Talent: yours is better than you think


It’s a great thing, isn’t it? It’s one of my favourite qualities that we have as humans and I think we should celebrate our talents at all times – you know, those little things that we’re able to do just that bit better than anyone else.

Whether it’s singing a note, kicking a football, writing a sonnet or anything inbetween.

Yet, how often do you really make the most out of your talents? How often do you use them to your full benefit?

There are a lot of people out there who are really talented, but they just never pursue it. I guess sometimes they think their talents are too obscure or too useless to really help them in the world.

But, for anyone who thinks that their talent isn’t worthwhile…let me tell you about a man called Tarrare.

A chap who well and truly had one of the ‘worst’ talents you can imagine.

Tarrare was born into a relatively poor family in late 16th century France. But, before he was really into his teenage years, his parents had to kick him out.

Not because they didn’t love him. But because he was, quite literally, eating them out of house and home.

You see Tarrare had an insatiable appetite for food. There’s no other way to describe it. Live animals, loaves of bread and even furniture – he’d eat nearly everything in sight, yet it still wouldn’t cure the great hunger within him.

Tarrare ended up travelling with a bunch of circus performers and made something of a living by eating random objects in front of a crowd. Whether it be animal refuse, blocks of wood or shards of glass.

The military even tried to use his talents by getting him to swallow important instructions and take them through enemy lines. He wasn’t suited to this line of employment though and gave the secrets away to the enemy without too much questioning.

Perhaps it just took one laxative…

Legend has it that he once ate enough for fifteen people in one sitting. Including portions of puppy, snake and lizard. Yet, even after all that grub, he still wasn’t full.

Those who knew him described him as normal size and said that, asides from being weirdly apathetic, he didn’t seem to have any unusual character traits…asides from his appetite.

Eventually Tarrare was admitted to hospital with exhaustation because, try as he might, he just couldn’t top off his hunger.

He didn’t last too long in hospital. They ejected him after he (apparently) started eating corpses…some even say that he was responsible for eating a toddler!

Whether these tales are true…I do not know. But he was thrown out of the hospital. Which is fair enough. I’d hate to be in hospital with someone who might try to eat me…

After that, Tarrare disappeared from the records for a few years.

Only to resurface a few years later and ultimately die of tuberculosis. An autopsy revealed that he had an abnormally large gullet and stomach…but you probably guessed that, I’m sure.

So as you can see, there are talents more unfortunate than yours…now, if you tried, what could you really do with your talent?




The businessman and the painter: a story about the perspectives of success…

There was once a big, successful businessman who owned a beautiful house in the suburbs of a busy city.

He loved business and had dedicated his life to it. Earning a fortune in the process.

Along the way he’d fallen in love with an equally successful woman and they’d had a couple of children between them. He had everything he had ever wanted in life.

One day the businessman decided the house could do with a new lick of paint and some decoration.

He searched around for a painter and eventually found a reliable sounding one in the area. Rich as he was, the businessman still liked to drive a bargain, and was pleased that the painter was very affordable.

The painter arrived the next day – he was a humble, affable man and the businessman instantly warmed to him.

All the work that the businessman had wanted done was completed within a few days and he was very pleased with the results. He paid the painter and told him that he would be his first port of call if ever he needed any work done.

That night, as he was settling down for a glass of Scotch, he noticed that the painter had left a few of his things there.

The painter’s office wasn’t far away, so the next morning the businessman drove it over for him. He was surprised to find out that the man’s office was also his home – a modest apartment that he shared with his girlfriend.

The businessman was invited in for a coffee and duly accepted. As he went in he saw a framed degree hanging on the wall – the painter had first class honours in fine art from a very prestigious arts university.

The businessman also noticed several easels set up around the apartment with half-finished paintings on them – the artwork looked incredible.

After a while the businessman asked him: “Painter, your artwork is incredible – why ever didn’t you decide to pursue a career as an artist? You could make it so easily”.

The painter smiled and nodded; “I have done. You see, every day I paint for people and I give them exactly what they want. Not what I want, or what I think they want. And every day they live in their homes or sit in their offices surrounded by my work. I’m giving people what they need and I never grow short of work”.

The businessman couldn’t help but look astonished.

“I know my work will never go out of fashion, no one will ever steal it, no critics will ever sneer at it and no one else but me will dictate how much it costs. Plus, when I’m long gone no one will ever try to copy it!”

After his coffee the businessman left and continued on with his day, a new perspective on success had opened up in his mind and he would admire the painter for as long as he lived.


The Art of Storytelling

The art of storytelling has changed over the years. Constantly evolving to fit and adapt to the new mediums that are continually emerging.

Whether you’re writing novels or telling your brand’s story via marketing, it’shard work.

