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May 2019

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One of the best storytellers I have ever known.

Is my friend Pete Zulu.

Because he can capture a feeling in just a few words.

Interpretation.

This tiny snippet is something that Pete wrote on his Instagram page next to a lovely photograph.

A photograph that Pete had taken.

I must stress that I will almost certainly have interpreted Pete’s words incorrectly.

But, on occasions like this, incorrectly is fine.

Because however Pete told the story, I interpreted it in my own personal way.

And that’s the point, I think.

Candles. 

There’s a photograph of a young child on Pete’s Instagram page.

I can’t remember who it is.

But he looks worried.

Beautiful.

But troubled.

The caption, written (probably quite badly but brilliantly all at the same time – a rare skill) by Pete went like this.

It was a simple question that this worried, 4(ish) year old boy had asked.

It was:

Who will blow out my birthday cake candles if I die?

I have no idea what prompted this question.

And it doesn’t matter.

Because, if you are anything like me you will feel something about this question.

And death.

And childhood.

And innocence.

And fear.

And loneliness.

And how we all germinate ideas and fears – good and bad – whatever our age, inside our heads.

I hope that, like me, you are smiling.

And that you feel affection for this boy.

And for all young people.

And that you remember how lovely it is to engage with innocent minds.

To help them.

And – importantly – to re-learn, from them, how to think beautifully again.

Anyhow.

That’s what I took from this.

And, of course, it was a nice reminder about Pete’s beautiful mind.

Photograph.

Please.

If you are reading this in your email.

Take a look at Pete’s photograph, too: https://www.50odd.co.uk/candles/

I am not sure if I can still do a handstand.

I may be able to.

But I haven’t tried for such a long time.

Fitness. 

I do grown up fitness, though.

With posh, clunking, robust machines in grey, black and red.

With settings that ensure that whatever I lift gets heavier and heavier and increasingly unpleasant to move as-we-go.

And whirring bikes and rowing machines that go nowhere, yet get me somewhere.

Fitter, I think.

Fun.

Grown up fitness is not fun.

That’s why so many people do it in fits-and-starts.

As it happens, I have the nice people from STORM to help me.

So I do enjoy it.

And I stick around.

But the fundamental activities.

Running on the spot.

Cycling to nowhere.

Lifting until you can’t lift any more.

That’s not fun.

Well, not for most people.

Handstands.

How strange it is then that handstands are fun.

And hula-hooping.

And, I imagine, skipping.

And running around trying to catch a frisbee.

There’s a lot to be said for childishness.

Woven into what we grown-ups are supposed to do.

I’d strongly recommend it.

Not just when were are trying to get fit.

But in everything.

To feel good.

And to smile.

Disclaimer:

If you decide to try a handstand.

And land on your head.

It’s not my fault.

OK?

(But do send a picture.

Of the handstand.

Not you landing on your head).

I once ran a business called onebestway.

It was a Creative Agency.

Over 14 years it grew from nothing.

To something.

Growth.

Specifically, it grew from nothing to sales of £1,250,000 over about 8 years.

Then trundled on.

Winning awards and creating jobs over 14 years.

But it wasn’t always steady growth.

Sometimes, there was sharp decline.

Consett.

An example of sharp decline happened one cold early morning early in year two.

Our offices were in Consett.

And I turned up early.

I was always in first.

First to see the cold computers and desks.

First to warm them, and the room, for the others.

Except on this one morning.

Because when I arrived at the office.

I saw something quite different.

Different.

On this one morning all I saw.

Was a brick.

Brick.

One way to enter to an office.

In the middle of the night.

If you have no keys.

Is to use a brick.

Throw it at a window.

(That should do it).

And one way to very, very quickly ‘unplug’ monitors from sockets.

Is to hit the cables with an axe.

So the axe cuts through the cable – and the table top actually – with speed.

I learned both these things on this cold morning in 2002.

Momento.

For years, I kept the brick.

I smiled at it.

It was a momento.

It reminded me, and the thought of it still does, that we bounce back.

The brick incident was a mere blip.

A bump in the road.

The road from nothing.

To £1,250,000 of sales.

Bikes need stabilisers.

So do businesses.

And, sometimes, people do too.

Stabilisers.

The difference between bike stabilisers and these two metaphorical ones I mention (business and life).

