19 Things that worked for me in 2019.

Today is the last day of 2019. Which is always a good time to look back and learn what worked and what didn’t. But since Strength Finder’s told me that I am a raging Maximizer, I really only focus on what worked. So that’s what I will do here. Without further ado, here is:

What worked for me in 2019.

1. Setting an alarm:  I don’t remember sleeping in once this year. I think I set an alarm every day except Christmas Day, when I knew my 9, 12 and 14 year old human alarms would wake me up early anyway. I set my alarm for 6:00am every weekday, and 6:30am on the weekends. I get up and either write or workout first thing. My alarm has helped me get the most out of each day. Including weekends, vacation days and holidays.

2. Hard Work: It pays off. Maybe you have heard that somewhere before. I attribute much of what went well for me in 2019 to hard work. There just isn’t an easy way to accomplish great things without it.

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 I spent a lot of time doing unglamorous stuff like this. And it really helped.  

3. Reading: I read a lot of books, magazines and graffiti in 2019. As a result, I am ending the year smarter, with many more ideas, and way more knowledge than I had at the beginning of the year. (Even if it doesn’t show.) Here are some of the books I read this year. 

4. Exercise: Exercise is a critical part of my personal program. It helps me with my physical health, mental health, injury prevention, and self image. If I don’t burn off some of my energy regularly it brings out the Chris Farley in me.

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Hiking with my son Johann in Washington, while singing songs from The Sound of Music.

5. Sleep: I have made a point of trying to get more sleep this year. When I do, it helps.  Going to bed early is like sleeping in for productive people. So I try to do this when I can.

6. Writing The Perfect Agency Project blog. This blog was read in 120 countries in 2019. Which is crazy in any language. It has helped me share my entrepreneurial experiences and my career and life lessons with people all over the big blue marble. It helps me stay connected with people. And it makes me look for the key takeaways from everything that happens to me. Plus it gives me a place to write down all the silly things I want to blurt out in important business meetings.

7. Asking for introductions. I have met some of the most interesting, enjoyable and influential new people by simply asking for introductions. I plan to be very purposeful about doing more of this in 2020. (OMG! How many times I am going to think of Barbara Walters and Hugh Downs this coming year?)

8. Public Speaking: Public speaking opportunities have helped me meet a lot of great new people. It has also created several new business opportunities. And I have gotten several free bottles of water out of it.

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Spinning an imaginary basketball on my finger.

9. Launching theweaponry.com: After 3 years in business without a real website where you could learn anything about my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, we finally launched a real website. Opportunities have markedly increased since then. Because websites help businesses. But now I also get to say that I built a multi-million dollar business without a website at my speaking engagements. #winwin

10. Opening our Columbus, Ohio office. The Weaponry has important Weapons and clients in Columbus, Ohio. So we decided to open an office there back in March. It has been great for our team and for business opportunities. It gives me another reason to spend time in this great city. Plus, it allows me to eat more Donatos pizza and get the Seriously Chocolate Milk from the UDF in C-Bus on the regular.

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The Columbus Office. 

11. Taking Phone Calls and Meetings with students and recent graduates: It is easy to ignore young people as they are just starting their professional journeys. But don’t. I always try to make time for the juniors who are interested in talking to me. And this year those conversations have turned into new employees and people we would love to have work on our team when we can find space.

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Our newest Weapon, Sarah ‘Ice’ Disanza.

12. Guest Lecturing: I really enjoy guest lecturing for college classes. It gives me an opportunity to share what I know, meet new people, and get exposed to new perspectives and new talent. I think it would be cool to teach for realsies when I retire. Except they probably don’t let real professors swear in front of the students the way I do. #ItAlwaysMakesThemGiggle

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Guest lecturing at Marquette, and perhaps preparing to sneeze.

13. Taking Vacations: Traveling is great for your mental health, creativity, world perspective, relationships and airline status. This year my whole family and I visited 11 states together. We came back with new stories, memories and Christmas ornaments. Take your vacation days. They are extremely important to your wellbeing and happiness.

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On Father’s Day we hiked on Mt. Rainier. It was totes epic. 

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14. Taking on projects with short turnaround times: We have done (and are currently doing) some crazy work on extremely short timelines. While rush projects are never ideal, getting things done that even our clients didn’t think could be done builds a lot of credit and camaraderie. It also taught me that there are two very different ways to spell comradery.

