The surprising question I was asked while guest lecturing.

I guest lecture to college students several times each year. Guest lecturing is like a box of chocolates. Because you never know which students will be surprisingly delightful and which will be totally nutty. Last week I spoke to Erin Napier’s marketing campaigns class at Marquette University (which I secretly call a Marquetteing campaigns class, because it’s kinda funny).

Good Evening

There were 36 students in the class. It started at 5:30pm. Which, in case you don’t remember, is not when college students are at their energetic or attentive peak. I decided to bring some extra energy to make sure no one fell asleep (and no one fell asleep).

Sharing Is Caring

I spoke to the class about advertising, my career journey, the creative process and networking. I talked about starting my own business. And about the value of sitting in the front row. When I was done I opened the floor for questions. Not literally, of course.

A Trick Of The Trade

The students asked many good questions. Although I give myself partial credit for the quantity. Because after the first 2 questions I told the the class that I always remember the people who ask questions. If we stopped right then, 2 out of the 36 of them had made a positive impression on me. After my commentary the questions came fast and furious. Like Ludacris.

The Questions

The students peppered me with the follow queries:

  • Where do your best ideas come from?
  • What do you do when you are stuck creatively?
  • What was your favorite project ever?
  • What is your dream project?
  • What has been the greatest challenge of your career?

The Surprise

But there was one very simple question that truly surprised me.  Julian Wright, a freshman on the Marquette track & field team asked:

Why did you want to talk to this class tonight?  -Julian ‘Lefty’ Wright

My Response:

I wanted to share my knowledge with you. I have learned so much from experienced professionals who volunteered their time that I wanted to pay if forward, or backwards, or however you like to think about it. And I hope someday you give your time to share what you have learned with the next generation.

But I also wanted to make a positive impression on you, so that when you are looking for internships or jobs after college, you think of Adam Albrecht or The Weaponry first. I am always looking for rockstars. And I want the next generation of rockstars to be looking for me.

Key Takeaway

Share what you know. Add to the body of knowledge of students and others who are hungry to learn. The greatest impact you will ever have on Earth is the impact you make on other people. Pass along your knowledge, experience and observations. And in the process you will collect even more. Better still, teaching expands your exposure to talented people. It grows your network, and increases the number of opportunities that come your way.

Speaking Of Which…

This afternoon I will be speaking at an event about marketing through storytelling, hosted by the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce. I am excited to learn from the other 2 speakers at the event, Tim Dyer and Richie Burke.  Here is an overview:

WHAT’S YOUR STORY? USING STORYTELLING TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM CST
The Venue at Milwaukee Brewing Co
1130 N. 9th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Behind every business is a great story. As new platforms for content marketing continue to grow, there’s never been more opportunity to use storytelling to strengthen your brand and find strategic ways to reach new audiences.

You can find more details, and register for the event here.

 

 

 

The poem that brought my Grandfather to tears.

My Grampy, Kenneth Adam Sprau was born in 1916 in Meservey, Iowa. Meservey was a small farm town that mostly consisted of the 12 Sprau children in Grampy’s family, and sounded like someone was trying to say Missouri after too much Wild Turkey.

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Grampy served in the Navy in the Pacific fleet during World War II. He came home (Thank God), married my Grammy, and they raised 9 kids in Southern, Minnesota. They also raised beef cattle, hogs, corn and soybean. He farmed well into his 80s when they finally decided to retire and move to town.

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Over the course of Grampy’s life he saw the world transform in unfathomable ways. When I once commented on all of the change he and my other grandparents had witnessed he said to me, ‘Adam, you could never understand what it was like to be us. We went from horse and buggy to putting a man on the moon.’ Grampy was my witness to the greatest century of change in human history. He also taught me 98% of the swear words I know today.

The Library

Grampy was a library of interesting sayings, songs, jokes and poems. Some of it was purely silly. (I’ve got a dog his name is Rover. He is nothing but a pup. He will stand up on his hind legs. If you hold his front legs up.) And some of it was serious and profound.

The Poem

At a family gathering in Dublin, Ohio, when Grampy was much closer to the end of his 92 years than the beginning, my uncle Jon Sprau asked Grampy to share ‘the poem about the 2 Ships’. I had never heard the 2 Ships poem. And I bet Grampy hadn’t recited the poem in the past couple of decades. But Grampy immediately accessed 2 Ships in the jukebox in his head and performed it for our family.

Here is the poem:


Tis The Set Of The Sail — Or — One Ship Sails East

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

But to every mind there openeth,

A way, and way, and away,

A high soul climbs the highway,

And the low soul gropes the low,

And in between on the misty flats,

The rest drift to and fro.

But to every man there openeth,

A high way and a low,

And every mind decideth,

The way his soul shall go.

