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


Niche Business Is Still A Business …

Recently I did a talk with a client of mine, the brilliant Hankook Kim – founder of the brilliant Gentle Monster.

For those who don’t know who Gentle Monster is … in simple terms they’re a street culture, luxury eyewear brand who do some of the most brilliant – and crazy – collaborations you’ve ever seen. From World of Warcraft to their own brand of cake shops to pretty much everything in-between.

Anyway, we gave a presentation to a bunch of venture capitalists called Mosquitos Annoy The Fuck Out Of Giants and it highlighted the short-sightedness of their scalability investment model.

For example, Gentle Monster were initially turned down by a lot of VC’s because they saw them as only ever having a small retail presence, literally ignoring the fact he started the company with the goal of having an outsized cultural impact … whether that was through the design of his stores, the collabs he would do or the focus on making eyewear for Asian facial structures – when most other manufacturers based their product on larger Western physical features.

Obviously in all of this, Mr Kim brought the credibility whereas I just brought the punches … but it was a huge amount of fun, regardless if we convinced the VC’s or conflicted them.

The reason I say this is because I recently got sent the ad above about the beatboxing funeral musician.

On first glance you may wonder how many people would want that, but then you think about it and you realise that maybe quite a few do.

Not just because they like beatboxing, but because they want to go out with fanfare.

A few years ago I wrote about the songs I want played at my funeral, and while most remain the same [though I’ll be adding Myles Kennedy’s Love Can Only Heal, to it] … I’ll still have Europe’s classic ‘The Final Countdown’ to end proceedings.

Now I appreciate some will see that as a highly inappropriate song choice, but that’s kind of the reason for it.

To make sure whoever bothers to turn up is sent off with a smile.

To ensure my last ever act one has a glint of cheekiness and mischief.

To say thank you to everyone who made my life better than I ever imagined it could be.

And while this may all sound like I’m a delusional fool, the reality is it is important to me and I would be willing to pay a premium for it – especially if it’s the last thing I’ll ever pay for – which is why this is a reminder that before you judge, [1] remember it’s not whether you like it, but whether others do and [2] your definition of success may not be the same as theirs.



Forever Connected By An Invisible String …
March 9, 2021, 7:30 am
Filed under: Comment, Death, Family, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad

When Otis was young, we bought him a book called The Invisible String.

It’s a delightful book about family … love … and connection … and helps kids understand the idea of being together even when their parents aren’t around. Whether that’s because they’re at work or have sadly passed.

I write this because 6 years ago today, my wonderful, beautiful Mum died.

It seems so long ago and yet I can remember every second of that day.

From waking up early to see her before her operation … to the rise of worry as she was in theatre for longer than the person before her … to the relief when she came out and I could sit by her side … to the confusion I felt when the nurse asked me to sit somewhere else as an alarm started to sound … to the horrible, painful moment the doctor and nurse told me the worst thing that could happen, had happened.

And like when my Dad died, the memories of her are consumed by the moments of this day.

However, also like my Dad, I know that will eventually pass to be replaced by the moments of love, happiness and wonder I shared with her.

She was an amazing woman.

Her capacity for compassion knew no bounds.

I felt – like with Dad – loved and supported, even at my most ‘difficult’ times …

Her loss was – and still is – a huge hole in my life.

She never got to meet Otis.
She never got to know we had moved to America … then England … and now NZ.
She never got to see the beautiful garden at our house in Herefordshire or the mad treehouse in Auckland.

But I know she would be happy about it all.

And that makes me happy for very different reasons.

Because while for her, it would be that her only son was enjoying his life, for me it would be that I am making my Mum proud.

That’s all I want to do.

Always.

I miss you Mum.

I can still feel our string.

I hope you’re holding hands with Dad and laughing at my jetlag.

Love you.


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Loyalty Is Demonstrated By Time, Not Just By Actions …

Over the past 9 months, we’ve heard a lot from companies talking about loyalty.

Whether that’s loyalty to their staff, loyalty to their shareholders or loyalty to their values and commitments.

Sadly, in a lot of cases, this has been nothing more than a PR statement.

Something that looks good and makes the C-Suite feel good, without having to actually be good.

Of course there have been the exceptions, but in many cases, that’s all there is.

Now I am not naive.

I know in a commercial organisation, tough decisions need to be made every day … but the reality is, in many cases, it’s not that tough for them. Or it shouldn’t be given how often they do it. Though I do find it surprising how many companies are OK with letting people go but don’t like it when their employees let their employer go. Funny how they see that as an act of betrayal.

But that’s by-the-by, because this is about what real loyalty means and it revolves around Metallica.

So when the band started, there were 4 members.

