July 2018


The worst thing about running a big creative agency is that it’s not very creative.

I didn’t realise this at the time. And I crave being creative.

So, for this reason (plus a few others) I closed it.


This story continues on from yesterday’s CHILDISH story, chronicling my desire to be a particular kind of creative.

I think that proper creativity is creating without fear. And that’s quite hard as we get older. That’s the creativity I crave.

The best story I have ever heard to illustrates this was told by Dr. Ken Robinson in his legendary TED talk entitled, “Do Schools Kill Creativity.” It goes like this…

I heard a great story recently – I love telling it – of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson.

She was six, and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this girl hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson, she did.

The teacher was fascinated.

She went over to her, and she said, “What are you drawing?”

And the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.”

And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.”

And the girl said, “They will, in a minute.”


I am a naturally creative person. And even though I probably don’t know you – you are too.

Whether you want to plug into this creativity or whether you even enjoy it is your business.

But one thing that I do know, with absolute certainty, is that anyone that was once a child – is creative.

Dr. Robinson

Here is Dr. Robinson’s TED talk. It is one of the top 5 talks ever watched. Over 50 million have seen it.

Before I had a daughter I loved it. Now my Izobel is 2, I love it even more.

Pablo Picasso said:

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

20 / 30 / 50

I ran my first business at 20. I didn’t understand that turnover was different to profit. And when people paid me to do what I loved I felt like a cheat.

When I set up what went on to be my biggest business (to date) aged 30, I went on instinct. I walked, fell over, got up, fell over and just kept getting up again. Each time I fell over I laughed at how stupid I was. Each time I got up – I was stronger.

My overnight success of getting to a seven figure turnover and winning 70 design and marketing awards around the world with this business took 14 years.

At 50, I struggle sometimes because I am supposed to be clever. I am supposed to know best.


I am currently revisiting how to articulate concisely what the Always Wear Red brand is for. But my head is so full of experience and information (I understand the physiology and psychology of red better than most, don’t you know) – it’s hard.

I want you to know our product is best because of how we harness the power of red, or the exceptional fibre length of the cashmere, or the density of the silk or the thickness of the leather. But that’s all too much.

I am trying to think like a child again. But unlearning over-thinking is hard. And unlearning over-communicating is harder still.

I am craving childish. And as my birthday card above is my favourite one, I guess I still have it in there somewhere.

If you have advice for me, please comment below.

Thank you.

Apparently, no music ever impacts us as much as that which we listen to at age 14.

For me, that was 1982. Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Culture Club. The Jam. Adam Ant.

I seem to remember that Tears For Fears were a big thing for me. I painted pictures of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith in art A-level. And I thought the tunes were OK.

But My Music came later.

My Music

My Music happened when I was about 18 and in the years that followed. The music that feels like an old friend. Like an old coat sliding on and fitting perfectly, every time. The music that makes me smile.

Happy Mondays (1980). The Charlatans (1982). Primal Scream (1982). The Smiths (1982). Stone Roses (1983). The La’s (1983). Oasis (1991). And The Jam/Paul Weller, even though The Jam kicked off earlier in 1972.


I was born in Manchester. I left in my early teens. But the ‘Madchester’ stuff of the late 1980’s and 1990’s (with a sprinkling of Britpop) really matters to me. Now more than then I think. It’s a big influence on who I am and what I am doing now, actually.


Ironically, I didn’t have the confidence to stick my neck out when I was younger. To say openly that this most confident of music was what I loved. Music, like creating clothing at Always Wear Red, divides people.

Now older I see that our differences are actually what make us the same. We are all different. I love that now.

I was worried about standing out back then. For being seen as swimming against anyone’s personal tide.

These days, I worry about exactly the opposite.

My new business moved offices last month. And I was quite precise with where I asked the removal guys to leave everything.

I asked them to put all furniture and boxes outside the new office. Not inside.

Once they’d gone, I stood at a point where I could see all the gear to my right. And the empty room to my left.

I  was alone and had no distractions. I looked left. Then right. Over and over and over.

When I felt ready – I started building.


Before I make any big decision I try to make room. Room to pause. Room to see clearly. Room to understand all considerations. Room to anticipate how ‘this’ might affect ‘that’. Room so that when I get cracking I have the absolute best chance of success.

