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August 2019

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I don’t know if Michael Jackson was a goodie or a baddie.

I really have no idea.

Awkward.

But so much of his story, to be honest, makes me feel funny.

Awkward.

And it has affected his legacy.

For me.

I know this because, when I was looking for a great live version of my favourite Michael Jackson song this week.

I stopped looking.

Because I felt better about a studio version.

With no video.

Which is unusual for me.

To not want see a live performance.

What a strange feeling!

Human Nature.

But I’ve always really loved ‘Human Nature’ from his 1983, Thriller album.

And I still do.

I don’t think much else sounds like this.

Before or since.

So here it is: https://www.50odd.co.uk/human/.

Born in 1802, Victor Hugo was a French poet, novelist and dramatist of the Romantic movement.

Hugo is one of the greatest and best-known French writers.

Born in 1939, Greggs is a Newcastle upon Tyne based bakery with 1,950 stores at time of writing.

Greggs is the largest bakery in the UK and makes very lovely sausage rolls.

Victor Hugo and Sausage Rolls.

It was Victor Hugo that once said:

Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.

And it was Greggs that once said:

The wait is over… 3.1.19 #vegansausageroll.

Northern Pride.

I am really proud of Greggs.

A brand whose time has come.

I am a guy living in the North East of England.

A place I really like.

But a place that is still all-too-often characterised by Jimmy Nail, Sting, Cheryl Whatevershescalledthesedays’ arse-tattoo, where the shipyards used to be, where Newcastle Brown used to be made, where silly football clubs have self-destruct buttons and that place the Northern Powerhouse forgot.

I see Greggs as a genuine local hero.

A retail success story.

A brand with a sense of now-ness.

It knows what it is for.

And why it works now.

A strong, fun ‘brand-of-the-people’ that we can watch, enjoy and admire.

Quality.

Greggs is a decent quality, clever, patient, steady monster of a business.

A smartly run and smartly marketed monster.

Quietly going about its business and achieving, for the the first time in 2018, a turnover of one billion pounds.

Employing 22,000 people.

And still the home of the Festive Bake.

Togetherness.

Greggs seems to bring people together too, I think.

With little bragging or bluster.

It makes me feel nostalgic.

It’s simple and straight forward so that I understand it.

It’s built on common sense.

It’s fun.

And, business-wise, it is probably the best thing about the NE for me since I arrived here in 1987.

I love Greggs.

And if you love Greggs too, here’s a canny little Greggs Locator.

Just for you.

Be ambitious.

Honestly.

Just be ambitious.

Because no matter how high you get.

You acclimatise.

You really do get used to the altitude.

Altitude. 

I’ve paid annual rent of £3,600 and annual rent of £57,000.

I’ve employed 1 person and I’ve employed 30 people.

I’ve paid a total wage bill of £12,000 and I’ve paid a total wage bill of £750,000.

And, honestly, when you’re busy in the day-to-day.

And all other variables around you are adjusted accordingly.

It feels OK.

Ambitious. 

So whatever it is you are thinking of doing.

Go for it.

Be ambitious.

Because no matter how high you get.

You acclimatise.

You really do get used to the altitude.

My advice to you.

If you are a business leader or an aspiring business leader.

Is to every now and then.

Just stand there.

Watching.

McDonald’s

I managed McDonald’s restaurants in my very early 20’s.

A business not without flaws.

But one thing they got me to do.

As a restaurant manager.

That was really good.

Was to regularly stand in the dining area of the restaurant.

Watching.

Watching the crew.

The customers.

The counter.

The stock levels.

The cleanliness.

The eye contact.

The smiles.

The body language.

The hustle.

Watching everything.

It’s amazing what I learned doing that.

Mostly about how we made our visitors feel.

1992.

I first did this kind of ‘watching’ in 1992.

And I did it again last week.

But not in a McDonald’s restaurant.

I practiced my ‘watching’ whilst renewing my passport in the Passport Office in Durham.

First Impressions.

I watched the long, greasy hair of a tall, skinny man swing to-and-fro.

As he laughed and chatted with his much shorter, much rounder but just as grubby work colleague.

On the front desk.

The shorter and rounder grubby man’s job, I think, was to stare at me and point me silently to the tall grubby man as I approached.

The tall grubby man’s job was to wave a metal-detector wand over my body for just under 2 seconds before silently waving me past him.

To stand at the end of a different cordoned off area.

About 6 feet away.

Where I watched a lady behind the counter say:

Next.

Before asking me why I was here.

I replied:

To renew my passport.

She asked to see my old one.

