Right now there is a great parking spot with your name on it.

What do you do when you arrive at a crowded parking lot? Do you mutter to yourself about the crowd? Do you turn around, like Bonnie Tyler, and leave? Do you look for a spot in the back, farthest from the building, because it is most likely to be available?

When I come to a crowded parking lot, even when it looks like there are no spots available, I head straight to the front row. #BobUeckerStyle. I assume that even in a seemingly full parking lot, there is a great space waiting for me. And a funny thing often happens when I do this. I frequently find a cherry parking spot, open and waiting for me.

I don’t know why that spot is so often available. Maybe someone recently left. Or maybe most people simply figured there were no great spots left, so they didn’t bother to look. Either way, one of the most coveted spots was left unoccupied and waiting for me to claim it.

I believe rockstar parking spots are usually available. And I believe that I deserve one of those spots. I also believe that this is how life works. The same rules of availability that govern parking lots also apply to business, the arts, friendship, entrepreneurship, courtship, and all of the other desirable ships of life.

Key Takeaway

Great spaces are open and available to you in all areas of life. Believe you deserve yours. And go take it before someone else does.

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

How close to the surface are your failures?

Tuesday night I guest lectured to an advertising campaigns class at Marquette University taught by Erin Napier. I talked about creative thinking and the creative process. I talked about my advertising career path, from college student to Copywriter to Creative Director to Chief Creative Officer. I talked about Entrepreneurship. I shared my experience as Founder & CEO of  The Weaponry. And I told them about the time me and Danica Patrick filled a Motorhome with 1.2 million ping pong balls.

Q & A

I showed samples of the creative work I have created, and then I asked if anyone had questions. This is one of the first questions I was asked:

‘What was you greatest career failure, and what did you learn from it?’

Now I am all about learning from your failures. And I am all about turning lemons into  lemonade, like Ralph Lemonader. But I didn’t have an answer for this question.

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This is the class I spoke to at Marquette University. And everyone is still awake. I consider that a win.

It’s not that I haven’t made mistakes in my career. I certainly have. But what I recognized when trying to access my colossal mistakes file, was that I don’t hold my failures close. They are not raw and ready to be examined. I am not dwelling on them, stewing over them of kicking myself because of them. I’m not like that super pale dude from The Da Vinci Code, who was torturing himself with his power slinky. I quickly learn my lesson and move on, better than before.

Maximizer

When I read Tom Rath’s Strength Finders, and took the test in the book (which I recommend you do), it told me that I am a raging Maximizer. Which means I have no interest in analyzing things that went wrong in the past. I simply focus on what we can do from here.

My Biggest Failure Answer

The best answer I could give that Marquette student was that I was pretty sure I don’t know what my biggest mistake was. It was likely something I didn’t do, rather than something I did do. It was probably some path I didn’t take, or some Monty Hall door I didn’t open. I’ll never know where that would have taken me. And I’m not losing any sleep over it. #Zzzzzzz

Learn & Move On

Our failures should be like touching a hot stove. We should do it once, recognize the mistake quickly, file the lesson away, and move on. No dwelling or hand wringing. We just learn our lessons, and get back to life. #BackToReality.

Key Takeaway

Learn from your failures and keep going. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t rank your greatest failures of all time. Instead, focus on your successes. Know what works for you. Remember what you did right. Repeat the positive actions. And pass that knowledge along for others to learn from too.

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

What do you do when you hit a wall?

When I was a high school freshman I ran my first 400 meter race. 400 meters is one lap around an outdoor track. It is a difficult race to run. I started strong. The first 100 meters felt great. The second 100 meters felt good. The third 100 meters were tough. Then, with just 100 meters left to go, I hit the wall. Everyone who has run a 400 meter race knows where that wall is. Once you hit it you are no longer sprinting. You are just trying to survive. And you are suddenly thankful that more people don’t come to watch track meets.

Hitting Walls

Today I recognize that every difficult challenge has a wall. A point at which things are no longer easy. A point when people typically quit. We hit walls like college students hit weeder classes. And the walls stop those who are not determined to keep going.

I see it all the time. Someone will start a project full of energy and ambition. They start a side hustle, blog, a club or mustache. Maybe they get their real estate license, start writing a book, or begin exercising and eating right. Then something happens. A challenge confronts them. They hit a busy period. Or a dry spell. Or they go too long without seeing results. Or they simply take a moment to nap in a field of poppies with their friends Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion (all of whom have strange New York accents).

It could be hours, days, weeks, or months into the adventure. But at some point people run into something hard. And they stop. The momentum vanishes. The music dies. And the dream end.

Inspiration Strikes

In 2014 a co-worker of mine started taking on exciting marketing projects on his own.  He told me all about the projects, and how much money he was making. I was amazed. He was developing the start of his own agency. It was thrilling to see. It inspired me. I wanted to do what he was doing. And within a year I began planning my own agency.