James Hetfield
Lars Ulrich
Kirk Hammett
Cliff Burton

On September 27th, 1986, the band were in their coach travelling through a rural part of Sweden. They were there as part of their tour supporting their ‘Master of Puppets’ album.

It was a long and gruelling tour and sleep was in short reply. The band members had been complaining the sleeping arrangements on their bus were unsatisfactory so to decide who received the pick of the bunks, Hammett and Burton played cards.

Burton won and said to Hammett he wanted his bunk … leaving Kirk to sleep up front near the driver.

Around 7am, the bus flipped over onto the grass in Kronoberg County.

Cliff Burton was thrown through the window of the bus, which then fell on top of him, killing him instantly.

While there is debate on whether the accident was the result of black ice or the driver sleeping at the wheel, the reality is Burton – a much loved, highly talented musician – was dead.

So where’s the loyalty?

Well it’s true the band decided to continue rather than split up – like some other bands who had suffered the loss of a member.

And it’s true the bassist chosen to replace Cliff, Jason Newsted, faced a lot of tension from a band still grieving for the loss of their friend.

However, it’s the connection the band maintained with Cliff’s father – and the support Cliff’s father gave to the band – that is something to celebrate.

From the moment Cliff died, his Dad – Ray Burton – encouraged the band to continue.

Despite being in unbelievable grief, he was adamant the best way he could honour his son was having the band go on.

To play the music he helped create.

To let his name, talent and spirit continue even though he is no longer here.

And while the band probably didn’t need that endorsement to make their decision, they treasured it.

But more than that, they treasured Ray Burton.

In their mind, he was a part of the band because he had fathered the guy who helped father the band.

It was a mutual love … based on respect, compassion and a love of Cliff.

I know that sounds like the sort of cliched ‘bro’ statement you would hear from a band or brand in a desperate attempt for a PR headline, but in Metallica’s case, it’s true.

Demonstrated and proven by the duration this relationship has been celebrated, nurtured and expressed.

What’s wonderful is they always managed to do it in a way that was respectful yet positive.

Whether that’s having Ray join the band on stage to be conducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of fame, or just having him come to whichever band gig he chooses.

And then celebrating his attendance on stage.

But Ray also plays a big part in keeping this relationship healthy.

Because while he loves the acknowledgement the band and the fans give his beloved son, he also wants to ensure the memory of Cliff doesn’t overshadow or become a burden to his replacement. Or the band.

He loves the music and wants that to be the focus.

And that gives the band the freedom to keep moving forward.

Which, of course, makes them love and support him more.

Which is maybe why their loyalty is so strong and positive.

Because where many [read: companies] believe loyalty is about compliance regardless of situation, Metallica and Ray see it as being founded on openness, honesty and positivity.

They can’t change what has happened.
They can’t live in the past.
But they can celebrate where something they created is going.

Sadly, Ray died recently, aged 94.

The band’s loyalty to him still lives.



The Last Month Of 4.0 …

So today is June 1.

In 11 days, I wave goodbye to my forties and enter a decade that seems impossible for me to fathom.

50.

FIFTY.

Seriously, how did this happen?

I still remember sitting on the hill outside Erica’s newsagent with my best mate Paul around 1978, when we worked out that in the year 2000, we would be turning 30.

But here we are, 11 days from 50.

[Though it’s 15 days for Paul, who will LOVE those 4 days where he can bang on about how he is a decade younger than me … though he will also moan that my present for him isn’t like the full page newspaper ad I got him when he was 40, but a Forest shirt signed by all the members of the 1980 European Cup team. Asshole. He knows about this present as I bought it for him years ago so I’m not ruining anything for him. But I still have a surprise for him. Oh yes.]

Turning 30 bothered me a bit.

I was totally fine with becoming 40.

But 50!

I’m both bricking it and utterly casual about it.

And while there are some practical reasons for the shitting myself part – health, work, life in general – the fact of the matter is the older I get, the better my life has become.

I totally get the privilege of that statement, I don’t take it for granted at all, but it is definitely true.

Personally, professionally, emotionally …

Sure there have been some bumps along the way – some terribly hard and emotionally destructive ones – but looking at the big picture, the reality is my life has generally been on an upward trajectory.

Now even I know that it can’t keep going like that forever … but it doesn’t mean I have to stop trying.

The fact is, the older you get, the more you discover …

From what you like, what you don’t … to what you didn’t know and what you want to know.

And what makes it even more amazing – and annoying – is that every step you take, in whatever direction, reveals a whole host of other possibilities you would like to explore and investigate.

The problem is time is now officially, not on your side … so there’s a point where you have to accept you won’t get to try, play, experiment with all you want to do, so while that might put some people off, it kind of makes me want to try and pack more in.

And I am … because on top of work, Metallica, the school with Martin, I’ve already agreed to do a couple more projects that are intriguing and – frankly – ridiculous.

