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April 2019

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I live in a skinny three story town house.

And I have 3 toilets.

3 Toilets.

The first one is on the ground floor.

Which we need because we spend most of our time there.

The other two are on the top floor.

The second one we need because it’s got a shower in it and it’s accessible from the landing.

So if we have people staying on the top floor they can use it.

And if people stay on the middle floor they can use this second toilet too.

The third one we need because it’s adjacent to our bedroom.

En-suite I suppose.

So yes.

We need 3 toilets.

Need.

It’s weird isn’t it?

What we persuade ourselves that we need.

1 toilet would, of course, be absolutely fine.

1 freezer (we have 2).

2 or 3 pairs of shoes (I have many).

As I do coats, pairs of jeans, pairs of trainers and every other category of clothing and footwear too.

Want.

The best things in the world – I think – genuinely satisfy a big need and a big want.

Both at the same time.

A strategy you can adopt to try to achieve this, if you want to, is to buy less and buy better.

So that’s what I’ll do from now.

Anybody want a toilet or two?

Do this next time you are with the people you love the most.

Take a look at them all.

Look left.

Look right.

Then watch ‘Up’.

Up.

Carl Fredricksen’s wife Ellie died early in Pixar’s animated film, ‘Up’.

Leaving Mr. Fredricksen, a balloon salesman in his late 70s, alone.

However the movie tells us of the dreams of exploration and adventure that Mr. and Mrs. Fredricksen had in their younger years.

They wanted to travel the world.

Together.

They even made a scrapbook.

A scrapbook that imagined their journeys.

Journeys that never happened.

Because they waited too long.

Adventures. 

In actual fact, Carl and Ellie had many lovely adventures closer to home.

Picnics.

Parties.

Holding hands.

But they didn’t travel.

Scrapbook.

The scrapbook that Ellie left for Carl had a little message written, by her, at the back.

A message for Carl.

Watch the 3 minute film at www.50odd.co.uk to see what she wrote.

And in the meantime, have a think about your plans.

Your plans for adventure.

Whatever they are.

And whoever you want your adventures to be with.

But think most of all about when you are going to do them.

Because you can make that decision today.

And the day will come that you cannot.

Watch the 3 minute clip at www.50odd.co.uk.

Rik Mayall is an Honorary Doctorate of the University of Exeter.

The 9 minute video showing his acceptance speech from 2008 can be found on YouTube here.

Rik.

Rik Mayall died in June 2014.

It was a heart attack.

He was 56.

He’d just been jogging.

Then – just died.

Performer.

Rik Mayall was a performer.

On camera certainly.

Off camera probably.

In his early years, he spent time failing exams, drinking a lot, bobbing in and out of lots of relationships and – by the sound of it – having a bloody good time.

Five Mantras.

Rik said he had five mantras for life.

They are:

  1. All men are equal therefore no one can ever be your genuine superior.
  2. It is your future. It is yours to create. Your future is as bright as you make it.
  3. Change is a constant of life. So you must never ever lose your wisdom.
  4. If you want to live a full and complete human life, you have to be free. Freedom is paramount.
  5. Love is the answer.

Rik further summarised.

  1. Equality.
  2. Opportunity.
  3. Wisdom.
  4. Freedom.
  5. Love.

Presentation.

Rik’s personal presentation of this is important though.

Because I love Rik Mayall’s uniqueness.

Such talent and couldn’t-care-lessness is so rare.

And for it only to have been on this earth for 56 years, or just 672 months, is a travesty.

Let’s see if his legacy impacts you.

Because it impacted me.

Here is the video on YouTube.

I am the Co-founder and majority shareholder of a clothing brand called Always Wear Red.

The other shareholder is Ralf Little.

Ralf is the actor/writer that played (amongst other roles) Antony, the son in The Royle Family.

Colin.

In mid 2015 I was in London with my dog, Colin.

I was sat outside a restaurant waiting for the lady I was meeting.

