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


Behind Every Tough Guy Is A Broken Boy …
September 16, 2020, 7:30 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Childhood, Culture, Education, Fatherhood, Parents

I recently read an interview with ex-England Rugby Captain, Will Carling.

It’s a fascinating interview because in some ways, Will was David Beckham before even David Beckham.

Young.

Handsome.

Talented.

Successful.

A glamorous wife.

A media ‘celebrity’.

But in addition to this, he also faced incredibly scrutiny, destructive rumours and the wrath of the media for acts – as we learn in the interview – that were simply not true.

For example he was labelled as money obsessed as he would do public speaking … but what was not discussed was that it was his only source of income as he gave up his well-paid job at Mobil so he could concentrate on his [amateur] rugby fulltime.

But the most telling part of the interview – and the readers comments underneath it – is how he was sent away to boarding school at the age of 6.

SIX.

Separated from his parents to live in a dormitory, surrounded by other boys – many much older than him – all on his own.

The most heartbreaking part of the interview is this:

“Every night during those first weeks I would go into a ball at the bottom of the bed. You didn’t want anyone to hear you crying. It was unbelievably lonely.”

Otis is 5.

The thought of choosing to send him away … to see him maybe once a year … is beyond my comprehension.

It is, in my opinion, an act of utter cruelty.

The psychological damage to the child must be incredible … which may go some way to explaining why people like Boris Johnson and mob have this compulsion to be popular and can lie without hesitation.

Maybe it’s less they’re just out and out bad … and more the methods they learnt to survive from being sent to live in a boarding school at an age where no kid should be separated from their family, friends or home.

The fact there are places of ‘education’ that are OK with letting kids from the age of 6 not see their parents for months on end makes me so angry and reinforces my view that so much private education is designed to create complicity rather than individuality.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know who Will Carling is.

Or if you don’t have kids.

Or if you hate rugby.

It’s a fascinating article about success, family, media, team mates and integrity and I am sure you will come out of it realising that the toughest men are hiding the most brutal pasts.

You can read it here.



I’m Watching You …

When I was at R/GA, I hired this brilliant planner called Joel.

It was weird how we met because it all started at a Google Firestarter meeting I was talking at.

At the end of my presentation, it was opened up to the audience for questions.

I couldn’t see who was asking anything as the lights from the stage were shining straight into my eyes. Anyway, there was one question that shone out from the rest of the questions of the night – basically challenging the London bubble of planning – and while I didn’t know who asked it, I wanted to find who did to say I liked it.

Alas I never found out who did.

A few days later, I got a message on LinkedIn from the person who asked the question.

His name was Joel.

I invited him for a coffee later that week and suddenly the person who asked the best question of the night was asking the best questions of the day.

But what made them extra good was he wasn’t doing it to show off or stand out, he was doing it because he was interested in the topics and interested to hear my perspective.

We talked about his background, his ambitions and then he did the one thing that almost guaranteed I wanted to hire him.

He called comprehensive school, ‘big school’.

BIG SCHOOL.

I hadn’t heard that since I was a kid in Nottingham and immediately I loved Joel for it. Because for all the time he had spent in London, he had not lost his Bradford realness … and then it became clear why he asked the question about the London bubble, why he was asking questions why culture rarely reflected how marketing department express it and why was the ad industry more interested in convenience than authenticity.

How could I not hire someone like that?

So I did.

And he never disappointed because apart from being culturally, creatively and strategically talented – with an obsessive focus on what life is really like for people, especially outside of London rather than the cliched, London bullshit a lot of marketing likes to portray – his greatest trait was he always wanted to learn.

Always.

Now don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t always the model student … he would push back, he would challenge, he would question … but what he doesn’t know is that was when I was the happiest working with him, because it meant he was believing his words rather than just following others.

And while we always have to be careful we don’t blindly think whatever we believe is the right answer, having confidence and conviction in your gut and your talent is an often underplayed, undervalued, under-encouraged skill in a strategist … which is why I was so happy to see when I left R/GA, Joel had a mug made with my face and my words on it.

Not because he missed my ugly face and lack of vocabulary, but to remind him to trust his smarts, his instincts and his authenticity … but never to be a prick about it.

If I was proud of him before. I am even prouder of him now.



Answer The Brief, Not Answer With Options …

One of the things I find really interesting is how adland has got into the habit of providing clients with multiple options for every bit of work.

Oh I get it.

Apart from the fact there’s always more than one way to answer any brief, we want – or should I say, we need – clients to be happy.

