Just hit the ball - a change in direction for my blog

I was out at dinner with some friends last night and my friend Ashley (that's her in the front in the flowery top) randomly said “you write hey?” I said yes.. sort of.. I have a blog. 

She said “I read that last thing that you wrote about leadership. You should write more stuff like that, it was really good.”


Then when we were walking home I started burbling about the great revelation I had after reading the Andre Agassi biography Open and Ashley said to me ‘have you written this stuff down anywhere? There’s real wisdom in what you’re saying.”

Me? Wisdom?

I went home and thought and prayed about it and the truth is, the social media and marketing stuff I usually write about has been great but it’s very fluff and surface level for me to write about. Writing about leadership and people means giving more of myself and opens up a whole lot of insecurities about being a good enough writer, my authority to talk about such things and whether it will all just come out as vain self help. I’ve always been a student of Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, John C Maxwell. Brian Tracey and other great motivators and I never consider myself as being at their level. And I’ve thought the only other way people will listen to you if you talk about such topics is if you are the CEO of Hewlett Packard or a former Super Bowl coach or the like. Maybe it’s all a bit try-hard. 


So anyway, do you want to hear my Agassi story?

After winning the US Open and reaching number one in the world, Andre was burnt out and his ranking was crashing out to around 150. Agassi hated tennis and everyone had written him off - he’d peaked and was over the hill at age 30. He met with a former player and coach Brad Gilbert who destroyed his game and basically told him he had to start over playing satellite tournaments (now to give you some perspective, I was a pretty rubbish high school tennis player and even I played satellite tournaments- they are a couple of kids hitting up in a public park on concrete courts). 

Gilbert told Agassi his perfectionism and win at all costs outlook was making him lose and that he had to just go out there and hit the ball. 

Just hit the ball. Put the pressure on the guy down the other end. Just hit the ball. 

Here’s one of the greatest shot makers, a world number one and a US Open champion and he’s being told to start over on concrete courts and just hit the ball. 

So Andre turned up to some high school tennis courts in his private jet and started over. He lost badly to unranked players and had to put up with jeering on the sidelines of how the mighty had fallen. His coach Brad was elated. The more Agassi lost, the more his perfectionism was being crushed and the mental work was being done in him. The more he fought his urge to hit big winners all the time and ‘just hit the ball’ the more he developed the mental discipline to endure the pressure of big points. 

I was burbling this story to Ashley (who is an architect and very high achieving person herself) and realised that many of my stresses and bellyflops had been caused by trying too hard and trying to hit winners all the time “we just need to learn to turn up each day and hit the ball. It’s not that you won’t ever hit winners or that you are passive and uncompetitive but by taking the mental pressure off yourself, you develop the endurance.”

Losses are actually healthy and necessary because they make it OK to not win all the time and you then have the mental strength to climb higher. Agassi told sports reporters at the concrete courts he was on his way back to world number one. They all laughed at him. He regained his position and went on to win all of the four major grand slams. 

I went for a walk this morning and suddenly it hit me… I was doing an Agassi. I wasn’t writing about the things that really mattered to me because of my own perfectionism and thinking my match play wouldn’t be good enough and the sports reporters would laugh at me. I needed to - just hit the ball. 

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to write about social media and marketing stuff so much and I’m going to add value to people by giving out all of the good stuff and learning and wisdom that has been imparted to me over the years. I’ve got many mental demons telling me how ridiculous that is but I’ve had enough doors closed on me to not be as afraid of failing as I used to be. 

I’m going to get out there and just hit the ball. 

PS -thanks Ashley

Does your experiential social pass the Opera House test?

Experiential is a tricky beast to tame in any campaign. I must admit I’ve given it a wide berth over the years as I don’t share the excitement some people have for live brand experiences and I’ve found that good experiential is a whole lot of logistics and hauling gear around the countryside and trying to run extension chords through the middle of busy shopping centres. 

Social media has fuelled the rebirth of experiential as opportunities to ‘generate buzz’ and get people advertising your product for free (apparently) and I’ve ended up on a few strategy sessions. Here are a few things to think about. 

