A lesson from the most important plates in the weight room.

I love to workout. Lifting weights is the core of my workout routine. When I started lifting weights as a high school freshman it changed my life. Suddenly I had a way to burn off my teenage energy supply. I enjoyed it so much that I added 65 pounds during my 4 years of high school without getting an inch taller.

Today

As an adult who no longer competes in anything athletic-y I still love to lift weights. My teenage energy has been replaced by the energy created by the opposing forces of adulthood. But the energy is still there, and still needs to be burned off.

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The best way to make stress go away.

The Plates

For most of the past 30 years I thought of the large 45-pound plates as the most important plates in the weight room. When I was a high school freshman I couldn’t wait to put 45-pound plates on each side of the barbell when I was bench pressing. By my senior year I could put 3 of those bad boys on each side. During college I could bench 4 of those on each side, and squat well over 5. Those 45-pounds plates were milestones. And they were all I focused on.

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There’s a lot on your plates. But which ones are the most important?

A Different Perspective

Today my thinking has changed. The 45-pound plates may be the most high profile pieces of iron in the gym. But they are not the most important. Not even close. The most valuable plates in any weight room or home gym are the littlest. The 2 and a half pounders.

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These little guys make big things happen.

The 2.5-pound plates are the key to progress. Every time you workout you need to push yourself a little bit more. Just a little. And that small, consistent push keeps you growing and getting stronger.

Mini Magic Makers

When you put one of those little 2.5 pounders on each side of your barbell you can increase your total load by 5 pounds. Not a lot. Just 5 pounds. But that is how progress is made. Little by little. Consistently. Like a slow and steady, sustainable march forward. You can’t jump 45 pounds at a time. But the 2.5 pound plates will build you a bridge to your next major goal.

Beyond Weights and Plates

All of our personal and professional improvements comes through slow and steady progress. Small steps add up to big steps. That’s why there is immense value in incremental improvements. The small steps are sustainable. They are the building blocks of success. And they are the foundation upon which all forward momentum is built.

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Small steps are a big deal.

Key Takeaway

Small improvements are the secret to success. Together, your small improvements add up to the quantum leaps and major breakthroughs that others notices. But giant steps forward are really just little steps blurred together. Focus on the little steps. They will take you where you want to go.

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

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Are you in the career you are supposed to be in?

Monday night I had dinner with my friend Greg Rozycki at his home in Emeryville, California. Zyck and I grew up together in Norwich, Vermont. We went to high school together at Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire. Which is just across the Connecticut River from Norwich.

Fun Fact: Our school district was the first interstate school district in the United States. It took a bill signed by JFK to be approved. And it was the last thing JFK signed before he was assassinated (so maybe he shouldn’t have signed it… hmm…).

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Zyck and I holding a board during our high school talent show. (that was our talent).

Zyck and I have known each other since we were 12-years old. We played football together. Zyck was a star athlete. Not only did he make the All-State football team, he was an All-American lacrosse player in high school. He went on to have an outstanding college lacrosse career at Brown University. Then he went to medical school at Dartmouth. Today he is Dr. Rozycki, a Pediatrician in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s a pretty amazing dude.

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Zyck and I and our Buddy Rett Emerson.

The Introduction

Before Monday night Zyck and I hadn’t seen each other in person in 8 years. When I arrived at his home he re-introduced me to his two children, Sanam (13) and Sachin (11). Then he said something really interesting to his kids:

‘Of all of my friends Adam is the one who has the most perfect career for him.’ – Dr. Greg Rozycki

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Me, Zyck and Sanam on Monday night in California.

Advertising!

Since I first started my career as an advertising creative I have heard this same sentiment many, many times. My great childhood friend Marcus Chioffi says this every time I see him. My Uncle Rod says he is glad that I am finally able to put my unique thinking to good use.

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Spending time back home in Vermont. That’s little Sanam in the green shirt.

Finding Your Perfect Fit

I always laugh at these comments. But they are true. I have found a career that is perfectly suited to my strongest and most natural skills and abilities. I love the work I do and I think it shows. When I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I found the hard work of starting a new business as enjoyable as anything I have ever done. Because I love what I do.

The Big Questions

Would your closest friends and family say you are doing exactly what you should be doing with your career?

