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


Twitter Twaddle …

Over the last 12 months, one of the things I’ve had an almost adverse reaction to is twitter.

I can see Andy reading this – and I expect an email from him reinforcing this – and shouting:

“Now you know why I always called it twatter”

And he may … just may … be right.

I used to like twitter.

It had a similar feel to the early days of blogging.

Community. Supportive. Elevation of knowledge and debate.

But now …. well, it’s a cesspit of hate, ego and imposters.

Full of people on self-made pedestals claiming to be the next incarnation of Christ. Who believe they are better and smarter than the bastard love-triangle-child of Weiden, Edison and Ocasio-Cortez. Who are disturbingly confident in their claims of being more knowledgable about companies histories, operations and decision making than employees – or even founders – of those very companies. Or even the CIA.

And yet, when you look for any of the work these genius’ have actually made … what you tend to find is more tweets.

Tweets about what others are doing wrong.

Tweets about how they could do things better.

Tweets about how they know the answer to everything and beyond.

Tweets about how they want others to give them answers to questions that someone else is paying them to provide.

Tweets about how they claim ownership for business or societal behaviour change via articles that they had nothing to do with that talk about business or societal behaviour change.

Tweets about how their ego, arrogance, aggression, bitterness and dismissal of others know no bounds.

Tweets. Tweets. Tweets.

And this was before Elon Musk, the World’s comedy villain, overpaid for the bloody thing.

Of course not everyone is like this. There are still some amazing people on there who are generous and open with their comments and consideration … who can disagree without aspiring to demolish those who have a different point of view … however they’re increasingly becoming the minority, drowned out by wave after wave of hateful, spiteful, vicious commentary which – for the first time in my life – pushed me away for my mental health.

This was shocking to me for 3 reasons.

1. Having worked in this industry for so long, I have the thickest of thick skin.

2. I’m a social-media tart. Not just in terms of platforms I belong to, but in terms of ‘content’ I churn out.

3. No one was personally attacking or abusing me.

Basically, twitter has become exhausting to me.

A firehose of cliquey, self-congratulatory, pseudo-intellectual commentary that tries – and fails – to hide it is ego and insecurity shouting into an echo-chamber.

Personally this has devastated me.

I loved twitter – like I loved blogs – because I genuinely felt they helped me be become better at things I do or wanted to do.

It gave me a direct line to people I respected where I was able to listen, learn, interact, explore and debate.

Twitter wanted me to be better.

It wanted me to be exposed to new ideas, ideals and considerations.

But not now.

Now it’s like a digital version of The Hunger Games.

Destruction in 280 characters.

Words used as bombs and swords.

People elevating themselves by bringing others down … through verbal attacks, gaslighting or building a wall of imagined exclusivity between them and others, even if it only exists in the minds, ego and insecurity of those who post so often, you wonder how the hell they have time to do their actual job.

Anyway, the reason for all this is that I recently read a quote from Musk about what he thought Twitter was:

I couldn’t agree with him more.

In fact, I think he encapsulated why I have fallen out-of-love with his $44 billion indulgence.

Because mediums are neither rare nor well done.

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Last Week Of 2022 Starts Now …
December 12, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Advertising, Attitude & Aptitude, Business, Confidence, Culture

The good news for me is that unlike last year – the day after Otis’ birthday – I do not find myself rushed into hospital and requiring emergency treatment.

The good news for you, is that while this is not the last week of 2022, it is where this blog is concerned.

So win:win.

Except you lose, as not only is this blog back next year, I’ve already written a weeks worth of posts.

I know … I know …

But let’s focus on the positive … in just 4 days, you will be free from this blog till Feb 1.

FEB ONE!!!

Earlier this year I wrote why NZ festive season holidays are the most amazing holidays I’ve ever had. Not just for their duration, but for how the whole country values and protects them.

Now I’m not on holiday that entire time, but I will be for a bunch of it which means I’ll [hopefully] be rested so I can come back and write posts that will knock your socks off.

Oh who am I kidding?

So to get you in the mood of disappointment, here’s today’s rubbish.

Except this time, it’s not by me, but by that once great business name – Forbes.

Have a look at this …

Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos.
Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX.

The Queen and King of Finhealth and Crypto … who turned out to not be the icons of business that Forbes thought they were. That Forbes promoted them as being.

I wonder how much money they helped people lose with their misguided fawning?

Maybe if people knew Forbes editorial coverage can be purchased rather than it always being the result of independent journalistic opinion, they’d be less trusting.

Though you’d hope people would have a more cynical eye when reading anything Forbes celebrates from now on. That said, here’s another example of a brand whose blinkered quest for cash is their fast-track to a brand value crash. They should write an article on themselves as a watch-out for business.

And with that, I’ll see you tomorrow.

T-minus 4 days.

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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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When Life Gives You Angostura, Make A Cocktail …

Recently I read the story behind Angostura’s strange bottle.

For those of you who don’t know what Angostura is, it’s a bitters used in cocktails.

For those of you who don’t know what is strange about their bottle, it’s this:

Yep, that’s their normal product.

A bottle, hidden inside fucking massive packing.

The story – as told by Abraham Piper – is the business was taken over by the founder’s sons in 1870.

To help grow its awareness, they decided to update the ‘look’ and enter the finished product into a competition in the hope the exposure would drive the business.

They didn’t have much time so to maximise efficiency, one brother designed the label and the other, the bottle.

One slight problem … they didn’t discuss the size.

Another slight problem … they didn’t realise until they brought both sides of their work together and by then, they didn’t have enough time to alter things before the competition was due to commence.

So they decided to enter it anyway.

Unsurprisingly, they lost.

