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


Some Weeks Last A Lifetime …

So I was supposed to be back today, but the gods had other plans.

I got covid.

After avoiding it for 2 years.

After moving to the other side of the planet in the middle of the pandemic.

They decided now was the optimum time to give it to me.

And maybe they were right.

Because this trip has – so far – been filled with nothing but miracles and love.

I got to see the wonderful Martin and Mercedes get married in Portugal, surrounded by old friends who I’d not seen in an age.

Including the brilliant Clare Pickens who I love enormously.

Not to mention Nusara and her husband … who I discovered actually exists.

Now it’s fare to say all weddings are special, but this was magnificent.

There’s many reasons for that – from the people, the venue, the moment – but it was something more than that. As I said on the speech I was asked to give at the last minute, we needed this. All of us. Not just Martin and Mercedes … but every person who was – and continues to be – affected by the devastation of COVID. Which means every person in the World because whether it has been small or big challenges, we’ve all had to deal with them.

And from there, I then got to see my beloved Nottingham Forest pull off the miracle.

From bottom of the league with the worst start in 108 years to playing at Wembley after 30 years and getting promoted to the Premiership after 23 years away.

And to be able to do that with my beloved Paul – who I’d not seen for almost 2 years – by my side, was just even more special.

I don’t mind telling you I cried when I saw him.

When he got out his car and gave me one of his massive hugs hello, I clung on and cried. God I’ve missed him.

Don’t get me wrong, I love NZ, but it is the first place I’ve ever lived that genuinely feels ‘far from everything’ … so with that and all that has gone on in the past 2 years – not to mention the fact this is the longest I’ve not seen him in my entire life – I realised how much I’ve missed and needed him around in my life.

So to have that and then watch our beloved Forest get back into the promise land together was – well, just unbelievably special.

Now if you remember the post I wrote when I was setting off on this adventure, you will note I have not mentioned seeing Paula and her baby yet and that’s because of the COVID gods. But they’re still being nice to me …

Because not only has COVID not been too bad for me – especially compared to what some people have suffered – it meant I had to move my flights as NZ travel rules meant they wouldn’t let me catch my plane. And even this set back has a silver lining.

Because of the demand on airlines – and the time it takes for RAT tests to show a negative reading – the earliest flight I could get was next Tuesday. So not only will I have the time to see her before I go, but I also get to see Paul again when we go to the Queen concert we booked back in 2019 that they had to cancel because of COVID.

Seeing Queen with my best friend and his wonderful wife Shelly is like the ultimate gift to end this incredible visit to Europe.

But there’s more …

You see the Queen concert is on the day the UK celebrates the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

I mean the royal one, not the musical one.

The reason this is significant is way back in 1977, my Mum and Dad brought me to London to watch the crowds celebrate her Silver Jubilee. I remember it well, despite being so long ago. So to be back in London – albeit by pure coincidence – on a day where England yet again is celebrating a landmark moment in the Queen’s reign takes me back to that day with my parents and that is a feeling I will really treasure.

What this all means is not only has this trip been more wonderful than I ever imagined, it’s ended up giving me more miracles and love than I ever expected. Miracles and love that I needed more than I ever imagined.

So while I can’t wait to get back to my family – and my team – I can honestly say this has been a couple of weeks that are one of the most important and memorable weeks of my life and for that, I thank everyone who made it possible … from Martin and Mercedes, Paul, Nottingham Forest, Colenso, Q-Prime, NIKE, Paula, Queen, Lee Hill and Virgin Atlantic and my brilliant supportive wife and son right through to, bizarrely, covid.

I don’t know how you did it Mum and Dad, but thank you.

So till next week.

R



It Takes All Sorts …
February 21, 2022, 8:00 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Distinction, Emotion, Hope, Love

Not too long ago, someone on Twitter posted a ‘wedding announcement’ that had appeared in their parent’s local newspaper.

It’s one of the most fascinating pieces of writing I’ve ever seen.

A cross between a 1970’s intense paperback romance novel and a twisted remake of the film, Mean Girls. With maybe some sprinkles of Dungeons and Dragons in there.

