What happens when our heads get too full of stuff. When our kids grow up cramming in so much data into their brains that they burn out by their teens.
Emotional intelligence is guided by how much experience someone has consumed, and if they consume too much too early, and if their brain is already thinking in a certain way, it can surely lead to problems.
Because children are learning in so many forms both physical and mental from so many sources there is an inevitability that too much too young will overtake their natural capacity.
Exams are written by academics who can’t keep up with the advanced knowledge every kid has access to. Whether they choose to access that knowledge is another matter – with some choosing to game their way through life, and the divide of information and knowledge becomes wider.
Neglect learning and you’ll get left behind faster than ever before.
I was not academic but I was hungry for learning. There may have been some connection between not seeing correctly until I was ten – I needed glasses but didn’t know it, so I would sit as close to the blackboard and the TV as possible. My eyes weren’t too bad, but bad enough that I might have missed some important early learning experiences. I drew and drew so it probably seemed like ‘that was my thing’ – but given the access to a thing called the internet when I was 5 would have changed my perception of the world and kicked off a higher level of learning which I’m sure I would be bored of by the time I was 44.
Retreating from the information boom and the smart everything home has been something I’ve been thinking about since 2009, just before the iPad increased distraction and reasons to not talk. I write this in an iPhone and it’s always there – never really leaving my side. My countless notes on Evernote, my productivity apps, my access to any information I need at the hit of a pixel. It’s become weirdly intuitive to type on a tiny keyboard and predictive text makes it soooo easy to get stiff down fast. Even if it’s not the right words.
Where next for the kids?
The choice to walk away from technology is there for everyone but there is a fear among people that they may be left behind. I think this is an interesting point. Charlie Brooker nailed this fear in the 2016 episode of Black Mirror, where people are rated by how many likes they get… for no reason. The system he created can cast you out of society for wearing the wrong shoes or get you into a party if your numbers are right.
Take a family who chooses life instead of tech chains. They will be so much more fulfilled naturally than a family who stays led by the tech cloud, but the division between the lives that they recognise will become a chasm, never to be bridged and sadly the world will always be run by the tech heads going forward. They have the power.
So maybe it’s about balance. Taking enough knowledge through technology but not too much, with responsible breaks becoming the norm. It’s happening in the mainstream already – mindfulness was the word of 2016 and every day more people will be discovering how to access the inner them through whatever means they can find. While tech grows big, anti-tech will follow in its shadow.
Okay. Here’s the thing. I’m a hoarder and a pontificator who talks about things – starting projects, starting blog posts… and some things happen – leaving my job, starting a business, a mobile film festival, a music and film night, a website, a video podcast. All these things have happened through drive and commitment, but I realise the inbuilt me creates more work and more mind clutter for myself, which is inevitably exacerbated by the collected ephemera from my 44 years. It feels there maybe a natural connection between my mindset (constant spaghetti junction) and the physical and mental clutter that has been building ever since I had my own income to spend on music, magazines and odd bits of ‘cool’ junk which in turn has become outdated and irrelevant to my daily life – with our family of three, imminently moving from London To Hove in the hope that life is better on the other side. Our London has changed and we’re kind of done with it for a while. Our six-year old daughter is at a good age to adapt, so why not try ‘Life: Part 2’.
The realisation that my clutter addiction is exactly that has come to the fore over the past year, as I’ve been striving for ‘self improvement’. I’ve read books on Stuffocation and Getting Things Done, listened to entrepreneurs tell me through earphones to ‘Just Start’ and heard about countless ways people are working less and living more – the honest ones referencing Tim Ferris and The Four Hour Work Week.
But now, right now, I revisited a book I picked up at a Beauty sale back in my old life in magazines – when the beauty department would flog quality goods to the highest bidder (usually one of the cleaners keen to resell on the still-novel ebay. The book is called Goodbye Clutter – published in 2000 and aquired by me in the same year. 16 years ago I knew I had a problem, but the irony of that book simply adding to my already growing library of film books and magazines from across the publishing spectrum is not lost on me now.