1. The Opera House test

Here’s a selfie I took in front of the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains. Thousands of people a year take photos at this lookout every year and post them to social media. Same goes at the Sydney Opera House, Grand Canyon and Eiffel Tower. Ask yourself - is the activation that we are doing at the level of the Opera House? Probably not so don’t expect that people are going to interact with your brand activation the same way they do with these A-list photo sites. They won’t so you're going to have to come up with a smart campaign mechanic.

2. Eyes on the prize

People often roll their eyes at the Hansel and Gretel trails I like to put down to get people to interact with a brand. You need to heavily incentivise customers and tell them exactly what you want them to do in a brand experience. I’m sorry if that’s not very cool but I’m all in favour of giving people free products, prizes, and blatant instructions on what you want them to do in an activation.  Some people think that a high level of ‘bribery’ is not a good reflection on the brand and it moves things from social into ‘advertising’. 

Do you seriously think that people standing outside a shopping centre handing out free product samples are there to be your friend of just for fun? Customers aren’t stupid. Experiential is expensive and your client has trusted and paid you to promote their products. It’s not about standing around and being cool so make sure you have a clear promotional mechanic. 

3. Real time

On Australia Day I tweeted that I was at Coogee beach in Sydney having a BBQ. Coke tweeted me back offering to bring free cokes to the BBQ if I clicked on a link and filled out a little form. The brand values of fun and summer are mixed with a generous offer and I would imagine (I didn’t take up the offer) promotional reps armed with cameras who would take photos of us enjoying the product that could be distributed to social.  Great real-time activation. 

4. Contextual

I love this social activation from AUT University in New Zealand. The simple idea of graduation photos has been taken further with a fun,  Instagram frame and clear instructions on the hashtag to use. See the Hansel and Gretel trail? “we want you to post graduation photos to Instagram and hashtag #AUTgrad” -brilliant.

I also really like this in-store photo booth at Sportsgirl in Sydney. Simple and fun idea around girls shopping and leaving the booth a bit longer hedges your bets that you'll get enough content to work with without paying huge fees for activation site rental. 

5. Integrated

If you look at adland lists of large-scale, successful social media campaigns you’ll notice that most of them have a large media buy sitting behind them promoting the social across other channels. ANZ #headbandforgood is promoted on free to air TV, has Facebook pages, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Vine, partner agencies and a whopping celebrity in tennis world number 1 Novak Djokervic. Many companies want to know how they can drum up interest and drive foot traffic to their activation on the day and the answer is an old-fashioned one…pay for it. Paid ads on Facebook with geo targeting are the direction you want to look in as well as classical paid media for an event such as local radio and print. Go back to the Opera House test. You need to have something pretty spectacular to pull crowds and get the selfies snapping. 

Let’s have another look at ANZ to see it all come together? #headbandforgood is incentivising the customer ($2 to World Vision), Hansel and Gretel crumbs (shared to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag), contextual with the Australian Open Tennis, and easy to participate with a simple headband. The campaign is then promoted across paid and organic channels. A bank is not trying to be your cool friend or a tourist landmark and everyone knows it’s a campaign and that’s great. Does ANZ pass the Opera House test? No, so they had to come up with a well thought out, executed and funded mechanic and they've done it all very well. 

My sweet as sugar fast

I decided to do a 21 day processed sugar fast that is generally related to the Daniel fast and was spurred on by Peter Fitzsimons' excellent column on his year off sugar and booze. 

I gave up booze about four years ago but the sugar monster has been visiting me a bit too frequently from my birthday through to Christmas so I decided to starve it off a bit.  

The full Daniel fast removes meat, dairy, bread and sweets but I didn’t want to get rid of the meat because I need the protein to keep growing my leg back to full strength after an injury. The fast starts on 3 January and I had a bit of a dilemma with the amount of sugary goodness still in my house in the forms of yoghurt, orange juice, cereals, ice cream and christmas chocs. I tipped the orange juice but felt a bit wasteful dumping the other stuff so I decided it could stay- I’ll return to this idea later. 

