The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Love Is …

For years people have tried to express what love is.

They’ve used song.

They’ve made films.

They’ve written books.

They’ve made art.

They’ve penned poems.

They’ve even created a day for it to be celebrated.

But none of them have captured it so beautifully and succinctly as a photograph I recently saw.

Love this.

Love it so much.

A moment alone, when you’re surrounded by hundreds.

At a time where creativity is being challenged and questioned by more and more companies, consultancies and corporations, this photo is a great reminder how creativity can solve the problems systems, structures and order can never reach.



Sorry. Not Sorry.
October 25, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Comment

Till tomorrow. Deal with it.



The Best Things Makes You Earn The Right To Enjoy It Rather Than Just Giving You It …

Television gets a bad wrap these days.

Out of date.

Out of touch.

No longer good.

But the reality is, we’re kind-of in a golden age of television.

There’s an immense amount of shows out there that are amazing … from documentaries like Netflix’s Schumacher to series like Succession through to mainstream TV channel shows like 24 Hours In Police Custody … even though the first time I watched the show, it was about a drug cartel who had been operating in the village we had just moved to in England.

What made it more amusing is that one of the criminals was called Robert, another was called Campbell and they drove a blue Audi … so when Rob Campbell – ie: me – arrived in Hundson with his family in a Blue Audi, the neighbours looked at me suspiciously.

Or should I say ‘more suspiciously’ than normal.

Now of course there have been a bunch of amazing shows over the years … amazing for their writing, acting and craft. Some went under the radar like Glenn Close’s Damages … some had instant critical acclaim, like The West Wing, The Newsroom and Mad Men.

But some … well, there’s a few that gain instant cult following but over time, get more and more recognised for what they did and how they did it.

The show, The Wire is one of those.

First broadcast in 2002, it’s a show that started small and then just grew in terms of the stories, context and issues it swallowed into its storylines.

It never felt fake, even if you came from a place that was a million lifetimes away from Baltimore, where the stories were based. There’s many reasons for it.

The writing is amazing.
The casting is perfect.
The acting is simply superb.
The craft and attention to detail is insane.
And they wholeheartedly embrace the ugly, inconvenient truths about racism, wealth and systemic racism that most shows – even today – do all they can to ignore or dilute.

And then there’s one more thing.

It has no musical score.

None.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have music. It does. But it is an integral part of what is going on at that moment in that scene rather than some incidental, indirect orchestration designed to inform the viewer how they should feel.

Similar to the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan – all you hear is what you would hear if you were actually in the place they are.

Nothing fake.
Nothing contrived.
All 100% raw and real.

What this does is create a very different experience watching the show.

There’s this conflict between feeling more directly into what you’re seeing while also giving you a sense of uncomfortableness. A nervous edge.

Things are not wrapped up in tidy bows.

Episodes don’t follow classic Hollywood tropes.

Details that can appear to mean nothing suddenly reveal their relevance weeks later.

And it’s for this reason I love the way Charlie Brooker – writer of Black Mirror and ex-TV reviewer for the Guardian – talks about the show in terms of ‘rewarding your attention’. It’s such a perfect articulation.

The Wire demanded you paid attention.

Demanded it.

Not in an academic explanation sort of way, but in terms of committing to it.

Watching everything going on.

Not just in the foreground, but the details all around the environment.

The streets.
The language being used.
The slight nods and movement.
The music being played by others.
The characters in the background..

Details someone from those streets needs to know to survive those streets …which is why viewers who paid real attention, were rewarded with something much bigger than what was just said on the screen.

It was a show that left you feeling you have gone through something.

Not watched, but truly experienced.

Experiences that stick with you. Change you. Question, consider, work-out, hypothosise and – to some degree – feel scared and pressured by.

While there is a lot of shit on the screen these days, TV isn’t dead.

In fact, in some ways, it’s never been more alive.

It’s just the best shows don’t want to give it to you on a plate, it challenges you to see if you’re worthy of watching it … of getting it.

And in our spoon-fed, superficial world, thank fuck for that.

