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I forgot something important about business and life.

And it’s Richard Branson’s fault.

That Richard Branson writes books called “Screw It Let’s Do It” and says things like:

If someone  offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”

I agree with this wholeheartedly. I really do and I do behave like this.

But I forgot a really important other, parallel rule.

I forgot to sometimes say no.

This Week.

  • Monday Evening. Spent the evening with a new model and a talented young photographer, shooting for the very first double page advert (pages 4 and 5) for a new relationship with a business magazine.
  • Tuesday Evening. Went for dinner with my friend Paul Lancaster and one of the founders of PayPal, Paul Davidson.
  • Wednesday Evening. Delivered a talk for Colour Collective UK about the madness of building a business and a brand around a single colour.
  • Thursday Evening. Presenting an award at The North East Marketing Awards. I was a judge a few weeks ago.
  • Friday Evening. Going for dinner with our newest model and his wife at a nice restaurant they know in Newcastle.

Now, keep in mind that the highlight of my week is normally Gogglebox. And you can see that this is an unusual week.

You know how, sometimes, you say ‘yes’ to things and they are months away. Then they suddenly arrive.

Well that’s all that happened.

All at the same time.

Shaughn McGurk

My friend Shaughn is one of the many millions* of people that read this blog currently.

And Shaughn (politely) bollocked me for falling behind with writing 50odd things.

I will write one per day for 10 years.

But I am behind.

So I apologise.

I’ll be back on track next week. Unless I’m watching Gogglebox of course.

I can’t say ‘no’ to that.

*By ‘many millions’ I in fact mean about 200. I fibbed. 

I was chatting with Tony Robinson OBE yesterday about – well – everything. We had lunch together in Newcastle.

Tony is a speaker, campaigner, writer, broadcaster and multiple business founder/owner. In amongst many other accolades and recognitions, Tony was presented with an OBE in 2001 by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, for services to small firms and training.

Alive

Tony is a brilliant man, and brilliant looking too. A real head turner. Take a look at that hat! (And the Always Wear Red 100% Merino Wool Skinny Bandage Scarf of course).

Anyhow, we chatted about how – over the years – Tony has campaigned tirelessly and effectively for causes affecting the smaller business world. I like Tony because he’s generous, clever and a do-er. He has made positive change happen. And he wants to do more.

I also like the fact that Tony is not chest-beating. Nothing about Tony is self-congratulatory. He talks only about the people’s lives he’s helped to make better and the good feeling he gets from making real change and pissing off the odd out-of-touch bureaucrat along the way.

Tony and I have decided that the number one priority for us both, in our quest to make our world and the wider world a better place, is to not die.

Staying alive is important. We agreed on that. So as we (and you) get older – we’re staying fit. Tony is running marathons and I am popping to the gym with the guys from STORM every now and then.

Faster

The other thing we both agreed on is that, as we get older there is absolutely no reason to slow down.

Or indeed to stay at the same pace.

We should get faster.

Sleep less. Bugger about less. Meet more. Affect more. Talk more. Listen more.

Do more.

If for no other reason than – because we can.

Tony travelled from York to see me yesterday. And he insisted on buying coffees and lunch. Such effort, generosity and sincerity is rare. Too rare.

Tony was touched by my STILL story. Whilst we’re Still In The Game – so we can do anything!

And so it is that Tony and I have decided to:

  1. Live forever.
  2. Get faster. Speed up our lives to do as much as we can for as many as we can.

I, and Tony, plan to deliver on at least one of those two.

Simon Sinek talks about it doesn’t he? 

Finding your ‘why?’

And today I am talking about it because I just launched a 150 second long film that I made with a friend of mine, Dan Prince – and it’s about this subject.

It’s a film about Simon Bourne. He wants to change the way people buy shoes.

And Julia Austin. Julia believes that the only way to get amazing beer is to get amazing ingredients. “It’s what’s inside that counts”, she says.

It’s about Nick Birss too. A guy that learned about coffee the Australian way. He then brought his learning back to the North of England. He believes his way is best.

And the film is about me. I believe that if you wear amazing you feel amazing, and that if you feel amazing you do amazing. I, and Always Wear Red, are Creating Confidence.

Why?

The film captures the beginning of our days. I wanted that because that’s when you feel the magic of purpose most.

