It’s life, Jim, but not as we thought we knew it

If there’s one thing the past year or so has taught almost everyone, it’s that so many things we thought were so important to us, aren’t actually that important at all. And conversely, many of the things we all took for granted, and didn’t really think twice about are in fact what make our lives the lives we all want to live.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a sucker for brands. Not only is my entire career built around brands, I also love buying, owning and experiencing them. From my obsession for anything with four wheels and an engine, to my love for horology and a trainer collection that’s quite literally bursting out of my wardrobe, I couldn’t really imagine my life without certain brands in it.

Like everyone, the past twelve-months has impacted my life more than I can begin to describe. I’ve gone from spending on average twenty hours a week commuting by car, train and tube, to simply wandering downstairs and opening zoom each morning. My regular get-togethers with my friends now comprise of a series of WhatsApp groups chock full of photos, videos, emojis and memes to try and retain some sense of normality in this really bizarre moment in time.

And while I’m beyond grateful that my job has been largely unaffected by a combination of fast adaptation by my company – and the resilience shown by the entire team, one of the positive effects of lockdown and home-working has been the time I’ve spent with my family.

I’ve enjoyed getting up in the morning and having breakfast with my two awesome children, Jake and Millie – having conversations about what they’re eating, what they’re hoping to do that day – and how they’re going to make a new contraption out of household items. Even to this day their imagination amazes me.

I’ve loved being able to take them to school, and pick them up, and chat to them while I’ve been working. They’re now on first-name terms with many of my colleagues and friends – something that were I in the office may well not have happened for some time, if at all.

In a way, this whole experience is bitter-sweet, because while the transformation that’s happened in the business world in terms of people working from home is something that should have happened a long-time ago, it’s a transformation that’s happened under such terrible circumstances. Like many, I’ve found it immensely tough to deal with the stress of Covid-19 and lockdown but I’m hopeful this year is going to be a fuck-load better than the last. I just hope that people don’t revert back to some of the bad habits and behaviours that existed in pre-Covid times. Like pointless commutes five days a week.

I hope that people remember the closeness they’ve felt to all the things that really matter in life, like family, friendships and talking more often. Like sitting down as a family to enjoy meals together.

Because, in the end, while I’ll always love and enjoy so many things, lockdown has reminded me that you really don’t need much to live a happy, fulfilled life.

The power of imagination

When I was young, like most children I loved playing with Lego.

I had two enormous tubs of it, every type of brick you could imagine – all different shapes, colours and sizes.

To this day, playing with Lego is one of of my most vivid memories, because I can associate moments in time with the different things I made.

Over time, the types of thing I used to make changed – much of it was based on what I’d seen on TV, or in a magazine – submarines from James Bond, and a huge X-Wing fighter after watching Star Wars (the original one).

This was back in the 80’s, a time when we had one television in the house, with four channels, about an hour of children’s TV a day, and where, the channels used to shut down and stop broadcasting overnight.

Everything I used to do with my Lego, from building things, to playing with them afterwards, was down to my imagination – and a lot of patience/frustration in working out how to create my next masterpiece made of plastic bricks.

I love Lego, because it is truly one of those things where your imagination is the only limit as to what you can create – that and how many bricks you have.

Today, on Instagram, I saw an advert for an augmented reality Lego app. The idea is, you build something, then point a phone, or a tablet at it the thing you’ve made, and it turns what you’ve created into a game on the screen.

At first I thought “that’s cool”, but after a few minutes it felt at-odds with what Lego is all about. Lego is about unleashing your creativity and building something awesome, then letting your imagination take over when you play with it.

Playing some sort of pre-defined game based on what you’ve made, feels completely removed from what Lego is all about – certainly from my perspective. Actually, I felt a bit sad to see it… Does Lego feel like its core product is no-longer satisfying its core user-base? Does Lego feel like it needs to diversify to stay relevant in this technology-obsessed world in which we live?

I’m sure many who see it won’t agree with me, but I’ll leave you with this one additional thing…

Tonight, Jake, my three year old son, came and joined me in the kitchen whilst I was cooking dinner. He doesn’t really know it but he’s got so many things I could only dream about as a child. I’ve worked hard my whole life to give him and my family everything I didn’t have growing up – every toy you could imagine. But tonight, he didn’t want to play with his toys, instead, he wanted to stand on his much-loved IKEA stool, and make shapes with the seeds from a pepper I’d just chopped up. Something he did for half an hour.

So I say to Lego, please don’t feel like you have to embrace every bit of technology going, because deep down, a child’s imagination is so amazing, so incredible, that all you need to give them are a few seeds (or bricks) and they’ll do the rest.

Interestingly, I also saw this ad, done by Ogilvy Canada, so I like to hold out hope. Because this is the Lego that I know and love: