How I look is not how I feel

My story is a typical one, and characterised by the simple axiom, you are born male but you qualify to be a man. A classic outer suburban upbringing in Melbourne, where state schools were adequate, ambitions moderate and a prodigious amount of sport was played. Our house was comfortable but modest, the backyard big, and the food simple and hearty.

I had and have a sports crazed father, and my relationship with sport continues today as an ocean racing sailor, completing around 130 ocean races including Hobart. A tough sport for tough men and no accident that I chose that endeavour despite Aussie Rules being an obvious choice for someone with my upbringing.

At age 10 I wrote a will. What sort of ten year old boy writes a will? Simple. One who doesn’t like living. I’d been plagued by sadness, a deathless death, as long as I can remember and have now clocked up some 350,000 hours of lived experience with depression. Remember it only takes 10,000 hours to become an expert on something.

I  felt isolated, lonely and desperate, of course at age ten I had no idea why. Only later did I learn that trauma, and any non nurturing behaviour causes the body’s immune system to go into over drive attempting to defend itself against stress, this causes inflammation in the body and brain and the result alters  brain chemistry and dramatically effects serotonin.

But long before this insight my mood swings to me were normal and later I was diagnosed when aged 40 by the Black Dog Institute in Sydney, as suffering the condition Bi- Polar 2. The highs are great, you are invincible and “on” and feel like you can do anything. The lows are morbid and last longer than the highs.

I swung wildly from vine to vine through the jungle of high school, with above average achievements and some larger goals. I always felt my emotions very powerfully, I had very porous internal and external boundaries. In other words I would allow things to be done to me that were disrespectful and traumatic and I would do things to others that had little understanding of the impact of my actions.

I felt many of my friendships were fragile and not secure, so I was constantly trying to impress people or make them laugh to be of value to the group and maintain my position among my peers. But I woke each day plagued by the elephant of depression. You feel heavy, morbid and suffer obsessive rumination of negative thoughts. What I found curious was that what I thought did not always correspond with how I felt. I could think positively and consumed countless books on positive thinking and yet still feel dreadful.

There is a separation between the brain and the mind. Something that I would only discover until years later was that there is a chemical reason for depression, and yet we only think of it as a mental problem and hence it suffers stigma.

We can do anatomy on the brain and hence it’s a physical object we can see. But the mind is invisible, to the extent we cannot see it physically and as such this presents a problem that is unresolved for many and contributes to the stigma in and around depression.

Medicine has for 400 years separated the body and the mind and this is deeply flawed.

My emotional desperation to feel approved of in all situations was coupled with a burning ambition to do something . I was in one of the most unsuccessful rock bands, you’ve never heard of, thought I could model, yet being on a catwalk at a local shopping centre wearing Roger David mens wear is a long way from Milan. I took a stab at stand up comedy and should of stuck with it. I wanted to be a film director, but lacked the dedication and craft. So Advertising it was after a very soft media and psych degree at a local college.

Advertising was perfect for someone with my conditions. You were in between the trapeze everyday, either on your feet presenting, or flying into meetings around the world trying to save the day, meeting celebrities and captains of industry. I worked on assignments in New York, London, Shanghai, Delhi, Singapore and Seoul. Eventually becoming Chief Strategy Officer for a major multinational agency at one point my career arc looked straight up.

For a kid from the suburbs, flying up front, stepping in and out of limos, doing ads with everyone from Dustin Hoffman to Bob Geldof was a dream. But the reality was quite different. Often I’d write a presentation that required a really bold approach and enormous confidence. When your leaning over the table to get someone to hand over  $20 million in a pitch, trust me you need to be on.  I love presenting and pitching and did 117 pitches with a win rate of 77% when the industry average is 1:7.

But some days I’d land in a city feeling morbid, not knowing why, and  have to totally re write the presentation to a far less risky style so that I could get it done and get out of the room. I would wake feeling utterly dreadful, look dishevelled and exhausted, then through sheer will, transform myself into a suit, well groomed and muster from somewhere a confidence that brimmed over. It was a deeply troubling and tiring way to live.

