Do you know that your smart phone is robbing you every day?

Digital devices are amazing. They enable you to find the answer to virtually any question, any time. They help you fill in knowledge gaps like grout. Or mortar. Or caulk.

So we end up filling our free time by answering questions: What is the weather like tomorrow? Tap. What’s the balance in my bank account? Tap. What is Debbie doing? Tap. Is she still in Dallas? Tap. What was Gregory Hines famous for? Tap. What do you call water from the faucet? Tap.

The Dark Side

But these omnipresent digital devices have a significant downside too. They are depleting one of our most valuable resources: our free time. That precious time when we can let our minds wander in empty space. The time we can use to imagine exciting new ideas is disappearing at an alarming rate. In fact, the planet is losing free time faster than we are losing rain forest (acutally I just imagined that fact in my free time).

If we are not careful we will squander our most fertile time to invent, improve and inspire. That time lost can never be recovered. Not even with LoJack.

The world needs more great ideas. So do businesses, communities, schools and households. Great ideas are born in the quiet spaces in between. Those spaces that are now being filled in with screen time.

Key Takeaway

Starting today, take back some of your thinking time. While you are waiting for something to start, or something to end, or someone to show up, keep your smart phone in your pocket or purse. Instead, let your mind go wherever it wants. If you give it enough time it is sure to arrive somewhere exciting and new. Once it does, pull out your phone and tell me all about it.

*If you know someone who could benefit from more free time and less screen time, please consider sharing this post.

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16 important life lessons I learned from boogie boarding.

Vacation time is the most important time in your career. If you squander your vacation time it will have a negative impact on your work, your happiness, your family, your friends and your tan lines.

I spent last week on vacation at the beach in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. My family of 5 loaded up our Family Truckster and drove from the western shore of Lake Michigan to the Eastern Shore of the second largest barrier island on the east coast. We drove because we bring 5 bikes and 5 boogie boards, which are hard to stuff in the overhead compartment on a plane.

Boogie On Board

I spent a lot of time boogie boarding. It is one of my favorite ways to spend a vacation day. Boogie boading is like life (#gettingdeep). I have thought a lot about why I enjoy boogie boarding so much, and what it has taught me. Here’s what I came up with.

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My daugher Ava and I about to boogie.

Top 16 lessons I have learned while boogie boarding.

  1. Be present. When you are boogie boarding you become totally absorbed in the moment. Like Bounty. Being present makes you feel alive. Feeling alive feels good.
  2. You have to choose the waves you want to ride.  Opportunities come at us over and over. We have to decide which ones are best for us. Others around you will jump on waves that aren’t right for you. Let them.
  3. You have to kick to get started. To catch a wave you have to start with a little forward momentum. Which means you need to get moving first. Never forget that. My son Johann (11) says ‘If you don’t start kicking you’ll just float.’ #truth
  4. Sometimes you are too early. We often get excited about an opportunity too early. Oh well. We tried.
  5. Sometimes you are too late. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. I’ve missed many a great wave because I didn’t time it right and it got away.
  6. Sometimes what looks great isn’t. A job, a client, an opportunity can look perfect. But it doesn’t turn out that way. This will happen. A lot. But on the other hand…
  7. Sometimes what looks bad isn’t. I have caught waves that I thought would be forgettable, and they turned out to be the best rides of the day. My career has been like that too. Some of my favorite clients and opportunities started inconspicuously. Don’t write them off.
  8. There will always be more waves to catch. Whenever you miss an opportunity, know there will be an endless supply of others. You just have to paddle back out and get ready for them.
  9. Sometimes a great ride ends with a spectacular crash. This is part of the fun. It’s part of the story and the experience. Take the ride anyway.
  10. Sometimes you lose your suit. Waves and jobs and life all have a funny way of trying to return us to our natural state of nudity.
  11. Sometimes you get stung by jellyfish.  3 of the 5 members of my family were stung multiple times by jellyfish on our latest trip. The sting is temporary. The story is forever. And now we include a bottle of vinegar in our beach bin. #nobodygotpeedon
  12. Sometimes you swim with sharks. When you wade into the ocean you are entering the shark’s world. I have seen sharks several times while boogie boarding.  Look for fins. Listen for the Jaws music. If you see or hear these signs, quickly back out of the water while not smelling tasty. The sharks will pass. There are sharks in businesses and social circles too. Keep an eye out for them.
  13. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and hold on. Really great waves can get gnarly. In those cases you have to get primal. Hold on to your board. Shut your eyes to keep the saltwater and sand out, and try to outlast the chaos. The rest of life works the same way.
  14. The scarier the wave the more exciting the ride. That’s all I have to say about that.
  15. Rip currents are real.  There is always a chance you will get sucked out to sea. We review how to swim out of rip currents and rip tides with our kids every time before we boogie. We also talk to our kids about how to avoid drugs and drinking and the wrong crowds. Which are the rip currents of dry land.
  16. People on the beach wish they were doing what you are doing. But people boogie boarding are never jealous of those lying on the beach. The same holds true of entrepreneurship and exercise and all kinds of adventure. Because Active > Passive.

