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


If You Want To Be Treated With Respect, Treat Others With Respect …

I appreciate what I’m about to write is something deeply important to me.

I’ve written about this situation before.

[Actually there’s tons of posts about it, so if you’re interested, click here]

Hell, I even started a lobby group to try and stop it.

But a few weeks ago, I was reminded how much needs to be done.

Or said another way, how bad this situation is becoming and – if government figures are to be believed – how much bigger it will become.

I am talking about homelessness.

More specifically, societies apathy towards it.

Now I posted this story on Linkedin a while back and was met with a bunch of abuse.

People saying I was trying to ‘big myself up’ for giving to the homeless.

People saying I was threatening and bullying to those who don’t.

People telling me to remember that we are all going through situations others can’t see – and so to expect everyone to help is bordering on ridiculous.

I get it … I’ve written about that too [though I can’t find the bloody link to the post that specifically dealt with this] and I accept that while I was not in any way trying to ‘big myself up’ about giving to those who need it, I get it could be construed that way – especially if you don’t know me.

But – and it’s a big one – while I absolutely appreciate it can be confronting to have someone stand in front of you asking for help [and that may also trigger all manner of personal issues from people’s past] the actions and reactions I’ve seen over the years [and specifically in the last year of London public transport] would seem to suggest that either the vast population of London is going through that or they.just don’t care.

Are there other possible reasons for it?

Of course.

Lots.

But my point is that ignoring the homeless has seemingly become the ‘method’ and all I am endeavoring to do is to shock people out of this malaise and maybe realize their situation – however bad – is not as bad as theirs.

Please note, I’m not even talking about money or food, just acknowledgement that the person in front of them exists.

Nothing brought this home to me again than a situation a few weeks ago.

An elderly homeless lady very politely went around the tube asking for help.

Every one of these people, every single one acted like she didn’t exist.

Didn’t even lift their eyes up.

Fortunately I had some money and food on me so I was able to help but even if I didn’t, I would have had said I was sorry I had nothing. Not to make myself feel better but for her to know she was seen … that she existed … that she mattered.

Now I know some will say there are many people who pretend they’re homeless and make a ton of money out of it – but apart from that being the bullshit spouted by the Daily Mail – anyone who has to ask strangers for help day in, day out just isn’t doing well.

Let’s hope it never happens to you.

Let’s hope you never feel like you don’t exist and have no value.

Let’s hope the people who have countless reasons not to give don’t close their mind to the issue at hand.

As the title of this post states … if you want to be respected, if you complain about people not giving a shit about other people, then maybe you want to start with your behaviour rather than blame everyone else.



Society Is Growing Kids Faster Than Battery Hens …

One of the things that is a beautiful nightmare for parents is watching the speed of their children grow up.

At each stage of their development, you think they have reached ‘peak perfect’ and you want them to stay that way forever … but you can deal with their growth because they bring an even more delightful element into their behaviour and, as a byproduct, your relationship.

It’s utterly, utterly magical.

That said, it still doesn’t stop the fact it all happens in the blink of an eye, so while you want to always encourage their development, you just wish it would slow down a little.

The reason I say this is that I recently read about a graphic designer was so appalled at the cover of a young girls magazine, that they decided to release what they thought it should be.

Now I must admit, my first impression to this story was that the graphic designer was probably a self-righteous individual who wanted kids to grow up in the same conditions as they did.

That was until I saw this …

The original cover of the magazine is on the left, their version is on the right.

I’m going to ignore their cover – because you can read how it came about and the story behind their idea, here – however the magazine they redesigned is a real magazine and, according to their own website, supposedly stands for:

Girls’ Life (GL) magazine was founded in August 1994 (yes, we’re ancient, we know) by Karen Bokram. Since then, GL has grown from a 23-year-old’s pipe dream project to a best-selling and award-winning platform for tween and teen girls.

Tweens and teens.

An incredibly impressionable age.

Now look at that cover.

Look at those story headlines.

Now I appreciate I am an old, white male … but they seem to place huge subliminal pressure and expectations on young women.

Wake Up Pretty.

Dream Hair.

Fashion you need to own.

Boyfriends.

If young women want to explore any of those things, then that is wonderful, but I wonder how much of it is because they are being made to feel that way rather than being something they are naturally interested in. Of course, there is something wonderful about learning to develop and grow … but this seems less about personal growth and more about playing to stereotypes – and advertising dollars – so that they can then be judged by broader society.

Of course parents have a big role to play in managing the environment their children play in, but at a time where the World is finally waking up to fighting the prejudice, oppression and stereotypes women have had to face for centuries, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve this when the World they are surrounded by continues to push an agenda of compliance … especially when they’re titles supposedly designed for the betterment of young women.

Of course this is not limited to content for young women, young boys also have stereotypes of behaviour and aspiration shoved down their throats that are unrealistic and add incredible pressure to their development.

I get children will always grow up too fast for parents, but it is scary how even that isn’t fast enough for media outlets.