There’s nothing else to add, other than read it because it’s utterly awesome and slightly scary.

Plus it serves as a great reminder that there’s someone out there for everyone.

Though I am not sure if you would want to meet them.

Oh well, love is love and they are most definitely in love and however way you look at it … that’s pretty wonderful.

Happy Monday.



Don’t Want Something So Much That You Do Something You Don’t Want …

When I was at cynic, I wasn’t allowed to talk money with clients.

The main reason for this is that while I like money, I like doing weird and wonderful things more … so I used to agree to terrible terms just because I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss out on doing something we were really excited by.

Now I get we like to think there’s some sort of logic to this approach, but as George kindly told me – while punching me in the head – what I was doing was undermining our position.

For a start, your relationship with the client is impacted. That doesn’t mean they don’t value you, but it means they don’t value you as much as they should. They see you as a ‘cheap problem solver’ rather than a valuable problem solver.

Then there’s the fact all your additional time and passion will never be rewarded to the level it deserves. The worst part is this is your own fault as you already set the precedent for how much you are worth by lowering your fee to such a great degree.

And then there’s the dilution of the projects importance.

In essence, when something is made much cheaper, the effect is its value goes the same way. Going from something significant to just another thing being done. From having a strong focus within the company management to being delegated to people who don’t really have the same decision making power.

Before you know it, clients start questioning other things you’re doing.

Asking why certain things need to be done. Challenging the time or expense on the elements that show the real craft.

Leaving the end result a lesser version of what it should have been.

Now this doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens a lot.

And while I get we are in a highly competitive time, where everyone is looking to save cash – the ease in which we undermine our own value is both astonishing and debilitating.

George’s brilliance was his ability to have us walk away.

I have to be honest, we had many arguments about this over the years … but in the main, he was right.

His point was ‘why would someone value us if we’re not valuing us?’.

It’s a pretty compelling argument.

This doesn’t mean we weren’t open to negotiation, but George’s position was ‘never forget we have something they want because we’ve shown them something they need’.

Another pretty compelling argument.

And while this approach helped us not only win all manner of great creative projects – but helped us be a profitable, sustainable company – I still found it hard to deal with.

Hell, on the occasion we didn’t win a project because somebody said they could do it for cheaper, I was a bloody nightmare. George used to say it was because I am an only child – which may be right – because I hated not getting what I really, really wanted.

And even then, George was the voice of reason.

“Why are you upset about losing a project with a client who wants to go down to a price point rather than up to a standard?”

ARGHHHHH!

What makes it worse is he meant it.

He, more than any of us, knew our value and wasn’t going to let us let go of something we had worked so hard to earn.

He’s right of course.

It’s the reason the best work comes from people who share the same goal.

To aim high, not cheap.

Sure, money comes into it … but the focus is always the quality of the output not just the price.

It’s why Cynic was so exciting.
It’s why Wieden+Kennedy are so special.
It’s why Metallica’s management are so influential.
It’s why all the work I’m doing right now is so fascinating.

George taught me so much.

While I appreciate I’m in a much more privileged position than many, nowadays I am totally comfortable with walking away from a project if I feel the vision, ambition and value for a project is not shared.

And what’s weird is that while that approach has resulted in me walking away from a lot of potentially interesting projects that were worth a lot of money to me – especially over the last 6 months – it has brought me a range of fascinating clients and projects [and cash] that most agencies would kill to have a chance to work on.

I’ve written about knowing the value of your value in the past.

I’ve talked about how that lets you play procurement at their own game.

And while it feels scary to stick to your standards when someone is threatening to take away something you really want, it also makes you feel alive.

Butterflies of excitement. A taste of power and control. Nervousness of being in the game.

And while it might not always come off and while you may be able to justify why it would be easier to just take whatever they want to give you … it’s a beautiful feeling to feel you matter. That your work matters. That the way you look at the world matters. That what you want to create matters. That you won’t allow yourself to do something simply because you’re the cheapest. Or allow a bad process to force a diluted version of what you were hired to do. Or let yourself be evaluated by someone who doesn’t care about what you’re creating, just that it’s done. That you matter enough to not allow others to negatively judge you for terrible conditions they put you in.

