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


Everything Good Starts At Home …

As I’ve mentioned many, many times, my parents drilled into me the importance of living a life of fulfillment not contentment.

It took me a long time to truly understand what they meant by that, but when I did, it was a revelation.

It is behind so many of the decisions I’ve made in my life.

From moving to so many different countries.

Starting cynic and Sunshine.

Right through to – hopefully – being the father and husband my wife and son thoroughly deserve.

This last one is especially important.

Not just because I love them and want them to know my love, but because at the end of the day – if the things I’m doing away from them doesn’t ultimately benefit them, it’s a waste of time.

When I was a child, my Dad would tell me why it was so important to love the work you did.

His basic premise was that if you’re going to be away from your family so much because of work, you better be doing something you love because nothing would be so insulting than to be away from them doing a job you hated.

That has stuck with me and while I’ve never hated any of the companies I’ve worked for – I’m always aware that once I have more bad days than good [or, in the case of Wieden, more bad polluted Shanghai days, than good] it’s probably time to start exploring what is out there that intrigues me.

Now, through a bunch of luck, these changes have come with greater titles and responsibilities … and I’ve never minded that, but it’s also never been my core motivation. Not because I don’t have ambitions, but I’ve always found the greatest joy being part of something that creates something.

I used to say that if I was to come back again, I’d love to be an architect because that way I could do work that outlived me … then I had my son.

Being a Dad has been one of the most amazing experiences in my life.

I’m ashamed to admit this was not something I was truly aware of, initially.

But now, thanks to the brilliance of my wife, I am able to see that I have helped bring something into the World that will outlive me. Something that can [hopefully] be testimony to the values we value and the things we love but with a life all of its own … a life that can grow and be shaped by the possibilities in the future we may never get to witness.

Which is why as much as I want a career that continues to creatively challenge and excite me at the highest level, my most important ambition is to be a husband and Dad that is present, engaged and full of love and support for the people at home.

It might have taken my wife and son to help me truly appreciate that, but I know my parents would be happy that I finally got there.

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Happy Anniversary Mum & Dad …
March 28, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Dad, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad

Today would have been my parents 54th wedding anniversary.

Fifty four years.

Incredible.

While there was the odd up and down, overall it was a relationship we should all aspire to having.

One where each other felt loved and supported.

Where they created the time and space for each other to explore their interests as well as to discuss them. Together.

It was a relationship built on closeness … closeness of values, closeness of communication, closeness of affection.

And the result was a wonderful childhood, where the bond between the three of us was watertight.

I hope they knew how grateful I was for it.

Because the older I get, the more I realise how lucky I was for it.

So to Mum and Dad – happy anniversary – I’m glad you’re together again.

Love you.

Rx

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The Future Has Different Rules …

As I’ve written before, I didn’t go to University. I knew pretty early on that I didn’t want to continue my formal education.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t/don’t like to learn, it just means I find it far more powerful when it’s not in an academic environment.

I still remember telling my parents my decision and being slightly scared.

They desperately wanted me to go so I was worried they would see this as a slight on them – which is absolutely not what it was meant to be.

They asked for my reasons and when I told them, they said that they would support my decision as long as I applied in case I changed my mind.

So I did.

And I got accepted.

But I was still sure not going was the right thing for me, so my parents – while obviously disappointed – supported my decision and never brought it up again.

Looking back now, I feel that must have been very hard for them.

At that point, going to university was the fast track to a career and yet – as another act of their love and confidence in me – they pushed me to follow the things that genuinely interested and excited me and hoped it would all work out.

I’d say it did.

But now I’m a dad and while Otis is only 3, the thought of education looms large.

Would I do the same thing as him?

Of course I want to help equip my son in the best way possible for the life he wants to lead and one of those ways is to provide him with a good education. But the fact is I’m vehemently opposed to private education and while general access schools can be very good, the reality is private tends to offer better opportunities simply because of the funding and the facilities … which leads to an interesting conflict.

What’s best for my son versus what’s true to me?

Given Otis is so young right now, the decision will ultimately be mine and his Mum’s, but once he’s older, what do I do if he chooses a path I feel is not in his best interests.