In other news …

It’s a national holiday here on Monday so there’ll be no post on that day. Not because I like you, but because you’re not worth the effort to write one. Hahaha. Have a great weekend.



A Glimpse Of The Future …

Every Saturday, the Guardian Newspaper runs a feature where they interview 2 people who have been out on a blind date over dinner.

And every week, they ask the same questions to both parties.

Sometimes they find love …
Sometimes they find a friend …
Sometimes they find their worst nightmare …

… but it’s always an enjoyable read.

Now while you may think my favourite stories are when the couple hate each other – and some truly do, with a total inability to hide their distain behind their one word, printed answers – that’s not actually my favourite.

As soppy as it sounds, it’s quite marvellous when people find someone they want to see again. Maybe it’s because it’s so rare, or maybe it’s because I’ve found my inner-romantic in my old age, but it’s really lovely.

The thing that makes it even more warming is how they answer the questions.

It’s not simply that they say, “I really like him/her”, it’s the way their answers have a real warmth and respect for the other person. It’s not simply about what they feel, they describe how the other person made them feel. It’s delightful and a very different experience to people who didn’t like their date.

Some get very personal.

Expressing themselves in a way that shows they genuinely think they were aesthetically, intellectually or morally superior. Which, of course, has the result that you find them actually the uglier person inside and out.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I read about these 2:

Sadly Johnny – 24 and an artist – and Gen – 23 and a post-grad student – didn’t hit it off. But I couldn’t stop looking at their picture.

Or more specifically Johnny’s.

Not because I’m a weirdo, but I kept thinking how he looked like an older version of this one:

Yes … the hair is a big part of it, but there’s other things.

The gentle face.
The compassionate energy.
The wry smile.

I know it’s ridiculous, but it felt like I was seeing my son in 18 years time.

You see, when you’re 51 … your father died at 60 … and your son is 6 … you start to think about death a hell of a lot more.

I don’t like it. I don’t like how it sometimes makes me feel. I don’t like how stupid it can make me … but the reality is there is a chance I won’t make it to see Otis at Johnny’s age and that terrifies me.

I mean, I hope I do.

I hope I live a lot longer than that.

But then my Dad wished he could have seen me get married and become a Dad and he never got that chance … so seeing Johnny felt like a bit of a gift. A chance to glimpse the future, which I appreciate sounds utterly stupid. Because it is.

But it gets worse.

I found myself reading Johnny’s answers over and over again – wanting to make sure he was a nice guy because for a moment, I’d convinced myself that meant Otis would be to. [Good news. They both are, hahaha]

Then I found myself wondering what sort of artist he is and how he got there.

Is he happy?
Is he fulfilled?
Will he achieve what he hopes?

Obviously all of this had triggered my fears and insecurities … projecting the life of a complete stranger who looks a bit like my son on to my son.

Fortunately Otis – who was sat next to me at the time – was living in his own world playing Roblox on his iPad, not giving a fuck that his Dad was having a bit of a meltdown, hahahaha.

So to Johnny, I want to apologise.

I’m sorry an old bloke got kind of obsessed with you for a minute.
I’m sorry I temporarily stole your life to give it to my son.
I’m sorry Gen and you didn’t click. [though you may be happy about that too]

And to Otis …

Well my wonderful boy, know I love you.

Know I wish I could be here forever … to be near you.

To see you grow and blossom. To watch you discover a life of adventure and fulfilment. To witness the choices you make and the life you create.

I hope I see you at 24 and beyond.

And I hope you know my interest in Johnny was not because I want you to live his life, but because I just want to see you live yours.

For decades.

Rx




Unmotivation …

A while back I wrote about how some companies offer incentives and bonuses to their staff to try and boost morale when the reality is all the employees actually want is the company to act in ways they can be proud of and believe in.

Values.
Standards.
Behaviours.
Ambitions.

The most depressing part of this is that in many cases, the companies know this but just think it’s easier to try and ‘buy staff off’, than to change how they act.

But if you think that’s bad, there’s some who are even worse.

