When Plan A, B, C & D Fail.

When Plan A, B, C & D Fail.

I love meeting new people. And I love helping people solve problems. And I got to do both of those things this morning before most people were alarmed by their clocks.

I arrived at Hartsfield Jackson International airport in Atlanta just before 6:30am for a flight to New York City. As I write this I’m flying to meet with a celebrity on the set of her TV show about some upcoming work we will be doing together. But as I stepped out of my car in the parking garage a panicked woman approached me saying, 

“I’m so sorry to bother you. But I just locked myself out of my car. My phone, purse, laptop and suitcase are all locked inside. I don’t know what to do.”

Talk about an exciting start to your day! She said she was flying to St. Louis on an 8:00am flight. So we started going through our options. And yes, I said OUR options. Becuase as a professional problem solver when someone brings me a problem it becomes my problem too. Except for maybe hair loss. With hair loss you’re on your own.

So like a couple of resourceful first world problem solvers we sprang into action. I pulled out my trusty smartphone and we called the airport to see if they had an unlocking service. They didn’t. Boo. But they did offer us the phone number of a locksmith partner that may be able to help. Yay! 

So we called the locksmith. And yes, they could send someone to help. Yay! But not until  9:00am. Boo.

So we looked at other options. 

Me: Do you have a AAA membership?

Kelly: No.

Me: Do you have emergency services through your car manufacturer?

Kelly: No.

Me: Hmmm. Do you have any sevens?

Kelly: No. Go Fish.

Me: What time is your meeting in St. Louis?

Kelly: 11:00am.

Me: So a later flight won’t work?

Kelly: No. And my company is counting on me to be there. We have built a technology product for this client and they are refusing to close the deal becuase they don’t understand it. I need to walk them through how the product works and solves their problem or the multimillion dollar deal will fall apart! (Dun-Dun-Dun!)

Me: Do you have your drivers liscence? 

Kelly: No.

Me: Why don’t we go see how we can get you through security without ID. (Heck, I got into bars in college all the time without an ID. How hard could it be?)

Kelly: (reluctantly) Let me check my car one more time just to make sure I’m not losing my mind.

At this point she walked back to her Ford Edge for another check. And I began searching on my phone for a Ford dealership that may be able to help.

A moment later she returned, slumped her shoulders and said, “You should go and catch your flight. And you can tell everyone on Facebook and Twitter that you met the dumbest woman in America. Becuase I have a Ford Edge. And the Edge has a keypad on the driver door.”

Me: Do you know the code?

Kelly: Yes.

Me: So you’re all set! 

 Kelly Yes!
At this point Kelly and I, strangers only moments ago, hugged, laughed and cheered on the top of the parking deck at the airport in the pre-dawn darkness. We celebrated our victory like we had just won the Showcase Showdown on The Price Is Right.
So I made a new friend this morning before 6:45am. Kelly made her flight. I got a test run on a valuable problem solving scenario. The Ford Edge got serious credit for a great problem solving, flight catching and potentially deal saving feature. And as Kelly said, I got to tell all of my friends on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn about her morning. Have a great day Kelly! I hope you close that deal. But don’t close your car door until you have your key in hand.

 

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The most valuable lottery you’ve never heard of.

The most valuable lottery you’ve never heard of.

By now you all know that you didn’t win last week’s Powerball lottery jackpot of nearly $1.6 billion dollars. Sorry. And if you were like most Americans you were probably off by 5 or 6 numbers. I know how you feel. Because when I was 18 I had a lottery experience that forever shaped my perspective on this get-rich-instantly game.

It happened at my high school graduation. My classmates and I received our Hanover High School diplomas from our principal, the late, super-great Uwe Bagnato. As he handed us our diplomas we each handed him a lottery ticket. It was an exciting experiment. We all wondered how much he might win with 143 chances. (Don’t laugh. We scoured ten towns from two states to come up with 143 educatable kids).  Anyway, we imagined Uwe would become mega-rich, and we would be the last class to graduate under his principality. But when we discovered that he only won a couple of bucks, and would be back at work again after Labor Day, the lottery was forever dead to me.

Since graduation I’ve been betting on myself.  I have made my career as an advertising creative.  And we make our money through an ideation lottery, where ideas bounce around in our head like lottery balls, randomized for fairness.  And when our mental machinery cues those idea-balls to drop into our consciousness we either have winning ideas or losing ideas.

I love the odds in this game.  I stack them in my favor by absorbing the world around me through interesting experiences, reading,  human interactions and sweet tea.  What I like even better is that you can play the idea lottery non-stop. And I do.  For some it is nerve-racking to make your living in this manner.  That’s why so many creative thinkers burn out or switch professions.  But the ones that stick with it are often well rewarded.

The value of the creative lottery is summed up beautifully in one of my favorite quotes:

“More gold had been mined from the mind of men than the earth itself.”  -Napoleon Hill from Think and Grow Rich.

Napoleon, that is some powerful stuff.  But it’s a strange reality. Because I really don’t know where the ideas come from. Sure, sometimes the thoughts are mashups of two things I’ve considered recently.  And sometimes there is a strong logic chain the leads me to an idea.  But a healthy percentage of the time God just drops gold nuggets in between my ears, and for all I know I had nothing to do with it. I’m just smart enough to watch for them, recognize them when I see them and polish them enough to enable others  to recognize their value.

So the next time you watch those lottery balls mixing, think of all the great creative ideas formed in the minds of men and women that have turned them into millionaires and billionaires. I hope it encourages you to bet on your own ideas. And take it from me and Uwe, the chances of winning the lottery are far better in your head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My little slice of Alabama’s championship season.