I drink a lot of coffee both at home and at cafes so my biggest weakness was having something ‘with’ the coffee like a muffin or a biscuit. Sugar in the coffee switched to sweetener so that was quite easy.  I just told myself ‘if you are hungry, have a sandwich or a proper meal -otherwise you don’t need anything’. I found by not denying myself food I could quickly decide if I was genuinely hungry or not and stop the snacky stuff. 

It’s a good time to do the fast with all the summer fruit around at the moment and I found buying a big watermelon and eating diced watermelon worked well in my danger zone times such as 3pm or after dinner. Prunes are also good and get yourself a container of mixed nuts so you aren’t going for sweet stuff all the time. Also, try not to go to extreme the other way and say ‘well I’m not having sugar so I’ll eat burger and chips’ -the more sustainable the better. 

There is also a spiritual side to the Daniel fast and in the first week I was thinking a lot about how sugar makes you more hungry and crave the more you have. It made me think about shopping and consumerism and how you can grab quick fix things to make you happy in the short term but ultimately, you will always just want to buy more stuff and end up with lots of excess (excess weight/excess stuff and clutter in your life).  Feeding on good quality whole foods and fruit and vegetables is a good investment in your health and how we can use money for junk purchases or for investing in good things that will last. 

In the second week I’ve been thinking about the difference between living in lack and living in abundance. At Christmas, we have an abundance of rich foods and we tend to overeat so we need to establish discipline to live an abundant life. It’s easy to ‘give up’ food if you don’t have it in the house but I’m quite glad now that I didn’t throw out all the nice Lindt chocolates and stuff because I’ve developed the discipline now to not eat them.  The other thing I’ve really learned is that 21 days goes really quick and I only have a week to go so I think I might continue the processed sugar fast through until Easter and maybe be like Peter Fitzsimons and go for a year (I wouldn’t mind a hot cross bun at easter). 

If you are feeling a bit chubby or unhealthy after Christmas I definitely recommend knocking out your ‘weak area’ for 21 days and thinking about what it represents to you e.g. I know my coffee and a biscuit behaviour is a time out/comfort thing so by just having the coffee I can still have a breather but not have the calories. If you’re grabbing sugary/carby things all the time it can also be a sign that you are tired so be a big Nana and go to bed an hour earlier.  21 days goes quickly so don't scare yourself and think 'I'm never having chocolate or beer or potato chips' ever again. Just do something sustainable that you can stick to and the weeks fly by. 

Sweet as. 

Further reading:

Daniel Fast = Jentezen Franklin has the best resources

Peter Fitzsimons year off sugar and booze

7 ways getting hit by a taxi has made me a better leader

2015 has been the hardest year of my life. If you don’t know the back story it’s here but basically, I was walking along a footpath in central Sydney and I got hit by a crashing taxi. I thought I was going to end up in a wheelchair and be disabled for the rest of my life but thanks to modern medicine and modern prayer, I can now walk again and my life is settling in to what will be, my new normal. There is an old Israeli saying that the shepherd sometimes breaks the leg of the sheep so he can carry it and that is in essence what I learned - I learned how to be carried

So how does being carried make you a better leader?

1. Let it go
I have no idea how much the rent is on my house. I have no idea when the cleaner comes, how much internet data we have or how the toilet rolls make it into the bathroom. My housemate travels a lot for work and he manages everything to do with running our apartment- I pay a set monthly amount to him and everything just happens. The more I have surrendered knowing everything, the more he carries the weight of responsibility and I can focus on other things. Women especially are not very good at surrendering control to others and get preoccupied with the hand wash in the company bathrooms, the tidiness of the company lunch room and having sign off on every document that exists in the company. In 2016, try to let it go and focus on the big things. 

2. Care for the carers
One time before an operation I asked for a Chaplain to come and pray with me. At the end, I asked her if she needed prayer and she was completely blown away. She was working in the palliative care part of the hospital which basically means that she sits with people at the end of their life and she told me there had been a few people pass that morning and she was feeling emotionally drained. The prayer had strengthened her to go back for the afternoon. Care for the carers. 