  • If not, what should you be doing?
  • What are you really great at?
  • What do you love to do that you are not doing right now?
  • How can you make money doing that?
  • Why aren’t you doing it?

Key Takeaway

Finding work that you love to do is one of greatest discoveries in life. It makes it exciting to get out of bed on a Monday morning. It makes it easy to put in the extra effort that will make you extra successful. It gives you special energy that makes long hours not seem so long. Best of all, you don’t spend any time thinking about the career you wish you had. Thanks for the reminder Zyck.

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

 

What special skill can you spin into gold?

Last night I flew back to Milwaukee from San Francisco. I rarely watch movies on flights. But last night there was a movie that was calling my name. It was a documentary called The Biggest Little Farm, about a young couple in Los Angeles who decide to become farmers. #nonotcannabis

The couple, John and Molly Chester, know nothing about farming. But they find an investor willing to help them buy a 200-acre farm an hour north of L.A. However, the farm they buy is terrible. Like Charle Barkley would say. The soil is lifeless, nutrient-less, moisture-less and generally worthless. But they try anyway.  And as so often happens in the movies, they made it work, and end up living into their dreams.

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The Golden Quote

90 minutes into the 91 minute documentary I found a golden nugget. John Chester, the farmer and movie director, talks about the critical importance of the microorganisms that were reintroduced to bring the soil back to life. He says,

‘On our farm there are 9 billion organisms churning away at decaying life forms —purpose driven organisms, alchemizing death to life.’  -John Chester

Whoah! 

Circle that last part:  Purpose driven organisms, alchemizing death to life?!?

The idea of organisms alchemizing death to life is incredibly inspiring. Those scrappy little microorganisms have found their powerful micro purposes: To help create life out of death. That is, to break down what had been living (plants/insects/manure), and prepare it for use by the next lifeforms to hit that patch of soil.

Alchemy

Alchemizing is perhaps the most powerful concept on the planet. It refers to transforming the nature or properties by a seemingly magical process. Which is certainly what was happening in the soil of the Chester’s farm. 

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Stay Gold.

True of False?

However, in chemistry class we were taught that there is no such thing as alchemy.  My high school chemistry teacher made it very clear that you can’t turn ordinary metals into gold. Or go Rumplestiltskin and spin straw into gold. Or turn your lab partner’s Chuck Taylors into gold. 

But I have learned through real life experience that you can indeed alchemize the abundant elements that surround you into gold. Because through passion, skill and hard work you can turn anything into into gold. Anything.  Just ask Brian Scudamore who started 1-800-GOT-JUNK.

Things of yours that can be spun into gold.

  • Creativity
  • Sense of Humor
  • Charisma
  • Personal network
  • Mechanical ability
  • Photogenicity
  • Culinary skills
  • Work Ethic
  • Writing skillz
  • Organization skills
  • Discipline
  • The body of a God or Goddess
  • Public speaking
  • Courage
  • Analytical skills
  • Personal energy
  • A great smile
  • Social skills
  • Problem solving abilities
  • An ability to write lists like this one

I have seen people turn their abilities in all of these areas into a great deal of money. The investment it takes is personal. Not financial. But the payout comes in every form you can imagine.

Key Takeaway

Purpose and passion are powerful forces that enable you to turn your natural assets into gold. Understand your innate skills and abilities. Hone them. Focus them. And use them to turn all that you have into all that you every wanted. It’s easier than you think. While you can certainly do this by starting your own business, you can use the same approach to drive great wealth or freedom as an employee or hired gun. Make your own magic. Spin your own gold. You don’t even need a pile of straw to get started.

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

To live your best life, capture fewer Selfies, and more Self-A’s.

I recently took a vacation to the Pacific Northwest with my wife and 3 children. We visited amazing places, including Seattle, Mt. Rainer, Mount St. Helens, The Columbia River George, Multnomah Falls, Cannon Beach and Astoria. We visited Forks and Port Angeles, Washington, of Twilight fame. We also visited Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Which taught me that one nation’s Pacific Northwest lies directly below another nation’s Pacific Southwest. #mindblown

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Hiking on Mt. Ranier felt like visiting the Alps. We even think we saw the Von Trapp Family Singers.