15. Getting Involved: I have volunteered to co-chair the marketing committee of the W Letterwinner’s Club at The University of Wisconsin. It has introduced me to a many great new humans who were also varsity athletes for the Badgers. It has enabled me to contribute my knowledge and skillz to the club. I am not saying that any of it was accepted or useful to the club. But it was offered. And like they say at church, it is the offering that counts.

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The W Letterwinner’s Club Advisory Board

16. Dates with my wife. My wife Dawn and I went on dates in 2019. We did dinner dates, breakfast dates, lunch dates, movie dates and a weekend away date. I wish we could do even more. I really like her. And I really like getting her all to myself. While I don’t recommend you dating my wife, I highly recommend making time for dates with your significant other.

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My wife, Dawn. She takes grease out of my way, and looks good in a witch’s hat.

17. Coaching:  I volunteered to coach my son Magnus’s flag football team again this year. And I volunteered to be the throwing coach for my daughter Ava’s middle school track team. Both of them were extremely rewarding. It ensured that my kids had a fun and encouraging experience. And I got to share what I know. It also enabled me to develop relationships with other children in my kids’ grades. Now I have little kids yelling, ‘Hey Coach!’ at school events. It’s pretty fun. Although I always turn expecting to see Craig T. Nelson.

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The Furious Fighting Falcons.

18. Productive Commutes:  I try to make the most of my 25 to 40 minute commute to work and home. This year I packed that time full of audio books and podcasts. As a result I alway came home smarter than I left. I also used my commute to make a lot of phone calls to keep in touch with my people. It’s free time. Use it wisely.

19. Smiling: I smile a lot. Smiling is my favorite. People comment on the fact that I smile a lot a lot. (#notatypo) I attribute much of the positivity I get from the universe and its inhabitants to the fact that I smile a lot. It makes you seem approachable and interested. If you want to put just one thing that worked for me in 2019 to work for you in 2020, try smiling more.

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My college teammate Andy Bosley likes to smile too. Especially when he surprises me on the streets of Seattle. 

Key Takeaway

Take a moment to reflect on what worked for you in 2019. Do more of that in 2020. And consider some of the things that worked for me. Especially the smiling. It’s my version of Kurt Vonnegut’s sunscreen.

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

How my parents’ 50 years of marriage has positively impacted my life and career.

By all outward appearances Friday was a normal day. I woke up, went to work, came home, had dinner and watched a movie with my family. But Friday was one of the most important days of my life. What happened on Friday explains a lot about me. It doesn’t explain the glitch in my brain that alerts me of of every possible double entendre and innuendo. But it does explain a bunch of other more important stuff.

The Anniversary

On Friday, December 27th, 2019, my parents, Robert and Jill Albrecht, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. These 2 kids from Minnesota, who got married in their barely 20’s, have now spent 50 of their 70-ish years of life married. To each other. Which has been incredibly valuable to me. My parents have played a critical role in my existence. In fact, I don’t think I would be writing this blog post, or much of anything else, if it weren’t for them.

No Surprise!

What is craziest about my parents’ big anniversary is how totally normal it seems to me. I never doubted they would make it to 50 years of marriage. It was just a matter of time. Heck, I even predicted the day it would happen.

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My parents and I moments after I broke the New Hampshire high school state record in the discus, and won my second New England championship, 8 months after ACL reconstruction surgery.

The Power Of Normal

President Warren Harding ran for president in 1921 on a simple campaign promise to return normalcy to the United States following World War I. Because normalcy what the nation needed most.

I greatly appreciate Harding’s campaign platform. Because I am a product of normalcy. Despite that fact that I had an adventurous childhood, and lived in 5 states by the time I started 7th grade, I was raised on a solid foundation of normalcy. My parents 50th anniversary helps quantify just how much normalcy I have enjoyed.

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My parents and my family enjoying some Mac & Cheese after my daughter Ava’s basketball tournament.

What does that mean?

I think of the normalcy my parents marriage has provided through the filter of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Simply put, all of my basic needs have always been met. I have always had food, chocolate milk and shelter. I have always felt safe and secure. Except for that time when I was 3 years old, and I threw nails at my dad after he told me not to throw any more nails or I would get a spanking, and he chased me as I ran all the way from our barn to our house, thinking this is how it ends.

On The Wings of Love

Thanks to my parents, my psychological needs for belongingness and love have always been met. Which has enabled me to focus on the higher order needs of esteem, prestige and accomplishment. And the highest needs of self-fulfillment, self-actualization and achieving my full potential. This has been key to my personal and career success. I know this is going deep, like the necklace the old woman dropped off the side of the boat in Titanic. But it is all true.

