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


Happy At Home …

So it’s 2 months since we’ve been back in England and I have to say it’s been great.

Sure, the weather isn’t like LA.

Sure, finding a home and unpacking was a pain-in-the arse.

Sure, catching the tube is not like driving my beloved Audi to work.

Sure, I’m shocked at how bad the service is in restaurants and how many people smoke.

But all that aside, things are great.

There’s a bunch of reasons for that …

The first is my family are all together and well. Even Rosie, the moaning cat.

Seeing how brilliant Otis has adapted to his new environment [again] is inspiring, even though it has highlighted how much of an American twang he picked up in our time in the US.

To move home is a traumatic experience for anyone.

To move countries is often too much for people to even contemplate.

So to have moved home and country, 3 times when you’re only 3 years of age – and still be happy, positive and curious – is an incredible achievement and one that makes me even prouder of my wonderful little boy.

That said, we’re very mindful he is still trying to find where he belongs … find other kids he can form a connection with … so our job in these early months is to help him feel as settled and secure as we can, but so far, he’s handling it far better than we could ever hope, even though he did exactly the same when we landed in LA after Shanghai.

What a kid.

Another reason we’re enjoying things in England is that there’s an incredible familiarity to how things work.

Sure I’ve not lived here for 24 years and Jill is Australian … but we both have spent a huge amount of time here over the years so there’s a comfort in knowing how to make things happen. It’s allowed us to acclimatise to the new environment far quicker than we have in other nations while still feeling the buzz of excitement of being somewhere new.

Sure, there’s nervousness about some things we’ve never/rarely had to deal with before.

The school system and how insane that is here.

The inability to be confident a tradesman will turn up as promised.

The high price of public transport [which is still low, but comparatively high to say, China]

But all that is offset with the incredible culture that surrounds us, the friendliness of the people we’ve met and just being in a place where we can see ourselves for a good length of time.

Oh, and chips, mushy peas and gravy.

God, that’s magic right there.

But one other thing that has made things so great is work.

I’m really enjoying myself.

I have an incredible team full of smarts and opinions.

I have a huge array of colleagues full of creativity and provocation.

I have a bunch of clients full of fascinating challenges and ambitions.

I’m learning.

I’m being challenged.

I’m [hopefully] contributing.

There were a bunch of reasons why we moved countries – both personal and professional – and while no place will ever be perfect, I’m pretty shocked at how much I am enjoying being back in England given I never thought I’d ever move back.

I still wish I could nip up to Nottingham to see Mum and Dad.

I still wish Paul and Shelly lived down the street not 2 hours away.

But as much as I’ll always be a cynical bastard, I’m pretty happy right now and I’m sure that is as shocking to you as it is to me.

So on this bombshell of positivity, I wish you a good weekend and let you know that the APSOTW results will finally be out next week.

Ta-ra.

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Fathers Pride …
August 23, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Dad, Daddyhood, Emotion, Family, Mum & Dad

Dave Grohl.

One of the founders of Nirvana.

Founder of The Foo Fighters.

Drummer. Guitarist. Singer.

He’s the rock star everyone likes even if they don’t like his songs.

Permanently positive, continually upbeat with a dollop of mischievousness thrown in for good measure.

He cares deeply about his fans … whether that’s playing a festival in Italy after someone sent him a video of a bunch of musicians playing ne of his songs or just inviting people on stage to play with the band.

But there’s something not everyone knows and that’s how good a dad he is.

For example, come rain or snow, Dave Grohl takes his kids to school and picks them up again.

Every single day.

In his family wagon.

No glitz, no glamour, just as normal a family life that an international rock star can give his kids.

Of course, there’s the odd exception.

When his kids school was having a fundraiser, he played a private concert there with Paul Stanley of KISS and Sammy Hagar, ex-Van Halen.

However recently, he has started to introduce his kids to the wider World.

Not in some fame hungry way, but in terms of letting them express their own musical talent.

At a recent concert in Oakland, Los Angeles, he played back-up musician to Violet – his 12 year old daughter – as she sang Adele’s ‘When We Were Young’.

Putting aside her incredible voice, it’s the various looks of utter pride he has on his face as he witnesses his daughter invigorate a crowd with her flawless vocals.

I love how he doesn’t try to take the spotlight.

I love how he has a huge grin on his face when she hits the high notes perfectly.

I love how he knows her voice is better than his and he’s so proud of that fact.

I imagine it’s similar to how Robert Plant felt when he watched Heart perform Stairway To Heaven at the Kennedy Centre and realised he had done something that would outlive him.

