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

One Person’s Stupid Is Another Person’s Understanding …
July 31, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Apathy, Comment

It’s Monday.

In NZ, it’s also winter,

In other words, it’s pretty depressing.

However, never fear this blog is here. Ahem.

I’ve decided to shake those Monday blues away for all of us with this post.

Think of it as blog prozac. Which makes me your Doctor.

Oh god, this has turned into something even more depressing than Mondayitus, so let’s just get on with it shall we? OK, here it is:

Though now I look at it, I relate to it.

Especially on a Monday morning.

In winter.

Having just written the biggest bust this blog has ever seen.

And its seen a lot, as we all know.

Tomorrow will be better. Hopefully.

As if Monday wasn’t bad enough already, I’ve gone and made it worse.


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I’ve Not Come This Far To Only Come This Far …

Once upon a time, there was an ad for John West – a canned food company – that said:

“It’s the fish that John West rejects that makes John West the best”.

And at our recent talk at Cannes, I quoted this from the brilliant Janis Joplin.

And yet, when I look at my industry – an industry that is quick to call out the failings of clients – we’re not really living up to that.

Now of course I appreciate we are in economically challenging times.

And I also appreciate money makes the World go round.

But the decline of our industries power and influence was going on long before this and one of the reasons was because we chased money more than standards.

Or said another way, we sold the value of creativity and cultural understanding for the illusion of importance and association.

On one hand I get it …

As an industry, we have always been paid a fraction of what some others have got, despite – arguably – doing a lot more, or at the very least, the same amount.

But our desire to be seen as a ‘corporate insider’ has destroyed our value as a ‘corporate outsider’.

Where we have the clarity to see where society is going and what they’re valuing. Where we have the objectivity to understand what are the real issues, not what companies wish them to be. Where we have the creativity to know how to connect to people in ways they may actually give a shit about.

But more and more, we are walking away from this.

Complicity is valued more than questions.
Acquiescence is valued more than a point of view.
Toxic positivity is valued more than honesty and transparency.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a reason for all this …

Some of our own making, some of clients making.

But for all our talk of believing in creativity … how many really are demonstrating it?

What makes it worse is the creative talent out there is arguably better than at any point in our history.

And that’s why this is not some ‘rose-tinted-looking-backwards’ bullshit – especially as there was a whole host of shit that went on back then – this is a ‘what the hell do we value’ rant.

Once upon a time I was having a bit of a hard time at work.

A lot of it was because of the issues I’ve just written.

I went home and told Jill what was going on and what I was being told when I asked questions … to which she said something that has stuck with me.

“There’s always a reason why they’re not going to do something”.

She was right.

She still is.

Despite being in the incredibly fortunate position to work with highly successful creative people who reside outside of this industry, I still love this industry.

More than that, I still believe in what this industry can do and create.

Hell, it has given me a life that is beyond anything I could have ever imagined for myself.

In fact, almost everything that is in my life is because of what

But right now it seems we’re better at talking good things than doing good things.

And so when things get worse – not just for us, but those who use/dictate to us – we better not complain about who is eating our lunch, because quite frankly, we are doing it, and have been doing it, to ourselves.

Making decisions of convenience not of standards and excitement.

A circle jerk of blinkered and blind complicity.

The good news not everyone is like this.

The even better news is it’s not too late for us all to change.

But the muscle memory may be too old for some to remember. Or worse, care.

Don’t let the financial crisis be another excuse for apathy. That didn’t get us in this mess.

We did.

We all did.

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They Don’t Want Perfect, They Just Want You Present …

So last month, Paula Bloodworth, Martin Weigel and I presented our talk, ‘Strategy Is Constipated, Imagination Is The Laxative’, at Cannes.

We were excited to do it, but also nervous.

Not because we were saying anything particularly controversial, but because it’s Cannes and it’s a big thing – even if people like to hate on it.

Anyway, we did the presentation and it seemed to go down pretty well.

Lots of bloody lovely comments from people at the time and a bunch of exceedingly nice reviews about us over the next few days. [Followed by a few people hating on us … despite them apparently having not even seen it – like human Daily Mail, haha]

To be honest, from the very beginning we felt the audience wanted us to do well.

Rather than come out to a sea of people with their arms folded and an expression of ‘impress us’, we found a wonderfully warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Don’t know what we did to deserve it, but we got it.

OK, there were a few little niggles … for example someone forgot to turn a mic off in the control booth, so we heard someone talking over us for a bit and the IT people used a different computer to the one we had tested everything with the day before, so one of our fonts wasn’t uploaded resulting in 3 slides looking VERY messy, which was both annoying and off-putting … but overall, we left the presentation feeling very happy and very relieved.

Until we got to watch our performance back a few days later …

Oh my god!