Is that once you’ve worked your way past your bike stabilisers.

You probably won’t go back.

But the other two – stabilisers for your business and your life – you may need them more than once.

And that’s OK.

I don’t think that business or life are things that you initially wobble through, learn, and then have mastered for ever.

So from time to time.

When you feel you need to.

Go get the stabilisers.

Stabilisers. 

My stabilisers in my personal life are my friends.

The ones that understand my business side as well as my ‘me’ side, mostly.

People that take the time to listen to me.

When I am wobbling.

And for my business, I have a coach.

As some businesses have me to help them when I have my ANGELFYSH hat on.

I help people when they wobble through the tricky bits.

As others help me.

Tricky Bits.

I may be experiencing tricky things for the first time.

Or I may have forgotten how to confidently zoom forward as smoothly as I once did.

Either way; I am glad they are there.

Stabilisers.

Nice to have.

When you need them.

Paul Lancaster started Newcastle Startup Week 3 years ago.

I don’t know how many more years it will last.

And Paul probably doesn’t know either.

But what I do know is that Newcastle Startup Week is very, very special.

Newcastle Startup Week.

This May.

Over a 5 day period from the 13th to the 17th.

Over 700 people will gather in Newcastle and Gateshead to explore a huge range of subjects around starting and growing businesses.

It’ll be about 1,000 people once we add in students.

But it won’t be at all businesslike in the traditional sense.

Suits will be few and far between.

As will vol-eu-vents.

Instead, there will be the excited and the entrepreneurial, buzzing with optimism and positivity.

As well as amazing local food, coffee and beer served from mid morning to late into the night at amazing local venues like Tyne Bank Brewery, Back Yard Bikeshop (By The River Brew Co.) and Stack Creative Social Hub.

And because of all this.

What comes as absolutely no surprise to me at all.

Is that this event is more attractive, better attended and more loved than anything of its kind that I have ever seen by any university, college, enterprise agency, local authority, networking organisation in the North East of England over the last 20 years.

And I have worked for 4 universities and the North East’s 2 biggest enterprise agencies.

Nothing has ever come close.

Festival.

Newcastle Startup Week is a festival.

The speakers (of which there are 60+ from around the world) are diverse and intense.

Each speaker gets an average of 20 minutes to do their thing.

So the content is sharply constructed and efficiently presented.

The whole event crackles and buzzes with seemingly endless layers of information, entertainment and inspiration.

And it is unencumbered by waffly sponsors.

They’re clever enough to know that just being involved, and a sprinkling of a few well-chosen words, is enough.

Tickets.

Newcastle Startup Week is innovative, layered, surprising, fast-moving and vibrant.

And as I say – very, very special.

Which, I guess, makes Paul Lancaster very, very special too.

All you need to know is here, including how to get a week-long ticket.

And if you email me at michael@500dd.co.uk, asking for a discount code, I’ll send you one that’ll give you a 50% discount in these last few days.

Please.

Go.

You have to be careful when you feel bored.

When there’s an occasional emptiness.

When you feel that life should be giving you more.

Because it can make you react in the wrong way.

Boredom.

Firstly, many say that there is no such thing as boredom.

Just boring people.

And there is something in that.

But what I am talking about here is when we all occasionally derail.

Bored with, well, everything.

When we feel like something is missing.

So we react.

Reaction. 

The reaction should be creative.

But sometimes it is the exact opposite.

It’s destructive.

Because the dopamine hit that we get from creating things can be muddled with the dopamine hit we get from destroying things.

Winning makes us buzz.

But so can the cut-and-thrust of arguments and fallouts.

Saving money and hitting a savings milestone can give us a buzz.

But so can splurging and spending crazily.

Really pushing the fitness thing can make us feel euphoric.

But so can binge drinking.

Junkies.

Thrill seeking is part of life I think.

It is for me.

The thing I have to watch though is chasing the right kind of buzz.

Creative ones.

Positive ones.

Not destructive ones.

I’m not a junkie.

I don’t crave any old ‘hit’.

But; sometimes – I do have to remind myself of this.

One day, John gathered up all the bins near where we live.

The local authority knew about this.

They’d given John the OK.

Community. 

There had been a bit of discussion around what our neighbour John wanted to do with the bins.

In our local community.

I missed it.

Because I wasn’t attentive enough.

But if I had have been paying attention.

