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


What Happiness Looks Like …

Tomorrow I’m on holiday.

For over a week.

I am also turning 50.

Both of these pieces of news are no doubt going to fill you with happiness.

[Though there is a post tomorrow, so don’t get too excited]

Well, that is good, because this post is about just that.

Happiness.

One of the best things that has ever happened to me is Otis.

I loved the idea of kids – and at 18, I actually tried to adopt, hahaha – but after that, the idea was put on the back burner because frankly, I always thought I was too young.

I swear part of that is because Paul, my best mate, also didn’t have kids … so I was in some form of arrested development.

Anyway, one day Jill – who had been very patient – pointed out I wasn’t getting any younger so we decided to go for it.

Of course we then discovered the only we would pull this off is if we had IVF.

ARGH!

But then we got 2 pieces of luck.

First was being able to have the treatment in Australia. This was important because the process in Shanghai was so unbelievably weird, complicated and confusing, that we’re not sure we would have ever stood a chance there.

Secondly, the treatment worked first time. We are under no illusion how fortunate we were … though there was some sort of cosmic comedy karma in the fact we discovered Jill was pregnant on April 1.

Now I don’t regret being late to the Dad party.

The reality is I didn’t feel ready before.

OK, so I don’t know if men ever feel ready, but that’s probably less to do with being a Dad and more to do with the fear of the responsibilities associated with being a Dad.

And even though we are 5 years down the road, I still feel that.

Sure, maybe we could have had a brother or sister for him if we’d done it sooner. Sure, there’s a part of me that would have loved to do that. But apart from the fact I worry I may not get to see him grow old given my age, I can live with the fact I am soon to be 50 and I have a 5 year old bundle of beautiful mischief.

And what a bundle of beautiful mischief he is.

Kind. Compassionate. Emotional. Creative. Curious. Imaginative. Cheeky. Full of energy.

He is a loving son who wants to see the best in everything.

Part of me worries a bit about that.

I’ve already seen how some kids try to take advantage of that generosity, but in the end – all we can do is prepare him for how to deal with things that are sadly going to happen in his life and he is generally handling those tougher situations pretty well.

The main thing for me is for him to be able to enjoy his childhood.

I get that’s an incredibly privileged way to live … but I also think that’s something every parent would want for their children.

The fact is life passes so fast, we want to try and ensure he is given the chance to enjoy the present.

Be silly.

Try different things.

Resist placing pressure on him to do things he doesn’t like.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love him to like playing football as much as he likes doing acting, but he knows to support Nottingham Forest, so I’m OK with it.

Which leads back to the point of this post.

Happiness.

When we lived in LA, we bought Otis a trampoline for his birthday

As you can see, he was very happy to get one.

In fact, he was so happy, he would want to do it all the time. Including at night, where he would go into the garage with a torch [where the trampoline was kept] and just bounce up and down.

For hours.

And hours.

And hours.

When we left America, I wanted to sell the trampoline and get another when we worked out where we were going to live. But Jill had other ideas. And as usual, she was right.

Because while the weather in London is not the same as the weather in LA, that trampoline was a guarantee of happiness for Otis.

Not just because it was a treasured possession from another place, but because he still loves to bounce on it.

For hours.

And hours.

And hours.

Which is a very long winded way to get to the point of this post.

As the weather is nicer, Otis likes nothing more than bouncing on his trampoline while being sprayed with water.

Yes, I know this sounds like the sort of torture the US government subjected inmates at Guantanemo Bay to, but he adores it.

Recently we captured a photo while he was doing it that, for me, sums up what happiness is.

As a feeling.

As a look.

As a parent.

As my son.

Which is why I hope this is one thing that never changes as he gets older.

Not just because I doubt it can be topped – regardless what he does – but because, for me, it is the definition of perfect.

Stay happy Otis.

You make your old man giggle with pride and delight.




The Last Month Of 4.0 …

So today is June 1.

In 11 days, I wave goodbye to my forties and enter a decade that seems impossible for me to fathom.

50.

FIFTY.

Seriously, how did this happen?

I still remember sitting on the hill outside Erica’s newsagent with my best mate Paul around 1978, when we worked out that in the year 2000, we would be turning 30.

