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business not quite as usual March 18, 2020

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, corona virus, covid 19, remote working.
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Working closely with an Italian team means seeing your future before it happens. I’ve seen them react to their evolving situation including travel restrictions, school closures, shops closing and working from home. In almost daily update video calls, over the last few weeks it’s been clear that this was going to be the new normal for all of us. And now it’s here.

We were meant to be in New York last week for a global meeting but as the clock ticked towards take off, people dropped out as the situation worsened and then the client guidance was to stop all business travel and switch to remote meetings. Two days of meetings on video screens across New York, San Jose, Zurich, London and our base in the West Country. All successful if a little stop-start at times when it came to screen sharing (Teams or Zoom are much better). The funny thing being the team in New York had one of those cameras/sound devices that moves to who is talking. When one unfortunate person started eating crisps the camera shot to her 😉

We have had clients ask for our approach to contingency planning which we have advised them on. Some of our clients have either asked all their employees to work remote or to exclude visitors from their offices. One new member of staff joined our client on Monday and at midday they were sent home with everyone else to work remote. A tough start!

But we’ve been busy preparing. Considering our main client is based in Zurich and we have a network of people across Europe and the world, working remotely and via video or conf call is pretty normal for us anyway.  We’ve made sure that people have Teams set up, Slack working and are able to access the server remotely. We have a daily check in where we make sure everyone is all ok and where support is needed. There are virtual lunches and coffee time happening. Calls from a few doors or miles away to London, Turin, Zurich, Cologne, Brussels and Paris over the last two days alone. And we get to see inside the homes and work spaces of our colleagues and clients. And it’s nice to not have to apologise when your kids appear on screen too. That’s just how it’s going to be now.

And definitely turn your video on. You might think it weird looking at your own face but it breaks down the barriers and makes you feel connected. It stops you and everyone else being distracted by the email pings, the mobile phone and the Slack notifications. It’s much nicer than just staring at initials on a screen too.

On a lighter note, washing your hands more needs a bit of fun. You’re meant to repeat “Happy birthday to you” twice in your head to get to the twenty seconds of recommended wash time. But that’s a bit dull so why not print your own lyrics ?


And we’re enjoying this song from the Mexican government. Gets catchy from about 1 min

Stay healthy.

Broken August 29, 2019

Posted by nicholas gill in #creativeindustries, #fail, advertising, agency life, career, Team Eleven.
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There are good people and not so good people. They’ve defined who I work for and who I am. It’s how I react to situations. It’s why I’ve run through walls for people and broken myself in the process – not necessarily as a result of those people but what happens in life. But what’s interesting is how people react to that. And sometimes being broken makes you take stock and realise what’s important. And defines how you look at life moving forward. This podcast gave me the opportunity to look back at what has driven me and to try and make the culture at my current business the best it can be.

It was difficult to talk about but it’s better to talk openly about things, right? You are fundamentally dealing with people. And people are flesh and blood, not machines. Let me know what you think. Have you experienced similar circumstances? How are you dealing with it?

My thanks to Stuart who inadvertently took me to places I have locked away for some time but have fundamentally shaped who I am – whether I wanted it to or not. It was quite hard listening to this again but made me realise some fundamental principles I live by. And my continued thanks to Chris, Norm, Scotty and Becky for being wonderful human beings who made such a difference to my life. I probably don’t think and don’t say thank you enough.

It feels quite raw. Still. Let me know what you think. I feel I’m more “me” these days though. Who knows?

Find the full podcast at Executive Juice.


autologia March 22, 2019

Posted by nicholas gill in automotive, italy, Uncategorized.
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It’s not everyday you get asked to appear on an Italian automotive blog. Thank you, Eraldo.

Sette domande a Nick Gill




Talk it out February 4, 2019

Posted by nicholas gill in #creativeindustries, advertising, agency, agency life, Uncategorized.
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Clear your head in 60 minutes? For free?

Absolutely. Chris Barez-Brown believes that a ridiculously simple approach to mental-health and wellbeing will benefit everybody. He openly admits its not the answer to everything but it can help. He’s so determined to prove it can work that he’s teamed up with a leading University to run a research project to assess the impact of a Talk It Out session.

Why is this important?

