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


The Wall Is Your Friend …

Many years ago, we were working on a NIKE project about inspiration for China.

China and sport had a weird relationship because it was either seen as a distraction to academic success or a ruthless and relentless act to achieve a pre-determined goal.

I still remember spending hours looking for any photo where we saw a parent or a teacher or a coach encouraging a kid doing a sport … but it was hard. Not because adults didn’t care about the kids in their charge, but because there was this attitude that encouragement encouraged laziness.

Tough love indeed.

But when we talked to kids who loved sport for no other reason than loving sport, the thing we found fascinating was how one of their great inspirations was a wall … or a court … or a park somewhere near where they lived.

This would be where they could kick, throw, hit, head or play against hour after hour … day after day.

This was where they could play without judgement or expectation … but with plenty of competition.

Because walls don’t get tired.

They don’t show sympathy.

They’re always ready to play.

We all have a wall.

They may look like others.

But there is one that is yours and yours alone.

For me, it was the wall of a Church opposite Erika’s sweet shop at the Top Shop.

It was up the road from my childhood home.

I would go up there every night over summer.

Sometimes by myself. Sometimes with friends.

And that would be the arena and the competition for all manner of games.

From playing footie with empty cans … playing cricket by throwing tennis balls as hard against the wall as we can to just practicing our skills of tennis or keepie-uppie. And then on a Friday evening – after school – a bunch of the kids from where I lived would gather by the field next to the church and play a massive game that drew all the girls from school to watch us.

That wall was a major part of my childhood. Of my love of sport. It helped me connect to where I lived, to the people who lived there and just what I wanted to do.

Sport was deeply entrenched in the place I grew up.

Not in terms of a formal team – though we had that and we also had Nottingham Forest doing well at the time – I mean as an outlet for kids to do shit.

Now I’m not sure if that is still the case.

We live in gentrified times.

Where noise is challenged with authority.

Where parks are placed on the outskirts of towns, not the centre,

Where sport is becoming more about the quest for fame rather than enjoyment.

It’s one of the biggest thrills of living in New Zealand.

It’s still an outdoor culture.

Otis has done more running around and visited more parks here than he ever did in the UK. Which has helped him meet more friends than he could ever have hoped to in his time here.

Given the year he had in lockdown, the impact on him has been huge.

And that’s why we should encourage sport to be played as much on the streets as in the parks and schools. Because sport adds to communities in ways that makes communities.

Let the wall be culture’s best inspiration and competitor.



Why Tears Show Leadership …

A few weeks ago, in a supermarket in New Zealand, there was a terrible incident where a man entered a store in Dunedin and stabbed people.

While no one fortunately died and the assailant was apprehended, the reality is there were a number of people’s lives that were changed forever – specifically a number of the staff who were working at the Countdown store at the time.

Obviously this would be news anywhere in the world, but in New Zealand – a place where there is an overall feeling of safety and humanity – it’s a major story.

When the manager of the store – Kiri Hannifin – appeared on the nightly news … rather than present herself in the emotionless, beige voice of the corporate mission statement, she did something different …

She cried.

Not the fake tears of Matt Hancock … but real, raw emotion.

She was devastated her colleagues had been hurt.

She was distraught she felt she had let them down because as their manager, she believed her job was to protect them.

She was tormented that the pain of the tragic events would be felt by families throughout the community.

At a time where so many companies look at employees who express their emotions and feelings as weak or a pain-in-the-arse … the honesty of Kiri Hannifin was a welcome change, despite it being born from such a horrible reason.

In addition, the comments that accompanied her interview were almost entirely positive – which compared to the tsunami of hate that tends to follow good news stories in the UK and US – brought some hope from a tragic situation.

While I don’t know her, Kiri Hannifin appears to be a brilliant human and a brilliant manager. And Countdown – which is, let’s not forget, a supermarket – seems to value and employ people who value people.

So to all those companies who want to ‘connect’ to the public, maybe you need to hire more people like Kiri rather than faceless execs who are media-trained to within an inch of their life.



The Music Industry Lifts Me Up By Putting Me Down …

A few weeks ago – thanks to Metallica’s managers – I was asked to give a presentation to another of the bands in their roster.

They’re not as big or as successful as their management mates, but they are definitely a name and had a lot of ideas about the future.

I was asked to give my perspective on what they were thinking so wrote a presentation called, ‘How to stop you becoming twats’.

To be honest, it wasn’t going to be called that, it was just an internal working title – designed to scare their management team more than anything – so you can imagine my surprise when they just laughed and said I should keep it.

I must admit, I was very, very suspicious about why they were OK with it but decided to go with it because at the very least, I could blame them, haha.

Anyway, despite the very curious faces on zoom as I presented to them at 4am New Zealand time, it seemed to have gone down well … which is why I was somewhat surprised when the day after I received this email from one of the team.

Putting aside the worry they may have actually told me to present that title because they thought I would get murdered for it, it’s quite nice to have delivered a presentation of blunt truth [albeit, well intentioned] and been thanked for it.

