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


Successful People Can Tell Whatever Story They Want …

Whether you like him or hate him, Gary Vaynerchuk has made a very big impression in a very small period of time.

As with anyone in this position, he has attracted his unfair share of fans and haters.

A few weeks ago, there was an article that challenged the story he tells people.

Not just in terms of it’s message [Anyone can achieve their goals if they’re prepared to work hard for it] but his background.

As we all know, there are always 3 sides to any story – your side, their side and the truth – and while it is true many people who have dreams and work hard DON’T achieve their goals, I felt it was pretty harsh of the author to pick on that given that there’s literally no other way to achieve your goals … just some are lucky and some [most] aren’t.

But this is where I do agree with author of the article, because they correctly highlight ‘successful people get to tell any story they want’.

I find it amazing how many successful people reimagine history.

It’s not hard to work out that their goal is to ensure people view their achievements through the lens of their unique brilliance – whether that is attitudinal or through their acts.

Of course both of those elements would have had a part to play in their success, but to not acknowledge the luck they enjoyed is to create a narrative that is as deluded as most of the Linkedin write-ups I read.

That said, not everyone is like that …

Many, many years ago I met a very, very successful man.

He had made his fortune in air conditioning and when I asked him what he felt he owed his success to, he said, “1976”.

Basically, he had owned a small firm specialising in fans and air con. Business was OK but not setting the World alight until the summer of 1976, where the UK experienced it’s hottest summer on record.

In that summer, he created the foundation for his future fortune.

It wasn’t that people just wanted a way to immediately cool themselves down, it made companies realize they may need to have a solution for future summers in the office.

Yes, he had worked very, very hard during this time – and subsequent years – but as he said to me, he had always been working hard … it was the good fortune of extreme weather that made his efforts experience greater rewards.

In other words, luck.

And while he still downplayed the effort he put in to be successful, I remember even back then how refreshing it was to hear someone being humble about their success rather than claiming it was down to their unique abilities and vision.

Which is why I still follow the advice of my dad, which was always listen to the opinions/advice/experience of others but remember a good percentage of what they say – even if not intentional – is probably what they wish they did rather than what they actually did.

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When You Stop Being Paranoid, You Stop Being Competitive …

Back in 2007, Forbes magazine ran this cover …

2007 is also the year Apple launched the iPhone, a product – lets not forget – that was ridiculed by Nokia executives.

While hindsight is 20:20, you can see why they were skeptical.

Here was a computer company entering a category they had absolutely no heritage or expertise in.

A computer company who only a few years ago, was on its knees after launching a plethora of badly thought-out products.

But while those are, on face value, two fair perspectives … they were blinkered to the changes that were going on both in tech and society.

Blinkered or arrogant.

The irony of business – especially our business – is that it needs a healthy dose of confidence and paranoia.

Confidence to be secure in what it believes in.

Paranoia to never let them feel settled with where they are.

The moment you think you’ve made it, you can be pretty sure you won’t be there for long.

When I was at Wieden, I could always tell who had the potential to be there for the long haul by their attitude.

In essence, those who thought getting the job was the achievement were not going to last.

Not always, but generally … because Wieden’s brilliance isn’t just about the work it produces, but the belief of what creativity can do and the ambition to see where it can be taken.

It’s similar to what I believe made Apple so powerful back in 2008.

Ambitious.

Tenacious.

Restless.

Relentless.

Stubborn.

Naive.

… and, of course, paranoid.

Not in terms of who gets there first – though that is always in the back of their mind – but who gets to do it best.

And that’s why I love hiring people who have a point to prove.

A chip on their shoulder.

A dirty little secret.

Because in a World where the smart people can perfect what we already have, it’s the freaks who change where we go.



To My Beloved Otis. Always Run Towards Happiness ….

Following on from yesterday’s post, I want to talk about the dismay I feel about the Australian government asking for a referendum on whether gay marriage is acceptable.

What offends me even more than the fact this shouldn’t even be an issue is that when there are issues that should have input from the nation – from immigration to military intervention – the decisions are made without any level of consultation.

It makes absolutely no sense, unless the government think gay marriage is more dangerous than defending Australia’s shores.

Actually, they probably think it is.

One of the reasons this issue bothers me is that on top of everything else, my son Otis has an Australian passport.