But now I’ve left advertising and started Black Light Principle, as a platform to “reveal something you don’t know about something you know”. I now speak and write on how to recognise the accelerants to mental wellness issues in the workplace. As I hid my condition for years as I did not want to be professionally prejudiced. For years how l looked was not how I felt but I dare not saying anything as being bullet proof was all part of the act. I was a good actor. I’ve now stopped acting and started living.

Before you press send

In my 28 year career in advertising I spent a short period at Network Ten . After leaving the network I was trolled mercilessly by the anonymous. This didn’t last days but weeks. (It still does now) . As someone who suffers from depression my suicidal ideation increased dramatically. Not for days but months. As someone who suffers bi-polar 2 the effect of this trolling was devastating. I then re surfaced at Innocean after which of course every press note about me referenced my short tenure Ten. I was interviewed about the new role and asked for an innocent opinion on the state of FTA tv. I said that 9&7 would move away from Ten and that Ten was in a difficult position. The trolling re commenced with some media buyers commenting not even their most junior buyers would proffer such an analysis. Ten shares of course halved, then they were split before going into admin, after running into headwinds with debt head room and banking covenants. Before you press send on your opinion which you’re entitled to ask this, – could a perfectly good person end up hanging from the back of their bathroom door only to be found by their cleaner who comes in each Wednesday, or better still by their only daughter who arrives every other weekend?” ….. Send

The hardest guy in the room

A female executive sobbed her guts out in front of me and twenty others in a pitch review meeting late one night, after she received a torrent of cold blade criticism from me . My reply as she had tears streaming down her face was bluntly “I could give a fuck about you or your tears, I’ve had women cry in front of me for years.”

This behaviour is not normal or healthy. As head of strategy in multinational agencies people could be forgiven for thinking I wanted to be known as the smartest guy in the room. I had little desire at all for that, I wanted to be the hardest guy in the room. Everyone is smart, but I made it a point of being utterly rock hard and impervious.

That is a maladaptive state created by non nurturing behaviour when I being raised, endogenetic depression and work cultures built on one metric “did you win?” The wounded adaptive adult then adopts a state, many times this state is called “better than” mode. It separates and protects a person from themselves first and others second.

I have and continue to apologise to some of my former colleagues, as I have reflected on the utter brutality of interactions with me. Compassion is not weak nor empathy. We need both for those so wounded they are better than mode just as we need compassion for those who feel “less than” at work .

Black Light Privacy -the new luxury

“SSSHHHHHH CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? PRIVACY IS THE NEW LUXURY” There was a point in human history where only the very few and elite had a “public life”. Positions of either government or some sort of celebrity and authority. Merit normally brought fame, until that changed and celebrity brought fame, and with it fame became more potent and popular.

Politicians, rulers, generals, popes and captains of industry were famous and wealthy, but the fame we assigned to movie and sport stars was far more attractive to the mainstream population.

In fact it is said that soldiers in the second world war knew the currency of fame. American soldiers apparently would yell out “Fuck Hirohito!” and the Japanese military would yell out “Fuck Babe Ruth!”.

Such was the changing value of fame. Step changes in technology have always brought fame closer to ubiquity. Silent movies, to “movies” to TV, with each tech revolution fame grew in size and addictiveness. The relationship between fame and technology is a binary one. In fact who serves who in that relationship almost gets very chicken and egg like. Suffice to say they both serve each other equally. Zuckerberg is an easy and obvious example.

Reputation has always been carefully curated by those in the public eye but maybe they didn’t use that word. At best “management” or PR or good old fashioned propaganda. But now its a little more complex. Being in the public eye always brought with it “un-curated” or “uncontrolled” attention.

Pesky journalists, whistleblowers and the like discovering secrets and leaking information that others would rather leave in the dark as it may have a deleterious effect on “image and reputation” of the famous person in question. All pretty ho hum. This saw the rise of the manager, pr exec, press flack and image consultant carefully trying, sometimes in vain to “control” the message and image of their client.

Professional advice sometimes well worth the vast sums of money paid to such people. However the Facebook generation received by enlarge no such professional advice.