At times it can almost feel as if the world is against your chances of success…

After all, it’s so easy to start a website or a blog these days, that anyone can call themselves a writer. Whether they can write or not (ahem).

So with the more chattering digital mouths there are around it’s even harder for us to tell our stories. Even the best voices struggle to be heard in a bustling crowd.

But storytellers are still vital to the world. Even if there are more of them. The best ones will stand the test of time, the bad ones (hopefully) won’t.


(Cacofonix, the fictional bard from ‘Asterix the Gaul’)

If it wasn’t for the writers, bards and artists of the past there’s very little that we’d know about our history.

This tale, coming to you from ancient Mongolia, is one that I always use to remind me of the importance of storytelling:

How Tales Originated among the Mongol People:

“Once upon a time, the Black Death descended on Central Asia and began its assault on the people of Mongolia.

Thousands fled, leaving the sick, and as they fled they said ‘We must try to escape. Let Fate decide the Destiny of the suffering.’

Among the sick there was a young boy called Tarvaa. For days Tarvaa’s body battled the forces of death but finally, weak and feverish, the young man lost all awareness of this world. Tarvaa’s spirit thought that young Tarvaa had died.

The spirit left Tarvaa and rose up out of the boy’s body and started the sad journey to the Underworld.

On arrival the Great Khan of the Underworld said to Tarvaa ‘Why have you left your body while it is still alive? Why have you come to my Kingdom?’

Trembling with fright, Tarvaa’s spirit replied, ‘Great Khan, all my family and all my friends who remained in that World stood over my body and said I was dead. I did not wait for the terrible last moment, but simply left on my journey to you.’

The Khan was touched by the simplicity and honesty of Tarvaa’s spirit. He told the spirit gently, ‘Young spirit, your time has not yet come. You do not belong here. You must return. But before you set out on your long journey home, I will grant you one gift. You may choose and take back with you anything from my Kingdom that you desire.’

Tarvaa looked around, and saw all earthly joys and talents – wealth, happiness, laughter, luck, music and dance. ‘Give me the art of storytelling’, he said, for he knew that stories can summon up all other joys.

The Khan then instructed the spirit, ‘Now return home at once. Use this gift well in life, and do not come here again until you have been called!’ So he returned to his body, only to find that the crows had pecked out the eyes. Since he could not disobey the Khan of the Underworld he re-entered his body.

Young Tarvaa recovered from the Black Death and lived on, blind, but with the knowledge of all tales. For the rest of his life, Tarvaa would travel to the far corners of the Mongol lands recounting wonderful tales and legends to his people and bringing joy and wisdom.”

(I first learnt this story in John Man’s fantastic book, Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection)







If you’ve ever worn a T-shirt you need to read this!

This morning, as I scrabbled to get ready for work, I opened my cupboard and found a clean T-shirt to wear.

I slipped it on without thinking and then went about my day.

I mean, it’s just such a part of daily life that I was on autopilot.

T-shirts. Everyone wears them, right?

But, actually, as it turns out…wearing T-shirts is a fairly new thing, by historical standards, something that only really became popular after the 1950s.

You have the US Navy and the actor Marlon Brando to thank for their popularity.

T-shirts started out their lives as simple, crude undergarments – usually worn by farmers or general laborers underneath their work shirts.

If you believe in reincarnation, here’s hoping that you don’t come back as a 1800s farm worker’s T-shirt…living out your days with only a sweaty armpit for company.

But they didn’t get their big break until 1913 when the US Navy issued them (as undergarments) – simple white crew necks. By the 1920s the word T-shirt gradually slipped into the dictionary.

They were hidden away. Never displayed. Worn under shirts or jumpers. Locked away like the child of an overprotective parent – barely seeing the light of day.

Then in 1951 the T-shirt finally gained recognition for being a standalone fashionable item. Thanks to Marlon Brando, one of the coolest guys of the era.

He wore it in the classic ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ and the youngsters who idolised him at the time rushed out to buy and wear them.

A great example of just how much film inspires culture.


The swinging sixties rolled round and more and more people began to wear printed T-shirts – often putting their own slogans on them to protest and make statements.

Not much has changed since the sixties, has it?

So there you go – there’s a story behind the humble t-shirt. That piece of fabric that we usually put on without thinking.

And, as a storyteller, it’s worth remembering that everything – even the simplest things – have a story behind them and it’s up to you to flesh them out.

For example, if I were in the fashion industry and I wanted to sell T-shirts, I’d find a creative way to sell them and their story.

‘DID YOU KNOW THAT MARLON BRANDO MADE THE T-SHIRT FAMOUS?’ I guarantee that people would be interested, particularly as most of us now only remember Brando as the old guy in ‘The Godfather’.

So, whether you’re selling something or just writing about something, have a look at the story behind it – does it have a good enough story to sell itself?

Most things do. Just look at the telescope, for example…

Class dismissed.

