February 2019


Do you believe in ghosts?


Are you sure?


A ghost, I think, is someone or something that died and still haunts you.

So it could be an idea you had but didn’t follow through.

An opportunity you didn’t take.

A relationship that didn’t make it.

An abusive person or partner that you let into your life and allowed to stay a while – unchecked.

Regret – is a ghost.


I have memories.

And sometimes they appear in my head as regrets.

They really do feel like ghosts that haunt me.

But these days I spend time looking forward much more.

Not back.

I don’t know how bright the future will be, but I believe that if I keep going and stay determined and stay focussed I should be OK.

I don’t believe in ghosts.

And so it follows, I suppose, that I don’t believe in regret either.

This is good to remember.

On Tuesday 26th February.


At about 7pm.

I put on the album ‘Spirit of Eden’ by Talk Talk.

I don’t know why because I haven’t done so in ages.

Maybe it’s because my friend Carlo was chatting about 80’s music on his Instagram a few weeks ago.


It was just on YouTube.

Nothing as evocative or beautiful as slipping a vinyl record from its sleeve, I’m afraid.

But as it’s an evocative and beautiful album – that’s OK.

What wasn’t OK though was one of the comments on YouTube next to the album.

It was an RIP for lead singer Mark Hollis.


Sadly, this is true.

He died yesterday aged 64.

I used to listen to Talk Talk a lot between 1988 and 1990.

Because my slightly unusual friend Graham Knight was a fan.

I wasn’t even sure, as a 20(ish) year old boy whether Talk Talk did songs.

They all seemed to blur into one.

But that was, somehow, absolutely fine.

Spirit of Eden.

Spirit of Eden is an album that will fill your room.

And your senses.


Remember, this is 30 years ago.

Don’t wait for choruses and verses or catchy melodies.

It’s cinematic, layered, surprising, experimental and just lovely.

It is also an album that has no favourite tune for me.

In the same way that a beautifully balanced meal has no one ingredient or item that stands out.

A perfect gathering.


That said, the vocals on Inheritance are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

The very last line of Inheritance, sung by Mark Hollis (and I hope you listen to it) will never be so poignant as it is today.

Here it is (please go to

We’re all left and right brain to varying degrees.

Dominant left brain thinkers live in the world of the ‘probable’.

They rely on the past as the best indicator of what might happen in the future.

They reason.

And they research.

Right brain thinkers live in the world of the ‘possible’.

They are more entrepreneurial.

They are much more attracted to ideas and the imagined world.

They take greater risks.

Possible versus Probable.

Right and left are not right and wrong.

They’re just different.

I myself am much more right brain than left.

I get bored easily.

I don’t like executing  100% reliable plans.

I understand how many people would get great satisfaction from seeing everything slot into place – just as they’d practiced over an over.

But for some reason I get much more of a kick out of aiming higher, with an ambitious and maybe part-untested plan.

I find that exciting!

But I do respect and recognise the value of left brain approaches too.

In practice. 

Here’s a brief example of how recognition of a right/left brain dominance helps in my day-to-day.

Building a brand is hard.

I’ve done it for years, for big brands and small, and I’ve done it well.

But it only works in the long term if I get buy-in from the owners of the business that wants my help.

So when I talk to the left brainers, I focus on enhanced profitability from the lower marketing spend that a strong brand allows, and increased efficiencies because great brand messaging takes less time and energy than complicated and garbled chatter.

And for the right brainers I talk about how great brand building can result in category leadership, easier recruitment (because you’re the brand to work for) and adoration from peers, competitors and potential customers as your purpose is brought to life and you deliver the valuable change you promised.

Same thing.

Different framing.

This may help you.

If you are trying to get buy-in in work or in life, work out of you’re talking to a right or left brainer.

And tailor your language and approach accordingly.

I like clever, creative people.

But I am not so keen on jealous ones.

Or those that try to put other people down.

So I really do like what Joseph Heller has been heard to say to the occasional slimy, smirking journalist.

Impolite and disrespectful journalists that are looking to make a name for themselves.

Heller – politely – silences them.

