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


Chapters Aren’t Just For Books …

So I have some big and exciting news. Well, it is for me …

On May 10th, I leave Wieden+Kennedy.

In addition to that, on May 16th, I leave China.

Given both have been my home for the last 7 years – one of the longest periods of my entire adult life – that means this is very big thing for me and I won’t deny it is bitter-sweet.

I’ve had an incredible time and leave with a bunch of memories, stories and learnings that I can honestly say will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Of course, I’ll miss so many things – the people, the culture, the colleagues the clients and the holidays* [ha] – but I still have a lot I want to try and experience and that just wasn’t going to happen if I stayed.

In addition, I need a place where my son can go out and play.

China is an amazing country, but the pollution means there have been too many days where he’s had to stay inside and that just isn’t what I want for him growing up.

That is very hard for me to admit, because I truly love and respect this country and would never want to speak bad of it because I’ll forever be grateful for how it embraced me, educated me and helped me thrive.

As for Wieden … well they have been awesome. 

I thought I would stay at W+K forever but unfortunately, we’re a very flat structured, relatively small company, so there’s just not that many options easily available for someone like me. Everyone tried to make it work but as I have no desire to be an MD and feel I’ve achieved everything [and more] that I set out to do in Shanghai – and that I was asked to do in Shanghai – I came to the realization that for me to keep growing, I had to try something different.

That said, there is absolutely no doubt that I have enjoyed one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of my professional career [so far] but right now, I need to go and try some stuff that takes everything I have learnt – from Wieden and beyond – and mix it with a bunch of new experiences and lessons so I can see what happens in a totally different environment and situation.

I’m very excited about that but I’ll always be super thankful for the chance Wieden gave me, especially because they never asked me to be anyone else other than myself.

Even when it annoyed the fuck out of them.

To have done 7 years in the best agency in the World, in one of the most amazing countries in the World with some of the best clients in the World is an incredible honour.

To have earned their trust enough that they asked a planner – a bloody planner! – to start and run their creative talent incubator, The Kennedys, is extra special.

But to have them say you’ve done a good job and you should go and explore but never rule out coming back, shows how special – and mental – they are.

And they are. Very, very special.

And mental.

So what next?

Well, I’ll announce that soon however what I will tell you is I’m swapping one country with an evil government regime for another.

That’s right, I’m moving to America.

To LA to be precise.

I swear this is not purely because I can get away with wearing Birkenstocks the whole time.

But it helped make our decision.

I’ll reveal all soon, but I’m very excited about this next chapter in life.

It will hopefully challenge and teach me a bunch of new things while offering my family the sort of environment they absolutely deserve to enjoy – and I’m incredibly grateful I have the chance to do this, especially at this point in my life.

But it’s even more than that.

You see my parents always said they wanted me to live a life of fulfilment rather than contentment and if they knew their only son was going to have experienced life in America, Europe and Asia, they would be super-proud.

As I get older, I realise what is becoming more important for me is less about how high up the career ladder I go [though, as Harrison Ford said, I won’t undervalue all the work it has taken to get me to my current position] and more about how varied my life experiences are.

This move is another step to fulfilling that … or it will be when it happens. Until then, you’ll have to put up with business as usual, which basically means more ranty rubbish blog posts.

Onwards …
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* For the record, given many of you think I’ve done nothing over the past 7 years except go on holiday, you’ll be ecstatic to know I’ll be leaving Wieden just before I was going to be having my 6 week paid sabbatical. I guess you could call it ‘holiday karma’.




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

Comments Off on Running With Only The Odd Glance Back …


Wonderful Gets Another Year Older …
December 9, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Anniversary, Birthday, Daddyhood, Jill, Love, Mum & Dad, My Fatherhood, Otis, Parents

So on Sunday, my beloved little boy turns 2.

TWO!

How the hell did that happen, so quick?

It honestly feels like yesterday that he came into this World and while I love seeing him develop and grow, I do wish he would slow down a little.

One of the best/worst things has been seeing his vocabulary grow.

While I am in awe of his ability to say words – both in English and Chinese – to articulate what he wants or where he wants to go, I must admit I miss hearing the sounds he used to make before he could clearly communicate. I used to love the enthusiasm and gusto he would put behind his utterances … it was pure joy.

But on Sunday he turns 2.

He’s packed quite a lot into his life so far … from travel to hospital visits … and through it all, he’s smiled, laughed, swept and danced his way through it. Well, 94.2% through it, the rest has been screams, tantrums and looks of disappointment.

I still go through periods where I have to remind myself he’s my son and I still wish with all my heart my Mum and Dad could have met him … hugged him … kissed him.

