Author, trail runner, blogger, philanthropist and all-round creative, Sputnik, tells his story – from 100km runs to his multiple novels and everything in between. (Image source: Sputnik)
By Jack Evans | @jevans_999
Author, trail runner, blogger, philanthropist and all-round creative, Sputnik, sat down with me to discuss his story and offer some fantastic life advice. From the minute the interview began, Sputnik’s positivity and strong sense of self was evident. Despite conducting the interview over the phone due to isolation, by the end I felt like I had gained some understanding of the complex nature of Sputnik, and at the same time felt I had only scratched the surface. With my only prior knowledge of Sputnik being derived from his website Sputnik Says, a self-described “hodgepodge’’ of categories ranging from running to current affairs, I had a plethora of questions to ask.
At the top of the list was where the unique name Sputnik originated. When I asked for a self-introduction, I was met with a simple, “My name is Sputnik”. No last name – just Sputnik. The story goes that as an 18-year-old working in advertising at major marketing communications company Clemenger BBDO in the ‘80s, Sputnik was one of five people with the same name. Despite not finding out what Sputnik’s birth name was, I was informed that he was an “Itchy” – a European with a name ending in “itch”. To avoid confusion and to simplify his name, he borrowed the name Sputnik from 80s band Sigue Sigue Sputnik, and it ultimately stuck. Sputnik laughed, stating that he remembers the exact spot he was standing when he said, “It’s not like I’ll still be called Sputnik when I’m 30.”
Through my conversation with Sputnik it became clear that he was a jack-of-all-trades.
“I always say I’m the creative and strategy guy. That’s my core area of expertise … I come from an advertising and marketing background, so if I had to put my job down on a form I normally put one of two things, I put advertising, marketing, or I put writer, and the reason I put writer is because I consider that to fundamentally be my core skill.”
Sputnik has seen major success within the marketing field. His most proud professional achievement was winning the Silver Watering Can Award for outstanding contribution to the advertising and design industry in South Australia. Ironically, this was not Sputnik’s first connection with the award. When Sputnik was 18, one of his roles at Clemenger BBDO was to organise mail, and in 1988 he was in charge of sending the Silver Watering Can off to be engraved with the winner’s name. At the time, he got someone to take a polaroid picture of him holding the award proudly as if he had won it, and 20 years later, he had!
Our conversation is interrupted as a bird flies past Sputnik’s window. As an avid bird-watcher, Sputnik goes to investigate, but it gets away, and I continue to ask him to talk about the books he’s written.
As well as achieving a high level of success in the marketing field, Sputnik is a prolific storyteller who has written two full length books, The Swashbucklers Guide to becoming an Astronaut, The Swashbucklers Guide to Running away from Dinosaurs as well as a third shorter novella The Job Hunter’s Bootcamp which extends on the ideas of the Swashbucklers Guide to becoming an Astronaut.
The first of these books details how to get into the advertising industry.
“I couldn’t write a book about how to be great in the industry because I didn’t think I was that great, and I couldn’t write a book about how to be the most creative or the most successful, but I could write a book about how to get into it because I was qualified to do that.”
Sputnik’s second book details his time as a runner who partook in many marathons and 100km trail runs. In the book he offers some of the lessons he’s learned as a runner, tips on how to improve, and tales about interesting runs he completed.
Despite the level of pride Sputnik felt winning his award and writing his books, he said, “These days I’m prouder of things that make a difference to people.”
A major part of Sputnik’s work is philanthropic in nature. When I asked him what he was most proud of, he referred to a project he is currently working on, making and distributing ‘Being kind is never cancelled’ shirts to raise money for a family in Bali.
Sputnik also discussed a time where he travelled to New Zealand to compete in a 100km run on a whim. Around the same time, the son of a co-worker was diagnosed with an illness that required expensive stem cell treatment. The co-worker had been making cupcakes and had raised around $500.
“As I got to the airport, I put a newsletter out on my website and said, ‘Here’s the thing, this newsletter goes out to about a thousand people every week so you fuckers have to donate to this ladies charity and if you don’t fucking donate enough then I’m not going to do this website anymore.’”
By the time the plane landed in New Zealand $2500 was raised and several days later, that amount had risen to $12,000.
Sputnik’s ideals and philosophies shine through in his weekly blog. A self-described enthusiastic “swearer”, Sputnik writes a weekly ‘Fuck That’, where he discusses current events, as well as his own personal opinions and ideas.
“I have a thing called the audience of one. I don’t have to think that I have a million fans or followers or readers or viewers. If I can just make one person’s day better or share one idea with them that might make them go ‘Oh shit, I haven’t thought of it that way’… then I’m happy to share that.”
Sputnik’s final remarks reflect his understanding of balance, and recognition of the complexity and simplicity of life.
“Life’s not a car battery, in a car battery one terminal is one thing and another terminal is another. There’s no grey area. If you connect them the wrong way around it doesn’t work, but in life, [things] can both be positive, or negative … Both can be true … it’s cool to have your head in the sky or be sensible and reasonable, the trick is to bounce between the two and know when to apply each one. Do a bit on both sides.”