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


Another Year On This Blog Is Officially Done …

So this is it, year 15 of this blog is officially over.

YEAR 15!!!

Christ, this might be the most I’ve ever been committed to anything. What a shame this blog is basically worth nothing, hahahaha.

But we’re here.

A year that the World hoped would represent huge, positive change after the hell of 2020 … but ended up being more of the same.

For us, of course, this was a year with a huge difference – namely we now live in New Zealand.

Moving countries can be a pain in the arse at the best of times, but doing it in a pandemic adds a whole lot of stress that no one needs. However, despite that … despite saying goodbye [or should I say, au revoir] to the beautiful house we had just bought … despite not being able to physically see my beloved Paul and Shelly before we went … despite the hassle, broken furniture and time to get settled in … it’s been amazing.

There’s many reasons to that.

From the 2 week quarantine we had to do, which let us – and Rosie, the cat – get acclimatised to the obscene time difference to the kindness and generosity of the people here. To the fact we had bought our beautiful home – and cars – before we arrived, which made things so much easier. To the covid vaccinations we received. To the community we have found ourselves in. To the outdoor life – excluding the insane rain and 4 month lockdown – we have been able to enjoy.

So much.

But it would be wrong for me to not mention the role Colenso and, specifically my team, have had in it.

Everyone of these talented souls has been wonderful.

Not just to me, but Jill and Otis as well.

Plus there’s the fact my team have [generally] put up with my ‘ways’ … and we all know how painful that can be. I’ve always been incredibly fortunate with the teams I’ve been a part of and this lot are no different.

Sure, they’re mouthy bastards with no end of opinions, ideas and considerations but that’s – as you probably could guess – is exactly why I love them.

We’ve only been together 7 months but I’ve seen enough to be excited about what damage we can do in 2022 – reinforced by the fact we finished this year being named Agency Of The Year by the Effies organisation for a whole host of work that solved problems in interesting ways.

So to Lizzie, Henry, Teresa, Emma, Gi, Augustine, Amy and Liam … thank you for everything.

You’ve given me laughs, headaches, pride, lessons and things to ponder … and I couldn’t be more grateful for all of it.

[And extra best wishes to Lizzie who gets married during the holidays. Made extra perfect because she had to postpone it due to Covid and this way she gets to make the holiday season even more wonderful for all her family]

But while NZ has been the major change in my year, there have been some other notable moments.

In some respects, it was a year of music.

From my Rick Rubin project to getting fired by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the best passive aggressive endorsement ever seen in the history of mankind.

Given I’ll be working for The Black Keys, Muse and – weirdly – Journey in 2022, I can only hope the musical rollercoaster will keep me on my toes as much.

Talking of celebrity …

I met Noel Edmunds at a business ‘do’ in Auckland – which surprised him as much as it did me – and I got to hug Jacinda Ardern, albeit committing social faux pas when I interrupted her during a dinner she was having to say hello.

That I’m still allowed in the country is testimony to New Zealand’s humanity.

Then there was the Tokyo Olympics …

An event a year late from its original plan … met with global apathy, especially in their home country … only to win us all over and turn us back into fans.

Seeing young kids win medals in skateboarding will stay with me for a very long time.

In fact, having skateboarding in the Olympics may have just done more to get kids wanting to do sport again than any number of NIKE ad campaigns.

That’s how good it was.

Best ad of the year goes to the amazing MacMillan cancer ad.

I must have watched it a couple of hundred times now – hell, I’ve even built a presentation around it that I give clients – and I still cry when I see it.

Not because of sadness – though there’s plenty in it – but because of the human emotion it triggers.

As I wrote at the time, it has this incredible ability to take me back to the times I lost my parents but make me feel closer to them. Extraordinary.

I could go on …

I could talk about certain posts I wrote in the year, like Toxic Positivity, but let’s face it … you can’t be bothered to read it and I can’t be bothered to write about it.

So I want to say some thanks …

To everyone who reads, writes and insults me on this blog … I am eternally grateful – and surprised – you come here. Many of you have been coming here for almost as long as I’ve been writing it and I have to say I find comfort in knowing that whatever I’m facing in life, I can come here and all of it just fades away. So for that, thank you … I really appreciate it.

