Sleepless… But I’m definitely not in Seattle…

Insomnia

This is one of those moments where you really don’t know how to place yourself…

5:00AM – The extremities of my mind racing, recalling every little synapse it’s created; one thought leads to a spiderweb of others and it’s difficult to create clarity.

I really just want to sleep…

The thing is, my partner is pregnant and I don’t want to wake her with all my faffing about with covers; but I got hooked on a few memories and I’ve found it hard to shake them.

Que short rant then a story…

I’m not saying that I’m the perfect individual, on occasion I’m an arsehole, but I’m honest; I’m the guy who will stand back to let others off and on before me on a busy tube platform, because I understand that forcing my way past people doesn’t dictate whether I get on the train; when I see an old woman etc. I will ensure she has her bags carried where necessary… I may in fact have more legitimate bag carries under my belt than the guy who invented the concept to be honest… but I digress…

The point is, that I’m often an arsehole, as we all are from time to time, but I judge everything that I do on the basis of ethics, my internal compass; these could be things that may have a significant impact on my life, or they may just be something mundane, but when you suffer from extremities of thought, as I do, your whole life is built up around those decisions, because of how they make you feel…

Lets put this in context on a base level…

Your child is watching TV and you’re trying to have a conversation with a client, do you?

A) Tell them to shut up…

B) Carefully continue your conversation and pop some earphones on them without your client even knowing you lost focus…

It’s not even what you do as an end result, it’s what you feel. Why stress, keep your child and the client happy… Now the above is an obvious one, here’s another…

A few years ago I was working for a celeb startup that was struggling and as the Commercial Director I had to let some people go, something I’m used to from my time in telemarketing and sales over 12 years, so something I understand and am respectful of, having not been treated very well myself in the past…

Now, the last guy that I hired was my best friend, I’d worked on projects with him before and we’d hired him to work under me on some commercial projects, now I think we had to release around 4-5 staff at this point to save cash-flow and buy some time to make good, (makes me sick to think about people losing their jobs for “cash-flow” because the company frankly way over hired and it’s down to them to project what they can afford), anyway last in first out right….

So do you….

A) Fire your friend, knowing he would be financially screwed without a notice period…

B) Refuse to fire your friends and let the MD do it because it’s too personal…

Now, in choosing either you enter difficult territory, but we are programmed to accept one of these two fates, because this is happening to other people…

And where as you might feel a little bit guilty about either option in the friend scenario, I feel an extreme, almost adrenaline filled level of guilt, doubt and discomfort even with the notion of an ethically complex scenario.

So I threw the box out of the window… I didn’t want to do either of these things, so I called a meeting with the MD and I asked him if I could keep my friend and in return I would split my wages in half to pay for his, so it didn’t effect the company (who screwed me years later on another deal anyway) and he agreed to let my friend stay.

So, I told my friend about the situation the same day and I’d bought him enough time to go and find a full time role elsewhere, before the company was at the point they just let us all go…

The anxiety I have with these decisions or instances is buried deep within, which is the issue, when I think through certain life choices and in instances where I feel I’ve been ‘wronged’ in some way, I feel sick to my stomach for months or even years after an incident, because of the ethics involved.

Basically I just don’t think we should sh*t on one another, I think we should be honest and if someone helps us out, we should help them out… Wall-street are probably up in their office and I think they just spat their coffee all over the floor laughing at me…

Here’s a story…

I was working at a magazine publishing company, I won’t say who it was, but we produced magazines for companies like BA, Burberry, Wentworth Golf Club etc. so we were up there.

Now, I had a boss, we will call him JCJ; as I’m not familiar with the legalities of being honest about who’s a dick and who isn’t, online… This was around 2009…

I was working with JCJ for around 6-8 weeks in total and he’d asked me to look at the entirety of Sales & Marketing for the business and he really wanted to expand. My role was therefore aptly titled Head of Sales & Marketing.