Or… it’s where you unfortunately don’t feel it.

If you are reading this and it is the beginning of your day – I really hope you’re feel it.

Your ‘why’.

Because if you have a why – a purpose – you matter more and will last longer.

People like David Hieatt and Carlo Navato taught me that. They’re amazing. Just like Julia, Nick and Simon.

Please watch the film. It’s at www.50odd.co.uk if you’re reading this in your email alert.

Meet us.

Have a great day.

 

Here’s a nice story. ‘Worth remembering.

Jack Straus began playing in World Series of Poker events in the early 1970s.

He finished in fourth place in the 1972 Main Event. He won his first bracelet in 1973 in the $3,000 Deuce to Seven Draw event and also finished in third place in the Main Event that year. He won the 1982 World Series of Poker Main Event, earning $520,000 and a second WSOP bracelet. His appearances at the final table of the Main Event in 1972, 1973, and 1982 put him in a small elite group players to have made the final table three or more times.

Special!

1982 World Series Of Poker Main Event

Famously, Straus’s 1982 win was a comeback after being down to a single $500 chip, supposedly the origin of the common tournament poker aphorism: “a chip and a chair.”

Although accounts vary, the most common story is that he pushed his chips into the pot, was called and lost the hand. Straus had thought he was eliminated from the tournament, but when he got up, he discovered he had one chip left under a napkin on the table.

Because he did not declare himself all-in, the tournament directors allowed him to continue playing.

With one chip.

Still In the Game

Straus, from this single chip, went on to win $520,000 in 1982.

Today, that’s worth $1,400,000.

At Always wear Red we created 100 Limited Edition Poker chips to commemorate this. As a reminder to us all. Take a look at  the photo, above.

So long as we are still here, we can do amazing things.

We’re Still in the Game.

When I was 30, I talked about retiring at 50.

Or 55.

Or something.

Because other people spoke about it and it felt like a club I should be part of. A badge of honour.

Now I am 50, retiring is the last thing I want to do. What the hell would I do every day?

Probably drink too much, spend too much money and get into trouble.

Productive.

I have to be productive.

I cannot tell you how much of an unfathomable and unattractive concept retirement is now that I am actually 50.

Stick or Twist

All of that said, as I get older, big decisions are starting to feel even bigger. Because I am more aware that I am going to die. Probably between 1 and 30 years from now.

Lots of decisions feel like ‘Stick or Twist’.

And it’s quite unnerving.

45…

When I was 45 I simplified my life by closing my businesses. I had money in the bank. Enough for me to do not very much for a few years if I wanted to. I chose ‘Stick’ for a moment in time.

…47…

I decided to ‘Twist’ two years later. I started a new business in a new world. And invested a chunk of money.

…50

And at 50, it’s going well.

Stick or Twist Again.

As time goes by I am faced with yet more ‘Stick or Twist’ decisions.

I shouldn’t be surprised.

That’s what happens when you run businesses and I’ve ran a few.

Risks, or ‘Twists’, are part of the game.

Risk.

However all of that said, I am finding that ‘Stick’ is a risk too, as well as Twist.

I’ve never known a ‘me’ that does nothing at all. I am always up to something.

I have almost always chosen ‘Twist’. So if I were to ‘Stick’ that’s just too scary for me. I don’t really understand ‘Stick’.

So, and I have very selfishly written this story for me of course, I now feel a little bit better about choosing ‘Twist’ all those years.

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.

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!

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.

Part 1 of this story was launched yesterday. Read it before this one if you like, if you’ve not read it already.

Both parts are stories about how brave, interesting questions can be like seeds. Sometimes, amazing things grow from them.

Sewing Seeds

Always Wear Red is my clothing brand.

When the concept was born on Valentine’s Day 2015 I had nothing more than a brand vision – The Creation of Confidence.

I was going to need help. So I started sewing seeds.

Richard E. Grant

I wanted to associate the AWR brand with a cool, clever, British, edgy guy that interested me. So I asked Richard. E. Grant. His agent was quite nice initially. Then eventually asked me to kindly bugger off.

That seed bounced on the concrete. It didn’t end well.

