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


Tattoos Tell Stories …
August 5, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Authenticity, Comment, Creativity, Culture, Love, Taboo Categories

I had my first tattoo at 40.

I had always wanted one but between being a chicken and just not knowing what I wanted, it took me 4 decades before I finally had one.

My first was big.

Down the entire underside of my left arm.

A phrase my Dad used to always say to me.

It was important I went big because I wanted to break my own barrier.

And I did, because from that first tattoo at Venice Beach in LA, I went and had more and more and more.

My Mum never really liked them, even though many were about her and Dad. In fact she famously said, “I wish you’d have got these out your system when you were younger” … suggesting that they would have been and gone by then. Haha.

But tattoos have become very important to me.

Very important in feeding my sentimentality.

From my cats nose to my old phone number to the date of my marriage, my parents passing and Otis’ birth. There’s a lot on there and a lot still to come, helped by the fact that I hardly ever feel any pain from them. In fact a few times I’ve fallen asleep … which says more for how tired I am than how tough I am.

And while I appreciate not everyone has tattoos that are so deeply personal, every single tattoo has a story attached to them.

A moment.
A situation.
A historic event.
A time with friends.
A need to just do something different.

While I appreciate tattoos are not to everyone’s taste, I find it interesting how much judgement some people have towards those who have them.

My favourite insult is when they say, “don’t they realise they’ll be saggy when they’re old?”.

Yes we do.

And yes, it might be unpleasant.

But the reality is whether sentimental or opportunistic … the point of them is as much as what they represent in our memories as they look like on our skin.

Because to paraphrase my favourite line in one of my favourite ever ads – the Playstation Double Life – at least we can show, we have lived.



It’s Not Cool To Say, But Nothing Comes Without Graft* …

As you know, I love the band Queen.

Yes, spare me the insults, I’ve heard them all before.

Anyway, I was recently reading an interview with Roger Taylor about his 50 years in the band and there was a response to one question that caught my eye. It was this:

The bit that specifically stood out was when he says:

“But when you’re young, you’d better be arrogant and have big dreams, because it’s not going to happen by accident”.

I found that sentence interesting for a number of reasons.

One is that Queen were always criticised by the music press as being ‘too ambitious’.

As if they had a a masterplan for World domination that they were executing bit by bit.

Now they definitely wanted to be huge – Roger says that in the interview – but apart from the fact, pretty much every band wants to be successful to a degree, these accusations neatly side step some key things.

First is, there isn’t a masterplan.

A guarantee of success.

Yes, there’s some elements that increase the odds of it, but nothing certain.

Second, if you were aiming for World domination, writing songs like Bohemian Rhapsody would literally not be part of the plan.

Of course, ironically this helped them get there, but even their record company didn’t want to release that song because it was so against the approach the music industry tended to follow.

If you want to talk about a band that was designed for World domination, you can throw that far more at melodic mainstream masters, Abba, more than Queen.

But even if Queen did have some fictional blueprint to guarantee the future success, all the barbs thrown at them ignore some of the critical elements they would have needed to stand any chance of achieving it.

Talent.
Songs.
Luck.

Whether you like Queen or not, you’d be hard pressed to say they didn’t have that.

You might not like the songs. You may not like their musicianship. You might not like their performances.

But you have to admit they had that.

Which leads to the point of this post.

Underpinning those critical attributes the band hand …
Underpinning the ambition to be a hugely successful rock band …
Underpinning the “when you’d better have big dreams” attitude.

… is something we don’t seem to want to talk about any more.

Graft.

Putting in the effort. The commitment. Trying and learning.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting people should put themselves in a position where their mental health is impacted.

And I absolutely accept companies have exploited people’s ambition to serve their own purposes.

But treating ‘graft’ as if it is the enemy is wrong.

A quick look at Corporate Gaslighting tells you that where mental health is concerned, it’s not simply about the volume of work you are expected to do, but what the work is and how the people around you, treat you and it.