I realise my hoarding is due to a state of mind which I feel like I am shackled to. A weight of ‘stuff’ which feels more powerful than my own will. It creates heaviness both mentally and physically (when moving flat or house or office, which I’ve done countless times in London). I don’t switch off so my mental projects get broader and more numerous while I can’t keep up with the rate they appear. It’s internal but it’s external too – in the shape of those books and magazines, CDs (and yes, cassettes), super 8 films, photographs, drawings, polaroids, retro 90s clothes, bits and bobs, cameras and even old iMac packaging from 2003.
While I write these words part of my brain thinks about how I tackle this problem (through ANOTHER project I tell myself), while the other part feels an ‘uncomfortability’ in my stomach pit. ‘But I’m attached to these objects… how could I let them go?’.
These projects are part of the problem. Years ago I carried around a Polaroid camera everywhere I went, simply to capture one image of that day. It was before digital photography and the ability to stop-motion or Hyperlapse your whole life into 1 minute.
I carried that Polaroid camera from pubs to clubs, festivals to photoshoots, weddings to funerals and in 2001 I recorded Polaroid of the Day for a while year. It was expensive but I was doing it for the sake of memory, preserving moments which when sandwiched together became narratives of a life no one will see.
My obsession with recording memory is ongoing, although I think the roots go deeper…
I remember when I was around my daughter’s age (5 or 6) saying to my dad something like ‘I see things when I go to sleep, like I’m falling through shapes and colours’. It was a strange feeling like I wanted to write down everything I knew or had learned, but I hadn’t learned it yet. I just knew one day I would write down every thought I ever had in a big book or something. In 1978 the internet was merely a glint in Tim Berners Lee’s milkman’s eye but the internet is that book – and this blog is about as close as I can get to actualising those thoughts.
Give myself more clutter to deal with, why not?
Well, maybe not this time. Maybe I use it to get rid of that clutter.
I thought about a way I could deal with things – by keeping the memory in a photograph. a couple of years back my hashtag was #todayithrewout and I got as far as around 6 posts. The idea was there and should work to psychologically rid myself of physical clutter.by transferring it to virtual. But I gave up only to hoard more.
Then earlier this year, with my company Swhype, I filmed an interview with a diminutive Japanese decluttering expert named Marie Kondo. She was apparently big news around the world and all she did was throw stuff away. The practice of KonMari is to pick something up and ask yourself ‘does it ‘spark joy’. If it does keep it, if not, put it in one of the piles you’ve made of stuff that you’re ‘just not that into’ anymore. Hmmm. Sounds simple and it is… for junk mail, a catalogue from 2013, Mr T in your pocket (joy, of course), design books, books I’ve never read, banana skins etc. But then the thoughts creep in and I’m all ‘I’ll come back to this later’.
So now I’m thinking, how should I go about this to thoroughly change myself and perhaps the entire catalyst for the way I live my life. I need to de-stuff my stuff so I can move to Hove with a new set of principals which are about what’s next, not what’s gone.
I need to do the right thing though. Recycle where I can. Charity shop when possible. eBay, Gumtree, Chuck when necessary.
My goal? Ouch it gives me palpitations to think about time-based decluttering goals. How about… declutter your life in 30 days. A gauntlet, a challenge, a scary prospect for a hoarder.
Starting when? December 1st? Now?
I’ll have to edit this blog post first so…
Maybe declutter your life in 30 days whilst moving house and running a business. Less catchy but more difficult. We’ll see.
Back to the book then. Still in print? kindle? I’ll share any tips along the way.
Mindfulness, colouring books for adults, meditation apps? Aspects of life which never entered my consciousness 5 or 10 years ago.If I tried to tell my 30 year old self how to achieve and improve things to actually make a dent in some of those dreams back then, I would have laughed myself out of the door.
Back in the early 2000s there was the drive to do something with my skills and life but no way of knowing how. The Internet was for searching but not for guidance in all forms as it is today. Back then if you suffered an ailment, more than likely you’d seek professional help, rather than diagnose yourselves and seek out home remedy recipes on Mumsnet. Career choices still seemed finite and limited. My world of magazines and editorial design was actually pretty stable as a sector and some might say still on the up.
Though for me pontification ruled and I was effectively a lazy, immature kid with an undefined ambition. Magazine design and art direction became my career and I was doing well, but the bug inside was scratching to get out.
I know why this was and I know the reasons why I didn’t help myself but hindsight and regret will bring you down so best to start from the start.
