What's inspired Neil Godber?

In the latest edition of our 'What's inspired you?' column, J. Walter Thompson London's Neil Godber discusses the perils of being myopic, and accepting the status quo and your place within it.

I love Wittgenstein and recently a friend referenced a beautiful line written in 1946 from Culture and Value: ‘How small a thought it takes to fill someone’s whole life!’. It’s so wonderful that it inspired a whole composition ‘Proverb’ by Steve Reich.

The line is followed up later with ‘the country that you keep travelling round strikes you as enormously big; the surrounding countries all look like narrow border regions.’

I cycle to and from work and often have my thinking time on the bike – I genuinely believe the repetition, balance and solitude help you noodle on things, and this struck me as an inspiring wake-up call to the perils of being myopic, short-termist, accepting of the status quo and your place within it. 

It’s too easy for us to get bogged down in making small differences, 'making do', thinking only of what’s possible and doing a bit better than last time. It’s inspiring to me to rethink my own beliefs of what’s possible to change, whether I could have tried harder and fitted more in, rather than fitting in more.

This line feels a good counterpoint to the epigraph Wittgenstein considered from King Lear for his more famous Philosophical Investigations, and one closer to how we should act: ‘I’ll teach you differences’.


Neil Godber is Head of Planning at J. Walter Thompson London and Convenor of Judges at the IPA Effectiveness Awards 2018


Last updated 21 January 2022