan, currently Director General of the European Commission’s DG Trade. We have known each other since the late 1980s, when David was the parliamentary attaché in the private office of Peter Sutherland and I was working in the Secretariat General of the European Commission. David has had an illustrious career, including stints as Head of the Private Office of the President of the European Commission and as Secretary General of the European Commission. Originally, I had hoped to meet David before I took up the cudgels myself (I saw the then outgoing SG of the European Parliament, Julian Priestley, in the same context). But David travels so much and we have both been so busy that our chat has taken a year (and in the meantime we have met in various other circumstances). Nevertheless, leaving aside the trade-related aspects of our work (which we also discussed, of course), I found the meeting useful confirmation that the ‘survival strategies’ I have adopted are probably the best available. So here’s how you do it. Leaving travel aside, breakfast becomes the one guaranteed family meal in the day. You cannot escape the hours. You have to work weekends. You cannot help but neglect your friends. You must delegate all but the essential. Become aloof from senior recruitment procedures as soon as possible (massively time consuming). Above all, develop a stoic philosophy, based on the recognition that much of a Secretary General’s time is spent on fixing what isn’t working.