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I have a recurring dream.

I live in a big house in this dream.

Rather like, but not exactly the same as, our last house.

That was big.

But this dream house is so big that I think I know how many rooms are in it but I am not exactly sure.

I remember feeling that, because I don’t know exactly how many rooms I have in my house, I feel rather good (in a shallow kind of way).

The Room.

I also remember that there is this one room in my house that I am frightened to go into.

I know the room is there.

But I will always procrastinate about going into it.

Stacked furniture blocks the entrance to it, you see.

And it is troublesome to move it.

This room, the one I am frightened to go into, is at the back of another room.

A bedroom.

At the back of this first bedroom, the ceiling slopes downwards towards this other, unvisited room.

I feel somehow glad that I have this other, unexplored place.

Comforted.

Yet I remain fearful of what is in the room beyond where the ceiling lowers.

I have never been there.

Yet.

Mending things is good.

But things are getting cheaper.

Time is getting shorter.

And mending skills are undervalued.

So we throw things away.

Kintsugi

Kintsugi is a Japanese art form in which breaks and repairs are treated as part of the object’s history.

Broken ceramics are carefully mended by artisans with a lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum.

The repairs are visible — and beautiful.

Kintsugi means “golden joinery” in Japanese.

In. Not Out.

I think valuable things wear in.

Not out.

Clothing I mean mainly.

But other things too.

I tend to buy less and buy better.

I know what I like so I don’t really want loads of things.

Just a few, excellent things!

And if they bend or break or bruise I like repairing them or having them repaired.

In fact, at Always Wear Red we have a Forever Repair Service.

AWR customers choose to have black knitted pieces repaired with black thread, or red thread.

Visible mend.

Or invisible mend.

In time, I’ll let you know what people plump for.

And in the meantime I hope that you, with regards to clothing, plump for a “Wear It, Share it, Repair it”  approach.

It must be the right thing to do.

It rhymes.

Here are a couple of suggestions.

The first suggestion is a bit strange.

The second is stranger still.

But both are worth doing.

Why?

Because today or in a few days, you can do these things.

There will come a day when you can’t.

Suggestion 1

Ask someone you love and that loves you to stop what they’re doing, switch off and look you in the eye.

Then ask that someone you love and that loves you, this question:

Would you like to come on an adventure?

Then watch their face…

Surprise?

Happiness?

Joy?

Suspicion?

And would they trust you?

Before you ask, you will have already thought about what they would really like to do.

With you.

A meal?

A hotel?

Both?

Something else?

But I think it is important to phrase the question like this:

Would you like to come on an adventure?

And why should you do it?

Because today, or in a few days, you can.

There will come a day when you can’t.

Suggestion 2

The next time you are alone at home, stand in front of a mirror and ask yourself a question.

Out loud.

Would you like to come on an adventure?

Then pause.

And think.

And watch your own face.

Would you trust you?

Adventure.

I hope you smile when you ask yourself this.

And that you feel a little excited.

And that you start to imagine.

And to create.

And to plan.

Why should you do it?

Because today, or in a few days, you can.

And there will come a day when you can’t.

Life is little.

There are many different ways to run a business and a brand.

And there are many different ways to run your personal brand alongside it.

These include:

  1. Construct one and tell that story.
  2. Just be you and tell that story.
  3. Don’t.

Personal Brand.

I was asked to talk on this subject alongside my friend Sarah Hall at the Northern Power Futures event in February 2019.

If you think that having some kind of a discernible personal brand can enhance or add value to the brand or business within which you are significant, here are some pointers.

First, keep in mind that your ‘personal brand’ has been described by many (including Jeff Bezos) as:

…what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

So if we take this definition as accurate, you have a personal brand whether you like it or not.

And if you have one whether you like it or not you may as well manage one.

And if you may as well manage one it may as well be an authentic one.

Or you can be pretty sure that, at some point, you’ll get found out.

What an Authentic Personal Brand Really Is

An authentic personal brand means being deeply authentic.

It means creating and sharing content about you like this.

  1. Show all sides of yourself. Go off-piste. You’re not just an MD. You’re a woman or a man too. You eat in good restaurants occasionally. You have family events. You have opinions on design. You may run through fields with your dogs to keep fit and alert. Real resonates.
  2. You’re not the consumer of this content, your audience on social media is. Or the community that has bought from you or may one day buy from you. So – there’s no need to polish or romanticise for your palate.
  3. Go cross-media. Write it. Create audio. Create video. Your audience consumes in many ways.
  4. Document content. Don’t create content. This results in much richer content that you can then re-edit for many different things. Audio for podcasts. Written copy for articles. Video for YouTube or Instagram.

It’s easier when you’re you.