 

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Thanks to my parents, I have never had to worry about the bottom 3 levels of this pyramid. Which means that I have spent my life and career focused on the top two levels. If your parents have done the same for you, consider sending them a thank you text with a funny GIF.

 

One way. Not the only way.

To be clear, there are lots of ways to provide your children with a solid, normal foundation. It can just as easily come from single parents, divorced parents, same sex parents, and perhaps even sexless parents (which is more pleasant to think about than sex-having parents). I am simply sharing that my situation has worked for me.

Entrepreneurship

The rock solid upbringing I experienced, thanks to my parents, has been a key factor in my entrepreneurial journey. Throughout my childhood I saw that things just seemed to work out. Which has influenced my perspective on life. I figured that if I tried to start my own business, and walk away from a nicely salaried and benefited situation, it would all work out. I was never really scared or worried.

The Weaponry

I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016. And over the past 3.5 years, I have had more control over my life and my time. As a result, I have experienced more moments of self-actualization, flow, or rapture than some people experience in their entire lives.

But I know that it all began with a sold foundation provided by two young farm kids from southern Minnesota, who turned out to be great parents.

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The first time my parents visited The Weaponry, their grandbusiness.

Totes Normal

The truth is I am far more normal on the inside than I probably appear on the outside. As are my sisters Heather, Alison and Donielle. We all enjoy spending time together. Yet when we don’t spend holidays or birthdays together, no one gets mad. It’s all kinda normal. Which is one of the best gifts you can give your family.

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The Albrecht 6: Donielle, Adam, Robert, Jill, Heather and Alison. Not pictured: our ankles and feet.

 

Celebrating 50 Years

You know what we did to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary? We did nothing. I mean, I called them. And we laughed a lot. And we did some rudimentary mathematics on the whole thing. But we didn’t get together. My parents went out for breakfast together. And then they watched football. Normal stuff. I am sure we will celebrate together sometime in the 50th year.

The Rest Of The Story

However, a simple breakfast and a little football is not how Bob and Jill are really celebrating their 50th anniversary. My parents have put a lot of good into the world. And when you do that you get a lot of good back. On New Year’s Day my parents are flying to Hawaii for the first time. There they are going on a cruise, visiting the Hawaiian islands for a week with a group of 20 friends and family. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate 50 years of marriage. Clearly they are doing something right. And perhaps they are doing everything right.

Key Takeaway

My parents have made me the person I am today. They provided the genetics and the lessons that have shaped me. But they also provided a sense of stability for me to balance everything else upon. And like the road less traveled, that has made all the difference. Thank you Mom and Dad for all that you have done. Even when you didn’t realize you were doing anything at all.

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

Now you have 6 days to make magic.

We are almost at the end of 2019. But more importantly, we are almost at the start of 2020. A new year. A new decade. And a chance to make the movie you are starring in turn out just the way you want it to. #happyending

6 Days To Finish Strong

But right now you have 6 days. 6 Days to finish 2019 strong. To tie up lose ends. You have  6 days to put more marks in the win column. To complete things you started. To connect with people. To get your steps in. To start, make or do that thing you said you would start, make or do this year, but still haven’t.

6 Days To Start Strong

You also have 6 days to give yourself a running start at 2020. To hit the new year and new decade with momentum. You have 6 days to start building a new habit. To put plans in place. To make this year THE year for realzies. You have 6 days to write down your goals and a plan to achieve them. You have 6 days to plan a year of adventures and vacations and bucket list-worthy activities.

The Swing Days

These are the 6 swing days. The 6 days between Christmas and New Years can make your year. If you waste them all no one will notice. Much of the western world is in neutral right now. Or in a return line at Target. But if you take advantage of the fact that not much is expected of you right now, you can make a sprint to the finish line, or a sprint to the starting line that could change everything. (Note: swing days are not affiliated with swingers or swinging. However, you are so money. And you don’t even know it.)

Me Time

I did much of the hard work to launch The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, during this period 4 years ago. This year I will be in the office working during at least 3 of the next 6 days. I will work to give my business an unfair advantage by running while others are resting. And I’ll spend some of my time resting faster than other people rest.

Planning Time

I will plan my vacations and vacation days for 2020 over the next 6 days. By planning them out I pace myself, and make sure I don’t get to these same 6 days next year burnt and crispy. I don’t want to end my year as a couch zombie, because I don’t have the energy to do anything else.

It’s Go Time

Don’t be that person who says they don’t have time for the things they really want to do. Take time now. Plan time in the upcoming year. And make time work for you.

