Is your work preventing you from feeling joy?

There is a unique word that popped up in my news feed twice this week: The word was Joy. It appeared as a key reason that 2 high profile Americans quit their jobs. What was even more unique is that both of these Americans played a game for a living. And if anyone should be experiencing on-the-job-joy it should be people playing a game for money.

Work Takes A Toll

But Andrew Luck, the recently retired 29-year-old quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League, and 30-year-old tight end Rob ‘Gronk’ Gronkowski, who recently retired from the New England Patriots, the best football team in the history of history, both stated this week that their jobs had actually taken their joy from them.

Whoa…

If you had heard that Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble quit their jobs because it was stealing their joy you would understand. After all, those dudes worked in a rock mine, operating dinosaurs. So if they told you they didn’t want to yabba-dabba-do it any more you would get it.

Money Isn’t Everything

But we are talking about 2 guys whose jobs have brought them fortune and fame. Luck earned over $100 million dollars. Gronkowski made $53 million by the time he turned 30, while winning 3 Super Bowls.

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Andrew Luck announced his retirement at 29, saying that football has taken his joy. Then he Eskimo kissed the mic.

Yet the work robbed them of their joy. The pain, the grind, the mental and physical fatigue, the injuries, surgeries and stress that came with it all negated the benefits of the handsome compensation.

The Reminder

This is a reminder to that money and fame are no fair trade for our joy. Because without joy, a delicious cocktail of pleasure and happiness, it’s hard to find value in our work and our careers.

The Question

This raises an important question for us all.

Is your work adding joy to your life or taking it from you? 

For some people that answer is easy. A quick check of the ole joy-meter may show that your joy is at maximum levels. Others will find their work is more or less joy-neutral. Which is fine. But just fine. However, if your work is exporting your joy like Art Vandelay, you need a new job. Or a new career.

Search Yourself

A little self evaluation will tell you whether you need a new environment, new boss, new challenge, or new career. This may be the right time to focus on an old life goal that has gathered dust, moss or rust. Because by making a career change or launching a new business you may experience a flood of joy and excitement that will make you wonder why you didn’t do it earlier. That’s exactly what happened to me when I started my entrepreneurial adventure. And 3 years after starting my own company I am shocked that more people don’t do it.

Key Takeaway

If your work is depleting your personal joy you have to make a change. Life is too short not to enjoy your work and the people you work with. Money is not the most important contributor to a joyful life. So make sure you are not trading money for happiness. Make joy your number one goal. And everything else will fall into place.

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

5 Things I do to keep my work energy high.

Being an entrepreneur is as close as I will get to knowing what it was like to be Bruce Lee. Because entrepreneurs face a nonstop onslaught of challenges that come from all angles. It requires you to remain sharp and on your toes. And that is just to play defense.

Getting Offensive

But like Deion Sanders, entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of simply playing defense. Since I first launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, I have been constantly on offense. It is how you create something out of nothing, and then grow it into something worth talking about. It requires vision, focus, persistence. And a whole lot of energy.

Pure Energy

I am a naturally high-energy human. But my job, like yours, will take as much energy as I have to give. I have lofty goals that will take a tremendous amount of work to achieve. That’s why I have been focused lately on keeping my energy reserves high by taking care of myself physically. Here’s what I am doing.

The 5 Things I Do To Keep My Energy Up

1. Sleep 

Sleep is the key to great energy. If you do just one thing on this list, I recommend  saturating yourself with sleep. It is how the human body recharges. Most Americans sleep far too little. Then again most American’s aren’t thinking about operating at their optimal level. #StateFairObservation

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I probably don’t look like this when I sleep. But I like to think I sleep pretty, on a log, in the woods.

I am an Early Owl, which is a cross between an Early Bird and a Night Owl. So I naturally feel great early in the morning, and energized late at night. I enjoy staying up late feeding my curiosity. Which is why I now have a curiosity curfew.

However, I recognize that I feel much better with good sleep. So I have been trying to get to bed by 10:30 or 11pm so I am well rested when my non-negotiable alarm goes off at 6am. I have found 7.5 hours to be my prime sleep number. Although when I plugged it into a Sleep Number Bed I found 7.5 to be waaaaay too soft.

