Every day I write the blog. And more people read it.

It’s really easy to start your own blog. I should know. I have started at least 8 of them. But it’s really hard to keep them going. I should know. Because 7 of mine moved like glaciers, until global warming put them out of their misery.

I enjoyed writing the blogs. But I never created a habit that kept them going. It takes time to find your groove, your voice and your writing schedule. Even more challenging, it takes a lot to attract an audience that wants to read what you are writing.

Writing No Matter Whataburger

When I started this blog I made a commitment to myself to just keep at it, no matter what. I was committed to sharing my experience as I launched my own advertising agency from dust. I thought it would help others start their own businesses. Just as I had read other blogs that inspired my entrepreneurial adventure. If the business failed and no one read the blog, at least when it ended I would have the experience and learnings well documented for myself. Which is like seeing the light at the end of my carpal tunnel.

My Twins

In many ways The Perfect Agency Project blog and The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, are like twins. They were born at the same time. They have grown together. And they are inseparable. Like conjoined twins. Or regular twins who got into the Gorilla Glue.

Quiet Growth

The growth of The Weaponry has been a shared experience, as we have added team members and clients. But the growth of The Perfect Agency Project blog has been private and quiet.

Writing this blog is a solitary endeavor. It’s just me and my computer. I write down my thoughts, lessons, experiences, observations and insights that stem from working in and on my business. Then I hope that someone, somewhere will read the posts and find some value in them.

Sometimes the posts are well read. And sometimes they are not. It is hard to tell why some posts fly and some flop. Especially when what I consider to be the best, most important ideas gain very little traction.

Write Anyway

But whether a post was extremely popular or went mostly unnoticed, I write again the next day. I have been consistent and persistent. I just kept writing. And just kept posting.

Seeing Obvious Progress

I am proud to say that on September 17th, 2019, the total number of views and visitors to my blog for 2019 surpassed the total number of views and visitors the blog received in all of 2018.  Which means that it had the same number of visitors in 8.5 months in 2019 as it did in the 12 months of 2018. #FirstGradeMathYall

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This is the growth chart for my blog. It represents the views and visitors (dark and light shades) for each year since 2015. The pink at the top of 2019 is optimism.

Insistence on Persistence

The persistence is leading to progress. I still have 3.5 months of readership growth ahead this year. At the pace of 3 posts per week, that is 42 blog posts left to share in 2019. As a result, I expect a 50% growth in views and visitors for the year. Which for a blog I have been writing for 4 years feels pretty good.

Fun Fact: The Perfect Agency Project blog has been read in 113 countries around the world in 2019.

I attribute the growth to just keeping at it. Slow and steady. Each post, whether it is read by tens or thousands, contributes to that total. And that’s progress. Truly, every little bit helps.

Key Takeaway

Success doesn’t come overnight. It comes in small steps that seem insignificant on their own. But over time the cumulative effect of all those small steps is significant progress. So keep going. Commit to creating a habit of action, day after day. Then give yourself time. Time for the results to pile up and make a difference. If I can do it you can do it. Do a little every day. And just don’t stop.

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

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When you have a great idea avoid sharing it in a bad way.

I love ideas. In fact, I love them so much that I create new ideas for a living. And I can’t think of a better job. As a professional creative thinker my ideas help sell products and services. My ideas help name products, build brands and solve problems of all sizes and shapes, except hyperboloids.

Seek A Professional Opinion

In the same way a medical doctor is sought out to offer medical advice, businesses seek me out for creative advice. And I have written some pretty funky, yet effective prescriptions. Like filling a Prevost bus full of ping pong balls with Danica Patrick for Nationwide Insurance. And claiming that a Ski-Doo MX-Z snowmobile is so responsive it knows which butt cheek you’re flexing. And dressing 100 Argentinian men in pink bodysuits for Snickers.

Things I Hate

As much as I love a great idea I hate it when non-professional creatives share their ideas. You’re probably thinking that I am a typical creative A-hole who thinks no one else could possibly have a good idea. (See ‘The No A-holes Rule”). But, Au contraire, mon frère!