3. There is no such thing as ‘self-made’
I sat down last week to write Christmas thank you cards for all the people who had helped me in 2015. The list ran from police, to paramedics, nurses, plastic surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, physios,  and psychiatrists without even starting in to friends and family, whoever called the ambulance?, pastors and even my fellow patients in the ward. A huge team of people carried me through an accident that was no fault of my own. As a member of the ‘Twittering classes’ it can be very easy for us to intellectualise everything and not bend down and help people in practical ways where they are. People took me to the toilet and showered me and made hospital meals for me and I had to let go of ‘self’ and receive from others. 

4. Specialists talk to other specialists
I overheard a conversation between my orthopaedic surgeon and plastic surgeon as they were standing in front of my x-ray: “you don’t want to get an infection in to one of those- nasty -chop the leg off material”. My plastic surgeon immediately ordered tests for infection and changed my wound dressing regiment. Although my leg was healing up fine, the specialists knew the real risks and took responsibility for making sure nothing went wrong. Both are respected surgeons in Sydney and they valued each other’s judgement and knowledge. Always listen to specialists and don’t be reckless with other people’s wellbeing. 

5. The most valuable tool you have as a leader is empathy

I remember grumbling to God one evening in the hospital about why this had happened to me and saying ‘I didn’t ask for this’. He replied ‘nobody does’. I looked around the hospital ward and instantly realised that nobody wants to be in hospital or sick or dependent on others. Nobody asks for suffering. For all sorts of reasons, people can end up injured, down on their luck, divorced, unhappy in their job -that’s life and empathy equips you with mercy to help people up where they are at and get them going again. Your job as a leader is never to judge or strategise some intellectual breakdown of how that person got in that situation- your job is to get them up and get them going again. 

6. Hurry up and wait
You spend a lot of time in the healthcare system waiting. Waiting for skin grafts to take, waiting for doctor’s rounds, waiting for the waiting room to open so you can wait. I’ve got very good at waiting in 2015 and it has made me a lot happier. If I have to wait for something, I just sit….and wait.  Stillness is a skill you have to learn and when you can be still, you’ll be a lot happier and interact better with others. 

7. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to trust them
When I had my first outpatient physio appointment I could see that they were a bit concerned about my injury. They had never dealt with something so serious and wanted to make sure they could treat me effectively. I was a little nervous but I was too physically and emotionally exhausted to go shopping around for physios. So I trusted them. The physio rang the surgeons and read lots of medical articles on my injury. He used me as a university teaching case study and trained the other physios in the practice. One morning he came in and proudly declared “congratulations, you aren’t our worst patient anymore!”. Because I had taken a chance on them, they now have other motor vehicle accident patients and their business is growing. I saw their eagerness to learn and genuine care for me and we both benefited from choosing to trust. 

Thanks to all of my online and offline friends for your support in 2015. 2016 will be the best year yet -I’m believing that for me and I’m believing it for you to. 

Twitter has a problem

I love Twitter. It has opened many doors for me and connected me with wonderful people.  

About three years ago it even connected me with great people who actually work for Twitter and, it was with a lot of excitement that I met some of their executives when they were planning the Sydney office (none of them work in the office now in case you’re wondering). 

It was a time of great hope. We met in a hotel lobby and went out for lunch. I looked at some of the pitch documents from various PR companies and dropped soup dumplings down my top. There was a big push for TV partnerships and sports and we talked about the future of media and I destroyed the PR pitch documents and handed them back. I felt super important like I was at the forefront of something massive. A lot of the talk then was getting the content organised enough to monetise and they were working with sports teams and the like to hashtag correctly, drive conversations and make the feeds marketable. 

We then started talking about ad agencies, media agencies and some of the issues they were facing. The Twitter executives were hanging on my every word when I was talking about ad buying and media commissions, the death of print, the gravy train of TV and the market for “Creative”. I remember thinking it was a little bit strange that I was explaining how ad inventory is bought and sold to them but hey, this was The Future and maybe I was stuck in old school thinking. 

In hindsight, I can see that they had no idea how brands actually buy media. Twitter has a problem. 

