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I have to be really careful.

Because it can be such a distraction.

I know it’s been a distraction for me many times over the years.

It’s distracted me from what I really should be doing.

Over.

And over again.

Big Difference.

There is very often a very big difference.

Between doing what makes us the most money.

And doing what we really should be doing.

I can’t explain why that is.

But I do believe it to be true.

Money.

Becomes the distraction.

Money.

I have to be really careful when it comes to earning money.

Because money has distracted me many times over the years.

To the point where.

Sometimes.

I was earning far more money than was good for me.

(Which makes it all the more stupid).

True.

There is very often a very big difference.

Between doing what makes us the most money.

And doing what we really should be doing.

I can’t explain why that is.

But I do believe it to be true.

Money.

Becomes the distraction.

To always think strategically.

Is.

I think.

As ill-advised as never thinking strategically.

I think you should do both.

Always.

If you always think strategically.

Properly, I mean.

You’ll have considered everything you do contextually.

The juxtaposition of every moving part.

And how each contributes towards the achievement of a goal.

Or a set of goals.

And whilst that all sounds very neat and efficient.

I sometimes find that a bit boring, too.

Never.

If you never think strategically.

Sometimes you’ll hit.

Sometimes you’ll miss.

It’s down to how the dice land.

You’re going with your gut.

It’s brave.

Adventurous.

Fun.

And the results you get will be surprising.

New.

Random.

Ad hoc.

And on one level you can’t fail really.

Because you’re not being measured against anything.

But on another level.

You could of course lose control.

And lose it all.

Always or Never.

To always think strategically.

Is.

I think.

As ill-advised as always thinking strategically.

I think you should do both.

Because they feed you in different ways.

Strategic approaches are less risky.

But non strategic approaches can glean the happiest of accidents.

So mix it up.

Do both.

I read more books in 2020.

Than I’d ever read before.

I don’t mean that I read more books in 2020 than in any other single year.

I mean that I read more books in 2020 than I’d read in my previous 50 years.

Reflection.

This is not a positive reflection on how many books I read in 2020.

It’s a negative reflection.

On just how few I’d read before that.

Books. 

The books I read in 2020 were all about brand.

Business communication.

Storytelling.

That kind of thing.

Before that, I think I’d only read two books end-to-end.

One was Catch-22.

(Joseph Heller.

As you know).

The other was Pet Semetary.

(Stephen King.

Again.

As you know).

It’s a miracle I can string a sentence together, really.

Or write proper.

Innit?

I am confused by my age.

Confused by my 52 complete years.

Confused because.

I sometimes think that if I tried hard to write a list of everything I’ve done in all that time.

Thing-by-thing.

Week-by-week.

Year-by-year.

Decade-by-decade, even.

It’d be really hard.

Because I’d be regurgitating tens of thousands of occurrences.

Hundreds of memorable occasions.

Seemingly endless anecdotes.

Yet at the same time.

I am not sure I’ve done very much in my life.

I am not sure I’ve done very much at all.

Age. 

I was 10 years old when I learned that you could light hairspray with a match.

Paul Harrison’s mum was a hairdresser.

Paul taught me that.

And it was Paul Harrison that introduced me to pornography, too.

Again when I was 13.

When he handing me a single piece of paper.

(Silently.

One eyebrow raised.

And with a half smile).

One single page.

Torn from.

I think.

Fiesta.

A page of letters written by men.

About women.

I devoured every word.

I remember reading the stories to myself on the smoky top deck of a double decker bus once.

It felt daring.

Confusing. 

So if I can remember little detail like that.

From 39 years ago.

How come I find it hard to remember the big things?

How come I’m sometimes not sure I’ve done anything at all?

Nothing interesting.

Nothing worth mentioning.

From my 52 complete years.

It’s very confusing.

Life.

Life is lovely, really.

All of it.

If I care to remember.

The achievements.

But the silly things as well.

They all shape us.

It was Fred Rogers that very often encouraged we adults to remember,

You were once a child too.

And whilst I am sure that Mr. Rogers was not referring specifically to setting fire to things and wanking.

It’s good advice.

Because you have done a lot in your life.

If you care to remember.

And you can do a whole lot more, too.

Coincidences.

You’ve had them.

This kind of thing…

You walk into a coffee shop with someone you just met.

‘Order a flat-white.

(Extra hot).

Then they turn to you.

Eyes wide.

Mouth wide with a smile.

And they say,

Hey!

God!

I order my flat white extra hot, too!

Hilarious.

Or maybe you meet an old friend for the first time since Christmas.

You chat about gifts.

And at some point in the conversation.

You both say in unison,

Socks.

And Chanel Bleu.

Yes!

You both got exactly the same things.

Freaky aren’t they.

Coincidences.

Well, yes.

But some coincidences are rather more freaky than others.

Michael Heppell 

I’ve known Michael Heppell for years.

On and off.

To say hello to.

To wave at.

Or to read about.

And he’s an impressive fellow.

A best selling author.

Likeable.

And smart.

So when Michael asked me to be a part of his latest book.

I was flattered.

Closer.

Michael and I got closer.

We chatted.

Laughed a bit.

Recorded a video for Michael’s book.

Explored our coexistence over the years.

In fact we got along so well.

That we ventured into confessions.

Confessions.

I went first.

I’ll tell you something I did once.

I said.

When I was about 15.

I said.

I lied about going to a concert.

I said.

I was so desperate to be a part of what my friends were doing.

So desperate that one night.

One night I didn’t meet my friends.

I stopped in.

And a few days later.

When my friends asked where I’d been.