A recent survey found that almost double the number of people in the advertising industry showed mild to severe symptoms of anxiety and 20% more likely to show mild to severe symptoms of depression compared to the national average. Think about that for a moment…

Sure, there are times when being in a service business requires you to pull out all the stops and there’s nothing like the energy of a big pitch or a game-changing project deadline. But the machismo image of burning the candle at both ends is long-gone. We’re trying to be good at overall wellness and have a work:life balance rather than what we have experienced in former lives; the presenteeism approach to success and the over-bearing stress of management changes and mis-management and working for see you next Tuesdays who see you as meat with laptops rather than human beings. So this seemed like a great opportunity.

How does it work?

You team up in pairs, walk outside for 20 minutes with one person talking continuously with no interruptions or questions from the other, just acknowledgement that they are listening and encouragement. Then after 20 minutes, turn around and swap roles. A group session at the end to discuss how it felt, things they learned – not the content of the talk, just the feelings.

It was a really interesting experience. Some struggled with the one-way talking for a bit but others really enjoyed the challenge of just shutting up and listening, suppressing their desire to interject or ask questions or propose solutions. Talking for 20 minutes was a challenge for some, not so for others, but everyone found they started talking about interesting things after about 7/10 minutes. Where their consciousness took them from the superficial to the items of substance.

Some quotes form people who participated:

“Felt like a weight off my chest”

“I feel a sense of calm after talking about things I wouldn’t normally talk about”

“I don’t think it’s solved my problems, but it has helped to organize my thoughts”

Universally everyone was enthused by the notion of being outside and walking. Just having fresh air, getting away from your desk and stretching your limbs and letting yourself go into a stream of consciousness was liberating.

I’ve asked people to think over if they would like to do it again. Personally I found it very invigorating. I also perhaps enjoyed it more and was able to talk more freely because of the partner I had and was able to talk about things that have been weighing on me for some time it seemed. I’d started 2019 without my usual zip and optimism. Since this day, however, I seem to have recaptured this. I wonder if I would have been able to go to the places I did with a different person listening? Maybe you explore different aspects of what’s on your mind? It would be interesting to do it again.

I can’t pretend it’s now a regular occurrence but I really would like it to be. I know a lot of our team head out for a walk at lunchtime anyway which is healthy but the structure of Talk It Out focusses the attention while liberating you at the same time. You don’t get to the same depth as quickly in a general conversation.

I also can’t pretend I now get away from the office every day. Years of ingrained habits including being a slave to the presenteeism and the ‘al desko’ approach to lunch with the ever-present ‘billable hours’ and ‘time is money’ mantras repeated ad nauseum from Finance Directors are hard to break. But I’m trying. We’re trying as business owners to create an environment that is a joy to work in. And work still being an important word. Advertising is hard work. It isn’t a place to coast or stick your feet up or for the faint of heart. But there’s no reason why you can’t do the best and most rewarding work of your life without being twice as likely to suffer symptoms anxiety and depression.

Talk it out. Go on, give it a try. Let me know how you get on.


How to live a remarkable life May 25, 2018

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, agency life, career, digital nomad, freelance, office life, remote working, social media, Uncategorized.
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This is Thalassa. Thalassa is happy. Not just because of the Tony’s Chocolonely in her hand. Because she’s engineered a way to make her work fit her life goals. Just look at her and how happy she is.

She always had a dream to live and work in Barcelona, a city she feels is home rather than her native Netherlands. (Apart from Tony’s Chocolonely which elicits the reaction you see in the photo). But life gets in the way… rent or mortgage… relationships… career… and then your goals become dreams… and then the dreams become unattainable because of the shackles of the life you created because of societal norms.

What would happen if you really focussed on making those dreams and goals happen?

Well, Thalassa is the result.

Although kick-started by a relationship ending, it gave her the momentum to make the change. She set out to start breaking the ties from needing to be present in an office to do her job. How could she take her skills and abilities and make them attractive to people to pay her money? How could she help people overcome the need for someone to be physically present? Partly she’s helped here by a shift toward more remote-working and organisations seeing the benefits of both giving more autonomy to people to work in a way that suits them best alongside an uptick in outsourcing to trusted partners rather than off-shoring for cost efficiency alone.

So she set out a plan to generate clients and to also create a passive income plan based on her experience to support or supplement as required. This wasn’t easy. Part of what you don’t see on the surface too is the investment in networking and talking to others in her situation, providing as much assistance as receiving.

And then the time came when she was confident enough to cut the ties, book the one-way ticket and move. She doesn’t have an office but uses the local co-working space in Barcelona which is hugely impressive, vibrant and is right next door the marina. A premium setting to work and to meet people. Which is exactly what we did when we went out to see her with our equally wonderful client who we all work with.

