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LOVE & LIFE

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I was chatting to a friend his week.

About my ‘Change Year’.

My Change Year was 2014.

Change Year.

On June the somethingth, 2014.

I triggered the closure of the small group of businesses that I’d founded and run for 14 years.

My eyebrows were up.

I was whistling.

I was striding.

And I felt totally, totally fine.

Because the decision was made.

Because I was about to move in a fresh, new direction.

Because I was radically changing my entire life.

(I like change).

And because it was exciting!

Week 1. 

As week 1 passed.

My strides had turned to steps.

I slowed down a bit.

Because new realities were biting.

I wanted to help team members to get new roles.

But some didn’t want help.

In fact, some didn’t want anything at all from me.

This guy that was selfishly removing their current job.

I wanted to explain to suppliers and partners.

Why I just had to change my life.

And how that included closing profitable businesses.

And whilst one or two patted me on my back.

Many just turned their back.

And walked away.

Assumption.

I also had to manage inaccurate assumption.

Assumption about my motives for moving on.

And, by week 2, all of this had slowed my strides to steps.

And my steps to a shuffle.

This was hard!

Really hard.

The businesses had defined me.

For 14 years.

And now I was dismantling them.

All that was left.

Was me.

Me.

People looked directly at me.

And judged.

I looked directly at me.

And judged.

Maybe they’re right.

Maybe I am dismantling all of this because I just can’t do it any more.

Because I was failing anyway.

Because I was frightened.

Overthinking.

Can be a terrible thing.

Change Year.

My Change Year was really, really hard.

And it kept getting harder.

Some days, I thought I couldn’t cope.

But I did.

Some days, I thought that I’d made a massive mistake.

But I hadn’t.

Most days, I thought I was getting weaker.

But in actual fact.

Even though I didn’t realise it at the time.

I was getting stronger.

New Me. 

The new me had to learn and relearn many, many things.

But I do remember a few simple lessons more than any other.

So I told my friend this week.

My friend who is also considering change.

I think I said something like this:

If you are going to change.

Change big!

Change everything.

And don’t feel that you have to explain yourself.

At all.

To anyone.

Not even to yourself.

Because sometimes.

Things are not understandable by the rules and emotions that you know today.

They only become understandable by a new set of rules and emotions that you learn tomorrow.

And anyhow.

All I knew.

Was that if I stayed where I was.

I’d become destructive.

Sadder.

Increasingly lost.

Increasingly restless and dissatisfied.

So in some ways I am not sure that I even made a decision on June the somethingth 2014.

I think that I just let something happen.

Let Something Happen.

Nothing will prepare you for the bad times.

But if you want the good times.

You have to face both.

All the best.

If any of what I went through. 

Can help with what you might go through. 

Or already are going through

Drop me a line. 

michael@50odd.co.uk.

This is a serious subject for me.

It shouldn’t be, of course.

But it is.

The Claw. 

The shadow of the threat of failure.

Has been there in any business I’ve started.

And I’ve started 9 businesses.

So I know the feeling.

The shadow of failure is there in my current businesses, too.

It is very real.

But it is no match for the pressure I feel.

When I pop £1 into those claw machines at funfairs.

As my 3 year old daughter stands next to me.

Looking up at me.

Pointing at Toy Story’s Woody.

And asking me to win it for her.

Now that – is pressure.

Chessington.

I have been at Chessington Adventure Park this weekend.

And whilst it delivers on The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and more.

Those ‘Claw’ machines remain a conundrum.

Chance.

I know they are a game of chance.

Because the signs on the machines tell me that.

But 3 year olds don’t care about that.

Izobel just wants me to put a ‘penny pound’ into the machine and grab a Forky.

Or a Woody.

Or a Buzz.

Dad thing. 

Is this a me thing?

Or a dad thing?

Or is this a mum thing, too?

I can’t fathom it.

I just know that the tension is real.

It makes me irrational.

And worried.

Irrational because if some guy came from behind a bush and said:

Psst. Here. I’ll sell you one. £10 ok?

