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


Love Hurts …

Once upon a time, I worked with a very talented creative from Mexico called Jorge.

He is the most amazing conceptual designer that I’ve ever worked with.

His history of work is incredible …

From the Coke Side of Life stuff to the Oreo Wonderfilled campaigns of the past.

Hell, I even wrote about some of his work before I even knew it was his work.

Everything he does has a strong sense for distinctive design and sophisticated craft.

He is also the person behind that picture at the top of this post.

Yep, a picture of a cover of a book about how much of an asshole I am.

And while I appreciate I can definitely be one, he isn’t calling me this because we didn’t like working together.

OK, so sometimes we argued, but generally we were a great team.

Hell, there are some meetings that have gone down into folklore. Or at least for us.

So why has he drawn that picture?

For one simple reason … I think he is a handsome bastard.

Actually, he’s not just any handsome bastard, he looks like that handsome bastard in Love Actually … Rodrigo Santoro.

This guy …

Look at him!!

How gorgeous is that.

OK, that’s not him, but it’s as good as being him.

Plus he’s charming too. OK, he can definitely be a bit of a prick [just ask his wonderful wife] but overall, he’s pretty awesome.

Anyway, because I thought he looked so much like AN INTERNATIONAL MOVIE STAR, I wanted to celebrate the fact … so I started getting some things made with his and Rodrigo’s face on it.

Badges.

Posters.

Packing tape.

That’s quite the compliment isn’t it?

Hell, I spent my own money on celebrating his face.

But did he like it? Did he bollocks.

He hated it.

He loathed it.

He felt it was an affront to his dignity.

To his talent.

Hence the book he made for my last birthday.

And while I get his point, it’s always the beautiful people who complain about being attractive isn’t it? Just like it’s only the 40 year olds who say “40 is the new 30”.

Try having a face like a dropped pie and a modicum of talent.

Yeah … try that Jorge and still be upset someone thinks you’re great.

Let me tell you. It doesn’t happen.

EVER.

And while I accept this post is a bit weird and may have a lot to do it being written at 4 in the morning while feeling utterly delirious, I am choosing to claim – and will stick to this argument, even if forced to appear in a court of law – that it proves something else.

Something the industry has always suspected, but never been able to confirm.

Creatives are weirdos. Thank god.

______________________________________________________________________________________

I am so sorry Jorge. But at least I know Ana will find if funny.



Nature’s Prozac …

When I was growing up, our back garden was a disaster.

Overgrown.

Tall grass.

Brambles.

Bushes.

Beautiful mayhem.

As a kid, I thought it was amazing.

Me and Paul would run in there and it felt like we were in the jungle.

From playing hide and seek to pretending we were soldiers, it could all happen there.

Then around the age of 5, Mum and Dad had an extension put onto the house and because the loan they took out for it was a bit more than they needed to have it built, they spent the rest on the garden.

Oh how they loved it.

They spent hours there.

Creating it. Cultivating it. Nurturing it. Admiring it.

My god, the way my dad treated his ‘sweet peas’ was enough to make me think he loved them more than me sometimes.

And while I still could play softball tennis with Mum on the patio, I always felt I had had something robbed from me – despite the fact there was a massive park down the road and huge fields of nothingness around the house.

So from there on in, while I could appreciate a nice garden, I always saw them as something that pushed me away rather than welcomed me in.

Until now.

I readily admit I had nothing to do with the garden we have in the home we have just bought.

I readily admit part of its appeal is that it’s mature, so feels natural rather than contrived.

And I readily admit I am still as shit and unenthusiastic about gardening as I ever was.

But my god, I am shocked at how much I love it.

I can stare at it for hours.

Sit in it for days.

Doing nothing but looking at it’s beautiful vibrancy and shades.

Seeing Rosie the cat stretch out on the deck like she has just hit ‘peak cat life’.

Watching Otis play on the swing hanging from the tree then looking at Jill picking up all the apples that have fallen from Otis’ adventure. Turning them into pies that we scoff or give to the neighbours in an blatant attempt to mitigate the mayhem we’ve caused in the first few months of living here with huge moving trucks blocking the road and electrical blackouts that we absolutely, definitely did not cause.

