Here I am in WH Smith today with Izobel.

I am reading The Gruffalo crouched on the floor.

Izobel is lost in the story… ecstatic as the characters come to life.

They come to life because in the two to three feet of distance that exist between us we’ve created a brilliant, beautiful experience.

She is giggling at me.

I am fashioning different voices for foxes, owls, snakes and The Gruffalo himself from thin air.

We are totally, totally lost in each other and in the experience that Izobel and I have created together.


If we zoom back just a little from our beautiful bubble, we see a different kind of experience.

A WH Smith staffed by miserable bastards on the ground floor in Newcastle City Centre and no one at all on the first floor.

It is December 1st and no one that is there wants to be there.

They sigh.

They shuffle around.

No one looks at us.

They moan at each other about being at work and recall tales of getting pissed, annoying relatives and (quote), ‘shit Christmas presents’.

Lisa wanders freely around the scruffy store as Izobel and I dance around in our made-up world.

The store is not dirty.

But half open boxes are strewn around.

It’s just horribly untidy.

Ladders stand against walls.

Black and white A4 photocopies of what displays should look like after the grumbling staff have restocked them were sellotaped to empty shelves.

Not A Complaint. 

This is not a complaint about my experience today.

I was fine.

I had Izobel and The Gruffalo.

It is simply a relaying of what I saw in yet another lazy, unimaginative, dusty, crappy, unprogressive, ideas-vacuum of a retail brand that is bleeding to death.

All of the stuff they were doing today should have been done through the night.

Out of eyesight of any customer.

And if through the night is not the answer, then the brand leadership should find an alternative.

No question.

Touchpoint after touchpoint after touchpoint left me feeling utterly empty and sad for the soon-to-be-redundant leaderless tribe let down by their visionless, idealess leadership.

WH Smith’s leadership will no doubt claim to have no idea why the brand disappears from our highstreet in the next year or two.

The answer to why they will have no idea, is that they have no ideas.

This is not ‘a shame’.

It is simply embarrassing, obvious and fucking disgusting.

Without any exaggeration, if I have a lager from the fridge at (say) 7pm, I’ll have 1 or 2 more and from 7pm to whatever time I get up the following day I do nothing productive at all.

I just watch telly and bugger about.

If I don’t drink, my mind is capable of doing things (writing these little stories for example) until about 11pm with ease.

So, conservatively, if I say that by not drinking, I have 2 extra hours of sparky, productive time on my hands every single day – then if I don’t drink for 365 days a year I have 365 x 2 hours = 730 extra productive hours each year.

That’s 30.4 days per year.

Or 1 month.

For free.

To do with as I please.


I have not processed this properly yet.

Because I don’t know what I am going to do.

I don’t know what action I am going to take, if any.

I have great plans, lots to do and I do need a little more time.

But how much do I want it?

I’ll let you know.

There is a difference between knowing that something is true and really believing that something is true.

I have known this for a while, but it is only recently that I started to believe it.

(You might want to read those two sentences a few times. I had to. And I wrote them). 


Here is how this is affecting my life at the moment.

I have known for some time – absolutely and unequivocally – that listening to other people is stupid.

It crushes creativity, creates self-doubt and can slow life to a crawl.

But I still do it.

Not as much as I did.

But I still do it.

However – just recently, I have started switching my phone off for 2 or 3 blocks of 4 to 6 hours per day.

Every day.

I react to ‘stuff’ in small, 10 minute gaps between these blocks.

And believe me, the longer I do this, the more I dislike these gaps.

I just want to get on with life.

This is a great example of taking action because, somehow, I have moved from knowing to believing.

And I sense that I am now moving from ‘believing’ to ‘habit’.

Knowing. Believing. Habit.

When I started writing this, I didn’t know how it was going to end.

But now I do.

Here goes…

To make life more fulfilling. So you achieve more. So you race towards your dreams and ambitions more effectively. Try to work out how to move from knowing something to believing it enough that you take proper, meaningful action. Then, make that action a habit so that it becomes automatic. Then get on with your life and follow this process over and over so that you develop a whole raft of brilliant, healthy, automatic habits. All of them plugged in to helping you to achieving your goals and dreams.