The best compliment I can give Otis is he has changed my World.

The things I once valued no longer have the same appeal.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like those things, it’s just Otis’ happiness and development is most important of all.

The decisions I/we make are now revolving about issues we had never considered before.

Of course, that is nothing new for most parents, but for us, it’s a bit of a revelation … but it’s worth it because he is worth it.

So to my delightful son, Happy Birthday [for Sunday]

Your Mummy and Daddy love you with all our heart. Even Rosie the cat, kinda likes you.

For me, everything you do is wonderful, but when you say, “Daddy’s home” as I walk in the door, there is literally no better feeling for me in the World.

You have brought so much joy into our lives, it’s impossible for me to articulate.

We will 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 cheeky, curious and happy. Be safe knowing 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 through the years.

But don’t push it too far …

I love you so, so much and I am so proud to be your Dad and as always, I will do all I can in my life to ensure you will be proud to call yourself, my son.

Happy birthday my darling Otis.

Rxxx



Like Father Like Son …
November 4, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Cunning, Emotion, Fatherhood, Jill, Love, My Fatherhood, Otis, Parents

As you read this, I’ll be on a plane to the UK for a weekend with my best friend.

I know … that sounds a bit indulgent, but the reason for that is because next week I’m in Amsterdam for work and to run a couple of classes for HOALA, so it’s not that too princessy.

So the good news for you is there will be no posts for all of next week.

The bad news – for Martin Weigel – is he is going to have to put up with me for 5 whole days.

Anyway, the reason for the title of this blog post is recently my wife sent me this message while she was in a cafe with Otis for a spot of breakfast.

I cannot tell you how proud I am.

Not just of Otis, but of my parenting skills, because they seem to be achieving real results in terms of nurturing a mischievous little sod.

Anyway, until the 14th …



How Raising A Child Reveals Whether You’re Full Of Shit …

I love my son.

I love him so much.

He is such a sweet kid.

Sure he’s a bit cheeky and a bit mischievous, but he’s just a lovely little boy.

I want his innocence and wonder to never leave him – but sadly, I know it will.

I also know things I’d never wish on anyone will happen to him.

Bullying.

Heartbreak.

Sadness.

And all I can do is try to prepare him for it in a way where he knows he can come through the other side.

Of course part of that will be by making sure he knows he is loved and supported unconditionally by his parents … the other part is making sure he is brought up with as much openness as possible.

One of those things is him understanding men and women are equal.

As I wrote about a while ago, my wife and I have had some stick from relative strangers in how we’re bringing Otis up.

One of the things they’ve ‘questioned’ is why we let Otis play with dolls and brooms, why we bought him a kitchen set and why we let him dance wherever and whenever the mood takes him.

Of course it’s none of their fucking business … but the fact is, we don’t want Otis to grow up thinking boys do this and girls do that and seeing our little boy being as happy playing with dolls as he is with his iPad is utterly wonderful.

I have to admit, I find the level of sexism around me frightening. I find it especially bad when I hear it from a man who has daughters. I literally cannot understand that.

And yet many ignore it exists.

They say any wrong behaviour is ‘cultural’ rather than sexist.

Of course there are cultural traits that define gender roles – especially in Asia – but that doesn’t mean they’re right or you have to carry on with them, even more so when you are not from this part of the World.

And yet it is everywhere – even in supposedly liberal and developed nations, as this wonderful piece by Hillary Clinton shows.

While Hillary says the way women are judged differently to men is ‘not bad, just a fact’, I find it deplorable.

But it’s true.

I remember having to tell one of my talented female planners to clap her hands a bit differently because it looked too much like a little girl and a bunch of sexist pricks would then judge her for that. I hated having to do that … but there was no way I was going to let this talented individual be ignored just because they had decided the way she applauds looks juvenile.

And that’s why I like what Cindy Gallop is doing.

Or what she’s trying to do.

My problem is she’s treating all white men as the enemy which, in my opinion, not only doesn’t serve her purpose any good, but is the sort of generalised bollocks that certain white men have treated females.

And that’s why Otis is being raised to see equality not prejudice … because values, roles and/or potential shouldn’t be evaluated or judged by gender or demographic, even if the way society operates – including those supposedly fighting against it – wants to keep that the norm.



Everyone Is An Expert …
September 29, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Babies, Empathy, Family, Fatherhood, Jill, Mum, Mum & Dad, My Fatherhood, Otis, Parents

So this is going to be a weird post, but it’s an important one.

You see a few weeks ago, my wife wrote this …

“As I nursed my baby into toddlerhood I noticed a shift in the messages from outside voices. From supportive and encouraging in the newborn days to surprised, questioning or doubtful once he was a walking, talking toddler.