Where Great Ideas Come From

I know with 100% certainty that great ideas can, and do come from anywhere. And anyone. There is no monopoly on creativity in a creative department. No, what I abhor about non-creatives sharing their ideas is the way they typically do it.

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Just keep thinking. Just keep thinking.

You’re Doing It Wrong!

I know that probably sounds like I am judging people on their idea sharing etiquette. Or shaming people for the poor idea sharing technique. But that’s not what I am getting at.

What profoundly bothers me when non-professionals share their ideas is how they often discount the idea before they even unwrap it. Nothing takes the punch out of a great idea like introducing it with one of the following phrases:

  • ‘This is probably stupid but…’
  • ‘I’m not creative at all but…’
  • ‘Feel free to shoot this down…’
  • “I’m not the creative person here…’
  • “Here comes a bad client idea…’
  • “Ok, bad account person idea…’
  • ‘What if… no, never mind, bad idea.”

Share Without Apology

These type of apologetic disclaimers are poison to the creative process. Just as improv works on the ‘Yes-And’ Rule, meaning that every idea shared is embraced and built upon, a strong creative development process requires us to embrace fully-baked, half-baked and raw idea as they are presented. Because there is something to build on within every idea.

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Sharing your idea can impact others in profound ways. 

Connect The Dots

Creativity is about connecting disparate elements. So we should all throw our unique thoughts and ideas on the table. Not just the professional creatives and strategists. Clients, account people, media, technologist, sales, engineering and accounting can all add a very valuable perspective. Spouses and children who know the problem to be solved can too.

Loud and Proud

We all need to contribute our ideas without apologizing. Because when you eliminate the disclaimers, and stop unselling your work before you share it, you’ll get a much better reaction. Which makes everyone more comfortable exploring and sharing their ideas in the future.

Key Takeaway

Great ideas can come from everywhere. There is no monopoly on creativity in creative departments and creative businesses. Which means that no one should ever apologize for having a good thought. The best idea wins. It’s that simple. So share your thinking without discounting it. Encourage others to do the same. And let’s recognize and value all the disparate thoughts that helped us build to the best final idea. When you do that you create an environment that generates more great ideas. I should know. I am a professional.

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

How to protect the time you need to achieve your greatest goals.

When I was a student-athlete at the University of Wisconsin my schedule was booked solid. I was at class every day by 8:55am. Classes lasted until 2pm. At 2:30pm I was at track practice. I left practice at 6pm and went to dinner. I ate at the Sports Buffet until they kicked me out at 7pm. By 7:20pm I was at Helen C. White Library studying in the quiet section (seriously). By 10:30pm I was taking the Drunk Bus home.

Focus Pocus

During this time I had something magical working for me: large chunks of time with completely focused effort. First I was totally focused on my classes. Then track practice. Then on eating (which felt like a job because I was the smallest discus thrower in the Big Ten Conference). And finally, on studying.

All 4 of these time blocks helped me focus my undivided attention on my largest life goals. Plus, there were no smart phones back then to distract me with an Instagram feed full of hilarious Pro Wrestling fails. (@Wrestlebotch)

Scheduling Focused Time

Today, I am revisiting the focused scheduling I employed as a student-athlete. As as result, I hope to achieve the same level of productivity, growth and progress I enjoyed two decades ago. That’s why I have time-blocked my calendar to help create deep focus on my most important tasks. The tasks that will help me achieve my long-term goals.

The Time Blocks On My Calendar Now Include:

  • An hour of blocked writing time every morning starting at 6am.
  • 2 hours of totally focused work on my most important tasks from 10am to Noon.
  • A regular 1-hour lunch, starting at noon every day (which also helps keep my energy high, as I wrote about in 5 Things I do to keep my work energy high.).
  • 1 hour of total focus on my most important issues in the afternoon from 2pm-3pm.
  • Dedicated open time for meetings, calls and emails to start and end the day.
  • A 30-minute planning session every Sunday night when I can plan my most important tasks for the week. Tasks that will help me achieve my long term goals.
The One Thing
Make this the next book you read.  Then let me know how much you loved it by writing me at  adam@theweaponry.com.

