The best way to develop stronger relationships.

I recently watched the movie Green Book. The film is about a blue collar caucasian who who becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour through the 1960s American South. You know, the typical Hollywood formula… I enjoyed the movie and recommend it. But the highlight for me was a great quote from Viggo Mortensen’s character that jumped off the screen and sucker punched me in the earhole:

‘The world is full of lonely people afraid to make the first move.’ – Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga,  Green Book

GreenBook

Make The First Move

On a planet of 7.5 billion digitally connected people, none of us should feel lonely. Yet we often do. Most people wish they had more, deeper or more fulfilling personal and professional connections. But we fail to recognize that the easiest way to make this happen is to make the first move.

Make Contact

If you want more or better professional contacts be the one that makes contact. You are the one that should make the first phone call, send the first text, or write the first email. It’s that simple.

Connect

If you want to reconnect with your high school friends, cousins or former co-workers from that place where everyone bonded over the stupid boss, you should do the connecting. Your mobile phone offers at least a dozen ways to make this happen. If you are not weird, and there is no guarantee that you are not, chances are very good that others will be happy to reconnect with you too.

8 Easy Ways To Create New Connections Or Reconnect Old Ones:

  1. Coffee/Chocolate Milk Meetings  You don’t have to drink coffee. I don’t. Heck, you can eat caramels or enjoy them apples. It’s all arbitrary. #namethatfilm
  2. Afterwork Happy Hours  My friend Susan Stearns’ Happy Hour game is super strong. She gets a group of former co-workers together a few times a year. Thanks SS!

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    Bar time in Madison at State Street Brats with Badger track guys.
  3. Book Clubs  My friends Betty Garrot and Stacy Sollenberger are both half bookworm, and are in 3 book clubs right now. It’s a great way to facilitate social interactions and improve your bookmarking skills.
  4. Dinner Parties  This is a great way to jumpstart or turbocharge personal relationships. My neighbors Yassir and Ghada are excellent at this.

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    Ghada (front left) and Yassir (back middle) are great at getting people together.
  5. Video Conference Meetups  I created a monthly video meetup with my college track teammates. It’s now a highlight of my month. On Wisconsin!

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    A scene from one of my monthly online track team meetups.
  6. Group Texts  Several of my high school classmates and I have a group text that regularly flares up with jokes. Like it did this week when our classmate Dan Richards was interviewed on NPR. Thanks to Marcus Chioffi for starting that one!
  7. Meeting At A Restaurant or Bar. In a 2-day span this week in Atlanta I met with 10 different people at restaurants: Stephanie Herbst-Lucke, Diana Keough, Theresa and Jabari Pride, Harper Cornell, Nicola Smith, Scott Jenkins, Heather Hudgins, Kim Hoey and Mark O’Brien. I am pretty good at this game. And lucky that people agree to meet me.

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    This week Scott Jenkins and I made last minute lunch plans across the street from his tiny little Atlanta office (in the background).
  8. Go for a hike or ride. This is a healthy way to multi task. The opposite of #7.

The Golden Age For Human Connections

Never in history have people lived so close together, had such phenomenal resources to facilitate interactions, yet felt so isolated. This is bullshit. And it’s all because most people are longing for someone else to make the first move.

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These things are like magic wands for facilitating human connections.

Don’t wait for anyone. Be the initiator. Create an alumni group that consists of people from a school, employer, program or organization you enjoyed. Invite people to be part of the group and watch how positively they respond.

Form a group around shared interests. Develop a professional organization of people who do what you do. Be the spark. Be the glue. Heck, be the who dang craft closet that brings the project to life, and see what happens next.

Phone A Friend Friday

I have long considered Fridays, Phone-A-Friend Fridays. So every Friday I contact someone I haven’t talked to in a long time. You can this too. You are sure to surprise and delight someone. All while reducing global loneliness levels.

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My friend Amy Meadows was one of my first Phone A Friend Friday calls.

Key Takeaway

There is nothing more important to your personal and professional happiness than meaningful connections with other humans. Don’t be afraid to make the first call, text or send the first smoke signal. Start today. Because we all get ahead when we get together.

*Please don’t just read this. Do something about it. You can start by sending someone this blog post as an icebreaker. If you send it to me, you will make me laugh, and cause my ice to break.

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An inspiring 4-word quote from my 11-year old.

On a recent car ride I heard my children debating a topic in the back seat. At one point my 13-year old daughter made a point about what she felt was an important precedent set the day before. My son Johann had a simple and elegant response:

Today is not yesterday. -Johann Albrecht (11 y/o)

I love this declaration. It serves as both an inspiration and a warning. Today is indeed, not yesterday. If you had a bad day yesterday, forget about it. It’s over. Today you get to start again fresh. Today is a chance to bounce. It’s a whole new chance to be great. To be productive and smart. To be the you that you want to be.