But here we are, 11 days from 50.

[Though it’s 15 days for Paul, who will LOVE those 4 days where he can bang on about how he is a decade younger than me … though he will also moan that my present for him isn’t like the full page newspaper ad I got him when he was 40, but a Forest shirt signed by all the members of the 1980 European Cup team. Asshole. He knows about this present as I bought it for him years ago so I’m not ruining anything for him. But I still have a surprise for him. Oh yes.]

Turning 30 bothered me a bit.

I was totally fine with becoming 40.

But 50!

I’m both bricking it and utterly casual about it.

And while there are some practical reasons for the shitting myself part – health, work, life in general – the fact of the matter is the older I get, the better my life has become.

I totally get the privilege of that statement, I don’t take it for granted at all, but it is definitely true.

Personally, professionally, emotionally …

Sure there have been some bumps along the way – some terribly hard and emotionally destructive ones – but looking at the big picture, the reality is my life has generally been on an upward trajectory.

Now even I know that it can’t keep going like that forever … but it doesn’t mean I have to stop trying.

The fact is, the older you get, the more you discover …

From what you like, what you don’t … to what you didn’t know and what you want to know.

And what makes it even more amazing – and annoying – is that every step you take, in whatever direction, reveals a whole host of other possibilities you would like to explore and investigate.

The problem is time is now officially, not on your side … so there’s a point where you have to accept you won’t get to try, play, experiment with all you want to do, so while that might put some people off, it kind of makes me want to try and pack more in.

And I am … because on top of work, Metallica, the school with Martin, I’ve already agreed to do a couple more projects that are intriguing and – frankly – ridiculous.

But there’s another reason for this attitude and it’s because my Dad died at 60.

Death is something I’ve talked a lot about over the years – mainly due to both my parents passing away.

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of taking about it, but I must admit, I’m scared of it.

I’m in generally good health, but fifty is still 50 and my Dad still died just 10 years on from this age.

Now of course it doesn’t mean I will … and I’ve come to this completely unscientific view that I should live till I’m at least 71 because if you take away my Dad’s age of dying [60]from my Mum’s [83] … that leave 23 years. Halve that … add it to Dad’s age … and voila, I will live till at least 71.

But then that means I only have 21 years left.

TWENTY ONE.

That’s nowhere near enough.

My wonderful little boy is only 5 for fucks sake. 26 is way too young to lose your Dad … hell, that’s even younger than I was when I lost mine.

Years ago, an old boss I looked upto said that if you can’t feasibly double your age, that is when you know you are – at best – middle aged or – at worst – the last stage of your life.

Well I suppose I can still feasibly double my age – even if it’s against the average age of death for a man in the UK [79.2] – but the reality is where I’m going is shorter than where I’ve been.

But shorter doesn’t mean less interesting.

And arguably, I have more exciting things in my life now – both personally and professionally – than I have ever had.

It also helps I am insanely immature with a desire for mischief, experimentation, creativity and adventure.

And I intend to fill it up with even more.

Fortunately I get that from a number of sources.

My wife.

My son.

My job.

My other jobs.

My friends.

My mind.

A while back, Pete said something I found pretty profound.

He said the narrative of strategy tended to focus on the importance of curiosity when discovery is far more valuable for driving the standard of the work you create and the adventure you go on.

Now I’ve written a lot about how I hate when planners talk about curiosity – as if they’re the only people who have it – but I really, really like that idea of the hunger for discovery.

I absolutely have that.

I owe so much of what I have to that.

The countries I’ve lived in. The people I’ve worked with. And most importantly, the family I am fortunate to have.

So while I enter a new decade, I will continue to live like it’s the old one.

Not in terms of dressing like I’m younger than I am – mainly because I have always dressed like I live in 1986 – but with the hunger, ambition and desire I’ve always had.

I genuinely believe my best work is still ahead of me.

Truly believe that.

And the goal of this decade is to achieve some of that while discovering new things that make me believe even better work can still lie in my future.



Truth Out Of The Most Innocent Of Mouths …

So I have to admit that I am loving being in quarantine with my family.

I appreciate a big part of that is that I’ve been impacted far less than many.

