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


Cultural Appropriation …

Cultural appropriation is a big subject these days.

I have to admit, I am torn by it.

Of course, when someone adopts anything from another cultural background and doesn’t acknowledge it’s origins – or doesn’t ensure it is expressed with the respect and context it deserves – then it’s bad [I’m looking at you Gwen Stefani] but I can’t help feel that in some circumstances, it can help build ties between heritages that can encourage understanding and acceptance.

Jesus … I sound like a Ms World contestant don’t I.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s all because I wanted to show this photo …

Yes, that really is a pizza with chips on it.

CHIPS!

And it was at Whole Foods.

An American firm using British chips on an Italian cuisine.

If I was Italy, I would see this as a legitimate reason to declare war … but then, based on this campaign from my mate from a few years ago, maybe Italy culturally appropriated pizza from South Korea.

Maybe.

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Signs You Know You’re In Italy …

So as you all know, I recently lost my Aunt and so travelled to Italy for her funeral.

On my return back to England – now with an ability to see through the tears – I realized there were many things in Italian cultural context that really reflected some of the unique values of the place.

From the signage that appeared on the aircraft hangers at Milan airport …

[yes, a bloody aircraft hanger]

… through to the stylish [at least comparatively to the UK equivalent, on the left] of their toy ‘play people’.

There is something so effortlessly stylish over there, proven by the fact things that shouldn’t work on paper, somehow do.

Now many would say that is the power of confidence, but I think it’s more than that.

I think the beauty of the Italian culture is their ability to be comfortable with being authentic.

Of course there’s exceptions … and yes, I’m definitely being generalistic … but there’s a wonderfulness in how much people seem to believe a successful life is more about how you live rather than what you have.

Or how something makes you feel rather than what it makes someone think about you.

Which is why I find Italian beaches are the happiest beaches because the undercurrent of competitiveness and social judgement that often infiltrates other countries sand and sea just isn’t there. Instead, there feels a common spirit of ‘happy contentedness’ … where the simple act of being in a place with people you love is embraced and enjoyed by all.

And when everyone loves and respects everyone else for living with that authenticity, then things like body shape and beach fashion just don’t really come into it … because at the end of the day, you’re not trying to impress others, you’re just comfortable being yourself.




It’s A Fine Line Between Pettiness And Revenge …

… and I have always struggled to walk that line properly, but fuck it … the person it’s about has screwed over so many people – including myself – to ensure they are able to maintain [and protect] their career and internal reputation.

Now I appreciate they never went out their way to bring anyone down.

And I know that deep down, they are not a bad person, just a very, very ambitious person.

But when you don’t back your people so you can look good to your bosses, then eventually you get what you deserve.

It might not be as much as the people they screwed over think they deserve … but when you know that their entire ‘reputation’ is built on very fragile foundations, you also know the slightest crumble in their carefully constructed ‘career veneer’ affects them deeply inside.

God, I’m such a bastard, but for good reasons.

After all, the brilliant Rupert Howell once said about me, “Robert is driven by hate, but in a relatively good way.”

Oh, and for the record, while this individual is not part of the post I wrote relating to When Work Tries To Destroy You, he is part of the reason – admittedly, a very small part – of why I started Corporate Gaslighting.



Where You Leave Your Heart Is Never Up To You …

I recently was in LA for work.

Being a sentimental sod, I couldn’t help find the time to go visit some of the places that became so important to me – and us – when we lived there.

Hell, I even went to the house of the man who bought my car just so I could see it again.

But of all the places I’ve revisited in LA, visiting Otis’ preschool is the one that made me the most emotional.

This is a place he loved.

Where he met his beloved Elodie.

Where his Mum connected to people who will be life long friends.

Where they were both made to feel they mattered from the second they arrived.

Leaving LA was hard. Not for professional reasons, but for personal.

Yes I was sad to leave people I’d met who had grown to become very important to me, but hardest was taking my wife and son away from a place they had thrived in.

Even though we were only there for approx 18 months, we wanted Otis to always know there was a time this was his home … that leaving didn’t mean he’d disappeared. So we wanted to do a few things for the school of which one of them was ask if we could donate a park bench in Otis’ name, so generations of future kids could play on it and – in some way – get to know the little boy who loved that place so much over 2017/18.

By pure chance, when I was driving past the school – it was a Saturday – I saw they had an event on, so being a cheeky sod, I went in hoping they’d let me see the bench we made.

They welcomed me with absolute open arms and as they let me see the seat we left for Otis, I realized – for the first time – that I’d also left a bit of myself here as well.



The Most Selfish Generation In History …

Hello … I’m back.

It was amazing.

OK, it was more for being with the family than the physical place … but that’s because I’m not a ‘stay-down-on-the-farm’ kind of person, though I appreciate some of you may suggest it’s more because I’m not a ‘pay-for-my-own-holidays’ kind of person.

Pah.

Anyway, I wanted to return with a post that matters a lot to me.

To be honest, all of them matter to me … but as of late, I’ve been writing stuff that matters more than most.

Things like female leadership, prejudice and when work tries to kill you

Well, while this isn’t connected to the industry I work in, it is about an issue very dear to me.