One ship sails East,

And another West,

By the self-same winds that blow,

‘Tis the set of the sails

And not the gales,

That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea

Are the waves of time,

As we journey along through life,

‘Tis the set of the soul,

That determines the goal,

And not the calm or the strife.


Grampy and Grammy

The Response

Hearing this poem was one of the most profound moments of my life. Not just because the poem itself is profound, and inspiring. But after Grampy recited the following passage, he broke down in tears:

One ship sails East,

And another West,

By the self-same winds that blow,

‘Tis the set of the sails

And not the gales,

That tells the way we go.

The Life Lesson.

When a man who has experienced more than 8-decades of life on a farm, witnessed the greatest evolution in human history, enjoyed more than 60-years of marriage and participated in a worldwide war breaks down while reciting these words, you know these words are important. It was the first and only time in my life I ever saw Grampy cry. And I still think about that moment and that message when making important life decisions.

Key Takeaway 

Tis the set of the sails, and not the gales, that tells the way we go.

*Check out the background image on the featured picture for this post.

The surefire way to increase your wealth.

I own a lot of books with the word ‘rich’ in the title. Among them you’ll find Think And Grow Rich, Rich Dad Poor DadThe Science of Getting Rich, The Richest Man In Town, and  Rich Like Them. In fact, I have bought so many books with the word ‘rich’ in the title that the Amazon recommendation engine now suggest books like The Adventures of Richie Rich, Rich Desserts, and The Many Impressions Of Rich Little.

The Real Lessons

I like these books because they are about success. They help you think and act in ways that help you accomplish great things. And those great things often attract money like magnets. Or magnates.

I consider the tips, tricks and examples in these books to be important reminders rather than great aha’s. Although there are certainly plenty of both in my library of riches.

The One Thing To Remember

But if you want to know the most important point of all about getting rich it is summarized in the following line:

‘It is the value you bring to a company, an organization, indeed the universe, that ultimately determines your level of wealth.’ -From The Richest Man In Town by W. Randall Jones

Key Takeaway

If you want to earn more money, add more value. If you want more social capital, add more value. If you want more political capital, add more value. Your success is directly related to your contribution. So if you want more, contribute more.

If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.   

3.5 years after The Weaponry launched we finally have a real website.

When I first started telling people that I was launching my own business they asked, ‘Is your website up yet?’ I quickly realized that many people consider having a business website actually having a business. I also realized that startups that begin with a website, rather than a business development plan, struggle like Muggles at Hogwarts.

Creating A Business

Instead of focusing on building a website, we focused on building a business. We were creating an advertising and idea agency. And we named it The Weaponry. We started by meeting with marketers, asking about their unmet needs, and then creating services to meet those needs. #WeAllHaveNeeds

Building the Machine

We focused on finding great people to work on our team. We developed repeatable processes and procedures that enabled us to deliver great results. We developed the machinery that enabled us to find new clients. We implemented customer service standards that kept those clients coming back. And we honed our accounting operation to make sure that cash flowed through the business to keep the organization healthy and its people paid.

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Some of The Weapons.

Shiny Happy People

As a result, we developed a strong foundation of happy customers. We developed a strong group of business partners and collaborators who loved working with us. And that created a problem.

Losing Out On Brand Champions

We were developing brand champions who didn’t have an easy way to champion us. Because clients who loved working with us, and partners who loved working alongside us would want to recommend us to others. But the only website they could reference to promote us was a joke website we created that featured Laverne and Shirley from the TV show by the same name.

The NonWebsite

I loved not having a real website. It was rebellious and provocative. I loved that we built a multi-million dollar business without a website, by focusing on old fashion business development and maintenance.

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One of The Weaponry’s rockstar clients, Nicole Hallada of AEM.

But I hated the fact that people who loved The Weaponry didn’t have an easy way to promote, endorse or recommend us. In fact, we made our biggest fans look looney when they did tell others about us and had to note that we didn’t have a website, or at least a real website.

I’m Gonna Make A Change, For Once In My Life.

The realization that we were not helping those who were trying to help us was the reason we decided to create a real website for The Weaponry.

TheWeaponry.com

Today, I am excited to announce that TheWeaponry.com is a totally legit website.

  • You can now find out why our name is The Weaponry.
  • You can learn about our 3 Pillars of Success.
  • You can check out the What We Do section to see if it is what you are looking for.
  • You can see photos of our offices.
  • You can find out who we work with, and where those clients are.
  • You can see work.
  • You can see our team members, and you can read their not-too-serious bios.
  • You can submit request for information or more conversation.
  • You can find our contact info, office locations and ways to socialize with us.
  • You can tell us if you like Pina Coladas.

I invite you to check out the site at theweaponry.com and see it all for yourself. And if you look hard enough you still may find Laverne & Shirley.

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Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to do things your own way. But recognize when it limits your growth.  This is true in your personal life, and in business. If you want to launch your own startup remember that building a business is more important than building a website. But once you have fans you should make it easy for them to evangelize for you. Can I get an Amen?