Sure, it worked out for me, but the World was different back then and then I saw the ‘god’ instagram above – a sentiment that was absolutely reinforced by our recent America In The Raw research – and realised that by the time he has to make some choices, he will be far more aware of what he needs to do to increase his odds of success than his Mum or me.

But then I realised something else …

It’s not just about acknowledging their view of their World will be better than yours, it’s also backing your parenting.

When my Mum and Dad supported my decision, they were ultimately supporting how they raised me.

They believed the values and smarts they’d instilled in me were the right ones to enable me to make the right choices … and while I know they would have been there if it all fell down, that sense of confidence and belief probably enabled me to go to places I might otherwise not have done. Places I might not otherwise have felt I deserved to be.

And that’s why backing your team is everything.

Of course you have to instill values and standards into them, but once that’s done, you have to back them including what they think is right – even if you don’t – because if that doesn’t happen, you’re literally stopping their potential rather than liberating it.

Thank you Mum and Dad. Again.



My Dad Is In The Music …
January 16, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Anniversary, Attitude & Aptitude, Dad, Daddyhood, Death

So today is the 19th anniversary of my Dad passing away.

Every year I write how this time between him passing and now blows my mind because while in some ways, it does feel long ago, in others it feels relatively recent.

I’ve been having a number of conversations with people about death recently.

People who have lost loved ones and are struggling to cope.

And to them all, I tell them it’s OK to feel that way.

It’s normal because the situation is terrible.

I tell them how it took me until the last week of my Dad’s life to come to terms with the fact he was dying and then a subsequent 10 years to come to terms that he had gone.

I don’t say this because I want them to think they will feel this way for years – because there’s a good chance they won’t – I say this to let them know they’re not weird, or wrong or bad for feeling and thinking these things.

And while I wish the reasons for me knowing this didn’t happen, they did and I feel grateful that I’m able to acknowledge my Dad has taught me as much in his death as he did in his life.

That’s quite a gift when you come to think of it.

It means he’s still with me even though he’s been gone for 19 years.

And while I would still do anything to see him and talk to him – especially as so much has happened in the time he has gone that I’d love to hear his perspective on – I’m so, so happy the memories I have of him are now the joyous ones rather than the hardship he went through in his last few years.

One of those memories is from 1984.

I know it was that year because it revolves around the launch of Queen’s ‘The Works’ album.

Oh I was so excited. It had been a couple of years since their last album – the much maligned ‘Hot Space’ – and the reviews said this was a return to form.

Paul – my best mate – and I had been debating what the songs would be like based on the titles we had read in the Fan Club magazine and all we wanted to do was get our hands on that piece of vinyl.

Then some good news … our local radio station, Trent FM, were going to give away the album to the 10th caller on the rock show that night.

I went home and laid out all the albums on the floor in front of me – sure they were going to ask a question relating to one of their songs.

As the time for the competition came, I got more and more excited.

I tuned the stereo to 96.2FM, ready to pounce.

The question was asked, “What year did Queen write Bohemian Rhapsody?”

I knew this. I KNEW THIS.

As the DJ started playing a Queen song, I dialed the number as quickly as I could.

Engaged.

Urged on by my watching parents, I pressed redial [my Dad LOVED telephones so we always had the latest, ha] …

Engaged again.

And then, as the Queen song faded out, I heard the fatal words from the DJ that they had a winner and it obviously wasn’t me.

Gutted. Absolutely gutted.

Zoom forward the next day and I came home from school.

I came into the lounge and was preparing to watch a bit of TV when my Dad asked if he could listen to a song of his.

[The stereo was in the lounge with the TV]

Of course I said yes, and while Dad was playing with the record player, I just faffed about doing something.

But then something strange happened.

Rather than the expected operatic tones coming out the speaker, there was a drum rhythm … a semi-recognizable drum rhythm … THE DRUM RHYTHM THAT FORMED THE START OF RADIO GAGA!!!

I’m guessing the look of confusion on my face forced my Dad to hold up the album cover of Queen, ‘The Works’.

