The metal flap of my letterbox clanged and then there was that satisfying plunk on the doormat as the hefty jiffy envelope landed on it.
I tore open the yellow packaging. Inside was James Victore’s new book, Feck Perfuction: Dangerous Ideas on the Business Of Life, hot off the press from the man himself.
It was an unseasonably warm day in February and I headed into the garden to have my lunch, and started reading. How often do I pick up a book that’s just landed on my doormat, dive in and keep going? Never.
Right now, there is a stack of reading material vying for my attention. I get sent books, I buy a lot of books and magazines.
And I know that we need to think carefully about where we put our attention and whose voices we let in. But there’s something about James and his voice - authentic, raw, uncompromising - that makes me always want to let it in. And soaking up Feck Perfuction on that sunny, spring-like lunchtime reminded me why.
I devoured his book as I ate my lunch - two hungers satiated in one. But why are his words so nourishing for me?
After all what resonance is there between an artist and designer living and working in Texas and a storyteller and creative consultant residing by the coast in Leigh-on-Sea? I don’t make art or design posters.
The answer: because he always says what I need to hear.
The essence of his message goes back to the time I visited James in his Williamsburg studio back in 2013, and the story he told me about the importance of putting YOU in your work. He was speaking about design students, but that message struck me between the eyes. I shot a little video of him relating that story and for a few years afterwards, every time I was invited to guest lecture at universities and colleges, I would play it to students.
Why did it strike me like that? Because I was only a success when I started being me, when I had the confidence to not care what anyone else thought, when I started putting my creative self at the fore. And yes, when I started putting me in my work.
In Feck Perfuction James tells readers, “Let all your loves, fears, and interests staurate your work and make it memorable. Who you are is the most important part of your work - never leave it out.”
That makes sense if you’re a designer or an artist, and it’s just as true for me in all the work I do whether I am standing on stage getting an organisation fired-up about work, or whether I’m advising a business leader on making change in her life.
My own journey to here has been quite an adventure. On many occasions I’ve found myself at a crossroads making choices about where to go next. I remember that as a teenager. I was passionate about carving out a career in broadcasting, but my school headmaster told me to forget it. Fortunately I had the courage to ignore him and take the path marked ‘Me’. But taking that path has not always been the easy choice.
So in a life where teachers, parents and bosses (and even a few friends) have told me over the years “you shouldn’t do it that way”, it is great to find your home, to hear someone else’s voice articulate some of your own story and struggles, and give us the confidence to continue taking that path.
“The worst thing you can do is deny who you are, try to be someone or something you’re not, and live a life bent and molded by others. To be freely creative is to be completely and honestly you, not a sphinctered-down version of yourself,” James writes.
Sometimes we need good books to challenge us; other times to validate what we’re doing, to show us we’re not alone. To be reminded that, yes, you’re doing the right thing (I’m lucky, my wife gives me this daily). James’ book gives this to me too.
It’s energising to hear the viewpoint of someone who shares your vision, of someone who’s on the same wavelength. At the end of the day it’s good to hear this confirmation: you’re on the right track. Keep going. Don’t waver. Do it your way.
And it’s funny. Because that’s what I do every week. That’s what I say to other people who come to my talks or who sign up for my Fuel Safaris.
It’s what I do for others. But I can’t do it for me. So thanks James, your book is a great reminder to keeping leaning into being me, doing what I do, the way I do it. What you say is what I need to hear.