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


You Wish Your Child Was Like My Son … Asshole
July 21, 2017, 6:10 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Family, Fatherhood, Love, Otis, Parents

That photo is of my son, Otis.

He is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

He is cheeky, curious, kind, loving, beautiful and absolutely full of energy.

Now I’m sure most parents would describe their child like that, but based on a situation we experienced recently, it seems even other parents would regard Otis’ energy as being at another level.

Maybe it’s because he was restricted from going out in China because of the pollution.

Maybe it’s because he’s just loves being with other kids.

Maybe it’s because he is excited and curious about life.

Whatever it is, he can make the Energizer Bunny look like a sloth – and while we love seeing him run around and laugh – some other parents view this as a fault.

A few weeks ago, he was running around while some other kids were sat on the floor. He wasn’t bothering them, but in his excitement, he accidentally fell onto another child.

The reaction of both this other kid – and their parent – was extreme.

They acted like Otis had attacked them, even though he got up and [remember he’s only 2 1/2] said sorry and patted the child on the arm as a way of apologising. [We did the same … apologise I mean]

Apparently that wasn’t enough, because the parent came right up and ‘suggested’ Otis should be given a 2 minute time-out as punishment.

Fuck you!

Who the hell are you to try and dictate how we deal with our son?

Who the hell are you to try and curb his enthusiasm for life?

It was an accident. If it wasn’t, he would have been reprimanded, but he’s a sweet, caring, happy kid and all he did was fall over because his energy was running faster than his little chubby legs could go.

But as much as this parent fucked me off, it taught me a valuable lesson.

Before, when parents saw Otis running around like a happy lunatic, they would say things like, “He’s got a lot of energy hasn’t he?” and I would respond with a World-weary sigh and say something like, “You have no idea.”

But now I don’t.

Now I look at the person and say, “Yes, isn’t it awesome”.

Because it is.

As is my son.

And I’m not going to help a stranger feel better about their self-declared parental expertise by putting him down.



Just When You Thought It Was Safe …
June 19, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Family, Fatherhood, Otis

So I’m back.

I know … I know … the thought horrifies you. If it’s any consolation, it sort-of horrifies me too.

A huge amount has happened in the month or so I’ve been in LA, but the most important thing is we have settled.

To be honest, it’s been quite quick.

While Jill and I have done this a few times – as has the cat, Rosie – for Otis, it’s been a big change and the kid has handled it brilliantly.

Sure he’s missed his friends, toys and beloved Yaya … but he’s been awesome and I couldn’t be prouder.

I am a massive believer that one of the key criteria for success – or survival – is the ability to adapt to changing times.

That doesn’t mean you have to change your standards or your interests or even what you love, it’s just that you have to embrace the new rather than desperately hold on to the past.

That might sound hypocritical coming from me – a bonafide sentimentalist – but the reality is, my willingness to go where things excite me has enabled me to have the experiences I’ve had and hope still to have … so seeing my son be so positive about such a dramatic change of environment makes me feel he is already setting himself up for a life of adventure.

OK … OK … so maybe I’m overthinking all this, especially as Otis didn’t really have many options available to him once his parents decided to move to LA … but seeing him reach out to kids his age in a bid to bond and form friendships is wonderful to see.

Of course I feel a tinge of sadness witnessing it because I know part of his behaviour is because he feels a sense of isolation and I did that to him and I hate that I did that to him … but watching him adapt to his situation on his own accord is brilliant, especially when so many agencies are still trying to act like it’s the 1980’s.



It’s A Fine Line Between Surviving And Thriving …

I’ve survived my first week.

Or I think I have … maybe they are just preparing to tell me to go back to China at the end of the day.

Talking of China [subtle eh] …

Just before I left Shanghai, I was asked if I would write an article about my 7 years in China.

Originally it was meant to be an overview of my experience and what I felt the industry could learn from it. As that sounded far too hard/pompous/wanky, I chose to ignore the brief and write something else.

Given I would always encourage someone who has the opportunity – and interest – to go to China, I thought it might be worth me posting on here, if only for the fact it saves me having to write something new which means I won’t give the impression to my new employer and colleagues that all I do is write blog posts and plan my holidays. Ahem.

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I’m a cliché.

I have succumbed to the classic ‘7 year itch’ … except instead of walking away from a wonderful wife and son, I’m walking away from a wonderful country and company.

Yep, I’m leaving China and Wieden+Kennedy.

So if they’re so wonderful, why am I leaving?

Well it’s not because I’m having a midlife crisis – where my head has been turned by something that is ultimately going to lead me to destruction – it’s for a whole host of painfully sensible reasons.