OH. MY. GOD.

Dad – and Mum – had bought it for me.

An impromptu present because they knew I loved that band with all my heart and was sad I didn’t win the competition from the night before.

It might have honestly been the first time my Dad had ever bought a popular record, but I ran up to him and gave him a huge hug and a big kiss on the cheek.

“Enjoy it” he said … and with that, he walked out the room, leaving me to bathe in the music of my favorite band.

Now don’t get me wrong, my parents were very kind and generous to me … but we never really had much cash to splash, so while they did all they could to make sure I didn’t go without, the things I got most from them was love, support and encouragement.

But here I was with an album.

And it wasn’t even my birthday.

Talk about feeling like you’ve won the lottery.

I remember that day as if it was yesterday and even now, when I listen to that album, I feel a sense of warmth from it … a sense of togetherness and love.

And it’s for that reason I’ll be listening to the album today, because I want to have that feeling again because while my parents ensured I felt their love to last a lifetime, you can always do with more.

I miss you Dad.

I miss you so, so much.

I would give anything for one day to just talk to you.

Discuss all that has happened. Discuss all that is going on in my head. Introduce you to my family. Take you to your garden.

Hold you hand and kiss your head.

It might be 19 years, but I miss you like it was yesterday.

You were the best and I’m glad Mum is with you so you are no longer alone.

Love you.

Rx

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Lessons From The Past For The Future …

It’s the last day of the first week of blog posts for the new year.Congratulations, you’ve survived.

So I thought I’d end the week on a positive.

No, a real one.

You see there was recently read a Linkedin article asking people what piece of advice they would give to their children.

Obviously this is a big, big question because ultimately, there’s so many things you could say and want to say.

But then I realized the advice I got from my parents is still probably the best advice I could give.

Advice that not only prepares you for the life ahead, but prepares you to get the most out of what is there and who you are – which, when you come to think of it, is probably the best advice of all.

So with that, I pass onto Otis what my beloved parents passed on to me.

+ A life of fulfillment is more enjoyable than a life of contentment.

+ Be interested in what others are interested in.

+ Make your own mistakes not someone else’s.

I might not have managed to do them all, all the time, but those pieces of advice have helped me enjoy a life that – let’s face it – I don’t deserve to have, which might be the one thing I’ve done that my parents would be the happiest about.

So to Mum and Dad – thank you – you might not realize it, but you’ve given your grandson one of the most valuable bits of advice he’ll ever have.

Have a great weekend.



Perfect Days In My Mind …
November 3, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Fatherhood, Jill, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

Today would have been my Mum’s 85th birthday.

Eighty Five.

I would have flown in to see her. Probably, surprise her.

I did that a couple of times.

Once when I was living in Australia and once when I was in Singapore.

And on both occasions – when she went outside supposedly to help my best friend Paul bring something into her house, and when I hid behind a huge bouquet of birthday flowers – the surprise on her face was utterly adorable.

And because of those occasions, I know what would have happened if I surprised her today.

First she would have stopped dead in her tracks … trying to work out how I was in front of her when she thought I was on the other side of the planet.

Then she would have had a huge smile on her face as she walked towards me to give me a huge hug and a big kiss on the cheeks.

Finally she would tell me how happy and surprised she was, before saying she had to go and make up my bed immediately.

And even though it would be her special day, she would want the focus to be on me and we would have a little back-and-forth as I would insist I was there to celebrate her, not the other way round.

And I would win – not because she liked having a fuss being made of her, in fact she hated it – but because she knew I was happy when she let me make a fuss over her and me being happy made her happy too.

Just to be clear, her version of what ‘a fuss’ was, wasn’t a fuss at all.

I’m talking about having dinner together and talking and just enjoying each others company.

And while Mum would love it, I know she’d be thinking she was taking me away from other things I could be doing so I’d have to remind her I was there for her and we would laugh and hold hands and say how lovely it was to be together.

I would give anything to have that happen today.

Especially as this time, I would have Jill and Otis with me.

And that would make her think it was her best birthday ever.

Because she would get to watch Otis run and laugh around her little garden.