Whyididntwritetoday @ the movies: IT (2017)

I think that life can be very hard for the horror genre. Especially when it comes to the general public. Whenever a horror film appears in the cinema the audience will instantly scrutinise it…is it scary? No…is it actually scary? Is it cheesy? Does it make sense?

What’s more, horror has a kind of a stigma attached to it. I mean, how many genuienly world class horror films are there out there? How many mainstream awards ceremonies would consider a horror film? And, how many big name actors would actually agree to star in one?

So, when I heard that Stephen King’s ‘IT’ was being given the big screen treatment I didn’t know what to expect. As you might recall from a blog a few months back I’d only just read the book and, on the whole, enjoyed it.

So anyway, when time allowed, I dragged my girlfriend to see it one Saturday night. The reviews I’d seen had been fairly positive – so my hopes were high.

I’m pleased to say that it was well worth my £12 ticket.
(…remember when it was about £3 for a ticket? I was clearing out some old receipts the other day and saw a ticket for 2 Fast 2 Furious {2003} and it was a mere £3!)

In a day and age where we’re almost desensitised to things it’s hard to truly be scary, but at many points throughout, ‘IT’ manages to spook the viewer. Sure, as with most horror flicks, there were a few ‘jump scares’ but there was also an underlying sense of dread that threaded through most of the scenes and, even though I roughly knew what was happening, left me on edge.

(photo: IndieWire)

In terms of true horror no punches are pulled. Right from the word go one of the local children is dispatched by the titular clown character and the pace doesn’t really slow down from there.

There are certainly a lot of differences from the book, but it’s the same story and I think the main child actors do a fantastic job of bringing their characters to life. The casting is nigh on perfect and the kids who play Richie and Eddie steal the show in many scenes.

While Tim Curry will always be famous for playing Pennywise the clown in the TV mini-series, Bill Skarsgård does a more than capable job here. I liked the fact that, rather than copy Curry’s fantastic display, he goes his own way and comes up with some very credible results.

There’s a scene right at the start where he goes from laughing to scowling within a matter of seconds and I felt goosebumps prickle all over me.

5/5 for me and a must-see for anyone who hasn’t already, whether you’re a Stephen King fan or not.

This film focuses solely on one half of the book, which depicts the main characters’ childhood struggles – there’s a sequel coming and it’ll tell the story of their adulthood.

I’m looking forward to it, and I’m also intrigued as to who will play them as adults. Here’s a speculative article I found which whets the whistle of anticipation:





“The Theory and Practice of Selling the AGA cooker”

David Ogilvy (1911 – 1999) is one of the biggest legends in the advertising business.

Known as ‘the father of advertising’ Ogilvy worked for advertising agencies in both London and New York – he was equally successful in both countries.

During the second world war he even helped the British Intelligence Service with their communication strategies. Which is one of the things that I find most fascinating.

Who knew that national security and marketing could mix together when a country is in peril?

One of the other things that fascinates me about Ogilvy is his early life. His first real adult job was as a door to door salesman.

Can you imagine the advertising executives of today doing that? Not a desirable role at all, and one that many couldn’t do.

(My copy of Ogilvy on Advertising – a fantastic & engaging read)

But, yeah – Ogilvy learnt how to sell by going door-to-door. He learnt about real people. What they liked, what they responded to and what worked when it came to closing the deal.

And, for those of us who want to use our creativity to sell things, it’s an important lesson to learn.

As creatives and arty types we won’t always have as much in common with the average joe.

So it’s important for us to keep ourselves grounded and to keep ourselves in touch with the public.

Something that catches our interest might not bother Jim next-door. And vice-versa.

When he was young Ogilvy sold cookers. He was phenomenally successful at it. In fact he was so successful that the first book he ever published was a manual on selling cookers.

I found it online and I’ll include a link to it below – it’s a fascinating read. Although, unfortunately, in terms of the language used, it’s a bit of a product of its time.

“The good salesman combines the tenacity of a
bulldog with the manners of a spaniel. If you have
any charm, ooze it.” – David Ogilvy

The Theory and Practice of Selling the AGA cooker”

Do you glue your football boots?

It was about six or seven years ago and it was one of those days where the sun shines so brightly that you think it might just last forever.

I was in my 2nd year at University and, along with a rag-tag team of friends, was participating in a charity 6-aside football tournament.

Somewhere towards the start of the event I noticed that an acquaintance of mine (playing for another team) was doing something a bit weird between the games.

Every time there was a stoppage in play, I looked over and – if he wasn’t playing – he’d be doing it.

He had a small tube of something that looked like either glue or paint. He’d then pour a small amount of it onto a piece of cloth and wipe it on the front of his boots.

What the hell was he doing?

As it turned out, when I asked him later on, he was applying glue to his boots.