2. Eating

We all know that we get better energy by eating better food. But right now I am focusing not just on what I am eating, but when I am eating. Eating at the right times helps me keep my energy levels where I need them to perform at my best throughout each day. Bill Cosby taught me this lesson in a Public Service Announcement on TV when I was a kid. And we all know Bill Cosby had enough energy to pave his own 4 lane highway to hell.

tray of food beside body of water
This is an overly romanticized view of breakfast. My actual breakfast has far more Frank’s Red Hot. I put that shiznit on everything!

I typically eat breakfast (and I always eat breakfast) at just about 8am. But I have often pushed my lunch back to 1 or 2pm, because I have been on a roll at work. But I am making a concentrated effort to create a hard stop for lunch at noon. Because it helps maintain a more consistent energy level throughout my afternoon. And it prevents me from becoming a hangry, hangry hippo. I have also tried to eat dinner between 6pm and 7pm. My family’s hectic evening schedule often tempts me to push off dinner until 8pm or 9pm. But when I wait that long I feel like a skateboarder who took too long between kicks and lost all momentum. Don’t be that skateboarder.

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Eating is like kicking while skateboarding. Do it regularly or you’ll lose your momentum.

3. Drinking  

I am working on more and better hydration. Water is my go-to drink. I have heard that you should start your day with a drink of water to wake up your machinery. So lately I have been starting my day with a tall glass of water, first thing, before I start writing in the morning. I can tell it helps get me flowing faster.

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This is a fancy pic of fancy water. I drink the generic stuff that comes out of the tap and it works the same way.

4. Exercise 

My energy is higher when I exercise regularly. Even when I am exhausted at the end of a day, making time to exercise helps me elevate my energy. As a result I enter each new day with a deeper energy reserve when I exercise regularly. #RichardSimmonsStyle

man jumping in mid air holding blue ball above his head
This is kinda what I look like when I exercise, because I also work out under fluorescent lights.

5. Downtime  

You need downtime and rest to restore your energy, passion and love for what you do at work. I take weekends completely off from work whenever I can. I take vacations with my family. I try to spend a considerable amount of time when I am not working not thinking about work. I do this by becoming totally engrossed in other activities that range from reading to boogie boarding. The downtime helps me increase my enthusiasm for my day job when I come back to it.

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Boogie boarding is one of my favorite downtime activities to do with my family, including my daughter Ava.

Key Takeaway

You are your most important business machine. If you want to accomplish great things you have to keep yourself running in top condition. While money may make the world go round, it is your energy level that helps you get that bread. So take care of yourself. And make sure you have the energy to take on the kind of work your ambitions demand.

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

Why feeling comfortable should make you feel uncomfortable.

I am always looking for nuggets of wisdom. And because I am always looking, unlike Bono, I often find what I am looking for. The latest gem arrived yesterday from Robert Kiyosaki, the famed investor and author of Rich Dad. Poor Dad. Kiyosaki is an active tweeter, dropping 140-character bread crumbs of wisdom throughout each day.

Here is the tweet that has me all atwitter right now:

The biggest trap, the biggest dungeon in life isn’t laziness or bad luck, it’s comfort.  -Robert Kiyosaki 

The Human Trap

I know exactly what Kiyosaki is talking about. And he nailed the big ole human trap. If I was trying to catch me a feast of humans, I would not set out an oversized mousetrap baited with oversized cheese, or a giant ant trap baited with a giant picnic basket.

Instead, I would set up a steady 9-to-5 job in middle management, with competitive benefits, no night or weekend work, no travel, a swell group of co-workers, an easy commute and decent pay. And my trap would suck in humans like a new and improved black hole designed by James Dyson.

Dissecting The Trap

Comfort is a trap. It slowly and silently pacifies you. It lulls you into a false sense of security. Comfort takes your ambition, hands you back mediocrity, and makes you feel like you got fair value in the exchange. Comfort smothers dreams, dismantles goals and leads to the motherlode of regret that so many people unearth in their last chapters.

Staying Uncomfortable

Most people are looking  to make a comfortable living. But that is my greatest career fear. Because it would mean that my career would be good, but never great. It wouldn’t be memorable or laudable or history making. It wouldn’t create a legacy or generational wealth. But most importantly it wouldn’t allow me to accomplish my personal mission and live into my personal legend. #TheAlchemist

A Quick Recap

I spent the first 19 years of my career working as an employee. I earned fancy titles that included words like Executive, Chief and President. Those roles generated internal clout and an enviable salary that most would be thrilled to have. And most people would never give it up.