What makes it worse is so many of them say their ‘purpose‘ is to inspire brilliance in their readership.

Girls Life specifically say their role is ‘dedicated to informing, inspiring and entertaining girls around the globe—and that includes everything from starting your business (we LOVE spotlighting smart, successful teens) to putting up with periods to styling a personal look you’ll love’.

Which is why I look at the Graphic Designer who screwed with their cover and say ‘well done’ … because I now realise what they did was not act like a judgmental parent, but simply show Girls Life how their cover should look if they are serious about what they claim they represent.



Look Up And Help …

A few weeks ago, as I was going home on the train, a lady got on the tube and announced to everyone in the carriage that she was an ex-drug addict, ex-criminal and homeless.

She then stated that she was not going to go back to her old life and was asking if anyone had any work she could do for them or spare a little change.

She was met with silence.

Worse, she was met with silence from people who all suddenly started looking down at her feet – petrified to make eye contact.

All credit to the lady, she pointed out that they didn’t have to look away because she was the one – in her words – humiliating herself in a bid to keep doing the right thing.

I watched this episode unfold with disgust … so I got up, gave the woman some money and loudly announce that she was an inspiration and I hope all works out for her.

After that, I sat down and enjoyed the feeling there were now 2 people on the train no one wanted to make eye-contact with.

I’m not saying this because I am seeking any praise for what I did, I’m doing it because for a human being to do that is a cry for help and for people to want to ignore it or avoid it is horrific.

Sure we all have busy lives.

Sure we all have pressures and expectations.

But lets hope we’re never in a situation where we have to ask a train of strangers for help because based on this interaction, most would turn away.

There’s a major issue going on right now that we are fast becoming a cashless society. To be honest, I was fortunate to have some Euros on me, and that was only because I’d been in Amsterdam. It’s an issue I am asking R/GA and the Virgin Money Foundation [who help me with Human_2] to look at solutions, because it’s only going to get worse.

But – and it’s a big, big but – if you don’t have cash or you don’t even want to give cash, you can at least give these people respect because they are people … real, live, living people with feelings and emotions … and just having someone acknowledge they exist is better than what they encounter on a daily basis.



Moore’s Law Won’t Be Law For Much Longer …

Moore’s law – created by Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel – states that computer power will double every two years at the same cost.

Since he said this in the later 60’s, he’s been proven right, but having listened to a professor of computer engineering on the radio last night, it appears it’s coming to an end.

The reason I am saying this is because to prove his point, the Professor said 3 things that have blown my mind.

1. The iPhone has 4 billion transistors in it. FOUR BILLION.

2. There are now more transistors in the World than their are leaves on all the trees across the entire planet.

3. Some transistors are so small – separated by a distance of just 14 nanometres (nm) – that they are invisible. And when I say invisible, I mean it because they are smaller than the wavelengths of light human eyes and microscopes use.

What I loved about the talk the Professor gave wasn’t just his ability to articulate the incredible journey of innovation that the tech industry has been on for almost 50 years … nor was it his view that this rate of innovation was going to be impossible to maintain given the micro scale the industry is already operating at … it was that he felt this obsession with precision was stopping craftsmanship to flourish.

Now I must admit, my initial view was getting 4 billion transistors into an iPhone would be the ultimate demonstration of craftsmanship, but no … this Professor was saying that in our quest to automate our lives, we are doing it at the expense of celebrating and expanding human skills.

For him, craftsmanship is when a human manufactures a product by hand … they use dedicated human reasoning to work out the kinks during production to make a high-quality, functioning piece.

These pieces attract and inspire those around them, attracting more people to both value the products and want to create the products, helping humanity both evolve and appreciate what we are capable of creating and becoming.

Now of course we could say computers have done a similar thing, but this Professor was saying ‘perfect precision’ was overshadowing ‘human precision’ and while there will always be a need for technology to do heavy lifting for us, humanity is at its best when it is can satisfy and appreciate what we as a species can do and right now, we are outsourcing that to technology.

It’s an interesting argument – especially when you think of what so much of this new era of tech is being used to do from a human interaction perspective – but ultimately I believe the argument is that if we don’t get back to teaching tech what to value, then tech will start teaching us.

It already is.

In their quest to get AI accepted in households, many companies are building applications to cater for the lowest common denominator of needs. The low hanging fruit, as it were. Now that would be fine if they then evolved their offering, but as this is a fierce, commercial race, I am pretty sure most companies will end up focusing on trying to automate as many simple tasks as possible in a bid to show their ‘usefulness’ which means over time, they are educating us to value speed over quality, convenience over experiences, virtual over reality and information over understanding.

Some might think that is OK, but as Andy said in a comment a few weeks ago, the implication are frightening …

“The fucked thing about all this tech assistance isnt that its making us lazy, its that its making us selfish and dismissing anyone or anything that doesnt do what we want immediately. The arts are going to be fucked over by this shit till people work it out and by then it will be too late or they just wont care.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love tech.