Natural Beauty

That corner of the world is incredibly beautiful and picturesque. Which explains why we saw so many people taking pictures. However, I noticed many of the people were actually taking pictures of themselves, even though those people were not nearly as beautiful as the natural surroundings that, well, surrounded them.

The Selfie

The selfie is an interesting cultural phenomenon. We take pictures of ourselves with people and things that we think will make us look cooler, more interesting, richer or more attractive. Sure, selfies can help capture a memory. However, I can’t help but feel like the selfie snappers I encountered on vacation were missing the essence of the experience. Because the goal is not to take a picture that make it look as if you are having a great experience. The key is to actually have an amazing, fulfilling and rewarding experience.

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We spent Father’s Day on an epic hike that made me feel I was living the life I imagined for myself.

Self-A

The key to a great life is not to collect selfies. Instead, we should collect Self-A’s. A Self-A is a slangy and shortened way to reference our feelings of Self Actualization. Self Actualization, for the uninitiated, represents the highest rung on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is the ultimate state of human existence. It is the moment when we feel we have achieved our full potential. They are moments of completeness. And moments of bliss. But they only occur for a brief time. So you have to be self aware, or you’ll miss them. 

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The Next Level

You can only experience Self-A, if all your basic needs are met. Which means that you need food, water, shelter, sleep, safety, relationships and confidence first. But once you collect all of those prerequisites you can go for the bonus round of Self-A.

Living the Dream

When you experience Self Actualization, you are literally living your dream. Over the past 3 years, since I began my own entrepreneurial adventure, and took more control over my life, I have been experiencing more and more moments of Self-A. In fact, the increase in Self-A’s is the most quantifiable and meaningful change in my life.

The moments occur at work, when I am ideating, when I am with my team, when I am with friends, and when I am driving my John Deere lawn tractor. However, these magical moments of Self-A seem to happen most frequently when I am totally present on a family adventure.

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My wife, Dawn, on Mt. Ranier in June.

Self Awareness

On my recent visit to the PNW I noted that I was allowing myself to be absorbed into amazing moments. While I noted that others were whipping out their mobile phones or selfie sticks to capture the moment. Stopping to capture a selfie kills your Self-A. Because you start focusing on the photo, not just the feeling.

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This is one of my favorite photos from the day. I had no idea Dawn was taking this picture. I was totally in-the-moment, and relived the experience of awe when Dawn showed me this photo later that night.

 

A Notable Notebook Idea

To fully enjoy these moments we should carry notebooks to document the details of our Self-A, making the following notes:

  • Where were you?
  • Who were you with?
  • What were you doing when you felt a moment that feels as good and real and amazing and as close to your dream as life ever gets?

By collecting notes on your Self-A’s you’ll gain insights into how to experience even more of these priceless moments. Which is how you win at life.

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My son Johann and I soaking it all in.

Key Takeaway.

Don’t settle for selfies. Don’t aim to take pictures of yourself doing cool things in cool places with cool people. Focus on experiencing the moments. Aim for more moments when your reality feels as good as, if not better than the dream. That feeling creates the best memory of all. Aim to feel that way as often as you can. You’ll be rewarded with a life well lived. Rather than simply a life well photographed.

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

Sometimes you let yourself down.

It’s not whether or not you fall down, it’s whether or not you get back up. That is the essence of all motivational quotes on perseverance. Today I’m giving myself a pep talk. Because after having established and adhering to a very regular blog writing and publishing routine, this week I published… nothing. Not even a gif of tumbleweeds blowing past my keyboard.

I have a tall stack of excuses to lean on for my posting miss this week. I had work travel. I had long and late shoot days. But the biggest issue I didn’t overcome was that I got sick. I have been dealing with a strange kind of sickness that attacked my lungs and seems to have fractured my sleep-iphram, or whatever your sleep mechanism is called. After not sleeping all night, the last thing you want to do is get up at 6am to write for an hour or so. So I let myself off the hook.

Now I have to get myself back on the hook. Starting with a Saturday post that is really an apology. The apology is to me, from me. As I wrote about in, How to use fake deadlines to make your dreams come true, we make progress by giving ourselves false deadlines. They are the key to self driven accomplishments.