I wouldn’t want one.

I want to win.

Ducky.

Anyhow.

All is well.

Because I won a Ducky this weekend.

A fringe character from Toy Story 4.

Enough for Izobel.

And enough for me.

And the good news is that I won Ducky for a teeny-tiny, measly £1.

On my (about) fiftieth go.

Bargain!

Very often.

When I am working as a Brand Consultant.

I spend time trying to find the very worst thing or things about you, the client.

This is because – unfortunately – the least good thing about you is the most likely thing that your customers will remember.

Link.

You’ll be judged by your weakest link.

So if I find your weakest link.

And we remove it.

You’ll be better.

And you’ll do better.

Unfair.

Sometimes, to be judged by what you do worst.

When you are trying to do great in business.

Feels unfair.

But how it feels is completely irrelevant.

Because the fact that you will be judged by your weakest link is a truth you already know.

Because you do it too.

Trying.

So if you are trying really, really hard.

And you’re still not good enough.

Try harder.

Because if you are not prepared to try your absolute best.

And to continually upgrade what ‘your absolute best’ actually means.

In a quest to become absolutely world class.

Then when your customer falls out of love with you.

For something you really should have cared more about.

It’s absolutely your fault.

Gemma from Extract Coffee is great.

She’s a fine person and a fine marketer.

Gemma really knows coffee and she really knows marketing.

And she is great to chat and listen to as well.

The Do Lectures.

I met Gemma in West Wales at The Do Lectures.

And she chatted to me about her son Leo.

Keep in mind that.

At The Do Lectures.

One meets some of the most important, impressive, unique and advanced minds in the world.

And as a consequence I remember lots that these people say because it’s so resonant and profound.

But I also remember what Gemma’s son Leo said.

Leo is 6.

Monkeymind.

Gemma is a busy and bright young mum.

And as happens with lots of busy young mums.

Sometimes, Gemma’s head gets full.

Gemma told me this.

About how it’s so often really hard to choose between ‘this’.

Or ‘that’.

Or ‘the other’.

Gemma told me how, sometimes, life really can be tricky.

Leo.

Anyhow, one day, a 6 year old Leo told his mum to to worry too much about this trickiness.

Because ‘Monkeymind’ is just one of those things that busy people have to deal with.

Gemma felt better.

Because her son cared enough to try to help.

And to empathise.

And because he was clever enough to come up with a great word to share with his mum.

So thanks Leo.

Because I can now say to anyone reading this.

If you too sometimes have so much going on that you just don’t know where to start.

Don’t worry.

We all feel a little bit like that sometimes.

It’s just Monkeymind.

Give this a try.

Don’t watch TV for 4 to 8 weeks.

Or even longer.

Then go back and take a look at TV with fresh eyes.

Accident.

I did this almost by accident recently.

Because of being busy.

And because of being with Izobel.

What I mean is that I didn’t do it on purpose.

I just didn’t happen to watch TV for 8 weeks or so.

At all.

Return.

My return to TV was interesting.

I noticed something new about TV.

(I noticed this because I was looking at the whole ‘TV experience’ with fresh eyes).

What I noticed was that.

Almost every part of the TV experience.

Is crap.

TV.

Adverts that we are learning to shut out completely.

Because they are lazy and interruptive.

(Younger people are not tolerating these crappy interruptions.

And neither am I).

I also saw new programmes made from old programmes.

And just plain old, old programmes.

I saw documentaries about police.

Documentaries about ambulances.

Documentaries about factories.

And documentaries about documentaries.

I saw game shows where pickled celebrities patronise members of the general public so the contestants themselves start to dumb themselves down to fit in.

(They can’t be that stupid in real life can they?)

And I saw lots of people famous for nothing worthwhile, doing nothing worthwhile.

And that was about it really.

That was my TV experience.

Creativity.

I’d like to see more creativity.

I love different.

I love brave.

I love weird.

I love challenging.

It’s nice to be challenged.

