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September 2018

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I wanted to mention something that I am pretty sure you’ll do today.

And if you don’t do it today, you will definitely do it in the next few days.

You will inspire someone.

Be Inspired. 

I get inspired by all sorts of people, all the time.

Every other day or so I meet people young and old that give me a metaphorical kick up the arse because they do something ranging from commendable to amazing.

This spurs me on to try to be better tomorrow than I am today.

I am on the lookout for such things I think. Which I am sure helps.

Be Inspiring.

But as I mention in the first part of this little read, you are inspiring people too.

I hope that makes you feel great. Because you are doing it, all the time. Especially when you’re being your best self.

So, if you don’t mind, have a wee think about this from time to time. It’ll make you feel warm inside; the fact that you’ve improved someone’s life.

These ‘little inspirations’ can be quite something. Especially when, as happens to us all, you may be able to inspire someone that’s in a temporary lull.

You can make their day.

Big Inspirations.

I’ll leave you with a reference to my friend Suzanne. Her father is pictured at the top of this story at the 50odd website.

Whilst ‘little inspirations’ are commonplace and you can make them happen regularly – big inspirations are out there too. Some grow throughout lifetimes.

Here is how Suzanne’s father inspired her:

…I thought I would share a photo of my inspiration for my grilled cheese restaurant idea along with the glass of wine I had tonight…

This is a photo from 1969 of my Dad at work – he and his brother-in-law ran a really high end restaurant in Cleveland Ohio and the newspaper came to do a photo shoot.

I was the only kid in school that had a Dad that wore a tuxedo to work every day which was kind of cool – he was 43 when I was born which back then was a really huge deal…

He died at the age of 86 and he had a great life…he never got to pursue his dream of going to college and becoming a doctor but he never acted as if he wanted to do anything else than what he did with food and wine and he was amazing at it – I miss him everyday.

Thanks for the story Suzanne. And the photograph.

Thanks to your dad for inspiring you, and to you for inspiring us xxx

I was invited to a White Ball last weekend. At Ramside Hall near Durham.

It was devised by a very cool chap called Sergio Petrucci. They’ve raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for CHUF (The Children’s Heart Unit Fund) over three years.

Amazing.

All In.

I am an ‘all in’ kind of guy. If I am going to do something I like to do it as well as I can.

So when Sergio told Lisa and I that we and every other guest had to wear all white to this 6 hour event, we set about getting outfits together.

For Lisa it was a dress and jacket and she looked great.

For me it was slightly more tricky. But as I’d decide to go all in I ended up with white Doc Martens, white jeans, white jacket, shirt and tie.

And white hair.

You can just about see this in the image accompanying this story at the 50odd website.

Crisis.

I think my mid-life crisis started when I was about 20. And this is probably just another stage I am going through.

I’d never dyed my hair in 50 years. So I thought, why not? I don’t have as much hair as I used to so it saved a few quid on hair dye. And a couple of whiskeys spurred me on to actually do it.

So here I am. Aged 50. With dyed white/yellow(ish) hair.

So when you see me wearing a flat cap or a beanie in the next few weeks… that’s why!

I wonder…

With which are you happiest?

  1. The list of great ideas you’ve had and great things you’ve done so far in life.
  2. The list of great ideas you’ve had for your future… things you still want to do.

My ‘list 1’ makes me grateful. I forget to be as grateful as I should sometimes. Life’s good.

My ‘list 2’ makes me feel hopeful. Excited, positive and ambitious about the future.

My Lists

I am happy with my list 1. I wouldn’t change anything. (Good job really since it’s too late anyway).

I am not happy with my list 2 though.

I think I need to have more ideas; to set more goals for more experiences. Ideas that I can see and imagine quite clearly. And I may even think about when I’d like to do them or achieve them. Deadlines.

The Right Way Round

And I am glad that I am happier with my ‘list 1.’ than I am with my ‘list 2.’

If I was unhappy with what I’d achieved in the past, and had no appetite for developing new ideas for the future – that’d be rubbish.

So this is, I think, is the right way around.

I hope you’re happy with your ‘list 1’ too.

And if you feel like grabbing a few extra sides of A4 for new ideas for your ‘list 2.’ – go for it. It’s never too late.

Good luck.

Image: Pete Zulu’s ideas book.

The last few days have been hard.

Taking stock of business.

And life.

I and the Always Wear Red team are working so hard. And thinking so hard. Because growing a brand from nothing, into something that stands for something, is complex.

As you may know I left the world of design, marketing and branding that I knew for 20 years to start a high-end clothing brand in February 2016. This is a world that I know pretty well now actually, but every day contains some new experience.

Magic and Money

I made money in my previous world.

I was good!

In this new world I am good too. But I am also new. So whilst the Magic is high – the Money is low.

I make Limited Edition batches. I partner with the best makers in Britain and I use the best materials in the world. So margins are tight.

But the Magic can only happen with the AWR Collection if we develop things this way.

So it’s all good really. And entirely necessary.

The Unknown

I am getting used to the dark corners. I can’t see everything in this world clearly. Because I am learning.