My little slice of Alabama’s championship season.

There are a lot of factors that go into developing The Perfect Agency. But the ultimate goal of creating such an ad agency is to create the right conditions to consistently generate great work that has a meaningful impact on the clients we serve.  Just before the college football season began this fall my team and I were working feverishly to bring a really exciting new campaign to life for UPS. The basic premise of the project was that college football has a tremendous economic impact on college football towns. So we profiled these great towns that often double in population thanks to the pilgrimages that occur on football Saturdays.

We talked to local businesses and they shared the opportunities and challenges associated with the swelling demands of game day. And I was proud to hear business owners declare that our client, UPS, played an instrumental role in enabling them to meet those demands.

Thanks to this campaign my football season started in Tuscaloosa, Alabama last August in 99 degree heat.  We spent two days covering the town, the school, the Crimson Tide football program and the local small businesses. I came away with a real affinity for the town, the beautiful campus, and the people.  I also developed an even deeper admiration for the championship caliber football program.  And since we brought a film crew with us I left with a video that summarized it all in about 60 seconds. And because my phone has a camera, I’ve included a few images from the experience below.

Congratulations to The University of Alabama on your fourth national championship in seven years.  And thanks for offering us such a great story to tell. Roll Tide. And roll the video.

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Me at the end of a very hot day. I was surprised to find they had hung my initials on the columns to welcome me.
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I beat Nick Saban in a heated game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
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Bear Bryant. The bird that tarnished his fedora was deported.
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If you’re ever in Tuscaloosa stop by Dreamland for some dreamy barbecue.
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And if the contacts start moving in your eyes football isn’t so simple.
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Let there be light. And Alabama football. And a flag. And maybe an umbrella.
It was hot. Not triple-digit hot. But close.
It was hot. Not triple-digit hot. But close.
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Turns out Alabama has had some success turning out quarterbacks. (Although doesn’t that building in Green Bay say that Don Hutson was a Center?)

 

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The Black Warrior River at sunrise. This photo may be upside down.
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You don’t want to hear me drone on about our drone.

 

 

 

How to get more results from your reading.

How to get more results from your reading.

I love to read.  Like most people I was born highly uneducated. Reading has become an instrumental part of my plan to overcome my early shortcomings. I love to learn and to become inspired. And if you are reading this I expect you do too.

I like reading classic literature because it makes me feel worldly. I liked reading the first three Harry Potter books because they made me feel magical. But then I realized my life is too short to read four more books about a fanciful wizard boy. Today I read a lot of books on self improvement, business, and biographies. I also read healthy portions of magazines like Fast Company  and Inc because I find them both creatively stimulating and educational (and I like the pictures).

Several years ago I read an interesting quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones that said, “You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things: the books you read and the people you meet.” And this reading about reading encouraged Adam “Ordinary” Albrecht to read even more.

But today I’m trying to read less. Because I have found that too much reading leads to too little doing. If I fill my time with learning and inspiration I leave no time for action.

When I began The Perfect Agency Project I created a simple rule of thumb that influences my reading today:

Read just enough to learn something new and become inspired. Then act on it.

Since I started following this rule I have accomplished more. I’ve wasted less time. And I’m more excited about my work.

I think of reading now like a pregame speech. One that I listen to just long enough to become properly motivated. And as soon as I am lathered up I jump to work, acting on the inspiration.

That’s when I start writing, planning, structuring, detailing, calling, creating, wizarding or potioning.  And what I’ve found is that when I have one hour available, instead of one hour of reading, I can do 10 or 15 minutes of reading. And then I can spend the rest of the hour implementing. And the return on that one hour is significantly higher.

I encourage you to try this for a week. Read enough each day to want to do something new and exciting. Then do it.  Then repeat the process.  And let me know how it works for you. I’ll read at least part of whatever you write me.

 

In 2016 get more creative with your time.

In 2016 get more creative with your time.

Happy 2016!  I absolutely love the fresh start a new year brings. If you are like most people you’ve resolved to make this your best year yet. According to a research project I conducted in 2015 there are four basic ways to improve your life with a New Year’s resolution. You can start something good. You can quit something bad. You can make a habit of something positive. Or you can generally just stop being lame.

I have one goal that will help make 2016 the best year in my career and personal life. Simply stated, I want to make the most of my remnant time.  What does that mean? Well, we all have a slew of things we have to do.  Those include our standard work and home obligations.  Make sure you take care of those or your 2016 is likely to spoil before February. But like that poor overlooked ‘r’ in February, we all have time in every day that we are overlooking. And today I’m envisioning all that I can make of it over the next 365 days.

Ralph Waldo Emerson put is this way, “Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.” Ralph Waldo was into the bling.

So today consider what you can do with the time hidden between your must-dos. Instead of killing that time with digital thumb twiddling, couch tuber-ing or catching Zs, spin that time-straw into gold. I challenge  you to use that time to do the things the perfect version of you would do. Read something, write something, create something, solve something, learn something, experience something, accomplish something, improve something. Or maybe buy a thesaurus and find other words to use instead of something.

Like compound interest, even little moments add up over the course of a year. Two months ago I began picking up my daughter’s guitar each night and practicing for a few minutes while she completed her bedtime routine. And while I’m no Eddie Van Halen, I can now play most Christmas songs well enough to not get booed off stage at a nursing home.

In 2016 I plan to make magic in my career. I expect to strengthen my connections to family and friends. I’m set on stockpiling more experiences, having more fun, learning and accomplishing more than ever. I hope you are too. We have 1440 minutes every day to do it.