The Grand Illusion

My past jobs offered a great deal of perceived comfort. But that type of comfort is an illusion. It tricks more people than David Copperfield (Vegas not Dickens). Jobs are not steady or guaranteed. They only appear steady because people want to believe they are.

Entrepreneurship felt like the path to the endgame comfort I was looking for. Because the comfort I want comes from having control over my time, which is our only un-renewable resource. So in 2016 I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.

Even More Dangerous

However, entrepreneurship does not make you deaf to the siren song of comfort. Worse, a sense of comfort is far more dangerous to entrepreneurs than it is to employees. Entrepreneurship requires you to always feel unsatisfied, incomplete and scrambling to generate the next phase of growth that keeps your machine humming.

I stay uncomfortable by committing to goals that are very hard to achieve. Those unattained goals provide a constant feeling of discomfort. Of failure. And of motivation that drives me forward. I try to keep that discomfort front and center. Because it prevents me from falling into the big trap that Robert Kiyosaki warned the Twitterverse about yesterday.

Key Takeaway

Comfort is the enemy of high achievement. It makes you feel as if good enough is good enough. Comfort forces you to pawn your hopes and dreams. It makes you lay down your ambition and stop fighting. But don’t. Don’t give into comfort. Keep your eyes fixed on your original dream. And make it come true. Because that is the only way to guarantee you will feel comfortable with the way your story ends.

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

I have found something I am terrible at. Now what do I do?

I love a good challenge. I like testing myself to see what I am capable of. Never was that more clear than when I decided to launch my own advertising agency in 2016.

Suddenly I wan’t just responsible for my own work, or for the creative department that I oversaw.  I was responsible for absolutely everything that happens at The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency.

Jumping In The Deep End

I quickly had to learn if I was capable of running operations, business development, customer service, human resources, production, accounting and the creative department at the same time. Which is a bit like walking and whistling and juggling gum on spinning plates at the same time.

The Good

I discovered, that like you, I am capable of a lot more than I had been doing. I discovered new strengths. I found that I enjoy addressing late payments, shopping for business insurance, and establishing leases in multiple states. Those broad new tasks have tested me in new and dynamic ways. Better yet, I have passed those test with at least satisfactory grades. And I am proud of that. Because low expectations lead to high satisfaction. 

The Bad And The Ugly

But lately I have discovered something I am terrible at. It’s relatively small. But my challenge with it seems worthy of sharing.

I am terrible at calling people when they say call me anytime!

I have at least 6 people to call who have invited me to call them without stating a specific time slot. And I can’t seem to get traction on these action items.

These are all big dogs. People who I really want to talk to. The list includes 2 company CEOs, 2 company Presidents, and a cheese broker. (I live in Wisconsin, and I have cheese needs).

Here’s what happens:

  1. I put a tentative time for a phone call on my calendar.
  2. My day gets hectic (Every day gets hectic).
  3. I move the call off my calendar to focus on more pressing issues.
  4. I get a lot accomplished by utilizing that free time.
  5. The important but not urgent calls slip into the future with Steve Miller.

Important But Not Urgent

I am a huge proponent of the Important But Not Urgent activities. I was first introduced to these activities through Stephen R Covey’s classic book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. (If you haven’t read this it should be your next book. Unless you have to retake your drivers test soon. Then read that little book on driving in your state next.)

Important But Not Urgent activities include the things you don’t have to do today but really should. These are investments in a better life, and greater success. Things like networking, relationship maintenance, exercise, planning for the future and applying deodorant.

So Now What?

I know having these invited but unscheduled calls are important. But I haven’t developed the proper skill, habit or muscle to get it done. That being said, I am looking forward to figuring this one out. Because it means I will be turning an area of weakness into an area of strength. Which is the kind of growth I was seeking when I decided to try my hand at entrepreneurship.

Key Takeaway

No one is good at everything. We all have areas of weakness, ignorance or immaturity. If you want to accomplish great things you have to be okay with that. Your deficiencies can be improved or avoided through hiring and delegation. Which means that your most valuable skill is problem solving. Because problem solving provides the answers to every test. Just ask Felicity Huffman.

How to keep A-holes out of your organization.

