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


Happy Birthday Sunshine …
December 9, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: America, Birthday, China, Dad, Daddyhood, England, Family, Jill, Love, New Zealand, Otis

So on Sunday, it’s Otis’ 8th birthday.

Eight.

He is basically growing up way too fast.

So fast, I wish the police would come and tell him to slow down.

It seems like only yesterday I took this ridiculous photo of him, mere minutes old …

… but here he is, 8 years later, full of life, love and joy.

He is such a wonderful boy.

Of course I’d say that, but he is.

Kind, considerate and always trying his hardest.

If anything, I wish he pushed the rules a bit more – but even his teachers say what a good kid he is. And given the challenge of recently being diagnosed with disgraphia, that’s even more wonderful to hear.

That he had started to suffer anxiety because he thought he wasn’t good enough because he couldn’t keep up with the other kids in class with writing – breaks my heart. But fortunately his teachers noticed quickly, designed a different way for him to express and contribute in class and now he’s growing back in confidence which makes me so proud.

Both of him and his teachers.

But then, where he’s concerned, he has consistently revealed his compassion and resiliance.

From moving country so many times to choosing to cutting his long hair to help ‘kids with cancer’ to being a tough little cookie when he got rushed into hospital for an emergency operation within a week of turning 7 … he’s a phenomenal human.

And now he turns 8.

EIGHT.

While there’s many thing I could wish for him this year, I think the main thing would be to continue with what he’s got.

Stability.

A safe, calm home environment.

His network of buddies and mates.

Outlets for his energy, interests and cheekiness.

A range of people who support his individual needs personally, accadmically and emotionally.

Of course he may want different things … of which I assume Superman and Transformers would feature heavily … but having a place he can continue to be connected to and enjoy is one he may – in time – also appreciate.

We’ve always known this.

And wanted this for him.

So to be able to give him it – and see how much he has blossomed because of it – is a dream.

And while we know we won’t be here forever, like all parents, what we do want is for him to be happy and fulfilled.

To not fear the unknown.
To embrace his interests and curiosity.
To feel safe in being able to express who he is and how he feels.

Maybe that’s a pipe-dream … after all, the world can be a challenging and tough place.

But NZ does offer – at least until kids are 11 or 12 – an environment where this way of life is more possible than anywhere else we’ve lived.

And he deserves that.

He deserves to be in place where he feels he can belong.

Not that he didn’t have that in other places, but he was either too young to realise its importance or we were not there long enough for him to feel it.

And that’s something I still regret.

I have a photo of him saying goodbye to his friend on our last day in America that still breaks my heart.

There he is, in his socks and on our drive – after running out the front door of our house – giving Jack a big hug after he realised he may not see him again.

The guilt I still feel about that is one I don’t know I’ll ever get over.

Which is probably what I deserve, given I was the reason for it.

I just hope Otis knows I never want to hurt him … never want to rob him of the people who mean so much to him. Which is why I’m so glad Elodie is still in his life, despite it now being filled with what seems a 1000 new friends from his school and community.

Watching that develop and evolve is one of the most beautiful and special things I’ve ever witnessed.

Sure, there’s the odd drama, but generally it’s a really happy and healthy group. Kids who look out for each other. Supportive, encouraging and just kind. They’re a better example to society than my generation … which is why I hope we don’t fuck the world entirely before they can come in and fix it.

Not that they should have to take on that burden, but that’s the generosity of that generation.

A desire to help everyone prosper, not just the usual suspects.

Of of which my son is one of them … reaffirmed by the goals, ambitions and hopes he tells us he has for his life.

Which is why I want to leave this post with this message to him.

Otis.

My wonderful, beautiful, brilliant Otis.

I love you.

Not a day goes by where I am not proud to be your Dad. Where you make me laugh at your observations of what’s happening in life. Where you blow me away with your passion and enthusiasm for life … from watching endless Kids Youtube, to your love of all things Marvel through to the way you literally transform into this powerful, confident, graceful human fish the moment you enter water.

And every little thing in-between.

You’re brilliant Otis. Proper brilliant.

Not just for what you do, but who you are.

I am so proud of you …

Proud for how you embrace life.

Proud for how you embrace challenges.

Proud for just being a kind, compassionate, considerate kid.

And as much as I wish you weren’t growing up so fast, it’s offset by the joy of seeing who you are becoming. Go forth in life with courage and optimism. It’s very easy to just be seized by the cynicism and darkness of the world … but people like you give it light.

You give it to me.

You light up my whole world.

Happy birthday Otis … you make your Mum and Dad the happiest parents in the World.

Rx

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There’s Tributes And There’s Tributes …

So a little while ago, the wonderful human that was Dan Wieden sadly passed away.

