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

Take Their Breath Away …

So as last week was all about Otis – who had an amazing birthday – I thought I’d get back to normal by writing my usual shit this week.

The good news is it’s the last week of me writing posts for this year, so you only have 5 days to go before one of the horrors of 2020 disappears.

Only for it to start in the early weeks of 2021.

Cue: Evil Laugh.

Anyway, this post is about luck.

That thing where great outcomes seemingly appear from nowhere.

And while that is true for some … like lottery winners … the reality is there’s something very few people seem to talk about, and that is our own role in increasing the odds of it happening.

The golfer Gary Player once said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”.

That’s a nice line, but he is also saying something important, and that is ‘what are you doing to make it happen?’

I think I have written about how I met Baz – who comments on here – but just in case, let me say it again.

We were interviewing for an entry level job at Cynic.

Andy comes out to find me, tells me I have to meet this kid and ask him about his references.

So in I go and ask him who his references are, to which he replies:

“Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Steve Jobs”

My favourite bit is his reaction when I asked if they were real.

The disgust on his face at being asked such a thing will live with me forever.

The reality is, they were his references. Over the years he had written to them – and others – to say he wanted to meet them to see if they had his generations best interests at heart.

And while that’s ballsy, he wasn’t doing it in some precocious, self-serving way.

He cared and had concern for his generation.

He wanted to know if these people who were very influential in culture at various moments in his early years, viewed his generation as friends or foe.

And maybe it’s this earnestness that led to those 4 agreeing to meet him at various periods of his life … but I bet they weren’t prepared for what he did next, which was ask them to then write him a reference. Hahaha.

Of course we hired him. Then he got hired by Steve Jobs. Then he went on to do a bunch of wonderfully entrepreneurial things while acting as a consultant for a bunch of companies from Apple to Zuji.

Literally the A to Z of creative tech.

Now, as much as it pains me, I have to admit Baz is incredibly sharp and smart … but the reality is there’s a lot of people like that who haven’t had the breaks Baz has enjoyed.

But was it all down to luck or was it down to him helping increase the odds of it?

I say this because I recently read an interview with the music producer Giorgio Moroder.

In the interview, he reveals how one person created their own piece of luck that changed their life forever.

Moroder had just been hired to write a love song for a movie coming out.

He knew exactly what sort of thing he wanted to create so he got on with it.

However the dirty little secret about Moroder is that while an amazing musician, he was a terrible lyricist.

Anyway, Moroder owned a Ferrari that he parked at the studio.

It was a beautiful car except it suffered from brake trouble.

One day a guy called Tom Whitlock came by and said he was a mechanic and could fix it.

So he did.

When it was all fixed, Tom told Moroder, “Oh and, by the way, I’m also a lyricist. If you ever need some words …”

Now it’s fair to say, Moroder probably had some of the best song writers at his fingertips, but he decided to give Tom a shot for no other reason than he asked.

He handed over the demos and Tom came back writing the lyrics for this.

Not a bad way to legitimise your ‘musical lyric’ career.

Interestingly, as much as it was ‘luck’ that got Tom the chance to write the lyrics for one of the most well known songs in music, it was also ‘luck’ that Berlin got to perform it.

You can read why, here … however while putting yourself out there is no guarantee of success, there’s a lot more chance of it happening than if you don’t.

Yes, it requires confidence, stupidity or delusion.

Yes, it’s as much about why and how you ask as what you want.

Yes, if things work out, you’ll be labelled ‘lucky’ rather than talented.

And all those together can act as pretty big barriers to wanting to put yourself out there.

But there’s a hell of a lot of people in our industry who have done more than they imagined or [maybe] deserve, simply because they spoke up or acted at the very moment most would quiet down.

I’m one of them.

Not to the extent of Baz or Tom or a whole host of others … but I’ve definitely gone after things that were important to me that I didn’t think I’d stand a chance of having if I didn’t speak up.

Sure, they all were things I felt I had something valuable to offer as opposed to just wanting to take … but I’ve gone for it.

And while a bunch of these acts never worked out for me – including the time I was about 10 and saw my first ever really fancy car in the flesh so I cycled up to the driver to ask they did for a living because I couldn’t believe anyone in Nottingham could ever have a job that would allow them to own such a wonderful thing – I look at my career and realise a bunch has.