Things started to change in around 2004. There was a hole shaped like a foot in the door of the film world. My first love, my passion was becoming evermore distant. She was fading as the print world embraced me, got me drunk, gave me opportunities and settled me in for the long haul. I was never 100% content in the world of magazine art direction, though it taught me lessons in life which I would not change for the world.
Doesn’t everybody have those wobbles about life and career? Aren’t we all prone to regret and what if’s? I wonder if that’s where it starts – as a small ball which rolls and gathers and rolls and gathers until it is too heavy a load to roll any more. Thoughts which are caged up and never exercised can slowly manifest into wild animals of the mind which are intent on being released. Forever chained they eat away at the mind’s calm places and run riot through subconscious thought. I recognise this animal now as a root of an unhealthy mind.
So I started to exercise the animal. A short film event I put together was the first independently confident project I had ever taken on. Before social, before digital really took hold, a group of indie filmmakers sat in a historic music club and watched each other’s short films. Nothing new there, but for my mind, it was a possibility of what was next, what was possible.
Back in the present, after years of figuring out what exactly that golden career might be – resigning from well-paid jobs, starting businesses, I have found it, my path. Where it leads I have no clue but via the least trodden track I am finding my way.
This leaves the forgotten me.
The forgotten me
We are all tied to something and if we’re not, we’re possibly content.
Family, cities, friends, familiarity, routine, belongings, clutter, stress, routine, the same… routine… that we forget and we neglect the one powerful force which can control our out of control lives. I’m of course not talking about God, but hey, that’s one path which works for a lot of people. Nope, it’s selfishly about good old US. Me me me me me me me. All about you.
The realisation that the way you feel, the way you act the way you succeed, communicate, love, talk, laugh… is intrinsically linked to how you reach those ambitious goals that sit lurking inside that animal cage.
I have discovered. I have learned. I am going to change.
Fair enough, I’ve been doubtful and questioned lightly in my head whether a great many techniques and approaches to life could actually make life better and more fulfilled. Six years ago having a child turned my life upside down as it does to anyone who has one. Purpose was placed in my path. Now was the time to understand the path.
So I’m writing a blog about my experiences of self improvement or if you prefer, personal development. I don’t see much difference, but maybe that’s the cynic in me.
A Cynic’s guide is not supposed to be confrontational to those methods. It is simply my writing down the bones of experiences dabbling in and hopefully embracing those methods and crafts. I hope to encourage like-minded Cynics to raise an eyebrow if a technique helps or feel vindicated when something doesn’t work. Whatever floats, though the first thing I’d say is one key overriding factor in all of this is positive thought, so maybe try that as an intro.
The fact is I’ve never thought I’ve needed it – to be ‘mindful’ I mean. But as the years clock on, and life does just get harder, I started to look for another answer – a way I could deal with the obstacles… and as it turns out I’m just getting started.
It seems all around are people aiming to gain some perspective on their day-to-day and the self improvement industry is ready to facilitate. Apps for meditation, journals for affirming thoughts and countless podcasts focused on selling the ideal to the idealistic. Somewhere in all this ironic mindfulness noise, something might just make sense. I’m about to find out.
The only way to get good at something is to practice, right? Trial and error… Learn from failure… Go the extra mile… Set yourself goals and resolutions that you force yourself to keep. That’s how you grow a business, that’s how you achieve your dreams. That’s what they tell you, isn’t it?
One thing I have always struggled with is finding a voice which is mine and mine alone. Not something influenced by what I thought people wanted to hear, but something which comes from the soul, without influence or self-consciousness.
Not to over-edit or over-prepare something. I do enough of that in my daily business life, with emails, pitches, social media comments. A selfie obsessed world is constantly trying to find the right angle. Whether it’s 7 ways to write an engaging LinkedIn post or finding the most viral-inducing click-baity headline, attention is all we desire.
My reasons for writing are numerous. One – I want you to know I’m running my business and maybe there’s a slim chance you’ll be needing something in the uncertain future. That’s the transparent business bit.
But more than strategy, I’m exorcising a desire to test my confidence in being transparent, without smoke and mirrors, without shields or disguises.