I have to admit, it brought tears to my eyes.

I look at my precious boy – Otis – and wonder if that will ever happen to me.

Where I get to witness him express his passion, in some way. Whatever it is.

I hope so.

I don’t say that because I worry he might not have a passion, I say it because I worry I may go before he discovers it.

Being an older Dad brings with it a whole bunch of worries and insecurities.

I don’t regret it because I wasn’t ready for it before, but being 48 years old and having a father who died at 60, there is a nagging worry that I may only have 12 more years left.

Of course I know the age of my Dad does not mean that will be the age I die, but I worry …

I want to see Otis grow up.

Sure, there’s a big part of me that thinks he’s doing that too quickly already, but I long to see him do things that he is passionate about. I long to experience that uncontrollable smile as I witness my little boy do things he loves.

And that’s why the video of Dave Grohl and his daughter really hit me.

Because I know that whatever success he has achieved in his life as a rockstar, it won’t be as amazing as him seeing his daughter live her truth.



What Agencies Can Learn From Otis’ Kindergarten …

So Otis goes to this amazing hippy kindergarten school near where we live.

It’s a co-parenting school which means that the parents have to help with the schooling of the kids, not just with the funding.

It follows a very specific philosophy defined by the founder and it’s a place where kids learn through expressing their creativity.

They even have a ‘mud room’ for the kids to cause mayhem when it rains.

Put simply, we love it.

A few weeks ago, we went there on the weekend to help decorate it during spring break when I came across these 2 signs in the school …

I love them.

It sums up everything we adore about the school.

It captures exactly why Otis feels it’s a safe and happy place for him to explore.

It also addresses something I have been looking into for a while, which is the lack of outlet American men have to express their feelings.

Everything is built on acting tough.

Crying is for wimps.

Hell, even the bars are full of sports TV’s basting out scores, which means people don’t have the quiet to talk to one another – something I had growing up in England that actually encouraged the sharing of feelings and emotions. Albeit often wrapped up in banter.

The macho pride that seems to underpin so much of American male society feels like it’s still the 1950’s … which is why I love that this school doesn’t tell kids to ‘stop crying’, but asks what is wrong and then sympathises with their predicament which remarkably, helps them stop crying far more quickly and in a more positive way than any shouting would ever do.

Now imagine if companies operated by the same ideals.

Listening.

Valuing.

Caring.

Developing.

Oh I know those words appear in a million mission statements, but we all know they’re often used more as an illusion than an action.

In the bid to build office ‘culture’, so many organizations forget it’s not just about what you say – or even what you do – it’s the practiced beliefs that defines what everyone values, which is why companies could learn even more from this school than my dear Otis.



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.



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.



Favourite Days …

Can you remember some of your greatest days?

I don’t just mean the big ones, but the ones that should have been a ‘normal 24 hours’ but somehow turned into something different.

Better.

Seminal.

Jill recently sent me a photo that captures one of those days.

Yes, that’s me watching TV.

More specifically, watching Forest.

Live.

Playing Arsenal.

In the FA Cup.

Fallen giants versus FA Cup holders.

Championship team versus Premiership establishment.

Managerless versus longest serving manager.

And we won.

4-2.

FOUR BLOODY TWO.

More than that, we won in style … so much so that a blind Arsenal fan, who was at the game, expressed that he had finally found a positive to being blind because he didn’t have to see how much Forest bossed Arsenal on the pitch, but only hear it.

But as much as that is most definitely a big and memorable event, that’s not what made it seminal for me.

It’s that little head resting against my body on the sofa.

Yep, that’s Otis.

Watching the game with me.

His first ever football match.

Where his Dad’s beloved Nottingham Forest, won.

Now I appreciate this isn’t the same as when I was a kid and started watching Forest.

Back then, they were not just winning against the champions, they were the champions.

First of the league, then of Europe and beyond.

Their success cemented my love of the reds … taking it beyond just geographic loyalty and into more personal identity.

And even though they have fallen so far from those heady days – where they have had 26 different managers in the time Arsene Wegner has been boss of the gunners – I still love them and hope this match, where Forest secured an unlikely yet thoroughly deserved victory in front of a 3 year old living in Manhattan Beach, means he will love them too.

Maybe I’m being massively unfair on Otis.

Maybe I’m setting him up for a lifetime of disappointment.

But then, when you hear stories like this that come out of matches like that, it does teach you that the events of the past don’t have to dictate the events of the future if you commit to always doing your best.