Oscar Wilde

A hero of mine. I love how the ‘Oscar’ part of his actual signature looks. And as I create accessories from the world’s densest silk I saw this material as worthy of carrying this unique man’s unique marque. So I tracked down his agent. She’s in Illinois. I asked if I could use the signature. Eventually, she said yes.

And so it is that AWR is the only brand in the world weaving the great man’s signature into the densest 100% pure silk in the world.

That seed grew.

Morrissey

Another hero. Weaving the lyrics to ‘This Charming Man’ into the finest silk seemed like a brilliant idea to me. So I asked Morrissey.

Morrissey said no. So I pointed out that one of his finest tunes was in fact called ‘Ask’. I got no reply. ‘Miserable get.

That seed died also.

Ralf Little

I was sat outside a bar in London with my dog Colin in June 2015. I asked the chap on the next table to look after Colin whilst I went to the toilet. That chap was Ralf Little. Ralf played Antony in Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash’s iconic British sitcom “The Royle Family”. Ralf’s now an even more accomplished actor and writer.

I chatted to him about my pre-start business.  A lady sat next to him…

Zoë Rocha

Zoë Rocha, the former CEO of Stephen Fry’s Production Company Sprout Productions, the eldest daughter of fashion royalty John Rocha and elder sister of talented fashion designer Simone Rocha sat with us.

Six months later, both Ralf and Zoë were shareholders of Always Wear Red.

Two seeds sewn. Two grew.

Emma Conybeare (Emma CB)

I met London-based Emma on Twitter. Emma, an emerging model has now presented on CapitalXtra, Good Morning Britain and other ITV and Sky shows.

Emma is brilliant. I asked her to be our lead model at AWR’s launch at a North East based photoshoot along with Zoë and Ralf in January 2016. She said yes.

That seed grew.

Seeds Part 2

This seed-sewing shenanigans is a really great thing to do. Asking things. Anything. Of anyone.

It’s important to think about the win:win, though. I really like helping people so when I ask for something I always try to think about how it could be excellent for them as well. So if you’re going to get into more prolific seed sewing, do think about that.

And be cool with the rejections. Because as I mentioned in Part 1 of this story:

Until you ask, the answer is no anyway.

Image: Michael Owen, Emma CB, Zoë Rocha, Ralf Little.

Simon Woodroffe founded YO! Sushi in 1997. He was a ‘dragon’ on the first series of Dragon’s Den, too.

I heard Simon speak at an event about 15 years ago. A story he told about seeds changed my life.

Seeds.

I’ll not relay this story perfectly. But here’s how I remember it.

Simon Woodroffe is a big Ian Dury and The Blockheads fan. Ian Dury died in 2000 and shortly after that Simon Woodroffe called The Blockheads.

(I don’t know how he found them. But it’s easier than you think to reach pretty much anyone in my experience).

Anyhow, in the phonecall Simon told The Blockheads how much he loved them, how sad he was about Ian Dury’s passing and also that he’d cobbled together a song in their honour.

Then he sewed a seed.

Simon asked if he could send them the song. They said OK.

Simon sent the song. And that was that.

A couple of months later, so Simon’s story goes, he was wandering by the vegetables in his local Tesco. As he picked up an aubergine, his phone rang.

He answered, and a voice said, “Simon – how does this sound?”

For the next three minutes or so Simon stood open mouthed, aubergine in hand as his heroes The Blockheads played their version of his song down the phone.

The seed had grown.

So he sewed another.

He asked if he could record the song with them, Simon singing the lead vocal that he’d imagined his hero Ian Dury would have sung.

They said yes. Soon after the song was recorded and released as a single.

That seed grew too.

365 Seeds.

Simon went on to explain how he sews seeds like this every day.

Most fall of fallow ground. But some don’t. Some grow into amazing things. Like these seeds did.

No.

My lesson was this:

Until you ask, the answer is no.

Nowadays, I ask lots of questions. Each question is a seed. Some grow. Most don’t. But I keep on asking and I keep on sewing.

Because whilst I have no idea which seeds will grow and which won’t, there is absolute surety in the fact that if I choose to sew nothing – I grow nothing.

Part 2.

Tomorrow, in Part 2 of this story, I’ll let you know some of the questions I’ve asked.

I’ll let you know about the seeds that didn’t grow. And the seeds that did.