It can take time to come to terms with this.

It took me almost 20 years to really get it.

And while some may call you a pretentious or stubborn or commercially ignorant, the reality is dismissing the value of your value simply to make things commercially viable for everyone else is simply the most stupid thing you can do.

Because to paraphrase something Harrison Ford once said, when you devalue the value of something you’ve spent your whole life working at, you’re not just being irresponsible, you’re not valuing the value of the time, experience and expertise it has taken to get you to that point.

George knew this.

George helped me benefit from this.

George eventually got me to understand this.

And I’ll always be grateful for that gift.

________________________________________________________________________________

I’ve removed comments. Not just because I’m scared of the mountain of abuse the ex-cynic alumni who comment on here may/will give me. But because I’m even more frightened they may bathe George in even more praise and that would be too much for me to deal with.

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Clear The Way To Another Place …
January 18, 2021, 7:30 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Context, Emotion, Hope, Imagination, Love

You know that old adage, "everything happens for a reason"?

Well I passionately believe it.

The thing is, that reason often doesn't become clear for years.

Sometimes the delay is because you are caught in a sea of pain.

So distraught at what is happening around you, you can't see what it's telling you.

Sometimes the delay is simply because clarity takes time to emerge.

That the effect of what occurred needed time before change became clear.

And while it is hard to see the positives in bad things that happen … sometimes, as the quote above states, it clears the way to reaching somewhere new.

That somewhere new could be a range of things.

From having the ability to literally go to a new physical place, to being able go to an abundance of new places in your mind.

It’s happened to me many times.

Where years after a storm, I saw clarity and everything became clear.

From what led to the storm to where I am because of it.

Life is often run at a frenetic pace.

Where our goal is speed rather than substance.

And that’s why storms are so important.

We might not like it at the time. We might feel the consequences of it for years. We might not understand it for decades.

But the storm slows us down.

It makes us think and re-evaluate.

Question what we're doing and who we are.

What we're working towards and where we're going.

I have faced quite a few storms in my life.

Not as many or as harsh as many people have had to endure, and some have been entirely of my own making … but one by one, they have all cleared a path for me, even if it has taken me years to realise that sometimes.

I appreciate some may say the clarity we eventually get is post rationalised. That we ‘invent it’ to feel better about it.

Maybe that’s true.

But what I know is that while life might not go in a straight line, it generally moves forward.

We might not like the speed.

We might not like the direction.

But we can generally deal with what’s thrown at us. Eventually.

And that’s one of the nice things about getting older. You get more comfortable with storms.

It doesn’t mean they don’t mess you up, but you know they rarely will kill you and you will eventually end up far from it.

Obviously we all went through a terrible time with COVID last year.

It whipped up one of the cruelest seas we’ve ever seen.

Many will face the effects of this storm for years to come … and while I am not in any way trying to dismiss the pain or suffering people expeienced – and continue to experience – I hope in time they see it has silently led them to a different place..

Because not all storms are here to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path.

That’s for you A.

Rx



Can 2021 Live Up To The Hope We Are Placing On It?
January 11, 2021, 7:30 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Advertising, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Hope

Happy 2021!!!

I left it a whole 11 days before re-starting this blog, so hopefully it’s given you some hope that 2021 will be better than 2020.

Did you have a good one?

Or maybe I should say, did you have a less shit one?

Mine was good. Well, as good as I could hope it could be.

Going into our hot-tub on a freezing Christmas day certainly made it memorable.

So here we are, a new year …

TWENTY TWENTY ONE.

Not 2020 anymore.

TWENTY TWENTY ONE.

Did you bother with any new year resolutions or did the shit of 2020 ruin that forever for you?

On the bright side, whether you did or you didn’t, it can’t be as bad as when Boris did this.

Mind you, given this blog is continuing means 2021 won’t be entirely perfect in comparison.

Anyway, to prove I’m not a total prick, I thought I’d gently welcome you back into the world of blog mediocrity, with a video of people getting terrible presents.

It might also take your mind off being back at work.

Doing exactly the same things as you were doing last year.

The same mundane things.

OK, seems I am a total prick.

See you tomorrow …