A lot of amazing things were written about this amazing man.

And I added my own little story to the compendium as well.

But there was one that was not published.

Mainly because it was a conversation between some people who worked at Wieden about how sad we were that Dan had passed..

It’s possibly the weirdest tribute written.

Not specific to Dan, I mean ever … and yet, it is a tribute that was expressed with as much love and respect to the man and the legacy he built, as any of the others.

I should point out Dan – and I – are not guilty as charged. The person in question is simply referencing the fact that I sent them to Portland for a W+K meeting and Dan happened to have started W+K in a city where this particular form of ‘entertainment’ was everywhere.

Don’t be hard on the person who wrote it.

They were young.
They were from China.
This was their first overseas trip.
And he was given these experiences by people who wanted to ‘introduce them to the West’.

I personally would have chosen a different approach, but each to their own and I know the intent was to explode this visitors mind in good ways, not damaging.

Given he still remembers his trip so vividly – maybe 10 years+ after it happens – I guess this means they succeeded.

Which results in Dan getting the most unique, but well intentioned tribute ever written.

I think he may have liked it.

Or the sentiment of it at least.

Miss you Mr W.

And you LL.

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Big Enough To Matter, But Not Big Enough To Count …

Recently I was reading an article on Brexit when I came across a comment that stopped me in my tracks.

The reason for it is that in a few words – literally a few – it not only highlighted the issue with many of the shortsighted fools who voted for leaving the European Union – and likely voted for the election of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss – but also could be used to explain the decline of so many companies, institutions and individuals.

This is it …

What a perfectly constructed sentence.

A devastating set of words that places you perfectly in a corner you can’t get out of.

It’s almost a Hollywood movie line it’s so crafted in its underlying viciousness.

But of course, the people it challenges won’t accept it.

They will continue to refuse to acknowledge their complicity in the situation millions now face.

Because as I’ve written before, people has difficulty understanding something when their credibility and reputation depends on them not understanding something.

It’s why they will continue to cast blame on everyone else.

Why they will continue to claim the opposition are more dangerous than the government they voted in … the government that has brought an entire nation to its knees.

But let’s be honest, the reason for their attitude is even uglier than not wanting to own up to what they contributed to. Because for all their claims of wanting a ‘better Britain’ … the real reason behind their choice was to create a barrier between them and people they think are beneath them.

A way to feel socially, morally, professionally superior to those around them, while conveniently choosing to ignore they were either given great advantage from birth over the vast majority of people or seek to mitigate their situation by blaming everyone else for what they have not achieved, despite starting from greater advantage.

I get it. It’s kind-of human nature. It’s also the unspoken truth of democracy – where the reality is we tend to vote for what works for you rather than what’s right for the nation.

Of course the unspoken truth is still better than the alternative … however given the way politics and business are increasingly allowing spin, vitriol and lies, it seems we’re seeing ‘post truth’ as an accepted and embraced business strategy.

And that’s why the independent voice has never been so important.

Not just in the public domain, but within organisations, governments and individual groups.

Not to attack, destroy or dethrone – as is the current trend – but to protect.

To ensure the people making decisions – or the people asking to decide on the options – are aware of the range of possibilities and outcomes that could occur rather than just blindly following a blinkered promise of what will happen.

Not delivered with hyperbole or exaggeration, but with quiet, informed context and facts … delivered by an individual or organisation without political affiliation and respected for their independence.

It doesn’t mean it will stop things like Brexit happening, but it will ensure people who knowingly bend the truths to suit their own agenda or were deliberately ignorant to the choices they made are held to account. Because without that, we carry on down this sorry path where governments, organisations or individuals can choose to ignore previous choices they made, ignore the passing of time that changes the context of everything and ignore the realities others may have caught up and left us behind.

I am under no illusion that the truth hurts, but delusion damages us forever.

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We Need More Bob. [Hoskins, Not Campbell’s]

First of all, as today is 11.11, I want to acknowledge all the people who paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the world had peace.

Given the state of where we’re all at, there is the potential it was all in vain, so I hope sanity prevails and tyrants are dealt with.

OK, now I’ve done the mature bit, I want to talk about Bob Hoskins.

No … not because I have more than a passing resemblance to him … but because I read something recently that reinforced why I liked him so much.

For those who don’t know who he is, he’s the now deceased British actor famous for his roles in movies such as, The Long Good Friday, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, TwentyFourSeven [by my mate Midlands mate, Shane Meadows] and errrrrm, the iconic tragedy that was Super Mario Bros … the first ever movie based on a video game and notorious for how terrible the filming was, let alone the final product.

[More on that last one in a minute]

However where my appreciation of Bob started was not in a movie but in an interview.

