April 2020


I mentioned to a friend of mine recently.

That I will very often do my best work.

When I don’t know what I’m doing.

Two Me’s 

This is because.

I think.

There are Two Me’s.

The First Me.

The First Me knows what I know.

And the First Me will fish in this knowledge to get results.

This First Me lives in the world of the probable.

The Second Me.

The Second Me doesn’t know what I don’t know.

So the Second Me is carefree.

The Second Me neither knows nor cares how good or bad people think I am.

The Second Me just ‘does’.

This Second Me lives in the world of the possible.


I’m launching my new Brand Strategy offer in a few days.

Called ‘mychael’.

And if I can help you give me a shout.



And if you do get in touch.

Ask for the Second Me.

(He’s far less boring than the First Me).

Business can learn a lot from Ricky Gervais, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Iain Morris and Damon Beesley.


It’s because of how these people do their work.

They’re brave.

The more that I absorb how emotional and life-enhancingly relatable ‘After Life’ by Ricky Gervais is.

The more that I appreciate how storyful the content, and how immediately hooky the dialogue in every Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s ‘Inside Number 9’ is.

The more that I enjoy discovering the arresting quirks and observations inside Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s ‘Fleabag’.

The more that I choke on how beautifully outrageous and real ‘The Inbetweeners’ by Iain Morris and Damon Beesley is. (Wondering why I, or anyone like me, had never thought to write down the magical shite that teenagers talk quite like this).

The more that I think back to how interesting, refreshing and challenging the (early series of) Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain’s ‘Peepshow’ were.

The more embarrassed I get for almost every other short-form TV sitcom or series that is meant to engage and surprise.

Because to me.

Almost all other programmes are just padding.


Programmes that slot into a genre.

Programmes that read the rules.

And follow them.

The only thing that keeps these programmes alive is that they grip the generation they are targeting – early.

So that that generation sticks with them.

Like the last generation stuck with the previous clone.

Until 5 to 7 years later.

The penny drops.




The viewer realises that the programme is just meaningless padding.

So they leave it behind.

And the programme disappears.



Because I run businesses.

And because today, I am thinking about how my and others businesses are perceived.

I just wanted to say that.

If your business is just doing what everyone else like you does.

In pretty much the same way.

It’s a boring business.

It’s just padding.

And you can do better than that.

The Penny Drops.

Businesses that slot into a category.

Businesses that learn the rules.

And follow them.

The only thing that keeps these businesses alive is that they grip the target market they are for – early.

So that that market sticks with them.

Until a little while later.

The penny drops.




The customer realises that the business is just meaningless padding in their lives.

So they leave it behind.

And the business disappears.

Your Business.

You can do better than that because the creatives mentioned earlier in this story have created emotional, life-enhancingly relatable, storyful, immediately hooky, arrestingly quirky, beautifully outrageous, real, interesting, refreshing and challenging television programmes.

Which means that you can create emotional, life-enhancingly relatable, storyful, immediately hooky, arrestingly quirky, beautifully outrageous, real, interesting, refreshing and challenging businesses.

And until you do.

You’re boring.

You’re just padding, too.

Say no to that Joe Wicks.

As he tries to get you to wibble and wobble around your lounge.

Like a child.

That’s had too much Sunny Delight.

Go hardcore instead.

Jesse Lingard.

Choose Jesse Lingard.

Spend 40 minutes with the Manchester United midfielder.

3 Rounds.

Of 4 sets.




Plus a bonus round if you want that too.


Have a go.

I did it in 5 minutes.

Carrying a car.


Outspending the competition is the chosen strategy of many brands.

Bigger brands, normally.

And you know what.

For some.

That is a necessary part of the overall plan.

But if that’s all they’re doing.

That’s crap.


Outthinking the competition is an option too.

Having better ideas than them.

Braver ideas than them.

Different ideas to them.

Ideas that then get turned into unforgettable communication.

Both written and visual communication, I mean.

Because yes, people have to be aware of you.

