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


Goodbye 2022. Hello Peace And Quiet …

So this is it, the last post of 2022.

Again, I want to say a big thank you to everyone and anyone who has read or commented on my ranting rubbish.

I have to say, I miss the comments.

I know it was my choice to stop them, but I do miss them – so maybe I’ll have to bring them back, even though I’ve become waaaaaaay more productive since they’ve been turned off as I don’t have to spend vast amounts of my time checking what insults have been written to me and about me, hahaha.

But lack of comments aside, it’s been a big year … mainly because it has been the first year in a couple of years without any lock-down. And yet I still find it bizarre seeing people not wearing masks and being able to get on a plane again.

To think of the isolation, suffering and pain so many people suffered, the speed of the bounce-back has taken my breath away. Of course there are still people enduring tough times … but given the horror of the pandemic has seemingly been replaced by the threat of nuclear war and economic collapse, maybe COVID wasn’t so bad after all.

That said, I’m so grateful for the ability to travel again as it meant I was able to go on a trip that I’ll never, ever forget.

A trip where I got to see my beloved Martin getting married in Portugal.
A trip where I got to see my beloved Nottingham Forest getting promoted at Wembley.
A trip where I got to see my beloved Queen in concert with a ticket I bought 2 years earlier.
A trip where I got to see my beloved Paul, after the longest time we’ve been apart in 52 years.

It was, without exaggeration, one of the most special times in my life … with stuff I thought I may never see – or see again – so you will understand why I still feel so grateful to be able to have experienced it.

But beyond that, there were many other things that made this year memorable.

We did some fun work including Beyond Binary, Rick and Morty, Phone It In and Give Up On Humans. Our agency Christmas gift was interesting too. I say interesting, but I mean ridiculous, especially compared to last years more sophisticated Restraining Order, haha.
I wrote a pretty decent April Fools post that conned a few people.
And then, more seriously, I wrote some posts about my dalliance with depression, fulfilment, prejudice and respect that seemed to mean something to people, which made me feel happy it helped in some way.
I worked with Metallica, Miley Cyrus, Muse and Journey, to different degrees of success and enjoyment, hahaha.
We produced Dream Small … which I’m not only very proud of, but has led to conversations and change I never imagined we could have.
The way Otis – and his school – dealt with his dysgraphia diagnosis.
I celebrated my Mum’s 90th.
I got to see the wonderful Maya and Bree again, after years.
I was somehow featured in a book.
My Bohemian Catsody office mural … featuring Rosie amongst others.
I laughed myself stupid about Gi’s shit explosion while also being proud as punch of my wonderful team with our WARC/Cannes Global Grand Prix for effectiveness … followed up with us winning the same achievement at the NZ Effies … followed up by us winning the Global Grand Effie a few weeks later.
Renovating the old Colenso table to give it – and the irrepressible, unmistakeable Kate Maitland – the respect and recognition they deserve.
Lizzie and Amy’s news.
And Paula’s wonderful ray of sunshine.
Then finding the brilliant Briar and Shelly … with Martin and Meg arriving in Jan. [Which in Meg’s case, is almost 2 years in the waiting]
And last – but certainly not least – seeing Boris get pushed out quickly [literally and figuratively] by Liz Truss, even though the evil Tories somehow remain in power.

Of course there was some sad and disappointing stuff.

The loss of the irreplaceable and wonderful Dan Wieden.
Queenie … which hit me far more than I ever imagined it would.
Ben. Who left us too soon.
Mike’s motorcycle accident.
Henry, Liam and Robin left the team.
My first dalliance with COVID. And Jill too.
The bullshit that Simon P was forced to deal with and face.
Not to mention the horrible situation one of our clients was exposed to by the worst of society.
And then too many terrible global events, with the situations in Ukraine and Iran being possibly the worst of them all. What makes these last two even more disturbing is how the media only pay lip service to them. As if they don’t deem the horrors ‘relevant’ enough for their viewers and readers so they hide it on pages 5 and 6 … behind articles on energy bills, political scandal and sports scores.

I know it’s Christmas, but instead of having that one extra drink or buying that one shitty pressie, donating that money to organisations who offer support and help would be amazing. Two of them are this for Ukraine and this for Iran.

2022 has reminded me how privileged and comfortable my life is.

While compared to many, I have only experienced that sort of life, there have been times that have challenged me.

1999 was horrid.
As was 2015.
And last December was arguably, the worst month I’ve ever faced.

But this year, from a purely personal perspective, has generally been pretty special for me and one of the biggest reasons for that is my family.

I know we’re all supposed to say that, but it’s true.

Not just for who they are, but because for some reason, I feel we got even closer.

Emotionally.
Supportively.
Connectively.