Maybe they’re not big or shiny things, but they’ve all contributed to the luck I’ve enjoyed.

Hell, the reason I am going to get to work at wonderful Colenso is because they saw my ‘I’ve been made redundant’ post on the very day they were looking for a new CSO.

It happens.

It’s not always obvious.

It’s not always going to work out.

But it happens … especially if you find ways to encourage it, conscious or not.

Which is why I hope 2021 is the year people fight for their luck rather than just hope for it.

Because after the year we’ve had, we all deserve a bit more of it.

28 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I was really insulted when you questioned my references. Then I grew to understand you question everything. With a sneer in you voice and a frown on your face.

Comment by Bazza

Close. You learned I question everything you said. Haha.

Comment by Rob

I wonder what all your references would think if they saw you now.

Comment by Pete


Comment by andy@cynic

I like to think they only invited you because they felt sorry for your smallness. I know it’s not true, but I need to think that so I don’t feel so bad about all the rejections I got without even a reply.

Comment by DH

are you talking about all the fucking dates you never went on?

Comment by andy@cynic

you owe me fucking everything baz and you wont give me as much as a pair of your overpriced ludicrous fucking earphones. wanker.

Comment by andy@cynic

This is your best ever post.

Comment by Bazza

It’s certainly the best compliment I’ve ever given you.

Comment by Rob

What an incredible story. Not the bit about your or Bazza’s blagging, but the rest of it. It is also much better advice than the stories told in many Hollywood movies where the star does a terrible audition but as they leave the room, one of the judges asks them a question and their answer makes them ignore the performance and sets them on the road to stardom.

Comment by George

Good to hear Otis had an excellent birthday.

This is really an excellent post. A story that could be a Hollywood movie itself. Great advice. But it is not just about asking for what you want, it’s about getting yourself in the position of being able to ask for what you want. While Baz is the exception to the rule, unsolicited correspondence is rarely the way forward.

Comment by Lee Hill

I think Rob and Andy hired Baz because he showed the annoying tendencies they are such advocates and practitioners of.

Comment by Pete


Comment by DH

From car mechanic to iconic song lyricist is a career progression that puts most egotistical linkedin profiles to shame.

Comment by Pete

Musician who pretended to be a car mechanic is closer to the truth of the story. And speaks even more to finding yourself in the places where you can optimise your chances.

Comment by John

Oh I don’t know if that’s the case. Maybe in his mind that was how he wanted to be seen – but I’m guessing he – like countless restaurant staff, gardeners and mechanics in LA – they were known for what they were paid for, not what they wished they were paid for.

Comment by Rob

Often true, but not so much in this case. #alwaysbesceptical

Comment by John

Well I read it and it seems pretty much what a lot of people in Hollywood do. Hell, it sounds a lot like I did. Studied. Worked as the world’s shittest coffee waiter/barman while playing gigs. Got a recording contract. Lost it. Worked odd jobs while being a session guitarist. Fucked that up. Went into advertising. Fucked everyone else up. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

Now all you need to do is write a hit record.

He may have been doing odd jobs, but they were in studios rather than restaurants. And the key point is that the car repair was in 83 and the song was written in 85/6.

Comment by John

I imagine getting asked to write any lyrics to any movie by any music producer is rare whether you work in a studio or not.

Comment by DH

You’d be surprised.

Comment by John

I would be too. I mean, I know it happens … but not that often. Certainly not enough to consider it a definitive way to get into songwriting

Comment by Rob

i can tell when youre spouting pure fucking jealousy campbell. youre one of the luckiest pricks out there, be happy with that you greedy fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic

I have two observations.

1) I assumed that was a photo of Bazza.

2) I’m pleased you didn’t follow the Nottingham driver into drug dealing.

Comment by John

1. That’s the best assumption ever in the history of assumptions.

2. I didn’t, but apparently I moved into his neighbourhood.

Comment by Rob

I wonder if the title tapped into to how his customers reacted when he told them how much it was going to cost them to fix their car?

Comment by DH

Dad joke.

Comment by Billy Whizz

You’re lucky he called it a joke.

Comment by Bazza

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