They still have no idea how brands actually buy media.

 If they think a client-side brand manager is going to sit at a computer with a company credit card (have you ever seen anyone in a marketing team with a company credit card, let alone using one to buy ads?) then they think wrong. The agencies are sitting in the middle between the client and the media the same way they have since the 1930s and, as much as I would like that to change sometimes too, that's the reality. 

Twitter have pushed out a whole lot of ad products in the last few weeks, none of which I could recommend on a media plan with a serious face unless, brands just want to have a bit of a play. Facebook and Google have done a far better job of working with agencies to get their self-serve models working but it has requited a lot of hand holding and Google have essentially outsourced their client service with the growth of the new industry called “an SEO agency”. 

 I still struggle to get brands to understand that they have to ‘pay to play’ on Facebook and that they should be pushing the social media companies to educate them and provide them with client service. 

I ran into the now former Twitter executive at an event recently (he now works for another large startup) and he shrugged his shoulders and said the same thing. They are pushing out a lot of stuff but they can’t agree on a business model so nothing sticks.  Building a better mousetrap won’t fix Twitter’s problem. 

Facebook has won social media and we can all go home now

It’s been a while since I’ve done some social media strategy work on a big, mainstream FMCG grocery brand. 

I had a real Big Daddy to work on last week and, as I sat down to pull together my data for the reverse brief I was hit by just how much Facebook has won. 

Facebook is the social web. 

The target demographic for the product I was working on was families, economical blue collar working types and then older, empty nesters. Mainstream, high volume value brand stuff. 

The supermarket goldmine demographics that every large supplier wants to hit because they do huge revenues. Facebook was an obvious choice because the brand page had around 35 million page likes already but I’ve got so used to doing multichannel plans my instinct was to look around for other ways to reach consumers. 

I tried to liven things up with a bit of Instagram but then I saw this stat “people between 18-34 make up 70% of total users in Australia -females are 60% of users”. This is not my blue collar, mainstream user. 

Twitter only got a brief look in as part of the PR strategy to identify possible influencers. We could have put our video content on YouTube as a secondary channel but again, it skews younger and why would we do that when we have the reach of Facebook video and the ability to target and retarget?

All roads led to Facebook for both organic and paid conversations. As I dug deeper, and thought about Facebook’s unashamed push for, and favouring of video content, I realised this was the strategy for my brand: Facebook video with around 50% organic and 50% paid conversations

Mark Zuckerberg's dog Beast

Social media strategy and platform use can get very subjective but if you stick to the user data and keep your own, and your client’s own preferences to the side, all you can do is Like the photo of Mark Zuckerberg’s dog on your Facebook feed and congratulate them on winning the social web. 

Why anti social media rants simply don't work -even for the Bieber

It seemed that everyone was having a moan at their audiences yesterday for not behaving properly. 

Justin Bieber sent out orders on Snapchat to his Beliebers that they should not harass him for a photo if he didn’t feel like it. 

"The way you ask or approach me when you want a photo with me is going determine if I take a photo or not,” he warned.

“If I’m walking somewhere or arriving somewhere and you guys are asking me to take a photo, if I don’t respond, if I continue to keep walking, the likelihood is that I probably don’t want to take a photo at that moment.

“If you start screaming louder that’s not going to make me take a photo more.” Everybody got that?

The instructions came after he was screamed at by demanding selfie-hungry fans at Melbourne airport. Surely they should all just enjoy the experience of basking in his presence and not need to get a photo for their social media?

Shortly after, a member of the Bieber entourage posted a video of fans clearly ignoring his directive and Bieber abandoning an attempt to address his fans saying "nevermind, you’re not even listening to me.” (which would make a great song title Justin you should use that -you’re welcome). 

Former Australian Premier Campbell Newman then saddled up on ABC News and complained about the 'click-baiting' of politics and how nobody wanted to take the time to let him explain anything properly. 

What both Newman and Bieber seem to have missed is that their audience, has their own audience and their own objectives. 

The Bieber fans main objective for stalking him at an airport or outside a hotel is to get a selfie for their social media accounts. 

