Why you should lick and groom other people.

We could learn a lot from rats. Which is why rats get studied more than any other animal on the planet. Kinda. The most studied is probably the fruit fly. But rats and mice are the most studied invertebrates, because they reproduce quickly, and their little rat brains are a lot like yours. #sadbuttrue

Lick A Rat

An interesting body of research was performed on rats by neuroscientist Michael Meaney, at McGill University. Meaney found that there are 2 types of rat mamas. Those who do a lot of licking and grooming of their little rat babies. And those who don’t. I don’t blame those mamas who don’t want to lick their rat babies. After all, they are rats. But it turns out that a little rat licking helps them keep on ticking.

‘Eeny’ Meany and his crew of Miny Moes discovered that the licking and grooming does a lot to reduce levels of stress in little ratlings. Imagine a baby rat is having a bad day. She saw her friend get chomped in a trap. Or she just watched the opening scene to Ratatouille. Or found out that a builder in New York City was not using union labor. That stuff stresses her out. One of the best ways to dissipate that stress is to have your mama lick you, groom you and make you feel all better.

Long Term Effects

It turns out that there are huge long-term benefits to the lick’n and the groom’n. In fact, the Licking Grooming Mamas help reduce stress so that the long-term elevation of stress-related chemicals in the body doesn’t usher in illness, disease and death. Even better, researchers found that rattlings who were raised by the LG Mamas were bolder, braver and better equipped for the stresses of life over the long haul.

Licking Humans

We can apply this finding to humans too. When parents perform the human equivalent of licking and grooming, the benefits are immense. By hugging, doting, soothing, comforting, and spit-cleaning children’s faces, parents are helping to reduce stress. In turn, they are also improving their children’s health by reducing the stress in their bodies and reducing the threat of disease. Of course, the kids could still die from embarrassment, but that’s on them.

Licking Your Coworkers

You can carry this finding to the workplace too. While your HR handbook may say that you can’t lick your coworkers, you can certainly show care, compassion and concern for your work mates and direct reports. By doing so, we can not only make the workplace more enjoyable, we can actually help make employees happier, reduce stress and illness. And even help our coworkers live longer, happier lives.

Key Takeaway

Lick and groom those you are responsible for. Show them that you care. Let your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family know that they are not alone. Go Bob Marley on them and let them know that every little thing is gonna be alright. Not only will you help them feel better in the near term, you could help them live longer, healthier lives.

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

It was an ordinary day until I got on that elevator.

It was June 6th, 2000.  A rainy day. That morning I woke up, ate breakfast, packed my lunch and walked 10 minutes through downtown Milwaukee to my office. Just like every week day.

I entered the building at 733 N. Van Buren Street, and made my way to the elevators. I caught the far elevator, just before the doors closed. I squeezed into the packed elevator, like the last clown in the car.

I was facing the back of the elevator. Everyone else was facing me. I felt like the quarterback facing the rest of his teammates in a huddle. Many in the huddle were my co-workers. So I began to joke and entertain my captive audience from my awkward but enjoyable all-eyes-on-me position. Did I mention I love a captive audience?

That’s when I saw her. To my right, in the back corner of the elevator was a beautiful young woman I had never seen before. I would have remembered. She was smiling at my improv routine. And I was smiling at her smiling… (I’m not smiling, you’re smiling!)

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In my head I went into my own version of Garth’s ‘Foxy Lady’ routine from Wayne’s World the movie. I was totally taken by this young business lady stranger.

The elevator door opened up on the 4th floor, my floor, and I had to get off. To my surprise n’ delight, she got off too. And walked right past the reception desk and disappeared down hallway. So I disappeared down the steps, to my office, where I fired up my Mac (cause I’m a Mac & Cheese guy).

I then pulled up the staff database to find out who the elevator babe was. My name, Adam Albrecht, was the very first name to show up on the alphabetized list. Then I clicked through the profiles, one-by-one, but didn’t find her. I had almost given up hope. Until I got to the very last of 120 profiles. And that’s where I saw her. Ooh, I saw her. She walked in through the out door, out door.