I wanted a wee and as dogs weren’t allowed in the restaurant, I asked a guy on the next table to look after Colin as I went inside.

When I returned, I looked more closely at the helpful stranger.

It was Ralf Little.

He too was waiting for someone so I chatted to him about my clothing brand concept.

Decisions.

After chatting with Ralf for a minute or two, I made a decision.

I decided that I wanted him to own my business with me.

Ralf is smart.

Clever.

Attractive.

And was one of the main characters in one of the UK’s best ever sitcoms.

I imagined he was rather well connected.

And I was genuinely interested in what he could bring to the business.

My decision was made.

Zoe.

After 10 minutes, he was sat next to the lady he’d been waiting for.

Zoe Rocha, daughter of fashion designer John Rocha and sister of Simone Rocha.

Zoe is super impressive.

And at one time was the COO of Stephen Fry’s Production Company, Sprout Productions.

So I made another decision.

I decided that I wanted Zoe to become a shareholder too.

6 months. 

6 months later, Always Wear Red was owned by 3 people.

Me, Zoe and Ralf.

Decision Precision.

There are two important things here.

First, the precision of the decisions I made.

I decided what I wanted.

Second, it is important to note what I did to make it happen.

I treated Ralf and Zoe with the respect that people of such calibre deserve.

I tried my very best to help them understand my vision.

What they’d get from our journey together.

And I listened hard.

I tried to work out how my dreams dovetailed with theirs.

How their creative path overlapped mine.

And, after a few months, I got what I’d decided I wanted.

Decide.

If there are things you want in your business.

Whether it’s something you are going to plan for.

Or if it is an opportunity that lands in front of you because you want a wee and need someone to look after your dog…

Make a proper, precise decision.

Then do every single thing that you possibly can to get what you’ve decided.

This is a story that explores why all 50-quids are not the same.

And why, most of the time, the most important things in business cost nothing at all.

Weekend Break.

I’m in Percy Cottage in Northumberland.

It’s right next door to The Percy Arms Pub.

When we arrived at the cottage, there was a hand written card from the owner, who we know.

She’s called Sand and the note included her personal mobile number.

We’re here for 3 nights.

Nice little place.

Matfen Hall.

Three months ago we were at Matfen Hall.

For the same number of nights.

3.

‘Nice, big place.

The Percy Arms.

Last night we went to the pub next door to our cottage, to The Percy Arms.

It’s small.

Friendly.

Busy.

Warm and cozy.

It had kids games too.

These games (and this is important) were clean.

And new.

And complete.

If you’re a parent of a small child you’ll be used to going to places that say they’re for kids, but they’re not really.

The toys are shitty and filthy and broken.

It’s not like that at The Percy Arms.

And when the young girl behind the bar serves you, she looks you in the eye, widens her own eyes, smiles broadly and calls you, ‘my darling’.

All good.

Matfen Hall (again).

When I arrived at Matfen Hall 3 months ago, it had been booked for me by the General Manager, who I know.

When I arrived, they didn’t know who I was at reception.

There was no note.

My friend was not there and there was no message from him.

The room was good!

But nothing special.

£50

OK so that’s the background to my story.

My ‘not all 50-quids are the same’ story.

£50 at Matfen Hall.

We spent £50 at Matfen Hall on the first night.

We spent it with a young girl behind the counter of the empty conservatory.

She was white shirted, pleasant enough and she called me sir.

She wasn’t looking me in the eye when she called me sir.

And, somehow, I’d rather she didn’t call me that, actually.

It was not natural for her.

And it was not natural for me.

We had two veggie burgers and a couple of drinks each.

I remember the floor was plasticky because Colin the dog kept clicking-and-clacking and skidding on it.

The service was plastic too.

And so was the burger.

But this is the important bit…

As each part of my ‘spend’ took place, I was doing a mental sum.

Inside, I was saying…

Fucking hell; £25 for this.

Then another round.