And there are sharp, 90 degree turns too that in an instant have me standing face-to-face with things I’ve never seen before.

Stepping into the unknown is unnerving.

New

Are all new things like this? I suppose they are.

I know many of the rules. I have a plan. And a framework.

But no formula. If I had waited for a formula, a formula for success, I’d never have started.

And you know what – if a formula guaranteeing success was handed to me on day one I’d probably be bored by now. Rolling out somebody else’s steps and stages is not for me. The adventure of doing things this way, for the first time, is far more interesting.

So in conclusion I am either brave, mad or a bit of both.

Time will tell.

And please – wish me luck.

When I worked as a brand consultant, the advice that I gave most people most often was:

“It is better to be different than it is to be better.”

This is true for brands. Consumers expect a certain level of quality of course. But beyond the delivery of important benefits – they value individuality and the ability to express themselves as individuals much, much more.

Life

This is also amongst the best advice I have given myself, too. In life.

From time to time we all worry about not being good enough. And we shouldn’t really because, I’ll say it again, I think it’s better to be different than it is to be better.

And the best way we can be different is simply by being our unique selves.

Morrissey isn’t the best singer. Jarvis Cocker? Not really. Madonna’s first mainstream success was with ‘Holiday’ in early 1984 and whilst Madonna is a good singer, few would say she’s a great singer.

Better versus Different

I think it’s better to be different.

It’s more natural, because I see different as simply the most adventurous, authentic and brave version of who you already are.

We know these people already, too.

It’s not people like Lewis Hamilton. For him we might say:

Wow. I wish I was that good.

It’s people like Boy George maybe. A talent, of course. But an outlier too. For him we might say:

Wow. I wish I could dress and look like that.

Well the good news is – you can. If you want.

Today.

People talk about moving outside of their ‘Comfort Zone’ don’t they?

And the implication of this precise label is that, on the outside, it’s ‘uncomfortable’.

Maybe that’s why so many people are waiting to take the step. Instead of actually doing it.

Reframe

In reality, I don’t think this ‘Comfort Zone’ label is accurate.

The world outside your ‘Comfort Zone’ can be exciting, fun, crazy, productive and wow!

As well as a bit worrying and disconcerting from time to time of course.

But my point is, it’s not always uncomfortable.

Habit

A better name for a ‘Comfort Zone’, I think, is ‘Habit Zone’.

A habit, according to the marvellous Steven Covey is always the combination of three things:

  1. What to do
  2. How to do
  3. Want to do

When all three are present, it results in things that you just, well, do.

With new things, one or more of these three are missing. So we need to learn or get what’s missing in order for the new thing to happen.

In order to move from ‘waiting’ to ‘doing’.

Names

Anyhow, in summary, the real reason I think that ‘Habit Zone’ is a better name than ‘Comfort Zone’ is because I feel more comfortable about moving to a new place that is ‘not a habit’ than ‘not comfortable’.

So now we recognise that new things are not necessarily uncomfortable at all – why wait?

A good (quite recent) friend messaged me. About a month ago.

She had an unusual question for me. And it apparently took a lot of courage for her to ask.

So I was flattered.

(By the way, I am going to use a lot of ‘she’ and ‘her’ in this story. I don’t like doing that normally. But as I am not going to name my friend – I will use them on this occasion).

Style

My friend asked me to help her on the subject of styling. Specifically, how she should dress for a new chapter in her life.

I have never put myself out there as a stylist. But I am known (in certain quarters, it seems) as a chap that dresses confidently. And, of course, I have founded a luxury clothing brand called Always Wear Red.

The request still took me by surprise though.

Maybe it shouldn’t have because, entirely unconnected, I delivered a workshop the week before on the very subject of styling. I twisted the narrative of the workshop from:

“Here’s How to Style Yourself.”

to

“Let’s explore the relationship between what you wear and how you feel (as opposed to how you look). And then let’s look at how you approach life when you feel great!”

Again, I was approached to do this.

Virtuous Circle 

(I’m going to digress for a second. Before coming back to my friend’s question. Because there is a connection).

  1. When  we wear truly great clothing, what we want, for ourselves, we feel great. Confident. We are not worrying about being judged.
  2. When we feel confident and amazing, we do confident and amazing. We do braver.
  3. When we do braver we are even more likely to wear what we want for ourselves, to push boundaries further, to wear even more adventurous things and feel even greater.
  4. And so on.

That was my workshop.

Now back to my friend…

My Friend

We chatted.

She was grateful.

She sent me a picture of herself looking BEAUTIFUL and confident and relaxed and funky and sexy.

My friend had done (probably) just one thing that I’d floated as an idea. Everything else came from her. I don’t think she realises how much she owned the decision making. And the look. But she did. And that’s why she looked so brilliant.

All good.

Creep

Anyhow the point of this little tale is to shine a light on ‘creep’.

How, when you are brave and adventurous and you do interesting things, your work ‘creeps’ into areas you’d never imagined or planned for. People ask you to do stuff.

And it feels really good.

