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


The Last Month Of 4.0 …

So today is June 1.

In 11 days, I wave goodbye to my forties and enter a decade that seems impossible for me to fathom.

50.

FIFTY.

Seriously, how did this happen?

I still remember sitting on the hill outside Erica’s newsagent with my best mate Paul around 1978, when we worked out that in the year 2000, we would be turning 30.

But here we are, 11 days from 50.

[Though it’s 15 days for Paul, who will LOVE those 4 days where he can bang on about how he is a decade younger than me … though he will also moan that my present for him isn’t like the full page newspaper ad I got him when he was 40, but a Forest shirt signed by all the members of the 1980 European Cup team. Asshole. He knows about this present as I bought it for him years ago so I’m not ruining anything for him. But I still have a surprise for him. Oh yes.]

Turning 30 bothered me a bit.

I was totally fine with becoming 40.

But 50!

I’m both bricking it and utterly casual about it.

And while there are some practical reasons for the shitting myself part – health, work, life in general – the fact of the matter is the older I get, the better my life has become.

I totally get the privilege of that statement, I don’t take it for granted at all, but it is definitely true.

Personally, professionally, emotionally …

Sure there have been some bumps along the way – some terribly hard and emotionally destructive ones – but looking at the big picture, the reality is my life has generally been on an upward trajectory.

Now even I know that it can’t keep going like that forever … but it doesn’t mean I have to stop trying.

The fact is, the older you get, the more you discover …

From what you like, what you don’t … to what you didn’t know and what you want to know.

And what makes it even more amazing – and annoying – is that every step you take, in whatever direction, reveals a whole host of other possibilities you would like to explore and investigate.

The problem is time is now officially, not on your side … so there’s a point where you have to accept you won’t get to try, play, experiment with all you want to do, so while that might put some people off, it kind of makes me want to try and pack more in.

And I am … because on top of work, Metallica, the school with Martin, I’ve already agreed to do a couple more projects that are intriguing and – frankly – ridiculous.

But there’s another reason for this attitude and it’s because my Dad died at 60.

Death is something I’ve talked a lot about over the years – mainly due to both my parents passing away.

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of taking about it, but I must admit, I’m scared of it.

I’m in generally good health, but fifty is still 50 and my Dad still died just 10 years on from this age.

Now of course it doesn’t mean I will … and I’ve come to this completely unscientific view that I should live till I’m at least 71 because if you take away my Dad’s age of dying [60]from my Mum’s [83] … that leave 23 years. Halve that … add it to Dad’s age … and voila, I will live till at least 71.

But then that means I only have 21 years left.

TWENTY ONE.

That’s nowhere near enough.

My wonderful little boy is only 5 for fucks sake. 26 is way too young to lose your Dad … hell, that’s even younger than I was when I lost mine.

Years ago, an old boss I looked upto said that if you can’t feasibly double your age, that is when you know you are – at best – middle aged or – at worst – the last stage of your life.

Well I suppose I can still feasibly double my age – even if it’s against the average age of death for a man in the UK [79.2] – but the reality is where I’m going is shorter than where I’ve been.

But shorter doesn’t mean less interesting.

And arguably, I have more exciting things in my life now – both personally and professionally – than I have ever had.

It also helps I am insanely immature with a desire for mischief, experimentation, creativity and adventure.

And I intend to fill it up with even more.

Fortunately I get that from a number of sources.

My wife.

My son.

My job.

My other jobs.

My friends.

My mind.

A while back, Pete said something I found pretty profound.

He said the narrative of strategy tended to focus on the importance of curiosity when discovery is far more valuable for driving the standard of the work you create and the adventure you go on.

Now I’ve written a lot about how I hate when planners talk about curiosity – as if they’re the only people who have it – but I really, really like that idea of the hunger for discovery.

I absolutely have that.

I owe so much of what I have to that.

The countries I’ve lived in. The people I’ve worked with. And most importantly, the family I am fortunate to have.

So while I enter a new decade, I will continue to live like it’s the old one.

Not in terms of dressing like I’m younger than I am – mainly because I have always dressed like I live in 1986 – but with the hunger, ambition and desire I’ve always had.

I genuinely believe my best work is still ahead of me.

Truly believe that.

And the goal of this decade is to achieve some of that while discovering new things that make me believe even better work can still lie in my future.


31 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I really want to take the piss out of your age but you’ve ruined my ability to do it with this post. All I’ve got is to say you shouldn’t worry about your age as you’re the cockroach of adland and will be here together.

Comment by Bazza

Well, start saving it up for 11 days time – you’ll have got over the sentiment by then.

Comment by Rob

I can’t believe how quick the last 10 have gone. You’ve also done so much in them and now I feel so boring and old. Well done on writing a post that makes everyone else feel old. You bastard.