I also want to say thank you to everyone who has reached out to check on how we’re doing. You didn’t have to, but you did and that means a ton.

Extra special thanks go to Paul, Shelly, Martin, Paula, Amelia, Martin B, Meg, Rach, Mike, Sam, Mr Ji, Peter and Cliff … who all made me feel like you were just around the corner, even though you were thousands of miles away.

And finally, a special thanks to Jill, Otis and Rosie.

None of this would be possible without you and I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.

You make me a happier, better person than I believed was possible … and while you may rightfully think I can be a total pain-in-the-ass, I can just tell you I’d be even worsr without you.

So thank you.

For everything,

I can never fully tell you how much I love you and am grateful for you.

The way you handle all this change is extraordinary …

Nothing sums this up more than something Otis chose to do recently.

As you all know, Otis has beautiful, gorgeous, stunning long hair …

Well a few weeks ago, he suddenly announced he wanted to cut it off so it could be donated to kids with cancer.

We asked if he was sure as it was a big thing and he said, “he wants to and is determined to”.

Then he added he will continue to do this until he’s 18.

Grow his hair.
Donate his hair.
Grow his hair.
Donate his hair.

So that evening, his Mum got scissors and a hair razor out and starting cutting 35 CENTIMETERS OF HAIR.

THIRTY FIVE!

Throughout the cutting he kept saying how excited he was.

How it was changing his life.

How much ‘lighter’ his head felt.

And afterwards, the little champ looked like this …

A new sort of rock n’ roll.

I thought it was impossible to love him anymore. I was wrong.

To have the capacity to be so compassionate and considerate at 7 years of age is incredible.

Even more so when he has had so much change in his life.

Four countries in 6 years.
New homes, new schools, new friends.
Almost 18 months of lockdown.

And yet he still has it in him to think of others.

Definitely his Mum’s son.

But proudly mine too.

Hell, he even offered me a chance to remember what it was like to have hair …

… though it could also have been to take the piss out of me.

So to Otis … Jill … Rosie … everyone I know and people I don’t but somehow have still come into my life this year, I wish you a wonderful festive season.

I really, really hope 2022 is much better for everyone than the previous 2 years.

I hope we have a year where everyone can have hope for the future.

I don’t know if it’s possible with the machismo bullshit of politicians, but let’s hope so.

Thank you again for everything, have a great time … just not better than me. Please.

See you on January 31st.



The Best Thing About Me Is Seven Years Old …

Tomorrow my dear Otis turns 7.

Seven!

In some ways it seems impossible it has been that long …

Hell, it only seems like yesterday Jill went into labour and we walked to the hospital from our apartment in Shanghai.

But it can’t be because since that day, so much has happened.

We’ve lived in 3 new countries, started 3 new jobs – not to mention started 2 new companies – seen my wonderful mum pass away, get made redundant, gone through a global pandemic and turned 50.

Even for 7 years, that quite a lot.

And yet, trying to remember my life without him in it, seems almost impossible.

Sure, I can remember certain parts if I try really hard …

The travel.
The dinners.
The concerts.
The ability to go wherever we wanted whenever we wanted … without having to spend 2 hours ‘preparing’ for the trip.

But while that was all very nice … and, to be fair, I still get to do a version of it all at times … it’s so much better now.

Being a Dad has had a huge effect on my life.

What I care about, what I value, what I aspire to achieve.

That doesn’t mean I’ve lost all sense of personal ambition, drive and selfishness [hahaha] – it’s just I view achievement in a different way.

Whereas once it was very much about where I get to in my career, it’s now much more focused on what I can change.

More specifically, what I can change that enables others to win.

I know that sounds the sort of pandering statement you used to hear spouted from a Ms World contestant, but it’s true.

I’ll talk more about that in another post, but while I hope I’ve always been a compassionate person, Otis has made me more so.

But more than that, he’s also impacted the decisions I make.

There’s been situations I’ve faced where the decision I made was the total opposite of what I would have done prior to him being around.

