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


Half Way Mark …

How the hell is it June already?

It literally seems like two minutes ago that I was making that epic Christmas ‘Baywatch’ special with my best mate Paul.

You don’t know what I’m talking about?

Weird, as it was a Youtube phenomenon, with an amazing 38 views as of the time of writing.

Oh well, here we are … 6 months into 2018, how has it been for you so far?

I’ll tell you how it’s been for me after I’ve seen how many presents I receive from you on my birthday – which happens in just 12 days time.

Subtle aren’t I?

And yes, this may well be the worst post I’ve ever written.

Well, I could say that if I hadn’t included the ‘career car crash’ film in the post. With it, I think it’s fair to say it absolutely is the worst post I’ve ever written, and that is saying something, especially when I compare it against the iPod singing, Scorpions disaster.

[Which was all your fault Marcus]

Anyway, after all that horror, I wish you a good weekend and if it has deeply disturbed you, remember if I’ve been able to have a semi-decent career with this alarming lack of judgment, you’re going to be just fine.

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More Proof The World Has Gone Mad …

So recently, for reasons I don’t quite understand, the Screen Writers Guild of America and a division of the US Government asked me to give a presentation on how writers can attract foreign investment.

My entire deck is the picture at the top of this post.

After I explained what I was talking about – which was basically this [especially #8] – we watched the documentary, ‘Exporting Raymond’ which, for me, is still one of the best documentaries anyone looking to work overseas can watch to understand the differences in culture, on both a macro and micro scale.

Actually, it’s worth watching even if you’re not going overseas … or if you’ve been there, done that – especially if it was Russia or China – so to give you a taste, the trailer is below.

Apparently it went down so well they are trying to get the star of the film, Phil Rosenthal, to come to an event where I will interview him.

WTF?!

I was going to write that if this happens, Mr Rosenthal is going to realise working in Russia was no where near as hellish as being interviewed by me and then I discovered he’s worth $200 million, so my concern for his wellbeing kind of went out the window.

That said, as much as I experienced a lot of weird things in China, being asked to do this talk – and the possible subsequent Q&A – is right up there in terms of madness.

Living overseas. The gift that keeps on giving.



A Year Is A Long Time In America …

So today marks a year of being in America.

Or said another way, a year away from China.

It’s been a very interesting time for me … with a bunch of ups and downs.

Ups … in terms of the lifestyle my family get to enjoy and the people I now get to call colleagues and friends.

Downs … in terms of the state America is in and the way America is behaving.

Not just as a nation, but in the beliefs and habits that have infiltrated the working environment for so many people.

But all that aside, I still feel a deep sense of privilege that I get to have this experience.

The fact I’ve been able to live in different countries, experience different cultures and make a decent living out of it is something I will always be massively grateful for.

Of course part of this is because I’m white and male … and while I can’t change that, I can try and make sure those opportunities are available to those who aren’t either of those things.

Which has been one of the best things about being in America.

The massive wake-up call I had to the realities other people face.

Of course I wasn’t blind to it, I have seen it – and reacted against it – in every country I’ve lived, but the things I’ve seen and experienced in my short-time in America has been both confronting and enlightening.

Seeing how so much of white America deals with issues relating to African American and Latino rights – even when they’re in support of racial equality – proved to me that just saying stuff ends up being nothing more than compliance with established rules and behaviors.

It shames me to admit that it took me some time to realise that, but it’s absolutely true which is why I’ll always be grateful to colleagues like Maya, Chelsea and Bree for taking me to this point and place.

In all honesty, I don’t know how long we will be in the US.

It could be a year, it could be years … I’ve never gone to countries with a ‘time plan’ … but what I can say is the experience has been quite profound for me. OK, not in the way China was – in fact I still feel more Chinese than Western in many ways – but in terms of helping remind me who I am, what I value and what I am capable of doing or being.

You see, when I was in China, I heard murmurings that some people only saw me as someone for the Asia market.

While I absolutely love/d that part of the World and enjoyed having to relearn everything I thought I knew, I found that rumour annoying given I’d worked in a bunch of markets prior to China and in my role at Wieden, had worked with global clients for global markets all the time.

But rumours have a way of slowly getting into your head and while I do not deny there has been a bunch of stuff I’ve found weird/strange/annoying and plain fucked-up about working in America, seeing my department embrace their voice, their opinions and their beliefs and turn that into ideas, points of view and creativity that has made some people feel very uncomfortable has truly put a smile on my face.

That doesn’t mean I feel we are anyway done – far from it – but seeing change and, from my perspective, growth has been hugely rewarding.

Of course there’s no magic formula to it …

From a personal perspective it’s about being open to what you don’t know and having the willingness and curiosity to keep learning and improving. From the departments perspective, it’s just setting a direction, defining the standards we are all going to live up to and then giving everyone the time, space and backing to explore, fuck up and be vulnerable, which is why in the journey to this point – which includes the choices and decisions I’ve had to make to deal with the situations and circumstances I’ve come to face – it’s acted as a really valuable reminder of who I am, what I believe and what I still want to achieve.

So thank you America.

For what you have done for me and what you have done for my family.

I don’t know if I’ll ever love you like I love some of the other countries I’ve lived in, but if you sort out the shit you don’t want to talk about, then you’ll truly be an incredibly special place. And even though I don’t think that can ever happen – at least to the extent it needs to happen – I’ll forever be grateful for the experience you’ve given us living here … even if you’re giving my son an American twang.



What Agencies Can Learn From Otis’ Kindergarten …

So Otis goes to this amazing hippy kindergarten school near where we live.