While I was eagerly planning my dream agency, I sought out that same coworker to get another inspiring update. But when we sat down to talk about his latest success he instead told me he wasn’t doing it anymore. I was shocked, and asked him why.  He said, ‘It got really hard.’

The Perfect Agency Project

I started my wannabe-agency-project as a nights-and-weekends effort in the fall of 2015. By April of 2016 I had legally established The Weaponry LLC, left my job, and committed to making this new agency work. By the end of 2016 we had generated over $400,000 in revenue. Which felt great. Like Frosted Flakes.

The Wall

Then we hit a wall. Our very first client, the client that represented the lion’s share of our revenue for 2016, didn’t have any more work for us in 2017. This was bad news. It was the kind of news that kills businesses all the time. But we did one thing that saved us. We didn’t stop.

Yes, we hit a wall. But we kept marching. We were not going to let the loss of our largest client stop us. We wanted to succeed too much to quit. (We were also too legit.) So we hustled. We found new clients. And discovered more opportunities with our other clients. Instead of folding because things got hard, we doubled our efforts. And we doubled the business in 2017. Simply because we refused to stop.

Key Takeaway

I hope you try to do something hard this year. Something really ambitious. And if you do, know that sooner or later you will run into a wall. All great things are hard to do. The key to success is simply not stopping when things get hard. Find a way around, over or through the wall. Just don’t stop. Because all the great stuff is on the other side of the wall.

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

When was the last time you saw your people?

On Monday morning I woke up in Orlando, Florida. Most people would be thrilled to be in Florida in February. But before the sun came up I was at the airport, leaving sunny  Florida to head back to Wisconsin. And I was thrilled. Because I had a very interesting afternoon planned.

MKE

I landed at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport at 11:30am. I was eager to get off the plane. But the universe had other plans. In fact, I was kept on the plane for at least 30 minutes, at the gate, while police were summoned to deal with some human shenanigans that unfolded on the flight.

Deplane! Deplane!

Once I finally got off the plane I hurried to the parking garage and jumped in my car. I sped off towards the Illinois border, just 30 miles to the south. I had 3 meetings planned that afternoon. I hadn’t prepared at all. I did no research. No competitive analysis. No powerpoint presentation. Because on a random Monday afternoon in February, I simply made plans to see 3 old friends.

Hello Kenosha!

My interesting afternoon started with lunch at the Waterfront Warehouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin. If you are ever looking for a great place to meet someone for lunch midway between Milwaukee and Chicago, this is the place.

My seat had a great view of Lake Michigan. But what was really fun was having lunch with my friend Bryan Specht. Bryan lives in Chicago. I live in Milwaukee. So we decided to meet in the middle, like Maren Morris said.

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Bryan is a rockstar marketer. We first met when his former agency, Olson, was considering buying my former agency, Engauge. Bryan and I got to know each other through that process, and I really liked him. So we stayed in touch. But we hadn’t seen each other for 7 years.

As we ate we talked about life, and business. We talked about entrepreneurship, private equity firms, acquisitions, and earn-outs. We talked about the challenges of organizational integration. We talked about the people we knew in common. And Steve McQueen. And Monaco watches. (Bryan has the one I want.) We sounded like adult business people who have a lot of knowledge and experience. Which apparently we do.

Bryan and I are the same age. We were both college athletes. Our last names both end in ‘echt’. And he recently started his own marketing consultancy called Salient Group Ventures.  I started my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, 4 years ago. So it was great to spend time with someone I had do much in common with. We were both eager for more time together. So we’ve committed to making Kenosha Konversations a regular thing. (We didn’t actually kall them Kenosha Konversations.  That’s just a kute name I made up for this story).

Mark Dahms

After my lunch with Bryan I drove 15 miles north to a spot in Racine, Wisconsin called Route 20.  There, I met with my college track and field teammate at The University of Wisconsin, Mark Dahms.

Mark is wicked Smart. He was the valedictorian of his senior class at Waukesha Catholic Memorial High School. He was a great student at Wisconsin, and went on to get his MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. I always thought that was where you went to study cereal. But apparently it’s like, a good school, for smart people.

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Try to guess which one of us works in finance at SC Johnson, and which one works at an ad agency called The Weaponry. I’ll give you two guesses.

Mark has been with SC Johnson since he graduated from college. But don’t think Mark hasn’t gotten around. He worked for SCJ in England, where he met his wife, who was working for SCJ. #RaisedEyebrow  They also lived in Australia. And apparently, when you clean a mirror with Windex south of the equator, you should wipe it counter clockwise. (I may have just made that up.)

I had not seen Mark in 14  years. So we caught up on life, work and family. I learned that a traditional Polish Christmas celebration may involve keeping a carp in your bathtub. And I was reminded that if you were really tall in college, you are probably still going to be really tall 24 years after your graduate. Did I mention that Mark once made a bet that he could eat 6 giant fudge brownies for dessert at our college training table. That didn’t turn out well for anyone.