OK, he also has a British and Canadian one … but should he wish to settle in Australia when he’s older, I want him to have all the rights heterosexuals have, which is why I hope, should he ever need reassurance, he see’s this message that I wrote about marriage equality a while back and knows his Mum and Dad love him and will always support him in his quest for happiness and fulfillment.



Where You End Up Is Never Just Because Of One Journey …
September 19, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Confidence, Culture, Emotion, Empathy, Management

A long time ago I wrote about how I had contacted everyone who I felt had positively influenced my career.

I called them ‘pivotal people’.

I wanted to thank them for their help and let them know that I believe anything I achieve is because of them – even if they had only been in my life for a short time.

I’ve got to admit I don’t know why I did it, but it felt right even if it ended up confusing most of the recipients.

The reason I’m writing this is because I recently read a fantastic article about the Chairman of Huddersfield Town football club.

Now Chairman of Football Clubs are rarely praised – especially in national newspapers – but Dean Hoyle is not your average Football Chairman.

When your team get into the Premiership for the first time in their existence, most Chairman would probably sit back and bask in the glow of adoration, but not Dean.

First of all he honoured a promise he made to the clubs diehard fans that if they kept buying season tickets during his tenure, he would only charge them £100 if they got to the Premiership.

Now you might think he only said that because he never thought it would happen, but not only did he keep his promise [and for reference, the cheapest season ticket available for any club in the Premiership is £299] by offering that deal, he ensured he built a dialogue with the diehard fans … the ones who genuinely bleed for the club.

But he did something more than that.

He did this:

For the record, Wagner is the current manager who helped the team get to the Premiership, but Mick Buxton – the man the Chairman called to thank – was the manager of Huddersfield at the end of the 1978-79 season, when they were in the old 4th division.

Buxton guided Huddersfield to the third tier with a swashbuckling style that captured the imagination of the 12 year old Dean Hoyle who years later, used some of his riches from selling his greetings card business to buy his boyhood club.

What Dean did is not just an act of wonderfulness – delivered with typical Northern wit – it’s the acknowledgement that the places we go in life can be influenced by many things and being aware of that not only means you may have a more adventurous life, but become a better leader.

Dean Hoyle, thank you for being ace. May Huddersfield continue to prove the doubters wrong.

Read the whole article here.



The Shanghai Kennedys Graduate …

So last week – on Founders Day – we saw The Kennedys Shanghai graduate after 9 months of trials, tribulations and torture [their words, not mine]

What an amazing journey … for them as well as for me.

I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t really know what I was taking on when I agreed to launch The Kennedys – Wieden’s creative talent incubator – but it has proved to be one of the best decisions of my life.

It’s been amazing.

Actually that doesn’t do it justice, it has been one of the most rewarding, exciting and creatively fulfilling times of my career.

Seriously.

Seeing these guys use their creative talent to brilliantly solve an amazing array of radically diverse challenges was an incredible privilege but the work they created was only part of the reward, because I also got to see how their journey affected all of them individually.

Watching them discover – and start to believe – in their own, individual creative voice was brilliant.

Not just in terms of how it affected the ideas they came up with, but also in how they looked at every challenge given to them.

At the beginning of The Kennedys, there was a sense of cautiousness – a feeling of concern they might do something wrong – but by the end, they didn’t give a shit about what others may think and had the confidence to go full force with whatever they believed.

Of course to get to that stage wasn’t easy … and yet the way we did it was.

In essence there were 2 parts.

The first was we needed the guys to feel they were in an environment where they were safe to be vulnerable.

Our view was that if they ever sensed they may be laughed at, criticised or ridiculed then we’d never get them to explore or experiment with where their creativity could go.

To achieve this, we told them we would never say ‘no’ to their ideas.

We could challenge them … we could ask as many questions as we like … but we could never, ever tell them their idea ‘is wrong’.

The second part was to give the guys challenges that made them vulnerable.

Part of this was to prove The Kennedys was a safe place for them to express themselves without limitation, but the other part was we knew the only way they’d discover the power of their truth was if they experienced real vulnerability and came out of it unscathed.

To do this, the first 3 months of assignments were made up of self expression exercises … from making a film about how you felt when you were made to dye your hair white, to creating art work about eating a live octopus to writing a resume of all your failures and an incredible amount of things in-between.