The Twittering political classes love to chirp away at politicians as a form of entertainment. Politicians become the ‘social object’ that is bantered about and finding the funniest meme or calling out a fumble (although a bit mean) is all part of the sport. 

Message control through your own publishing channels is a good thing but don’t think this will translate into the audience changing their behaviour if you haven’t understood their objectives. The Belieber also has a Snapchat account. The voter also has a Facebook or a Twitter account to express their views on. Start with that person’s behaviour and work back from there and don’t get frustrated with the new reality. 

Women in tech panels - should we Let It Go?

“Does your daughter like Frozen?”

I was at a women in tech type function and trying to be friendly to my round table neighbours.

“Your daughter, is she into Frozen, the movie?”

The women next to me stared blankly, not sure what to make of my alien question. We were talking about how to get young girls into coding and she had mentioned that her five year old loved her work iPad.

"Oh Frooozennn. Yes she loves Frozen. Sorry, I work in an all-male executive team and nobody ever asks me during work hours if my daughter likes Frozen. We only ever talk about rugby and racehorses. Yes she’s mad on Frozen, we have Frozen everything."

There was some criticism this week of the Salesforce Women in tech sessions at their annual conference. What was Oprah’s best friend Gayle King doing asking super amazing tech powerfox YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki about having five children? Why did she not ask her complicated business questions about the future of video in Bangladesh and how dare she bring Wojcicki’s husband into it? Are the proliferation of women in tech panels and programs just token pink-wash and do they have a purpose or should we just -let it go?

I must admit to being a reformed women's conference and panel hater. I thought it was tokenism and embarrassing for women to have to share all details of their life and be asked light weight questions about ‘having it all’. Two ideas changed this:

1. Realising that there are challenges that are unique to women and no amount of wishing it away is going to change anything. Women have babies, you know, biology. Women are usually the primary care givers, especially when children are young (also biology). Generally speaking I would say that women think and worry about their life stages and how they are going to integrate family and work (in fact, I know they do because I did some research on it at uni). 

I think it’s positive to talk about work and home integration and people like Wojcicki and her mentees, Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer all make it ok and provide examples for people to follow.  Women like talking about their children and families. Marissa Mayer recently published a Tumblr post celebrating her pregnancy with twins and proudly declaring that she would continue to be the CEO of Yahoo. I think these women should be championed for their ability to manage work and family and it’s interesting and an experience that’s unique to women. The fact that men don’t get asked these kinds of personal questions about how they manage work and family is a non-issue to me. 

2. I don’t know where this saying comes from and it’s kind of old-timey but, you have to bless the path in front of you

Women have a hard enough time as it is and fault finding women in tech panels and programs is not helpful. The last thing we want to do is create a minefield where women and men can’t ask certain questions, highlight different individuals or speak freely about their lives. The more women are seen, given a voice and allowed to tell their stories, the better. The glass ceiling won’t be broken by throwing stones from the outside. Making it OK for people to talk about their five year old daughter’s Frozen fix, pregnancy news and fifth child as part of a future of technology discussion will. 

Guy Kawasaki on evangelism and bozo vaccination

I went and saw Guy Kawasaki the other week. It was my first trip out to the University of New South Wales and they have just opened the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre

So nice. I sat on the lawn and had a coffee while Guy set up inside

Guy setting up to Periscope livestream off his iPhone

I see a lot of evangelists in my life (and I mean -a lot, one of the greats Dr Ravi Zacharias was also in Sydney the same week to packed auditoriums so it was all pretty amazing for me- it’s kind of my thing) but not many of the secular kind and Kawasaki is still one of the best. 

Students in the new innovation centre

His choppy, confronting ‘this is how we do things around here’ style holds your attention and makes you like him.  Mainly because he actually has an opinion and something to say but also because he has great Apple war stories and a magnificent smile. He's a great communicator and everything screams of experience and time on the road. 