It’s easy to make a resolution, to set goals, but to stick to it is, well… near impossible. A week has flown by and I haven’t had a drink. It’s looking good for January, but is my will power any better than it used to be? I’m tired and setting myself a challenge is the most difficult thing to consider right now. A challenge of becoming a better writer. More eloquent, more astute. I doubt I’ll even begin. I’ll probably never publish this post. How much time does it take to write down the bones? About business, about life, about thoughts. Who cares after all.
If you’re after thought leadership, I can’t compete. If you’re looking for opinion, read the columns, but if you can empathise, let me know. I’m looking for the right space to fit, the perfect jigsaw piece, the confidence to write.
This post was written in January 2016 and supposed to kick off a ‘One Post A Day’ project. It… hasn’t yet.
So here it is. Finally. A blog from my head – a cathartic exercise in self-analysis, a therapy of type, a contrived mess of characters and punctuation in the wrong place.s
My confidence and ability in writing was always in question in my mind. I was a DRAWER not a WRITER. How could the two ever mix? I mean… I had no education in writing did I, so how dare I even dare? But… my voice is my voice, my thoughts are my thoughts, my ideas my ideas. The hardest thing to do (for the last five years at least) is… start. Just start. ‘START GODDAMIT! DON’T FEAR the unknown!’
…said the voices in my head.
Failing With Style
Everything starts with a blip, a hiccup, one small step. This is where I start – at 44 years old, a publishing career under my belt and three years into a business launch. I’ve never blogged because I didn’t think I had enough to say, or that enough of it was worth anything to anyone. The past year has changed that.
I know now, through hours of soul searching and facing fears of ‘being the average’, that the secret to getting somewhere is to start somewhere else and find that route.
It’s not about producing works of art or ‘crushing it‘ first time – it’s about finding the spirit of preparing to fail, but always failing forward. The important thing is to start and be ready for the bumps, learn from them and next time make the road smoother.
A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I sometimes trust my ‘gut’ and I sometimes don’t. The gut will tell you things your head won’t and they can’t always be explained, but often you’ll kick yourself for not following through. For me there have been countless thoughts and ideas I didn’t follow through with – and nobody else to blame except my own pontificating self. Oh, sure… what I could have achieved with the Ten Second Film project, back in 2010, before Vine and Instagram were a glint in the milkman’s eye… film scripts left half-written on the shelf… URLs considered, bought, held on to, expired. We can all get in the way of ourselves and the only way through is realising the hurdles are lower than we think.
The past year involved starting to listen to things outside my narrow vision. Ways of seeing and making sense of the world. This is not easy for the world’s biggest cynic.
We’re experiencing an ever-accelerating cultural sandstorm, with every grain fragmenting into smaller and smaller pieces. Television has morphed and adapted to seismic cultural changes since its birth and now 90 years on, video is touted as the new ‘King’ of content, guided by the gravitational pull of ‘Tech’ and its ability to increase download and streaming speeds exponentially, faster than you can say ‘up Periscope’.
Once we could watch in HD without the wheel of death buffering its interruptant ways into our lives, it was obvious – video must be the next big thing… because, well… WE CAN. It doesn’t though – however stronger, faster, harder we can get it… mean WE SHOULD.
While it gets more difficult to reach people aware they are being sold to and traditional marketing funnels become less effective, video is presented as the ‘must-have’ tool, the trojan horse that can turn the tide of misfortune for businesses across the board.
So how does video content specifically succeed in an ever more cluttered web environment?
Video is great for communicating complex messages, simply and in the shortest timeframe. It would be easy as the co-founder of a creative motion agency to say that everyone should have video constantly in their lives… but one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.
The question remains, when should businesses turn to video content for their next campaign or marketing activity as video itself becomes another casualty of a cluttered web.. and how?
Whether you’re a brand, a business or an individual, video is not an easy medium to harness and a regular online video presence is not always as essential as alternative forms of social marketing.
The Importance of Strategy
In September 2015, Ascend2 surveyed an international group of B2B marketing professionals about their use of video. More than 4 out of 10 were using video to increase brand awareness and online engagement, improve customer education and lead generation. 1 in 3 also hoped to use video to boost conversion rates, but according to the survey, it wasn’t clear exactly how successful video was at each of them – with almost 50% saying the lack of an effective strategy for video marketing was the biggest obstacle to their success.