There’s no ‘how’ in this story.

I haven’t worked out ‘how’ yet.

But this is a great ‘what’.

Honestly; it’s working for me.

Moving knowing… to believing… to acting… to a habit.

PS  I think you already know all of this.

PPS  But do you believe it?

There is a lot to be said for being gentle.

And calm and attentive.

I spend too much time twitching and buzzing around.

Never elbowing or bullying.

But always busy.

On duty.

Looking for the edge, sniffing out the angle, counting what’s been accumulated, grieving what’s been lost, waiting for the breaks, hoping for the tipping points.

Life is fast.


I notice that some men blink slowly.

I am drawn to men that blink slowly.

I like them because they appear gentle.

And kind.

I try to remember to blink slowly.

People that blink slowly always seem to be somehow more attentive.

Like they are really listening.

Their eyes on yours.



The film at the end of this story is called, and is about ‘The Last Chess Shop in New York’.

You will take from it what you will.

What I took from it was that there is a lot to be said for being gentle.

For looking after people.

And one more thing…

The other thing I took from this 6 minute film is this.

In life, there are (we are told) many different groups of people. Men, women, old, young, black, white, friends, enemies, the just, the thieves, the Brexiteers and the remainers.

In this film, I see only two kinds of people.

Strangers and friends.

And I also sense that, in this tiny corner of the world, The Last Chess Shop in New York, there is a minuscule yet steady drip, drip, drip of the former – becoming the latter.

And that’s lovely.

I honestly don’t find many things more exciting than owning a new, hard backed notebook and a new, great quality black permanent ink pen.

It’s blank pages, as I run my fingers over them, wake me up.

It’s because of the possibilities.

I can write what I am going to achieve.

I can design a new thing to develop with Britain’s best makers for the Always Wear Red collection.

I can record beautiful and poignant things that people say to me.

I can capture the future on these pages.

But much more than that – I can write it.

All my life I have thought of The Beatles as the greatest band ever.

I still do.

I’ve seen, and have been personally affected by, the rise of Oasis.

Both Oasis albums meant something to me.

‘Definitely Maybe’ helped me to see that brilliance could come from anywhere, in a moment.

I took a ‘Morning Glory’ CD on a boys holiday and listened to it almost every waking minute.

U2’s albums have punctuated my life too.

Particularly ‘The Joshua Tree’ and ‘The Unforgettable Fire’.

I see these music-makers as geniuses.


Global influencers.


In fact, what’s the point of even making music when there is such perfection around?

What’s the point when there are these people that know just what to do and get things just right – first time – whilst normal people like me just do what’s in front of them… fucking up most things and coming up with the occasional gem as part of the journey?


The video below makes me smile.

It’s The Beatles messing things up.

And not giving a toss.

Because they’re in love with what they’re doing.

Loving their time creating.

Loving their mistakes.

No one is judging.

Everyone is laughing.

And between the mess, you can hear the perfect seeds.

Some grow into perfect songs.

Others don’t.

But all seeds, I’d argue, are perfect seeds.


If you would like to give yourself the most valuable gift in the world, bar none, do this.


I’ve started turning my phone off.

For large parts of the day.

I smile a lot… because I keep picking it up and staring at a blank screen.

It’s like a drug currently, mauling the lifeless metal and glass brick as I get through the cold turkey phase.


The reason I do this is because I spent days… no, weeks… no, maybe even months in 2018 reacting – immediately or very quickly – to something that happened on social media, email, text or as the result of a phonecall.

I also started to rely on the dopamine that the good stuff on social media released in me. (If this sounds weird, I know someone that is/was almost certainly similarly dependent… you).


To finally instigate the change I asked myself a question…

How would life be different if I didn’t react to anything that happened on social media, any email, any text or any phone call within, say, 4 hours throughout the whole of 2018?

The answer is – it wouldn’t.

So I am going to turn my phone off for 1, 2 or 3 blocks of 4 to 6 hours every single day from today.