With just two words.


So; Mr. Heller. Why is it that you have never written anything as good as your acclaimed novel ‘Catch 22’?

After a suitable pause.


Who has?


It is quite revealing when you ask Google what Brexit means.

When I asked, I actually wanted reminding where the contraction ‘Brexit’ came from.

‘Brexit’ the word.

Not ‘Brexit’ the thing.

I couldn’t remember.

It’s “British Exit” of course.

Brexit is an abbreviation for “British exit,” referring to the UK’s decision in a June 23, 2016 referendum to leave the European Union (EU). … (Alternatives are known as “soft Brexit.”) “Leave” won the June 2016 referendum with 51.9% of the ballot, or 17.4 million votes; “Remain” received 48.1%, or 16.1 million.

Anyhow, I didn’t get the result I wanted.

(In the Google search or the Referendum, actually).

Instead of Google reminding me where the contraction came from, it threw back many thousands of definitions of what Brexit actually is, was and/or might be.

And I’d wager that no two definitions were the same.

I find this quite ironic.

Two Points.

So I want to make two points about Brexit.


If politicians are supposed to look after us in a vaguely similar way that parents are supposed to look after children (because they know more and it’s their job), we have been asked by our parents whether we want to stay on this side of the road – or cross it to the other side.

And when, holding their hand, we looked up at them and asked them what traffic might be coming, from what direction and how fast, they replied, ‘dunno’.

And we got the same shoulder-shrug when we asked them what the other side of the road looked like.

Or they fucking lied.

And then they said (something like), “…But it is sure to be better than just standing here.”

And, “You’ll be alright!”

And we said, “OK then.”

And we stepped into the road. 

And they watched.

No one.

No one knows what Brexit means.

In any of its guises.

Not even the politicians.

Not even now.


I find it silly that politicians and adults in general call this thing ‘Brexit’.

This ‘British Exit’.

We’re grown ups.

This is serious.

And important.

It’s affecting business.

And lives.

It’s not a silly game.

So why this stupid fucking contraction?


So, politicians… Brangelina; yes.

Brexit; no.

You stunts.

I’ve read dozens of business books.

I’ve founded 8 businesses of my own and helped hundreds of people to start or grow theirs.

I’ve employed hundreds of people in the field of Creative Business Communications.

I’ve, somehow, persuaded hundreds of businesses to pay me and my teams tens of millions of pounds to help them build brands, to market compellingly and to create design that has won awards all over the world.

I’ve met, listened to and learned from some of the worlds greatest business people and brand builders.

And, after all that, I think I am able to sum up in two words what the most important thing for any brand is.

It’s ‘eye contact’.

Eye Contact.

Great brands look you in the eye and they listen.

They track your eyes and they learn from you.

They answer your questions honestly and immediately.

Todays best retailers do this.

LUSH do it.

Hotel Chocolat do this.

Todays crappest retailers (which is most of them) don’t.

The best brands look you in the eye because they want to learn from you so they can make the best next move.

For you and for them.

I say ‘eye contact’ because, as a person, you and I just know when people are listening to us don’t we?

I mean, properly listening.

Sincerely listening.

Repeating back to you what you said to them.

Acknowledging what they understand, probing what they don’t.

And all the time they are locked on our eyes.

Not just looking at us, or through us, waiting for their turn to speak.

They are honest and open and sincere.

Uninterested brands are like uninterested people.

They don’t make eye contact.

They sit around board tables navel gazing.

Waiting for storms to pass or ‘the good old days’ to return.

Thinking it’s OK to lie or to bluff or to deflect.

Then, not unsurprisingly, they die.

And I’m glad.

Because that’s what they deserve.

So after all those books, all those businesses, all those team members, all those projects and all those teachers – I’d say that just one thing is the most important thing in business.

Eye contact.

P.S. (This is a private note to a friend and a reader of 50odd)…Carlo. I am not sure but I think that this kind of subject is what the book could be on. It’s a simple notion. But one that I find to be true. Chat soon x

Buying a dog at 50 is different than buying a dog earlier in life.