Now, I’ve got to be honest, a lot of people – including The Kennedys – felt I only did this so I could satisfy my evilness, but that is not the case at all.

When you see the creativity in the work they created later in the course – such as the takeaway coffee cup that turns into a frisbee for a local cafe that attracts lots of dog owners … to the Superhero toothbrush glove that makes 5 year old kids want to actually brush their teeth … to the innovation behind a Nike Shanghai Marathon campaign [to name but a few] – I’m pretty certain it was their comfortableness in their vulnerability that got them to this sort of work.

Nothing sums their confidence like their final assignment.

We asked them to come up with something they could leave at Wieden+Kennedy that defined what they had learnt over the course of The Kennedys.

In a perfect world, it would act as a legacy for them as well as an inspiration for everyone in the agency.

It didn’t take them long to sum up their 9 months experience with this turn of phrase …

“The freedom of creativity”

I liked that. I liked it a lot.

Their belief that creativity was about freedom and that freedom meant that any challenge could be met in interesting and intriguing ways was almost the perfect outtake from 9 months of bizarre and wonderful.

And so what did they do with their freedom of creativity?

This …

Yes … it’s a Street Fighter arcade game, but not like any Street Fighter arcade game.

You see the guys decided to reprogram the machine so it featured them as the fighters and included all their experiences over the 9 months of The Kennedy’s.

The characters.
The locations.
The challenges.

They’re all in there.

Including me … where my ‘special move’ is the F-Bomb, and a Birkenstock comes down to destroy everything in its way.

Cheeky bastards.

Someone at Wieden Tokyo asked me to explain what it was like and I said the best way to describe it was South Park on speed and LSD.

Seriously, it’s utterly mental and chaotic and for that alone, it perfectly sums up the journey and spirit of The Kennedys, let alone the way they used creativity to solve the challenge in the freshest of ways. 

But while it is absolutely awesome … what’s even better is the effort it took to make it.

I’m not talking about sourcing the game or even re-programming the game – though they were difficult in themselves – I’m talking about what they did to make sure it was all perfect.

For example, to ensure they could match all the animation of the ‘fighters’, everyone had to take thousands of photographs of themselves – in front of a green screen – in various poses.

THOUSANDS!!!

Then they needed to photoshop it all.

And then animate it.

And that’s before we get to all the other stuff like the background scenes … the animated story sequences and the re-design of the game cabinet.

At Wieden we have this phrase Fail Harder.

It basically means that if you are going to fail, make it because you were going after an audacious goal.

A goal that few would ever dare to try because they would see the obstacles rather than the opportunity.

This game – which they only had 3 weeks to pull off – is the perfect encapsulation of Fail Harder.

Except they didn’t fail.

In fact, it’s so good, I asked them to make another machine so I can have one for home. 

I’m thrilled they said yes … Jill, a little less so. Hahahaha.

Portland might have their “Fail Harder” wall but Shanghai has their “Kingdom of Chaos” Arcade game.  

I am in awe of these guys, I truly am.

7 strangers.
Over 9 months.
Given 21 individual assignments.
Producing over 140 pieces of work.

I couldn’t be prouder.

I couldn’t be more thrilled.

I couldn’t feel more honoured to have been a part of it and to have these talented guys in my life … even if they don’t exactly feel the same way, ha.

Of all the great things I’ve done at Wieden+Kennedy, this has undoubtedly been one of the best.

I’d go so far as to say it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

So before I end this post, I’d just like to say a big thank you to the guys who helped make this a very special time in my life.

+ The Magnificent Seven … Carmen, Felix, Griet, Matteo, Meng, Quentin and Wenshu
+ Juni Zhu, the Patron Saint of Saints
+ Arlene Lu and Maxito, the dynamic duo and table tennis losers
+ Patrick Rockwell, also known as the fixer
+ Bryan & Yang
+ Azsa
+ Stone
+ Grainne
+ Nike
+ Boom Boom Bagels
+ Jill Barker
+ Paula Bloodworth, Northy and Marula
+ Yvonne … for never raising an eyebrow when we put in our weird expenses
+ Kim Papworth, Joe Staples and Richard Turley
+ John Rowe and Ryan Johnson in Tokyo
+ Blake Harrop, Alvaro Sotomayor and Judd Caraway in Amsterdam
+ Tony Davidson and Ryan Fisher in London
+ Vitor Abud in Sao Paulo
+ Wieden HR who didn’t say anything even when we made The Kennedys do very weird shit
+ Everyone at Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai
+ Everyone who was part of the Kennedys in Amsterdam, London & Sao Paulo
+ Everyone who applied for the journey
… and finally David Kennedy [and Dan Wieden] who let this thing happen because on April 1st 1982, you started a company that believed in the freedom of creativity