But that’s not what this article is about because Mumbrella asked me to write about my time in China … a kind-of ‘what I’ve learnt and what are the implications for the industry moving forward’ type-of-thing.

The trouble is, I know those things tend to ignite the same sense of dread as hearing a colleague ask, “do you want to hear about my dream?”, so I’ve decided to ignore the brief and write a love letter instead.

I’ve absolutely loved my 7 years in China.

In fact I’d go as far as to say it has been one of the best times of my life – both personally and professionally.

Sure, a big part of that is because of Wieden, my clients and the fact my awesome son was born here … but the whole experience has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Being able to see the huge shifts that have gone on first-hand feels like a total privilege.

I’m not just talking about the obvious stuff, but things like creativity, cultural diversity and technology.

Few things will ever make me as happy as being able to tell the West there’s areas where China is literally miles ahead of them … areas they were convinced they were dominant in.

China did that for me.

Of course there’s been challenges along the way … brands who prefer convenient answers over doing the right thing and a general attitude of good enough is good enough to name but two … but overall, it’s been an incredible and special time.

I’ve had a chance to do things I never thought I’d ever be able to do.

I’ve worked on projects with brands I will forever be proud to be a part of.

I’ve made friends with people who I will always want to be close to.

I’ve re-learnt almost everything I thought I knew.

And on top of all that, I’ve seen an industry start to realise what it is capable of being on it’s own terms, not others.

Not bad for a bald bloke from Nottingham.

Now, anyone who knows me is probably freaking out how positive this article is, so I’ll leave you with 7 things [one for each year I’ve been here] that I hope the industry will stop doing.

This is not because I want to my cultivate a grumpy-bastard image, but because as much as things have improved over the years, the industry is in a fragile state and if we don’t keep pushing forward we could start slipping backwards.

[Yes, I appreciate there’s more than 7, but hey, this is new, optimistic LA version of me. Ahem]

1. No more decks saying ‘China is big’. Everyone knows that. Even a myopic Trump supporter living in Boise, Idaho knows that. And while I’m at it, can Westerners stop throwing the word ‘Confucius’ on every 3rd slide.

2. The clichés of casting. Seriously, if an alien landed here and watched the ads, they’d never know this is a country with incredible diversity and nuance.

3. Please, please, please no more toilet paper ads acting like it’s a symbol of status and sophistication. It’s not. It’s something you clean your arse with.

4. You might not believe it, but there’s more ways to connect to culture than HTML5. Honestly.

5. To the planners who act like they’re academic intellectuals … stop! You’re not fooling anyone and you’re undermining a discipline that needs to be recognised for uncovering exciting creative opportunities, not spouting shit read from a business magazine.

6. Stop with the scam. It’s embarrassing and it is killing the industry for all of us. We all know who does it and I don’t give a shit if they’ve paid for a small store in Wuhan to run their ‘idea’, it’s still bullshit.

7. I know they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it isn’t. It’s lazy and sells the industry short – not just financially, but creatively. There’s a bunch of incredibly talented people here who given the space and time, will reward us with something new and great.

That’s it. Not that hard really…

So with that I say thank you China.

I leave a better person than I came and I’m going to bloody miss you.



Hello America …
May 23, 2017, 10:32 pm
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, China, Comment, Family, Otis

I have good news and bad news.

The good is this post does not signal the full return of this blog.

The bad is I have still written a post.

Before I begin, to everyone who entered the APSOTW … we’re close to having consolidated feedback and it will [hopefully] be posted in a couple of weeks. Huge apologies for the delay, but with the move – and the usual ‘herding sheep’ – it’s taken longer than I would have liked.

As for the move. Well, after an incredibly emotional goodbye we – Jill, Otis, Rosie the cat and myself – got to America unscathed.

I have to say it was weird having Rosie on board with us – hearing her meow – but given how quickly she acclimatised to her new surroundings, it obviously was a much better experience for her than the other times she has flown in the cargo.

We have been here just under a week and while it’s been rather hectic – organising social security numbers and driving tests and looking for places to live, not to mention enduring some rather extreme jetlag – it has been pretty special.

Not just because we got to spend time together exploring our new surroundings, but because we had family visiting America so we got to hang out with them too.

But more than that, everyone has been super nice to us. Everyone.

Strangers, government officials, [soon-to-be-new] colleagues … people have gone out of their way to make us feel welcomed.

Even the immigration officer was nice when we entered the country and that literally has never happened to me before.

