It was 5am, and middle England had just begun to tilt towards the sun. That was the signal for my first-born to bound down the stairs in a state of great excitement. The full force of my 5-year old hit me in the overly-full morning bladder. Oof! And she was wafting a glittery piece of paper at me. 'Happy Father's Day,' she announced.
I sat up, attempting to disguise my anger as sleepiness. I fumbled for the light, blinking in a hail of glitter. 'Sof, it's 5am.'
'Is it?' she beamed, as if it didn't matter one jot. 'It's morning. And it's Father's Day. And I've made you this card,' she reminded, waving what was now an almost glitter-less piece of cardboard at me once again.
I sat up in my now glittery pyjamas and attempted to be a half-decent dad. 'Thanks Sof,' I croaked. 'It's great.' I took a closer look, turned it sideways, upside down and then back again. 'Urm, what is it, exactly?'
'It's us, of course. Me and Ollie, and mummy and you,' she said, jabbing a finger at the stick people.
'Cool,' I said, squinting at the crayoned family. The sky was blue and the grass was wild and green.
We were in height order. Ollie and his sister were stereotypically boy and girl, she with protruding bunches and huge red smiley lips. I think there might have been a dog, or a puddle? Not sure which and I didn't like to ask.
And there was me. Dressed in black, like some sort of pall-bearer. I narrowly avoided voicing my criticism of her art. I liked the way she'd made me skinny but I was nearly as tall as the house. I seemed to be carrying a black box, presumably my briefcase, and I had a straight mouth. Let me make this clear, I was the only one with a straight mouth!
To bastardise Neil Armstrong, this wasn't a major leap for mankind, but it was a giant step for me. A straight mouth? The proverbial ton of bricks had fallen from a great height. I had become a mortgage slave, plodding the corporate treadmill. Deep down I knew it, but it was spilling out so even my 5-year-old was noticing. I was working too hard and neglecting my family. And I was exhausted. No wonder I had straight lips!
Most of the blokes I knew - particularly work colleagues - talked corporate gibberish. I didn't want to become that person, tolerating a corporate career; a nodding, jaded survivor who had learned to play the game. I wanted to be the real me, not the 'pretend me'. I didn't want to wake up in the morning with that feeling in the pit of my stomach, wondering, 'is this it?' Worst of all, in my mid-30s I didn't want that nagging feeling of 'only 30 more years to go...'
I didn't want to carry on as before on the 'work, earn money, buy stuff' treadmill of life. And everywhere I went I noticed big yellow warehouses advertised as 'self-storage'. And that was all the proof I needed. We were buying 'stuff' to make us happy to the point where we accumulated so much 'stuff' that we had to rent somewhere to put it! The more I thought about it, the more insane it was. The stuff we were buying to make us happy was now stored in a vast warehouse of failed materialism. Why were we storing it? So we could fill our houses with brand new stuff that would also fail to make us happy? (I recalled, somewhere in the recesses of my mind that repeating the same thing and expecting a different result was the definition of 'insanity')
But this is just the way things were. Everyone was doing it. It was the acceptable face of 'normal'. My place didn't seem to be to ask 'why?' The unwritten rule was clear, the bloke with the most amount of money when he dies, wins. Doesn't he?
Or does he?
I was accumulating a bit of money at the expense of straight lips. What struck me most was that I didn't want straight lips. In fact, I knew a lot about what I didn't want. But I'd never really considered what I did want?
So I started with a simple challenge. I wanted my lips to curve upwards in what I now know as a 'Duchenne' smile - a heartfelt, genuine grin. And I wanted it often. Something had to change, starting with me…
Hence the start of the 'Art of Brilliance' story. Now in our 12th year, our accumulated band of merry trainers is stronger than ever. If you or your team needs a happiness & positivity wake-up call, you know where we are.
The news is nearly always bad. The worst of the worst. The biggest earthquakes, the hottest forest fires, the bloodiest wars, the scariest criminals, the worst car crashes, the windiest winds, the Brexiest Brexit…
It's true that, from time to time, stuff does go pear-shaped. Sometimes in a big way. And we're not here to pretend otherwise. But we are here, like a camera, to: a) shed a little light on things, and b) to put them in to perspective.
Only tough news makes the news. Good news - the complete, beautiful, heart-warming opposite - very rarely does. And the reason it doesn't make it on to the news bulletin, is because, well… if it did - there simply wouldn't be time for anything else.
Every day, all around you, in every single country of this beautiful planet that we have come to know of as Earth, men, women and children do monumentally marvelous things. They help, befriend, love, give, build, care, share and shine, just - well. Just because.
And if the news included all the good news, there simply wouldn't be room for anything else in the schedule - all day, every day. Which seems quite a cool thought, really.
So, we can't pretend that bad stuff doesn't happen, but in comparison to all of the good stuff, it's but a tiny poo in a magnificent flower garden. We'd rather it wasn't there, of course, and it makes sense to try and avoid putting your foot in it, but the garden is still a beautiful place, none-the-less.
Beware of the news. It's half an hour of talking about a dog turd.
Will is an Art of Brill trainer who delivers a killer keynote as well as specialising in creativity and growth mindsets. He doesn't watch much news