How it works in publishing, or how it worked then, is that there’s one big boys club where you sit stagnant on a few million £ turnover, while the big publishers sit on their £60million+ and in the regular meetings for the Directors in the industry, the big boys will tell everyone across the ranks, who you can and can’t try and pitch for… The higher your turnover, the more sway, the lower the turnover, the less sway…

Totally rigging the industry in effect; so JCJ came back from these things regularly spitting fire, because he wasn’t able to grow without being really proactive, or highly political in his growth. They’d existed before my time on scraps from the big boys table and the dynamic for new business was just wrong.

So he hires a gunslinger like me to generate some revenue. The man you call in when you want to light a rocket up something. Which at this time was the main reason anyone would have hired me in as I was wearing a different hat to the one I wear today.

We established, that because our agency was around £2.7 million turnover at the time, that we could in fact shave somewhere up to 40% off the vanity costs that the big publishers were charging, by using consultants, outsourcing design elements, in specialist areas for the clients where necessary and we’d still make a lot of money.

So JCJ asked me to create a list of target magazines and start calling.

Totally legit! Love this stuff, as anything strategic and commercial excites me. Make a list, call them, find out when their contract runs out and book a meeting to discuss.

I created a list, as you do when you’re slightly efficient; I put together a list of every major publisher in the UK, every magazine that every publisher in the UK operated on contract and every marketing director or owner of a business attached to each magazine.

I then started calling them to have a chat, learn when their magazine renewal date was and I was booking meetings left right an centre to discuss our new industry approach. Everyone I spoke to was really excited about the fact that we were shaking things up. And i spoke to some of the biggest brand marketing directors in the UK, a lot of them.

JCJ was ecstatic… He loved all the meetings and was really excited about the rate of growth to come… (This is the sort of guy who’s blazé about cheating on his wife at Toni & Guy corporate parties and things, so you should have a picture of how a cock of the walk starts strutting round, it’s all his idea obviously at this point, so he’s on it!)

And, from my perspective I couldn’t care less who’s getting the credit, internally I’m loving the job and what I’ve achieved in such a short space of time.

But no!!!!! This is not a snow white story with any sort of happy ending…

Because shortly after we started to attend meetings and talk about saving people up to 40% of their current spend, the big boys got upset and JCJ received multiple phone calls, emails and legal letters from the big boys, stating that we can’t contact their clients in anyway, which was bullshit, because it’s a free country and they were in contract and are entitled to meet with anyone they like when that contract is coming to a close and they’re thinking next steps…

JCJ was then notified that he would ruin the industry and in no uncertain terms multiple people sent him cease and desist letters, as they said they didn’t want to ruin the margins in the market place.

Now, there was no law against what we’d done, but as it was explained to me by JCJ, they could spend a million £’s just to sink him in red tape, just because they could and he couldn’t fight them more like, oh crap, I’ve upset the pecking order and need to reassert myself) so he would have to stop growing the business like this.  He actually ended up getting some work from a few after that, so I suspect the situation was used as leverage to make a bit of extra money.

Anyway, JCJ leaves on holiday, I continue in my role for a day or two and after work one evening I’m in a pub garden with my colleague David (he was lovely so we can use his name), and I receive a phone call…

It’s JCJ and he’s pretty drunk and sun-burnt… His words were something like…. “look at you boy, you think you’re so fucking clever don’t you, you f**king c**t, you’re a f**king c**t, you’ve f**ked me you f**king c**t….” obviously still stinging from some of the backlash from his industry colleagues… I hung up, no one bullies me.

I’ve expelled the full text for your benefit, as it wasn’t nice at the time to be honest, so I suspect it’s not going to look the best in black and white.

I couldn’t really believe the situation. I felt sick and I had to carry on with my work for another week or so while he sat in paradise.

When he came back obviously everything had changed, I’d lost the respect that I had for him, in my personal opinion he just needed to grow a pair of balls and stand up to these guys, but as a relatively twisted individual he just started acting like a cancer to me.

He obviously fired me, on the Friday of the week of his return, no written warning, no notice, no nothing…. The commission on what I earn’t him during those 6-8 weeks in new business was around £60,000 which would have changed my life, but it’s a commission I clearly never got….