I said I’d been to see this really famous band.

Because that’s the kind of thing they did.

And I never really got the chance to do that.

So I made an entire concert up.

And the fact that I’d been.

I don’t think I’d ever told anyone that.

Before I told Michael.

‘Bit embarrassing…

I had always thought.

And that’s when it happened.

No!

Said Michael.

You didn’t.

Michael added.

Yes.

I did.

I said.

Zoom.

This conversation was taking place on Zoom.

And then it was Michael’s turn to confess.

Me too!

Said Michael.

I did that as well.

Said Michael.

I made up that I’d been to see a famous band.

To my friends.

When I was in my teens.

He added.

Then Michael paused.

Which left me space to add.

I told my friends I’d been to see The Electric Light Orchestra.

Michael didn’t reply straight away.

He just.

Well.

Stared.

Me too.

Michael said quietly.

Me too.

I told my friends I’d been to see The Electric Light Orchestra too.

And we sat there.

Staring.

Oh.

Said Michael.

Oh.

Said I.

That’s a Coincidence.

Flat whites?

Socks and Chanel Bleu?

Coincidences?

Nah.

Pretending to your friends.

Aged 15.

That you’d been to see the Electric Light Orchestra.

Then finding out that someone you hardly know did exactly the same as you did.

About 35 years earlier.

Now that’s a coincidence.

Sometimes.

The best thing to do when you’re in a rush.

Is to go slow.

Better. 

The work will be better.

The attention to detail will be better.

You’ll be much better at getting things right first time.

Because the important bits will have received the attention they deserve.

Because the perspective you gain.

From going slow.

Helps you to remember what the important bits actually are.

So you notice them more.

You look at them more.

You care for them more.

Feels. 

Here’s what going slow feels like.

You blink more slowly.

You unclench your teeth.

You breath more deeply and less often.

You think only about the thing you’re doing.

Because that thing you did yesterday.

You know.

That thing you’re worried about whether they’ll like it or not.

And that thing you’re doing tomorrow.

You know.

That thing you’re worried about whether you’ll be able to do it or not.

There is no room for those things today.

So you smile instead.

And you focus.

Go Slow.

Sometimes.

The best thing to do when you’re in a rush.

Is to go slow.

It is possible.

I think.

To care too much.

So much so in fact.

That you can start to actually feel that you care too much.

It starts to hurt.

It starts to take over.

Caring too much.

Gets too much.

Care. 

For me.

In 2020.

I cared too much.

About too many things.

All at the same time.

I got myself worried about this thing.

And that thing.

I wanted to help this person.

And that person.

And very often I just couldn’t.

Either because the layered problems I cared about were just too big for any one person to solve.

Or because I was just too tired.

But whichever it was.

I started to actually feel that I cared too much.

It started to hurt.

It started to take over.

Caring too much.

Got too much.

One of the traps I fell into in 2020.

Was sometimes worrying if I was doing what I was doing.

Better than they were doing what they were doing.

Trap.

It’s a trap.

Because this kind of comparison is not real.

Because whilst I know my business.

I don’t know their business.

I don’t know what financial resources they have available.

I don’t know how big their team is.

I don’t know how much time they are putting into doing it.

I don’t know if they are telling me the whole story.

I don’t know if they are selling any.

I don’t know if they are making any money.

I don’t know if their smile is real.

I don’t know anything about them apart from what they allow me to know.

I don’t really know them at all.

So there is little point in worrying if what I am doing.

Is better than what they are doing.

Because whilst I know all there is to know about my business.

I don’t know all there is to know about theirs.

Just like.

(As well I know).

They really don’t know all there is to know about mine .

Comparing. 

Comparing.

It’s not only not real.

It’s a trap.

Don’t just describe things.

Even if you’re really, really good at describing things.

Tell a story instead.

People like stories.

And they remember them, too.

Creativity.

One of the things that creativity is for.

Your creativity, I mean.

Is storytelling.

Admittedly some people are better at telling stories than others.

But it is within all of us to have a go.

Rules. 

The age old rules will help you.

Tell people what it does – for them.

(That’s a benefit).

Not just what it does.

(That’s a feature).

And the first principle of any business communications.

Of course.

Is to get noticed.

And the best way to get noticed.

Is to be different.

Stand out.

Zig.

When.

They.

Zag.

So be brave.

Don’t explain.

Communicate.

Don’t describe.

Fire the imagination.

Don’t tell.

Inspire!

Readers. 

And write for readers.

Not for you.

Or your boss.

Keep things simple.

Clear.

Engaging.

Eaaaaaasy.

Charming.

Cheeky, even.

Stories Not Descriptions. 

Don’t just describe things.

Even if you’re really, really good at describing things.

Tell a story instead.

People like stories.

And they remember them, too.

Mr Benn tried on 14 outfits.

And therefore had 14 excellent adventures.

13 adventures were originally between 1971 and 1972.

With a 14th and final adventure being in 2005.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about.

You should probably stop reading.

(It’ll get no clearer for you).

And if you do.

Then carry on.

Mr. Benn.

Try to recall as many of Mr. Benn’s 14 adventures as you can.

And for a bonus point.

His address.

(Street and number).

Scroll down for the answers.

Marks out of 15.

(Don’t cheat).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Red Knight
  2. Hunter
  3. Clown
  4. Balloonist
  5. Wizard
  6. Spaceman
  7. Cook
  8. Caveman
  9. Zookeeper
  10. Frogman
  11. Cowboy
  12. Aladdin
  13. Pirate
  14. Gladiator

Mr. Benn lives at 52 Festive Road.