Hell, even moving to NZ has more to do with him – and his Mum – than anything I’d have thought of doing previously, even with the temptation of the lovely Colenso.

Having Otis made me think about what my decisions would teach him about all manner of things.

Life. Money. Career. Happiness.

And because of that, it’s had the effect of teaching me what is really of importance to me now.

I was pretty old becoming a Dad – 44 – and yet, when Jill was pregnant, the issues that affect many soon-to-be Dad’s were affecting me.

Mainly money.

Would we have enough to give him a good home?

Would we earn enough to give him what he needs?

It was ridiculous, especially given the immense privilege we were enjoying in our life, but it was there and it was real.

Then he was born and everything changed.

Suddenly money was not the focus, instead it was about doing things that would make him proud of who his parents were. Helping him have a life of excitement, enjoyment and fulfilment. Exposing him to situations and circumstances that would help equip him with how to deal with things in life.

And while there have been stuff-ups along the way – predominantly by me – the joy of this adventure has been incredible and infectious.

It even made me feel grateful for COVID … because while I would not wish the suffering people have had to endure on anyone, it has been an utter privilege to basically be together 24/7 for almost 2 years.

See him wake up.
Have breakfast together.
Take him to school [when we could]
Have lunch together. [when we couldn’t]
Have dinner together.
Chat, laugh, play.
Put him to bed.

Before that I didn’t really get to do much of this. Maybe at weekends … otherwise it was a hotchpotch of a bit of this and a bit of that … and doing it all the time is much, much better.

And while he is growing up far too quickly for my liking – resulting in me getting obsessed with random lookalikes in the Guardian Newspaper – I have to admire the evil genius of how parenthood works.

From the moment you have a kid, you want them to stay exactly as they are.

Everything they do is just perfect and you revel in getting more of who they are.

The sounds. The squirms. The way they look. The way they react to things.

But you can’t stop evolution and bit by bit, more and morenew things happen.

Now while that should be annoying because the things you love get overtaken by the new … you deal with it, because those new things become a whole new set of wonderful features and quirks you fall in love with.

And this keeps going and going.

Each step of evolution takes you to somewhere even more adorable.

Until you’re here.

At seven.

Which forces me to write this:

_______________________________________________________________________

My dear boy.

Oh how I love you.

I can’t put into words how wonderful I think you are.

I’ve loved watching every second of you exploring, experimenting and discovering the world you’re in.

I’ve laughed at your good-natured cheekiness

Felt pride at the way you’ve embraced the challenges and changes I’ve forced on your life.

Been overwhelmed by your level of compassion, consideration and kindness.

And been in awe with your ability to learn and absorb … even when that has meant seeing you beat me at certain video games and horrify me with your use of Roblox slang such as, “call those muscles, look at these guns”.

To me and your Mum – and maybe even Rosie – you are perfect.

It’s an honour to be your Dad.

I still can’t believe I could have something to do with creating someone so wonderful. Sure, your Mum has the most to do with it, but I’m in there too.

I hope the next year is even better than this.

I don’t simply mean in terms of you being able to go out and enjoy life without restrictions and limitations … I mean in the adventures you have and the friends you create mischief with.

You have handled the past 12 months with such amazing grace.

Now houses … new schools … new countries … new friends.

It is a huge amount for anyone to deal with – and more than any young boy should – but you have taken it all in your stride. But I do not take that for granted. And I do not forget I have put you through this 4 times in 6 years. But I can assure you I won’t put you though it again for a very long time. So embrace your new home. Enjoy the possibilities of the world you have. You are a delightful kid and the world is better for having you in it.

Happy birthday my dear Otis …

I hope you have an amazing day.

I am so, so proud of the person you are and excited to see the person you become.

Love you.

Rx




Money Over Morals …
December 2, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Apathy, Culture, Death, New Zealand, Youth

A couple of days ago, a New Zealand research company – one used by a huge array of big business here – gave a speech to a broad marketing audience and said the concept of ‘tall poppy’ was dead.

They had the audacity to say this the day after Jake Millar committed suicide. The arrogance to say this when they reside in a country that continues to have one of the worst – if not the worst – youth suicide rates per capita on earth.

