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November 2018

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There’s a photograph with this story that you’ll need to see, at 50odd.co.uk, if this is going to make sense to you.

I have a question and it is:

Do you have a recent photograph of you that you like? That shows you how you really are at the moment, and how you are comfortable being seen?

I ask this because the image of me with this story, which was taken by my friend Pete Zulu, is the image I have that makes me feel like this.

It just took me by surprise that’s all.

It reminded me that I am quite a private person.

A furry-faced, hat wearing guy that can be quite awkward. That likes being at home and sitting in the same chair doing the same things with the same people. And it’s dark and safe and enclosed.

Yes, that’s me.

The Other Me. 

There is another me though.

The other me is Always Wear Red.

Because it has a purpose that I created.

It was born to ‘create confidence’.

Always Wear Red is making people feel like the bees knees because they know that what they’re wearing is fecking brilliant!

And I like the idea that these beautiful, likeable people are using their swagger and confidence to good effect.

I want to change people so that they can be – or remind them that they already are – amazing!

So I wonder why I am so drawn to this dark, quiet version of me in the picture? Perhaps its because I feel safe there.

And it will have something to do with the photographer of course. I think a lot of Peter.

You.

So what about you?

Do you have a photograph of you that captures you authentically at this exact point of your life?

And if you don’t, what would it look like I wonder?

I’ve been watching and listening to Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ over and over and over recently. 

It was released 4 years ago in 2014. But it’s only this year that I listened to it properly and watched the official video.

Over and over and over.

Perfection.

It’s such a strong melody and structure.

The production is brilliant.

The drumming is interesting and diverse and clever.

Sia’s voice is mesmerising. The perfection and the imperfection.

The dancer in the official video, an 11 year old Maddie mixes up clumsy (apparent) improvisation with  beautifully graceful and skilful moves.

The lyrical story is about the excesses of drinking and drug taking – and the loneliness and desperation this can bring.

The live performances are just as lovely because they mirror the video and allow us to explore precision and imprecision and how important it is to have both in order to make this song special.

And then there’s the weirdness of Sia not facing the camera as she sings and Maddie, aged 11, wearing a full body nude suit.

Perfectly imperfect. 

I don’t like things that are too polished and fixed and predictable.

I find that quite boring.

I like unpredictable, adventurous and exciting things with character and story and meaning. I get hungry for this kind of thing and these kinds of people.

I hope it rubs off.

And that I can create something amazing in 15 minutes of my life some day.*

I’ll keep trying.

*It took Sia 4 minutes to pick the chords and the melody, and 15 minutes to write the lyrics.

I think I’ll be able to ride a bike until the day I die.

Unless I get some awful debilitating somethingorther that means my limbs don’t work. Or my ability to balance just goes away.

But I am hopeful.

Hula.

That said, I tried to hula hoop recently, and I can’t do it.

If you are a 50(ish) year old chap like me, I challenge you to try this.

OK so I know that as I am getting older there is an increasingly long list of things that I can’t do. But I imagined this to be things like ‘turn heads’ or ‘have a chest that sticks out further than my tummy’ or ‘run very fast for a long time’.

All of these things reflect an increasing wrinklyness, baldness, fatness and unfitness.

But bloody hula hooping?!

I wonder what else I am losing the ability to do that I once could.

I dread to think.

Help.

Anyhow, help me out a bit.

If, like me you have used up about 600 of your 1000 months on earth, try hula hooping and let me know how you do.

Or is it just me?

And my definition of hula hooping is keeping the hoop going around your waist (if you still have one – a waist not a hula hoop) for 30 seconds.

Send a video.

Please.

Just a little something to think about…

I heard someone say that some sportsperson or other ‘made history’ this week.

I can’t remember who it was or what they did.

But they, apparently, ‘made history’.

Firsts.

As a general rule, people use the term ‘making history’ when people do something for the first time.

But now I have a 2 year old daughter, I think about this saying quite differently.

As I get older I think quite deeply about what I am doing each day, and how I can make Izobel proud. Even though all she wants from me at the moment is cereal (the dinosaur one, not the monkey one), milk and a cuddle.

I can see that every decision I make today and everything that I do, no matter how big, small, significant or insignificant is – quite literally – making history. Because it’s my history and Izobel’s history. She will know about it one day.

And that’s quite a responsibility.

Tomorrow.

So tomorrow, and today as it goes, if you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed or confused or bothered by things – that’s OK.

You’re meant to feel all of those things if you’re really trying.

After all – you’re making history.