A great communicator in action
Even though he was speaking under his new banner of startup Canva, it’s not hard to tell his true love is still Apple. It didn’t take long for the ‘what was it like to work for Steve Jobs’ stories to come out and as Guy confirmed ‘everything you’ve heard about Steve Jobs is true. He was a genius and terrifying and I thought he was going to fire me at every meeting.”

He had some great yarns and advice so I’ve selected three of my favourites:

1. Engineers think engineering is hard and therefore, everything else is easy - like say, sales and marketing. Engineers think you can hire any old person to do stuff that isn’t engineering. 

I just about fell out of my chair with this one. I’ve experienced this ‘hire any old random to do marketing or finance or whatever because the clever people are the engineers’ mindset so I’m glad it wasn’t just me who had to explain that if your mate’s girlfriend wants a job in marketing perhaps she could go to university for six years and the work for 10 years and not get about 50 jobs she’s applied for and start at the bottom like everyone else (by that I mean me) had to. Preach it Guy. 

2. You need to be exposed to certain levels of bozo-ness to create immunity. Be glad if you have had high levels of bozo exposure because it means you will be stronger and vaccinated against higher strains of bozo. 

He included in this successful bozos can knock your confidence, such as Steve Jobs who didn’t always get everything right. By treating the bozo exposure as vaccination, you will be super awesome and able to resist even the most complex and aggressive forms of bozo-ness in the future. Excellent. 

3. Everyone has said and done stuff that makes them cringe, so don’t let past cringes hold you back. 

Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook also talks about her huge cringe moments in her book ‘Lean In’.  I can put most of mine in the ‘trying too hard’ category which fitted well with Kawasaki’s definition of just not knowing what you don’t know. Cringe is a sign that you are mixing things up and trying new things so feel the burn of the cringe and don’t let it stop you trying again. Go the cringe. 

my hair looks like Donald Trump's after the lawn coffee- fab

It also made me realise I haven’t really found my true-love, career defining company yet so I’ve got that to look forward to. I’ve also been fortunate to hear from several executives on the tail end of their career, looking back and that always makes me think to pace myself, slow down and enjoy the journey if you want to still be speaking to university students in thirty or forty years time.

Ok I'll bite. The New Zealand flag redesign.

There is a spirit that runs through New Zealand art and design that is difficult to explain in words but possible to feel. 

whenua =spirit (it also means placenta). 

Colin McCahon captured it first. Shane Cotton took it further as did Ralph Hotere, Bill Hammond and Gordon Walters. I’m also going to add artist John Edgar to my list for the visionary work that he did on the Queen Street upgrade with perchable street furniture design (you can still see and sit on his work today) 

me with John Edgar on Queen Street opening day- some perks of working in government during my Auckland City days

When I saw the four finalists for the New Zealand flag redesign, I saw a symbol of an old, out to pasture New Zealand that doesn’t really exist anymore for a lot of New Zealanders.  I saw awkward teenager New Zealand that still isn’t sure who it is so it just sticks a silver fern on everything to be safe. 

"For thirty years I have been trying to make good sense in my art.  I have attempted to imbue my work with both the essence of the mountain, the river and the vast array of knowledge that is available to us in the 21st century.  It's a difficult task to teach a stone to talk.  But if you listen carefully you might just catch a word or two."  John Edgar, 2006 

John Edgar flag series from 2003

John Edgar gets it and I think there was one design that stood out to me that gets this whenua too. The Red Peak by Aaron Dustin. 

Aaron Dustin The Red Peak 2015

The Red Peak is aspirational, future New Zealand combining the whenua of all New Zealanders with a sense of place. 

To me The Red Peak says ‘my maunga’, my mountain or home combining a traditional Maori way of identifying place with modern Edmund Hillary, bungy jumping, Sir Peter Jackson Mount Doom and multicultural New Zealand. 

I like the fern and, I love John Key (and I voted for him) and I want the flag to change to something more of the pacific and the whenua that only some can translate into visual design. I think Aaron has achieved this with The Red Peak. 

My art blog stuudio.tumblr.com

NZ flag project

PS: Next time you're in Auckland, have a perch on the great Edgar stone perchables and look at the beautiful design on the top of the stone

Queen street Auckland street furniture