And you know why she’s managed to make this a reality? Because she’s damn good at what she does. She always delivers what she says. She’s smart, imaginative, creative and trusted. She’s flexible to work however we want whether that’s via Slack, using the community management tools clients prefer or on the phone. As a result we’ve grown our scope with her and the results and the way of working are just fabulous. What’s better is that she’s enjoying what she does, focussing on projects that also make her happy. Eventually getting to a place where she can pick and choose the projects that she wants to do, not just the ones that pay the bills.

So what’s my version of this? I think this is what I’ve struggled with for some time and why I’m now finally trying to work through this. To look beyond the immediacy. I don’t have the answers yet and I’m going to try and work through it but one thing that feels like it’s going to help me, at least to set the broad parameters, is Debbie Millman’s technique for living a remarkable life.

It’s pretty simple. Write a letter to yourself from the future. Ten years ahead. Write how you want to be, what you’re doing, be as descriptive as possible. And re-visit the letter every year. It’s uncanny how many of her students have realised their dreams using this technique. So I’m going to start here.

Here’s a neat site that summarises this technique and points to the interview with Debbie.

Here’s to a remarkable life… and here’s to Thalassa!

From always on to mostly off March 13, 2018

Posted by nicholas gill in addiction, mobile, productivity, thought leadership, Uncategorized.
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I can remember my first wireless mobile device. It was a BlackBerry. I got it even though officially my grade wasn’t high enough but because I had to deal with a range of clients and partners in the Wunderman network across Europe in person and across email and calls. A BlackBerry would help. And at the time I felt very smug and happy. Email on the go. Executive. Life was good. It was made better by the fact that the WPP email system at the time was bafflingly Lotus Notes; perhaps the most inefficient and incomprehensible email system ever. Inbox management using the BlackBerry was the only way to survive this terrible affliction. I only used Notes when sending or receiving attachments. So looking back, here’s where all the problems started. Thanks, Sir Martin.

You got used to managing your life on the go. Because it made your life better. And you felt important. Sitting in airport lounges in Köln for hours on end became sitting in Köln airport for hours on end reading and writing emails. We had to sit in Köln airport for hours on end because the agency agreement with the client was to fly super cheap so we had to get the 6am flight from LGW and then only ever the 9pm flight back. Even though the fortnightly meeting always finished just after lunch. Unless you wanted to brave GermanWings and then have the trauma of getting back from Stansted, by which time you’d be later than the original EasyJet flight home. Which was then another 2.5 hour drive home. So figure in a 3am start and typical 1130/midnight finish. There’s prudence… and then there’s madness.

I digress. You felt important though. And then there was that little red flashing light that told you there was a new email. It attracted you like a crying baby – you can’t ignore it.

And so fast forward some years and moving from BlackBerry to iPhones. The technology has changed but the problem remains. The flashing red light is now a fruit machine of notifications, noises and shouts for your attention.

Much has been made of the founders regret at causing anxiety in users needing the dopamine hit of instant gratification of their content and this Atlantic long-form read is fabulous.

But while acknowledging there is neediness built in, what can we do about it?

I flip-flop between addiction and abstinence but I’ve found the following tips/hacks/guidance work for me:

  1. Hard cover. I always thought these were crap. They got in the way of you looking your phone and then the cover flapped around when you were trying to make calls or take photos. But then I accidentally ran over my wife’s phone in our car one day (long story) and the phone survived. It was a heavy car at the time, a Ford Galaxy. Over gravel. Pretty impressive. So I ordered one. And then I realised that when you can’t see your screen, you stop looking at it. Stupidly simple.
  2. Turn off the sound. Beep! Bing! Or whatever alert sound there is, turn them off. I only have sounds activated for when the phone rings or text messages. Or vibrate on silent. Everything else is just a distraction.
  3. Turn off all notifications. All of them. Apart from calls and text. Yes, even WhatsApp; which continues to demand I turn notifications back on. Resist. In doing so you’ll also lose the tiny little number in a red circle that although elegantly designed, is designed to drag you back in.
  4. Airplane mode is not just for airplanes. Absolutely use at night. The only permissible function could be an alarm clock. And if you can’t trust yourself to not have a sneaky peak in the night, buy a damn alarm clock.
  5. Turn the screen to grayscale. It’s amazing how less exciting the world looks in black and white. You will spend less time surfing through social media and focussing on completing tasks. Intention trumps attention. It will also extend your battery life.
  6. Clean your screen top. Move everything into folders. Move all folders to at least the second page. Not seeing the glut of apps stops you. Adding friction to your experience makes it just that little more effort.
  7. Make eye contact with people, not pixels. If I had a Samsung phone, I’d be downloading this Thrive app.
  8. Break the habit. Stop looking at your phone first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Put it away. At least an hour before sleep.
  9. Delete apps. I killed Twitter in May 2017. Took a few days to stop looking at the cess pool but I don’t miss it all all. I managed to kill Facebook until we were trying to sell some old baby stuff. I only use Instagram to share micro-updates. I don’t follow anyone because otherwise I’d be looking at it all the time. Not following anyone avoids this temptation rather than some uber self importance statement. It may also be a short-term project.

