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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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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A Week Like No Other …
May 20, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Happiness, Love, Martin Weigel, Mercedes, Wedding

A week ago, this post was not going to be written.

Circumstances – some real, some assumed – were working against me.

From Forest missing out on automatic promotion to NZ immigration issues stopping me from attending the wedding of someone hugely important to me as well as seeing the first born of another person who is hugely important to me.

I had begrudgingly come to terms with it, but then – like magic – it all changed.

Forest – somehow – managed to get to the playoff final and border restrictions got changed earlier than imagined.

And what does this mean?

It means I’m flying to Europe on Sunday.
It means – thanks to NIKE getting me tickets – I get to see Forest play at Wembley.
It means I get interviewed on the Nottingham Evening News about my trip. [That’s not a joke]
It means I get to do this with my best friend Paul who I’ve not seen since September 2020.
It means I meet the first born of my dear friend and incredible planner – Paula Bloodworth.
[Made better by her husband being from Nottingham and Forest fan, which kills her. Ha]
It means I can give you 10 days of freedom from this blog.

TEN DAYS!!

But the icing on the cake is that I also get to see my beloved Martin Weigel marry his beautiful and wonderful Mercedes.

He might not want me to talk about this, but he’s probably so stressed trying to sort out the final arrangements that he will either not see this or not care.

But after trying to make this wedding happen for THREE YEARS – fuck you COVID – next Wednesday, in Portugal, we finally get to celebrate the most wonderful day of the year.

And I include the unlikely possibility of Forest getting into the Premiership in that statement.

Put simply, Martin and Mercedes are genuinely amazing and wonderful humans.

Yes, I know Weigel can come across as a miserable bastard intellectual … but the reality is he’s one of the most wonderful and warm people I’ve ever met. Of course I’m not supposed to say that – but it’s true – after all, how else would he get to marry such an amazing woman?!

People may think Martin and I are an odd couple, but everyone knows Martin and Mercedes are the perfect couple and I cannot sum up how happy I am for them.

Up until a couple of days ago, I didn’t think I could go.

I was invited, but visa and immigration issues were messing with it.

But now – on the day Forest won the match to get into the Championship playoff final – things changed and I’ll be there and I’m overwhelmed about it.

Not just because marriages are always wonderful.

But because marriage is important.

I’ve written about this before.

Of course everyone has their own opinion, but based on my experience, it has been the single best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Did it change anything when we’d been living together for years?

Actually it did.

Emotionally.

For the better.

It made me feel more secure, more cared for, more together.

And while that may not be the case for everyone, I have a sneaky suspicion it will be for Martin and Mercedes. And so it should, because they’re wonderful and right now … I am the 3rd happiest person in the whole wide World.

Thanks to them.

And because of them.

So to my dear M&M – but not Eminem – congratulations.

At a time where the planet is in a bit of a state, what you are doing next week – and what we all will celebrate – is a reminder that there’s beauty, happiness and hope out there.

I’m so glad you found each other.

I’m so glad you’re in my life.

I’m so glad I’ll be there.

Masses of love to you both.

Good luck to Forest.

Here’s to one of the most important and special weeks of my life.

A week I never expected to have, just a few days ago.

Which is a reminder of how awesome life can be.

As proven by the fact I’ll see you on the 2nd June.

Ta-ra lovelies.

Rx



Depressing Inspiration …

Back in the 80’s, there was a real trend for companies to put up ‘inspiration posters’.

Corporate Yoda statements that were as contrived – and daft – as fuck.

Things like …

EXPLORE. Only those willing to leave shore can find new lands.

I’m not even joking. There was tons of them like this.

For a while they were all the range … so popular that a friend actually created a mass of pisstake versions in the early 90’s.

Here’s one of them:

They were soooooooo much better than the real thing.

And then, from the mid-90’s to around 2015, these empty statements died a death however – just when you thought it was safe – social media decided to bring them back with a vengeance.

However, if you thought they were bad before, they have reached a whole new level of terrible.

Or should I say a whole new depth.

So much of this is because of Linkedin …

I’ve written my views on the biggest fiction factory on earth before.

Seriously, it’s about as professional as me … that’s how bad it has become.

In fact, it feels more like a home for wannabe Tony Robbins than a place for professional interaction.

Nothing sums this up more than an ‘inspiration’ photo I saw on there a while ago.

Take a look at this.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

I mean, just how depressing is that?

Sure, I know it’s trying to be deep and meaningful but christ almighty.

And they are using a photo of Jim Carrey to demonstrate the point.

But I’m not quite sure why him.

Yes, I know he has suffered loss and yes I have heard he supposedly doesn’t try to ‘impress’ people anymore … except he works in Hollywood and has a history of being an attention-seeking, approval-needing, soul-sucking individual.

Maybe he’s past that.

Maybe I have to stop using the term ‘Jim Carrey syndrome’ … which is how I used to describe people who are successful in one field, but are so desperate to win the respect of their peers, they change their actions and behaviour to try and win their approval, only to fail because that’s not who they are or what they’re good at.

I hope he is.

I hope that is the case.