I loved how my calendar blocks helped me in college. But a book I am reading has influenced me to reintroduce this useful scheduling technique again. In fact, The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan may be the most powerful book I have read in the past 3 years. It teaches you a system that always leads you to the one, most important thing that you should be doing at any given time, in order to help you achieve your loftiest goals. A critical part of the program is creating calendar blocks that are reserved exclusively for your total focus on your most important activities. Spoiler Alert: The one thing you should be doing at any given time never involves WrestleBotch. #PriortitiesVsDistraction

Key Takeaway

It is not enough to have goals. You need to put in the work required to achieve them. That’s why it is so important to block large chunks of time on your calendar that allow you to completely focus on your most important tasks, every day. Add a chunk of focused time for planning on Sunday evenings, and it will ensure that you make demonstrable progress each and every week. Remember, scheduling your time costs nothing. But the dividends it pays by helping you achieve your goals could be enjoyed for generations.

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

How to get inspired when you are running behind.

Do you ever feel like you are running behind? I do. All the time. I have high expectations. Which means that I also have goals, lists and timelines. But I find myself running behind my established deadlines all the time. Which means I would probably fit right in at United Airlines.

I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!

I am frequently behind on both my long-term and short-term goals. I am often behind on my daily to-do list as well. I can’t tell you how many times I have approached the last hour or two of my day at work or home, looked at the list of things I wanted to accomplish that day, and been shocked at how little I had crossed off.

Don’t Give Up

I don’t let myself get discouraged in those moments. In fact, I am thankful to recognize how little I have achieved while there is still time to do something about it. Because in those moments I am always reminded of my 9 years as a track and field athlete.

Life is like a track race.

Over the course of my track career at Hanover High School and the University of Wisconsin I saw amazing things happen at the end of races. I saw runners who looked as if they were destined for last place do amazing things. They didn’t give up. Instead, they kicked.

The Kick

In track and field The Kick is the late race attempt to shift to a higher speed than you were running the rest of the race. The Kick is used to finish strong. It is used to overcome the slower pace you had run to that point that put you behind. In full disclosure, I never had a track kick. I had more of a wave goodbye as other runners left me behind to contemplate my dietary choices.

Inspiration

I saw hundreds of inspiring Kicks in person during my track career. I saw hundreds more as a lifelong fan of the sport. I am always amazed to see how a strong, short, focused effort can completely change the outcome of a race.

Kicking At Work

Today, when I find myself behind late in the day, or late in a timeline, I don’t throw in the towel. I kick. I look at what I can still accomplish. I push distractions aside. I focus. And I sprint.

I have found that these late in the race sprints have the same ability to change outcomes in business and life as they do on the track. A concentrated effort over a short time often produces an entire day’s worth of productivity and progress in just an hour or two. Even better, I have had days where I crossed more off my daily to-do list in the last 20 minutes than I did in the previous 8 hours.

Key Takeaway

It is never too late to Kick. Whether you are talking about daily goals or lifetime goals, career or personal aspirations, your Kick can change everything. When you find yourself behind, use the time you have, to give everything you’ve got, to accomplish as much as you can. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes in the final outcome. And at the end of the day, the end is all that matters.

Here is a great collection of finishing kicks to inspire you today.

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

** The cover image for this post is of Sarah Disanza, who has joined me and my team at The Weaponry. She knows a thing or two about kicking too.

Great advice for people who are soaring.

My life is great right now. Not Instagram great. But a solid, off-camera kind of great. Of course what actually constitutes a great life is totally subjective. So perhaps my life is just great in my own head. But at a minimum I have the right mindset. Because we see what we want to see, and feel what we want to feel.

The Facts

Today, my family and I are healthy. I feel as if I have friends. I am living in a place I enjoy. I am doing work that I am excited to do. Better yet, I am making significant progress towards my most important life goals. I’m having fun. I still think everything is funny. And perhaps best of all, I still don’t need adult diapers.

Getting Sunday Schooled

This past Sunday my family and I had a very busy day scheduled. Our morning got off to a slow start and my wife, Dawn and I had some tense moments about whether or not we could get to the 9am church service as we had planned. We knew we would be late, but we went anyway. Because even though we were running behind I imagined God would still high five me when I walked in the door.

