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 Worst Days Don’t Have To Stay The Worst Days …
March 9, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Death, Mum

So 3 years ago today was one of the worst days of my life because it’s the day I lost Mum.

I’ve written a lot about what happened and how it affected me, but 3 years down the line, I am more focused on the joyful memories we had together rather than the tragic last days.

Infact the shift in mindset is so great, that I was only reminded this day was approaching by friends writing to me to send their love and support for this most horrible of anniversaries.

Now don’t get me wrong, Mum is always on my mind.

Just last week I saw an elderly lady who – for a number of reasons – reminded me of Mum.

She looked kind and gentle. Her grey hair gently framing her face. And as she sat alone, waiting quietly for her takeaway order to arrive from the restaurant kitchen. I couldn’t stop stealing glances at her. Of course I knew it wasn’t Mum and yet there was something about her that made me feel like her energy was very similar.

Then I started crying.

Not loudly, not even obviously … but tears were running down my face and when she walked out the restaurant, I had to tell myself not to chase her out to the parking lot and tell her she reminded me of my wonderful Mum and could I have a hug.

Thank god for my brains objectivity or I could be writing this from jail.

But as I sit here, on the 3rd anniversary of her passing, I feel a different person.

Of course I miss her and would give anything to see her hold the precious grandson she never got to meet in person, but I’m in a much better place than I was and that is something I know Mum would be very happy about.

Of course part of this is because of time. Part of this is because Otis keeps us focused on the future and the joy of life. And part of this is because I now have a very different lifestyle to the one I had when all this happened, but that doesn’t take away the fact I now feel able to enjoy the life I had with my Mum rather than the last days.

And that is why, if she was here today, I would want to say this to her …

Mum, I love you.

I love you so much and I am so grateful for all you did for me and – in a weird way – continue to do for me.

I remember the days before your operation, we were talking about things that highlighted there may not be the outcome we all hoped would happen.

I tried to brush it off as I wanted us to stay positive but the fact I discovered how much organisation you had done in the weeks prior to your operation – in case the worst happened – showed this was something you had thought about a lot.

It breaks my heart you went through that.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to sort through your papers incase something happened.

To put things aside for me to find.

To label things for me to be aware of.

To say a potential goodbye to the things you cared about.

And while I wish you didn’t feel you had to do it, I know it’s another demonstration of how much you loved me and it made a difference to how I dealt with those first few weeks of you passing.

But if you were around, there would be something else I’d want you to know.

One of the conversations we had was you saying how sorry you were for not having much to leave me.

I told you, you were wrong but now I can articulate that more clearly.

First of all, you left me a house.

Our house.

Our paid-for house.

That in itself is amazing and I’m so happy the family we chose to help in your name are enjoying it as much as we did.

But there’s more.

An incredible amount more.

You left me with a lifetime of wonderful memories.

Of love and support and values I live by.

You gave me recipes I feed my family with.

You gave me paintings [& some of your owls] that lets me always feel a connection between the life I had and the life I have.

You gave me the gift of playing a musical instrument by encouraging me to learn after thinking I showed ‘talent’ on the 2-string acoustic that was lying around the house.

You gave me the gift of growing up in a loving, caring, compassionate and supportive family that has become an amazing guide for how we want to bring Otis up.

[He’s an amazing little boy and calls you Nonna whenever he sees a photo of you or looks at the owl tattoo I had for you]

The reality is you gave me so much, but most of all, you gave me the best Mum I could ever wish for and for that I will be eternally grateful.

I’m so sorry you’re gone Mum but I’m so happy you were mine.

And always will be.

Hugs to you and Dad.

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.



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.



What Planners And Police/Military Interrogators Could Have Learned From My Mum …

For a long time, I’ve talked about the importance of empathy.

In fact I regard it as the most important trait I look for in a planner.

That’s right, empathy … not curiosity.

As my Mum used to say, ‘being interested in what others are interested in’ is the foundation of forging real understanding … understanding that lets you gain real insight that leads to work that doesn’t just resonate, but is both authentic and sincere to the core.

I recently took my team through the original ‘Thank You Mom’ work I was involved with at Wieden for P&G.

In essence, there were 2 roles the planning departments of W+K had.