That would be good and healthy for him.

But even with that … it still wouldn’t clearly explain WHY he is the star of this ‘grimperation’ poster, WHY the creator thought this approach would motivate people or WHY the person who posted it on their Linkedin, thought it may make them look like a guru.

That said, when I saw it, I genuinely burst out into hysterical laughter so maybe … just maybe … that was the whole point of the thing and if that’s the case, it’s bloody genius.

You wait. Depress yourself to happy will be on Linkedin status updates any day now.



Connect Don’t Communicate …

As many of you know, I’m quite the emotional guy.

[OK, I get it … that’s an understatement. Let’s leave it there]

But while this can sometimes result in me having an ‘Elton John’ moment [™ Elton John] I have always been a huge believer in the value and importance of empathy.

Part of this is because my Mum always told me to be interested in what others are interested in, but as I got more and more into my planning career, I realised that if you can truly understand the feelings and emotions someone is experiencing, it enables you to make work that others will also feel and resonate with.

A perfect example was this work we did ages ago for Nike in China.

It had already been decided the idea for the global 2012 Olympics Campaign was going to be Greatness. The problem was that when we spoke to kids all over China, they didn’t feel they were ever able to refer to themselves as great.

They felt that was a term saved for the chosen few. The people who the government deemed as having done things that raised the entire nations profile and success.

Of course they didn’t articulate it like this … we got there by spending time with them and slowly pulling away the layers of codes and confusion so we could understand what they wanted to say rather than what was being said.

Or said another way, we wanted to understand rather than get answers.

Now I am not denying it took a while … and I also accept being an Olympic campaign, we had the time and the money to do things right. But the thing is this rigour was worth it … because not only did it turn into an incredible campaign … not only did it become China’s most successful ever campaign … it helped changed attitudes towards what greatness is and allowed millions of kids to feel they could feel valued and valuable.

This is the work.

The reason I say this is because for the past few months, I’ve been working with The University of Auckland’s Creative Thinking Project in exploring new ways to use creativity to engage and deeply resonate with audiences.

Thanks to the work of Sir Richard Faull, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at The University of Auckland and Nuala Gregory, a fellow of the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries – also at The University of Auckland – we have explored and experimented with a whole host of different creative formats to identify which one can create the best conditions for connection.

The findings have been astounding.

While the vast majority of communication spend goes towards television, digital and outdoor advertising … none of these had the same impact on audiences as the power of the poem.

In fact, when poems were used as the content for television, digital and outdoor, the increase in engagement went up on average 13.3%.

THIRTEEN!

OK, I know that may not sound a lot on first impression, but when you consider last year, companies spent SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIVE BILLION DOLLARS GLOBALLY on advertising … if this can improve connection to potential audiences by 13%, then it has huge commercial opportunity.

[And by that, I mean for brands, creativity and the University of Auckland]

Now I suppose on one level, none of this should be a surprise.

Rap is a kind of poetry.

A way to communicate that’s felt as well as heard.

But while we have started to explore this, our focus has been on poetry and the results, as I detailed above, have been fascinating.

Sir Richard believes this may be heavily influenced by the challenges the World has faced over the past few years. Where the feeling of isolation of helplessness has created an yearning for any sort of emotional connection. And while TV may have their manifestos, they often come over as contrived … whereas poems have a fragility to them that enables them to better resonate and connect to audiences.

For example … of the literally thousands of poems tested, this was one that achieved one of the highest scores, despite being from an anonymous author.

Now this mountain I must climb
Feels like the world upon my shoulders
But through the clouds I see love shine
It keeps me warm as life grows colder

While it is deliberately ambiguous, it appeared to connect to audiences as they saw it as capturing the struggles they felt in life. Where there is still an expectation for progress and yet the conditions people find themselves having to deal with are increasingly harsh and difficult.

Other poems that resonated – and follow a similar theme to the previous example, except it is by contemporary poet, Ocean Vuong – include this:

And when your fears subside
And shadows still remain
I know that you can love me
When there’s no one left to blame
So never mind the darkness
We can still find a way

As well as a piece from his work entitled ‘Life’, which has a much darker theme:

Loneliness is my hiding place
Breast feeding my self
What more can I say?
I have swallowed the bitter pill

We are still working on the research but have set up an instagram that lists the poems that have tested particularly well.

I would love it if you could visit the page and let me know how the poems affect you. If they do.

Now I appreciate this leaves me open to all sorts of ridicule.

And I assure you that I am not trying to suggest poems are the future of effective advertising.

This is simply a project to see if there are techniques that allow us to better connect emotionally to audiences without necessarily needing to spend months in the field meeting endless people.

While I am part of this work, it is ultimately the property of Auckland University.

Fortunately, they have said I can promote the work because they would love to have more respondents take part. So if you are interested in discovering more – and helping see where this creative adventure could lead, can I ask you to sign up here.

That said, I would recommend you do it today … because studies have found April 1st is the optimal day to get people to sign up to ‘research’ that is actually just some 80’s song lyrics from Foreigner, Guns n’ Roses and Queen.

Have a great day. I know I will.