What this entrepreneur is suddenly afraid of.

I’m not easy to scare. I’m not an anxious or nervous person. In fact, I am so normal that I am often bored by my lack of lunacy. My kids say that the only thing I am scared of is missing out on a fun time. In the past, they may have been right.

But I have a new fear that seems to have crept up on me when I wasn’t looking. I feel it in libraries and bookstores. It makes me truly uncomfortable in these places that should be quiet and calming.

So What’s Up?

I have tracked and analyzed this feeling and have discovered its source. Libraries and bookstores make me anxious, because I am now comparing all of the books I want to read with how little time I have left to read them. The equation does not work in my favor. And this freaks me out.

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I enter each bookstore as if it were my last. And it is wigging me out.

Organ Transplants

I love to read. Reading a book is like being the recipient of an organ transplant. Because as you read, someone else’s knowledge gets transferred to your body of knowledge. Yet, unlike when you receive a new, kidney, heart or appendix, your body rarely rejects new reading material. Even when you disagree with what you’ve read, you incorporate it into your understanding and world view.

Entrepreneurship Makes Symptoms Worse

I have always loved to read. But ever since I founded my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, my reading pace has picked up. So has my phobia. My FOLAB (Fear Of Libraries and Bookstores) is like FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Except the FOLAB stems from the knowledge, perspective, and mental stimulation I know I will never receive.

I have read several sources that say the average CEO reads one book per week. This doesn’t surprise me. Because entrepreneurs are looking for as much knowledge as they can accumulate. I turn to books as my primary source of professional inspiration and education. I pick up something useful in everything I read. I always juggle several books at once (because they are safer than chainsaws). And most of my commute is done listening to audio books. Yet, time is slipping away.

Key Takeaway

I am confronting the finite amount of book-reading life I have left. And I am in desperate  need of some knowledge donors. Please share some of your go-to books that you feel I  should prioritize. The average age of my four grandparents was only 95 years old.* So I may only have 50 years of reading left. Oh, my gosh. Seeing that in print is totally freaking me out. Please help by sending your reading recommendations today.

*My Grandma Albrecht is 98 and still going strong. So the average is still going up. But  still…

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How to use Netflix in the workplace to increase creativity.

Creativity is one of your organization’s most valuable assets. It helps you develop new products, services, systems and processes. It solves problems. And helps you create culture. Creativity is the opposite of conformity. It drives you to think and act in ways that others don’t. Which is why creativity is key to both memorability and competitive advantages.

At my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, our core service is creative thinking. We are major exporters of creativity, like Art Vandelay. Which means my number one responsibility is creating an environment conducive to creative thinking.

Growing vs Harvesting

Most businesses think about harvesting creative thinking, but not planting or growing it. Which is like milking cows, but not offering them the water, grain, hay and chocolate they need to produce the milk. You have to fertilize your environment to grow more and better creative thinking. But you can’t just call ScottsMiracle-Gro for that kind of fertilizer. Unless you know a number I don’t know.

Making Connections

Creativity, like innovation, is about connecting dots. It happens when random bits of knowledge that reside in your head meet each other at the community social. They share some thinks, one think leads to another, and the next think you know a new thought is born. That’s why it is important to always be exposing yourself to new ideas. Not like a flasher, of course. But if you don’t get your chocolate in someone else’s peanut butter, you don’t get Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Netflix

One of the tools we use to feed creativity at The Weaponry is Netflix. At lunchtime, we regularly gather in the conference room and find a program on Netflix to stimulate new thinking. We watch documentaries on creative people and their journeys.  We watch programs on noteworthy artists and entrepreneurs. We watch comedy specials, both for a good mid-day laugh, and because comedians offer new ways to think about ordinary things.

What To Watch

To enhance your creativity with Netflix you can watch anything that stimulates your mind. But here are a few starter ideas that have inspired and expanded our thinking. You can click the name of each program to view the trailer.

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Abstract: The Art Of Design

This series profiles great creative thinkers across several fields, including Architecture, Illustration, Sneaker Design and Typography. I recommend starting with this. I’m not sure why I capitalized each of those fields.

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House of Z

This documentary on Zak Posen follows his EKG-like successes and setbacks. It is inspiring to see early wins, his transformations and his comeback. It’s also interesting for creative thinkers to hear from the critics and gatekeepers who felt empowered to judge his work.