It’s a co-parenting school which means that the parents have to help with the schooling of the kids, not just with the funding.

It follows a very specific philosophy defined by the founder and it’s a place where kids learn through expressing their creativity.

They even have a ‘mud room’ for the kids to cause mayhem when it rains.

Put simply, we love it.

A few weeks ago, we went there on the weekend to help decorate it during spring break when I came across these 2 signs in the school …

I love them.

It sums up everything we adore about the school.

It captures exactly why Otis feels it’s a safe and happy place for him to explore.

It also addresses something I have been looking into for a while, which is the lack of outlet American men have to express their feelings.

Everything is built on acting tough.

Crying is for wimps.

Hell, even the bars are full of sports TV’s basting out scores, which means people don’t have the quiet to talk to one another – something I had growing up in England that actually encouraged the sharing of feelings and emotions. Albeit often wrapped up in banter.

The macho pride that seems to underpin so much of American male society feels like it’s still the 1950’s … which is why I love that this school doesn’t tell kids to ‘stop crying’, but asks what is wrong and then sympathises with their predicament which remarkably, helps them stop crying far more quickly and in a more positive way than any shouting would ever do.

Now imagine if companies operated by the same ideals.

Listening.

Valuing.

Caring.

Developing.

Oh I know those words appear in a million mission statements, but we all know they’re often used more as an illusion than an action.

In the bid to build office ‘culture’, so many organizations forget it’s not just about what you say – or even what you do – it’s the practiced beliefs that defines what everyone values, which is why companies could learn even more from this school than my dear Otis.



A Year In A Blink …

So today is a year since I left Wieden and – in 6 days – Shanghai.

That’s incredible.

In some ways it seems it was just a few weeks and in other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago.

While it was absolutely time to start a new adventure – something LA and Deutsch have kindly given me – I still miss China and Wieden very much because I had 7 years of brilliant things happen in my life [such as this] and career [such as this and this] there … though I have it on good authority this sentimentality is only one way, mainly because those stickers I left behind are still being discovered.

And they will for many more years to come.

Cue: Evil laugh.



One Nations Tragedy Is Another Nations Humour …
May 9, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Culture, England, History

One of the things that has always done my head in is how many American’s claim some sort of Irish descendency on St Patrick’s Day.

I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but it does.

This inner-boiling point reached new heights for me this year for 2 key reasons …

+ I now live here so get to see it first hand.

+ Trump is President, voted in by people who liked his ‘stop the immigrants’ message.

I’ve got to admit, I found it interesting watching so many people claim they were of Irish descent [when in reality, it was probably about 1/1000th Irish or that they once drank some Jameson’s whiskey] given the likelihood a great deal of them passionately want to stop any immigrants [read: anyone not white] enter the US … but hey, as we’ve seen with the gun laws, when America wants to, they can do crazy like few can do crazy.

Talking of crazy, have a look at this sign I saw outside an Irish pub that day.

Specifically, the last drink on the menu board …

Yeah … let’s all laugh at the drink called ‘car bomb’.

That’s funny isn’t it.

Something that killed so many people is a great way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think American’s would find it funny if a bar in London created a drink called 9/11 to celebrate July 4th, do you?

Yes, you can call it a bad joke. Or just plain ol’ cultural ignorance. But as I wrote years ago when the Borat movie came out, it’s amazing how people can laugh at human unpleasantness when it’s not about them and wrapped up in ‘humour’ to make the bitterness appear less ugly.



Freddie And Friends …

Many years ago I worked with a Swedish planner called Fredrik Sarnblad.

I loved him.

I loved him for many reasons …

His brain.

His humour.

His creativity.

His friendship.

His unsatisfiable appetite.

We went through all manner of trials and tribulations together … from highs of convincing work to send us to Bali for a week so we could work on the SONY pitch strategy in peace [which, thank god, we won] to lows of being in Thailand with a client who spent all their time trying to undermine us in front of their colleagues. [which we, read: me, didn’t react to very well]

And while we’ve not worked together for over 11 years, Freddie was always more than an ex-colleague, but a real friend … exemplified by the fact that when we saw each other in Boston a few weeks ago – after almost 6 years apart – it was like nothing had changed.

My relationship with Freddie is different to that of many of my other friends.

One of those reasons is I’ve never made a highly inappropriate blog about the way they dress.

The other is that I can have really personal and emotional conversations about life with him.

That’s not to say I can’t with my other mates, it’s just I rarely do … but with Freddie, we always did and do. Talking about subject many people find uncomfortable but are true for all of us.

The reason this can happen is that Freddie is both self aware and in touch with who he is.

He doesn’t shy away from the big conversations because he knows that’s where life resides … the real stuff, not the things we use to distract us from dealing with the real stuff.

One of the things we talked about recently was happiness.

Initially it was in the context of family but it quickly evolved to the job we are paid to do.

Creativity.

We talked about what makes us happy, what frustrates us and what we can do to make things better … more fun … more interesting and exciting. We even talked about how we can work together again.

Well that conversation must have had a real impact on Freddie because weeks later, he quit his job and started his own agency.

To be honest, I think that’s a bit extreme … all he had to do was say he didn’t want to work with me again … but I’m super happy and excited for him.

I’ve written many times why everyone should experience starting their own business, but in Freddie’s case it’s a little different.

Don’t get me wrong, it will be amazing for him – but the real value will come from the companies that use him because he’ll not only make them better, he’ll make them discover what they are capable of being.

So congratulations my dear Freddie, I look forward to one day being one of your shitkickers …

Knock them dead …

You can find out what he’s doing and how he’s doing it here.