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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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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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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Happy Halloween …
October 31, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Advertising, Emotion, Fear

How appropriate this years halloween falls on a Monday.

Surely there is nothing scarier than that?

6 letters, a lifetime of fear.

However, I’m a generous fellow so I’m going to help you get even more in the mood by giving you something to watch.

15 of the supposed most ‘scary videos’ on Youtube.

And while that may not sound very inviting, let me tell you a story about the horror movie director, Wes Craven.

Years ago – while working on Sony – I got to interview him as part of our ‘feel’ strategy.

He was very generous with his time and opinion and left me with this gem as regards how he sees what he does.

“I make people feel alive by scaring them half to death”.

So rather than hate me for scaring you with this video, thank me for making you feel alive.

On a monday.

You’re welcome.

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I’m A Low-Rent Oprah …

There’s a lot of talk about the ‘great resignation’, but as I’ve written in the past, when you spend time talking to the people doing it – or hoping to do it – you learn the correct term for it should be ‘the great reset’ or, in some cases, ‘the last hope’.

The reality is the situation isn’t new.

People have felt trapped in their jobs for decades. Centuries even.

But the basic premise was ‘if you want to earn increasing amounts of money, you have to stay on the path you have chosen’.

It kind of makes sense, until you factor in the economic value of happiness and fulfilment.

Add in companies increasing lack of loyalty towards their employees and you realise the younger generation are both smarter and braver than most of my peers.

I say most because there’s people like my best friend Paul.

I’ve written about Paul’s journey from printer to Frothy Coffee Man but the more I think about it, the more amazing it is.

Because while leaving a paying job to do the same job for yourself is an act of self-belief – acknowledging it still requires a huge amount of effort if you want to continue growing, rather than just stay where you are – leaving a job you’ve done for decades to do something totally different is an act of hope.

Well, that’s what it may seem …

The reality is carrying on doing something you aren’t enjoying is the most sensible thing you can do.

What stops us is the risk of it failing.

The worry that instead of taking a step forward, we end up going backwards.

And then that idea fucks with your head and you end up carrying on as you were.

Miserable is your arrested development of life.

But Paul didn’t do that.

He decided to do something about it …

Now becoming Frothy Coffee Man wasn’t all a punt in the dark.

While he hadn’t done it before, he loved the idea of being self-employed. He loved the idea of dealing with people. He wasn’t frightened of hard work. He was realistic about what he needed and wanted out of it. He loved being outdoors. And his fucking wonderful personality was made to build relationships with strangers.

He also had an incredibly supportive wife who encouraged him.

As well as a best mate who did the same. ie: Me.

So he went for it. And it has been the best decision of his life … first emotionally and then pretty soon afterwards, financially.

I’ve written a lot about how my parents drilled into me the importance of fulfilment over contentment.

To be honest it took me a long time to realise what they truly meant.

But in essence it was this.

Always choose the bigger life.

I’m so glad Paul did it. I’m so glad I was taught it. I hope more people find theirs.

Because as hard as it may seem, it’s only one considered decision away.

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