And get to hold his little hand while she went around telling him what all the flowers were.

And get to hear him say “thank you” after he’d wolfed down the pasta she would have lovingly made for him.

And while this all happened, I’d see her radiate with energy and love.

Filled with a spirit that only meeting your grandson for the first time can give.

And while she would desperately try to stop herself kissing Otis’ cheeks over and over again for fear of making him uncomfortable, every interaction would provide her with a joy she would not have felt for a very long time.

I wish this was how today played out.

I wish this was not just happening in my mind.

But it is and while I’d prefer the real thing, I am happy I can picture this in such detail.

It makes me still feel close to my beloved Mum.

The kindest, most generous and considerate person I’ve ever met.

And while I know she can not read this, a little part of me wishes she could.

Because I want her to know the love I have for her is as strong as it ever was.

And this is a small way of showing her that.

As will be the little thing I’ll be doing at work today in her honour.

Happy birthday my dearest Mum.

I miss you, love you and hope Dad is giving you an extra hug today.

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We Are All The Same. We Are All Different.

So for the past 2 days I’ve been writing a lot about equality.

It’s a subject very close to my heart.

To be honest, it always has been but being a Father has raised it’s importance.

In some ways, having Otis grow up in China made things easier as it meant he was exposed to different cultures from day 1 but I didn’t want to take that for granted, so when we knew we were going to move to the US, I spoke to a friend of mine – a Brit, who is black and lives in the US – about the [thankfully small] issues his kids faced being in the US and what he thought parents should teach their kids to stop that happening.

His response was phenomenal.

In essence there were 2 parts.

The first was the obvious one – treat every person from every culture the same way – with respect, appreciation and consideration.

So far so good … but it was the next bit that really made an impact.

Don’t tell Otis different cultures are all the same.

Don’t ‘whitewash’ our differences, acknowledge them … enrich Otis with understanding about different cultures history, struggles and values.

Or said another way … celebrate the differences but treat everyone the same.

Brilliant.

Absolutely brilliant.

In a World where so much hate is built simply on ‘being different’, helping break down those walls through knowledge and understanding is even more powerful than just saying ‘don’t see the colour, see the person’.

Of course it’s vital to treat people the same, but understanding the background isn’t just a mark of respect – it’s a way to celebrate strengths and understand behaviours that you may otherwise judge for no other reason than your own in-built prejudices.

So among Otis’ books on animals and dinosaurs and Peppa fucking Pig, he has books that explore the cultures associated with Africa [‘Africa Is Not A Country’ & ‘Sundiata’], Mexico [‘Tequila Worm’] and the Middle East [‘My Fathers Shop’].

Now I appreciate some people may think we are going a bit over-the-top with this.

After all, Otis is only 2 and a half.

But, as I have written before, I’ve learnt not to care what others think.

I’ve learnt people often mistake being a parent with being an ‘expert’ on kids.

I’ve also learnt kids develop so many of their behaviours by being masters of mimicking how their parents behave.

[Jill hopes she can stop him fall victim to ironic t-shirts and Birkenstocks]

At the end of the day, we believe we have a responsibility to him – and society as a whole – to encourage the values and beliefs that can enable him to be a good human being … someone who doesn’t just contribute to society in terms of what he achieves, but in terms of what he helps others achieve.

Of course we know he will face challenges.

Peer pressure. Unexpected circumstances. The allure of mischief.

And while we can’t dictate how he handles those things, we hope we can prepare him to deal with them in a way where he can hold his head high … which is why on top of being loving, supporting parents, we will buy him books on understanding different cultures, give him dolls to play with and encourage him to play with his beloved pink kitchen.

Being a Father is one of the most amazing things that has happened in my life.

I feel embarrassed to admit I had no idea how good it would be … and while being a good parent is basically a matter of trying things with good intent, I want to say a big thank you to Karrelle Dixon … because he may not realise it, but he made a big difference to how my little boy will grow up. Not in terms of respect, but in terms of understanding … and when you think about it, that’s one of the most wonderful gifts you can give anyone.

I hope my parents would think we’re doing good with their grandson.

I think they would.