I’m not a huge fan of rules. Creative people as a species are naturally averse to them. But if you want to develop a business with a strong culture and a rock solid, repeatable process you need some rules to guide you.

Some Background

Prior to starting my own ad agency I had been part a fun, feisty and progressive agency called Engauge. We had offices in Atlanta, Austin, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Orlando. And we worked with some of America’s best brands, including Coca Cola, Wells Fargo, UPS, Nike, Chick-Fil-A, Nationwide, Walgreens, and Cisco. We had a lot of very talented people. And we had a great company culture. #weness  But it didn’t happen by accident.

Rules That Free Us

When I joined Engauge’s restructured executive leadership team in 2011 our first order of business was to create some simple rules to govern the organization. Because we believed that a great organization is made of great people who enjoy working together, the first rule we unanimously agreed on was the ‘No A-holes’ rule. For those unfamiliar with the rule, or the obviousness of the phrase, it means that your organization will not tolerate people who act like A-holes.

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This dude is acting like a textbook A-hole. Well, maybe not a medical textbook A-hole, but you know what I mean. 

Prevention

Preventing the A-holes from joining your team isn’t easy. Because they are on their absolute best behavior in interviews. Sometimes we sniff them out (yeah, I said it). But often they sneak past our filters. So as much as we try to prevent an A-hole from getting into our organizations in the first place, they get in. So now what?

The Conundrum

You just get rid of them, right? After all, no one likes an A-hole. Unfortunately, it’s typically not that simple. Because let’s face it, there are a lot of talented A-holes. The drive, intelligence, confidence and will of a typical A-hole help makes things happen. It’s common for them to make a quick impact and create immediate wins.

The Problem

But that upside comes with an equally significant downside. Because A-holes are uncomfortable to be around, they drain morale and sap energy. The unfortunate reality is that when you retain an A-hole, (which means you are A-hole retentive) it sends a terrible message about your values to your most valued employees. You’ll watch them drop like flies. Among the employees you will retain you’ll lose untold dollars in productivity as co-workers gather to talk about what an A-hole the A-hole is.

Even Worse

Of course the worst problem of all occurs when an A-hole develops a close relationship with a client. Because then the business has to decide whether they want to lose the valuable contributions of the A-hole and irritate or lose a client.

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The Solution

There is a proven 2-step process to handling such problem employees. First, ask a handful of cross functional team members if they think the co-worker in question is an A-hole. Second, if the consensus is yes, you put on your scrubs and perform an Assholectomy.

There simply is no room for the distraction, the division and the drama caused by A-holes. Accepting them tells the rest of the organization that It’s okay to be an A.  That can’t happen. Because eventually enough people will leave, or threaten to leave that you have no choice but to get rid of the A-hole A-nyway.

 The Result

After implementing the A-hole rule in the past, I’m proud to say we purged several very talented but very difficult people. By dropping those stinky sphincters, the culture, vibe, productivity and overall love for the organization improved.

The Weaponry

When I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016, the first rule we implemented was the No A-Holes Rule. But we didn’t just make it a rule. We baked this non-negotiable into the center of our brand identity. You’re probably wondering how we did this.

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See the A in the middle of the word Weaponry? Notice that it has no A-hole? That’s because there are no A-holes at The Weaponry. #TrueStory #BakedInFromTheStart

By establishing this rule from the beginning we have had no A-hole problems at The Weaponry over the past 3 years. None. Not even a whiff of a personality problem. #snickering  All of our full-time and part-time team members have been exceptional people who work great with others.

Key Takeaway

If you want to create a great work environment, team and culture you have to invite the right people in and keep the wrong people out. There simply is no room for A-holes. Even really talented A-holes. Because you will be cleaning up their crap until the day they leave. So create a policy and a process to prevent them from getting into your organization, and for removing them if they sneak in. By eliminating A-holes you will have avoided the negative distractions that kill both productivity and culture. Which means you and your team can focus on building a great business. And building great, long lasting relationship with each other.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message (like someone dealing with an A-hole) please share it with them.

Why you should dedicate more time to self education.

When we were kids in school we took standardized tests to see how we stacked up against other kids our age. I remember taking some sort of Iowa basics test and some type of California standard test. Despite the fact that I never lived in either of those states. Then there were the PSATs, SATs, ACTs. I remember filling in all those little circles. And I remember thinking that number 2 pencils sounded like poop pencils.