It’s the person you do best.

I am writing a Fuckit List. 

It’s like a Bucket List but more immediately gratifying.

A Bucket List – a list of things you think you should do before you die – is good because it may focus you to do more things in this very short, 1,000 month life of ours.

But a Bucket List takes time and planning and the real gratification only comes when you actually do the things you’ve written.

A Fuckit List is quite different.

Fuckit list.

A Fuckit List is a list of all the things you’re not going to do before you die.

Either because you can’t be arsed or because you’ve realised that the only reason you thought you wanted to do them in the first place was because some other person thought you should.

You never really wanted to do them anyway.

Anyhow, here’s my Fuckit List.

It is work in progress:

FUCKIT LIST. MICHAEL OWEN. VERSION 1.1.

  • Bunjee Jump. Stupid.
  • Parachute jump. Stupid.
  • Swimming with Sharks or Dolphins. It’s too deep. Any big creature could just swim up and get you.
  • Tightrope Walking. Stupid.
  • Understanding Quadratic Equations. Why?
  • Learning to ride a Unicycle. Why?
  • Skateboarding. Looks like it can hurt if you fall off.
  • Ski-jump. Stupid.
  • Speak another language fluently. I concede that this is because of lack of application.
  • Eat Sushi. Texture of raw fish is too slimy. And it can make you poorly.
  • Eat Steak Tartare. See above.
  • Being World Snooker Champion. Too much practicing. I’d get bored.
  • Being World Darts Champion. See above.
  • Poaching wild animals or indeed any animal. Because that would make me a bastard.
  • Vote UKIP. See above.

Work in progress, as I say.

It was love at first sight.

The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.

The only man that I have ever fell in love with at first sight was Frank Cherry.

I was about 14 and he was about 60 when he married my grandma I suppose.

He was very lined.

And very kind.

And as my grandma’s first husband Harry had been dead for a few years – all was well.

Men. 

At that time, the two most influential men in my life were my dad and my stepdad.

The first most influential man in my life, my dad, wasn’t in my life.

Because when I was 11, not paying maintenance payments was a more attractive proposition for him than being with me.

And my stepdad was, around that time and for all of his life from memory, being abusive.

The Gentleman.

My love for Frank was, initially then, because of the juxtaposition.

I had never experienced a selfless man this close up.

A patient man.

His eyes listened to me like no mans eyes ever had.

And, most notably, he seemed to really enjoy making the lives of the women around him better.

I had only ever seen the opposite.

But this early love grew into a different, more independently cultivated love because of something else.

Consistency.

Frank’s mask never slipped.

Because – and this was new to me – there was no mask.

He was sincere.

He made me feel respected and listened to when I was with him.

And he made me feel important and that I mattered when I wasn’t.

He had given me something to hold on to.

Hope, I think.

My coward of a stepdad didn’t like him of course.

But he doesn’t matter.

Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller said he found a way to start writing Catch-22 when he heard in his head a version of the first lines.

Heller’s lines are the first two lines of this short tale you’re reading now.

I first found a way to start living as a young man when I met Frank.

And all he did was to listen to me.

Never mould me or put me down.

He just listened and smiled.

He was the first gentleman I ever met.

I find it odd that anyone would actually admit being an influencer.

This is because, as I understand it, an influencer is most likely to be someone that pretends they like something because someone gave them some money to do so.

So if I was an influencer, I’d feel a bit uncomfortable with that.

I’d feel a bit shallow and stupid.

So would probably keep it quiet.

But then no one would know I was an influencer.

And wouldn’t know where to send the cheques and the stuff.

Oh.

I see.

Influencers.

I don’t get too fed up about influencers these days, because they are dying.

Though I must admit that a more naive me did flirt with those armed with large social media audiences in the early days of Always Wear Red.

I never gifted things.

But I did feel that I should be gifting things.

Because other people were gifting things.

So it must be right.

Right?

It always made me feel funny though.

So I stayed away.

Influence.

There’s a difference between a constructed, traditional (is that the right term for such a new construct?) ‘influencer’ and ‘someone with influence’.

And I think that there is additional subtext too in that if any brand takes influencing on as a marketing tactic, it is only acceptable if the greater good is fed – and it is part of their existing brand story.

So the messaging is not just made up for the latest campaign.

Lies.

So, nettle tea for slimming – because it is complete and utter bullshit – is not something that traditional influencers should flaunt.

Because this makes them liars, being paid by lying brands to lie to the vulnerable and the unconfident.

Conversely, Meghan Markle wearing Huit Jeans because they are genuinely superb jeans made by a genuine brand that is genuinely creating Welsh jobs and building a genuinely bonded community is fine by me.

I just see these two things as different.