That I’d lost.

So she corrected me and said (something like):

If you have lost your passport.

Then you are not here to renew your passport

You are here to replace your passport.

This mini-conversation took place without her smiling or looking up once.

Until I asked what difference a renewal versus a replacement made to what was about to happen next.

At which point she did actually look up at me.

And after a couple of seconds.

Said:

Nothing.

Skill.

It is quite a skill.

To make another person feel so inadequate.

So quickly.

And with so few words.

Waiting.

She pointed me to a large waiting area where I sat.

With 2 other people.

For 15 minutes.

I had been 5 minutes early.

So this 15 minute wait meant that they were now 10 minutes late for me.

Watching Some More.

I watched some more.

A large, tired looking security man.

With an impressively large tummy.

So large in fact that it refused to allow the front of his shirt to tuck into his trousers.

Instead creating two little white shirt-curtains as he leant forward.

Balancing his forearms on the back of a chair.

Chatting to a colleague about beer.

Waiting Some More. 

Eventually, an automated voice invited me to window 9.

10 minutes late.

The chap didn’t apologise of course.

He just looked at the paperwork that I handed to him.

Asked me to sign something.

And a little under 5 minutes later.

I left.

The Passport Office At Durham.

When I stood in the dining area of my McDonald’s Restaurant in 1992.

Watching.

It was because my manager cared about what happened there.

And he wanted me to care about what happened in my restaurant, too.

To care about how our visitors felt.

And I did.

The Passport Office at Durham is staffed by people that don’t care about how I feel.

Managed by people that don’t care that they don’t care about how I feel.

And that’s why.

I suppose.

That the Passport Office at Durham is so utterly, utterly shite.

You’ll have thought about it.

Maybe not to the point of actually writing something down.

Or drawing something.

Like I have.

But you’ll have considered it.

I am talking about what will be written on your gravestone.

Death. 

I am not sure if I’ll be burned or buried.

Burned probably.

You know.

Just to make sure.

And my gravestone?

Yes.

I know what I want.

Here.

Take a look: https://www.50odd.co.uk/gravestone/.

Nuisance. 

Death.

What a bloody nuisance that is.

I’ll be right pissed off when it happens.

If you like George, please go here: https://www.50odd.co.uk/intimate/.

Please watch this full screen.

With the sound up high.

When you have 4 uninterrupted minutes.

Intimate.

This is an intimate, wobbly, amateur IPhone recording of George Michael on the 17th of September 2012.

Singing live in Birmingham.

It is one single shot.

With no snazzy visual or audio post production.

And I love how you see George telling one of the stories he wrote so beautifully.

So sincerely.

And so well.

With the conductor’s hand at George’s side.

Rawness.

I think that the intimacy comes from being raw, vulnerable and true.

Something that I will strive to achieve when I restart my Always Wear Red storytelling in September.

I prefer real.

And so do consumers.

And that’s why I prefer this George Michael film to the rather more polished and better edited official SYMPHONICA version.

I love how we see George here.

George.

George Michael.

To me, a genius.

Sadly.

Died alone.

In 2016.

On Christmas Day.

 

I’ve drawn a diagram to go with this short story, here: https://www.50odd.co.uk/lifeshapes/.

Lifeshapes.

Over the last few years.

Deep down.

Hidden away from everyone around me.

Even those closest to me.

I had been visualising my life as the wrong lifeshape.

I had been visualising my life as a Flat Diamond.

And that really isn’t good.

So I’ve changed it.

To a Drunk Isosceles.

And you know what?

I feel much, much better.

Lifeshapes.

A Flat Diamond shaped life is not good.

It made me sad.

Because the left half of the Flat Diamond represents life’s acceleration.

Life’s learning.

Life’s improvement.

Life’s growth.

Life’s expansion.

Life’s successes.

The widest part of the Flat Diamond is called ‘The Peak’.

And the right hand half of the Flat Diamond is called.

Well.

I suppose.

Decline.

You see; I started to believe that I’d peaked.

In about 2013.

At the age of about 45.

And as a consequence I’d labelled everything to the right of the widest part of the Flat Diamond.

Everything i was doing ‘now’.

As decline.

Change.

I had to change something.

My perspective was all wrong.

This silly Flat Diamond lifeshape story that I was telling myself was hurting me.

First of all mentally.

And then it was hurting me in how I was performing and making decisions as well.

So I chose a different shape.

I chose the Drunk Isosceles.

So these days, an isosceles triangle lying down – drunk – on its side.

Is my brand new lifeshape.

And I LOVE it.