Yet that contextual part is rarely talked about …

Many companies talk about mental health through the singular lens of volume … and while a more cynical person could suggest that is so they can remove all other elements of the job – like training etc – to ensure every second available is spent on paid work, I would never suggest such a thing.

Which is why I’m bothered the word ‘graft’ has been seemingly removed from our lexicon.

Tainted when the reality is, it’s important.

Because graft is about learning, exploring, growing.

It’s personal. An act designed to help you improve rather than just make you do more.

That’s very different to the term agencies and companies seem perfectly OK with …

Hustle.

Hustle is far more damaging in my mind.

Hustle is about speed. Additional workloads. Never stopping.

Hustle is the opposite of graft.

An activity designed to fulfil the needs of others [read: managers], not yours.

I think in our quest to deal with mental health, companies have got everything the wrong way around.

Mental health is not about relinquishing ambition.

Mental health is not about abdicating hunger.

Mental health is about feeling you are growing, encouraged, supported and heard rather than just continually giving your energy, taking orders, listening to demands, being offered zero flexibility and being expected to do whatever is asked in increasingly shorter timeframes.

I passionately believe people don’t mind grafting.

I passionately believe people don’t mind working hard for something they care about.

I passionately believe people don’t even mind if their graft doesn’t always result in the perfect outcome. Disappointment maybe but not devastation … at least not if it’s something they still found fulfilling.

What they are sick of is having their progress defined by how much they hustle.
What they are sick of is having their career measured in energy rather than value.
What they are sick of is having their development dictated by workload not training.
What they are sick of is having their needs ignored in favour endless client demands.

If we want our industry to offers dynamic careers rather than repetitive jobs, we better understand people need to feel they can progress and grow through other means than mindless mental, physical and emotional exhaustion.

Roger Taylor is right things don’t happen by accident.

You rarely get to great without pushing yourself.

Athletes don’t just wake up and can run personal bests.

Chefs don’t just wake up and can cook the finest cuisine.

Drummers don’t just wake up and write a number one song.

But by the same token …

Athletes don’t run personal bests writing endless presentations no one reads. Chefs don’t cook the finest cuisine just because they work 12 hour shifts everyday and weekend. And drummers don’t just wake up and write a number one songs because they wait for hours on end for their boss to come out the office ‘just in case’ they need them to do something before they go home.

Yes, progress takes hard fucking work, but when you’re doing it in ways – and with people – who share your goal, rather than just want to exploit it, it has a very different impact on you and your wellbeing.

I believe this is possible to do in this industry. I believe we have people who want to work fucking hard to grow and develop. I even believe progress does not have to come with the devastating cost it has in the past.

Some sacrifices, maybe. But not mental destruction.

However, as long as we continue signing contracts that allow our people to be at the whim of clients regardless of what they need … and then promote people based on volume of work rather than quality of it, then all we’re doing is fucking everybody over.

[There’s going to be a post in a few weeks about career plans and how companies make a big deal of them but few actually live up to them. In other words, they sell the illusion of structure but it’s generally made of sand. And then they wonder why employees are disillusioned]

So while I believe one thing we should do is place mental health protection guideline in all contracts – as clients rightfully do with diversity demands – I think another major step is having adland kill the hustle and start valuing the graft.

_________________________________________________________________________

* Unless you’re from a rich family and can have whatever you want without effort.

Or you’re white …

Where you still have to work but you have a bunch of immediate advantages.

And if you’re a white male, you have hit the jackpot in terms of getting a leg-up.



The Final Countdown …

So today is the beginning of my final full month in America.

That blows my mind.

Without doubt I am sad my time here is coming to an end so soon – its been a great honour to be able to live here and meet so many amazing people – but by the same token, I’m genuinely excited to be moving back to my home country after 24 years away.

That said, part of the disappointment of leaving is I know I got to see and experience so little.

Sure, I’ve been to a bunch of places in my time here, but when you travel mainly for work, you never really get to get a feel for a place.

Yes, I have continued to do what I’ve always done in new cities [the follow up to that link can be read here] but that’s nothing like immersing yourself in the cultural underbelly of a place.