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Her name was Dawn Zabel. She was in the media department. She had just started. And best of all, the Spouse field was blank. She was the one I had been looking for. Not just on the database. In life. I knew it. And we hadn’t even spoken yet.

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Today, Dawn and I are celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary. I am just as crazy about her today as I was the moment I first spotted her on that elevator 19 years ago. She is my wife, my best friend, my business partner, my coach and my biggest cheerleader. And I am her biggest fan.

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Key Takeaway

Keep your eyes open. You never know when the opportunity of a lifetime will appear right in front of your eyes.

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The best teaching technique I ever learned, kind of.

When I was in school I never wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t want to deal with kids like me. So I chose a very different profession as an advertising creative. But along the way I learned that if you are a manager, leader, coach or parent, you are also a teacher. You teach other people new skills. You teach processes and procedures. You teach them how to not freak out when they don’t get their way. Because sometimes dealing with adults is even worse than dealing with kids like me.  #AmIRight

Learning to teach

When I realized that I had indeed become a teacher myself I began studying teaching techniques. I reflected on what tricks my teachers had used on me (like standing in the corner, and wearing a tall pointy hat). Today I keep my eyes open for great teachers and teaching techniques in the workplace, in my children’s sports and in academia. As a result, I found a really great teaching technique from my son Johann’s piano teacher.

My son Johann is now on his 4th piano teacher. He started playing in Ohio when he was 5-years old. Then had 2 teachers in Georgia, and now has one in Mequon, Wisconsin. All of them have been interesting characters. But the current teacher, Miss Rita, is my favorite. She is Russian, with enough energy and optimism to light up all of Leningrad. She is a wonderful teacher who all the students love. Maybe it is because she tells all of her students that they are “Za best!’ Or more often, “Za Best of Za Best!’

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Miss Rita, my son Johann, and a bunch of sparkly rectangles.

However, there is one teaching technique that Miss Rita uses that I love so much that I have stolen it from her. When Miss Rita is teaching a new concept, introducing a new technique, explaining a mistake, or reiterating a point she punctuates the lesson with a short and simple question:

Do you understand, or kind of?’  -Miss Rita Shur

The Magic

There is real magic in that little phrase. First, it is great to check to see if the lesson sunk in. But I really love the ‘or kind of’ section of the question. It is so much easier to say that you ‘kind of’ get something than to admit to not understanding a lesson at all.

The question covers a wide swath of comprehension that ranges from, ‘Whaaa whaaa whaaa, whaa, whaaa whaaa,’  to ‘I heard what you said but I have no idea what you mean,’ to ‘I think I know but we should clarify that I am right.’

Make it easy to learn more

Most people are not comfortable saying I don’t understand. Especially in front of others who do. Using ‘Do you understand, or kind of?’ provides a beautiful detour around a No answer. It also offers everyone partial credit for at least kind of learning the lesson. The question also acknowledges that learning is not always binary. There is often a lot of gray area. And a teacher’s job is to help add color to the gray areas. Like a house that falls out of a tornado onto a witch.

Key Takeaway

Whether you are a professor at Dartmouth, or training a newbie how to make fries at McDonald’s, you have to know how to teach. To be effective you should make sure your lessons land. Following up your teachings with ‘Do you understand, or kind of?’ let’s you know if there is more teaching to do. It tells the student that you know they are smart, and must have picked up at least part of the lesson. It makes it easier for others to express that they could use more explanation. So try this follow-up question the next time you teach something new. I think you’ll find it is za best. If not za best of za best.

*If you know someone who teaches, coaches, manages, leads or parents, and could benefit from this technique, please share it vis zem.

The story of our crazy website. Part 1: What is this?

There is a large sign on the wall in my office that features a quote from General Douglas MacArthur. It says, ‘You are remembered for the rules you break.’ That quote really resonates with me. Obviously. It is printed on the wall of my office.

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Never forget.

I have always liked it when people break rules unapologetically. I like a rebel who insists on doing things his or her own way. They always make me wonder why more people don’t ignore the rules. Then I call up Colin Kaepernick. And he reminds me why.

