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


Why Wrong Reveals The Systems Limitations Rather Than The Participants …

I recently saw this piece of brilliance …

Isn’t it awesome?

Of course some people will think it’s cute … but wrong.

Whereas others may think it’s cute … and smart.

Putting aside the fact the responsibility for clarity of communication is with the communicator, not the recipient – which means the exam board have to accept their role in the answer given – it also highlights how one persons ‘normal’ is another persons ‘lateral thinking’.

I know that sounds a big leap for what is a young kids incorrect/correct answer to an exam question … but at a time where the British PM wants to kill the arts and freedom of expression for kids in schools – in favour of even more logical and rational studies – it’s a sign how early we try to destroy/control/devalue the imaginations of the young.

What I find ironic about the British PM’s stance is that he seems to be of the belief that having people study maths for longer will make everything better.

Putting aside the fact that much of the UK’s global influence – ignoring the violent invasions of other countries – has come from the arts, that’s a big call to make.

Even more so when you consider the financial mess the UK is in right now, has come from the hands of the very people he wants to encourage more of.

As a parent this situation is very difficult.

Of course we want our children to be set up to embrace life. But if they’re all being taught the same thing … in the same way … without consideration of what their own personal talents, interests and abilities are … then are you actually preparing them to thrive or simply survive?

Recently Otis got diagnosed with a learning difficulty.

I say difficulty, but really it’s a complication.

It’s called Dysgraphia.

While this doesn’t affect his ability to learn, it does affect how he does it and what he may be able to do because of it.

We are incredibly grateful the school he goes to – Birkenhead Primary – not only embraced this situation by changing the way he could engage and present his schoolwork. They did it by specifically tailoring their classes and approach to ensure Otis could participate in ways that actively played to his strengths while maintaining the pace of everyone’s learning. And if that wasn’t impressive enough … they were the ones who first noticed there may be an area of challenge for him and were proactive in acting on it.

The impact of this approach on Otis has been enormous.

Not just in areas of his schoolwork that were being impacted because of dysgraphia, but in his overall confidence, enjoyment and willingness to participate.

He has always been a kid who tries hard and wants to do the right thing [so definitely more like Jill than me] … but thanks to his teachers, he now feels he can express himself fully rather than having to become a smaller version of himself in an attempt to find a way to get through certain areas of class that challenged him because of his dysgraphia rather than his ability.

Frankly I doubt this would have happened if we were still in the UK.

Not because the teachers aren’t as good, but because the system doesn’t allow the sort of deviation of approach that Otis’ school created for him.

What’s scary is Sunak’s attitude towards education will only make this situation for kids like Otis, even harder.

Either actively leaving them behind or setting them up for a life of anxiety, guilt and feelings of inadequacy. And yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

So many of these complications aren’t barriers to learning capacity, just accessibility.

A bit of flexibility can unlock the full potential of a child, especially with the power of technology these days.

But the schooling system is increasingly about ‘targets’ rather than learning.

Preparing you for exams rather than life.

Systems rather than needs.

And while I totally accept creating an education system that caters to the masses as well as the edges is incredibly difficult, having a one-dimensional system that ‘succeeds’ by forcing compliance and oppression is not the solution either.

What the British PM needs to understand is making kids study maths for longer isn’t going to solve the UK’s economic woes. But maybe designing an education system that enables teachers to help kids learn how to play to their strengths, is.

Or to paraphase Sir Ken Robinson … see creativity and imagination as a strength, not a weakness.

We’re so lucky Otis’ school values potential rather than parity … but I can’t help but wonder how many other clever kids are out there who have been written off simply because the system would not allow for them to be recognised, embraced and helped.

When will certain governments understand an educated generation is a successful nation?

Probably when they understand school should be about learning not teaching and it’s an investment rather than a cost.

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December 1st Has Turned Me Into Paula Abdul …
December 1, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Anniversary, Attitude & Aptitude, Culture

The first of December.

What the hell?

That means 10 more days till Otis’ 8th birthday.

14 days till I write a bollocks ‘year in review’ post.

22 days until I have 3 weeks of holiday.

24 days till we’re underwhelmed with Christmas.

31 days till we hit 2023.

Bloody hell, that’s awesome.

Oh hang on, that means there’s also only 31 days till this blog enters its 17th year.

SEVENTEEN!!!!

Oh dear.

Oh deary, deary, dear.

But how did it happen so quickly?

I mean 2022, not this blog.

It honestly feels like this year went in the blink of an eye.

And while this was the year we got rid of the worst of COVID, it seems we decided to swap it with the worst of political and corporate leadership.

Tyrants.
Bullies.
Egotists.
Cheats.
Liars.
Fools.

In the old days, you’d say ‘bring on 2023’ in some naive belief that means things will get better, but after the last few years, you fear it’s just going to get worse. So instead I’ll try and treasure this last month of 2022. As you’ve seen, I’ve got a bunch of good things to look forward to and it will be better than last December which was, for me, the most personally challenging month of my life.

That said, regardless what comes my way … I have many things to be grateful for.

I have my family.
I still have my cat.
I have (some) friends.
I have a couple of jobs I enjoy.
I have made it to the end of another year.

Given the state of the world, I’d say that’s winning.

And no, I don’t think I’ve ever been so optimistic in my life either, hence the pic of ‘Mr Paula Positive Abdul’ at the top of this post.

But don’t worry, the last month of posts won’t all be like this.

