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


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.

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When Science Fiction Becomes Science Fact …

So Elon Musk’s SpaceX company successfully launched his Falcon Heavy rocket.

I was interested for many reasons, most notably for the fact that when he launched his previous rocket – I saw it but didn’t know what it was, so my brain got bent out of shape as I tried to work out whether it was an alien invasion, a Korean rocket or just a Hollywood stunt.

As it did to many others too.

For the record, to make sure Otis wasn’t scared by his parents and odd-parents reaction, I told him it was Santa doing a ‘trial Christmas run’.

He didn’t believe it … which is impressive because at that stage, none of us knew what was actually going on.

But this launch was different.

Bigger. More innovative. More spectacle.

And as amazing as all that is, what I found the most fascinating was how they made the booster rockets return back to earth.

IN UNISON!!!

I’m not saying this just because it’s the sort of thing you only expect to see in a JJ Abrams movie, but because by doing that – he just reduced the cost of space exploration from NASA’s billion dollar a flight price tag, to about 90 million.

Incredible.

But there is something even more wonderful.

No, I’m not talking about the fact it’s made me write the most topical post in this blogs history, I’m talking about how it has reignited the imagination of people around the World.

Shifting the aspirations of tech from making a billion dollar app to literally changing the potential future of the World.

Of course you need a lot of money to do that, but everyone has to start somewhere and as long as Musk continues to show how to do this with responsibility and humour for the benefit of the planet [unlike how he conducts his personal life], then I think he has just introduced humanity to an incredibly exciting chapter in it’s development.

And boy do we need that.



A University Ad That Doesn’t Act Like A University Ad. Or At Least Not A Typical One …

University drives me nuts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of education but as I’ve written many times before [ie: here, here and here] they’ve gone from being a place for learning, debate and discussion, to being a place that – according to all their advertising – wants to be a production line for the rich and successful in business.

From we to me, as it were.

The only thing that is worse than this is universities focus on profit rather than learning.

I’ve said this many times, but I find this horrific.

Education is an investment in more than the individual, but the country as a whole.

Their knowledge helps countries grow and prosper, but by governments ignoring that and encouraging Universities to look at what they do in terms of ‘how much can you make out of people’, everyone suffers.

And I include universities in that statement because there will come a time where people realise the value of their degree – especially in comparison to the debt it means they incur – will ultimately make them question if it was worth the effort.

And yet the universities keep pumping out ads saying they’re for the elite.

The next generation of business leaders.

The entrepreneurs and power brokers.

Even though that’s obviously bollocks given how many people go to university versus become the next Zuckerberg etc etc.

Which is why I liked this ad for the University of Pheonix.

Yes it taps into my sentimental bullshit, but I like it because it’s not about supreme business success, but giving you choices.

In a World where working in one industry for the rest of your life is becoming obsolete, the idea of preparing people to be able to adapt is a good one.

Because we are entering a period where for the majority of people, success will be about survival – which is tragic but that’s what happens when Governments view the younger generation as a cost rather than an investment in everyone’s brighter future.



Finally, Something Useful On This Blog …

Yes it’s a national holiday in America and yes, I said there would be no post today … but the thought of you not having your daily dose of my blog joy broke my heart so I am doing this for you.

I know, I should be knighted.

Ahem.

Anyway, the wonderful Mark Sareff has written a book.

I’ve written about Mark before because apart from being whip smart, he’s also one of the nicest people on the planet.

[Though I appreciate being being one of my friends and mentors may undermine that declaration a bit]

Anyway, while Mark may not be the best known names in planning, he is – in my opinion – the best planner in the industry and so anything by him is going to be interesting and useful and that is exactly what his book is.

It’s full of fantastic strategy nuggets of awesomeness based on real-world experiences.

It’s fun and quick to read and best of all, it’s free so if you are at all interested in smart thinking without the intellectual bullshit, then download it here … it just may be the first useful thing I’ve ever done for anyone on here.

Right, back to my holiday.



Let Them Learn, Don’t Teach …

As many of you know, I spent 5 years trying to pass a bunch of teacher qualification so I could one day be a lecturer at MIT.

It should have taken 2.

And while I [eventually] passed and have done the odd lesson here and there, the reality is I find the whole thing very difficult.

Part of that is because I’m a bit thick, part of that is because the students I’ve worked with are ridiculously smart [one is 21 and re-engineering the pace maker for fucks sake] … but the other part is that so much of the ‘higher education industry’ seems to be focused on teaching, rather than on helping students learn.