Key Takeaway

Take your vacation time. Enjoy as much life as you can. Take chances. Be Present. Learn from everything you do. And come back better than you left.

What is the defining event of your life?

John McCain died of brain cancer this week. In the first alert I received on my mobile phone announcing the death of this long time senator from Arizona, there was a lengthy summation of his life. Which was remarkable to say the least. But there was one new thought in the summation that jumped off the screen at me. Figuratively, that is. There was no literal jumping.

McCain was a Naval fighter pilot who was shot down, captured, imprisoned and tortured for 5 and a half years in Vietnam. But upon his release in 1973, he was determined to make sure that his experience as a POW was not the defining event of his life.

This is a great reminder not to allow bad things to be the things others remember about us. It is a great reminder to continuously push ourselves to do more and be more. We have the ability to add so much good to our life story, our careers, and our relationships that it minimizes the bad.

McCain’s story also reminds us that even in a life full of happiness and success we have the ability to do more and be better. I’m working at it. I hope you are too.

Is there enough adventure in your career?

In 2006 I had a 365 day calendar. You know, the type of calendar that has 365 sheets that are stacked like a thick pad of post it notes. I don’t remember the theme of the calendar. In fact, I have forgotten 364 of the pages. But there is one page that I will never forget. At least until the Alzheimer’s kicks in.

My life in 2006

The date was Friday, July 21, 2006. I had been at my first job out of college for nearly 10 years. I had been married to my wife, Dawn, for nearly 4 years. We had owned our first home for 2 years. And our first child, our daughter Ava, was about to celebrate her first birthday by smashing a cupcake into her face.

That July morning I tore off the July 20th page on my calendar like it was yesterday’s news (because it was), and revealed the following message:

“I have always wanted an adventurous life. It took a long time to realize that I was the only one who could make an adventurous life happen to me.” -Richard Bach

The Quote

This quickly became one of my favorite quotes. It serves as a constant reminder to adventure. To try new things. To move beyond our comfort zones. To make our insurance premiums worth paying.

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I keep this little square as a constant reminder to adventure.

We should adventure on our weekends, on our vacations and holidays. But we should also adventure at home on Wednesday nights. We should adventure in our reading and eating and driving. We should try new things, and semi-dangerous or even full-strength dangerous things on a regular basis. We should do the things Rupert Holmes sings about in The Pina Colada song (I know it’s called Escape, but who really calls it that? His lawyer?).

My Career

Shortly after reading this quote I turned my career into a legitimate adventure. After 10 years at my first job I moved on to my second job. I also moved to a new state, and took on 3 successively larger positions over the next 4 years. 7 years later, Engauge, the ad agency I worked for, was bought by Publicis Groupe, and I moved to Atlanta in a new role in a new company. Then, in 2015 I began planning to start my own business. Because that seemed like the natural next step.

Entrepreneurship

There is no career adventure like owning your own business. In April of 2016 I launched the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. And it has been the most exciting chapter of my career. As an entrepreneur, you learn like a college student on a daily basis. Which means that you are constantly growing and pushing yourself into unfamiliar situations.

It is in the pushing and growing and unfamiliar that the adventure happens. Threats and opportunities and excitement now surround me every day. And I love it. It is better than a television show, movie, or book. Because it is happening to me. I am not feeling someone else’s drama. It is very much my own.

Key Takeaway

Before you know it we will all be dead. So while we are here, create your own adventure.    Take that new job. Make that move. Go on that trip. Change careers completely, or get more schooling if you need to do what you really want to do. Start your own business or consult of side hustle or whatever it takes to add more venturing to your life. Give the person who delivers your eulogy something to write about. Give the rest of us great stories to read about.

