Fifty random thoughts after fifty rollercoaster years
- I think a lot about three potential Sliding Doors moments in my life where I lacked the nerve to walk through - all related to job offers. FT.com in 1998 which would have meant moving to London not long after graduating and being right in the middle of the early dotcom stuff in the UK was the first.
- The second was when Ofcom offered me an amazing role in 2008 that was an opportunity to move into a more internet policy role at a time where that was emerging but I was struggling with some (by some I mean mountains of) debt at the time so I bottled it.
- And finally a Gov department in New Zealand made me an offer in 2016 that was perfect for me, building on what I’d learned at ONS and would have meant an opportunity to move to Wellington for two years - I literally informally accepted and then changed my mind on the flight home.
- Which ties into one of my biggest regrets - I always wanted to work abroad for a substantial shift. The closest I came was Oslo a couple of years ago but Covid put pay to that. The aforementioned New Zealand gig was an amazing opportunity. I also spoke to the Canadian Digital Service in their very early days and recently New York City. Really a total lack of adventure on my part.
- Jay-Z is the G.O.A.T but the rest of my top five looks like..
- LL Cool J
- The Notorious B.I.G
- Lauryn Hill
- Banksy isn’t in my top 50 street artists working today
- ..but Voyder, MadC and Zaki Dee are stop everything, jump off the train to get a picture worthy.
- The quality I most admire in other people is patience - which I struggle with every day
- The quality that has served me best professionally has been generosity - of time, knowledge and spirit (and once or twice plain old money.) My life would have turned out very different without the generosity of some wonderful people
- The worst thing about working in ‘digital’ is that everybody takes their professions way too seriously. I am not sure any other career category does anywhere as much navel gazing or indulges in so much pseudoscientific nonsense and ridiculous jargon. The whole sector has a chip on its shoulder and honestly it is tedious.
- …but also thank god for Vincent Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee (and Marty Cagan) because who knows what my career would have been like without the internet, the web and discovering product management. I guess I’d have been a history teacher or a librarian.
- Learning not to compare my life to that of others was the thing that improved my mental health most to date
- …but learning not to take my work so personally and feeling like it is my responsibility that everything works is the thing that would free me from most of my remaining anxiety
- I am forever thankful for the Govcamp community - and all its offshoots - it has made the last 15 years of my career always bearable and occasionally a joy
- Also despite the shit show that it has become I’m not sure where I would be without the community I found on Twitter. It goes way beyond a professional network - it genuinely changed my life.
- Someone once said to me that they thought I only went to work so I’d have something to blog about. There is definitely some truth in that.
- Taylor Swift’s voice soothes me when I am anxious
- …but not as much as watching Gilmore Girls does
- I’m still bitter about the ending of The Sopranos
- ..and Battlestar Galactica
- Jack Kirby should be as famous as Stan Lee
- Watchmen is an overrated comic
- Alan Moore’s top five comics (IMHO) are -
The Ballad of Halo Jones
- The Sandman show is better than the comics (again IMHO)
- I really, really, really wanted to be a writer when I was kid…and every year since really. I wanted to write for comics or TV or crime novels and later I wanted to write a book about this work I do just so I’d be able to say I’d written a book and you could find it on Amazon or something. It was a sad day when I finally realised I just didn’t have the chops for it and gave up.
- That said I still love to write and what ability I do have is a massive contributor to me having any kind of career. Who knew that the skills I’d learn from half-assing an English and History degree would serve me so well in a tech career. Read quickly, identify the key points, summarise clearly, back up your hunches with evidence and when in doubt turn the dial up on the flowery prose 😂
- The commoditization and certification of agile really has created a toxic culture that is ill equipped to actually consistently deliver on the promise of the original principles. Agile ™ has become a goal in itself - which was never the point - it was supposed to be a means to an ends (ship better software) not an ends in itself (do Scrum successfully).
- Buffy Summers, Sydney Bristow, Veronica Mars, Alicia Florrick and Beth Dutton are my all time favourite characters on television (at time of writing).
- I miss everything about playing football regularly apart from actually playing football - which I never enjoyed much!
- Weirdly I never wore jeans until I was 40 years old - now I have 12 pairs of Hiuts.
- I didn’t get my first pair of Adidas Superstars until I was 39 despite wanting a pair since I was 13. Now I have 18 pairs (down from a peak of 25). I don’t regret any of them.
- …and seven pairs of Stan Smiths and a few other randoms.
- I think Mad Men, Breaking Bad and In the Line of Duty are massively overrated.
- I would happily watch Anna Kendrick read the dictionary - just sat there reading
- Took me 49 years to get a tattoo and now I’m already planning my second - like Dalton said “pain don’t hurt”.
- I’m very proud to be a Civil Servant - despite…everything - but I don’t think anyone who isn’t or hasn’t been will ever understand that.
- I really did think social media was going to change the world - for the better! How wrong I was. I just thought people were kinder but it turned out it just allowed people to unleash their inner asshole.
- I love that hip hop is also 50 this year - I was 10 when I discovered it and here I still am. Thanks Kool Herc.
- Though more than anybody Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant had the biggest impact on my life - Subway Art blew my mind then, now and forever.
- I think The Great Gatsby is the greatest novel in literature
- …but I’d still rather read something by George Pelecanos
- Bodie was the hero of The Wire and the show never recovered from his death!
- I was 27 before I ever got on a plane - despite all my travelling these days I still hate flying - and won’t drink before or while I fly as it just ups the paranoia and anxiety.
- I really lack resilience - which given the way I chose to live/work has consequences. I’m probably too fragile to have made the choices I have and too old to change my ways…but I am trying.
- Season one of Jessica Jones is still better than any Marvel movie.
- I am a lucky guy - I’ve got an amazing career, wonderful friends and a brilliant family. Not sure you can ask for much more.