You have to be noticed.

But what’s the point of being noticed if you are not remembered?

And what’s the point of wanting to be remembered?

If you don’t know what you want to be remembered for?


So have a think.

About Brand Strategy.

Have a think what you want your targets to think about you.

And to do.

Develop your Brand Strategy.


And your Marketing Strategy.

And your Messaging Strategy.

Then spend on raising awareness.

I think that’s best.

Because an ‘outthinking’ strategy.

Done right.

Makes you far more money than an ‘outspending’ one.

As I’ve overheard people say about me in the past.

I’m a bit of a Wonka.

At least.

I think that’s what I’ve overheard them say.

Willy Wonka.

I assume they know I am a Willy Wonka fan.

And that Izobel and I watch the movie a lot.

The Gene Wilder version.



It’s a warming movie.

A film filled with unforgettable images.



And funny.

Beautifully odd and outrageous too.

And all of that is what makes it so memorable.


Roald Dahl is a genius of course.

As is Gene Wilder.

So that helps.

The Test.


As we find out at the end.

The movie is a test.

It is a test of character for the five Golden Ticket winners.

A test of how good they are.

Augustus Gloop.

Veruca Salt.

Violet Beauregarde.

Mike Teevee.

And Charlie Bucket.

It is a test to see who behaves themselves in the Chocolate Factory.

And it is a test to see if any of the children steal the Everlasting Gobstopper.

As requested by Arthur Slugworth.

An (apparent) rival chocolatier to Mr. Wonka.




At a very testing time.

Still decides to do the right thing.

And hand back his Everlasting Gobstopper to Willy Wonka.

So Charlie wins.

As Roald Dahl’s words reveal.

Borrowed from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.

And delivered uniquely and brilliantly by Gene Wilder.

So shines a good deed in a weary world.

Do The Right Thing.

How nice!

And worth remembering.

Because just like Charlie.

We generally know the right thing to do.

All we have to do.

If we want to pass the test, that is.

Is to do it.

Here’s a brilliant 3 minute clip:

(Note: The talk I refer to below.

Check the date.

And the time.

There’s a slim possibility you can catch it.

If you want to, that is).

The Talk.

I was asked to talk at an online festival this week.

At 9.30am on Tuesday 28th April, 2020.

In a ‘Thought for the Day’ kind of thing.

The Festival.

The festival was called ‘The Space In-Between’.

My talk was on the subject of, ‘Doing What You Are Born To Do‘.

(Here’s the link:

And the festival was organised by the excellent Eleanor Tweddell of

My Brain. 

My brain knew about this talk.

So the night before.

My brain set to work.

Trying to think of something neat.


And (most of all) truthful.

For me to say.

One Thing. 

As with most talks.

It is useful to think about the one thing you want people to remember about it.

It’s nice if the chat is dynamic and engaging, of course.

And interesting.

And upbeat.

And I knew that my talk was going to be about the fact that we only have one life.

And the balance between existing and excelling.

But I also knew that people tend to hook into just one thing when they hear a short talk.

One takeaway only.

So the night before.

As I snoozed.

My brain worked on what that one thing would be.


Every day.

I send myself emails.

5 or 6 each day, actually.

Emails with ideas for 50odd.

Ideas for Always Wear Red.

And ideas for talks.


These emails take me by surprise when I read them back.

Because I forget I’ve sent them.

And I forget what I’ve written.

And when I awoke on the morning of my talk.

I discovered that I had in fact sent myself an email that previous night.

Just before I dropped off to sleep.

As I was trying to think of the one thing that I wanted people to remember about my talk.

My talk about the fact that we only have one life.

And the balance between existing and excelling.

The Email.

Here’s the email:

Be very careful.

Be very careful that in this short life.

You don’t waste time making money.

When you could have been doing brilliant work.

Thank You. 

Thank you brain.

I like that quote.

And if there is just one thing that I want people to remember about my talk.

This is it.

I’d heard the bigger boys talk about going there.

And some of my friends.