I love what it does and I love what it has allowed us to do.

And it goes without saying I love that it has helped me satisfy my love of gadgetry.

But if this is all at the cost of humanities appreciation of humanity, that’s quite a price to pay which is why if the end of Moore’s law means we get to teach values to tech rather than have tech teach us our values, then I for one am all for it.



Listen For The Quiet Ones …

The older I get, the more I realise how brilliant my parents were.

There are so many reasons.

They gave me all the love and support and encouragement you could ever want.

They gave me incredible advice for how to live my life.

They told me to go live my life when they could have asked me to stay at home with them.

But for all those things, there was one thing they taught me that I feel was even more important than all that.

You learn from everyone.

Everyone.

That didn’t mean I had to agree with their point of view.

Nor did it mean I had to adopt their point of view.

What they wanted me to understand was every person has a story and if you really listen to what they say, it can help you learn a bunch of things.

Not just in the practical ‘move ahead in life’ stuff.

But in the understanding of how life works and how everyone is trying to deal with it as best they can.

And that’s why every month – from about the age of 8 to the age of 16 – my Dad would bring a homeless person [or as they were called in those days, tramps] to our house for dinner.

The deal was they would get a hot meal, a hot shower and a nice bed for the night if they told me about their life and what they had learnt from it.

Given the work I’ve done with HUMAN_2, I imagine my Dad often received a negative response. Not because the people he asked liked the situation they were in, but because they had experienced years of false promises or – worse – open avoidance and so were deeply mistrusting of anyone who approached them. But regardless of that, my Dad kept doing it and I’m so grateful he did.

Well, I say grateful, but at the time I found it weird.

Annoying even.

But looking back now, I realise how amazing and important it was.

It defined who I am.

It shaped how I do my job.

It ensured I respect people by their approach to life rather than their possessions.

It embodied my Mum always told me “… to be interested in what others are interested in”.

It’s probably why I value empathy in a planner more than curiosity. Though that could also be because the way planners talk about curiosity makes me sick.

But even more than that, I distinctly remember hearing a number of the visitors we had saying thank you to my parents. Not just for the food/shower/bed, but for being valued and being given a chance to be heard.

Which is maybe why when we were setting up HUMAN_2, the goal wasn’t to simply provide money to the homeless, but to provide assistance to those who wanted to help themselves out of their situation but didn’t know how.

I say all this because I recently saw a notice about a local homeless guy in Manhattan Beach who sadly died.

It really struck a chord with me.

Not just because it was touching to see a community acknowledge someone who many would treat as if they’re invisible, but because in the last 2 words of their note, they said something that encapsulated empathy and compassion for humanity.

You see as much as we live in a World where media likes to promote worth and value by what we own rather than who we are and how we live, LA amplifies that superficiality by about a billion … which is why the authors last 2 words were so beautiful and so important.

I just hope gentle Artie knew it.



A Picture Releases A Thousand Emotions …

It’s Monday.

I know that’s pretty shit for all of us so I thought I’d do something nice for a change.

OK, I’m not really doing any of it … my son is … but if it affects you 1/1000th in the way it affected me, it will make your day a little sweeter.

Otis has a friend called Elodie.

Her parents – by pure chance – are English and we met them at our kids school.

Elodie adores Otis.

And Otis adores Elodie.

They operate at the same speed and frequency and while there’s the odd moment where one of them goes slightly off the rails, their affection for each other is obvious.

A few weeks ago we were all at the beach to celebrate another kids birthday [this is my life now]

Living so close to the beach is a real privilege and even though both kids are there most days, they still act like it’s their first time.

Anyway, we were there for Jack’s 3rd birthday and in-between birthday cake and opening presents, I saw Elodie and Otis walk to the gentle tide.

As they chatted to each other, I followed them from a little distance to give them space to continue playing in their own World when suddenly they did this …

There are many beautiful things in my life that have taken my breath away, but this was one of the most powerful.

Innocent.

Heartfelt.

Friendship.

Which is why as much as that lone surfer in the distance may believe they are riding upon life’s purest joy, I would like to say to them they are wrong and point them to the embrace of my son and his dear Elodie.

I think they would acknowledge I am right.

Happy Monday.

Thank you Otis and Elodie.



Is This A Subliminal Message Regarding HR Departments?
October 31, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Human Goodness, Management

My mate recently sent me this photo from Australia.

Given how I once was in a meeting where someone asked the then CEO of Y&R whether HR stood for Human Remains, maybe this company is of the same view.

That, or it could be because many people are so frustrated with their HR departments protecting the management team rather than the people, they end up going to the loo and crying their eyes out.

I’m fortunate I’ve worked/work with some genuinely good HR people in my time, but in my experience, they’re still the exception rather than the rule.

And for the record, it’s no coincidence I’ve written about this subject on Halloween.

You might be going out tonight dressed as witches and skeletons, but if you really want to be scary, you should think about dressing up as your company HR representative.