Comment by Bazza

I know mate. It doesn’t seem real. 10 years ago I was preparing to move to China for Wieden. Now I’m in London, with the family – something I equally never thought would happen.

But as I wrote, this is not the end – I actually have a lot of ideas and plans … but whether they come off is dependent on a bunch of things, most likely the Police. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

The photo of Otis. 💛

Comment by Jemma King

Trampoline Otis?

Comment by George

That one. He looks so happy and cheeky.

Robbie, is that first photo you as a baby? You look so sweet and so much like Otis. Love all the photos.

Comment by Jemma King

Well said Jemma.

Comment by Pete

It’s one of my favourite ever photos of him.

I love it.

Comment by Rob

50! That means I’ve known you almost 30 years.
Don’t worry about getting older Robert, you are still the most immature man I know. But this is a great post. You raise a lot of things that men around this age are going through. The worries and considerations reaching an age most organisations consider old. But you also inspire with your spirit and hunger to experience more.
I agree your best work is ahead of you. It may be different to the incredible decade you have just had, but it will be just as exciting.

Comment by George

Best 30 years of your life?

I know … probably the most frustrating.

And yes, I do think my best work is ahead of me. I don’t say that as a delusional old fuck – well, not totally – but because if you look at where I’m ending the decade compared to where I started it, the things I’m doing creatively now are beyond anything I could have imagined and that’s a platform I want to build on so that I can say the same at the end of the next decade.

Comment by Rob

I also would like to confirm your death calculation has no merit and I agree with Baz.

Comment by George

Yes, as long as it’s not sooner please …

Comment by Rob

If you’re 50, that means I’m there in 2 years. I’d managed to keep The fears at bay till I read this. I’m not scared about the age, I’m scared I’ve got 2 years to do half the things you managed to do.

Comment by Pete

I would like to add something else. I have always admired how you run towards change but have managed to keep connected to the things that are important to you. You have a stellar career and yet you still seem the same person I worked with all those years ago. On top of all your career accolades, that’s the one I respect the most. Enjoy the final 11 before the next decade of chaos begins for you Rob.

Comment by Pete

Oh that’s sweet mate.

But who could possibly turn their back on Queen, Monster Munch, Birkies, crap t-shirts and my mate Paul – let alone my wonderful family?

Comment by Rob

You know he only wrote this to give us a heads up to buy his present.
Once a strategist always a strategist.

Comment by Bazza

100%. But it is more subtle than he was in the old days. That was bordering on harassment.

Comment by George

Well I’m glad you got the hint. Now don’t disappoint me please. Ha.

Comment by Rob

ill buy you a fucking present when you have paid me for all you owe me. which is everyfucking thing you have.

Comment by andy@cynic

Nothing shows bravery like someone in the ad industry admitting they’re about to turn 50.

Comment by William Proud

Fair. But my twitter and instagram handle is Robertc1970 so I was kind of giving it away there! Ha.

But you do raise an important point. One of the things I loved at Wieden was how Dan had created an environment that valued creativity but didn’t devalue age. That didn’t mean the ‘elderly’ were safe, but if they kept looking to push barriers and embrace the provocations culture kept serving to us, you were.

I still feel that way.

If someone wouldn’t hire me or respect me because of my age then I wouldn’t want to work for them.

I might not be the best strategist in the World – that accolade goes to Weigel and Bloodworth for me – but I have experience with creativity, culture, brands and agencies that I would say few could hold up. If my age discounts all that, then I discount all them.

But I appreciate this situation is what many people face. Where they are written off simply because of their age, even if they are open to the new rather than sticking to the past … and that is bad for everyone to be honest.

As I’ve said before, adland can keep you young, but it has the ability to make you feel older than you in the blink of an eye.

So far it has keep me young. At least in maturity and long may it continue, as I do love what it can be and the challenges it presents for me to mess with.

Thanks for the comment though William. Appreciate it.

Comment by Rob

My comment may have sounded flippant, but it was serious. I am grateful for your answer, I need to remember that.

Comment by William Proud

dont fucking apologise to campbell, hell use it against you. hes a bastard like that.

Comment by andy@cynic

50 is the new 50.

Comment by John

when you read this fucking blog, 50 is the new 60.

Comment by andy@cynic

That baby photo of you may be the most stylish I’ve ever seen you rob.

Comment by DH

True.

Comment by Bazza

im just fucking grateful he doesnt go topless anymore.

Comment by andy@cynic

Those are some wonderful photographs of you Robert, but the one of Otis on the trampoline is simply magnificent. Don’t worry about the next decade. If anyone is going to make something special out of it, it’s you.

Comment by Mary Bryant

[…] Mary Bryant on The Last Month Of 4.0 … […]

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