What other tips do you have? Next time, let’s talk about email…

Photo by Rob Hampson on Unsplash

Everything has changed but nothing has changed February 5, 2018

Posted by nicholas gill in book review, thought leadership, Uncategorized.
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As part of my little experiment, I’m going to read more and share more. Here’s some thoughts on Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. Where years later we’re still doing the same things our ancestors did.

This staggering book is a tour of the last 70,000 years of humankind. How we came to be, why we do the things we do and how it will shape us in the future.

Sapiens follows four key revolutions. From the cognitive revolution, where we changed from an ape of no significance to the rulers of the world, through to the scientific revolution which accelerated humankind. It has us on the precipice of being able to alter forever humankind as we know it.

At almost every turn, the book blows your mind, covering an enormously broad range of topics. Starting with the fact that homo sapiens, were not the only form of human species that walked the earth. Even now we are uncovering evidence and it is said that up to 4% of European DNA is from other human species and up to 6% in Asian countries. There is no purity of form.

We evolved through fire, which enabled us to cook things we could not naturally process, decreasing the size of our teeth and shortening our intestines. This enabled more energy to go to our brains, making them jumbo-sized and accelerating humankind. With this came civilisation and then globalization, making the business world what we know today. It is evolving at a much faster pace due to the advances of technology and the efficiency needed to fit people’s lives. Food is still of the upmost importance but in the current day, food comes to us.

It used to be that food was foraged, making humans move from place to place, eating a varied diet. When we found high calorie food such as fruit, we gorged on it before other animals did. This gorging is hard-wired in our DNA and why we gorge on food now. Because it’s so much easier to get food now, obesity is the result. The action of gorging and greed has been applied to all different aspects of human life including businesses who are often being accused of monopolizing markets making it hard for smaller competitors to stake a claim. Everything has changed but nothing has changed.

The book points out that food also became the enslaver of humans. The domestication of crops and animals was a great lie. Rather than making lives easier for humans, it made it harder. Settlements require more work than foraging. In a desire to create plentiful harvests, we worked harder in ways unnatural to the body, we created more people, which required more food and more work.

It’s no different today. We work ridiculous hours in the hope that we will retire early. But by then we have huge mortgages, partners, children to school and a liking for holidays, cars and food – so, we  repeat the same mistakes from 9,500 BC. Nothing has changed while everything has changed.

Gossip was the basis of language that separated us from animals which also helped alert us to danger. Language allowed us to move beyond this, to discuss who hates us, who we like, who to trust and who not to. Gossip, which is now proxy for social media, is now global. Nothing has changed while everything has changed.

Language gave us the ability to transmit information about things that are not real. If humans increased in numbers and empires formed, our need to collectively believe in things grew. This imagined order helped maintain law and order. Fiction, myths, gods became figments of our collective imagination. So strong was this belief that they became real in people’s minds.

This imagined order started as polytheist religions – where many gods were appealed to. Over time, people favoured one of these gods and monotheist religions began to rise. This accelerated with Christianity and then Islam, both of which became fast-spreading. Interestingly, polytheism inserted itself back into monotheism in the way of saints – each of whom looks after particular areas of interest in the same way as the many gods. Everything changes but nothing changes.

Segregation is still rife in modern day but we are starting to tackle problems like gender equality. It transpires that the mythology of the imagined orders are also to blame for that; assigning roles to genders with no basis that have stuck. The only theory that suggests why we ended up in a largely patriarchal society is that while women are just as good at hatred, greed and abuse, men are more willing to engage in physical violence.

So if imagined orders enabled the unification of humankind, the highest order is money. There is nothing that comes close. Which is why our economies are accelerating and the pursuit of money is overtaking the imagined orders.

After 4 billion years of natural selection, science and money together are challenging our morals, beliefs and capabilities by engineering new paradigms in human and animal life. By 2050 some humans will have achieved a-mortal status. Bionics is already commonplace and our language is already evolving beyond words. Mathematical script is accelerating AI, and a new future of computing is becoming real.