There is a little park near us where we have taken Otis on a number of occasions. Every single time, a different family have come up to us and said hello and offered to help with anything we need. Even if they’re just saying it – and I don’t think they are as they gave us their phone numbers – I’ve got to be honest, it’s pretty lovely.

And don’t get me started on how amazing the community-run, hippy, mandarin-speaking, creative-focused pre-school is …

Of course it’s early days so I know I’ll find stuff that drives me fucking insane [like the whole tipping protocol] but when I see the smile on Otis’ face as he runs along the beach, I know that as much as I love – and miss – China, this was the right thing to do for my little family.

So of course, now I am in a new country, I need a new blog header and as you can see from above, Jill has worked her magic again.

Or should I say, worked her imagination.

Though after 6 days in LA, I must admit I have grown to have a bit more respect for Mr Hulk Hogan, because how anyone can have a body like that when every place serves food in quantities that would be too much for an elephant, is anyone’s guess.

I miss you China but I like you LA.



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’.




Dear Dad …
January 16, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Childhood, Comment, Dad, Death, Jill, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

Oh Dad, how can it be 18 years.

How is that possible?

I remember that phonecall like it was yesterday.

You had been in hospital since Christmas having taken a turn for the worse.

And then on the 27th December, Mum called to say it was very bad and the Doctors had told her that I should come back right away.

In a weird way, this did not worry me.

We had gone through the same situation twice in the last 3 months and both times, you had pulled through.

But then I realised Mum’s voice sounded a bit different … more scared … and that’s when I started to get worried.

As you know, after a rather traumatic flight from Sydney, I got to Nottingham and was by your side at the QMC.

You were very poorly, but you knew I was there and it seemed to help.

But the strange thing is I can’t really remember what happened between arriving by your side and the Doctor asking me if I wanted him to remove the suffering you were going through.

I know Mum and I spent every day – from the moment visiting hours started to when they ended – next to you.

I know I told you how much I loved you. How I tried to will you back to health.

But the actual conversations and considerations are a total blank.

I’d like to say it’s because 18 years is a long time, but it’s actually because my brain refused to let me deal with the realities of your situation until that conversation with the Doctor.

4 years of delusion and denial pricked by a single conversation with the Doctor.

4 years of ignoring Mum as she quietly and tenderly tried to prepare me for the inevitable.

I certainly hope I was better when Mum passed away.

Of course, it was less expected than your situation and yet, deep down, I feared it may happen – as, it seems, did Mum – which is why I was much more aware of what was happening or what may happen.

So I need to thank you yet again, for helping me learn.

For trying to ensure I didn’t face more pain than I absolutely needed to.

Oh Dad, I wish you were here.

I wish I could hear the questions you would have for me.

I wish I could look into your bright blue eyes as you heard what I’d been up to over the last 18 years.

The decisions I’ve made …

The situations I’ve encountered …

The life I have somehow managed to live …

I would give anything to hear the pride – mixed with incredulity – you’d express about the career I’ve managed to forge.

The places it’s let me live. The people it’s let me meet. The experiences it’s let me enjoy.

The family it has let me have.

The daughter-in-law you would absolutely adore.

And the grandson you would be totally obsessed with.

But you’re not here … not physically, anyway … but in a weird way, Mum passing has made me feel closer to you.

Not that you were ever far away, but 18 years meant I had got used to the memory of you rather than the presence of you.

However now Mum has joined you, I kind of feel you’re both near me again.

I know that’s mad and I can see you shaking your head at me … but it’s true.

Don’t worry, I’ve not become a religious fool – but the fact you’re together has helped me a lot because I never was happy that you were both apart from each other.

But now, my mind, you’re back together, as you should be.

As you always were throughout my childhood.

And I cannot tell you how special that was to me.

Even more so now.

So while today is a day of sadness, it is also a day of joy … because you will be happy to know I am no longer lost in the pain of your final few years and can now focus on the wonderful life you had and we shared, exemplified when I had the honour of discovering the card you wrote to Mum when I was born.

I never doubted how much you loved me, but finding this was the verbal equivalent of one of your warm, wonderful hugs.

Sure I cried my eyes out, but oh what a feeling that was.

I so hope Otis feels the same way when he finally stops trying to wriggle out of my arms everytime I give him a cuddle. Ha.

So now it is time to go and I want to leave you by saying that while it has been 18 years, the love I have for you has never faded – if anything, quite the opposite – and even though I wish with all my heart that you were still here to be involved in the daily rituals of my life, the fact you’re with Mum makes the sadness a bit more manageable.

Still miss you though.

Love you Dad.

Rx

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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