Whether or not video is an essential part of a company’s marketing activity is dependent on what needs to be communicated, through which platforms and to which specific target audience.
One industry which has recently experienced a dramatic shift is consumer publishing. Publishers are waking up to the importance of reimagining editorial content for other platforms, making it more accessible to an audience who intuitively grab what they need from mobile devices.
It’s not enough to simply repeat editorial content for an online mobile audience – customers want added value, not the same content with a shiny spinning logo. Now ‘new-kid’ publishing brands are turning on the tap for more mobile friendly digestible content, and some, such as women’s online platform The Pool, established video content as a main focus from the outset.
Within a year, The-Pool.com firmly planted itself in a largely unserviced niche of the web marked ‘smart women’, using well-crafted multi-platform content to keep it there. The Pool co-founder and former Red magazine Editor Sam Baker points out,
“Video is an ever more crucial part of our content strategy – both for branded and non-branded content. We produce two cuts of every video we make so it always fits into responsive moments in our user’s day: a short 3-8 minute cut that we put out mid-week, while saving the long cut for the weekend. The thing that’s most compelling about video is the dwell time. Get it right, and you have your users’ captive attention for 30 or more minutes.”
The Pool’s mix of original features, videos, podcasts and events, pushes them to front of the queue for brand partnership possibilities. They are both a fledgling brand and a brand facilitator, forming partnerships with industry behemoths like Estée Lauder and Microsoft, who understand the advantage of authentic audience relationships. Video gets the message across seamlessly.
Communicating Core Values
If however, a brand or company who isn’t positioning themselves as a platform for content (eg. B2B businesses) looks at video for answers, they should consider a few things before racing down the road to the small screen.
Paying attention to the prospective audience or customer is essential. How businesses behave and respond online is a key factor to how they are perceived by the wider public. The content must effectively communicate their own values and behaviour.
Successful video content can be created with little or no-budget provided the ideas resonate
In 2012, baby brand Huggies were bitten by a bloggers’ backlash which forced them to pay attention to a key audience demographic after they ran a ‘Dad Test’ campaign. It suggested that fathers were essentially a bit rubbish at childcare. The result was detrimental for Huggies who pulled their campaign from the web. Video can hurt as well as heal.
A more powerful long-term legacy example of ‘how-not-to-do-video’ was the Hyundai ‘Pipe Job’ online ad which depicted a man’s suicide attempt via carbon monoxide poisoning with one of its cars – which fails due to the vehicle’s clean emissions. Needless to say, the sensitive nature of suicide is not something you sell cars with and this major oversight spiralled into its own case study on how to create a PR crisis, offending many along the way.
So how does video content specifically succeed in an ever more cluttered web environment? The most common obstacles to success are sighted as being: lack of an effective strategy; inadequate video budget; lack of compelling content; and not enough production resource.
Most of these issues are solved given a bit of research, planning and consideration, but the issue of inflated budgets can be misleading. Successful video content can be created with little or no-budget provided the ideas resonate. This is where solutions like animation can help – telling stories which can talk to a universal audience without them needing to identify with a specific culture or demographic. Within the genre of animation, anything is possible.
One of the biggest viral successes in history was the infamous safety campaign video for Melbourne’s Metro Trains which featured a cleverly written song called ‘Dumb Ways To Die’, together with an animated video featuring characters meeting their end by comically unpleasant means.
“Every business is a media company”
Within a week it gained over 20m views and was featured on Australia’s major news channels. Through support from other online activity it reached the sort of viral status most marketers can only dream of. Through a carefully planned strategy, it became the most shared public service campaign ever and the Metro saw a 21% reduction in accidents the following year. The video spawned a game, a book and was reimagined into other forms of content which still keep on giving. The current view count on YouTube is over 127m.
The entrepreneurial tornado Gary Vaynerchuk considers that “every business is a media company”, suggesting “the cost of creating media and the distribution of that media is zero”, meaning if companies are to stay the distance they should be creating multi-platform content themselves, acknowledging how the ownership of that content empowers them to their audience.
Brands who use video brilliantly such as Red Bull, Vice, Buzzfeed, Jamie Oliver, and John Lewis all know what their audience wants and needs, not what the brands want to give them. They create a video content consistency which reflects and communicates their own brand behaviour.