God, even I would prefer COVID and Putin to that.

So here’s to the final countdown of 2022 … fasten your safety belts.

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Insights And Sinsights …

Insights.

That single word that causes so much debate.

What they are.

How you get them.

When you know you have a good one.

It may not be fashionable, but I’m still a big believer in them.

Sure, there’s rarely one single silver bullet insight that stands the test of time, but they still have a valuable role to play for effectiveness, creativity and possibility.

Or they do if they’re done right. And used right.
And not made to say stuff that they’re not saying.

I say this because I saw this brilliant tweet recently …

I have to be honest, I laughed and laughed.

Until I remember a long time ago, reading an award submission that said something like that.

Except they were serious.

Something that tried to connect Facebook likes with human motivation.

No … I’m not joking.

And what was scary was people didn’t call it out. They didn’t even question it.

Which explains why some people may read the tweet above and want to enter it into an Effie whereas others will want to enter their face with a fist.

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Stealing Doesn’t Make You A Genius. It Makes You An Imposter …

I once interviewed a young planner who spent the whole time confidently telling me how ambitious they were.

The whole conversation was literally about how far they were going to go.

And that’s admiral … except they never once talked about their rise in relation to the work they would do, but simply the objective they had.

I told them that while I love their ambition, I felt their priorities were different to what I valued.

They seemed to be focused on speed of progress whereas I cared about standards.

Of course they argued that’s what they wanted to, but by then we were done.

I’m not doubting they were good, but the quality of work was secondary to the speed of promotion and in my experience, that is never a good scenario.

I say this because I recently saw this:

I’ve got to admit, this triggered me.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone is a ‘magpie’ to a certain degree.

Taking things they’ve learned and heard and incorporating it into their thinking.

But this is not that. This is laziness.

Oh I know some will call it ‘smart’.

Or an example of hustle culture or some other bollocks.

And maybe the person in question just said it to be provocative.

But whatever the reason, it’s parasitic behaviour. Literally feeding off the talent of others.

It’s why I always favour people who have done interesting stuff rather than just know interesting stuff. It means they have skin in the game. It means they were willing to explore and experiment. It means they were willing to fail in the quest to do something good. It means they’ve learned stuff.

It’s a major reason why I believe in going down rabbit holes rather than playing to be precise.

It’s why I believe in graft not hustle.

It’s why I believe in standards, not just speed.

Don’t get me wrong, I apperacite we all want to progress.

I totally accept there are massive benefits gained from promotion and I don’t want to stop anyone from achieving that. I also think it’s outdated thinking to only give substantial payrises when attached to promotion. I understand why companies do it, but it means people often get promoted before they’re ready, and then aren’t even helped in learning how to be good at it.

But while speed of progress may appear attractive from the outside, it can be limiting on the inside.

Because promotion can get you many things, but it doesn’t automatically get you respect.

Oh you may think it does.

Or you may not give a shit either way.

But if you want a career or the ability to use your talent in other ways you find interesting … then at some point, you’ve got to have done stuff that goes beyond simple career progression. Stuff that is known and noticed for what it did and how it did it. Stuff that is for people and brands of repute, not just people or brands who pay your invoice.

Because without that … well, you may find your career starts like an Olympic sprinter but ends like the slowest of tortoises.

And as I said, maybe some are fine with that.

Or maybe some – as I’ve met a few times – are genuine freaks of brilliance who were seemingly born to go to the very, very top.

But the thing to remember is the latter is both rare and defined by what others think your capabilities are, rather than what you think about yourself.

Which may explain why the planner I interviewed all those years ago has not achieved their goal of being the King of the Universe.

On the positive they are a head of planning.

But it’s for a small agency in Seattle.

A sales promotion agency.

Where there appears to be only one other planner in the place.

And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of that – I did it for a short time, and learnt a ton of stuff I still use now – it’s quite different from what they told me their ambition was. Maybe their circumstances changed. Or their ambitions changed. And maybe they’re happy as can be. But I can’t help but feel they could have fulfilled their aspirations if they’d just valued standards a bit more than they valued speed.

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Petty Happiness …
November 28, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Music

As some of you know, a few years ago I was fired by the Red Hot Chili Peppers from a project I was doing for them.

My crime? Disagreeing with them.

OK, I accept I could have maybe disagreed with them in a slightly better way, but I wasn’t doing it to be an asshole … I was doing it because I thought they were making the wrong decision and I wanted them – as I want everyone I work with – to succeed in a way that is better than they imagined.

To be fair, three quarters of the band were fine.

Nice even.

The problem was their singer, Kiedis – but then he has form with reacting badly to people questioning the stuff that comes out his mouth.

Anyway, their actions post our dalliance prove I was right – not that they’d ever admit it – but rather than be sad I was let go, I wear it like a badge of honour.

I was fired by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

How many people can say that?

Well, if you’re a guitarist – quite a few people – but let’s not go there right now.

Anyway the reason for this post is I recently saw a post on instagram from drummer Chad Smith wishing his band mate, bass player Flea, a happy birthday.

Nothing wrong with that. In fact it’s lovely … especially after being in a band together for 34 years. However what is slightly confusing is that despite being together all that time, he had to steal a photo from Getty Images to show them together.

Mind you, given the stuff I learned about them from my short stint working for them, I can say there are many reasons this could have happened.

Of which none are, “it’s just us being crazy Rockstars”.

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