If you ever have the chance to be in – or part of – The Kennedys in the future, whether that is in Shanghai or any of the other Wieden+Kennedy offices, grasp it with both hands.

It will change your life.

It did for me and I’m pretty sure it did for the 7 guys who were our guinea pigs in Shanghai.



Samsung Are Right, Apple Do Lead The Blind, But Sometimes That’s A Great Thing …

A few weeks ago, I smashed the screen of my iPhone 7.

To say I was annoyed was an understatement, especially when I was told that all of Shanghai’s Genius Bars were fully booked for 6 weeks so the only thing I could do – if I wanted things to be sorted quickly – was to turn up at an Apple store and queue up for hours on end.

So I did.

I got up early and was at the store at 8am so I could be first when the doors opened.

And you know what, I’m glad I did because otherwise I would not have been able to see this …

“What’s that you ask?”

It’s a group of blind people being given access to the store before it opens so they can shop safely and comfortably.

It may seem a little thing to us, but it would be a huge thing for them.

As we saw with Asda doing a special open store for customers suffering with autism, the retail industry is miles ahead of most organisations in terms of customer understanding and service.

Not to mention being light years ahead of adland and their often embarrassing attempts to make a difference to culture. Though, to be fair, that’s because most of them are only doing it because they want to win an industry award [namely a Cannes Lion] than to actually make something that has any real benefit for society.



Running With Only The Odd Glance Back …
March 9, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Comment, Dad, Death, Emotion, Empathy, Fatherhood, Mum, Mum & Dad, My Fatherhood, Parents

Today is the 2nd anniversary of my wonderful Mum passing away.

If I’m being honest, I’m going through a strange time with it.

On one hand, it seems like yesterday.

The pain. The sadness. The despair.

When I stop and think about it, it re-awakens all the trauma from that day and the days that followed.

However, I am conscious that these thoughts only occur when I give them time to happen.

They are no longer just sitting in my mind, waiting to jump out … I have to open the door to let them in.

I think Mum would be happy about that.

She would never want me to still feel paralysed by the sadness of her loss.

All she would want is for me to think of her in happy terms … remembering the good times we had together.

And I do.

Almost every day.

But I have to admit, I feel a bit guilty about that.

It’s as if I’m not honouring her properly.

Part of it is because it took me 10 years to come to terms with my Dad dying.

Of course the circumstances between the two situations were entirely different, plus I now have Otis who ensures there is never enough time for darkness to fill my heart … but it still feels strange that only on her anniversary do I go back to ‘that day’.

I loved my Mum so much.

I still do.

I miss her every day.

I would do anything to talk to her one more time.

There is so much I want to tell her.

Of what has happened in the past 2 years.

Of what is about to happen.

I’d love to hear her opinion.

I’d love to hear her reaction.

I’d love to hear her questions.

I know this will sound ridiculous, but there are some days where I think I can.

No seriously.

It’s as if I’ve forgotten she has gone and all I have to do is ring her up.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I have stared at her Skype photo, just looking at her face.

I’ve talked to it. I’ve gently caressed it. I’ve even clicked on it a couple of times and let it ring … hoping she’ll pick up and everything will carry on as before.

But of course she doesn’t and she can’t … and yet there is something comforting that I still feel she is in my life.

By that I don’t mean it in terms of my memories – she’ll always be there – I mean the feeling that I’ve simply not spoken to her for a little while.

It means she lives in my present, not my past.

I know that sounds weird and I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable – but while today represents 2 years since one of the worst days of my life – she, and Dad, would be happy to know I face this day looking forwards rather than being stuck in the past.

Love you Mum.

As you can see from the photos, we’re doing well, especially Otis, so don’t worry about us.

I hope you’re holding hands with Dad and laughing.

Rxxx

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