Except it doesn’t always end up that way does it?

We make alternatives that aren’t as good as the idea we think they should buy.

Clients demand diluted versions of the work we don’t really like in the first place.

We end up getting fired because the campaign they pushed us to make didn’t work as well as they wanted.

Who are the bigger idiots?

The people who don’t buy what the experts put forward or the experts that offer alternatives they don’t really believe in?

Which is why every single person should read the story of Paul Rand – the designer who Steve Jobs turned to, to design the logo for his NeXT computer company.

Not just because it’s a brilliant story.

Not just because he didn’t even bother to turn up to the pitch, he just sent a brilliant 100 page book with his idea in it.

But because when Jobs was asked what it was like to work with Rand, he said …

“I asked him if he would come up with a few options, and he said … no, I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me.

You don’t have to use the solution. If you want options go talk to other people.’”

How good is that?

+ I will solve your problem for you.

+ You will pay me for my recommendation, whether you use it or not.

+ If you want options, go talk to other people.

While some may claim that makes Paul Rand arrogant or petulant, I would say it shows someone who knows the value of their experience … their talent and their craft.

More than that, I think it shows someone who really thinks about what idea is the right one for their client and then puts only that one in front of them.

Not countless options.

One.

A single idea that has gone through hundreds of possibilities to get to that single recommendation.

Something that has been created and crafted to answer the brief, rather than simply executed to satisfy the clients taste.

And while the article itself states the NeXT logo might not be a classic … the style, approach and attitude of the presentation certainly is.

Adland should take note.

Read it here.



Our Purpose Is To Kill You …

Hello!

Yes, I’m back.

And yes, we’re in our new home.

Hell, we’ve almost totally unpacked.

Emphasis on ‘almost’.

We’ve also had more conversations with the people in the village in the last few days than we had with everyone in London, combined.

Friendly is very weird.

I remember when we lived in LA, the neighbours came and brought us ‘welcoming gifts’.

That freaked me out big time.

Fortunately England doesn’t allow for that level of intimacy, so we just had to make do with polite and interested conversation.

Anyway, I want to start the week with a post about this …

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Kraft/Heinz new product push.

Mac and cheese for breakfast.

BREAKFAST!!!

Their rationale for it is apparently that they found 56% of busy parents serve their kids Mac & Cheese for breakfast.

Now I appreciate I don’t know all the facts, but I’m calling bullshit on this.

Part of that is because I am pretty sure cereal and milk or toast is faster than making Mac & Cheese. The other part is that 56% figure lacks any context … in terms of the number of ‘busy parents’ that were asked and where.

David Lin, a friend of mine, suggested the marketing meeting went something like this:

“We can drive growth by building more occasions … we need to own breakfast”

Given the share price collapse of Heinz in recent years, I think he is bang on.

But there’s something else this news highlights.

This Kraft/Heinz brand purpose reads as this …

As a global food company, the Kraft Heinz Company’s ambition is to help end hunger worldwide.

Unless they believe the best way to achieve their purpose is to kill people with obesity, then it suggests here’s another example where brand purpose is utter shit … designed to make the board feel better about what they do without actually having to do it.

Or said another way, Martin was right. As usual.



Start Your Week With Knowing How Much Of A Disappointment Your Career Has Really Turned Out To Be …

It’s Monday.

The start of the week.

A week full of hope, promises and potential.

Oh who am I kidding? It’s Monday. Fucking Monday.

Now at this point, maybe you expect me to sweep in and add some colour to your grey day. Some optimism to your 8 hours of impending misery? Well if you do you obviously haven’t been reading this blog very long because in reality, I’m going to double down on the misery.

Here is a website.

Click on it.

Go on. I promise it won’t take you to anywhere embarrassing. Oh no, it will just take you to somewhere humiliating.

I don’t mean weird pictures or embarrassing photos – oh no – I mean something much worse.

Your salary!

OK, not literally yours – but it’s a website that shows you how quickly certain CEO’s take to earn your salary. Your annual salary.

And while I get that people like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos would take an embarrassingly small amount of time to do it – in many cases, seconds rather than days or weeks or months – when it takes an equally small amount of time for the CEO of LinkedIn, that’s why your Monday will hurt with the sort of ferocity that you last felt when you had to go back to school after summer holidays.

With that and the news that the best Prime Minister in the World, New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden, has only just turned 40 … you can look at yourself in the mirror and feel really good about yourself.

Hey, it could be worse, you could be unemployed and 50.

You’re welcome.