To be honest, I thought we were already as close as you can be, but I discovered there’s actually no limit to the level of connection you can feel with loved ones and that has left me feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Maybe it’s because NZ is so far from everyone, we feel closer to each other. Maybe it’s because we don’t see the people we love so often, we have become more reliant on each other. Maybe it’s because we just have gone through some stuff that it reinforced how special we are to each other. Maybe it’s for reasons I’ve not wanted to admit before because it challenges the priorities I’ve lived by before.

Who knows, but what I can say is I love my ramshackle collection of Campbell’s.

Including Rosie, of course.

They’re not perfect.
They can drive me nuts.
But they’re mine and I adore every bit of them.

Which is why I want to sign off by saying to them – and to the rest of you – that whatever you do over this period, I hope it gives you all you want and all you need. I am grateful for everything every one of you put in my life and I hope 2023 – as scary as many are suggesting it will be – will surprise us all with its happiness and fulfilment.

Just as long as mine is happier and more fulfilling than yours.

Hey, I may be getting more tolerant in my old age, but I’m still as only-child demanding as ever.

Have a great one. Back Feb 1. I hope to see you in 2023.

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P-P-P-Pick Up A Penguin …
December 7, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Death, Empathy, Love, Loyalty, Otis, Sentimentality

This week has seen quite a lot of sentimental posts so far.

Or should I say, has seem more sentimental posts that usual.

The reason is likely because it’s Otis’ 8th birthday on Sunday and I’m building up to it.

I’ll be writing a big post about that – and him – on Friday, but this post continues the sentimental theme.

Except this has nothing to do with me and is just something I couldn’t help be touched by.

A story of love and loss.

Friendship and light at moments of loneliness and darkness.

No, it’s not the storyline for a documentary.

It’s not even about humans.

But it is real. And I do love it. Especially as the world feels more divided and broken than I’ve ever experienced it and so any sign of genuine emotion and love goes a long way.

Have a read of this … though the real impact comes in the form of the photographs.

Those beautiful, gentle, loving photos.

Especially the one with the ‘wing’ around the other.

Who knew that we could all do with being a bit more penguin!

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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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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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Don’t Let Your Job Title Fool You Into Thinking You Have Respect …

One of the best pieces of advice I was taught was ‘always earn your right to be trusted’.

By that, they meant …

+ Lead by example.
+ Open doors for others to walk through.
+ Be fierce with maintaining standards.
+ Always protect, defend and grow your team.
+ Be transparent in your actions and interactions.
+ Encourage debate and independent thinking.
+ Create the conditions for everyones success.
+ Recognise the individual, not just the group.

That seems a lot of things doesn’t it, but that’s what real leadership is.

Or what I was taught it is.

Now whether I’m good at any of that is open to debate, but it definitely shaped my approach to things – even when I get it terribly wrong.

But my worry is a lot of people entering management today don’t get any advice whatsoever.

They’re plucked from being good in their job and told they now lead a team. Which basically sends out the message ‘do whatever it takes for the company to succeed, regardless of the cost’.

We’ve read the damage of this attitude in Corporate Gaslighting and yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

Of course a manager/leaders job is to do things for the benefit of the company they work for. But if they create an environment where the individual and the team can also succeed – not just financially, but in terms of growth, opportunity and possibility – it’s amazing how much everyone benefits.

But to do that well requires more that authority, but trust.

Trust you will lead them to somewhere better.
Trust you will look out for them not just yourself.
Trust in their opinion, not just your own.

The older I get, the less I see of this.

Instead of trust, companies put in hierarchy.

Where the expectation is to blindly follow what the more senior person demands.

I saw that when I lived in America … the most hierarchal place I’ve ever worked.

And while it may appear to work, it doesn’t really.

It either creates an echo-chamber of blinkered opinion – which is reframed as ‘company culture’ – or it relies on people who are in the terrible position of not having the choice to get out of where they are, with ease.

Which is why the other piece of advice I got – from my Dad – compliments what I said at the top of this post. Because if the goal of a manager or leader is to always earn trust from their team … then the role of the team is to “only respect authority that has been earned over time … not given, bought or provided by privilege or misinformation”.

It’s a lovely thought …

Proof not expectation.
Earned not just given.
Consistent not occasional.

It also explains why I must have been an absolute nightmare to the bosses I had who expected my loyalty rather than earned it. There weren’t many – thank god – but there were a few. And while I’m sure they were good people [probably], they definitely made the fatal error of thinking their job title demanded trustworthiness, when literally the opposite is true.

And with that, I’ll sign off with a link to an article I wrote for Little Black Book that sums this all up. It was – and remains so – one of the most valuable lessons and mistakes, I’ve ever had.

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