Because when you’re older, you have to check how long that particular dog might live.

So you don’t die and leave it wandering around on its own.


There are many things that I have started doing as I’ve got older.

And doing the following (some might say) morbid (but sometimes sensible and necessary) mathematical sums is one of them.

If I live for 1,000 months (I am 606 months old now) I have 394 months to go.

That’s just under 33 years.

About 1,694 weeks.

About 11,858 days.

8 world cups.

33 Christmas days.

And about 2 dogs.


It doesn’t sound like a lot does it?

But – and this is the truth of course – it never was a lot.

Yes, 8 Wold Cups until death sounds shit.

But from the day I or you were born we were only ever going to live long enough to see 20 World Cups.

So why the surprised face?

Life is a mere visit.

That’s why it’s important to make it count.

PS. A lot of this is to do with perspective.

I have about a quarter of a million hours left.

‘250,000 hours’ sounds better than ‘2 dogs’.

So that’s the story I’ll tell myself.

I am sometimes guilty of over explaining.

And it can influence people’s perception of me.

It can make me seem patronising.

Or unconfident.

Or both.


I forget that people can only truly understand things from their perception.

And that all I am really doing by super-explaining anything is trying to show another person why I did what I did, or why I think what I think, from my perception.

And in moments of clarity – like now – I think you myself, why would I ever want to do that?

Life is so short.

Most times it’s easier to, well, just ‘do’.

I bet that if I added up how many minutes of my life I spend ‘doing’ and how many minutes of my life I spent ‘explaining why I did’ – I’d get a shock.

What a waste!

If I do a lot less explaining, I’ll have more time for doing more doing.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Izobel arrived two and a half years ago.

At almost 50, to make an Izobel with someone that is just a couple of years younger than you requires some medical intervention.

So that’s what we did.


If you’ve done this too (not necessarily the medical intervention bit – the other bit) you’ll know how dumbfounding it is.

Making an Izobel.

How they become actual little people so quickly.

In 24 months they go from a pink mole-like creature that can’t even move – to an actual person that reasons with you why reading the same Meg and Mog story over and over and over is a good idea.

Or that thinks it’s OK to smile at you and steal the best bits of food from your plate.

How does Izobel know that this is OK for her to pinch the best things from my plate?

How does Izobel know that, in actual fact, it’s OK for her to have everything on my plate?

No matter how hungry I am.


If I last my allotted 1,000 months, Izobel will watch me die when she is 34 years old.

This would be acceptable to me.

It’s probably enough time for her to love me, then hate me, then boomerang back to love me again.

But to spend 34 years with Izzy Willow will be just fine.

I will have experienced the physical agony of seeing her hurt by other people I am sure.

I am not looking forward to that.

And I may still be around to see her create little people of her own.

I am looking forward to that.


Anyhow, in case I die all of a sudden (a heart attack or a Laurel and Hardy type piano accident) I’ve written Izobel a letter, asking her to do just one thing for me after I die.

I honestly only want her to do one thing.

It’s to live for 100 years.

Anything else she does between now and then is fine by me.

Now that she’s here, all I really just want is for her to stay here.

And think of me, once or twice, in each of the 66 years that she outlives me.

Because wherever I am, I will be thinking about her.

George Michael had everything. 

Talent. Adulation. Critical acclaim. Deep respect from his peers.

Hang on, let me start that again…

George Michael had everything. 

Tragedy. Addiction. Failing health. Endless ridicule and unreasonable hounding from the mainstream media.


I don’t know which ‘everything’ is the everything that George Michael would have identified with.

Probably both.

But, and this is the point of this little story, here is a George Michael quote that may even explain why he is no longer with us.

In a documentary shortly before his death he asked this rhetorical question:

What happens when everything is not enough?

This is an important question for all of us I think.

Chasing the wrong everything must be a terrible thing.


Because it can leave you feeling empty and lost if you don’t ever get it.

And if you do.

Think forward.

Imagine you get everything you want.

Imagine you have your everything right now.

And ask yourself if it’s the right everything.

It’s an important question.