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

Resist The Pressure To Reduce Yourself To Others Standards …

Many years ago, I wrote a training guide called, How to ask questions without being a bitch.

It happened because a junior account service colleague at Wieden didn’t know how to get clients to acknowledge her and the questions she had.

This was not because she wasn’t good, but because of gender stereotypes.

Well recently, I had a similar experience, except this time it was a brilliant strategist that a mutual friend of ours had introduced me to.

In my time in LA, I’ve met a whole host of strategists and – as I wrote a while back – many have left me feeling indifferent.

But not this person.

She was more than one of the good ones, she was one of the best.

Sharp as hell.

Unique – yet well thought out – perspectives.

A genuine love of being creative in interesting ways.

Anyway, as we were talking, I said I’d be really interested in hearing – or reading – her perspective on the future of storytelling. For some reason, she said yes and a few weeks I received a great paper with a great perspective.

Except there was one thing I didn’t like.

“The surprising part of this was the fact that my mentor, a white man, erudite and well-known in his profession, cared about my opinion. To give you some background – I’m in my 30s, a mixed bag of races, city kid, raised by a single mom type through and through. I’m a decade into my career and this was the first time I was asked to share my perspective by someone that, for all intents and purposes, matters.”

I hate it.

I hate that this was the first time she felt she was asked for her opinion.

I hate it for the shit she has obviously had to put up with in her life.

I hate the baggage that has weighed her down.

I hate the low expectations she had been forced to endure.

I hate the bosses she’s had that have told her to follow orders rather than encourage her to find her own voice.

And while she finished her paper with a resolve to not let this shit quieten her ever again, I’m still angry that a great talent has had to put up with shit designed to keep her down rather than lift her up, which is why I ask her – and any other planner who relates to this situation – to embrace my paraphrasing of the advice comedian Michelle Wolf received when she was about to take the stage at the White House Correspondence’s dinner, at the top of this page.

Burn it all down.

The Joy Of Age …

Growing older is a pain-in-the ass.

Even if your mind is still young and active, your body is losing its energy and gaining a bunch of aches and pains.

Is it any wonder so many people spend so much money trying to pointlessly fight it?

But there are some advantages to age.

One of them is not giving a fuck anymore.

I don’t mean that in the sense of not caring about people or progress or learning. I mean it in the sense of realising how little of the stuff we passionately believe are important are actually important.

And to me, this is enlightening and liberating all at the same time.

It enables you to see what can actually change stuff.

What can actually make a difference.

Of course, being old doesn’t automatically mean you have this ability – just like being young doesn’t automatically disqualify you from having this ability – but without doubt, experience gives you an ability to see through the clutter and bullshit and that is most definitely a gift.

Over the years I’ve written this blog, one person I’ve constantly referenced is Sir Ken Robinson … more specifically, his incredible TedTalk about creativity.

One of the reasons I love it so much is that he helps us see all the layers of bullshit we have added to the education system.

Layers that ironically undermine kids ability to learn rather than enhance it.

Well recently I saw another speech that asks us to question stuff.

Stuff we think is important but could be more of a hinderance.

However instead of coming from a very funny academic, it comes from a very funny comedian.

John Cleese.

Now of course this shouldn’t come as a surprise because as I wrote a long time ago, comedians have incredible insight, however what Cleese offers is more than that … he challenges us to consider how much we undermine our potential by allowing things we think are important to interfere with the things that really are.

And while this brilliant stream of consciousness explains the importance of clarity and creativity, he gives us something more than that.

He reminds us that getting old might not be as bad as we may often think.

As long as we live a life of experiences rather than comfort.

Which is another lesson worth remembering.

Laugh Yourself Wise …
October 16, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comedians

A very long time ago, I wrote a post about why I sometimes work with comedians.

I don’t mean ‘bad ad people’, I literally mean comedians.

Anyway, the reason I write this is because I recently watched an episode of Louie C K’s television show and came across a scene that was not only funny but was moving and incredibly revealing.

I love it.

I think it’s fantastic.

Apart from the writing, the other thing I love are the pauses.

Big, long pauses of nothingness.

To be honest, that technique used to be the domain of British drama … where directors appreciated a moment of silence could sometimes say more than a flurry of words, but over time – in these highly commercialised times – that trait has been lost so it’s wonderful to see it again in all its power and glory.

But back to the scene.

The reason I like it so much is not just because it reveals what truly goes on in the minds and hearts of overweight people [yes, it’s focused on women, but it also says a lot about men – especially middle-aged, overweight men], but highlights how many brands just get it wrong when they talk about health and vitality.

Hell, even when they’re trying to guilt-trip people into action, the points they raise are still a few degrees off truly connecting with where people’s heads are at.

The insecurities they face go way beyond how others judge them – it’s more how they feel they’ll never really get out of life what they believed they could … or should … especially compared to so many others around them.

Is this right?

Is this fair?

Is this changeable?

They are questions that – in some ways – don’t matter, because it’s not a rational argument, it’s almost entirely emotional.

As much as I hated Sex and the City, the one thing I definitely appreciated was their acknowledgement of insecurity.

That behind the face – whether it was young, fresh and successful or old, wrinkled and more humble – were opinions, thoughts and views that ravaged beliefs, attitude and confidence.

Or said another way.

Behind every face – regardless of how you may appear to the outside World – are dirty little secrets that conspire to continually fill you with doubt and anxiety.

You might be great at hiding from it. You may be well versed in ignoring it. But – as the wonderful Dove campaign from last year showed, you are never able to get away from it.

Of course knowing this offers agencies and brands 2 choices.

1. Exploit it for commercial gain.
2. Show how you can get passed it for commercial gain.

But as this sketch shows, at least to me, it’s not necessarily about highlighting the pain or showing the solution, sometimes the greatest thing you can do is simply offer a little gesture – like holding someone’s hand – because that shows you understand the situation without having to highlight the situation and for some, that can mean more to them than a World of [false] promises and hope.

As men – and seemingly brands and agencies – fail to understand time and time again, sometimes it’s not about offering a fix, it’s just offering an ear.