I had set false deadlines to publish blog posts every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. But this week I missed my own false deadlines. Boo. It’s not that the one week is a major problem. But I have annual blogging growth goals to meet. And I need every post to help accomplish those goals. 

Key Takeaway

We all stumble on our journeys at some point. The key is to not let those stumbles become the norms. The exception should be the exception. Don’t let it get promoted to the rule. Or the law.

And… I’m back on track.

In the digital age, your best marketing tool is made of paper.

Recently I made the cardinal sin of business cards. I ran out. I didn’t realize it was about to happen until it was too late. I stash my business cards everywhere. In my wallet, my work backpacks, in the pouch of my Moleskin notebooks, in my car, my suitcase and my gym bag. Because you never know when you will need a business card. Or said differently, because you always need to be ready with a business card.

Marketing Weapons

Your business cards are the most important part of your marketing weaponry. They are mini ads that you can place directly in the hand of a prospective client or potential partner right at the moment when you make a strong positive impression on them. (Not when you do a great impression of them.)

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Despite what you heard on MTV’s Cribs, this is where the magic happens.

Business cards are bread crumbs you leave behind that lead people back to you.

Business cards are like Trojan horses that gain access into the businesses and homes you want to be in first. Once they are in, they help you and the rest of your business gain access too. 

Business cards become powerful pop up ads when they suddenly surface in a pile of cards.

The Ultimate Ad

The most impactful ad space you could ever buy would be an ever-present ad on your prospect’s desk, ready to serve up a direct line to you the moment the prospect needed one. They only thing I know that can do that is a business card.

Your Business Card Scorecard

A great leading indicator of how well you are doing at marketing yourself or your business is how many business cards you are getting into circulation. In other words, running out of business cards is a sign you are actively and personally promoting yourself and your business. It means you are meeting people and they are either asking for your card, or you made it to a natural place (or semi-natural place) in the conversation to offer your card.

Key Takeaway

If you want more opportunities, hand out more and better business cards. Your business cards are a direct line to you when a prospect needs the kind of help you offer. In this high tech, digitally-empowered, over-analyzed marketing age your business cards are the most underutilized marketing and networking tool you have. Because they are a reminder of a personal interaction and a personal relationship. And despite what you may have heard, business is all personal.

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

 

It’s time for a more innovative way to celebrate the 4th of July.

Last Saturday night my family and I went to a fireworks display in Mequon, Wisconsin.  Like a good marketer should, Mequon wanted to differentiate their 4th of July celebration. They noticed that everyone else was celebrating the 4th of July at the same time. Which was ON the 4th of July. But nobody was celebrating in June. So Family Fun Before The Fourth was born. #Boom

Family Fun Before The Fourth

With a your-marketing-strategy-is-showing name like Family Fun Before The Fourth, if you can’t figure out who the celebration is for, what the main benefit is, and generally when it occurs, you are also likely to hold onto fireworks too long after you light them.

Family Fun Before The Fourth is like Friendsgiving. During a Friendsgiving celebration, friends gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, with a Thanksgiving meal, before they head off to celebrate again, by having the same meal with their family. The downside is that the appetizer event usurps the specialness of the main meal. #UsurpAsYouSlurp

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Family Fun

True to its name, Family Fun Before The Fourth, or FFBT4, offers a lot of family fun. There is a parade. Then there is a gathering at a nice park on the Milwaukee River, with food vendors, a water ski show, dancers, tumblers and live music. The cherry on top of the event is the evening fireworks show.

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Fireworks

On Saturday night as the fireworks show was about to start I was excited. Fireworks have always been the highlight of my 4th of July celebrations. Like always, the fireworks show started with a bang, and some bright lights. Followed by more bright lights and more bangs. And more bangs and more bright lights.

Then I experienced something I had never experienced at a 4th of July fireworks display: boredom.

It’s Not You. It’s Me.

It wasn’t that the display wasn’t up to par. It was. It was a very nice and lengthy show, highly appropriate for a town Mequon’s size. But I had the feeling that I had seen it all before.

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Been There, Seen That Explode.

We have all seen fireworks shows many, if not many many, if not many many many times before. I guess I am a Triple Many, because suddenly the novelty and excitement of loud, colorful explosions in midair seemed to have worn off for me. Which felt very strange. Because I consider myself excitable, enthusiastic and easily entertained.