I fortunately continue to have a job and where we live has a small backyard for Otis to play in. I also know that with no elderly family members around, the worry and fears are limited to just our situation which is why, even though I would rather no one had suffered through this time, this period has been a revelation for me.

There’s many reasons for that. I am saving two and a half hours a day on commuting … so I’m get an hour a days more sleep. I get to be here and see Otis when he wakes up and goes to bed every night. And dinner time is now family dinner time … every single day.

All those things are wonderful based on the fact I just love being with my family.

We’ve never spent so much time together in our lives and I have to say, it’s great.

Yes, we would love to go out and see friends, but in terms of sacrifice, it has actually had some upside – though I would never want anyone to have had to pay the price they’ve had, to experience this.

The main reason this has been so impactful to me is that I was previously of the opinion being in the office every day was important.

Not ‘to be seen’ by management, but because as a boss … I felt it was important to spend time with your gang and be there when/if they need you. I still feel that, but now realise I can spend one day a week at home and it won’t do any damage … even more so when I assume many of the team will want to do the same.

That said, working from home has revealed some interesting situations.

As I wrote a while back, Otis’ naked bum dance to a very important member of the NIKE global management was an interesting one. While he has fortunately not done a repeat performance, he has revealed what he really thinks of me.

Just recently, this was our interaction while his Mum had popped out to buy some groceries …

As burns go, that’s pretty awesome … though as my colleagues gleefully told me when I told this story to them, “He’s not wrong”.

Assholes.



Rainbows Make Everything Better …

When Corona happened and we were all asked to stay at home, the first thing I thought about was the impact it would have on Otis.

It was bad enough he wouldn’t be seeing his friends for god knows how long, so the last thing I wanted was for him to start thinking the outside and people in general were dangerous.

All this led to an idea about creating a storybook to help kids understand the situation … help parents talk about it in a way that wouldn’t be scary and maybe let everyone ask questions or talk about things without freaking each other out.

A small team, predominantly Ed, James, Igor, David, Dre, Becs and Anna came up with the story, the design, the visuals and the animation – while all in individual quarantine – and 10 days later, From My Window was born.

To be honest the inspiration for all this came from the way Sesame Street handled the death of Mr Hooper – one of the human lead characters.

When he died the producers didn’t know what to do.

Do they recast the role? Do they explain his departure as the character moving away? Do they say he quit or just retired?

Instead the writers and producers decided to create an episode that taught their young audience about the difficult topic of death – not just because they felt that was the best way to respect the character, but because they assumed many kids in their audience may have experienced a loss of a loved one and this could help them better understand what it means and find some inner peace.

The episode was written by the shows head writer and aired on Thanksgiving, 1983. Even now it is regarded as having set the standard for dealing with difficult topics on children’s television and remains the highest rated episode in the shows history.

You can read more about it here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Hooper

While ‘From My Window’ obviously is not Sesame Street, we hope it can help kids maintain their love for the outside and help parents deal with a situation they never could have imagined would ever happen to them.

From My Window is available for parents to read with their kids [on a smart phone or tablet] at www.frommywindow.rga.com and includes a colouring-in book. The animated version – like the one below – is also available to enjoy here.

I have to say the animated one – below – is my favourite because all the voices are from kids of parents from R/GA London.

And yes, Otis is in it … he makes his debut at the end, when he takes the story on from the beautiful rainbow … which is appropriate because he drew the one at the top of this post.

I’ve got to be honest, I love we did this. I hope in its own small way, it helps. We know it won’t change the world but it may help your kid to keep looking out the window and see wonder and excitement.

No posts till Tuesday because of the Easter holidays. Enjoy the break. Stay safe.

www.frommywindow.rga.com



Father Pride …

Being a Dad is awesome.

It’s hard work, but you get so much more than you put in.

I’d like to think I’m a good Dad … I certainly want to be.

But then I saw this father and I realised I am rubbish.

Frankly, ‪I wish I could be this dedicated as him.

Actually, I wish I could be this dedicated to anything.

Adland once defined creativity for the masses, but nowadays most of them are playing catch-up to the creativity of culture.

Including Dads.

Like this one.

Sorry Otis.