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The People’s Designer

Like House of  Z, this documentary follows the career of designer Jeremy Scott as he leaves a little town on the prairies of Missouri to become the Creative Director of Moschino. It’s interesting to compare and contrast the personal styles of Scott and Posen. It’s a great reminder that we all need to find our special formula.

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Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

In this funny and interesting series, Jerry Seinfeld hosts a talk show. But unlike a traditional talk show, the interveiews are conducted in, you guessed it, interesting cars and coffee shops. There are 4 seasons of this show already. The episodes are short, ranging from 9 to 22 minutes, which makes them easy to squeeze in during a short lunch break.

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Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards

This is a fascinating find. Manolo is a real character with a truly unique vision. It is interesting to follow his story, his vast body of work (even though the only part of the body it covers is the feet), his quirks and idiosyncrasies.

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Fastest Car

This series pits Super Cars vs Sleeper cars. Which means that each episode follows an owner of a Super Car (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Viper, McClaren etc) and three builders of sleeper cars, which are essentially wolves in pinto clothing. Then, each show concludes with a drag race to see which car is the fastest.

Key Takeaway

It’s important to feed your creativity. And nothing is easier than watching some interesting program while you are eating lunch. Start with any of these shows and follow your own interests. It’s useful to watch as a team, because each of these programs stimulates conversation. You’ll discover what other people find most interesting too. So give it a try. And let me know what you think. If you have a favorite idea-inspiring program on Netflix let me know. I’m always looking for more.

Are you really in control of your career?

It was December of 1999. The world was facing a possible Y2K apocalypse, and I was surrounded by cranberries. I had written a national TV commercial for Northland Cranberry Juice and was now preparing to shoot the spot in their hometown, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Rapids (just in case you’ve never been there) is to cranberries what Nashville is to country music.

The premise of the commercial we were shooting was that the honest, hardworking people of Wisconsin Rapids put 100% into everything they do. So they would never consider putting anything less than 100% juice into a bottle of Northland. The same could not be said for those villains at Ocean Spray. Their cranberry cocktails ranged from just 17% to 27% juice. Cut to the close up of the Ocean Spray ingredient label, and cue the horror movie music.

The Director

But this story is not about juice. It is about the director. Ashley Lazarus. While Ashley Lazarus is one of the most beautiful names I have ever heard, it belongs to a bear of a man. A South African man. A man best known in America for launching the Saturn car brand with the iconic Spring in Springhill commercials. In other words, Ashley had mad directing skillz.

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Ashley Lazarus and a camera that won’t fit in your pocket.

Location Scouting

My first two days with Ashley were spent scouting for locations to shoot the commercial.  We were looking for the most interesting locations in and around Wisconsin Rapids to capture on film.

The conversation

While driving between locations in the Wisconsin countryside, Ashley, who was in his 60s, turned to me and slowly asked in his deep, South African accent, ‘Adam, how old are you?’

I replied, ’26’.

Not only will I never forget what he said next, it helped steer the course of my career, and my life.

Ashley continued,

‘Adam, eventually you must open your own advertising agency. You will be promised great positions in your career. You may even be offered them. But eventually all creatives are either passed over or forced out of agencies. The only way for you to remain in control of your career is to own your own agency.’

I had dreamed of owning my own agency since I first started my career three years earlier. But now, at 26 years old, I was told I had no choice. If I wanted to be in control of my career and my life’s path, I would have to start my own advertising agency and create my own opportunities.

That advice stuck in my head like a cocklebur to corduroy. I believed Ashley was right. Over the next 15 years I was promoted from Copywriter, to Senior Writer, to Associate Creative Director, to Creative Director, to Executive Creative Director to Chief Creative Officer. But I never forgot what Ashley said. And I wanted the ultimate control over my career path.

The Weaponry

In 2016, when I was 42 years old, I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. I also launched this blog to chronicle the entire journey (if you’d like to follow along at home consider subscribing). Today, I’d like Ashley to know that I listened, appreciated and followed the advice he gave me in the back of that SUV in Wisconsin, Rapids in 1999.

Key Takeaway

What Ashley said about my career holds true for you too. Your career path, and your life path will be determined by someone else if you don’t take control of it. You too should start your own business, or side hustle, or consulting gig. Prepare your own plan B before you need it. It’s the key to writing your own script with your own happy ending.

Who you should always compare yourself to.

I always say something ridiculous at the beginning of our quarterly meetings. Ok, even typing that sentence sounds ridiculous. For someone who started his advertising career as a precocious young copywriter, the idea of being a business owner who ‘begins quarterly meetings’ sounds kinda crazy. But I digress.

