A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

There was an interesting story in the newspaper
about Eric Clapton a while ago...

Apparently, Eric was driving along in his shiny yellow Ferrari, when he was stopped by the police, allegedly for speeding. The young officer strolled up to his car...

“What’s your name,” said the officer.

“Eric Clapton,” came the reply.

“Well, that’s a very nice car Mr Clapton,” said the officer “what do you do for a living?”

“Erm... I’m in the music business.” said Eric.

“Well, you must be doing very well to be able to afford a car like that”, said the officer.

Now I’m not sure what the message was there... the ignorance of the police or youth... how the mighty are fallen... the fact that the police should have better things to do than stopping law abiding multi-millionaire Rock Legends going about their business... like going out and catching real criminals for a change and... and...

No matter... I only mentioned it because it’s an amusing story and it reminded me of something I was going to write about a few weeks ago, but didn’t get round to it.

Back in history, I went to see Eric Clapton in concert at the Sheffield Hallam FM Arena. Now when I’ve been to that venue before, it’s always been a bit of a nightmare... massive traffic jams, big queues to get in, followed by an hour and a half of waiting punctuated only by a no-hoper support act crucifying some songs on a stage which you might just be able to see if you had an astronomical grade telescope and a box to stand on. Not that I’m complaining.

But anyway, this time it was different,
because I’d been invited there by my bank.

You see, because they hold on to massive amounts of my money, and pay me pitifully low interest on it, they can afford to indulge in offering corporate hospitality for their punters from time to time. Which is why, I found myself being greeted at the arena by a man in a suit, and escorted to a banqueting suite that would have done justice to an upmarket wedding reception...

Now this was a lot better than standing in a queue next to some soap-averse socially inadequate thirty-something in a ten year old Iron Maiden T-shirt... which is where I found myself the last time I passed this way.

We sat down for a very nice meal and lots of free beer, wine and champagne... the strangulated tones of the warm up act mercifully barely audible somewhere in the distance. And then 5 minutes before Mr Clapton was due on stage, another man in a suit came over and ushered us to our seats in the arena...

You could almost feel the hatred of the people who’d been sat waiting for hours, as we took our places just as the band came on to stage.

Is there any finer feeling than peeing off someone less fortunate than yourself? Surely not!

Anyway, although we had very good seats... you could actually see the stage with the naked eye... not everyone was so lucky. And as is the case with most venues of this type, there were large screens at either side of the stage so that the people who’d ‘only’ paid £40 or so to see Eric Clapton live, could watch him on television. I reckon they could put some vague lookalikes on stage and play footage of any old Eric Clapton concert on the screens, and get away with it.

And as I watched the pictures on screen I couldn’t help thinking that 
something wasn’t quite right.

You see, the band consisted of 6 members, one of whom was a second lead guitarist (Bob, for the sake of this discussion). Now just in case you’re as clueless as the young police officer I started out with, Eric Clapton is a guitarist of some repute, and would be considered to be the ‘first’ lead guitarist in any company.

Anyway, there was something strange about this second guitarist Bob. He was playing the instrument left handed... that was the first thing. But there was also something else. As I looked closer, I realised that his guitar was strung the wrong way round... upside down if you like... the top string at the top and the bottom string at the bottom. And as far as I know (which probably isn’t very far) the first ever person to play like this was Jimi Hendrix.

If you don’t play guitar, this might not mean much to you,
but take it from me... this isn’t how you’re supposed to do it.

Every instruction book and every piece of sheet music is geared up towards somebody playing the instrument in the conventional way. Anyone learning to play this ‘upside down’ way, would have to translate every piece of instruction or music into his own ‘language’. I don’t know why Hendrix started playing the guitar the way that he did, or why this guy Bob was doing it either...

But here’s the important thing...

Hendrix was widely believed to be the best guitarist in the world in his lifetime, and our Bob was sharing the stage with the man who is arguably the best guitarist in the world today. I’m no expert, but my guess would be that Eric Clapton doesn’t choose crap guitarists for his band. So I think it safe to assume that Bob too is one of the best guitarists in the world...

And just like Jimi Hendrix... he does it all wrong!

Education and training now pervade every area of our lives, and they are responsible for many great advances... but they are also responsible for something else... standardisation, and the widespread belief that there is one ‘right way’ to do everything. But when everyone’s doing everything exactly the same way, nobody ever stands out.

Watch a major golf tournament these days, and you’ll be hard pressed to tell one player from the next (with the notable exception of Tiger Woods messing in some starlet’s bush). They’re all the same shape and size, wear the same clothes, and swing the club in exactly the same way... the way they learned in golf school.

But if you go back to the previous generation, you’d have seen something completely different. Players like Lee Trevino, who swung the club like a man chopping firewood, and Doug Sanders, whose backswing was so short you could hardly see it, competed on equal terms with players who used a more conventional approach. They’d never been to golf school you see, so by the time someone got around to telling them they couldn’t do it like that, it was too late... they were already winning tournaments!

The point I’m trying to make is that contrary to mainstream thought, there’s more than one way to do most things. I used to tell my apprentices there are three ways to go about this, the right way, the wrong way and my way. And it’s far more important to look at the end result, than the means you used to achieve that result...

But there’s something else...

When you start achieving results using an unconventional approach, you’ll often be rewarded far more highly than someone achieving the same results conventionally... because you’ll also stand out from the crowd.

To go back to the guitarist Bob I talked about earlier, I bet there are plenty of guitarists who play as well as he does, but he probably got picked for the job because there was something that differentiated him from all the others...

In a world of standardisation sometimes
the only ‘edge’ you need is to be different.


1.   If you do things in an unconventional way, don’t feel bad about it. Your way could be just as good as (if not better than) the conventional one.

2.   If you do things conventionally, it could be worth exploring a few more unconventional routes to the same end. They could help to get you noticed.

I don’t know what field you’re trying to excel in, (you are trying to excel in something, aren’t you?) so I can’t be any more specific... but once you accept that there’s more than one way to get there, the more willing you’ll be to question the conventional approach... and the closer you’ll be to standing out from the crowd.

With more and more people performing to higher and higher standards in practically every field of endeavour, developing a unique style, approach, look or technique could be your passport to reaching your goals faster.

Want further proof?

Well you’re reading a blog written by someone who thinks grammar is akin to the old lady you visit on a Sunday and syntax is the entrance fee to a lap dancing club.

I genuinely have absolutely no idea what an infinitive is, or how to split one. Maybe I just did it... I honestly don’t know. And the only reason my spelling of the big words is anywhere near correct is courtesy of modern technology and the shame that the internet bears upon you if you get it wrong.

But despite all this, it sort of works out... and I’m sure I’ve had more enjoyment from the written word than 99.9% of people who write conventionally... ’properly’ if you like.

Just like Lee Trevino, by the time somebody told me I couldn’t do it like this, it was far too late... I was already doing it this way.

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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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