What’s Wrong?

But in that moment I felt like a thrill seeker who wasn’t getting enough thrill. Or an addict whose current dosage wasn’t creating the high. Or someone suffering from depression who could stare at a joyful thing and not feel joy. But as I laughed at myself for not feeling the thrill of the fireworks, my own laughter confirmed that I was not depressed.

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Overexposure Without Innovation

Overexposure to fireworks was to blame. With over 40 years of fireworks display watching under my belt (actually none of the fireworks happened under my belt) my oohs and ahhs had become mehs and hmms.

The world has also changed. Fireworks were once innovative technology that was perfect for entertaining a crowd. The lights and noises and the rocketry that enabled the shells to soar into the sky was once totally foreign, novel, magical and entertaining. But not anymore.

What’s The Story Morning Glory?

The greatest downside to fireworks is that there is no story to follow. Sure, you can argue that there is a beginning, middle and grand finale. You can argue that the story is the re-creation of the rockets red glaring and bombs bursting in air-ing of the Revolutionary War. The war that got this party started in the first place. But it doesn’t feel like a story to me.

Today we have so many options at our disposal to help entertain and engage an audience that fireworks, or fireworks alone, feel underwhelming. A standard fireworks show, even with a backdrop of music now feels as if the host didn’t put much thought into the celebration. They just defaulted to fireworks. Which is like giving a neck tie on Father’s Day.

Many cities try to make up for the lack of an innovative idea by adding to the sheer quantity of fireworks detonated. But I argue that a 45 minute, $350,000 display, like the city of Milwaukee put on last night, is too long and too much. There is a law of diminishing returns at work here. At some point it feels overdone. Like operation Shock And Awe. And you just want to fast forward to the end.

Exploring Other Modern Options

It’s time to put more innovation and creativity into our Independence Day celebrations. Let’s consider all the entertainment options we can now use to create memorable, interesting and exciting 4th of July shows. Let’s share stories. Because we have really great stories to share.

4 New Ways Communities Could Celebrate the 4th of July

 

1. Video

Communities could show an amazing video each year on the 4th of July that represents what Independence and America is all about. It could be set to music and updated for our communities every year. This could be like your town’s version of One Shining Moment that is played at the end of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. This emotional, storytelling highlight reel is a perfect ending to March Madness, and could serve as a template for how we celebrate and recognize our Americanism once a year.

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2. Projection Mapping

Let’s get creative and project interesting images, video, graphics, and animation onto our city landmarks or rural barns. Projection mapping enables us to create a new Wow that fascinates the brain as it entertains. It does what fireworks were intended to do in a thoroughly modern way. My high school classmate David Title at Bravo Media in New York City can hook you up with some jaw dropping badassery if you and your community are ready to take this step.

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Holograms

A hologram is a three-dimensional image formed by the interference of light beams from a laser or other coherent light source. #onlinedictionary  We can now create amazingly real and wowing hologram images that make you feel as if you are looking at something very real, that isn’t really there.

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The possibilities with this technology are thrilling. With a hologram we could have one of the founders of our great nation deliver the keynote address of our Independence Day celebration. Imagine one of our founding fathers, like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or Yankee Doodle, or one of our founding mothers, like Abigail Adams, Betsy Ross or the Statue of Liberty showing up in your town on the 4th to address your community. It would be like having Santa preach the sermon on Christmas Eve.

Broadway Style Musical 

The musical Hamilton is one of the greatest creative innovations of all time. With his broadway show, Lin-Manuel Miranda combined history with music and entertainment in a thoroughly modern, energizing, surprising and captivating way. A show using this formula could create the centerpiece of our Independence Day Celebrations. Add me to the wait list for this show right now.

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Key Takeaway

Nothing is more American than innovation. In fact, America itself is an innovation. So let’s get more innovative with the way we celebrate America’s birthday. Let’s get more creative. Let’s utilize our modern technology. And infuse the whole celebration with powerful storytelling. America’s Independence is one of the greatest stories every told. Yet we don’t often actually tell the tale when we celebrate it. Let’s change that. And start telling this amazing American story the way a modern day Lee Greenwood would do. #GodBlessTheUSA