Except one of the judges told them they should keep it exactly as it was because no one else was going to be stupid enough to make that sort of mistake … which means it was unique and would stand out.

So they did.

And that dumbass mistake – the sort of dumbass mistake that captures Dan Wieden’s classic Fail Harder philosophy, perfectly – was the foundation of a business that continues to evolve and grow to this day.

Now there is a chance this is not true.

They don’t mention it in their history timeline on their website for example.

But history is littered with happy accidents … from making Ice Cream to making Number 1 hit records … so there’s just as much chance it is.

And if that is the case, I’d bloody love it.

Because in this world where everything is researched to within an inch of its life, the products/brands that gain a real and powerful role and position in culture – not to mention whatever category they operate in – are increasingly the ones who keep the chaos in, rather than actively try to filter it out.

Whether that’s because they know it’s better to mean everything to someone rather than something to everyone is anyone’s guess. There’s a good chance they’re just lucky-accident dumbasses. Or they might understand the value of resonating with culture, rather than being relevant to the category.

Whatever it is …

The brands with the strongest brand attribution, assets and audience are increasingly the ones who never have to talk about it, let alone spend their marketing dollars trying to create it.

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Is Adland Turning Into Liz Hurley. Or Dan Bilzerian?

As many of you know, I HATE the band, ‘The Smiths’.

Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate.

However, I recently saw an old article from their guitarist – Johnny Marr – that I really like.

I should say that I’m not saying this because he also now hates the racist prick that is Mr Miserable Morrissey … or that he lives in Portland and has been known to play with some old W+K’ers … but because I absolutely love the last line of this quote:

Maybe I like it because I’m reacting to the many people in the industry who are achieving acclaim for not actually doing anything other than repeatedly spouting very deliberate, very self-serving soundbites … or said another way, for being famous for being famous … but the idea of someone working hard at something for the sheer desire to be good at something seems a relic of the past.

I know, I sound the grumpiest of grumpy old men.

The reality is I don’t begrudge anyone who is doing what they can to make a living.

Even if it’s utterly strategic and contrived in its motivation.

And I also know there’s people out there who do have a ‘work hard to just be better at something I want to be better at’ work ethic … people like Maya Thompson and Joel Goodall to name but 2.

But the bit that bothers me is the industry is placing so much value on people who shout stuff rather than do stuff that it is actively encouraging more people to behave this way.

Being good at something – just because it feels good to be good at something – seems to becoming more and more of an outdated concept.

In some ways I get it.

Just because you enjoy something doesn’t mean you’ll be good at it. Or good to the level that it could serve you well. So why would you put in all that effort when it may not move you forward?

I also appreciate I am the last person who should be talking about this.

When I learnt the guitar, I did it because I wanted to be a rockstar.

Sure, I also wanted to write songs and play them with my bandmates, because I loved doing that … but the ‘benefits’ of stardom were definitely a major influence in my decision to pick up the 6 string.

I used to look at old guys playing in bands [ie: people who are my current age] as pathetic.

I used to think they were hanging on to dreams they’d never achieve and it was all a bit sad.

But now I’m at their age, I realise it’s no longer about that, it’s about pure enjoyment.

That regardless of what might – or probably might not – happen, the joy of doing something you love, like and are quite good at, is fulfilling enough.

Sure, there are better guitarists out there than me.

Guitarists who will achieve success, money and fame … but that’s OK, because just being able to play to a good standard is OK with me.

It’s a demonstration that I committed myself to something.

Didn’t take the easy option.

Didn’t give up.

It’s the fact I can play the guitar that makes me happy.

Of course it’s nice if others recognise that, but that isn’t important.

Neither is the case that a long time ago, I played guitar for a few semi-famous people.

In fact, given I no longer play for any semi-famous people, you could argue I’ve got worse … except I don’t think that way. Not just because so much of that is down to luck, but because I am happy that I found something that gave me – and gives me – pleasure through a constant feeling of challenge and achievement and that is not to be underestimated.

A gift that has lasted 38 years and counting.

Throughout my life I have met people who have planned their life so well.

They knew their next step … they knew the skills they needed to acquire to get where they wanted to go … they worked everything out in excruciating detail.

I used to sort-of envy these people.

I used to wonder what was wrong with me because I sort of bumbled along, choosing things that interested me rather than necessarily rewarded me.

Please don’t think I am claiming to be a saint, but I can say that money was never the driving factor in my choices – except once, which led to one of the most soul destroying periods of my life which reinforced that my way of making decisions – however stupid – was perfect for me.

In fact, I realise more and more that what works for me is less about efficiency of progress and more about emotional satisfaction.

And that’s why I love that Johnny Marr quote, because he captured that while people who have gained the highest job title or have been put on the highest hype pedestal are good … the real stars are the folk who simply get on with what they do.

Who take pride in a job well done because that’s the standards they operate by.

Not for progress or cash incentives, but because they believe that’s what’s right.

They view it as a testimony to their hard work and experience.

That being good at something is – to a large extent – good enough.

Sure, some of these people also sit at the top tables of companies … but most tend to be people who let other people shine through their abilities at doing something well.

I am not one of these people.

I want to be.

I try to be.

But I’m not.

I write a blog and court attention.

I try to do it for the right reasons – I genuinely do – but, let’s be honest, I also do it because for some mad fucking reason, it’s also become quite good for my career.

To be honest, that’s pretty sad and pathetic.

And that’s why I am so glad I play the guitar.

Because while my reasons to pick it up may have been flawed, it was the sheer joy of wanting to get better at something that gave me sheer joy that kept me going with it.

I hope everyone finds that thing.

We will all be better for it.

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