There was a lot of thought that went into our decision to not have a real website. I wrote about that thought in these posts:

The story of our crazy website. Part 1: What is this?

Our unconventional website, Part 2: 7 Reasons we don’t have a real website.

 

What will you do with your bonus hour?

There are not enough hours in a day to do all of the things you would like to do. That is just a fact. Time is the most precious commodity on Earth. It’s worth more than diamonds, helium and CBD. At the end of your days you won’t wish for more money, a nicer car or a fancier home. You would trade all your worldly possessions (and some of your purely regional possessions) for more time.

Bonus Hour

Today marks the end of Daylight Saving Time. Most people focus on the negative fact that the sun now sets earlier. But don’t be a Debbie Sundowner. Today is a great day. It is the one day a year when the universe, Father Time, and the American Clocker’s Panel give you a bonus hour.

At 2am local time you received your annual 1-hour time bonus. With that additional hour the universe also handed you an important question:

‘What will you do with your bonus hour?’ -Universe

When you receive a work bonus, a tax refund or a lottery payout, you spend a lot of time thinking about what you will do with the money. But have you spent any time thinking about what you will do with your extra hour? You should. Because until you can buy a time machine from Marty McFly, your hour is more valuable and more precious than any monetary bonus you will ever receive. 

Invest Your Time

Take a moment today to think about how you will invest your bonus hour. If you came to Albrecht Time Investment Advisors LLC, we would encourage you to invest your time in one of the following areas:

  • Your health
  • Your family
  • Your faith
  • Your friendships
  • Your personal growth
  • Your peace of mind
  • Your community
  • Your future
  • Your career
  • Your hobbies
  • Your bucket list
  • Your experiences
  • Your personal legend
  • Anything that will make you laugh.

Key Takeaway

Don’t waste time. Invest it in the most important areas of your life. By spending your time wisely you will enjoy a richer, more fulfilling and more impactful experience on Earth. Remember, you will be dead sooner than you want to be. So take advantage of all the time you can get while you are still here.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

The creative mind behind the Thriller dance.

Halloween is packed with creativity. The holiday offers an annual creative outlet for adults and children alike. Costumes, decorations, and pumpkin carving all provide great opportunities to show off your imagination. I am always inspired by the ideas and executions I see at Halloween.

This Is Thriller

There is one epic stroke of creativity that re-emerges every Halloween that I have been awed by for the past 36 years. The Thriller Dance. Michael Jackson released the Thriller album in 1982. And In 1983 the music video to the title track was released as a 14- minute mega video, or short film, depending on whether you are more impressed by really long short things, or really short long things.

The Wows

The video is creepy and totally engaging. There are 2 wowing surprises. The first comes when MJ transforms into a werewolf, which allows him to chop a tree down with his bare hand. The other comes 8 minutes and 30 seconds into the video, when the zombies break into the Thriller Dance.

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The Thriller Dance

Thirty six years after its introduction I still see the Thriller dance performed every year at Halloween. But this year when I saw it, in the post-Leaving Neverland era, I wondered who actually choreographed the Thriller video. Thanks to the Googler machine, I didn’t wonder for long.

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Michael Peters

Michael Peters

The Thriller dance was the brainchild of Michael Peters, the talented choreographer who also danced in the video as a zombie. Peters’ highly entertaining dance has not only stood the test of time, it is one of the worlds’ best known dances.

‘The Thriller dance is just so universal. The moves from the dance are so iconic that you can go anywhere in the world and people will recognize the moves immediately.’  – Amy Brinkman, Director of Education at Danceweorks

Beat it forklift

Beyond Thriller

But if you know 80’s pop culture you know some of Michael Peters’ other work too. Not only did he choreograph Michael Jackson’s Beat It video, he was the dancing gang leader, dressed in all white, who was delivered to the gang fight via forklift. Because when you choreograph a dance fight you get to decide your own entrance. I imagine him talking through the steps in rehearsal like:

‘5, 6,7, 8… Forklift, Switchblade, Tie-Our-Wrist-Together, Stab…’   -Michael Peters

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Michael Peters wearing shades, and what looks like a belt and giant belt buckle around his neck.

Peters also wore sunglasses despite the fact that the video takes place at night. Apparently Peters was inspired by the era’s Corey Hart, who also wore his sunglasses at night.

Beyond MJ

Peters staged the dance moves in Pat Benetar’s Love Is A Battlefield video. And Lionel Richie’s classic Hello video, where he teaches Richie’s blind date to dance.

Michael Peters and MJ

Tony Tony Tony!

In 1982 Peters won a Tony Award for Best Choreography for the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. He also helped mold Angela Bassett into a Tina Tuner-type dancer for the movie What’s Love Got To Do With It. In fact, Basset became such a good dancer that Ike Turner thought about beating her too.