Key Takeaway

Time is your most valuable asset. You have 6 days left to spend wisely. Invest your 6 days where you will get the best return on your investment. Think long term. But act right now.

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

My favorite Christmas tradition lasts the entire year.

My family has a sleigh full of Christmas traditions. Some are Christian traditions, like going to a candlelight Christmas Eve church service. Some are food related, like enjoying oyster stew, Honeybaked ham, pickled herring, Dawn-made biscotti, Egg Nog, and Glog. Apparently I’ll drink anything that ends with og.

We have Christmas movie and Christmas music traditions. We always have advent calendars. We send Christmas cards. And we have an Elf On The Shelf named Jingle Polar, who I will be happy not to see again for another 11 months. #LeastFavoriteTradition

The Best Tradition

My favorite Christmas tradition, besides going to the candlelight church service, is our ornament tradition. When my family travels, we look for Christmas ornaments from the places we visit. It makes for fun and focused souvenir shopping while we travel. And it makes gift shop owners happy. But that’s not the best part.

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The Best Part

The best part is when we put up our Christmas tree. Because when we decorate our tree we pull out all of the ornaments from all of the places we have traveled over the years. So tree trimming becomes a look back at all the fun we have had. Like Clark Griswold watching his old home movies in the attic.

As we unpack each ornament we reminisce about our adventures together as a family. We talk about the cities, states, parks, museums, friends and family we want to see again. We talk about the sink that fell from the counter in the hotel room (Hilton, New York). And the time we got pulled over by the cops for speeding, but the cop really liked Dad’s funny t-shirt and let us go without a ticket (Forks, Washington).

A Few Examples

The first time we visited New Orleans as a family.
I know this was from a trip to Disney World. I don’t remember exactly which year it was.
From Philadelphia. Does anyone else see an ass crack here?
From Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The sister city to Victor, British Columbia, Canada.
From our first trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. It inspired me to want to build an aquarium in my shed.
From The Getty Center art museum in Los Angeles. Where we also found the book, ‘Why is art full of naked people?’
The main thing in Maine is lobster.
From the Daniel’s Summit Lodge in Utah, where I used to spend 2 to 3 weeks each year shooting snowmobiles with my friends at Ski-Doo. And drinking beverages from a mug bigger than my leg.
From the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. But you probably didn’t need me to tell you that.
From our first family trip to St. Louis. Fun fact: I proposed to Dawn under the Arch, right on the word ‘TO’.
From the trip Dawn and I took to London for her 40th birthday. Although, since we saw London and we saw France, I thought we could have just hung up a pair of underpants.
From our last trip to New York City, when our friend Audrey Lowder took us all to the top of the Empire State Building. We also bought her an ornament that day to thank her, and serve as a reminder of our day together.
From our trip this spring to Austin, where we got to spend time with our next door neighbors from Dublin, Ohio, Phil, Christy and Regan Turner, and a zillion bats.

Key Takeaway

When fully decorated, our tree tells the stories of our travels, our time together and the high points of each year. It is like a pine-scented memory lane, lit up and displayed in our home for a month. It is a wonderful reminder of how lucky we are, how blessed we have been, and how much adventure has filled our lives. It makes it easy for us to tie the great things in our life to our religious beliefs and the tenants of Christianity. It makes me feel like I am wining at life. And I can’t wait to see what new ornaments we hang next year.

Merry Christmas

Why you should get comfortable starting over at zero.

I grew up in the small town of Norwich, Vermont. There were about 3,500 people in town. I knew many of those 3,500. And many of them knew me. After graduating from high school I left Norwich for the University of Wisconsin. The student population was 43,000. That is nearly 40,000 more people than lived in my hometown. Heck, it was more people than lived in the biggest city in my home state. #BurlingtonIsNotBurly

Alone

On my first day of school I moved from class to class within a massive sea of students. Between classes the sidewalks on campus in Madison were as packed as the sidewalks in Manhattan. And as I hustled my bustle through the crowds, I didn’t see a single face I knew. It was really weird.

On the 3rd day of classes, walking across campus from Bascom Hall to the chemistry building I saw someone I knew. One familiar face among the 10s of thousands crisscrossing campus (making you jump, jump). I was so excited that I remember telling people about it that night back at the dorms.

The next day I saw 3 people I knew while walking around campus. It was amazing. The day after that I saw 5 people. I was so excited. The day after that I stopped counting.

The Shift

Within the first month of school I saw people I knew everywhere I went. By my sophomore year I felt like I knew everyone on campus. And by my junior year I felt like 43,000 students were not enough.