We weren’t happy with so many things.

How we presented. What we said. What we forgot to say. What we wore.

Of course we thought the other 2 were perfect and we were the one who had let them down … but the fact of the matter is how we felt it went at the time, didn’t quite match how we felt it went when we reviewed our performance.

But that’s generally how it goes.

Adrenaline. Nerves. Audience reactions. Unexpected moments … all impact how you present, regardless how much you rehearse.

And we had rehearsed. Quite a few times … and it had been good, even though we never wanted to get to the point we were slick but soulless.

So we shouldn’t complain, because that’s exactly what happened.

And yet weren’t happy about it as we felt we had failed to present to the audience all the details and stories we had discussed over the previous weeks … to the point we almost forgot the utter privilege of being able to present our POV at Cannes to a roomful [including an overflow room] of generous people.

Fortunately, just before it got too late, I saw this comment from Courtney LaPlante about her bands performance at Download:

It was perfect.

An important reminder that people aren’t looking for perfect, they’re looking for you to be enjoying and believing what you’re doing … because if you do that, then they know you care as much as them and whatever happens next will always be memorable.

So thank you to WARC, Cannes and every one of those brilliant people who were in that room on June 22nd, 2023.

You will always be memorable.

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Hope Comes In Mysterious Ways …

First of all happy birthday to Queen drummer, Roger Taylor.

He turns 74 today – which used to sound ancient, but now I’m 53, sounds terrifyingly close.

Hopefully when I’m his age I am also living my best life … though what that is, is evolving in ways I’m trying to work out – haha.

But this post is about my hometown, Nottingham.

I went there a month ago on my way to Cannes and I have to say it was a very emotional trip.

Part of this is because it was the first time I’d been there on my own since my Mum died.

Part of this is because it was the week after a terrible incident in the city where 3 innocent people were killed.

And part of this was because of a personal situation and challenge that I was – and still am – trying to work through.

In my few days there, I went on a bit of a history journey … visiting places that meant so much to me as a kid.

From shopping in Victoria City … visiting Rock City … passing my old schools … picking up some food from the local Asda, where my parents would shop every Friday evening … going to the crematorium to see the memorial for my parents … paying homage to the Nottingham Forest football stadium … right through to popping in and seeing my childhood home, that resulted in me bursting into tears in front of the new owner as it was much more impactful than I had dared imagine.

Yeah, it was one big sentimental and emotional journey.

But amongst all the memories, there was something that popped up that I wasn’t expecting.

Something I thought had died and I’d recently written about.


Yep, Raleigh Bikes were back.

Better yet, they were on Maid Marion Way … a thoroughfare of the city that meant everyone would see them.

OK, they aren’t what they used to be – they’re owned by a Dutch company for a start – but they exist and are still based in Nottingham.

As I wrote in my post about Raleigh last month … seeing this brand that defined and promoted my city to the World, die was incredibly tough.

When you’re a kid you look for signs you’re living in a place that is full of promise and hope … a place that let’s you feel you have a bright future … and in my earliest days, with Raleigh making globally known bikes and Nottingham Forest being Kings of Europe, I did. But then, when Forest fell away and Raleigh died, it shook me to my core.

I appreciate that’s the sort of melodrama only a young kid can have, but I wasn’t too wrong to be fair … so seeing the brand alive in my city – especially after a week that saw the whole county in mourning for the needless death of so many – gave hope.

A sense that even in the darkest times, we can move forward.

Given how fucked the UK is right now, that’s worth its weight in gold.

And I’m happy. Because while I don’t live in Nottingham, I’ll always belong there.

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Imposter Syndrome Works In Multiple Ways …
July 25, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: Authenticity, Colleagues, Creativity, Culture, Emotion, Management, Professionalism

I’ve written a lot about imposter syndrome over the years.

How it’s ability to debilitate can be all consuming and how some have found a way to use that to keep moving them forward – even if it hurts.

But one thing that is rarely discussed in terms of imposter syndrome are those who don’t suffer from a lack of confidence, but have too much of it.

The one’s who act like they’re always right.

Know more than others.

Are better than all.

I once met a planner who told me he was advising his client to get rid of the people they were working with, because they could do it better.

Except the people they were referring to were an architectural firm and they were designing a bloody airport.

No joke.

We all know these people. Or have come into contact with them.

But rarely do we refer to them as suffering imposter syndrome, even though that is exactly what they do.

And while it is easy to sympathise more with those who are paralysed by imposter syndrome than those who are emboldened by it, the reality is they both are dangerous and leave terrible scars. The only difference being one is held back by the weight of pressure they place on themselves whereas the other affects those who have to engage with individuals overflowing with overconfidence.

Imposter Syndrome is an equal employer destroyer.

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