But there’s another reason for this attitude and it’s because my Dad died at 60.

Death is something I’ve talked a lot about over the years – mainly due to both my parents passing away.

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of taking about it, but I must admit, I’m scared of it.

I’m in generally good health, but fifty is still 50 and my Dad still died just 10 years on from this age.

Now of course it doesn’t mean I will … and I’ve come to this completely unscientific view that I should live till I’m at least 71 because if you take away my Dad’s age of dying [60]from my Mum’s [83] … that leave 23 years. Halve that … add it to Dad’s age … and voila, I will live till at least 71.

But then that means I only have 21 years left.

TWENTY ONE.

That’s nowhere near enough.

My wonderful little boy is only 5 for fucks sake. 26 is way too young to lose your Dad … hell, that’s even younger than I was when I lost mine.

Years ago, an old boss I looked upto said that if you can’t feasibly double your age, that is when you know you are – at best – middle aged or – at worst – the last stage of your life.

Well I suppose I can still feasibly double my age – even if it’s against the average age of death for a man in the UK [79.2] – but the reality is where I’m going is shorter than where I’ve been.

But shorter doesn’t mean less interesting.

And arguably, I have more exciting things in my life now – both personally and professionally – than I have ever had.

It also helps I am insanely immature with a desire for mischief, experimentation, creativity and adventure.

And I intend to fill it up with even more.

Fortunately I get that from a number of sources.

My wife.

My son.

My job.

My other jobs.

My friends.

My mind.

A while back, Pete said something I found pretty profound.

He said the narrative of strategy tended to focus on the importance of curiosity when discovery is far more valuable for driving the standard of the work you create and the adventure you go on.

Now I’ve written a lot about how I hate when planners talk about curiosity – as if they’re the only people who have it – but I really, really like that idea of the hunger for discovery.

I absolutely have that.

I owe so much of what I have to that.

The countries I’ve lived in. The people I’ve worked with. And most importantly, the family I am fortunate to have.

So while I enter a new decade, I will continue to live like it’s the old one.

Not in terms of dressing like I’m younger than I am – mainly because I have always dressed like I live in 1986 – but with the hunger, ambition and desire I’ve always had.

I genuinely believe my best work is still ahead of me.

Truly believe that.

And the goal of this decade is to achieve some of that while discovering new things that make me believe even better work can still lie in my future.



And In The Blink Of An Eye, The Years Pass By …
March 9, 2020, 6:15 am
Filed under: Dad, Death, Family, Jill, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

Oh Mum.

5 years.

It was the worst day of my life.

The hope. The love. The nervousness. The concern. The fear. The confusion. The horror. The prayers. The goodbye.

A lifetime of emotions run over the space of 12 hours.

I remember every minute. Literally.

And while I try not to think about it, I will. I will go back to that place so that I can feel close to the last time I was next to you.

Holding your hand.

Whispering words of love and hope.

Telling you how I would ensure Otis would know you and that I would always honour you when the tragic events of the day played its final act.

Oh how I still wish it ended on a positive.

Everything was set up for that … we had plans, big and exciting ones … but no, a rare condition put paid to that.

I still feel there was some weird circle of life stuff going on – from the conversations we had in our last 6 months together to the fact Otis was born 3 months before your operation [so I’m extra grateful that the doctor agreed to delay the operation to ensure both things didn’t happen at the same time] to the tragic reality that you died in the hospital where I was born.

And while that all fills me with sadness – even now – it also let’s me feel things were done to completion. Where the things we needed to say or show were done right. Where I could say goodbye to you in a way where I have no regrets.

Of course I am sad that we have not been able to share and talk about the adventures of the last 5 years. The moves. The madness. The wonderfulness of your beloved grandson … but given Dad’s situation changed so quickly, leaving us in paralysis and so many things frozen in time, it is a ray of light in an abyss of sadness.

That said, I miss you.

I miss you so much.

I would give anything to have one more chat … one more hug … one more kiss.

I always felt it, but now you’re gone I’m even more thankful you were my mum.

Honoured even.

Everything I am is because of something you – and dad – did for me.

The support and encouragement.

The lessons and the ideals.

The patience and forgiveness.

You were the one that taught me the importance of caring. You were the one who taught me to be open with my feelings and emotions. You were the one who created the foundation for me to build myself upon.

Believing in me in ways – and at times – that seemed madness.

Offering your gentle confidence.

A quiet shelter.

The time, space and attention for me to grow, explore and share.

Nourishing and nurturing me.

I cannot put into words all I am grateful to you for, other than to say my life is filled with memories either created with you, designed by you or encouraged by you and that is the greatest gift anyone could ever receive.

I miss you.

Give dad a kiss while you’re holding hands.

Rx

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