The Exceptional Exceptions

I love the exceptions to the rule. Like short basketball players, doctors with clear signatures and Amish electricians. They inspire me with their unwillingness to be governed my the laws of the masses.

You Don’t Have To Do Anything

When I launched my advertising and idea agency everyone said you have to have a website. But I don’t put any stock in conventional thinking. In fact, just because everyone expected me to have a website made me not want to have a website. #RebelWithoutAurl

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But there was more to it than that.

It isn’t as if I never wanted a website or never expected to have one. In fact, an important factor in deciding on the name The Weaponry was that TheWeaponry.com domain name was surprisingly available. Kinda like I was surprisingly available when I met my wife, Dawn. #youarewelcomebabe

GoDaddy Go!

When I secured theweaponry.com from GoDaddy for about $12, I had what I needed to launch our agency’s ‘@theweaponry.com’ email address. And that’s all I really wanted to do with it in the first year or so. However, I knew that people would naturally look at TheWeaponry.com to find out more information about us. So instead of leaving our little corner of cyberspace naked, I decided to have a little fun.

I Wanna Mock!

I created what is essentially a mock-website for The Weaponry. I put slightly more thought into the mock site than it may appear. In fact, before I created theweaponry.com I laid out 5 basic requirements of the site. I wanted it to:

  1. Appear as if it was plausibly a website for The Weaponry.
  2. Not offer a single bit of information about The Weaponry.
  3. Make visitors laugh.
  4. Make visitors visit every page and read every word.
  5. Offer a sense of our brand, even without any real information about us.

First Break All The Rules

At the risk of stating the obvious, we have taken a non-traditional approach to creating our business website. In fact, I frequently read lists of things you must or must not do when designing and developing your company website. And we are cleanly on the wrong side of every single point.

What You See

If you have not yet visited theweaponry.com, it features the words The Weaponry at the top of the page. Which makes it seem legit. However, the first words of body copy on the site are ‘This is not a legit website.’ It just devolves from there.

The home page features Laverne and Shirley from the classic television sitcom Laverne and Shirley.  The Our Philosophy page simply features the lyrics to the Laverne and Shirley theme song.

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More Than Meets The Eye

We admittedly send site visitors on what appears to be a wild goose chase. (What fun is there in chasing a tame goose?) But there is a method to the madness. What we are actually doing is entertaining and intriguing visitors. We are revealing an important insight about our agency. And we are demonstrating that we know how to shepherd a visitor through a website, all the way to the Contact Us. And many do.

Recruitment Tool

This faux website does a great job of attracting the type of employees we want to attract. Every week, creative thinkers, rebels, innovators and people who like to laugh share how much they love the silliness that is our website. As a result we have become an attractive option for those we are trying to recruit.

Key Takeaway

There are no hard and fast rules. Do things your way. Don’t be afraid to zig when others zag. Especially if zigging leaves you in an open space, away from the crowd. Because putting more space on the perceptual map between you and your competition is exactly what marketing and innovation are supposed to do. So do things differently than your competition. Take chances. If you simply do what everyone else does you won’t be remembered. General Douglas MacArthur taught me that.

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

#If you haven’t checked out our silly little website yet click here. (This link may or may not take you to our website…)

Why you should always look for one valuable quote.

I have a real thirst for knowledge. If you can picture a guy crawling across the desert, in torn clothing, deliriously muttering ‘Agua’, that’s how thirsty I am for knowledge. But I find that drinking it is a bit like drinking water from the ocean. The more you take in, the more you want. Which means you will never be satisfied. Remember not to drink ocean water for realzies. It will dehydrate and kill you (but at least you get to spend your last days at the ocean).

I’m Learning To Fly

I have always liked learning. But in my adulthood I have realized that the more I know the better I am at my various roles and responsibilities. That’s why I am trying to learn how to be a better husband, parent and friend.

Professional Grade

On my professional journey I have learned how to be a better employee, manager, and leader. But today, as an entrepreneur, there is no end to the knowledge that could benefit me, my business, my team and our clients.