Fucking hell; £35 for this.

Then another round.

Fucking hell; £50 for this.

I resented spending £50.

I resented the whole experience.

£50 at The Percy Arms. 

We went in.

Drank.

Ate.

And 3 hours of indulgence, couldn’t-care-lessness and laughing later  – we’d spent £50.

It could have been £70.

£80.

More.

I wouldn’t have known.

And I wouldn’t have cared.

Big versus little.

If you’re a little business, you need to work out what you can learn from big ones.

And what to ignore.

Because littleness can be so charming and lovely.

Don’t lose that.

All of this is particularly important in markets where experience is important.

And – and this is the truth – I actually cannot think of ANY market where experience is not important.

Summary. 

Percy Cottage and The Percy Arms in Chatton are superb.

Human, honest, homely and wholesome.

Matfen Hall has fallen into the very same trap as so may of these larger venues where the venue itself is considered to be the jewel in their crown.

They think that the building is the most important thing in their offering.

It so, so isn’t.

All the building presents is an opportunity.

I want you to know my name.

To look me in the eye.

To make me feel that I am the most important guest you have ever had.

Relate to me, treat me like a flesh and blood  and – most important of all – think about the lasting memory you are going to leave me with.

Because that is what I am going to tell other people.

If it is part of Matfen Hall’s strategy that I tell others I was made to feel anonymous and unimportant, and that Matfen Hall deliver an experience so sterile that my brain drifts to how much margin they are making on my £50 – they are bang on.

If not, there is work to do.

Website.

The first sentence you see at the Matfen Hall website is:

NOT JUST ANOTHER STATELY HOME.

As well as that being a silly thing for any marketing company to advise as a headline (because it doesn’t mean anything) it is particularly inappropriate for Matfen Hall.

Because the exact thing they say they are not – they are.

Increasingly – our minds crave food.

That’s one of the reasons Social Media is so prolific.

(Or do our minds increasingly crave food because Social Media is so prolific?)

Either way…

We get bored.

Toilet.

You’ve probably heard this joke doing the rounds:

I just went to toilet.

Without my phone.

There are 318 floor tiles in there don’t you know?

And there’s methylchlorozanoline in my shampoo.

Quite.

Social Media.

Almost all businesses can benefit from Social Media’s reach.

But it has to be done right.

Here’s a little something that you’ll benefit from remembering.

If you want to use social media platforms to tell your story.

Morning, Noon and Night.

Basically, minds are hungry for different kinds of food at different times.

MORNING POSTS:

Inspire your audience.

BOOST them!

FEED their minds with something fast, sparky and uplifting.

Something to make them BOUNCE into their day (and remind them about the benefits of using your brand if you can, too).

MIDDLE OF THE DAY POSTS:

Educate and inform your audience.

We get most bored in the middle of the day.

We’re primed for learning.

Nothing too heavy mind…

But do teach me a little something.

Something in or around your business (stay on brand!)

And I’ll love you for it.

EVENING POSTS:

Entertain me.

I’m in relaxed mode.

Now is the time to feed me the fun stuff.

Again, stay on brand though…

If you’re a Cat Sanctuary them maybe a kitten balancing a ball on it’s nose is cool!

But if you’re not… it’s not.

Summary.

MORNINGS: Inspire.

DAYTIME: Educate and Inform.

EVENING: Entertain.

Feed Me!

Feed my mind with the right stuff – at the right time.

Endnote: If you feed educational and informative things out there in the middle of the day, recipients can (and very often do) save anything they want until the evening.

The 10 years of my life between 25 and 35 years old were bloody brilliant.

1993 to 2003.

I was earning money.

Listening to Oasis.

Not taking anything too seriously.

Exploring relationships.

Drinking

Taking drugs.

(I took drugs for about a month. 

I had to stop quite quickly though. 

I kept sneezing.

And it was working out about £4 a sneeze).

Four Poo Sue. 