My core learning and expertise, which is building a globally significant clothing brand (fingers crossed!) crept into advising a friend on styling. And running a workshop on decision making and styling.

And yes – I know they sound connected. But ‘fashion’ is a big area. Like ‘IT’ is a big area.

Creep is Good

Creep is good. Who knows where it might take you?

It teaches you things about yourself. Work creeps. Ideas creep. And you creep into new and exciting areas because the people around you take you there.

So have a great day.

And if you get the opportunity… creep!

Stereotypically, people start bucket lists when they discover they are going to die.

And in some ways I suppose they are rather uplifting. A mind-focusing exercise collating all the beautiful, fulfilling things that you really want to experience before your life inevitably ends.

They’re probably all tinged with a bit of sadness of course. Because the catalyst for a Bucket List is normally a diagnosis of a terminal illness or suchlike.

The moment you are told, with absolute clarity, that you are going to die.

My Diagnosis

The moment I was told I was going to die was when I was about 5. It was probably the same for you.

And whilst there are endless reasons stopping a 5 year old from creating a bucket list, these reasons diminish when a person reaches (say) 20.

We’re adults then, right?

And the Bucket List mentality for a 30 year old. Or a 40 year old. Or a 50 year old…

I see absolutely no reason why this process can’t kick in at any of these ages.

I think we toy with such an approach. You know, those people that will start their own business next year. Or leave their partner in the next six months. Or go to the gym properly this month.

Writing the list is the easy bit. Doing it is the biggest – and, believe me, the best step.

Doing what you feel you were born to do is fucking brilliant! The prospect of failing is a nothing once you get started. Those that you feared would see and maybe even define your failure turn to fog. They evaporate. They don’t matter. You left them behind the second you started.

Kickstart

What a shame that we so often need the urgency of some lady or chap sat the other side of a cluttered desk, solemnly stating that the treatment isn’t working to kickstart us.

Kicking the bucket is crap. You die. Game over.

Kickstarting the bucket list is brilliant! And you can start it now.

This second.

Then do the first thing on it.

Today.

Then add to it.

Then add it it again.

Your Diagnosis

So let me break this to you in the way that Amanda Blainey broke it to me and 100 other people at Do Lectures 10 in Wales in 2018.

You are going to die. Death has a 100% success rate. No exceptions. Ever.

If you are looking for a more detailed prognosis from me, I can give it to you now.  You will die around 1000 months from the month you were born.

Get the calculator out.

Work out how many months you have left.

List.

And do!

I find that the worst way to discover if something I’ve done is any good, is to ask people if they think what I’ve done is any good.

If I ask people if they think something that I’ve put Blood, Sweat and Tears into is any good, they either:

  1. Tell me they don’t think it’s any good. Which means they don’t think it’s any good.
  2. Tell me they think it’s good. Which means that they either think it’s good, or they don’t.

The first answer is useful. Because I can then explore why they don’t think it’s any good.  Then I can address the apparent shortcomings. Or not.

The second answer is not useful because I don’t really know if they are telling me their truth.

People sometimes say they like things so they don’t hurt your feelings. Or because they want to protect an existing relationship. Or because they can’t be arsed getting into a longer conversation about what they don’t think is any good; opting instead for a response allowing them too escape the conversation more quickly.

Fibbers

The second response doesn’t make people fibbers.

Well, not really.

It just makes them people.

Better

Anyhow, the way to get better answers is to ask better questions.

So asking people how something you’ve put Blood, Sweat and Tears into could be better – is better.

Answers are likely to hurt more in the here and now. But the feedback will hurt what you are trying to do far less in the future.

It also means we don’t make fibbers of people. Which can only be a good thing.

Salt by itself tastes bloody awful. ‘No good to anyone.

And too much salt is poisonous. It shrinks cells. A person becomes lethargic, weak and unresponsive. This can lead to seizures, coma and death.

On the upside though, just the right sprinkling of salt makes chips taste lovely!

Which is nice.

Be More ‘Salt’

Last night, as a I seasoned my chicken (thank you Lisa), I thought about salt.

I like meeting people, but sometimes – particularly when I first meet people – I don’t really know what kind of a relationship is best.

So from now on, on the subject of how I begin to interact with people and build relationships, I am going to ‘Be More Salt’.

I will go out of my way to interject where I can add flavour. With just a little sprinkling of me. I will try to add a special something to what’s already there in people’s lives. Sometimes this will be because someone has invited me in. Other times, I’ll make the effort and do this uninvited. Because sometime people need a hand and daren’t ask.

I’ll not interfere too much, though. Too much salt… yuk! I’ll work hard so that the relationships I develop will be balanced beautifully.

Get Out There.

And as no one wants to eat salt by itself, I will always make the effort to ally in one way or another with wonderfully complementary things. A life is better with more people in it.

We all have something to offer. And if we don’t get out there and offer to enhance other people’s lives then nothing will ever taste as wonderful as it could do. We’re in danger of being left with bland.

So there you go.

If you’ve ever wondered about how to start a well balanced and beautifully palatable relationship for all involved – get out there, introduce yourself and Be More Salt!