The Gym

I was reminded of this story yesterday morning when I went to the health club that my family belongs to. We joined when we first moved to Milwaukee from Atlanta. The first day I worked out there I didn’t know anyone. In fact, I did’t talk to anyone at the club for the first 2 months. Despite the fact that I wore both normal clothes and deodorant.

But yesterday club-goers stopped to talk to me before I got to the locker room. I saw friends on the way to the weight room. Other people I knew stopped by to say hi when I was on the elliptical trainer. And while I was lifting weights. And on the way back to the locker room. What a difference that was from my first 2 months.

Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship works the same way. You have to be willing to start over at zero. With no clients. No employees. And none of the stuff you took for granted before. But when those clients or customers finally show up you value them more than you could ever imagine.

I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry in 2016. Today we have 19 clients. And I couldn’t appreciate them more. Because I remember when I had no clients at all.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to start over at zero. Don’t be afraid to move, or join a new club, class, church or volunteer organization where you don’t know anyone. Don’t be afraid of that new town, new job or new career. Knowing no one is not the end of the world. It is the beginning of a new one. Starting at zero is the start of something exciting. And nothing makes you value what you have more than starting again at zero.

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

To be an entrepreneur you need to know where clients come from.

2019 has been a very good year for my business. Lately, The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I started in 2016, has felt like the prettiest girl at the ball. Despite the fact that I am not wearing any makeup and haven’t had my hair permed in months.

Reflecting

As I reflect on this great year, I have been thinking a lot about our clients. Because the key to success as an entrepreneur is your ability to attract, maintain and grow clients. If you are considering starting your own business you need to start thinking more about finding clients than finding Nemo.

Daddy, Where do clients come from?

Clients don’t come from a client factory. You can’t buy them at a store like ClientMart or Clients R’ Us. The don’t grow at a pick-your-own client orchard. And they don’t fall from the sky on clienty days. So where do they come from?

My Client Roster Evaluation

Understanding where clients really come from is critical for aspiring entrepreneurs, startups, or any business who has forgotten how to grow. That’s why I decided to evaluate our client roster to determine where each of our clients actually came from. The following is a list of how we found each of our 19 clients (N-n-n-n-nineteen, nineteen).

How We Met Our Current Clients

  1. I was introduced to the Client by a mutual friend.
  2. The Client is a former co-worker I have stayed in touch with.
  3. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  4. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  5. The Client found us through my speaking engagement.
  6. The Client came to us because of one of my co-worker’s relationships.
  7. The Client is an old friend of mine.
  8. The Client is a new friend of mine.
  9. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  10. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  11. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  12. The Client came through a friend’s recommendation.
  13. The Client came through one of our other Client’s Recommendations
  14. The Client is an Old Friend
  15. One of our business partners recommended us to the Client.
  16. A former coworker recommended us to the Client.
  17. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  18. The Client is a former Client who I have stayed in touch with.
  19. The Client is a New Friend.
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My good friend, former client, current client, and amazing tennis player, Marc-Andre Dubois and I have known each other nearly 20 years. 

Key Takeaway

Clients come through relationships. Maintaining and growing your personal and professional relationships is key to business success. When I first launched my business I quickly realized that much of the hardest work of entrepreneurship, which is developing and maintaining genuine relationships, I had begun decades earlier. If you want to start your own business, side-hustle, or simply help your current business grow, start by focusing on your own relationships. Because that’s where all the best things in business and life begin.

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

Do you have enough pressure?

Pressure is your friend. It forces you to do things you might not have otherwise done. It forces you into action, or keeps you moving when you may have otherwise stopped. Pressure has been my single greatest ally on my entrepreneurial journey. And as I wrote the last line my trusty MacBook Pro started singing ‘What about me? It isn’t fair…

The fact that I began this entrepreneurial adventure with a mortgage, 3 kids and a wife I wanted to keep forced me to make things work. Two months after I established The Weaponry LLC I bought a second home and increased the pressure even more. Cue the David Bowie ringtone.

Pressure gets me out of bed early every day. It focuses me throughout the workday. And it keeps me fueled late at night when there are miles to go before I sleep. Because of the pressure I am accomplishing more than ever before. I can’t imagine what I wouldn’t have done without it.

Key Takeaway

Pressure is propulsion. Don’t avoid it. Seek it out. It makes you run faster, farther and with a greater sense of purpose. It forces you to consider all of your options and resources. It forces you to find solutions quickly. And it leads to results. Because there is no other option.

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