The idea of all this is about as foreign to me as you could get.

I’m a city person.

I like noise and bustle not nature and quiet.

Yet … yet … this is something very special.

Something I feel a real privilege to experience, which I acknowledge is only possible because of the privileged position I am in.

And while all these feelings could all be because of my age or because this house is our family home – regardless of the incoming NZ adventure – the impact of a simple garden has been far more than I ever imagined.

Which makes me think it could also have something to do with making me feel closer to Mum and Dad.

You see while our little garden at home was nothing like this, it was incredibly special to them.

Sure it was beautiful. Sure it was the fruits of their hard work and care. But it seemed to be a place that let them feel everything was going to be OK, regardless of the challenges.

And over the years, our wonderful little family faced many – but that garden always gave them comfort and joy.

A little piece of heaven.

Blossoming into radiant beauty and colour even after the harshest of winters.

Reminding them that the darkest times will always welcome a new spring.

And while as a kid I didn’t really like how that garden had robbed me of my jungle, I grew to appreciate it.

I saw what it did for my parents.

I still remember how my Dad stared in wonder at it after his stroke.

He’d been in hospital for months and was finally allowed home.

And while he needed a lot of care from Mum, that garden was like medicine for him. Helping him forget the pain he was in. Helping him forget the turmoil he was going through.

No longer able to talk.

No longer able to walk properly.

But here, facing the fruits of his love and labour, all was forgotten.

He was safe.

He felt nourished.

He was connected to something his body was not able to let him enjoy anymore.

He and Mum could transport themselves to a time and place where everything was OK.

And while I hope I never face the tragedy my Father suffered – and acknowledge this garden is from the toil of others hands – I feel I get what nature was able to do for Mum and Dad.

Because it isn’t just what grows in the garden, but what it helps blossom within yourself.



Give Me Something To Believe In …

One of the things I’ve found fascinating over the years is how many companies think all they need to do to keep employees happy is cash and perks.

Don’t get me wrong, cash and perks are very nice – and for some people, that’s all they need – however for a certain type of employee, there is another attribute that has equal, if not even greater, appeal.

Pride.

Pride in what they do.
Pride in how they do it.
Pride in who they do it for.
Pride in who they work with.
Pride in the actions of the past.
Pride in the ambitions for the future.
Pride in the standards the company lives by.
Pride in the companies standing in their field.

Now I get the C-Suite may like to think their employees are proud working for them – probably reinforced by countless questionable ‘monkey surveys’ sent by HR – however more often than not, they are confusing ‘having a job’ with ‘being proud of the job they have’.

Nothing highlights this more than when a company feels morale is down, because that’s the moment the spot-bonuses and/or impromptu office parties begin.

Does it work?

Sure. For a period of time.

However employees are no fools, they know the real reason for these ‘additional benefits’ is to keep them quiet rather than force the C-Suite to open up a set of issues they absolutely don’t want to have to deal with.

Why?

Because in the main, the issues are about them.

Specially the work they aspire for the company to make.

Look I get it … no one likes to face their potential failings, so if they can avoid it with spending a bit of cash, why wouldn’t they?

Well I’ll tell you why, because money can’t buy pride.

I say this because I recently saw a video of Steve Jobs talking about standards.

He’s made similar speeches over the years – with his ‘paint behind the fence’ being one of my favourites.

However I love this one because there’s a bit of bite in it.

A clear perspective on what standards he holds Apple too, rather than what the competition hold themselves too.

Sure, to some it could come across as arrogant, but I imagine to the people at Apple at that time, it induced the same feelings I have when I work for a company whose standards and ambitions were at least the same as mine or – hopefully – even higher.

Pride.
Confident.
Togetherness.
A sense of ‘us against them’.
That feeling you’re part of a place playing a totally different game to the competition. A special place. A place that does things right, even if people don’t quite get it yet. A place that attracts the best to do their best … but not in a way where you then feel ‘you’ve made it’ for being there. Instead, it’s a feeling of responsibility to keep the standards of name moving forwards. An intoxicating mix of expectation, judgement and encouragement all at the same time.

You can’t fake that.