At the beginning of each quarter meeting at my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I say,

“The Weaponry is a (insert ridiculously large revenue number) business, with (insert ridiculously large number) of offices, and (insert ridiculously large number) of employees. Our job, ladies and gentlemen, is to close the gap between The Weaponry I just described, and The Weaponry that exists today.”

We then identify the most important things the business must add, remove, implement, enhance or change in order to close the gap between who we are today and our ideal self. We use the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), as spelled out in Gino Wickman’s book Traction to help us do this.

Every Day I Write The Book.

We compare ourselves to The Ideal Weaponry constantly.  It’s our version of What Would Jesus Do? When making decisions about hiring, copier machines, our website, or business development, we constantly asks, What Would The Fully Formed, Fully Realized Version of The Weaponry Do. You know, the classic WWTFFFRVOTWD.

By creating a strong, tangible and detailed vision of your future self, you can mentally google any questions about your ideal state. Just ask yourself, ‘How does Future State You handle performance reviews?’ Or ‘How does Future State You invoice, or develop a pipeline of new business opportunities?’ When you ask such questions, you’ll usually find the answers sitting right there at the top of the search results. Because your ideal state is optimized for mental SEO.

I’m Talking About You Too (And Maybe U2)

This works for individuals too. By creating a strong image of your future self, you always have a great model to follow. When you stand back-to-back with your future self,  you can easily find the gaps in knowledge, professionalism, patience, trust or reliability that you need to close. This helps you focus your efforts on acquiring new knowledge, skills, and maybe updating your wardrobe.

Key Takeaway.

Don’t compare your business to a competitor. Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’s. The only organization you should be benchmarking against is your organization’s ideal state.  The only person you should be jealous of is Fully Formed You. These are the only comparisons that matter. And they are the only comparisons that you can do anything about. That’s why the guy sitting in my chair at my company’s quarterly meeting didn’t completely surprise me. I’ve been comparing myself to him my entire life.

This is what people really remember about you.

I don’t have any tattoos. But each time we get a meaningful image or quote added to the walls of our new offices at The Weaponry, I feel as if an important statement has been tattooed on me. Of course our wall art is much larger and much less painful than a real tattoo. And I don’t have to hide the wall art from my Mom.

I’ve written about our wall statements before. But last week we had another quote tattooed to our office. Not only do I find this quote inspiring, it states a critical tenant of brand-building.

Our Latest Wall Quote:

 “You are remembered for the rules you break.”

-General Douglas MacArthur

MacArthur hit the nail on the head, and sent it into concussion protocol with this line. In Nike Founder, Phil Knight’s book Shoe Dog, he references this quote several times. I find myself referencing it often too.

There are multiple ways to interpret this quote. But I see it in the most positive light possible. You are remembered for the norms the standards and the expectations you don’t follow. You are remembered for the parts of you that stick out. Not the ones that fit in. You are remembered like Frank Sinatra, for doing it your way.

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Me and my cousin Brooks Albrecht and some 504 point type.

This is true of people, businesses, brands, products, services, plants, minerals and animals. Speaking of animals, consider mammals for a moment. They are warm-blooded and fur-bearing creatures. But the dolphins doesn’t seem like a mammal because it lives in the ocean. The bat doesn’t seem like a mammal because it frickin flies! And the platypus, well, it breaks so many rules I don’t even know what it was to start with.

Conformity

Conformity is the opposite of creativity. Conforming to every rule means you disappear. If you want to be remembered by your peers, in job interviews, or in customers’ minds, you have to break some rules.

Key Takeaway

Look for ways to be different. Break stupid rules. Break smart rules when you have an even smarter reason to do so. Rules were made to be broken. You were made to be remembered. You are not a sheep, or a cow. Don’t follow the flocking herd. Give them something to remember you by.  Your Mom and Dad will eventually get over it. Trust me, I know.

The Weaponry Turns 2 Years Old Today!

From the very beginning of my career I wanted to start my own advertising agency. I dreamed about it for years. I envied those I knew who had done it. And I had wise counselors tell me that starting my own agency was the only way I would be able to control both the path and the length of my advertising career. I figured it would also make it harder for my coworkers to tell me to turn down my music.