There are many reasons that contribute to the terrible suicide rate, but ‘tall poppy’ is, without doubt, one of them.

A significant one of them.

The biggest open – yet oppressed – secret in the country.

So to that company, I want to say this.

You are not just complicit to the problem, you are playing an active role in it.

By making statements like that, you’re placing all the blame on the people who felt they had no other choice. You’re telling parents their kids situation & context didn’t exist. You’re telling NZ, they can continue to look the other way. You’re telling the friends, family and colleagues of 26 year old Jake Millar, pictured at the top of this post, that the media who revelled in getting the nation to celebrate his business failure – and then attached all manner of additional negative personal narratives to his name = are blameless.

Do you realise what you’ve done?

Do you understand the implications of your actions?

You’ve just told the nation they can carry on as they are. That their perpetual and persistent judgement and abuse is simply ‘banter’.

How fucking malicious of you.

Be grateful I’m not calling out your name because what you did is shameless.

But let me reassure you, we will be chatting and I’ll be reminding you of your responsibility to the truth, not to making money from reinforcing a cultural narrative of denial.



Countdown To Hope …


I can’t believe we have hit December.

DECEMBER!

More than that, I can’t believe we’ve hit December and I’m still in lockdown … albeit in a totally different country to the one I was in last year.

Madness.

Given the last 365 days have basically been Groundhog Day, I’m amazed how quick this year has gone.

You’d expect it to have felt slow … but far from it.

For us, it’s been a huge year filled with huge changes – and I’ll be writing a huge post all about it in the next few weeks [don’t roll your eyes, ha] – but before that, we have Otis’ 7th birthday to celebrate and we need to find a way where he can feel the love and attention of his friends and family, as this will be the second year he’ll be experiencing it on his own.

I remember when birthdays were such a big thing.

A sign of growth … independence … power.

Of course, when you’re my age, you tend to look at them as indicators of getting old, irrelevance and impending death [hahahaha!] which leads me to something I read recently from Tom Goodwin.

It was this:

I have to say, it stopped me in my tracks.

Yes, it’s obvious, but when you see it written like that, you tend to re-evaluate what you’ve done and what you still want to do.

I am increasingly becoming aware of my mortality.

I’ve written about it before … but while I am not in a depth of depression, there is a part of me that acknowledges I am approaching the final 1/3rd of my race, despite having the hunger, energy and ambition to go a lot further.

It’s quite unnerving.

You look at everything with fresh eyes.

You ask yourself if you’ve done enough or are doing enough.

I don’t mean in terms of career – though there is a bit of that – I mean in life in general.

I look back on what I’ve done – and I acknowledge, I’ve done a bunch – and sometimes wonder if it was all a dream.

So much of it seems like it belongs to another person’s life.

Or another version of mine.

China. America. Singapore. Australia. Japan. Hong Kong. London.

So many places over such a long period of time.

Each one filled with experiences, stories and memories that defined who I am.

You’d be amazed how often I have to remind myself these happened to me. Seriously.,

The life I’ve lived is beyond anything I could ever have wished for … and while I appreciate my privilege, seeing that quote from Tom made me think about what I’m going to do with what I have left. What I want to do with what I have left.

On one hand I don’t want to sit back … I want to chase after the things that intrigue me with even greater speed and determination. But on the other, I want to make sure I am making time to enjoy and embrace all that’s going on. I don’t know if I’ve been as good at that second bit as I should have.

The problem is, the more you do, the more things you discover you want to do and – as has been the case with me – you find yourself on a track, travelling 100mph without having the ability to really enjoy the journey and the experiences you’ve had because you’ve seen something else you want to investigate.

I guess I’m living proof it’s not just millennials with short attention spans, ha.

That said, I’ve got a lot of expectations for 2022.

I did for 2021, but apart from NZ, that did not work out that way at all.

But now – with vaccinations and a world opening up – there’s a chance things could really change. A chance to embrace and explore what the world has to offer.

And I must admit I can’t wait.

Having been on only one plane in the last 18 months – to get us to NZ – has been very strange. I love travelling and exploring and have spent the last 25 years doing a ton of it. Hell, I did 100 flights in 2019 alone.