The ones who believe their staff will be inspired and impressed by any gesture the companies shows towards them … even if it is an act that shows how little they really think of them.

Acts like this …

Or this …

Seriously, what on earth were they thinking???

Even if they were giving away a bunch of bananas rather than a single one, it would still be bad … but a postage paid envelope, that reiterates this is a ONE TIME act of generosity.

Either the people behind these ‘gifts’ are evil or utterly delusional … which is why the best leaders I’ve ever worked for have been the ones who are transparent and honest, whether for good news or bad.

There’s something really reassuring of knowing where you stand. Where there is constant dialogue with where you’re at and where things are. That even in bad times, you know what is going on, what needs to change and some suggestions how to do it … because the person telling you genuinely wants you to succeed. Not simply to make their life easier, but to help make yours bigger.

While there are a lot of benefits to management, it can’t be denied it’s a tough gig.

You’re dealing with a bunch of moving parts all at the same time.

Egos.
Colleagues.
Team development.
Individual growth.
Client satisfaction.
New business requirements.
Company reputation and profit.
And then your own, personal satisfaction and growth.

In some ways, each of these moving parts can act as a barrier to the other being successful … and that’s when a manager can get into real trouble, because pressure means they can end up choosing what ultimately makes their life easier rather than what makes everything better.

Now I am not saying I am a great manager.

While I think I am OK, I definitely have my failings.

However over the years – and with some excellent mentors and role models – I’ve definitely learnt there are some ‘rules’ that I believe can help companies ensure managers create an environment where good things happen can happen, for the work … the clients … the individuals … the team … and the company as a whole.

1. Stop promoting people simply because that’s the only way to give them a pay rise.

This is more than just about managing staff cost ratios – or keeping salary bands in line – it’s the reality that some people are just much better at doing their specific job than managing other people doing their specific jobs. Often they know this, but feel they have to accept the promotion ‘opportunity’ to get the money they want. The great irony of this approach is it ends up costing everyone more in the long term. Because the promoted person ends up stopping doing the work that made them – and the company – stand out and other talented people leave, because they are being badly managed. Until the day the company realises their mistake and lets the person go who didn’t really want the job in the first place, but did it as it was the only way to get fairly valued for their talent and experience.

2. Stop thinking being good at the job means you are naturally good at managing

Being good at a job doesn’t automatically mean you are going to be good at managing others doing it. Not only that, being good at your job doesn’t mean your approach will – or should – translate to how the entire department operates. Sadly, too many companies don’t think this way. Instead they promote without consideration to the ways of the individual or the needs of the department and company. Of course, sometimes the reason for that is because it’s a way to ‘keep’ talent from going to another company or because doing it makes things more ‘convenient’ for the company when someone has resigned. What makes that approach even worse is they then place huge expectations and judgement on people so that when things don’t go exactly as planned, they start adding additional stress and barriers. The reality is you don’t make good managers through a title, you do it by giving them training and time.

3. Every level needs training

It doesn’t have to be formal. It doesn’t have to be academic. But it does have to happen.
Not just in terms of learning the company processes and org charts … but in terms of learning how to actually manage. What to look out for … how to engage … how to encourage and motivate. Not from a book. Not from an online course. But proper training with people who have done it very well rather than people who just hold the title. There are so many great managers who never got to realise that simply because they were thrown in the deep end and then kicked out because they weren’t given the support and time to train for their new position.

However I know the things I’ve suggested won’t be common, because too many companies see personal training as an expense and judge success as getting stuff done, regardless of the cost. Which is why after all the years I’ve had doing it, I still rely on 4 huge lessons I learnt from Dan Wieden and Chris Jaques.

+ When your focus is the work, every decision becomes easier.

+ Brilliant work sorts out almost every problem,.

+ Honesty and transparency is the greatest gift you can give someone.

+ The best way to stop complicity is to create an environment of openness and debate.

Sure, none of these are as easy as giving a banana or even a paid-return envelope … but I guarantee the positive effect will last a hell of a lot longer.