What’s In the Fridge, Perry?

To try to quench my thirst I seek knowledge from many different sources. The list includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Podcast
  • Blogs
  • Speeches
  • Graffiti
  • Sermons (Which are like speeches, but from a person wearing a robe.)
  • Documentaries
  • Chocolate Milk Meetings (because I don’t drink coffee)
  • Informational interviews
  • Meetups
  • Newsletters
  • Webinars
  • Coaches
  • Headstones

Simplify. Simplify Yourself.

I have learned that my little brain can’t absorb everything I read, see or hear. That’s why I have learned to simplify how I digest all that I devour.

As I read books, listen to podcasts or talk to other humans, I am like a prospector panning for gold nuggets. I don’t need all the gravel. I don’t need the flotsam and jetsam. And I don’t need the pyrite (look at me still remembering terms from my 7th Grade Vermont Resources field trip Mrs. Thompson!)

What I want, what I really really want.

I am simply looking for one great quote. That’s it. I want one great, simple summation of a valuable idea to add to my collection. I want one great mantra. One clear rule. One core philosophy. One great lesson. If I find it then the energy and time I invested in the stimuli were valuable.

Ohhh, Then What? Whatcha Gonna Do?

I add that simple quote to the jukebox* in my brain. I listen to it every time I am in a relevant situation. I play it for those around me when they could use a great quote to encourage or guide them. And I share it in my blog to make it even easier for others to find. *A ginormous iPod.

Key Takeaway

When you thirst for knowledge you don’t have to swallow everything you find. The greatest value comes from the small, nutrient-dense sips. Read and listen for the simple quotes that are dense with value. Right them down or record them on your phone. Revisit them often. Share them with others. Because in those simple quotes lie the directions that enable us to profit the most from a life well lived.

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

Every day I write the blog. And more people read it.

It’s really easy to start your own blog. I should know. I have started at least 8 of them. But it’s really hard to keep them going. I should know. Because 7 of mine moved like glaciers, until global warming put them out of their misery.

I enjoyed writing the blogs. But I never created a habit that kept them going. It takes time to find your groove, your voice and your writing schedule. Even more challenging, it takes a lot to attract an audience that wants to read what you are writing.

Writing No Matter Whataburger

When I started this blog I made a commitment to myself to just keep at it, no matter what. I was committed to sharing my experience as I launched my own advertising agency from dust. I thought it would help others start their own businesses. Just as I had read other blogs that inspired my entrepreneurial adventure. If the business failed and no one read the blog, at least when it ended I would have the experience and learnings well documented for myself. Which is like seeing the light at the end of my carpal tunnel.

My Twins

In many ways The Perfect Agency Project blog and The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, are like twins. They were born at the same time. They have grown together. And they are inseparable. Like conjoined twins. Or regular twins who got into the Gorilla Glue.

Quiet Growth

The growth of The Weaponry has been a shared experience, as we have added team members and clients. But the growth of The Perfect Agency Project blog has been private and quiet.

Writing this blog is a solitary endeavor. It’s just me and my computer. I write down my thoughts, lessons, experiences, observations and insights that stem from working in and on my business. Then I hope that someone, somewhere will read the posts and find some value in them.

Sometimes the posts are well read. And sometimes they are not. It is hard to tell why some posts fly and some flop. Especially when what I consider to be the best, most important ideas gain very little traction.

Write Anyway

But whether a post was extremely popular or went mostly unnoticed, I write again the next day. I have been consistent and persistent. I just kept writing. And just kept posting.

Seeing Obvious Progress

I am proud to say that on September 17th, 2019, the total number of views and visitors to my blog for 2019 surpassed the total number of views and visitors the blog received in all of 2018.  Which means that it had the same number of visitors in 8.5 months in 2019 as it did in the 12 months of 2018. #FirstGradeMathYall

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This is the growth chart for my blog. It represents the views and visitors (dark and light shades) for each year since 2015. The pink at the top of 2019 is optimism.