Living overseas is one of the greatest privileges you can have.

Sure, there are things you give up and miss – but what you gain more than compensates for it.

Case in point. I recently had dinner with Rodi and David in San Francisco.

The photo from the evening is at the top of this post.

None of us live here. None of us work here. None of us are from here.

In fact all of us live in totally different countries and come from different parts of the world.

Rodi is Australian/Ukrainian, David is Taiwanese and I’m British/Italian.

To make matters even more random, we all met in China.

Yet despite having all moved on from our time at Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai, we remain connected … not because of the company we worked at, but because of the generosity of the country we experienced.

This dinner represents what England has voted entire generations never to have.

It’s an act of utter selfishness.

Utter, utter selfishness.

So many in society like to bestow that label on the youth of the UK, but it’s not them.

It’s the Daily Mail reading, over 55’s who have enjoyed good fortune in their life but don’t want anyone else to have it. Who don’t want anyone else to evolve and grow because they don’t want to be left behind and feel less important.

Selfish, egotistical, bigoted and blinkered pricks.

The reality is my ability to live around the World has made my life unquestionably bigger, better and fuller.

Almost everything I have and treasure is because of my life outside of England.

That is not in any way meant to say life in England is bad – far from it – but anyone who thinks there is greater value staying isolated versus expanding the possibilities of life through adventures, experiences and friends that exist beyond the borders of our shores has either never done it or is frightened of it.

May I have dinners with friends in countries none of us come from for many years to come.



The Difference Between Design And Creativity …

As I’ve written many times, I am a huge, huge fan of design.

Frankly, I have seen more great things come from the design community in the past few years than advertising.

Of course there has been some great advertising, but in terms of solving problems in magical ways, the design industry seems to be more progressive than a lot of adland.

Part of that is that is because a lot of adland believes their job is to make ads to solve problems rather than embracing the possibilities of creativity … however I recently saw something that reminded me the difference between great design and great creativity.

Good isn’t it?

Captures the pain, sadness and horror of the terrorist attack in New Zealand in such a gentle, tender, authentic way.

You see what this work tells me is that while great design communicates a single thought with great clarity, great creativity communicates a 1000 feelings with great emotion.

As much as we need more great design, we also need more great creativity in our lives too.

That’s down to us.

What we do. What we fight for. What we protect.



Together We Can Make It Better …

I know I said there’d be no posts while I’m away, but this is important.

As many of you know, a few weeks ago I wrote about a management style where the goal appears to be to systematically destroy the confidence and self-worth of their employees.

While I suggested a few possible reasons for their approach, the reality is – intentional or not – what they’re doing is abuse, pure and simple.

I am well placed to say this because – as I also wrote in the post – I had once been a victim of it.

Well that post hit a big nerve because within 72 hours, it had been shared thousands of times on Twitter and I received over 250 stories of abuse from people who previously thought they were alone in facing this cruel and debilitating experience.

I must admit I was initially shocked how many people had been affected until I remembered the reason this topic is so rarely talked about is because one of the ways the abusers get away with it is they make the victim feel so worthless, they believe it’s all their fault and so keep quiet out of shame for their supposed inadequacies.

Reading so many stories of pain made me both very sad and very angry and I knew right them that I wanted to do something about it, but the reality is I didn’t know what I could do.

Then I got an email from someone I used to work with …

Rather than tell me they had gone through a similar situation at work – or even their thoughts on my post – they asked if what I’d written was about them.

After telling them that if they feel guilt, then maybe they needed to take a look at how they conducted themselves [because at no point had I mentioned any names or places in my post] I then realised there was a way I could try and help stop this situation happening to others.

Let me introduce you to a site I’ve set up called Corporate Gaslighting.

Corporate Gaslighting [available at TheyTriedToKillMeButI.Live] is my attempt to try and stop this slow, systematic abuse from bad management while also hoping to help those who have been victims of it.

The goal is simple, but hard.

Simple because all I want to do is fill it with people’s [anonymous] stories of their abuse.

Hard because I know how damaging these experiences are and how survival often means burying them deep down inside and kidding yourself they don’t exist … even though you know very well they do and they’re eating you alive.

But the benefits will hopefully be worth it for two key reasons.

For management … my hope is they come and read the stories to be reminded of the responsibility they have for the people they manage. And if they end up reading something they think is specifically about them … then maybe it will force them to look at their actions and behaviours and – for their sake – start to change them.

For victims … my hope is that by either writing their story or reading others, they’ll not only realise they’re not alone in this slow, viscous destruction of self-confidence, but the reasons for it happening have absolutely nothing to do with them and all to do with their managers. If I achieve this, my hope is it helps removes the stigma of guilt and failure we are all made to feel we brought on ourselves … because then it will remove the power abusive managers have over us … allowing us start to valuing ourselves again and [hopefully] giving us the strength to take action rather than only take the abuse

But none of this can happen without stories which is why this post is directing people to the site where they can learn how they can get involved to help themselves and help others.

Corporate Gaslighting isn’t about revenge. It’s about change, help and encouragement.

With that in mind, it has been designed to be a safe place to be vulnerable.

No names. No comments. No judgement.

What happens next is up to you.

I am just here to help.

Thank you.

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