When you first meet someone, if it’s in a circumstance that dictates you’re supposed to get to know each other a bit, pretty much the same questions pop out each time. One of them is:

Hi. So; what do you do?

I am almost always underwhelmed by the answer to this question.

Oh. Really.

…I reply.

A Different Question.

So next time, instead of asking someone what they do. Ask this:

Hi. So; what are you for?

It’s a very similar question. So why not ask it?

Well, because it sounds bloody rude. And silly.

At least on planet Earth it does.

Planet Michael

On Planet Michael where I live, aged 50 and more single minded and forthright than ever, all people have a purpose. They all know what they are for. Or they should do.

So it’s a perfectly acceptable question.

Conversation are so much richer on this Planet because the reasons we do what we do are always heartfelt and up front. Everyone is driven.

No one does anything just for a pay check on Planet Michael. Or because it seems like the obvious thing to do. Or because it’s what they learned at college. Or because everyone else does it.

They do it because they are trying to change something.

For the better.

For everyone.

Back To Reality.

But back on planet earth we are once again surrounded by people that are going through the motions. Grumbling about unpaid overtime and feeling unappreciated. Waiting for something to change.

But here’s a secret.

There is a way to be on this other planet, the ‘Planet with a purpose’, if you want to, without actually leaving the planet you’re on now.

Whenever anyone asks you what you do, don’t answer that – tell them what you’re for instead. Answer the other question. Tell them what you are trying to make better, for everyone.

And if there isn’t anything.

Why the heck not?

In 2017, Alex Honnold did something no one had ever done.

He climbed the 3,000m El Capitan vertical rock formation in California’s Yosemite National Park

(A football pitch is about 100 metres long. So he climbed 30 football pitches vertically. Without a rope).

Fear.

At the beginning, Alex feared failing because failure wouldn’t bring ridicule, injury or bankruptcy.

It’d kill him.

So he didn’t tell his mum about it until after he’d done it.

Practice.

Anyhow, Alex practiced.

For 8 years.

He climbed with ropes to learn every inch of the sheer wall so he could conquer the physical part of the 4(ish) hour challenge.

But the mental side was harder because he could actually imagine that failure felt like.

He’d die.

Doubt.

Somehow, when he was ready to climb, he wasn’t scared at all.

This lack of fear was down to being so well prepared that he didn’t doubt he could do it.

And he knew this truth:

Doubt is the precursor to fear.

I like this quote.

I suppose it’s simply saying that if you prepare enough – if you practice enough – doubt disappears. And so too does fear.

Reach.

If this is true, and I think it is, it means that so much more is within our reach.

Any time. Any place. Any age.

All we have to do is want it enough.

I accidentally got drunk on Saturday night. 

It’s because we bought some Bourbon that was on offer. Clearly not my fault.

(Well I didn’t put it on offer did I?)

And it’s also because it’s nearly Christmas and I used to buy my grandma advocaat every Christmas. So when I saw that I bought some of that too.

Mix.

Later that night I stared at the two bottles and wondered what it’d be like to mix them. Then I wondered if this had done before.

Then I wondered if it mattered if it had been done before because, at one moment in time, nothing had been done before.

Anyhow, then the gold happened.

The Gold.

There is a scene in one of my favourite films, The Shining, where Lloyd, the clumsy bartender bumps Jack’s drink.

Jack Nicholson’s character was also called Jack.

Advocaat splashes from the glasses that Lloyd is carrying into Jack’s Bourbon.

And there it was.

But also remember that this was in a room called The Gold Room.

And that you are quoting the film scene not the same scene from the book. Because in this scene from the book Jack orders a martini, not Bourbon.

But most of all remember the name of the drink. It does exist. It always has (see what I did there).

It’s called a Jack Torrance.

That’s the name of Jack’s character in The Shining.

Perfect. I love stories.

3 parts advocaat. 1 part Bourbon. 2 or 3 cubes of ice. Shaken

You’re welcome.

PS. It’s also known as ‘The Caretaker’.  My new favourite drink.

So if you really want to show off, order a ‘Caretaker’ followed by…

“Sorry? You don’t know what a Caretaker is? Well… have you seen The Shining? You know the scene where… etc. etc.”

Merry Christmas.

One of my first memories of being in a position of power and responsibility was when I worked in Boots the Chemist.

In Derby.

I was 16.

Erasure.

Now this is impressive…

I was allowed to choose whatever tape I wanted, to play in the store.

Over their PA system.

I was a ‘Saturday boy’ and worked on ‘Sound and Vision’.

I could chose any tape in the whole wide world.