My friends that were my age.

They’d talk about going there too.

And I somehow knew that the bigger boys probably had been.

And that my friends.

My friends that were my age.

Probably had not.


There was one record shop in Derby.

In 1983.

Called ‘Way Ahead’.

I was 15 years old at the time.

And I’d never been.


I’d imagined going, though.

It was dark inside Way Ahead.

With music playing much louder than I was allowed to play music at home.

And it played constantly.

There was one, long haired man behind the counter at Way Ahead, I imagined.

Chewing gum.

(At work.

Chewing gum.


And I’d also imagine the panic I’d feel the first time that I did actually walk in.

I imagined the long haired man behind the counter.

Staring at me.

Through lazy, half-open eyes.

Not saying a word.

As he could see my discomfort.

My sweaty brow.

Because he knew that I didn’t know the rules of Way Ahead.

The only record shop in Derby.

And that he did.

The Way Ahead Record Shop Rules.

You see.

If I walked in the wrong way.

I imagined.

I could end up stood by a Buck’s Fizz record.

Or that fucking Joe Dolce song called.


‘Shaddap Yo Face’.

But then.

(I told myself).

Way Ahead.

The only record shop in Derby.

Wouldn’t stock shit like that.

Would it?

It’d be all ‘Iron Maiden’.

‘Blue Oyster Cult’.

And ‘Saxon’.

I knew this because my friend Dave Sirrell actually did get all his records from Way Ahead.

I’d seen them.

In his massive bedroom.

In his massive house.

That his rich dad bought.

Because Dave Sirrell’s dad was a gynaecologist.

And even though I didn’t know exactly what a gynaecologist was or did when I was 15 years old.

I knew they made a shitload of money.

Fuck; Dave Sirrell even had a microwave oven!

They were minted.

Way Ahead.

I did eventually get to Way Ahead.

And it was pretty much as I imagined.



A winding maze of categorised records.

Sat in batches of 100.

Facing me.

Back to back.

In scruffy, sturdy, wooden, stomach-high boxes.

So that when it was my turn to look.

I could stand square-on in front of them.

Legs slightly apart so the I was steady.

And I could plip, plip, plip them.

One at a time.


To reveal what sat behind each one.


I remember how I first chose to navigate Way Ahead Records.

The only record shop in Derby.

I navigated to sections not because of the records that were filed there.

But because the people that browsed there.

No one looking as cool as that.

I’d think to myself.

Would be looking for a fucking Joe Dolce record.

Teenage Me.

And there it is.

‘Teenage me’ in a nutshell.

Seeking out the cool kids.

Following the cool kids around.

Wishing I was them.

Or at the very least, that I could be with them.

I’m pretty much the same these days actually.

Maybe I’ll get there.

Maybe I can be one of the cool kids too.

Maybe one day.

In your life.

And mine.

What is stopping us becoming the very best we can be?

Right now, I mean.


Is it Covid-19?

Something we didn’t create.

And have nothing to do with.

Something that not one single human being.

From over 7 billion human beings.

Knows how to remove from our lives?


Or is it excuses?

Something we always create.

And have everything to do with.

Something that lots of other human beings.

From over 7 billion human beings.

Know how to remove from their life?

Just a thought.

This pausing.

It is probably the worst thing that has ever happened to us.

And the best.

Worst and Best.

This pausing is the worst thing that has ever happen to us.

Because friends and family will die before their time.

And this pausing is the best thing that has ever happened to us.

Simply because we are pausing.

And pausing is good.

Because pausing is time to reflect.


And renew


Inside this pausing.

I wanted to mention a little trend that I noticed.

A trend that has.

In the last 4 or 5 weeks.

Swung one way.

And then another.

I wanted to mention a little trend that I noticed.

Because I’d predict that it will continue to swing.


And forth.

And it is a trend around moaning.


Before Covid-19 came along.

There was a lot of fucking moaning.

Sometimes it was moaning about something.

And sometimes it was moaning about nothing.

But either way.