Flash Forward

I have not had my knowledge tested against others in my age group since high school. But I would love to be tested now. Because I do more than most of my contemporaries to gain knowledge and increase my intelligence every day.

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Some of the books I am reading now.

Example

Yesterday was a fairly typical day of self education.

  • I read chapters in multiple physical books. #letsgetphyscial
  • I listened to 1 hour of an audiobook while driving. (Indianapolis)
  • I listened to 2 podcasts totaling almost 2 hours while mowing the lawn and doing cardio work. (How I Built This and Bigger Pockets)
  • I read several articles in a magazine while waiting for a football scrimmage to start. (Fast Company)
  • I read a blog post on leadership.

I am constantly seeking new knowledge, insights and philosophies. As a result I add significant knowledge to my collection daily.

Test Me Bro

That’s why I would love to be tested again. I want to see how my knowledge stacks up against other men and women in their mid-forties. Because I think I would do very well compared to my peers. Many of whom stopped studying when their formal education ended.

Slowdown and Ramp Up

I admit that my deliberate education experienced a slowdown during my rip-roaring 20s, after I graduated from the University of Wisconsin. But I ramped up my self education in my early 30s. Today, I consider self education one of my core interests and hobbies.

Traction
I’m always trying to become a smarter business owner.

Learn Something New Every Day

Without continuing adult education it’s a bad situation. #HallAndOates  But if you are reading this post you are probably into self education too. If so, you are in the minority. We’ve all heard the saying, “You learn something new everyday.’ But the average adult learns by accident, or because of their lack of baseline knowledge. Not through deliberate self education.

Putting Education To Work

I study, absorb, read and learn like I did back in college. None if it is required. All of it is self directed. Because I want to know all I can. It gives me an advantage in life. I put my knowledge to good use for my business and my family. In fact, I am certain that I won’t experience sustained success as an entrepreneur if I don’t continuously educate myself.

Key Takeaway

You grow through education. It is how you become a smarter, stronger, more capable resource. It is how you make more money and make more of a difference in your community. Unless you are willing to accept continual mental decay you can’t coast the rest of the way to the grave. So once your educational requirements are met, make sure to stay ahead of the curve through your own elective learning.

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

See also:

A quick review of the 15 books I am reading right now.

9 killer books that will motivate you to be an entrepreneur.

What this entrepreneur is suddenly afraid of.

 

When you develop a new business you develop new hope.

I expected that starting my own advertising agency would be hard. I expected long days and late nights. I expected endless challenges. I expected to make mistakes. I expected to forgive myself for not knowing all the things a business owner really should know. I expected to learn and grow along the way. And I expected to use the word expected more than usual in this opening paragraph.

Hard Things Are The Best Things.

I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016. And all of the things I expected ahead of time have come true. I have no complaints. Because doing great things should be hard. I am not afraid of hard things. They make me feel alive. Where others get anxious, intimidated or nervous, I get excited. It’s a gift. Or maybe there is something wrong with me. Or both.

The Unexpected

But more and more I am noticing something I didn’t anticipate during the pre-launch phase. I am surprised by the number of former coworkers, clients, friends and acquaintances that have come to me hoping, urging, expecting me to build something great that they could be part of too.

There are a significant number of very talented people who have gotten very close to The Weaponry, and put their names on our wait list, preparing for the next opening or opportunity to develop.

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Sarah Disanza created her own opportunity at The Weaponry, worthy of a whole other post. #Prequel

These are smart people with jobs, and freelancers. Recent graduates and pre-retirees. People who are burned out with their current situation, and fed up with their boss. People who want to feel like they are part of a winning and growing team. People who want a little more excitement in their workday. People who believe that The Weaponry offers the type of work experience they are hungry like the wolf for. And I would like to have all of them on our team.

Under Pressure

So the pressure is on to grow this business. To find out just how many people we can accommodate. We need to see how much demand can we generate. While keeping this business as attractive at scale as it is in miniature, and in the collective minds of both our current team members and those who hope to join us next. That’s a good pressure. Like the pressure Queen and David Bowie were under.

Key Takeaway

When you start something new, anything new, you are creating new hope. Hope for a better job, a better experience, a better resource, and ultimately better products and services. All of which ladder up to hope for a better life. If you can make that happen you have done something really special. That’s exactly why I started the The Perfect Agency Project in the first place.