As long as it was in the top 30 in the charts of course.

So I did.

For a good while I chose Erasure.

(My gaydar was awful, you know. I didn’t notice any gayness. I’m just as bad these days most of the time).

‘A Little Respect’ is at the foot of this story at the website version. It’s great.

Giggle. 

I am mentioning this to remind me to calm down a bit, about business and about life.

As stakes get higher at Always Wear Red, as we grow a little bit and start to see some good things on the horizon, I can sense that I may get a little more nervous.

And this may make me a little more serious.

If that happens we will lose some of what has gotten us this far.

So I do need to remember to have fun.

Because as well as building a team of world-beaters, I need the young blood too.

The newbies.

The up-and-comers.

Those that will love to get the important day-to-day tasks done. They won’t be choosing the new items to invest in in our collection. Or how many to order. Or whether to accept investment from this person or that person.

That’s my job.

They may do these things the future of course but, for now, I must remember to let them have a giggle.

And to feel the almighty rush of adrenaline that comes from choosing the music in the studio.

Here’s Erasure.

Merry Christmas.

I have a great deal of respect for anyone connected to The Do Lectures.

Fellow attendees like Shaughn McGurk, founders like Carlo Navato and speakers such as James Victore.

So when I read about James’s ‘Creative Struggle’ last week, I felt a bit better.

Creativity. 

I ran creative agencies for about 15 years. But I don’t think I was being awfully creative.

Yes, I was helping others to be creative.

But me – as a trained and experienced designer myself – was I really being creative?

Here’s what James said:

It’s hard to be creative, I know.

I question every move and mark I make.

I fall victim to too much thinking and too much worrying about money, art, life, kids, the future, death and “what’s for dinner?”

But, I also know that I can change my reality by changing my attitude.

So, now I plug in my microphone and share these thoughts with you.

For the last 80-plus weeks I have been recording a “Dangerous Idea” video every week on my channel at Patreon.

These come from my own efforts to untangle my daily creative struggle— and in the process help you find your own way.

All of the videos are available to new subscribers.

You can look up James Victore’s work online.

He’s bloody brave.

I love the playfulness of his work. And the humour.

It’s punky to me. Rebellious and personal.

I intend to read and learn a lot more about James.

Creative Struggle.

But the main reason I’ve written this little story is because of James’s terminology…

…creative struggle…

James seems to acknowledge that this is a ‘thing’.

Rather than a weakness or a disease or an immovable barrier.

And I like that.

I like that I am a bit like James, too.

I struggle creatively from time to time.

I never actually struggle to be creative.

But I struggle to work out what’s good and bad, valuable or not valuable, relevant or irrelevant.

I struggle to prioritise creatively.

That’s it.

I think.

Authenticity.

I admire James.

And I am grateful that he’s had the authenticity and the honesty to talk about his struggle.

As with all such actions, and I really should have learned this by now, when one person talks openly about their struggle – it makes it so much easier for people to talk about theirs.

That’s a good thing.

Image: By James Victore.

Most of the Always Wear Red community are Generation X (35-50) or the Elastic Generation (50-69).

AWR talk a lot about brand purpose – the Creation of Confidence – and we tell our style story visually too. With images and film across social media.

Then, those that join us, join us.

Advertising.

I am aware that 80% of advertising budgets worldwide target 18 to 34’s.

Yet 80% of the UK’s wealth is controlled by people over 50.

This is very strange.

Because I think style is timeless and ageless.

Style.

For me and for Always Wear Red we’re nothing to do with fashion and everything to do with style.

That’s timeless.

Paul Weller (60), Nick Cave (61), David Byrne (66), Idris Elba (46), Tom Hardy (41), Lenny Kravatz (54) are creative pioneers.

They’re not ‘cool for their age’.

They’re just cool.

And even though AWR is menswear, we consider women like Tilda Swinton (57), Kate Moss (44), Kylie Minogue (50), Juliette Binoche (54) and Carine Roitfeld (64) as we design.

Such women would wear cool, classically designed, wonderfully made menswear in a heartbeat.

Worth.

As we age we gain experience and wisdom.

We more easily recognise the extraordinary from the ordinary.

We learn our worth.

I have to remind myself that, as a brand, we don’t have to ‘persuade’ the stylish, the liberated and the pioneering to join us.

We just have to be stylish, amazing, different and classic, with a little edge.

Because our customer is like that too.

Style.

Timeless.

Image: Pete Zulu, original Lead Singer of The Toy Dolls. Wearing AWR Skinny Bandage Scarf (Red. 100% Merino wool).