In the future we may divide our lives up into pre Facebook and post Facebook. Re Identity – i.e. people re creating a new or modified identity may well come become common practice, as a consequence of social media faux pars. We have willingly made public what in former decades was truly private and in so doing have made our private lives subject to the scrutiny and judgment of the public. For better and worse.

What is Black Light Principle?


The Black Light Principle is something you don’t know about something you know.

It is said we live in an age of transparency. To some extent that is true. However, we also live in a complex time full of layers and petabytes of data. We have more data than ever in our human history. I would suggest the world is more opaque and less clear as a result. Humans like clarity, it provides certainty.

Never before has a generation had the capacity to “know” so much. Before the internet we spent much time simply gathering knowledge. Now gathering information, data and knowledge is done at light speed. So our time is now more valuable finding utility in that information.

What generally hides in data? Opportunity … but only if you can see it.

Add this to this, notions such as “fake news” and this takes us one step further removed from the “truth”.   This creates a conundrum. We are programmed to seek knowledge and value truth, but feel gullible or ignorant when it is hidden or changed.

More than ever we need to be able to see, feel, hear, know something that is hidden, or not clear. Something that is not obvious, and is hiding in plain sight.

Humans are masters of deceit and use distraction to keep each other off point, e.g the practice of magic.   So in an age of so-called transparency, but not an age of accountability, what do we do?

What should our mind set be? What techniques can we use to see the hidden, the opaque, or the fake ? Every one values the original more.

1. A Black Light Future ; What future and near point horizons will this lead us to? The new age of public, private and secret lives. Technology already exists that helps us “snoop” on partners texts and whereabouts.

What becomes an authentic experience in the age of virtual reality and artificial intelligence? Will our need for real be diminished as real becomes redefined. We never got our jet packs and the soothsayers of the future got much wrong, but I’m pretty certain that those who are discussing the concept of year million and metaverse 1.0 and 2.0 are onto something, that science fiction films have been exploring for over a decade.

A black light is needed, one that can look at I, you and we. A black light that can reveal the hidden in the now and the future.

The politically correct language and lexicon, that is now sewn into social media, politics, commerce and sport, has made communication problematic. I don’t want to trigger anyone here, but it has. Language has now become camouflaged not just in its’ meaning, but its’ form and the channels by which it is carried. Do we need to Black light communication?.

2. Black Light Work ; Communication has already has provided hurdles for comprehension and expectations at work. The human element in the new “workscape”, complete with the concept of “Singularity” and its’ foreboding consequences is another future that requires clarity.

In an age of transparency how do you get yourself bought? You might be trying to sell your company, but are they buying you? Society and commerce likes winners, but in the day and age of now and our future, how will that change and can companies actually see the road ahead to success? Is there something they don’t know about what they know and is it hidden?

3. Black Light Mental Wellness ;  1:4 to 1:5 of you staff are suffering a poor mental health condition right now. Do you know who they are, or have they hidden themselves among your achievers, rainmakers and team players? Humans are not good with power and honesty. There is much hidden anger, which creates work place depression. Flame mail, bullying covert and silent isolation is all glossed over and good relations are faked in many work places, which contributes to poor mental wellness. There is  a modern day depression that is having a direct financial impact on companies. Worldwide, the World Health Organisation estimates nearly a trillion dollars is lost each year in poor productivity. Think tiredness and forgetfulness at an epic scale. Rates of depression have increased 20% in the last ten years.

4. Black Light brands; Are there consumers using your brands that you don’t know about? Are they buying for true loyalty or just habit? As we are at point of click consumption, the convenience of a click maybe all that matters. However, is your brand a noun, a verb or a purpose? Because that still matters. We live in the Arithmocracy where those with the numbers command the power.  Life by algorithm began long before we realised it, and the integration of separate technology platforms at scale around 2007 ushered in the infotronics era.

Much to consider. Some of it deeply troubling. But if a threat, a feeling, an insight, a behavior, an argument or more importantly an advantage could be revealed and not hidden from plain sight, then that may provide a material change in the fortunes of those who can see it… with a Black Light.