Michael Peters Lives On.

Michael Peters died of an AIDS related illness in L.A. at just 46-years old. But his work lives on. Especially in the Thriller dance. Thank you Michael Peters for adding to our annual Halloween celebrations. Thanks you for creating such iconic cultural art. And thanks for reminding us that if you want to be delivered to a dancing gang fight via forklift you have to script that yourself.

If you haven’t seen the Thriller dance yet this year, or just want to see it again, here it is.

Happy Halloween!

How your spouse can be your greatest career coach.

There are many amazing people who have had a significant impact on my career. There have been CEOs I admire. Entrepreneurs that inspired me. Creative Directors who have guided me. And successful marketers of all sorts that have provided me with important lessons and insights.

My Wife

But there is one person who has had the greatest positive influence on my career, by far. My wife, Dawn Albrecht. Dawn and I have a special relationship. I fell in love with her at first sight. Then, just seconds later I realized that she was actually my new coworker. It was a little like the moment Kelly McGillis walked into Tom Cruise’s classroom in Top Gun. #SoYoureTheOne

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My wife Dawn serves up career magic.

The Downside

Initially the fact that we worked together was a negative. It made it awfully hard to ask her out. Because a failed office romance provides a constant reminder of your failed office romance until one of you quits or gets fired.

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The last picture of us before we became BF &GF.

The Upside

But once we became an actual couple, not just a couple in my imagination system, the fact that we worked together became a major advantage. Dawn fully understood my job, my industry and my career path. She understood the workplace dynamics I faced. She saw my untapped potential. And she knew just how to push me forward.

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Dawn always coordinates her shirt with seasonal gourds. #nextlevel  

You know I thought I had it so good.

When we first met I was just 4 years into my career. I thought I had a great title. And I was very proud of my salary. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Dawn, on the other hand, had spent 7 years working for great companies in New York City and Chicago, including the Lifetime Channel (television for women), Times Mirror Publications, Discovery Networks and Cars.com.

Simply put, Dawn knew more than me. She recognized my growth potential and she pushed me to realize it.

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Our wedding day. (You knew it was either that or Halloween, right?)

Here We Go

Over the course of the next 10 years Dawn went from my coworker, to my wife and best friend, to the mother of my 3 children. But she also became my career coach. And my personal motivator. She made me think about whether I was stretching and growing. She made me think about my professional skills and abilities. She taught me about the true value I brought to my clients and employers. And she called me out when she thought I had grown too comfortable. And she was always right.

An Endorsement For Coaching

Dawn taught me the value of having a strong career coach. And over the first 10 years of our relationship my title grew from Senior Writer at Cramer Krasselt to Chief Creative Officer at Engauge, an agency with 4 office locations and 275 people in Atlanta, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Orlando.

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The Agency Takes Off

13 years after Dawn and I met, Halyard Capital, the private investment firm that owned Engauge, decided the agency was on the right trajectory to sell. I was part of the 4-person leadership team that represented Engauge as we met with 15 potential buyers. In August of 2013 the agency was bought by Publicis, the world renowned ad agency holding company in Paris. And I was ready for my next chapter.

Entrepreneurship

I always wanted to start my own business. And just 2 years later I began plans to launch my own advertising agency. Despite the fact that I would be trading in a nice salary, and comfortable benefits, Dawn was 100% behind the plan. She never questioned or doubted that an agency I created would be successful. Her total confidence in me added to my healthy confidence in myself.

The Weaponry

I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, when I was 42 years old. Today, I am frequently asked what the scariest moment of my entrepreneurial experience has been. But I really haven’t been scared at all. I credit much of that to Dawn. Because she has had full confidence that this would work out exactly as planned. And if Mama’s not worried, nobody’s worried.

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Our tribe at The Weaponry.

Birthday Girl!

Today is Dawn’s birthday (at least it is if you are reading this on October 29th). I will take the day off, just like I do every year. We will spend the day together. And I’ll reflect on how I wouldn’t have made it this far down my path this fast if it wasn’t for her. She has encouraged me, inspired me and challenged me. She has put her complete faith in me (and maybe my life insurance policy).

She has fully supported the decision to walk away from a comfortable life in search of an adventurous and even more rewarding experience. Dawn is like the Jelly of The Month Club. Because she’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year. In friendship. In family. And yes, even in business.

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Key Takeaway

If you want to be do great things, find someone great to go with you. Someone who believes in you. Someone fun and funny. Someone who won’t let you get comfortable. Someone who challenges you to grow and become all that you were supposed to be. If you find someone like that never let them go. Never take them for granted. And if you can take their birthday off every year and spend it with them, do it. You’ll never regret it.

If you liked this I also wrote about the first time ever I saw Dawn’s face in the post It was an ordinary day until I got on that elevator.