Insistence on Persistence

The persistence is leading to progress. I still have 3.5 months of readership growth ahead this year. At the pace of 3 posts per week, that is 42 blog posts left to share in 2019. As a result, I expect a 50% growth in views and visitors for the year. Which for a blog I have been writing for 4 years feels pretty good.

Fun Fact: The Perfect Agency Project blog has been read in 113 countries around the world in 2019.

I attribute the growth to just keeping at it. Slow and steady. Each post, whether it is read by tens or thousands, contributes to that total. And that’s progress. Truly, every little bit helps.

Key Takeaway

Success doesn’t come overnight. It comes in small steps that seem insignificant on their own. But over time the cumulative effect of all those small steps is significant progress. So keep going. Commit to creating a habit of action, day after day. Then give yourself time. Time for the results to pile up and make a difference. If I can do it you can do it. Do a little every day. And just don’t stop.

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

When you have a great idea avoid sharing it in a bad way.

I love ideas. In fact, I love them so much that I create new ideas for a living. And I can’t think of a better job. As a professional creative thinker my ideas help sell products and services. My ideas help name products, build brands and solve problems of all sizes and shapes, except hyperboloids.

Seek A Professional Opinion

In the same way a medical doctor is sought out to offer medical advice, businesses seek me out for creative advice. And I have written some pretty funky, yet effective prescriptions. Like filling a Prevost bus full of ping pong balls with Danica Patrick for Nationwide Insurance. And claiming that a Ski-Doo MX-Z snowmobile is so responsive it knows which butt cheek you’re flexing. And dressing 100 Argentinian men in pink bodysuits for Snickers.

Things I Hate

As much as I love a great idea I hate it when non-professional creatives share their ideas. You’re probably thinking that I am a typical creative A-hole who thinks no one else could possibly have a good idea. (See ‘The No A-holes Rule”). But, Au contraire, mon frère!

Where Great Ideas Come From

I know with 100% certainty that great ideas can, and do come from anywhere. And anyone. There is no monopoly on creativity in a creative department. No, what I abhor about non-creatives sharing their ideas is the way they typically do it.

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Just keep thinking. Just keep thinking.

You’re Doing It Wrong!

I know that probably sounds like I am judging people on their idea sharing etiquette. Or shaming people for the poor idea sharing technique. But that’s not what I am getting at.

What profoundly bothers me when non-professionals share their ideas is how they often discount the idea before they even unwrap it. Nothing takes the punch out of a great idea like introducing it with one of the following phrases:

  • ‘This is probably stupid but…’
  • ‘I’m not creative at all but…’
  • ‘Feel free to shoot this down…’
  • “I’m not the creative person here…’
  • “Here comes a bad client idea…’
  • “Ok, bad account person idea…’
  • ‘What if… no, never mind, bad idea.”

Share Without Apology

These type of apologetic disclaimers are poison to the creative process. Just as improv works on the ‘Yes-And’ Rule, meaning that every idea shared is embraced and built upon, a strong creative development process requires us to embrace fully-baked, half-baked and raw idea as they are presented. Because there is something to build on within every idea.

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Sharing your idea can impact others in profound ways. 

Connect The Dots

Creativity is about connecting disparate elements. So we should all throw our unique thoughts and ideas on the table. Not just the professional creatives and strategists. Clients, account people, media, technologist, sales, engineering and accounting can all add a very valuable perspective. Spouses and children who know the problem to be solved can too.

Loud and Proud

We all need to contribute our ideas without apologizing. Because when you eliminate the disclaimers, and stop unselling your work before you share it, you’ll get a much better reaction. Which makes everyone more comfortable exploring and sharing their ideas in the future.

Key Takeaway

Great ideas can come from everywhere. There is no monopoly on creativity in creative departments and creative businesses. Which means that no one should ever apologize for having a good thought. The best idea wins. It’s that simple. So share your thinking without discounting it. Encourage others to do the same. And let’s recognize and value all the disparate thoughts that helped us build to the best final idea. When you do that you create an environment that generates more great ideas. I should know. I am a professional.

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