I feel a bit weird.

And my neck aches a bit from looking forward so much, instead of down.

And I’m not even joking about that.

How embarrassing!

The Gift.

The gift that you (and your family, children, other loved ones, business, etc) will get by doing this can’t be bought.

No matter how rich you are.

It’s time.

Google is great for finding things and for finding out about things.

YouTube is great for watching and listening to things.

And, as you know, they are actually learning about you.

You know this because  each time you interact with them – as if like magic – they show you things that are extensions of and related to what you’ve done before.

All very clever.

Because I like Portishead, they think I’ll like Zero 7 too.

And they’d be right.

Window versus Windscreen.

The problem comes when we use these tools as windscreens and not windows.

By ‘windscreen’ I mean using Google, YouTube and the Internet at large as the main way to learn about or experience things.

By ‘window’ I mean using Google, YouTube and the Internet at large for a quick and infrequent search, recreational break or support for my work.

We ‘peep’ through windows.

Windscreens, within this metaphor at least, are all we look through as we go on life’s journey.


Think about it…

In this short life of yours if you spend too much time with Google and YouTube etc. as your windscreen, you will only ever experience the familiar in life.

That’s far too comfortable.

And dull.

Surely you deserve more?

These tools will have you shuffling a little to the right.

A little to the left.

A little to the right again.


That’s not what life’s about.

Turn Them Off.

Turn them off.

Don’t let them be the compass that keeps you chugging along in pretty much the same direction as you’re going already.

Stop shuffling.

Start str-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ding.

In new directions.

SCARY, adrenaline-pumping directions




Let the adventure begin!

I don’t think that anything you do should be everything you do.

The stakes are too high.

I’ve made this mistake more than once.

Obsessing about one thing and letting it take over my life.

Going All In.

This doesn’t mean not going ‘all in’ though.

Committing to your dream properly is important.

You have 1000 months – then you die.

So if you are going to do something, do it really, really well.


But like I suggested at the beginning, I think we should fill our lives with other things as well as our dream.

So that family and friends still see us and know us.

So that we still know ourselves.

So we still learn and experience things outside of our core activity.

So yes – I don’t think that anything you do should be everything you do.

It’ll only make you miserable.

And the thing you’re supposed to love might just end up becoming the thing you hate.

I’ve been around for 50 years.

Sometimes it feels like a lot.

Sometimes it feels like no time at all.

Sometimes I have loved life so much that I didn’t want to sleep.

Sometimes I have feared life so much that I didn’t want to wake up.


In order to make life better, and to learn, I sometimes look for patterns.

Patterns that might help me understand how I can nurture the natural highs and remove the lows.

One pattern I have come to recognise is that the more people I listen to, the more lows I have.

The more I try to analyse and understand who is saying what and why, the worse I feel – no matter what I discover – good or bad.

And the learning from this is simple.

It is to never try to understand people. Don’t try to unpick their thoughts and don’t spend any time trying to influence them.


The best way I can try to explain the futility of this activity – yearning to understand why someone likes a thing or does not like a thing – is with Marmite.

Some people like it.

Some people don’t like it.

If you were Marmite, wanting to be happy and successful Marmite, which of these two strategies would you adopt?

  1. Look for the people that like Marmite, build a relationship with them and look after them.
  2. Look for the people that don’t like Marmite and try to convince them they are wrong – or of the ‘rightness’ of Marmite.

It has to be 1.

Especially as I am 606 months into my 1,000 months on earth.

And I suggest you adopt the same strategy as we burst into a beautiful, brilliant, brand new year.


In 2019 I will continue to like Marmite.

And those that don’t, won’t.

If they have any sense they will flock with other Marmite dislikers.

If they have time to waste, they’ll come and bother me.

Telling me how disgusting Marmite is.

Wasting my time.

And theirs.

Happy New Year

So Happy New Year to you, whatever your tastes.

And in the months you have left, if you are not doing it already, please work towards doing what you were born to do.

And believe me, if you too listen only to those on your side of the Marmite fence – you’ll get there a lot more quickly.

And that’s good for all of us.