We arrived 10 minutes late. The sanctuary was packed. The narthex, was packed as well. (Look at me using Jesusy words like narthex.) Luckily, after the children left for Sunday School we found just enough seats in the balcony and sat down.

Feeling Grateful

I am really happy we made it to church that morning. Because during the sermon Pastor Bill Knapp shared a really important message. The message felt tailor-made for me, as so many good messages do when you listen with receptive ears (and when you are a raging narcissist.)

The Message:

If you are soaring, use the view up there to see others who could use your help.  – Pastor Bill Knapp  

That’s Me!

I certainly feel like I am soaring. And it does provide a better view of the world.

Helping Others Soar

From my soaring position I am trying to share as much as I can about how I got up here. I share the lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn with my 3 kids. I share them with the students I guest lecture to several times a year. I share with my teammates at work. I share with friends and family who are at a crossroads in their careers and lives. I share what I am learning with other entrepreneurs. And with others who are trying to get their own businesses off the ground.

Blogging

I also share the lessons I am learning here on The Perfect Agency Project blog. What’s even better, is that my blog posts often lead to more significant conversations, both online and in person.  In a fun turn of events, people are also turning to me to understand how to start and maintain a blog. Two of my posts: What I have learned about blogging after 200 posts. and  12 things I’ve learned from writing 300 blog posts. have generated a lot of interest, thank you’s and positive feedback from bloggers and want-to-be bloggers around the world.

Soaring Higher

The funny thing about this is that the more I share with others the more I feel like I am learning, connecting, enjoying, and yes, soaring. Best of all, the higher I soar, the better the view to see more ways to help others.

Key Takeaway

If you are going places, help others get there too. Flying in a flock is more fun than flying alone. So teach others. Share what you know. You won’t realize how valuable your knowledge, perspective and experience is until you start to give it away. Plus, it feels great to share. And when you help others fly, they will never forget it. I know. Because I have received a lot of help myself.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. If you would like to learn more of what I am learning, consider subscribing to this blog.

How to apply an Instagram filter approach to your work and life.

Remember photos before Instagram? I don’t. Because things are so much better now. Photos are no longer shared in their naked state. Instead, we use filters on our images to make them look their best. And the filtering of photos is fun. Not rollercoaster-riding fun. Or dance party fun. But you know, killing-time-at-the-DMV fun.

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The San Francisco Bay, filtered.

How Filters Work

If you haven’t used Instagram or Snapchat filters, here is an oversimplification.

  1. You take a photograph
  2. You look at that photograph. Every time you do it makes you laugh.
  3. You upload it into Insta, or your favorite photo filtering app.
  4. You apply a filter to the photo.
  5. The filter applies its unique recipe of contrast, saturation, highlights, focal points, warmth and color to the image.
  6. You taste test anywhere from 2 to 102 different filters on the photo to decide which one makes the photo look most amazingable.
  7. You have a hard time deciding between two filters.
  8. You ask someone nearby which of the two is better.
  9. They don’t care.
  10. You just pick one.
  11. You share the image with the world.
  12. Everyone thinks you are cooler, better looking and living a more amazing life than you really are.

Filter Love

I love using these filters. It’s fun to look at the same photo through different filters and see very different images. In fact, I love it so much that I have been using the same process in my work and life.

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My family in Chicago, filtered.

Real World Filters

As Instagram quickly teaches us, there are many ways to look at the world. A seemingly poor image can look great through the right filter. And a great image can look terrible through the wrong filters. The same thing happens with our professional careers, finances, health and relationships.

Business

As an entrepreneur, I use many different filters on my business. I apply the Revenue filter to get a good image of how much money we are bringing into the business. I apply a Profit filter to see how much of that revenue we are actually keeping. I apply a Historical filter to see whether our finances are improving. I apply a Goal filter to see if we are doing what we set out to do.