For those who had a great day yesterday, full of success, productivity and Maslow-quality self actualization, remember that yesterday is gone with the wind. And we have to begin again. To fully capitalize on a great yesterday you need to put in the work again today to build momentum.

Key Takeaway

You are either getting better or you are getting worse. You get to decide which direction you are going every single day. And today is the day that matters most.

 

The amazing story behind one of the most famous memorials in America.

In 2015 my family and I spent Memorial Day weekend in Washington D.C. This is a must-do experience for all Americans. Spending Memorial Day at the famed Arlington National Cemetery, or exploring the war memorials, provides a profound perspective on this important American holiday. Because is shines a spotlight on the true cost of freedom. And there are more lives of American military personnel on the final invoice than you can fathom.

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Ava’s Class Trip

My 13 year old daughter, Ava just returned from a 7th grade class trip to D.C. I wondered how much she would get out of this experience, because she had already been there twice with our family. When she got home I was eager to discuss her 4-day whirlwind tour, and hear about the new things she saw and learned. That’s when she shared an amazing story I hadn’t heard about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

One of the most challenging chapters in America’s military and political history was the Vietnam War. But the memorial honoring the fallen veterans of this war holds an important and inspiring story for us all.

The Young Designer

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was not designed by a world renowned architect, but by a young college student. Maya Ying Lin was a 21 year old senior at Yale when her memorial design was chosen. She was studying architecture. But didn’t yet have her undergraduate or overgraduate degrees. She didn’t have an apprenticeship with Mike Brady. She simply had a good idea.

There were two unique elements of her design. Most of the memorials in Washington are white. But Lin’s memorial is black. Which sets a very different, and more somber tone. The other unique feature of her design are the names. The Wall, as it is known, includes the names of all the veterans who fell during the war, in chronological order. Which means the wall tells the story of the Vietnam War, from beginning to end, in human lives.

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Maya Ying Lin with her winning design.

Lin created her design and submitted it to the national design competition as a part of a college class. In her class at Yale the design only earned Lin a B. Yet in the national competition her design stood out above all others. Which means that despite her age, her lack of experience and the fact that she only got a B on the class project, she beat out 1,420 other designers. The best part of the story is that Lin’s college professor also submitted a design in the competition.

Key Takeaway

There is no age requirement, degree or title required to have a great idea. Never be afraid to share, submit or advocate for your own ideas. Remember that judges, teachers, coaches and bosses don’t always know best. Don’t let the gatekeepers, rule makers and final sayers diminish the inherent value in your great idea, creation or performance.

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Never forget.

Thank You

Thank you to all who served our great country. To those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, we owe more than we could ever repay. But the Vietnam Veterans Memorial comes the closest. By etching the names of all 58,318 fallen during the war in polished black granite it ensures that each and every one of them will play a permanent role in our nation’s story of freedom. Even a college student can see that.

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One of my favorite picks of my 4 favorite people in one of my favorite places.

It’s my birthday! Time for 5 new goals.

Today, May 25th, is my birthday. I consider my birthday the most important day of my life. Seriously. If it wasn’t for my birthday I doubt I’d have a wedding anniversary. Or kids. Or my birthday suit. Or a blog.

The Real New Year’s Day

I think of my birthday, not New Year’s Day, as the starting point of my year. And this year I am focused on some very important goals. Or as a Mexican soccer announcer would say, I have some ‘Muy Importante Gooooooooooals!’

My 5 Goals For The Next Year

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Me at work with my favorite saying.

1. Get More Aggressive.  Recently I’ve done more leaping and less looking. I’ve taken several premature steps forward on initiatives rather than taking the time to properly prepare, and consider all of the possible outcomes. The results have been impressive. By simply moving forward when I get an inkling I am creating more progress than I do when I carefully consider my options. So in the year ahead, less thinking. More doing. Or as Toby Keith said, a little less talk and a lot more action.

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 I remember being excited to hit 200 blog posts. That was almost 100 posts ago. Art credit goes to Intern Ava.

2. Write more.  I already write like I am Orville and Wilbur’s third brother. But in the year ahead I have goals to crank my typewriter up to 11. In addition to this blog that I post to 3 times per week, I now have 3 book ideas started. I also met with a couple of magazine publishers yesterday about writing a regular piece for their pub. (That’s slang for publication. I am not writing for an Irish bar.) How did this opportunity come about?  I got aggressive and contacted them on an impulse, before I really thought it through. (See Goal #1)

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I launched my first business with my cousin Brooks Albrecht. Now we’re discussing other ideas.