There was a lot of fucking moaning.

Then a global pandemic kicked in.

And most moaning disappeared.

Because we had something to bring us together.

A shared purpose.

It was a horrible thing that brought us together, of course.

But Covid-19 brought about a great surge in togetherness.


And selflessness.

And I was quite proud of that.

The Pendulum. 

But the pendulum is.

I think.

Swinging back the other way again right now.

Moaning is once again on the increase.

And I get it.

Times are tricky.

But I just wanted to point out that there are better things to do than moan.

And most involve getting off your arse.

And being the change you want to see.

A Prediction.

You see.

I’d predict that the moaning will increase for the duration of the lockdown now.

Then it will pause again once a vaccine is found.

Because once again we will have a joint purpose.

It will be our joint purpose to get back out there.

It will be our joint purpose to look after the greater good individually and as a society once more.

It will be our joint purpose to hug and hug and hug those we have missed.

And to rebuild relationships.

It will be our joint purpose to invest in the shattered economy.

And it will be our joint purpose to cradle the most bruised and the most battered.

And that will all be good.

But after that surge.

I’d predict that the moaning will come back again.

In late 2021.

Or early 2022.

As we reemerge fully.

As the new normal embeds.

And as.

Amongst other things.

We look to blame.

And all I wanted to point out.

To myself as much as anyone else.

Is that there are always options to moaning.

Whether it is with external impetus.

Or whether it is without external impetus.

Because the impetus not to moan can come from me.

For me.

And from you.

For you.


I will choose positivity.

Because I will have such good reasons to do so.

The best reason being.

That I will be glad to have made it to the other side.

If indeed I do make it to the other side.

Because many people that I know now.

Or that I once knew

Will not have.


I think I’ll owe it to myself.

To you.

But most of all perhaps.

To them.

That Veruca Salt is a right spoilt shit.

Awful child.

She talks a lot of bollocks, actually.

But perhaps the silliest thing she ever said.

(And that reveals a lot about her).

Is this:


Who ever heard of a Snozzberry?


Willy Wonka’s reply to Veruca’s question.

Is excellent.

Here it is:

(There’s a 15 second video further down the page at


My advice to you.

And to me.

Is to invent what the fuck you want.




Because it’s your life.

So pack it with what you will.

Just remember this bit:

We are the music makers.

And we are the dreamers of dreams.

And you’ll be fine.

Ode. By Arthur O’Shaughnessy.

Here is Author O’Shaughnessy’s excellent poem.

In full.

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams; —
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample a kingdom down.

We, in the ages lying,
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself in our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

A breath of our inspiration
Is the life of each generation;
A wondrous thing of our dreaming
Unearthly, impossible seeming —
The soldier, the king, and the peasant
Are working together in one,
Till our dream shall become their present,
And their work in the world be done.

They had no vision amazing
Of the goodly house they are raising;
They had no divine foreshowing
Of the land to which they are going:
But on one man’s soul it hath broken,
A light that doth not depart;
And his look, or a word he hath spoken,
Wrought flame in another man’s heart.

And therefore to-day is thrilling
With a past day’s late fulfilling;
And the multitudes are enlisted
In the faith that their fathers resisted,
And, scorning the dream of to-morrow,
Are bringing to pass, as they may,
In the world, for its joy or its sorrow,
The dream that was scorned yesterday.

But we, with our dreaming and singing,
Ceaseless and sorrowless we!
The glory about us clinging
Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing:
O men! it must ever be
That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing,
A little apart from ye.

For we are afar with the dawning
And the suns that are not yet high,
And out of the infinite morning
Intrepid you hear us cry —
How, spite of your human scorning,
Once more God’s future draws nigh,
And already goes forth the warning
That ye of the past must die.

Great hail! we cry to the comers
From the dazzling unknown shore;
Bring us hither your sun and your summers;
And renew our world as of yore;
You shall teach us your song’s new numbers,
And things that we dreamed not before:
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
And a singer who sings no more.