A ‘special type of glue’ that he’d created.

One that was supposed to allow him to keep control of the football easier.

Of course, he’d overlooked the fact that it would be really hard to kick a ball that was stuck to his boot.

It didn’t work at all. As you probably expected.

And this was from a guy who ended up graduating with a first degree in Architecture.

He’d just got himself so wrapped up in his theory that he’d failed to see how ridiculous it was.

And, that’s easy to do. It’s great to think in a very ‘blue skies’ manner – but the most successful creatives should always keep in touch with their inner realist.

Unless you’re an abstract painter, I suppose.

Book review – ‘Absolute Power’ by David Baldacci

“…the business of politics, which essentially meant screwing others before they got around to screwing you.” 

For a recent holiday I wanted a good thriller book to read. After reading lots of non-fiction business books and lots of philosophical novels recently, I wanted something that wasn’t quite as intellectually challenging. Something that was more plot than unanswered questions.

I settled on Absolute Power because the reviews were really positive, and I’ve heard the Clint Eastwood film is fairly good.

In terms of plot Absolute Power is very outrageous to say the least. An elderly burglar, looking for one last job, breaks into the house of a prominent businessman while he’s out of the country. Everything is going well until the businessman’s wife turns up…with her lover and his entourage.

The thief manages to hide and, within minutes, is forced to watch the woman’s final moments as she’s murdered. Shocking, to say the least. But the only thing more shocking is the man involved in her murder…the president of the United States.

“Arrogant people habitually overestimated their own abilities and underestimated everyone else’s.”

This tense and violent opening chapter sets the scene for a tale full of conspiracies, tragedies and surprises.

It also contains sub-plots. A lot of them. From my description of the plot, you might think that the thief is the main character. But he’s not, in fact he has very little actual dialogue throughout the novel – which is something of a shame as, despite his flaws, he’s one of the more likeable characters.

That’s perhaps one of the main issues with Absolute Power. There’s a very large cast of characters. Too many. All with their own sub-plots and backstories. Baladacci does a great job of developing them, but he gives them all so much time that, after a while, I was left wondering who the actual protagonist was. My favourite being the smalltown detective who ended up investigating the murder and getting well and truly out of his depth.

“He should have known that nature bowed to no one, regardless of their monetary worth.”

Eventually Jack, a young hotshot lawyer, becomes the main ‘good guy’ – but, even then, he spends most of the book trying to cheat on his fiancee while still trying to keep her sweet as her dad is a big shot client of his. Not exactly a great guy…but flawed protagonists are more realistic, right?

I described ‘Absolute Power’ as a thriller in the start of this review. But, to be honest, it’s a real mix of genres – thriller is just the easiest way to categorise it. It also has elements of courtroom drama, police procedural, political commentary, action, spy thriller and conspiracy theory.

Absolute Power starts off really well and keeps its pace for the first quarter – however, the amount of sub plots and characters do slow it down halfway. But it’s worth persevering through as the last quarter is really engaging and gripping stuff.

“You know what kind of person it takes to run for President? Not normal. They could start out okay, but by the time they reach that level they’ve sold their soul to the devil so many times and stomped the guts out of enough people that they are definitely not like you and me, not even close.”

While the plot is very imaginative, there’s also a sense of realism to it. I genuienly found myself thinking that…if such a cover-up ever did happen…this is probably what would happen.

I’ll give this a 4/5 for sheer entertainment value. It’s not going to change your life but sometimes that’s not what you want from a book. I don’t think I’ll ever read it again and, five years from now, it won’t be in my thoughts but for the time that I shared with it I enjoyed it.


How old Tom & Jerry cartoons can help you tell your brand’s story

When you were younger, did you ever watch the old ‘Tom & Jerry’ cartoons?

Or, any of those other old school cartoons from that time period?

If so, you may remember an old gag they used to do.

Usually it involved a newly born baby duckling (or baby bird in general) who would mistake one of the characters (usually Tom) for its mother.

It would then follow him round for the majority of the episode.

This harks back to a phenomenon that animal experts call ‘imprinting’. So, when a baby duck is born it usually sees its mother right away and then never forgets her.

However if the duck sees someone or something else first it can often think of it as its mother.

When it comes to branding, if you’re to tell your story and make it stick in your potential customers’ minds it’s worth thinking about your unique selling points.

Is your business a world first? Do you do something that’s never been done before?

How can you imprint yourself in someone’s mind to make sure you’re the first thing they think of?

Think coke…which brand do you think of? Think fast food burgers…who comes up? Think low cost airline…who do you think of?

And so on.

Your answers to these questions could be marginally different to mine…but I bet that we’re very close.

Telling stories is all about being unique and, when you can be, being a world first.

By Ashley Brown

This article was inspired by “Positioning” by Al Ries and Jack Trout