It basically means that I have chosen to go on learning, improving, growing, expanding and succeeding.

And just at the point that I peak.

When I am at maximum power.

When I am having an absolute fucking ball.

Riding higher than ever before.

I die.

Perfect!

(I’ve not sorted out ‘not dying’ yet.

I’ll keep you posted).

Lifeshapes.

A Drunk Isosceles shaped life is a good life.

But I also learned a hard lesson by choosing a Flat Diamond shaped life.

I learned that, basically, the only way to be sure if you have peaked.

The only way to be 100% sure that you have moved completely through acceleration, learning, improving, growing, expanding and succeeding – on past Peak and into Decline.

Is if that is what you choose to believe.

In summary, because I chose to believe that I’d peaked.

I had.

Please go here. As there are clips with this story: https://www.50odd.co.uk/being-human/.

Ingredients.

If three of the main ingredients of total, total brilliance are bravery, creativity and staying true to a bold and vivid vision.

A vision that is likely to shock, arrest and polarise.

Then ‘Rita, Sue and Bob Too’ is one of the most totally, totally brilliant films ever made.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too.

I love this film even more at 51 years old.

In 2019.

Than I did when I was 19 years old.

In 1987.

When it was released.

Reminder.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too is a reminder about real life.

And how raw and amazing real life can be.

A reminder also that real life is – mostly – confusing.

As well as broken, bruising and fucking hard.

A reminder that – of course you are going to fuck up vast chapters of your life.

Over and over.

But it is also a reminder that life.

All life.

Should be celebrated.

Not in a pathetic, silly, pointless and unauthentic Instagrammable way.

But just as it is.

Being Human.

Being human means being dysfunctional.

At least sometimes.

And being OK with it.

I love the poetry of the clip below.

There are so many amazing clips that I could have chosen from this film.

But this one, if you’ve not seen the film before.

Or maybe even if you have.

Might just leave you sat silently.

Wide mouthed.

Eyebrows high.

Staring at the screen.

Rita Sue and Bob, Too.

Rita, Sue and Bob are some of most beautifully written and played out characters I’ve ever seen.

As they chronicle the reality and confusion of growing up if you are ‘a Rita’.

Or ‘a Sue’.

And chronicling the reality and confusion of not growing up if you are ‘a Bob’.

Brilliance.

If three of the main ingredients of total, total brilliance are bravery, creativity and staying true to your vision.

Then ‘Rita, Sue and Bob Too’ is one of the most totally, totally brilliant films ever made.

And here are cast members and wider team discussing it in (I think) 2017.

Listen how tenacious Michelle Holmes (Sue) was to get the part:

With any agency.

Be it a Creative agency.

Or an Advertising agency.

Or a Marketing agency.

Or a Brand Communication Collective like my ANGELFYSH business.

It’s important for you to know something.

It’s this.

How different are the people that sold me the work.

From the people that will be delivering the work?

Handmedowns.

It is not uncommon.

Particularly in bigger agencies.

That responsibility for the successful delivery of what you buy is passed down from (for example) Creative Director Level.

Through Senior Designer level.

Through Designer level.

Through Junior Designer level.

To Design Intern level.

Commitment.

In of itself, this is not always a bad thing, actually.

But only if there is an end-to-end and top-to-bottom commitment to quality.

And a commitment to great recruitment.

And a commitment to great training.

And, if appropriate, a commitment to great shadowing or buddying.

And a genuine commitment to the fact that no client is a guinea pig.

Ask. 

So if you are wondering about how this subject is handled in any agency.

Either your current one.

Or a new one.

Just ask the person that’s trying to sell you something to tell you about, and ideally to introduce you to, the delivery team.

If the response is immediate, crystal clear and transparent.

You’re fine.

But if you get mumbles.

Or they introduce you to 12 years olds that get paid in Jelly Babies.

You’re probably not.

Please go here for your official Monday Morning Chicken Head Music Experiencehttps://www.50odd.co.uk/chicken-head-music/.

Chicken Head Music.

You know the kind.

Music that makes your head bob back and forth like a chicken.

(But – normally – only if no one’s looking).

Lost In Music.

This tune is particularly potent on a Monday morning.

So here we go.

Surely this has to be one of the most uplifting tunes ever?

Because of the guitar riff.

And the simple, memorable melody.

And the drums and bass coming in and out so the dynamic shifts.

And because of the quality of Kathy Sledge’s voice and how all voices are layered.

And the fashion and the dancing.

And Kathy’s smile!

Chicken head music at it’s greatest.

Happy Monday.

Grab your coffee… AND DANCE!