I began making concrete plans in the summer of 2015 after a couple of former clients strongly encouraged/challenged/incentivized me to launch a new agency. My cousin Brooks Albrecht and I began formulating plans to launch the new venture from opposite corners of the country. I was in Atlanta. He was in Seattle. We had a lot of late night phone calls fueled by sweet tea and coffee. We were like the Rumpelstiltskin Cousins, trying to spin straw into gold while the world slept.

Brooks was working at Amazon at the time. He was amazing at developing a smart, scalable infrastructure. We devoured the book The E-Myth, and were determined to build our machine the right way from the start. We thought we had a solid plan in place, and even performed some early ‘proof of concept’ alpha testing with two clients, one in Boston and the other in California.

I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having and how excited I was by what we were attempting to do. Then, in the spring of 2016, I filed the paperwork to make it official. Two years ago today on April 12th, 2016, The Weaponry was born, and the adventure began.

Our First Client

 

Our very first client was Global Rescue. On an early trip to Boston to meet with the GR team, I stayed at the home of their Founder and CEO, Dan Richards. When you are first starting off you do things like stay at your client’s home. Both because your first opportunity often comes from someone who you know really well (Dan is one of my closest friends in the world). And because when you are a lean start-up you’ll do anything you can to save money.

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Me and Dan Richards. We’ve known each other since we were 12. Since then we have been football and track teammates. We have been in each other’s weddings. We have helped each other launch companies. And we’ve hitchhiked together.

I had helped Dan with some foundational branding and marketing elements when he first launched his business in 2004. At the time, Dan was the only employee. But by 2016 Global Rescue had hundreds of employees, millions of members, and six offices around the world.

Dan and I went for an early morning workout before we got down to business. As we snaked through the empty streets of Boston at 5:30am on our way to the gym, I asked Dan,

“How long after you launched your business did it no longer feel like a startup?

The Answer

Dan responded quickly and confidently (the way he does everything). He said, ‘2 years.’  At two years he had clients, cashflow, systems and employees. It no longer felt like a victory just to be open for business. I filed that away, and wondered if that would hold true for The Weaponry.

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One of the greatest parts of starting The Weaponry has been sharing the experience with my family. Especially because it gives us a new place to take family photos.

Joining the 2 Year club.

Now that we are officially at the two-year mark, I can say with great confidence, that The Weaponry no longer feels like a startup. As we have approached this milestone, many of my friends who are entrepreneurs have pointed out that a startup’s life expectancy is barely longer than that of a fruit fly. They have emphasized how few startups actually live to eat their second birthday cake.

 

But I think about it differently. I don’t care what the average is. And I don’t think making it to two years in a major victory. My goal wasn’t to build a business that could break the 24-month barrier. It was to build the perfect advertising agency that could stay in business forever.

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We printed way more than 2 year’s worth of stickers. It was a sort of sticky life insurance policy.

 

Motor Boating.

The first two phases of a new business are like the first two phases of motor boating (snickering). In phase 1 you are happy to be moving forward and not hitting rocks or docks. But you are plowing through the water with a lot of resistance, and very little speed or elegance. Then you transition to phase 2. In phase 2 the boat builds enough speed that it actually climbs on top of the water and planes out. The ride smooths out, speeds up, and becomes a lot more fun. The nose of the boat (or bow) comes down, and visibility improves dramatically. At two years old, The Weaponry feels like it is planing and gaining speed.

6 Reasons The Weaponry No Longer Feels Like A Startup:

  1. We have a real office.
  2. We offer our employees insurance benefits (from companies you actually know).
  3. We have retainer clients that provide predictable work and cashflow
  4. We have systems in place to organize, produce and deliver everything we do.
  5. We have a steady stream of new opportunities.
  6. We need to hire more great people

 

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I love that my parents can come visit me at my business. And I’m even happier that I haven’t had to move back in with them.

 

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Cheers!

Conclusion

I am thrilled that this perfect agency project is now two years old. Starting my own business has been the most exciting chapter of my exciting career. Thank you to all of the clients who have trusted us. Thanks to all of our team members who have made the magic. Thanks to my family for having faith. And thank You for taking the time to read about it.

If you are thinking about starting your own business and have questions, I am happy to share what I know. If you are looking for an exciting, growing and positive place to work, let’s talk. If you are looking for a date to the Marketing Prom, give us a ring (this isn’t a real thing, but if it was, we would totally go with you). And if you are looking for an interesting story to follow, consider subscribing to this blog. The next 12 months are sure to provide plenty to read about.