It’s not as good as the insult I got from Lars – which was part of this preso – but it’s still good.

Now you may wonder how I got away with it?

Well I don’t really know …

However I do have a long career of being able to be very blunt with clients in a way where they continually invite me back.

I don’t think it’s because they’re masochists.

And I certainly don’t do it because I am a prick.

It’s purely because my sole focus is to help them win better.

It’s amazing what you can get away with when the person knows your ambition is for them, not for you.

Or as one of my best ever clients said to me – the NIKE CMO, Simon Pestridge – “middle management want to be right, senior management want to know how to be better”.

I may not suggest doing it in the way I do it, but truth should never be hidden or sugarcoated to the point where no one can actually taste anything you’re saying.

And if anyone pushes back on you for wanting to do this, just point them to this post … because if senior figures in global brands and members of global rockbands can take it, anyone can.

_________________________________________________________________________________

It’s a long weekend here for the Queen’s birthday, so enjoy the weekend and the exert day off free from my rubbish next week.



The Power Of Pettiness …

Of all the types of revenge you can get, petty revenge is one of my favourites.

The beauty of it is that it’s petty. Meaning it’s for something the aggressor doesn’t even realise they have done. At least not until they experience the act of revenge.

The other wonderful thing is that the pettiness often extends to the act of revenge.

In most cases it’s about forcing some sort of ‘inconvenience’ upon the victim … even if organising it took longer than the actual inconvenience lasted.

It’s why the question asked of many revenge makers is, “was it worth all that time just to do that?”

And almost universally, the answer is “yes … it most definitely was”.

Over the years I’ve embarked on a reign of petty revenge terror. Seeking to even the score against people who have either inadvertently- or consciously – tried to fuck me or a mate over.

This has resulted in all manner of acts.

From stealing a single wheel from their desk chair so it was annoyingly lopsided … to having stickers printed so I could put the word “last” over all their out-of-date ‘agency of the year’ posters … to placing a ‘honk if you hate the police’ bumper sticker to the back of their car to having badges made that said “I’m a sexist twat” that we sent to every male boss who had harassed my female friends to – in the very old days – changing the keys around on their laptops in the knowledge they couldn’t touch type so every time they wrote words like ‘they’, it would type a very different word.

I would like to point out 3 things:

1. They all deserved it.
2. This was all a very, very long time ago.
3. I’m much more sensible these days.

Well, I say that, but when we lived in London, a neighbour denied they had taken delivery of my Amazon order – despite me being sent photographic evidence of them accepting it – so I spent 2 days signing them up to every catalogue I could find and I hope they’re still getting them. I added a nice touch by addressing it to, ‘Ima Lyer-Antheef’.

But compared to my friends, I’m still an amateur. The stuff they’ve done is incredible in it’s pettiness and time consumption.

There’s one involving a famous cereal manufacturer – that I can only say when on my death bed – that still raises a smile even though it occurred 16 years ago.

But all that pales into insignificance compared to this …

They say heroes wear capes.

Well sometimes they wear their pettiness on their sleeve.

All bow down to a true master at work. Bravo. Bravo. Bravo.



Blame Throwing …
June 2, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Corporate Evil, Experience, Relevance

So when we were leaving for New Zealand, I wanted to change our house insurance to cover the people we were renting.

So I rang our insurer – Hiscox – only to be told they would not be willing to insure our house as we’ll be living overseas.

They were fine with insuring our house.

They were fine with insuring our house with tenants.

But because we were going to be living overseas, we were told:

“We don’t want to insure you”.

They used those exact words.

Now I don’t know if this is their general policy – I know we’ve had other insurers look after our house while living overseas – but their general attitude was pretty horrific, made even more pathetic when a couple of days later they sent us a letter saying, ‘we’re sorry you have decided not to use us again’.

Now maybe this was computer generated, but I wasn’t going to let them cancel me then blame me, so I sent a letter back pointing out that I had actually wanted to extend my policy but they decided “they didn’t want me”, despite me always paying their higher-than-average policy rates on time.

You’d think that would be the end of it … but then I got a letter a day or so later. Not to apologise. Not to thank me for my previous custom. But to offer me ‘a deal’ to renew my house insurance with them again.

What the absolute fuck.

The next day, I got another correspondence from them. This …

So they acknowledge they made a mistake offering me a deal they had no intention to fulfil. But they failed to acknowledge their terrible service to a customer.

So I wrote to ‘Bob’ to explain how his companies ‘premier service’ was more Premier Inn than premier. And that’s not being fair to the Premier Inn, because every time I’ve stayed there – and I’ve stayed there a lot – the service has been great.

Not great in proportion to their price.

But great.

And while I have never accepted the maxim that ‘the customer is always right’, I can assure you neither is the company.

So dear Hiscox, maybe you need to take a policy out on yourselves, because if you carry on with the customer service you handed out to me, you’ll be needing to make a claim in no time.