The first was to find a point of view for P&G’s Olympic sponsorship that was authentic rather than falling into that trap of being ‘the proud sponsor of razor blades for athletes’ etc etc.

However, once it had been identified that P&G could genuinely claim to helping the Mum’s of athletic hopefuls in their role of being supportive Mum’s, the rest of our job was to ensure the work we produced was authentic to the regions we were going to cover … the UK, the US, China and Brazil.

It took a long time, a lot of meeting, watching, listening and chatting [in fact the little film I made from it all to help the client and creatives really understand our Mum’s is still one of the best things I made at Wieden] but it made all the difference because while some elements of the film may be lost to viewers of other nations [ie: Westerners thought the Chinese Mum who watched her child win via a TV in her home did it because she couldn’t afford to go to the event, when the reality is we had learned parents wouldn’t attend key events for fear of afraid of adding extra pressure to their beloved child with their presence] the fact is those within each culture we featured connected to the little nuances we were able to reveal which led to work that felt part of the culture rather than just being an observer of it.

The reason I am saying all this is because I recently read an amazing article about interrogation techniques, or more specifically, how the interrogation techniques favoured by the Police and military are wrong.

Now I am not suggesting interrogation techniques are anything similar to how we find out our insights about people … but the learnings are.

You see what a team of scientists discovered is that rather than intimidating individuals in the hope of getting them to reveal their information, the secret was to show genuine empathy towards them.

Not in what they did or tried to do.

Not in their cause or their ideology.

But in why all of it was important to them.

In essence, they discovered empathy – rather than intimidation – was the closest thing we have to a truth serum.

Or said another way, be interested in what others are interested in.

Another reason [for me] to say Thank you Mom.

[Read the article here]



Happy Birthday My Wonderful One …
December 11, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Attitude & Aptitude, Birthday, Comment, Daddyhood, Jill, Mum, My Fatherhood, Otis, Parents

So this is the last week of posts for 2017 so prepare for a bunch of sentimental claptrap as the week continues. Sorry, I mean ‘even more’ sentimental claptrap.But today I am talking about something else.

Something that continues to be one of the best and most amazing parts of my life.

I’m talking about my son Otis, who today hits his 3rd birthday today.

THREE.

How is that possible?

And yet it is and I’m both thrilled and petrified about it.

Thrilled because he is the most wonderful little boy I could ever hope to know and petrified because – as the cliche goes – he is growing up so, so, so fast.

I can remember everything about the day he decided to come out and say hello.

From the moment Jill woke up at 2am feeling ‘funny’ to seeing his face at 6:27pm.

Up until his birth, he was about 7 days past the due date and a part of me that was very happy about that fact.Not because I didn’t want to meet him, but if he was born on the 12th December, our medical insurance would have clicked over for another year and all the costs associated with his delivery would be covered.

Of course he came out 5 hours 33 minutes too early for that to happen … proving that even before he was a minute old, he had the same annoying, cheeky-bastard traits of his father.

And yet, despite having just cost his Mum and Dad thousands of dollars by being born on the 11th, he has only filled our lives with happiness, excitement, joy and love.

And I mean filled.

To the point of overflowing.

This little boy is a delight.

He’s funny, kind, compassionate, curious, mischievous and loving.

He is everything I could ever have hoped to have in a child and a ton more besides.

I am incredibly proud to be his Father and hope he will feel the same way for all his life.

So with that, I want to say something to him that he can look back on whenever he faces trials and tribulations in his life.

My Dearest Otis.

You are the best thing that has ever happened to me and your Mum.

You make everything worth while.

The late nights, the early mornings, the decisions we made focused around your needs.

Everything.

So much has happened in the last 12 months and yet you have taken it all in your stride.

Your Mum and Dad are under no illusion how challenging this must have felt and yet you remained happy and open to all that is around you and we are in awe of the way you have coped with it all.

We will continue to do all we can to equip you with the skills and knowledge to handle whatever life throws at you and all we ask in return is you stay as cheeky, curious and happy as you are. Be safe knowing there are lots of people around the world looking out for you and we will always support you in the things that excite you and move you and will love you, regardless of what trouble you cause us ahead.

But don’t push it too far …

Happy birthday my dearest little boy.

Oh what a treasure you are.

Mummy and Daddy [and Rosie]

xoxoxoxoxoxoxox