In time, the human form will change, seeing a new species of human appearing. Will they accept the same imagined orders as us? Will they make the same mistakes? Will we view them as friend or foe? These humans may well be viewed as mutants, like us but not, the same as we were viewed 70,000 years ago. Everything has changed, but nothing has changed.

Tools of Titans or Follies of Fools? Today’s the day. January 31, 2018

Posted by nicholas gill in best self, life coach, personal brand, productivity, Uncategorized.
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Today is the 31st January 2018. I’m two years into co-running my own business. It’s demanding but we have great clients and projects. I have a stable and demanding home life and a loving family. But I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Not so much that I can’t cope and need time out. But that I’m far too easily distracted. That I can’t focus. My mind flits everywhere all at once and I’m struggling to maintain focus and direction. Too much noise, not enough signal. I have plans but then don’t execute. I put off. Procrastinate. Write lists but get bored. I feel impatience rising. I can’t concentrate with general hub-bub.

Over the last year or so I’ve been listening and reading more and thinking, “that’s a great idea, I could try that.”

Sometimes I do and it works. Sometimes it stays in the Slack private message to myself or Evernote – the digital equivalents of the scraps of paper, overflowing drawers or scribbles in notebooks. I have those too. I’m currently carrying around three note books, a journal and a plastic wallet with stuff in. Because all have bits in that I need. Or I think I need. But haven’t sorted them out. My bag is like an old woman’s handbag in this respect.

I’ve been listening to podcasts for the last few months. I have a long drive, it helps. And I enjoy them. But then quickly forget.

And then last night I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ interview with Bozoma Saint-John – the new Chief Brand Officer at Uber. And it was interesting, very interesting. As 90% if Ferriss’ work is to me. But it wasn’t the stories about marketing but her experience of living on 10c bread rolls in New York City and the kindly Asian shopkeeper who took pity on her, giving out life advice and human warmth without expectation. And the thing that hit me was this:

 “Today’s the day!”

Everyday she would say this to Boz.

Relentless optimism in the face of adversity.

I’m drawn to the optimistic view. I was once knocked down in an appraisal because I see things through rose tinted glasses. It still smarts some 15 years later. I guess the point they were trying to make – badly – is that sometimes you need a balance but you know what? Forget that. I like being positive and optimistic. ‘Can do’ and ‘relentlessly optimistic’ are things I do. Things I like. I’m a positive, no. 3 type person. I struggle with any negativity or confrontation. Let’s make it happen.

“We spend far too much time complaining about the way things are and forget that we have the power to change anything and everything.” 
– Bozoma Saint John

Today’s the day.

So I decided that today would be the day. Why wait till February 1? Why wait for the start of the week?

Start today. Because today’s the day.

And try out these things. Make the changes. Try the things that started to work and the you stopped. Try new things.

So I took inspiration from some of Ferriss’ interviewees and those that appear in Tools Of Titans and Tribe of Mentors and started. Today.


My first start was early. 5am early. Because early risers are more productive. Allegedly. Let’s try it. I’m pretty good at getting up. But then so are two of my three children. And this morning the smallest one beat me to the 5am alarm announcing that he’d wet his bed. 4.40am. At least I was awake. I was heading into London on the early train anyway.

I just don’t recall any of Ferriss’ interviewees or ‘titans’ having to deal with 4 year olds and wet mattresses. So instead of meditating or journaling, I was stripping sheets and loading washing machines and trying to get him to use his quiet voice. That’s why I’m going to call this series Tools Of Titans or Follies Of Fools?

For now, at least.

But today’s the day. So I get to London and I’ve achieved one thing.

My phone has been in airplane mode. All this time.

I get to Century Club on Shaftesbury Avenue – my peaceful place in town – and while having a nice coffee I get my journal out. I’ve tried this before. But today’s the day. I like the premise. I bought the Best Self Journal. It’s lovely. Nice texture. Solid. Looks great. I struggle with a few things in it that I’m going to try and solve over the next weeks. More on that later but what I do enjoy is the focus on what are your top 3 things to achieve today – or as they say, “what will make today a win?”


3 things written. 1 done, 1 in progress, 1 yet to start. Better than the to do list that just gnaws away.

And then and only then do I turn the phone on.

More thoughts on that another time.

And I started a new Instagram account to do micro updates on this experiment.

I have lots of things I’d like to do better and improve. I’ll be sharing them here. Feel free to share your experiences.

Today’s the day.



Today was a good day Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

All others by me.




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