Remember, no one makes it out of here alive. So there is no use in playing it safe. But as Richard Bach told me in 2006, no one else can give you an adventurous life. You have to make it yourself.

Why you should think more like a crack dealer.

I have never done any drugs and I never plan to. When I was a kid Nancy Reagan told me to just say no to drugs. And I listened. Then Whitney Houston told me that crack is whack. But I’m not sure she was even listening to herself. Although I don’t blame her. There are a lot of people who can’t seem to get enough crack. In fact, saying that something ‘is like crack’ is the ultimate customer experience compliment.

Getting Customers Hooked.

If you have a great product or service that you think people will love, think like a crack dealer. The crack dealer does not try to sell potential customers on the various product benefits of crack. They do not share testimonials, or research findings. Or charts and graphs. They don’t print up brochures highlighting the various features of their products, or images of happy users.

The crack dealer knows they have a hit (pun intended). So they give away the crack for free. Then they let the crack experience sell itself. And customers come running back for more. That is, until they come shuffling back for more, shaking like a Parkinson’s Disease victim.

Sample As Sales Tool

Since I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I have found that when we give our strategic thinking, our creative ideas and our enthusiasm away for free, the recipient very often comes back for more. I want our initial free meetings to feel like test drives of a real engagement. This approach has been a key driver of our growth and success. In fact I wrote about it here in Give it away, Give it away now!

Key Takeaway

If you want to start selling a product or service that you know is great, or you have a great offering that you are not selling enough of, try acting like a crack dealer. Give your crack away for free. Let your ideal customers experience your crack first hand. Let them feel what they are missing. Get them addicted to your crack over a short time period, or in a small quantity. Then capitalize on the addiction over the long-term. But never lower the quality of the product or service.

If the free sample doesn’t get customers hooked, your crack needs work. In which case you should keep refining and improving your crack until it is fully addictive. Focus on the lifetime value of a new customer, and the free samples will feel like a tiny price to pay for future sales.

*Don’t ever really do crack. Or sell crack. Don’t step on a crack. Don’t break your Mama’s back. And don’t show your crack. Not even if you are a plumber.

When you are great at what you do, no one cares what you wear.

Yesterday I had a bee and wasp specialist come to my house to handle a situation. A buzzillon yellow jackets found a small opening in my siding, and Goldilocks-ed their way into the just-right attic space above my garage, where they built a watermelon sized nest.

Dennis, aka The Bee Guy, (not to be confused with the Bee Man, Bee Boy or Bee Gees) walked up to the spot where the yellow jackets were throwing me a house swarming party, and calmly said he could take care of the problem. He said, ‘But first let’s look to see if there are any other areas of concern.’

Those Little Stingkers!

We walked around the house, and sure enough, he found another active area on the back side of the house that we hadn’t noticed. Then he got to work. He treated both of the nests, and soon it was clear that these Georgia Tech mascots were no longer active residents in my home.

The Kicker

Dennis never put on any protective gear. He never put on any netting, or armor or even bug spray. He did his work in jeans and a short sleeve shirt. And he did it really well. He talked me through each step. He even walked me through the proprietary equipment he used that he had invented and created himself. I could tell that Dennis knew his profession as well as anyone could (I bet he got all bees in school).

Key Takeaway

Don’t be fooled by clothing. It is easy to buy the right clothes to look the part. It is much harder to have the skills the part requires. There is no direct relationship between clothing and expertise. I have found over and over again that people who are truly experts don’t get caught up in looking the way you think they would or should or could. So focus on gaining knowledge and experience. Become great at what you do. The more value you offer others, the less value they will place on your appearance. Which is good news for a man who looks like me.

How to enjoy the best results from your reading.

 As I began planning to launch my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2015, I could tell something was changing in me. In hindsight I now know that this is when I became an entrepreneur. I still had a full-time job, but I was creating The Weaponry in my spare time. I was transitioning from dreamer to doer.

I wrote the blog post below at that time. But I think about the basic lesson in this post often, and felt it was worth re-sharing. Especially since it was one of my very early blog posts, and very few people read it (Besides Joe, Jessa and Jeff, who all commented on it. Apparently it appeals to the J-crowd). 

Originally posted to The Perfect Agency Project on January 7th, 2016

books

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).

Your Reading Changes You

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.”  -Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

This reading about reading encouraged Adam “Ordinary” Albrecht to read even more.

The Revelation

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.

Let’s Go!

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.

Key Takeaway

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.