But those are just the financial filters. I apply a Quality filter to determine whether my advertising and idea agency is producing great creative work. A Customer Service filter tells us whether our service is meeting our expectations and the expectations of our clients. A Happiness filter makes me look at whether me and my teammates at The Weaponry are enjoying the work we are doing. A Culture filter gives me a good look at our company culture and vibe. All of the images are slightly different. And they are all important to look at.

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Santa Cruz, filtered.

Personal Filters

I am always evaluating my personal life with a full spectrum of filters. Here is a list of the filters that I regularly use:

  • Happiness
  • Friendship
  • Adventurousness
  • Quality Time
  • Memory Making
  • Ideal Weight
  • Wedding Vow 
  • Self Actualization
  • Joy
  • Commitments
  • Personal Strength
  • Learning
  • Christianity
  • Dot Connecting
  • New People
  • Yard Care
  • Cleanliness
  • Mentoring
  • Dad
  • Humor

Application and Feedback

I apply these filters often to get a quick look at how I am doing in various areas of my life. Sometimes the picture is beautiful and I want to show everyone. But I don’t always like what I see. That’s okay. A poor image gives me something worthwhile to work on. The filters help me spot my weak links, my blindspots and areas of concern. Once I see them I can give them the attention they deserve. I like to work on my uglies until they are reach a point where I would share them with the world.

Key Takeaway

There are many ways to look at your work, health, relationships and personal lives. Don’t just focus on the filters that make you look good. Use a wide range of filters to see how you are doing in many areas of your life. Find the areas that need improvement. Give yourself credit for the areas that are focused, sharp and beautiful. Always keep the big picture in mind. It’s the best way to live your life in a way that is worth sharing.

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

A better approach to the first day on the job.

Do you remember the first day of your career? I do. It was weird. On the first day of my advertising career I got shown to a mostly empty cubicle, was handed a schedule of my departmental orientations, and was mostly abandoned. The 2 highlights of the day were that I was taken out to lunch by a handful of other creatives at the agency, and that I didn’t get fired.

The Weaponry

Two decades later when I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I wanted to do things differently. I wanted something more profound to happen on the first day. And I wanted it to be OSHA compliant.

This Week

We had an exciting new employee start at The Weaponry this week. She is significant in that she is the first member of our team who started with us right out of college, without prior advertising or marketing experience.

After talking with the new team member for an hour about what we do and who we do it for and why we do it the way we do it, and Mountain Dew and the Dewey Decimal system, we gave her The Weaponry’s unique first day assignment.

The Assignment

The assignment for our new team members is to spend 1 hour writing. Even if you are not a writer.

First: We ask that you spend 30 minutes writing down your career goals and aspirations. We want you to think about the journey you are on and all that you want to accomplish. We ask that you think big, be specific and paint a clear picture of what success looks like to you.

Second: We ask you to write down your goals, aspirations and expectations for the upcoming year. We want to know what you want to know and how you expect to grow. We want you to think about how the first year fits within the Elon-Musky career you just wrote about.

Sharing

We ask our team members to share their goals for the first year. It helps us understand what they are expecting to get out of the year. It ensures that they will get the support and knowledge they most want over the next 365 days.

However

The Career Goals Overview is private. That is just for the new team member. We want our teammates to feel as if they can think really big. We want them to set gonzo goals without judgements. We want them to start their careers with the end in mind, so that they can clearly understand how the next step in their career can help them make progress towards their ultimate goals.

We also acknowledge that their career goals may not involve us. Or even working in our industry. I am Ok with that.

Direction

This exercise helps create career clarity, direction and calibration. It will help them refocus when they lose their way, or stall. It will provide guidance when making decisions about the opportunities that come their way. And It will help them prioritize long term goals over short term rewards. Plus, the writing exercise will make for a cool scene when a movie is made about their amazing career. Note to the director: I want my role to be played by Morgan Freeman or Awkwafina.

Key Takeaway

We all have the ability to positively influence those we interact with. As a business leader, coach, parent or teacher you can have a profound impact on the lives of those you have the privilege to lead and guide. Take that opportunity seriously. Look for ways you can have a positive, long lasting influence. Because at the end of your career and the end of your days, the only thing that really matters is the impact you had on others.

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