‘Branded content’ is morphing into more organic forms such as NikeWomen’s 8-part Margot Vs Lily series which launched in January 2016. Its sitcom format immediately pulled in millions of views and it illustrates the power of owned-media content – in this case for a female audience who identify with Nike’s brand values. Creative Review commented “Nike assumes that we are happy to take our online content with a heavy dose of commercialism… it will be proof perhaps that so long as the stories are good, we don’t mind how branded our content is.”
2016 is firing up to be a game changer with social and vertical video hitting the mainstream and mass Virtual Reality finally becoming less virtual. The creative sparks happen when there is less to lose, but what’s stopping brands embracing the new and dancing with it. Red Bull does it, Virgin does it and it works. Embrace the crazy, the new, the iconic. After all, what brand doesn’t want to be seen as innovative?
Video can be explosive… it can change the landscape and be the boost to send a business skyward, but with great power comes great responsibility and video should always be ‘Handled With Care’.
We the 48
They the 52
We the whole, the confused, the helpless,
They the whole the confused, the venerable, the helpless,
Ushered in a past we thought we’d left behind
A past of progress, tolerance, change
A past of arrogance, intolerance, status quo
Us whose dreams laid out before us
Trampled on by them
Helpless to speak
As no one listened
Helpless to speak
As no one will hear
In uncharted freefall we reach for branches
Which just aren’t there
While the other half lives
Lives in satisfaction and regret
In their big smug house they sit
Vote for independence,
Get left in the cold
Listen to the speakers
Listen to the Liers
Now unraveled becomes Broken Britain
The broken Britain he vowed to repair
Now irreparable, it fragments
Friends divided, family moved away
The familiar world stripped back
The uncertain one offered
No assurances, no answers
All for nothing but backwards
All for nothing but change, the wrong way
People in fear
Our first university talk yesterday at Ravensbourne made me realise how far we’ve come as a company and what we’ve achieved in a relatively short space of time. To hear words like ‘inspiring’ from first and second year students is justification enough to keep going.
As professional people it’s not often we collect ourselves and look back at our journey to the place we’re at now. Life is too fast these days.We did this for the presentation.
For two old college mates who once talked about taking some films to Cannes (in a van) I can look back at our time so far and be proud. We still have a long way ahead but I hope we can now go on to help other people (maybe those students) achieve some dreams of their own.
Thanks to my best mate and business partner @Simon Harris who has learned, as I have how hard the business world can be. Whoever said you shouldn’t go into business with your friends? Pah.
Not a big one, not even big pliers, and certainly not any of my dad’s archaic old tools, which were probably passed down from his dad. No, I have no idea why I keep them, but discovered it may be a family trait (or hindrance) as my father confessed to being a hoarder of things, namely nails, screws, bits of wood. ‘You never know when you might need something’ is his defence and I am an advocate of that approach of course. Our garage when I was a kid was a treasure trove of old tools. Lovely.
Footnote: These pliers were rubbish – they were used to wind the window in my old original Cannes in a Van Ford Transit. They and the van are now on a big amazing scrap heap in the sky.
This isn’t going too well, the whole throwing something out everyday. Life is just too full of stuff to do and that’s not even counting work.
These headphones have been slowly decomposing over the last 12 or so years. They leave tiny black pieces of some kind of cheap coating all over my head, in my ears and throughout my stubble. They have become sadly just too god-damn high maintenance.
I always assumed the word Technics suggested the same quality the DJ’s favourite, the 1210 turntable omitted.
This was indeed the reason for purchasing them many years ago when I was ‘caught short’ without phones one night ‘playing records’ at a magazine birthday party. The HMV on Oxford Street was there for this exact reason – to buy last minute items for a variety of occasions. Books and CDs for almost forgotten birthdays, new re-issued vinyl for that treat of a Tuuune which would bring the dance floor to its knees and for last minute panic headphones.
These ‘cans’ have never been any good. Why they are bigger than any I have encountered but have absolutely no noise- cancelling properties I will never know. Also the longest lead in existence belongs to these phones. Originally considered (by me) as a plus point, it soon became apparent that all a long lead really does is make it difficult to function within a small environment (ie. a DJ booth). Tangled, twisted and tripped – not a good look for a DJ who’s knocking out the cheese.