1. When did you first stand up to your parents... what was the issue and...were you right?
I can’t tell you when exactly it happened or what the issue was, but my Dad and I argued about something when I was a teen and I had talked (shouted) right up to the line. Crossing that line, which I really didn’t want to do, but somehow felt inevitable, if I continued living under the same roof, was thankfully avoided. My Dad’s a big bear of a man, if we came to blows I would lose badly. So I retreated to my room after we came face to face during our very heated slanging match. I love my Dad and he’s taught me so many valuable life lessons. He’s hilarious, well-read and rough around the edges. Sometimes he would try to open my bedroom door, realize it was locked and then seconds later I would hear him bellow “Wanker!” as he walked back down the stairs. Like I said, hilarious. I left for College that year, so whatever we fell out about was not an issue and more importantly, I never did cross the line.
2. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?
18. I drove from Germany where my father was stationed to a little teacher training college in West Sussex. I remember playing ‘The Morning Papers’ by Prince in the car and singing along, worried that I would miss the major junction near Antwerp that would whisk me south towards France, instead of west towards the car ferry in Ostend, Belgium. Remember flying through a very thick cloud of insects enroute and having to stop to wash yellow insect guts from the car windscreen by the side of the road. When I went to the College admin office to get a car pass on my first day I was mistaken as a new member of staff and got the wrong kind of pass. I attributed this to my natty tweed jacket and corduroy trousers, all of my student cohorts were in t-shirts and jeans. That’s when I felt I’d been mistaken for an adult.
3. When was the last time you changed your mind about something really important? What was it and what led you to change your view?
I used to believe that COVID-19 could be transmitted asymptomatically but I read something recently that convinced me otherwise by Beda M Stadler, the former director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Bern. He makes a strong and clear case that most of what we know about this disease is factually incorrect mainly, because as he says “many of my immunology colleagues who so far have left the discussion about Covid-19 to virologists and epidemiologists”. Stadler talks about the “fairy tale of no immunity” and how “our antibody titre, i.e. the accuracy of our defence system, is reduced the older we get. But also people with a bad diet or who are malnourished may have a weakened immune system, which is why this virus does not only reveal the medical problems of a country, but also social issues.” I wish everyone would read what he’s written, I think if you do, you’ll still wear a mask but you’ll probably want to stare at/confront people who don’t wear them indoors, next to you, less.
4. Name a well-known person you admire and explain why you hold them high esteem?
Steve Jobs, is the person I admire a lot because he was a great example of someone who not only had singular, driving vision but knew how to execute on it too. Not sure about the high esteem bit. Apparently he was a bit of a dick, most of the time and seemingly unaware of his capacity and propensity to offend. Imagine how loved he would’ve been if he wasn’t unnecessarily unpleasant? I’m also grateful to him (and Jony Ive) for all of the sexycool and functional gadgets I’ve bought and used to good effect over the years. I switched most of my share portfolio to AAPL when the iPad came out. One of the best investment decisions I’ll ever make.
5. If you wrote a‘ user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?
Get to the point. Mostly in business though this could apply to conversations at social gatherings where the person droning on about whatever, isn’t picking up on all of the non- verbal signals I’m sending. Don’t get me wrong, small-talk serves a purpose and is great for warming up or getting to know someone, but there have been way too many telephone conversations where I’ve received the core info like 5 minutes ago and the rest of what you’re telling me is not that relevant. I’m too polite to lie that someone’s at the door but I am probably rolling my eyes and muttering on mute.
6. What’s one misconception people generally have about you?
That I’m a Kiwi. It’s really annoying because obviously, I’m a Brit. A Brit who’s apparently spent enough time in the States to have his British accent mangled and transformed into a New Zealand accent. How is that even possible? I’ll pin the blame on the folks who commonly make this wrong assumption – Americans who have probably never heard a Kiwi talk in their lives!
7. Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?
The quote “If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35, you have no brain” doesn’t apply to me; I have a fairly liberal belief system and always have. I think I’ve held these views because I’m a progressive at heart and I don’t see the point in debating issues that I’ve already decided for myself.
8. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?
Driving your car is acceptable today but I look forward to the tomorrow when not having a car drive you automatically will be considered taboo, perhaps even illegal. Self driving cars will make mistakes, especially during the beginning of adoption, but they’ll always make far fewer mistakes than humans and I can’t wait for there to be fewer deadly or crippling accidents caused by drunk, distracted, tired, young, texting, old, risk-taking, speeding self-drivers.
9. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?
I’ve tried so many different email systems, at least 20 over the years and none of them have been perfect or a joy to use. I recently discovered Hey (or HEY) from the makers of Basecamp and though it’s only been a few weeks since I’ve been using it, I’m loving the completely new approach. It’s been designed by people who started by fixing everything we usually hate about using email and though there’s a small learning curve, I’m thinking it’s a very well designed and powerful new way to deal with email traffic.
10. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?
I bought an Electro-Voice RE20 microphone after doing a ton of research. There’s a reason why most radio stations have the RE20, it produces warm and beautiful, crystal quality sound and it’s heavy, metal clad, with a built-in pop filter. You basically find a swing arm sturdy enough to suspend it, plug it in and you’re ready to get to work. One thing I decided was essential when creating my new podcast, was getting the best sound quality I could afford and every time I use it, I think it was money well spent.
11. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?
Easy! I’d split the bar into Men and Women only sections, divided by a glass, soundproof wall. No need to catch the bartender’s eye, you’d be served by the number of the ticket you grabbed. I’d also have a separate bar that offered different kinds of freshly poured drinks on a circular conveyor, for people who don’t want to wait, so they could scan their credit card, grab their drink and go. I remember there was a bar in London, probably still going strong today, that varied the pricing of booze they sold by the fluctuating supply and demand on the night, the punters could see the current prices on a big led screen. I think it was near the Stock Exchange. I’d incorporate that idea too. As a proud Scot, I’d offer haggis, neeps and tatties to soak up the alcohol.
12. Which fictional villain do you find yourself sympathising with most? Why?
Not necessarily the most, but I did feel quite sorry for the Joker after watching Joaquin Phoenix turn in that troubling and mesmerizing performance.
13. Can you give a work example of a lesson you had to learn the hard way?
Early on in my career I had to give a presentation and the colleague I was presenting with had assumed that I was good to go, when I wasn’t. What we should have done was a dry run. On the day of the event I bombed, gave the worst presentation of my life, because I didn’t prepare and didn’t know how to present. I felt embarrassed and knew that I sucked, let everyone down, including myself. Ever since then, I’ve prepared every presentation and always been on my game.
14. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?
Curiosity. I think people who are endlessly curious tend to succeed in life because they always seek to understand and learn. I worry about people who don’t ask questions or just go along to get along. I’m like the kid in class who always asked the teacher “But why?” I read constantly, admit that I can easily disappear down web rabbit holes and wonder where the time has gone. When that happens I write it off but there’s a good chance that I’ve learned something useful or relevant.
“I worry about people who don’t ask questions or just go along to get along”
15. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?
Poor dress sense, easily ignored but can be amusing.
16. What hiring heuristic do you generally go with?
Not sure. Probably confirmation bias followed swiftly by overconfidence effect.
17. What changes to the workplace would you like to see post-Covid19? What changes do you think we will see?
I’d like to see WFH as the norm. More employers will realize that some workers perform better because they’re happier and more comfortable when they’re not in the office. The whole commuting to work thing is ridiculous and tedious, especially when technology makes location immaterial.
18. Do you have a secret tip, tool or trick that’s contributed to your success?
I’ve realized that the more I become immersed in a subject, the easier it gets to answer questions. I’ve also realized that some questions people ask are not always the right questions and you can help them by answering the questions they didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t ask.
19. Name one person who you would like to read these answers.
20. What’s the one question that we should’ve asked you, but wasn’t on this list?
Were you ever in a Beastie Boys tribute band at college?
Thank you to Andy Foote for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Contact Andy at LinkedInsights for any help in upgrading your LinkedIn game