It really is.

Challenge is what we as humans are built for.

It brings us to life.

KFC.

TV still turns me on sometimes, I suppose.

But – for me – TV has become the intellectual equivalent of a massive KFC Bucket of chicken.

And I like KFC actually.

Occasionally.

But if I sat on the settee.

Every single night.

With a massive bucket (how the hell did we ever get to serving food in bloody buckets?!) of KFC.

Gorging.

Gorging.

Gorging.

On the same samey, bland, greasy mouthfuls.

I’d feel sick.

In just the same way as, after 8 weeks TV-free.

I felt little bit queasy watching Stephen Mulhern bent in two and laughing at yet another part-exposed animation on Catchphrase.

That looked a little bit like two cartoon characters shagging.

It was funny when it happened once, Stephen.

To Roy Walker.

In 1990.

But not now.

It’s been done.

Like I’m done.

With TV.

I’m a storyteller.

I tell my own story on 50odd.co.uk.

And I have helped many businesses for many years to find and tell their story.

Turning them into brands.

Social Media.

Social Media invariably plays some part in the storytelling.

So Social Media – to someone like me – is a good thing.

It’s efficient.

But it is also important to remember what else it is.

It is the biggest conscious move, in human history, to exploit human vulnerability for no other reason than to make as much money as possible for the first movers.

This is not my opinion.

It is fact.

Because the people that are doing it look down the lens of the camera and tell us.

They actually say this.

They tells what they are doing to us.

Then, they giggle a bit.

Sean Parker

Facebook’s first President was Sean Parker.

He founded Napster before he worked with Zuckerberg at Facebook.

Here’s what Sean said, in 2017, with regards to Facebook’s early objectives:

How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible.

It is a social validation feedback loop because you are exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.

Then, it gets a little bit worse:

We understood this.

Consciously.

And we did it anyway.

After saying this part, he giggled a bit.

Social Media. 

Look, I believe we are in the cusp of change with how we communicate as people.

Social Media is here now.

It’s what we do next that really matters.

How responsible we are.

How much screen time we allow our children.

And ourselves.

And, as I am increasingly thinking, whether opting out altogether is a sensible thing to do.

I believe that for some platforms.

For some businesses.

It just is.

Giggle.

Don’t forget the giggle.

Watch the 3 minute video yourself below.

Hear the words.

Hear the giggle.

Why?

Because it’s you he’s laughing at.

https://www.50odd.co.uk/giggle/

 

If you are a business that deals in or with technology.

And you probably do.

This is for you.

Techpledge.

I have been introduced to this pledge because I attended the Techfestival is Copenhagen last week.

You’ve been introduced to it because you have been kind enough to interact with 50odd in some way.

So thank you.

Sign up. 

I’ve signed up.

I hope you do too.

https://www.techpledge.org

Just last week.

An escalator at Newcastle Airport wedged the first few yards of a thousand miles between a teary-eyed me and my teary-eyed daughter.

I was moving.

My feet weren’t.

And I didn’t look back.

So that Izobel didn’t see my tears through her tears.

I was flying to The Denmark.

The Denmark.

Izobel thinks that all aeroplanes fly to The Denmark.

A conclusion that is not so strange considering she currently has information on just one aeroplane.

My aeroplane.

And just one destination.

My destination.

Clearly, Izobel is incorrect.

But I do understand why, for the 20 minutes that I held her close before I left, she pointed at every aeroplane that took to the sky and cried:

Look!

Another aeroplane flying to The Denmark!

Izobel and Donald Trump.

As I sat on my aeroplane.

On my way to The Denmark.

I had a thought.

It struck me that Izobel’s thinking that morning was a little like Donald Trump’s thinking.

I was not proud of this notion.

Not in the way that, traditionally, a father should be proud of his 3 year old daughter using similar reasoning to a world leader.

I smiled nevertheless.

I smiled because I think Izobel thinks all aeroplanes fly to The Denmark.

For similar reasons to why Donald Trump thinks all Mexicans will mug Americans.

And why Nigel Farage thinks all Polish people will steal (steal? really?) British jobs.

And why some people think that all black people will stab them.

The logic works!

But only under two circumstances.

First, if you form a view based only on what you have been told.

Or second, if you form a view based only on what you choose to look at or believe.

Interesting!

Izobel. 

I remain proud of Izobel of course.

Her intelligence and hunger to learn what is right and true will mend the idea that all aeroplanes fly to The Denmark.

And Donald?

Can we mend what Donald thinks?

No.

Donald is 73.

And he still thinks that all aeroplanes fly to The Denmark.

I was chatting to my friend Lizzie Rhodes James this week.

Lizzie is a uniquely talented leadership coach.

And we chatted about schooldays.

Schooldays. 

School, for me, was a place occasionally beautiful.

And often terrifying.

The latter never moreso than when I was being stared at.

By The Picker.

The Picker. 

The Picker was all-powerful.

Pickers moved pairs for obvious reasons.

And they held the power to pick me – or to not pick me – for their team.

Be it rugby, football or something else.

When their imposing silhouettes shifted shape as they passed judgement by raising pointy, bony fingers.

They revealed the invisible hierarchies that Social Media so cruelly points out to every young and vulnerable child every single nanosecond around the world these days.

And a 12 year old me would just stand there.

In my too-long shorts.

Peeping sheepishly through my too-long fringe.

Shivering on my two skinny legs.

Waiting for the inevitable reality of being picked last.

Ambition. 

This is a short story about ambition.

About thinking further.

About goal setting.

About you.

And also about the difference between the 12 year old me and the 30 year old me when I started my first enduring business.

The 12 year old me was frightened.

And I, most of the time, played the cards I was dealt.

I didn’t challenge much.

I wanted to be picked earlier by The Picker of course.

But I expended little energy working out how to make this happen.

Instead, I just let what happened, happen.

30.

However at 30 years old.

I was different.

My legs were still too skinny and my hair was still too long, of course.

But my attitude was not what it was when I was 12.

And here’s the thing for you to think about.

This is a story about the loftiness of your ambition.

It is about aiming higher.

Because a 12 year old me thought I had just two choices.

To be picked last.

Or to be picked first.

And that was that.

I didn’t even see the third choice when I was 12.

And I have to remind myself to see it at 51 years old sometimes.

Because the third choice is easy to forget.

Aim high.

At 30.

I aimed much higher.

I didn’t want to be picked last, of course.

But I also didn’t want to be picked first.

I wanted to stop waiting to be picked.

I wanted to become The Picker.

So I did.

And I picked me.

I have two pairs of glasses.

One for reading.

One for seeing more clearly at distance.

Copenhagen.

When I was on my way to Copenhagen earlier this month.

I felt around in my bag for my two glasses boxes.

And my hand found just one.

Glasses.

As my hand rested on the unopened box.

I wondered which pair I had with me.

Do I want my distance glasses so I can see this lovely country that I am visiting for the first time clearly?

I thought.

Or do I want my reading glasses?

So that I can see my phone better?

FaceTime better.

Read better.

It almost felt like I was choosing the future versus the past.

The Box. 

I just found this tiny, momentary conundrum interesting.

I do wrestle with an over-reliance on my phone.

But I am reading more than ever.

I love visiting new places and discovering new things, though.

And the real magic – especially when I am in new places – is often tucked away around corners and in the shadows.

I need to be able to see clearly to find those.

I like meeting new people, too.

But entering rooms full of new people is also better when I can scan the whole room clearly.

So I wasn’t sure which glasses I wanted to find in the box.

Reading Glasses.

When I opened the box.

And discovered my reading glasses.

I felt happy.

So then I started to wonder if feeling happy about seeing my phone, and feeling happy about sacrificing my ability to explore this new land at maximum clarity was a good thing for my little brain to feel.

Then I stopped over analysing.

And sat in a corner of Heathrow.

Smiling.

Reading my book.