So my summary is this.

Individuals that accelerate the building of good brands and good communities that – together – spread good ideas where there is clearly no loser, are fine.

Individuals that set unreal or unrealistic goals for the vulnerable is just a really shitty thing for one human being to knowingly do to another under any circumstances.

This second way is shitty not just because the headline is a lie, but because the subtext is that people are not good enough just the way they are is a lie also.

It’s positioning an impossible solution next to an imaginary problem.

And that clearly is, and always has been, wrong.

Triggers is a book written by a friend of mine, Pete Zulu.

For the avoidance of doubt, here are three reasons that ARE NOT reasons for why I am reviewing it:

  1. Because Pete is my friend. I am reviewing it because I like it and I think you will too.
  2. Because Pete asked me too. He didn’t.
  3. Because I was gifted it. I bought it. In fact, I bought four copies. 1 for me. 3 for friends. It’s £15.

Triggers.

This is the book that any of us could have written.

In the same way that we could have all done a Picasso or a Hockney or a Pollock sketch or painting.

That Jackson Pollock Pillock.

Have you seen his stuff?

It’s like the floor of my shed.

Well if the floor of your shed is worth £75 million then yes, I suppose it is.

Eyes and Brains.

Triggers is a book for the eyes and the brain in equal measure.

Because the story (for the brain) is punctuated with 88 photographs (for the eyes) that Pete has taken.

The photographs are all lovely.

And some are here: https://www.instagram.com/petezulu3/

Simplicity.

The idea for the book is simple.

Pete chops his life into 8 segments, each segment attached to an aftershave, the smell of which trigger memories.

It’s neat and relatable.

And you’ll read the whole thing in about an hour if you just devour the words and sentences.

And you’ll read the whole thing in about a month if you too remember Aramis, Kouros, Denim and Brut – because you will read it more than once and some of the time you are reading it it will be out loud, to other people.

Because you’ll want them to remember what you remember too.

Writing Style.

Triggers is the book you could have written because of its writing style.

But it is also the book you could not have written because of its writing style.

Debbie Owen, TV Scriptwriter commented:

It’s odd to read something that follows so few writing rules and makes me genuinely not care.

I don’t know you Pete, but from reading this I really like you because you let me in.

When you read this book it’s like you are listening to Pete chat to you.

Pete is the best writer that doesn’t really write that I have ever read.

I want one.

It’s £15.

And I don’t know how you get one.

But as one of the things that Pete and Sarah do these days is run The Black Horse in East Bolden I do know that you can get one there if you pop in there.

The food is superb so even if there are no books left, if you’re hungry, you’ve still scored.

Or if you want me to help you get one, email michael@50odd.co.uk.

I’ll speak to Peter.

I’ve been on drugs of one kind or another all my life.

Actual drugs I was rubbish at.

I was 30.

With cocaine I just kept sneezing.

With ecstasy I just got dizzy and fell over.

So after about two weeks, I stopped.

Money.

Money was a drug when I was about 40.

I had made some money so I bought some things like houses and cars and clothes.

The buzz from this drug lasted quite a while.

It probably made we walk with a bit of a swagger.

Raise one eyebrow from time to time and say daft, patronising things.

‘Look a bit stupid and superior.

I wasn’t that good with this drug.

I quite liked making money but didn’t spend (some but not all of) it wisely.

Whiskey.

Alcohol is the drug that I’ve been involved with for longest.

Swimming pools full of the stuff whilst studying and in my 20’s.

Probably the same in my 30’s.

In my 40’s slightly less because I started to see how silly or inappropriate or dead alcohol made people.

I used to anaesthetise with alcohol in my 40’s.

In my 40’s I didn’t drink alcohol to remember how great life’s good bits were, I drank to forget how good the bad bits weren’t.

And in my 50’s (I’m a beginner) I drink in fits and starts.

Aware that there is a direct relationship between how many days I get to see Izzy Willow and how many  glasses of whiskey I swallow.

Other Drugs. 

Other drugs through my life include girls, cigarettes for a few years and my new drug (which I am noticing is giving me a similar high to the other drugs I’ve tried in my life) which is creativity.

I am being very creative, these days.

More creative than I have ever been in my life.

And I am SO annoyed that I have waited this long despite something I have known for years but refused or resisted to internalise and act upon.

These days, I am simply less fearful of what people think.

I am creating for me.

Like when I was 3 years old when I knew no other way of creating.

I am annoyed because I was told about this phenomenon years ago.

By Pablo Picasso.

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.

Creativity.

I am just starting to learn and believe this.

And that creativity can be a drug.

A good drug.

And it’s not a day too soon.

Because when my 1,000 months are up – I will be gone.

My creativity however, will remain.