Would I deal with the situation the same now days? No, I would most definitely be taking him to court and he’d never have been able to get away with the way he treated me as a human being, an expendable and tarnish-able asset, useful for lining the nest but not enough to warrant any care…

The funny thing is, that I received a call about a year or so ago from JCJ and he tell’s me that a lot of business came off the back of my activity and he’s never had the same level since, so he says that he wants to meet me in a posh hotel in London to discuss doing a project together… you’ve gotta be intrigued at the ordacity at this point though, so I set the meeting amongst a day of other meetings and i went to see what he had to say.

It was slightly awkward from the start really, I naively thought that he’d seen my LinkedIn profile and understood I had a great deal more credibility than I did even when I worked with him before, but he was hoping for the same guy…

I explained what he’d said to me on the phone and obviously he had no recollection of it and put it down to being drunk, awkwardly trying to laugh it off. So I hear his pitch, I loved the industry and went away to prepare a structured but brief email explaining my fee for services requested etc. I used the excel margins marked with the #fuckoff symbol. Expecting that if he paid it that I may as well move into his house. But alas….

It appears he wants the younger version on peanuts, fundamentally just an insult with regards to my intellect at this point… And off he goes, never to be seen again; other than to run someone else’s big company for them… Great, let’s go breed that style of management and give him loads of creative staff to ruin, as he slate’s the boys and tries to screw the girls!!!!

There are 4 or 5 instances in my life where these moments still grate on me. Moments that infest themselves deep within, moments your life could have swung a different way, and I’ve been up since 5am living and re-living these moments, for some reason today…

I don’t want to seem bitter, or hard done by, everyone in life has their own cross to bear and I can’t moan on about missed opportunities as a means of excuse, I must persist to find the comfort-ability I seek. It just feels like a sham sometimes to turn on the smile, when you may have to really hang on for the ride, in getting through a bad day.

I wonder sometimes why people read this, am I narcissistic in some way, just on the basis of having a blog? Does that mean that I inwardly crave the vanity in life that I constantly chastise?

I don’t feel like any want, to sell my ethics out, even if it made me a richer man, I feel that I’m at a point in my life where if I’m not just honest with myself and other people with regards to where I am, then I may just wither and die; living in the false shell for so long has crippled my ability to shield myself the way I used to.

We look at life in stages, we incentivize ourselves in how we live and every day you see London brimming with the misled, those on their way to the hive, in pursuit of someone else’s honey… Someone they may never even get to see… Someone who considers them a statistic, a plot on a graph, a pie chart… No one want’s to be a pie chart, despite them being the more dynamic of the chart array available on excel.

On a serious note we could all be changing the society around us, if everyone just got up and said, “do you know what, no more bullshit, lets work together, let’s take ourselves to account for our misgivings and just try to be better people.”

Here’s a Friday challenge… I want you, if not bored of my explorations by now, to pinpoint one person during the course of your day; it’s the woman who needs help getting her buggy on the train, the girl in the office behind you, where you could have held the door, it’s your management team, because it’s often a darker place having to look after others well being all the time, it’s the IT guy who you may not offer coffee to when you make it for the team, that’s the guy who might care more about the moment, than the mugged offering.

Just do it, there’s no excuse, I’m not asking you to have your wisdom teeth out. I’m asking you to give a shit about life!

Three things will happen when you do this and I will guarantee all of the below…

  1. You will feel good…
  2. The person you help, or invest your time in, will also feel good…
  3. Everyone will feel good…

And surely that’s the point?

Side note: If the three things don’t happen, please assume you’re getting it wrong… and repeat with amendments… (Einsteins definition of insanity, was trying the same thing twice and expecting different results!)

The solution in my eyes to all the hurt we cause one another, is simply to shift mentality, start caring.

Just care about how you personally operate… Be honest with yourself and care about other people, this doesn’t make you weak, it just gives you a better sense of self, and this can only make you stronger and more confident in who you are as an individual.

It’s only in our compassion that we free ourselves… have a happy Friday!

 

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