I’d have said yes; fine.

Go for it.

Bins. 

John cleaned all the bins.

Then painted them.

There were about 20.

Then he planted really lovely plants and flowers in them.

And popped them back out.

Togetherness. 

Now, this story isn’t necessarily about what you might think of this particular act.

It’s just about the act.

The selflessness of it.

And the community spirit.

Of course, we could look at the dark side.

More litter.

Less opportunity for me to drop my bags of dog poo off as I walk Colin and Frank.

Alternatively, there could be organised litter picks around St. Peter’s Basin to clear up after the lazy and the idiotic.

And, with zero effort or inconvenience whatsoever, I can take my bags of poo home.

And as both of those things happen – I see no downside.

Common Purpose.

In 2003 I went on a course put together by Common Purpose.

I met some great people.

It was a course that, fundamentally, encouraged people to:

Act beyond your apparent authority.

I always remember that line.

It’s what John did.

And what most people don’t do.

And they should.

Here’s a review of a Friday night out in Newcastle upon Tyne. 

I went to the opening of the Alexander Millar exhibition in Newcastle a week or so ago.

With my friend Pete Zulu.

Amazing works filled the three floor New Hancock Gallery.

It’s a great venue.

And I met Jaws.

There’s a photo of him trying to kill me at this link: https://www.50odd.co.uk/jaws/.

Jaws. 

I’m not a James Bond fan really.

But I do know Jaws when I see him.

At least, I thought I did.

This lovely chap is Gary Tiplady.

He’s 7 feet and 3 inches tall.

And we had a good chat.

Even though he’s not Jaws at all.

He’s a lookalike.

Alfie. 

Then, we went to The Stand in Newcastle.

The comedy club.

Our friend Alfie Joey was the compère.

And I was surprised by how great the acts were.

The Stand is right next door to my studio on High Bridge in Newcastle.

And, to that point, I’d never been.

It was great.

So there you go.

Newcastle gems that are not hidden at all.

The New Hancock Gallery and The Stand.

I’d just never been before.

(But I’m glad I did).

When you’re advising someone younger than you.

Be it your child or somebody else’s.

If it ever feels like you’re talking to yourself.

There’s a reason for that.

It’s because you are.

Yourself.

Think about it…

You are, to one degree or another, seeing that person as a younger version of you.

Vulnerable.

Uncertain.

Yet, at the same time, faced with amazing opportunity every day.

And still they are drawn to the wrong things and the wrong people.

Making the same mistakes you made.

And sometimes.

When you look at them.

And all the daft things they do.

You do see a little you.

Puzzle.

The puzzle, of course, is how you help them.

Because 20 or 40 years ago there was an older person looking at you.

Thinking and saying similar things.

To you.

And you know what you thought of them.

Younger.

So there you go.

These little people.

They are you.

Just younger.

Plans have been tabled to build a 460ft tall Big Wheel near my house.

About a quarter of a mile away.

Opinions

Opinions are divided.

Whilst I support the scheme, many residents and local businesses don’t.

I like what I see when I take a look at Salford Quays and what some of Liverpool has done.

It’s progress.

It’s creative.

It is, if managed properly and if the dots are joined, good for business.

Neat, smart ideas implemented – largely – quite well.

Newcastle

Newcastle is a nice place.

The quayside is, genuinely, beautiful.

Especially when viewed from The Free Trade Inn.

And this development along with other plans that are floating about – a £200m conferencing facility for Gateshead Quays for example – are good things.

Balance.

I think that Newcastle and Gateshead get a lot wrong when they market themselves as a region/destination.

Are they they really going to call this wheel the ‘Whey Aye’ if it gets approved?

I hope not.

It’s a balance.

Yes; we’re a great party town but we also have – predominantly in Gateshead it should be noted – some great buildings and attractions.

BALTIC.

Sage Gateshead.

The Angel of the North.

There is a great degree of sophistication and quality.

Progress.

Anyhow, here’s an animation if you’d like to have a look.

Apologies that our local paper The Evening Chronicle think it’s OK to have a website that is a based stylistically on ‘Chat Magazine’.

Another bad thing for this excellent region – the biggest regional newspaper’s website awash with crappy adverts and silly clickbait.

Nevertheless, here we go:

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/whey-aye-newcastle-quayside-100m-16061274.