He was on a chat show and they asked him …

“How hard is it to film back to back movies?”

He could have gone on a rant about the demands it takes out on him.

Not seeing his family.

Not being home.

The physical and mental exhaustion.

But he didn’t, he said this:

“I’ll tell you what’s hard. Nurses jobs are hard. Single parents lives are hard. Working in a factory is hard. I’m well looked after and well paid for pretending to be someone else on a screen, My life isn’t hard compared to those people. They’re the one’s who deserve the adulation, not me”.

And he meant every word, because not only was Hoskins notoriously self aware, he also found the Hollywood machine very uncomfortable. He loved acting but he hated the fawning.

Nothing sums this up more than his involvement with the movie Super Mario Bros.

The full disaster of the filming can be read here or here … but this quote by Hoskins probably sums it up best:

“The worst thing I ever did? Super Mario Bros. It was a fucking nightmare. The whole experience was a nightmare. It had a husband-and-wife team directing, whose arrogance had been mistaken for talent. After so many weeks, their own agent told them to get off the set! Fucking nightmare. Fucking idiots.”

However after the movie he said something that not only summed up his love of his children and his chosen career, but captured why the advertising industry – for all its faults – can still hold magic.

Sure, not what it once was.

Sure, with it having huge implications on its future.

But something that I can’t imagine many other industries having.

And while we strive to be taken seriously as a discipline in the world of commerce, it might be with worth us remembering its the ridiculousness that made/makes us special. For the work it lets us create. For the influence on culture we can shape. For the way we can make brands something people want to know more about rather than just ignore.

It may be stupid.

It may not always make sense.

But at our best, it’s the ridiculous ways we see and operate in the world that can help business achieve – and mean more – than they ever imagined.

It’s time we remembered that.

It’s time companies remembered that.

Because when you see the vast majority of work put out at enormous expense – researched to within an inch of its life and judged by ‘gurus’ who generally have never actually created anything in their life [other than their own sense of self-importance] and have a limited view of what creativity is and can do, you can’t help but wonder if it is there to push us away rather than pull us in.

Have a great weekend.

Make it a ridiculous one.

Be more like Bob. Hoskins, not Campbell.

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Don’t Let Your Job Title Fool You Into Thinking You Have Respect …

One of the best pieces of advice I was taught was ‘always earn your right to be trusted’.

By that, they meant …

+ Lead by example.
+ Open doors for others to walk through.
+ Be fierce with maintaining standards.
+ Always protect, defend and grow your team.
+ Be transparent in your actions and interactions.
+ Encourage debate and independent thinking.
+ Create the conditions for everyones success.
+ Recognise the individual, not just the group.

That seems a lot of things doesn’t it, but that’s what real leadership is.

Or what I was taught it is.

Now whether I’m good at any of that is open to debate, but it definitely shaped my approach to things – even when I get it terribly wrong.

But my worry is a lot of people entering management today don’t get any advice whatsoever.

They’re plucked from being good in their job and told they now lead a team. Which basically sends out the message ‘do whatever it takes for the company to succeed, regardless of the cost’.

We’ve read the damage of this attitude in Corporate Gaslighting and yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

Of course a manager/leaders job is to do things for the benefit of the company they work for. But if they create an environment where the individual and the team can also succeed – not just financially, but in terms of growth, opportunity and possibility – it’s amazing how much everyone benefits.

But to do that well requires more that authority, but trust.

Trust you will lead them to somewhere better.
Trust you will look out for them not just yourself.
Trust in their opinion, not just your own.

The older I get, the less I see of this.

Instead of trust, companies put in hierarchy.

Where the expectation is to blindly follow what the more senior person demands.

I saw that when I lived in America … the most hierarchal place I’ve ever worked.

And while it may appear to work, it doesn’t really.

It either creates an echo-chamber of blinkered opinion – which is reframed as ‘company culture’ – or it relies on people who are in the terrible position of not having the choice to get out of where they are, with ease.

Which is why the other piece of advice I got – from my Dad – compliments what I said at the top of this post. Because if the goal of a manager or leader is to always earn trust from their team … then the role of the team is to “only respect authority that has been earned over time … not given, bought or provided by privilege or misinformation”.

It’s a lovely thought …

Proof not expectation.
Earned not just given.
Consistent not occasional.

It also explains why I must have been an absolute nightmare to the bosses I had who expected my loyalty rather than earned it. There weren’t many – thank god – but there were a few. And while I’m sure they were good people [probably], they definitely made the fatal error of thinking their job title demanded trustworthiness, when literally the opposite is true.

And with that, I’ll sign off with a link to an article I wrote for Little Black Book that sums this all up. It was – and remains so – one of the most valuable lessons and mistakes, I’ve ever had.

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