3. Create Another Business. There is something about entrepreneurship that is like Pringles. Because once you pop, you can’t stop. I have 3 leading business ideas I am currently working through. One involves cheese. (#WhenInWisconsin…) One is a franchise opportunity (not to be confused with a french fry opportunity). And the other involves fo real estate. (#forealdo). Of course I have other ideas that get added to the list daily. So I want to bring at least one of the ideas to life in the next year. But no matter which one wins, I want to eat more cheese.

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The stud in the middle is my man Enrique Perez-Guerra, my college athletic trainer. We reconnected recently after 20 years. My teammate Scott Brinen and I now video conference with each other once a month.

4. Become A Greater Connector. I am a dot connector. It is how I process the world. I love creating, maintaining and facilitating connections. This is my most meaningful contribution to the people in my circles. Because at the end of our days the only thing that really matters is the impact we have on each other’s lives. Wait, did that just get real serious, real fast? #crickets

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My family on the Riverwalk in San Antonio during Fiesta.

5. More Quality Time With Family. I put my family at the top of the list of people I want to connect with. Like the meatball on top of spaghetti. My family includes my wife, Dawn and children Ava, Johann and Magnus. But it also includes my parents, sisters and their families. As well as my very large extended family. Especially now that I am about to make my first lap around the sun without any grandparents. Which means my generation needs to prioritize and facilitate our gatherings now that my 4 grandparents are sitting together at the great card table in the sky.

Key Takeaway

Birthdays are important. They serve as an annual reminder of the scarcity of time. To make the most of each year, reevaluate what is most important to you on your birthday. Set new and higher goals and expectations. Then charge forward to meet them. It’s how we create a life worth writing about. Which, if I’m lucky, would be book number 4.

My Birthday Wish

If you want to do me a special free favor on my birthday, please subscribe to get this blog gift wrapped and delivered to your inbox. It would really mean a lot to me. The subscribe button is on the home page.

*Also, Happy Birthday to my sister Heather. Yes we share a birthday. No we’re not twins. #howweirdisthat

If you dream of early retirement you are in the wrong job.

Everyone has an ideal career path. For some it includes a 9 to 5 job, with no late nights and no weekends. For others it means working from home in your Underoos. And for others the ideal career ends in early retirement. Which makes me want to throw up.

Early Retirement

I hate the idea of early retirement. Yet people talk about it as if it was the Holy Grail. It is not. It is a way to escape an unfulfilling and unrewarding job.

The Better Alternative

You know what is better than early retirement? A really, really late retirement, because you love the work you do so much that you can’t imagine stopping. The Rolling Stones are older than dirt. But they still tour, still put on an amazing show, and still have fun doing it. But you don’t have to be a rockstar to love your job. I know accountants and receptionists, postal workers and even lawyers who deeply enjoy their work.

My Career

I have loved my entire career. In fact, by the end of my first week in advertising I was totally hooked. Every day brings me fun new puzzles to solve. Each job promotion has brought me new challenges, learnings and excitement. It doesn’t hurt that I also met my wife at work. #BenefitsHRdidNotTellMeAbout

When I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, the challenge of entrepreneurship and creating the perfect agency became an amazing and rewarding new adventure. Now I am constantly discovering other interesting career opportunities I hope I have a chance to pursuit before my ticker tuckers out.

Johnny Paycheck

Johnny Paycheck once famously sang, ‘Take This Job and Shove It!’ But I say take your early retirement and shove it. Instead, find work you’d rather not retire from. Do that and you are winning at life. And contributing and earning and learning and growing. And racing and pacing and plotting the course. #NameThatTune

The right work makes you feel strong, smart and productive. It makes you feel valuable and wanted. Most importantly, it makes you feel fulfilled.

Instead of escaping your career misery through the trap door of early retirement, make a change. Like Michael Jackson said. Do what you love, delegate or hire for the rest, and make money until you are too old to spend it all.

Key Takeaway

If you really want to retire early you haven’t found the right job. Find rewarding work and you will never want to give it up.

*If you know someone who needs to hear this message, please share it with them.

How my mom influences me every day.

As I prepared for Mother’s Day this year I wrote not 1, but 2 different blog posts about my Mom. On Mother’s Day I decided to publish The most important gift my mother gave me. Which meant I had to figure out what to do with my bonus post.

This week is also special for my Mama. Somehow she managed to birth all 4 of her kids in the 4 days between May 22nd and May 25th. You can read about that little bit of Motherly Wizardry in the post: What makes these siblings freakishly unique. So to kick off my Mom’s Giving Birth Week, here is the Non-Mother’s Day Mother’s Day post.


Happy Mother’s Day! A great Mom is like a subscription to the Jelly Of The Month Club, because it is the gift that keeps on giving. I have an amazing Mom. Which is total luck. Because I simply inherited her. But my Mom, Jill Albrecht, has given me an unfair advantage in life.