And that’s one of the main reasons I’m disappointed, because while America is a pretty fucked up right now and a lot of the industry here prefers easy over great, it is still an amazing country that I would have loved to have understood and experienced more of.

People, portions and lifestyle aside, there will be some things I’ll always take with me.

The realisation America’s version of a ‘compact car’ is a European 4×4.

The obsession people all have with ranch dressing.

The countries fascination with holidays and how they go all out for them.

The obsessive order people follow to get off planes.

The fact people say and write “Y’all”.

That checks/cheques are still a thing.

No one can talk about race, abortion, wealth, guns, racism. Ever.

That people are not at all comfortable with honesty and truth.

The hierarchy of corporate structures and how they work and are adopted.

The utter brilliance of The Cheesecake Factory.

Oh there are so many things … things I will take with me forever that will make me smile and frown for the rest of my days … but overall America has been very good to me and my family and for that, I will always be grateful.

Sure, the feelings are different to when I left China, but thanks to some of the people, experiences and work I was able to be a part of, I can leave feeling a better person than when I arrived, which – when you think about it – is the best way to leave anywhere.

I just hope some people will feel the same way.

At least the ones who now will always matter to me.

[Though I have a month to try and change that for them, ha]



One Person’s Kinky Is Another Persons Vanilla …
February 25, 2017, 6:20 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Sex, Taboo Categories

Here are some products from the recent SEXPO exhibition.

I tell you, my childhood memory of ‘space hoppers’ has just been ruined. Forever.

But there’s worse … no really, there is.

Are you ready for it?

Really?

OK, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Yes, that really is a G-Spot Squirt Watch.

I don’t know how it works – I don’t want to know how it works – but I must admit I’d love to know how you tell the time with it, not to mention how you wind it up … but assuming you’re as violated as I am, I think it’s best if I just leave it there.

But I bet Rolex are shitting themselves.

Try and have a good weekend.

Comments Off on One Person’s Kinky Is Another Persons Vanilla …


When Product Descriptions Make You Feel Ill …

So I was in a supermarket recently when I saw this.

While I am a huge advocate of cleanliness and healthiness and I absolutely appreciate the cleaning properties of vinegar – I’m not sure if this is something I’d find appealing when looking for a product that I’m going to use on my most sensitive regions.

OK, two things.

1. I appreciate I WOULDN’T be using it on my sensitive regions.

[Sorry for that image]

2. Like Listerine [until they came out with the orange flavour, which is still madness personified] I get that some products need to leave you with an ‘ugly tingling feeling’ so you emotionally feel you have been cleaned. So to speak.

But seriously, is vinegar the sort of thing you’d want to use on yourself?

Maybe it’s because I’m a bloke – and an English bloke – but the word vinegar conjures up images of chips and while I would love to eat a bag of them covered in Sarsons [not that overpriced, poncy stuff] I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want my nether-regions to smell of them.

I wonder if that means this product isn’t available in the UK given vinegar’s strong association with dodgy food.

Actually I wonder if any normal person would spend this much time thinking about this subject?

Alright … maybe I’m a sad, weird freak but this product stopped me in my tracks, but that could also be because the naming is some of the weirdest I’ve ever seen in my life.

It starts off all nice and angelic with ‘Summers Eve’.

Oh that’s a nice name … it paints pictures of a beautiful evening sky, full of beautiful colours promising a bright tomorrow.

Then they throw in ‘Douche’.

OK, that kind of ruins the picture a bit because at best you think of someone you know who is a total idiot and at worst, you think of something a woman uses to clean her privates.

Then they double down with ‘Extra Cleaning Vinegar & Water’.

And with that, the beautiful evening sky has been replaced with the feeling of needles being jabbed where you never ever want them jabbed.

Seriously, that naming combination has to be the weirdest ever.

Surely they could have thought of other ways to talk about douche’s and vinegar given they’d come up with such an evocative product name.

But no. They didn’t which is why instead of Summers Eve, they should have called it Winter’s Worst and be done with it.