I once read Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (although I kept it folded inside a copy of Razzle to avoid the embarrassment of being seen reading it). In one chapter he advises the reader to “carry their own weather”. The objective is to rise above grey, melancholic days by perpetually maintaining the state of mind that accompanies a sunny day.
After more than 10 years of trying this approach, embracing Scotland’s weather, constantly mindful not to let the lack of sunshine get me down, I can assure you of one thing – Mr Covey has never lived in Glasgow.
So, after 16 years of ‘dreich’, I’ve moved to Toronto. Alright, so I’ll admit that the weather isn’t the only motivation, but I genuinely delight in informing Torontonians that, “I’ve moved here for the weather!” This is followed by a confused look that is best translated as, “Are you taking the piss?” All I need to do to confirm my candour is define my origin, and a sympathetic smile is quick to follow.
I’ve actually spent the last five years auditioning cities to move to, with close calls in Singapore, Abu Dhabi, New York and San Francisco. But in the wee hours of a particularly miserable third day of 2012, after a couple of bottles of wine, I decided enough was enough and that I would move to Toronto.
There’s no inspirational tale of the motivations to move away from Scotland. It’s a great country and my move is far more driven by opportunity elsewhere, rather than disdain for my homeland. Well, apart from that perpetual bloody grey ceiling that cloaks the land, of course.
Toronto has appeal beyond that big fiery ball they are inclined to hang up in the sky here for months on end. For a start, everyone is Scottish. Or so they tell me, as they don’t sound very bloody Scottish. Complete strangers approach me every day to tell me their great-great-great-great... grandparents came over from Blantyre, Islay and, yes, Glasgow. When I point out the parallels of my move here, and suggest that a couple of hundred years from now my descendants may be having this exact conversation, you can see them well up with emotion. The power of the comparison is not lost on me.
Something Toronto has in common with Glasgow is that it provides the ability to stay in an affordable city with a human scale, while being a couple of hours from one of the world’s metropolitan centres. I always enjoyed being able to service clients in London without having to live there, and here I get to do the same with New York, as can be seen with our recent trip south to pick up the SVEDKA account from under the noses of our Manhattan peers.
And last but not least there’s my new job. A couple of years ago I returned from a six-month stint in NYC to begin a creative sabbatical back in Glasgow. I thought it was everything I wanted, until last year when Apple shortlisted me to join its Human Interface Device Prototyping group – a small team of polymaths existing outside their traditional management structure, reporting directly to Steve Jobs and Jony Ive. The job never came off, but the week in Cupertino blew my mind and provided the impetus to take on a bigger challenge.
And so here I am – vice president, director of technology for digital agency OneMethod, where I run an innovation lab that takes ideas for new products and services, and spends two months rapid prototyping to create a seedling enterprise to either sell on or start up as a sister enterprise.
Like so many moves in my career, this feels like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. The challenges are significant, but the experience is exhilarating. And I have the miserable Scottish weather to thank. Back home I had acquired an equilibrium that provided me with an easy life; and I was getting fat and lazy as a result.
Had I mastered that meteorological habit of highly effective people, perhaps I’d still be back home, but instead I’ve got the sun on my face and a completely refreshed hunger for my new creative challenges.
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