I like to think that most people want to help with their comments or advice, maybe they worry that our ‘extended’ nursing could somehow impact negatively on my son, after all, it’s not what most people do… Dependence seems to be something a lot of them are concerned about.

I want to show them how my beautiful, sweet, spirited, glorious little boy greets the world (and taxi drivers) with a wide smile or a cheeky ‘Ni Hao!’… how he chants ‘run, run!’ as his still chubby legs stride ever faster down little hills … how he bops and boogies to every kind of music, at every opportunity, in every environment … how he sometimes forgets to even look back to find me because he’s exploring his amazing, ever expanding world … but I guess they’re not completely wrong about him being dependent on me.

He depends on me for comfort, safety, security & connection when he’s sad or tired or hurt or frustrated or overwhelmed. As long as nursing provides this place of refuge for my precious boy I’m ecstatic I can be there for him. So I want those out there who question or doubt or suspect to know, we’re doing great thanks, our version of dependence is exactly as it should be …”

OK … OK … so she writes much better than me, but the fact is, I have been shocked how many people feel they have a right to be a judge on my sons upbringing just because they have their own child.

I accept most of them do it in a well-intentioned way [and fortunately, most of our friends have said, “the best rule to parenting is to only follow your rules and ignore everyone else”] but there has been more than a few – often relative strangers – who have used a judgemental tone or look when they’ve discovered we don’t agree with letting our son ‘cry himself to sleep’, let alone play with dolls or dance whenever music is on.

But here’s the big thing …

Given 50% of Otis is from me, the fact he is turning out to be such an amazing, wonderful little boy means it is 100% down to how Jill.

What she wrote is not an attempt to say ‘our way is the right way’, the purpose of it is to remind people that we have the right to decide what is the right way for us.

But what I find even more amazing is that given how well Otis is turning out, those who challenge our approach are trying to find fault in perfection … so I’d just like them to do me a favour and be an expert on their children, rather than other people’s, though this ‘know when to talk and know when to shut up’ could apply to far more than just raising children as I am sure many of you can appreciate.



They Never Leave You …
August 16, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment, Jill, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, My Fatherhood, Otis, Parents

So yesterday went pretty well.

No one quit [yet] and everyone seemed to get along.

In some respects, that might be the most successful thing I’ll have achieved with The Kennedys.

Today we’re going to talk about emotion and the power it has over us.

I bring this up because on my holiday, I went to see some of my Italian family and I have to say that the whole thing was very emotional for me.

Part of this was because I stayed in the house, in the small town, in the small province where my Mum lived.

It was a place my Mum always regarded as incredibly special and important to her and to be there – with my family for the first time – was incredibly emotional for me.

Seeing my son run around a home that my Mum had run around as a child was both wonderful to see and hard to take.

Without doubt she would have been so very, very happy we were there, I just wish she was there to see it.

I looked at everything differently while I was there.

Everywhere I went I tried to imagine Mum as a child playing in the streets, visiting the park that she eventually took me to as a child [and that I took Otis too], laughing with her friends.

When I stood on one of the old houses balcony’s, I kept thinking Mum had done the same thing at one time.

In some ways, it made me feel I was near her again … that I had ‘brought her home’ and I loved that, though it also meant the rawness of her loss came to the surface again.

While I was there I met some of Mum’s school friends.

Some I had met before, some I hadn’t.

To hear them talk so wonderfully about my Mum really got to me.

It’s not that those words hadn’t been said by others before, it was just that these people knew my Mum in a way few did – certainly not me – and somehow that meant their words had even more power.

It was a privilege to be there and I am so glad I was able to bring my new family together with my old, but I don’t mind telling you I was emotionally exhausted when I left.

But there’s one story I want to talk about, because it’s a story I’m going to be telling The Kennedys students about today.

While I was in Italy, one of my relations showed me a bunch of old photographs.

One was of my family home in Nottingham and when I turned the photo over to see if had been dated, I saw this …

That’s my Dad’s writing.

Writing I had not seen for a long, long time.

And I have to say, it knocked me sideways.

I couldn’t stop looking at it.

Running my finger across it.

Like standing on that balcony in Mum’s family home, this writing suddenly made me feel close to my Dad again.

Not just emotionally, but physically.

It didn’t matter it was just an address.

It didn’t matter it was so old, I’m guessing it was when Mum & Dad had just moved into the area given he had spelt ‘Bridgford’ incorrectly.

It was my Dad and this had moved him from my past into my present.

And that was an amazing feeling. A precious, amazing feeling.

Now that’s what I call a real family holiday.