Mom-ing Runs In The Family

My Mom started off life with an unfair advantage too, because she had a great Mom. My Grammy, Lillian (Anderson) Sprau was a saintly Norwegian American woman. She had 9 children and lived to be 100 years old. When you have 9 kids to practice on, you get to really hone your mothering skills. My Grammy taught my Mom those skills. My mom then taught her children, including me and my sisters Heather, Alison and Donielle.

Big Stuff

My Mama taught us all the big stuff. The importance of a good education. How to advocate for ourselves and for others. To value time with family. And the value of humor.

Little Stuff

My Mom taught us countless little lessons too. In fact, one of the lessons she taught me probably seemed so small to her that it wasn’t much of a lesson at all. But I still use it every day.

Make Your Own Lunch.

My my mom wisely delegated lunch making responsibilities to me and my sisters at an early age. After all, we had a vested interest in eating. By the time I was 12 years old I was packing my own lunch every day before school. It quickly became a habit.

I packed my own lunch every day in junior high and high school. After I moved out of the dorms in college I made my own lunch every day. When I started my first real job after college I made my own lunch too.

Fast forward 2 decades. I have had a successful career in advertising. I have had fancy pants sounding titles, including Executive Vice President, Chief Creative Officer and CEO. Today, I own my own business, an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Yet every day before I leave for the office I still make my own lunch.

Why

  • It saves me a lot of money.
  • I have portion control.
  • I can eat wherever I am.
  • I can eat whenever I get hungry.
  • Nobody can spit in my lunch.
  • It creates a predictable routine.
  • I don’t have to think about where to go for lunch.
  • It teaches my children a good habit.

Key Takeaway

Our mothers create good habits and values that last a lifetime. In fact, you may be surprised how many of your daily habits, your brand preferences and your techniques were created by your Mom. After all, before you met your Mom you were pretty clueless.

Thanks Mom for all the big things you gave me. But today, I am also thankful for the little things. The things I do automatically because you taught me to. They benefit me at home, at work, with friends and amongst strangers. You did a wonderful job teaching me to do things your way. I don’t know what happened with my sisters. They must be Dad’s fault.

Why baby steps are the key to big progress.

I bet you have good ideas all the time. Ideas about inventions you should create, businesses you should start, books you should write, and funny comebacks you should have said (#TheJerkStoreCalled).

We all dream of writing a best seller and starting the next cover-of-Forbes business. Unfortunately, for most people, these are never more than dreams. Because most people have no idea how easy it is to make their dreams a reality.

Baby Steps

There is one simple element that changes dreamers into doers. It’s action. To make a dream come true you simply need to step towards it. You don’t need a giant Giannis Antetokounmpo or Stretch Armstrong-size step. Any baby step will do.

Launching My Business

When I really wanted to start my own advertising agency I started taking little actions that moved the idea forward. First, I bought and read books about starting and running a business. I followed the advice in the books, and actually wrote down my plans. Then I started following the plans. I met with entrepreneurs and harvested their insights and advice.

None of it was hard. Within months I had started a business in my spare time that would support my family. All because I kept taking baby steps.

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Not only is this a baby about to take her next step, it may be the cutest picture that has ever appeared in my blog. Credits go to Angeliz Olivares on Pexels.com

More Baby Steps

Over the past 2 weeks I have taken small but meaningful steps forward on several new projects:

  1. I have created a growing monthly meet up with my college track and field teammates that I think could have a major impact on many lives.
  2. I started writing a script for a live show that I think could become a template for live entertainment shows in every city in the world.
  3. I have taken steps forward to create a new food brand, because I recognized a wide open opportunity that no one else was grabbing.
  4. I contacted a publication and told them I was interested in writing a regular segment for them. I now have a meeting with the publishers in 4 days.
  5. I have started writing 2 different books.
  6. I have been actively studying real estate investing. Not just thinking about it.
  7. I have been sketching out new t-shirts I want to create.

What Happens Next

I am thrilled to have started all of these projects. But they are not reality, yet. They all require more action. In fact, none of the 8 things I started can or will move forward without me. So the baby steps have to continue. But if I keep moving I will have a new line of t-shirts to wear and sell, a food brand you could find at grocery stores, a real estate business, 2 new books, a regular meet up group format that could be repeated around the world, a regular column in a publication and a crazy live show you would pay money to see (even though everyone wears clothes).

Key Takeaway

Action is everything. It is the different between dreams that come true and those that vanish into the ether. Talk is cheap. Action is magic. If you just keep taking baby steps, before you know it, you will have completed a marathon of progress. So, when you get an inkling that you should create or do something, take a baby steps towards it. It’s how I created my advertising and idea agency. And it is how I’ll be able to bring all the other ideas to life too.

If you found value in this post you would also enjoy, The most important ingredient to entrepreneurial success.

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