One of my friends, Ady, was going out with Sue.

Sue, one day, told us that she had four poos a day.

Bad idea!

Not the poos.

Telling us that she had four poos a day.

From that day forth, she was ‘Four Poo Sue’.

Then, somehow, this got shortened further.

After only a few weeks.

Nights Out.

We went out as a gang occasionally.

Mike.

Karen.

Mark.

Kier.

Ady.

And Four Poo.

Sue really did end up answering to this.

Four Poo.

Ady!

Ady!

What do you want?

Stella?

Yes?

OK.

Four Poo!

Vodka Redbull?

Great.

‘Didn’t bat an eyelid.

Elwood.

Then there’s Elwood.

I’ve known Elwood for 30 years.

Since he and I were about 20.

He’s always been Elwood to me.

He went to a fancy dress thing in this teens apparently.

As one of the Blues Brothers.

And the name just stuck.

I was out with him last week and, occasionally – throughout the night – I’d think to myself:

What’s your name?

30 Years.

30 years I’ve known John.

But he’s still Elwood really.

Anyhow.

Isn’t it cool how some names just stick around?

Like lovely memories for us to carry around.

For ever.

Staring.

Not much mattered back then.

Not even my friend’s actual names.

So if you see me staring off into the distance.

Smiling.

Full of love.

Emotional.

Tearful, even.

And mouthing:

I love you Four Poo.

Now you know why.

PS. Four Poo Sue appears in the photograph that goes with this story at 50odd.co.uk.

‘Not telling which one she is though: https://www.50odd.co.uk/four-poo-sue/

I’ve not suddenly turned into a Pub Quiz compare.

But I thought this was quite interesting.

What do these sayings all have in common?

Too much of a good thing.

Wear your heart on your sleeve.

Fight fire with fire.

Dead as a doornail.

Vanish into thin air.

For goodness sake.

Green eyed monster.

The world is my oyster.

What’s done is done.

Wild goose chase.

Break the ice.

Set your teeth on edge.

Let me know in the comments.

It’s impossible to start anything again.

Well, in  the way that most people think about this term, it is.

Experience. 

It’s because whenever you do anything, you change.

You’re changed by the experience of doing it.

Each time you do it.

So you’re never really doing the same thing again in exactly the same way more than once.

Relax.

This is useful to remember.

Because of those ‘Aargh!’ moments that we have.

When we feel we are doing pointless or annoying rework.

Relax.

You’re never really starting over.

Creativity.

I get this feeling a lot with some of the more creative areas of my day-to-day.

I try something.

It doesn’t work.

So I try it again.

And it does.

I am, consciously and subconsciously – learning.

As I do these ‘same things’ more than once.

Smiling. 

So if you are frustrated by the feeling that you are doing things over and over – try smiling instead.

Because you’re getting better.

I was at an event last Friday in Newcastle.

Founders Friday, it’s called.

A business get-together most suited to the unsuited.

And where the generous feel more at home than the salesy.

Izobel.

One chap asked me about Izobel, which is nice.

And we got onto the subject of birthdays.

Now; Izobel is my first and only.

And she is 2.

When I tried to remember Izzy Willow’s birthday I squinted and looked up to the left.

I think that means I am accessing a memory.

(Fibbers, apparently, are more likely to look up to the right when they are asked questions about past happenings. Because that’s imagining, not recalling. Take note.)

I fed three numbers to my new friend.

6.

16.

18.

Then I mumbled on to try and make sense of them.

16.

2016.

Two years ago.

6.

6th month.

June.

The 18th.

Then I looked straight at him for the next bit.

Yes!

OK…

June the 18th.

Izobel’s birthday.

This guy was, I assume, imagining I was recalling information on a birth certificate or some such document.

Like all good, proud fathers might.

I was in fact trying hard to remember the last time I played Roulette at a casino.

Because those are the three numbers I always play.

Because of Izobel.

Funny how minds work sometimes isn’t it?