Of course, both of those are interconnected, but for me, it’s about the core motivation.

If it’s about ‘teaching’ … then your focus is communicating the curriculum within the time allowed.

If it’s about ‘learning’ … then your focus is on enabling the students to grasp concepts that they can then use with their own free will.

I am absolutely in the latter camp, which is why I’ve found MIT a bit of a struggle and why I’ve found The Kennedys such a joy.

Of course it doesn’t help there are systems in place where the students ‘grade’ the teacher.

Seriously, how stupid is that?

I appreciate there’s some bad teachers out there, but to give students the authority to pass judgement based on their experience is ridiculous.

Of course, in a perfect world they would be able to do this objectively, but as we all know, so much commentary these days is from a subjective point of view so you could be a great teacher who is given a bad grade by students simply because you didn’t give them the grades they desired because they didn’t warrant them.

Now I’ve made a distinction between higher education and more junior – but that’s not to say they don’t suffer the same issues – but the reason I write this is because of that article at the top of this post.

Despite the author inferring they found it educational and inspirational, I’m not sure that approach would be allowed today.

I appreciate it is fairly radical, but handled correctly, it not only helps students learn, but it opens a debate that would help them truly understand.

To me, that is what education is about …

Giving students the tools to challenge, destroy and liberate stuff … because if we don’t give them that, what hope has society to move forward, let alone stand up against those who wish to do us harm?



The Last Week Of 2016 …

OK, so the title of this post is wrong given we have almost 3 weeks left before it’s 2017, but this is going to be the last week for this blog because [1] I’m going to be in LA all week [be afraid George, Pete & Baz … be very afraid] and [2] I can’t be arsed to write anymore.

Frankly, I can’t believe how quick this year has gone. It’s been stupendously quick.

And yet, when I look back at the past 12 months, I see a lot has happened … and I’m not just talking about my holidays.

From Bowie dying.

The worst Toyota campaign in years.

My favourite quote of the year.

A time of self realisation.

My best friends penis. [Hey, it wouldn’t be this blog if I didn’t reference that]

The power of design.

My beloved Mum’s first anniversary.

The launch of The Kennedys in Shanghai.

[With updates on whats going on here]

My failed April fool.

A reminder of the importance of empathy.

The best Rock n’ Roll mash-up. Ever.

China showing that for all their progress, a lot of it is only on the surface … here and here.

How Cannes is bringing the worst out of adland.

My amazing June consisting of an amazing conference in Paris, my wife’s birthday and a phenomenal holiday in too many places.

An idea that should be celebrated for it’s humanity.

My argument about what the ad industry needs to do to be relevant to the next generation of creative class.

… and recognising what new creative talent actually is.

Parenting.

The importance of fearlessness.

Saying goodbye to a couple of people who were very important to me. But only goodbye in the ‘I’m leaving Wieden’ sense. Ros and Paula.

As you can see, there’s been a lot that’s happened.

OK, so some you may agree with, some you won’t … but it’s important [for me, at least] to see it because the speed this year has gone, it would be easy for me to convince myself nothing has happened.

Recently I read an interview with ex-Take That star, Robbie Williams, that kind of summed up my attitude to working.

I know … I know … it’s Robbie Williams, but the fact is I have always liked him.

I’ve liked his attitude and his honesty – even when he’s ended up being screwed over by what he said – but for me, his viewpoint that ‘if the brain stops working, it’s all over’ feels very relevant to me.

You may not believe it, you may say there’s a lot of evidence to challenge it … but it’s something that feels incredibly true to me.

So true that 2017 is going to see quite a few changes for me … all in a bid to make sure my brain remains energised and exercised so that I don’t need a blog post to remind me that my days have been filled with stuff that has been interesting and exciting.

But that stuff will be discussed later, so until then, enjoy the final 5 days of this blog in 2016.



Education Matters …
January 25, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Context, Culture, Education, Embarrassing Moments

It’s Monday.

You’ve had a good weekend and now you’re back to work.

Same. Same. Same. Same. Same.

Being the kind and generous guy I am, I want to help.

Replace that frown with a smile.

God, I’m so kind.

But the reality is I’m not going to do it … a 10 year old kid is.

What am I going on about?

Read this.

Yes I know it’s not really a laughing matter.

Yes I know teachers were quick – and stupid – to be so hasty.

Yes I know the Police were a bit heavy handed.

Yes I know this is the sort of paranoia the media have gleefully created.

But god, it brought a smile to my face.

And the moral of the story?

Study hard.

Especially if you live in Accrington, Lancashire.

Have a good week.