So as we enter the last month of 2021, I can look at next year with a different sense of optimism than I’ve had in a long time. A year where I want to learn how to balance ambition with enjoyment … because nothing makes you value the possibilities of the future like the acknowledgement you don’t have as much of it left as you probably would like.



When You Destroy Their Hope, You Destroy Their Will To Keep Trying …
November 30, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Apathy, Colenso, Culture, Death, New Zealand, Youth

A 26 year old Kiwi killed himself yesterday.

That’s him in the photo at the top of this post.

His name is Jake Millar.

Of course the press refer to Jake’s death by saying ‘he died’ … due to some twisted logic about not wanting to encourage more people to die by suicide when that strategy has obviously failed given NZ continues to have one of the highest death by suicide rates for youth per capita in the world.

And what was the probable cause of Jake’s terribly sad decision?

The joyous pile-on the press did on him for having his second business fail.

They accused him of terrible things.

Theft. Arrogance. Exploitation. Purposefully ignoring – or devaluing – the amazing success this young man had achieved prior to this situation.

Hell, he felt he had to move to Kenya to be able to get away from the judgement and sniggers.

And even that wasn’t far enough away for him.

NZ is in danger of robbing kids of their right to try. To fail. To explore. To dream.

The ramifications on the future of NZ for acting this way is huge. But not as much as it is on the youth of the country.

For a nation that loves to talk about being ‘pioneers’, we are openly and actively oppressing that spirit under the guise of ‘staying humble’. It is nothing of the sort. It’s control and fear.

New Zealand is a brilliant, amazing, beautiful country.

I feel truly honoured and grateful to be able to live here with my family.

But this continual situation, is nothing short of a national disgrace.

In March, Colenso bring out a book about the lack of hope youth feel living here, following interviews with kids all across NZ.

It’s utterly terrifying … scarier than pretty much all the places I’ve lived before and done this work before.

But what makes it even worse is it won’t come to a surprise to anyone.

Not really. Not if they’re honest, rather than being culturally complicit.

I’ve been in this country 8 months and it has been as clear as day to me.

A lot of people don’t like me saying that. They think I should shut up and be grateful to be here. In fact I’ve faced a bunch of abuse for talking about it.

Yep … rather than be angry at this terrible, on-going reality, some have chosen to be angry at me for talking about a situation everyone knows but few talk about. Especially in public.

I’ve been told I should keep quiet. That I don’t know enough about the situation. That I am unaware of all the things contributing to the situation or the ways the country is trying to change the situation.

And they’re right, I don’t know enough.

I’m trying to learn as fast as I can, but I don’t know enough.

But I tell you what I do know …

This country has a terrible youth suicide rate.
This country has a terrible Maori suicide rate.
This country has a terrible farmer suicide rate.

And for all the solutions in place, they are either not enough or not working well enough.

I’m not speaking out because I want to cause offence.
I’m not speaking out because I think it makes me look smart.
I’m speaking out because I am thankful to this country for the generosity it has shown me and my family and I want to repay that gift by actively trying to help address a situation that cannot continue to be overlooked or brushed under the carpet as some sort of inconvenience.

Thankfully there are a great many people in this country who are speaking up. Who are doing things to try and ensure no kid will feel they have no other choice they can make. Who listen rather than judge.

But we need more.

We need the government to deal with the situation, not be political about the situation..We need the media to write about the situation, not be complicit to hiding it – or worse, igniting it. And we need companies in NZ to stop demanding conformity and encouraging individuality.

That’s not going to solve the issue, but it will likely help it. Because the youth are amazing when they’re backed, encouraged and supported.

Yes they will make mistakes – like we all make mistakes – but they’re not trying to destroy anything or hurt anyone so why the hell are we doing exactly that to them?

It may not be intentional.
It may not always be overt.
But it’s happening. Jake Millar is living proof of that..

There will be a lot of people talking and writing about the tragic loss of Virgil Abloh.

Please don’t let that drown out the name and loss of Jake Millar.

You can read more about him here and I offer nothing but my deepest condolences to Jake’s family, friends and colleagues – past and present.