You can’t buy it either.

So when the C-suite hand out promotions, payrises and parties in a bid to boost morale because the claims of doing great work are not convincing anyone … my advice is to save their cash.

Not just because the employees know exactly what they’re doing.

Nor because whatever they end up receiving, it still won’t buy their pride.

But because they could save a ton of cash by simply committing to doing things to the highest standards rather than the lowest … because at the end of the day, these people don’t need certainty, they just want possible and if they have that, morale will fix itself all by itself.




What Would A Personalised Number Plate Say About You?

Years ago, I was asked the title of this post by an industry journalist.

I replied with, “it would say I was a prick”.

Given a bunch of people in the industry – not to mention my mates – have personalised number plates, it didn’t go down very well, however compared to this, they’re all saints.

Yep, that’s a real number plate.

Better yet, it’s not even a personalised one. [Someone checked]

That is the number plate the DVLC gave the car.

Now I appreciate that maybe you wouldn’t immediately see the perv potential of PU51BAD … but when it’s written out as PU51 BAD, you’d have to be Stevie Wonder to not see it.

And yet the owner of this Volvo – not sure if it’s a male, but a male was driving it – is happily driving around the UK with it.

Why? Surely they know what they’re doing?

Hell, it seems they even made sure the number plate clearly conveys its questionable words.

Surely they realise the only people who wouldn’t find this cringe worthy are 16 year old boys.

Or maybe I’ve got it wrong.

Given the image of the typical Volvo driver – especially the old Volvo driver – maybe this has given them the bit of an edge they’ve been craving for years.

No longer are they the responsible, safe, family man/woman driver … now they’re sexpests of the most public order.

And to think, Volvo spent untold billions to shed their ‘safe and boring’ persona when all they needed to do was get a perv numberplate.



Corporate Schizophrenia …

During these COVID times, we’ve heard a bunch of terms that are supposedly the foundation of survival – the most widely used being ‘pivot’.

While I get it, the problem I have with this terminology is that it is expressed in such a way as to suggest people or organisations should be willing to let go of everything they have been doing for decades and embark on a totally different activity that may have more important commercial value at that time.

Been an airline for 80 years?

Let it go and start delivering groceries.

Been in hospitality for 3 decades?

Let it go and start working in a supermarket

Been in finance for the last 5 years?

Actually – stay as you are – you’re always going to find a way to make money.

OK, so I’m exaggerating … but I have read so many decks from strategists who throw around buzzwords without either seemingly understanding what they’re actually saying in them or – worse – what the implications would be if people actually did what they said.

Reframing your proposition is not pivoting. It’s reframing your proposition to existing or potential clients.

It’s airlines moving from carrying passengers to carrying freight.

Or restaurants moving from eating in to delivering out.

Pivoting is a fundamental change of direction … and who the fuck would do that?

Well I say that but then I saw this …

Yep, this person is a human pivot.

From digital marketing to being a magician with almost every profession in-between … including MIND READING!!!

From my perspective, he can never be out of work.

Not just because his range of talents means he’ll always be useful to someone – from boardrooms to kids parties – but because if you can mind-read, I expect every one of this marketing recommendations is EXACTLY what clients want.

Maybe this is what planners should be learning instead of frameworks and tools?

Forget my rant from a few weeks back and get down the local magic club to learn a few tricks. Hell, at the very least you could say, “my marketing ideas are magic”.

Just for the record, I’m not taking the piss out of this person – I genuinely think it’s amazing.

But there are 2 questions I would love to know.

1. Which came first, the magician/mindreading or the marketing?

2. Does this broad range of talents attract or repel potential clients?

I admit I noticed him because of his breadth of skills – and in the old days, I did a similar thing by making sure my resume mentioned how I used to be a session guitarist for 80/90’s popstars – however while that captured potential employers attention, I don’t think they would have called me in for interviews if they felt that was still my life.

Who knows, I just find it fascinating this individual openly communicates they’re in the consultancy world and the trickery world [yes, I know, I’m calling out the legitimacy of magic] so I’d love to know more about his story, which – in this competitive world where everyone is being told to pivot – means he’s already ahead of many in the pack.