I can’t work out the best way to set a room up if I am sat on boxes, surrounded by other boxes, upturned tables and chairs. There’s no clarity. I don’t know where to start because I can’t clearly visualise where I am going.

Making Room

Right now in my new business there’s too much going on. Too much clutter. Too many distractions.

I can see where I want to go and every single time I focus on my goal there is adrenaline. I smile. Ideas explode. My heart beats faster. I feel slightly guilty because I am loving it. I am doing what I was born to do.

But then the distractions, all of my own making, tug at my sleeve and I swing 90 degrees to pay them attention. The smile goes. And the adrenaline. And – worst of all – the momentum.

There’s no room for all of this. Some things have to go.

Pleasure and Pain

Before you commit to a new chapter. You must commit to making room – first.

Two points.

  1. If  you feel you can’t make room to give your goal the best chance, you’re not ready. You have no choice. It is all or nothing.
  2. Making room does not have to take long. Attack the removal of distraction with the same energy as you will attack your new chapter. Move at lightening speed. Preparing properly means you can. The image on the left was our new office at midday on a Wednesday.
    The image on the right was taken at 10am the following day.

If what you want to do is important enough to you – you will make room.

The first thing that happened to me on my 50th birthday yesterday was an unprovoked attack by a small child and a dog.


50odd. Day 2.

It’s Friday today (informative) and I am officially in my 50’s. I am 1 day in.

When I was 40, Lisa gave me a birthday card with a large ’40’ on the front. I frowned. I didn’t want be 40.

Oddly, 50 feels a bit better than 40. I haven’t processed why yet. But it feels a bit more sophisticated. I feel that I am allowed to pontificate in a similar way as I have done for the last 10 years, but with a greater degree of gravitas. Let’s see how that goes.

Anyhow, today I am going to namecheck a good (and quite recent) friend, Paul Lancaster.

Generosity. It’s Important.

Paul came into our Newcastle HQ yesterday to be filmed chatting about what it means to be pioneering. To be ‘doing your thing’. Without a map.

Being pioneering is a very cool thing to imagine. But it is an often paralysingly frightening thing to actually do. Those that choose such a path – properly – are very, very brave.

Paul is ploughing his own furrow here in the North East as a business connector. But not just any business connector. He is the best business connector. This is because he ‘gets’ that it requires selflessness, proper listening and an authentic desire to help people to help themselves. And I respect and admire that. I really do.

So I have all the time in the world for Paul and people like Paul. So long as they bring me a presents on my birthday as Paul did today. A cool bottle of Noveltea. An alcoholic tea created by two cool entrepreneurs right here in the North East. I chatted to them both in the early days of their venture. It is great to see their product come to life.

So; be generous. ‘Givers get lucky’ as another very impressive friend of mine once said. More about that later.

The Future of This Blog

By the way, I plan (once I find my feet with 50odd) to either educate, inspire, inform or entertain with my little online diary. I’ll endeavour to get better at writing too. So please bear with me*.

*I even had to check whether it was ‘bare with me’ or ‘bear with me’. Bloody hell.

If a man lives for 1,000 months, he will die aged 83 years. That’s about 3 years longer than the UK average in 2017.


600 Months.

I launched 50odd when I had reached 600 months. That’s 50 years.

When I was in my 20’s, I imagined 50 meant ‘nearly dead’. It certainly meant ‘slower’.  And (I imagined) a continual forensic calculation and of what one had accumulated. Pondering whether it was in fact enough to ‘see me through’ to – whatever. Retirement. Death. Or worse still – cruises.

I now see this kind of stocktaking as quite boring. And pointless.

But more than that, a bit selfish, too.

We live in a world where 50% of everything is owned by 1% of everyone. By some calculations, if this wealth was redistributed then even at the current rate of population growth, no one in the world would go hungry for over 500 years.

9 million people will die of hunger in 2018.


Anyhow, all that jolliness aside, I’ve decided to see what I can achieve whilst 50odd.

I’ve prepared already. I’ve started a business with a purpose and I have a baby to inspire every single day.

I’ll let you know how my 1,200 months go. The ups. The downs. The everything.

So if you’re a 50odd year old guy, or if you plan to be one day, or if you used to be one and want to measure what a mess I  make against what a mess you made, stick around.

I start my journey today.