A Symphonic Ending

My 3rd meeting of the day was with my friend Camela Langendorf. Camela and I met our freshman year of college at the University of Wisconsin. We met in Symphony class. Which is way harder than it sounds. (I still got an A.)

Camela was always funny and smart and fun to be around. Today, she is a great photographer, and owns her own business called Varitay Studios. The company name comes from the fact that Cam is not just a little bit tay. Or even regular tay.

Before we got together on Monday, Camela and I had not seen each other since… 1995.  That’s right, it had been 25 years since we last saw each other in person! Yet it was like we had seen each other yesterday.

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We talked about life and family and careers. We talked about college and friends and the pursuit of happiness.

We also talked about photography and entrepreneurship. We dug into profitability and business development and the power of great employees. We talked about great books. And we talked about how we should get together again soon.

Why Do This?

So why did I schedule time on a Monday afternoon to see friends who I haven’t seen for 7, 14 and 25 years? Because life is short. And our human relations are extremely valuable. At the end of our days, the only thing that will really matter is the impact we have on each other. So I make staying in touch with my people a priority. It’s one of my best habits (along with smiling first thing when I open my eyes in the morning).

The Question

Who haven’t you seen lately that you should? A friend? A family member? A business associate?  Your waxer? This week I challenge you to make time to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in years. Maybe even decades. We have a limited amount of time on this planet. You never know when that time will run out. So make plans to see your people now.

Key Takeaway

See your people in real life.

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

The one book you should read this year.

I am constantly trying to enhance the performance of my brain. I don’t do it with aftermarket parts. Or with surgery. Or with drugs. Although I have heard some really good things about drugs from my crack dealer friends.

Reading Rainbow

I enhance the performance of my brain by reading books. I read as much as I can. As a result, my thinking keeps improving. With each book I read I become more capable, insightful, empathetic and resourceful. I am collecting dots and connecting dots. And today I arrive at better ideas faster than ever before. Granted, I had a lot of room for improvement.

The One Recommendation

If you want to improve your thinking and your doing, I highly recommend reading The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. This #1 Wall Street Journal Best Seller is one of the most influential books I have read in the past 20 years.

Focus

The One Thing’s main focus is to teach you how to focus your thinking and your efforts. We are often faced with a brazillion things we could do with our time. As a result, we often do nothing. Or the easiest thing, the closest thing, or the most urgent thing. But not the one most important thing to help us get to our goals.

There is no trickery to this book. It is simple and logical. Yet it is eye-opening and insightful. (Although opening your eyes is typically outsightful, right?)

Dominoes Delivers

The books starts by encouraging you to look at your actions like knocking down dominoes (the game piece, not the pizza joint). We need to focus on the first domino, and then the next, with purpose. By doing so we can make great things happen, one domino at a time.

Dominos from the one thing
This is how your actions work.

Determining Your Priorities.

The book shines a spotlight on the erroneous short term thinking that typically fills our daily to-do list. It points out the critical difference between a To-do list and a Success List. A key lesson here is, ‘That which matters most should never take a backseat to that which matters least.’  In other words, your priorities need to call ‘Shotgun!’

80/20

Keller and Papasan explore the 80/20 rule of Pareto Efficiency, which states that 80 percent of your results come from 20% of your effort. (Not that 80-years olds should not make out with 20-year olds. But that should also be a rule.) They then propose applying the 80/20 rule to your 20% activities. This enables you to find the most important of the most important activities to focus on.

Multitasking Vs Monotasking

The book blasts the notion of multitasking. It instead promotes the idea of complete focus. Or what I called ToFo, in the post Why you should invest more of your time in Total Focus.

66 Day Magic

The book breaks down the critical difference between self discipline, which is hard, and habits, which become easy and automatic. I loved learning that on average it takes us 66 days to create a new habit. Which means that if you made a resolution to start a new activity on January 1st, and could make it to the end of the first week of March, you would likely keep that habit rolling forever. But most people quit in January or February, and never create a new habit. Then again, those resolutioners stop coming to the gym by the beginning of February, leaving more room for me, so I am not complaining.

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By 66 days habit kicks in, and self discipline is no longer necessary. You will know when you are there because a big red star fish will appear on your line.

Forget The Balanced Life

The authors share the idea that a balanced life doesn’t enable us to do amazing things. Instead we need to be constantly balancing our lives, so that we can go all in on our goals for long stretches, to create extraordinary results. Then we can balance those periods with longer stretches of time with family and friends, relaxing and recreating. But if we never get ourselves out of balance by going all-in on one thing, we will never achieve great things.

The Focusing Question

Finally, the book introduces the key focusing question for your life:

‘What is the one thing that I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?’  -The One Thing By Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

This question can be asked as a big picture question, and as a small, focusing question. Meaning, it can help you discover the one thing you should be doing with your life, and what is the one thing you can do, right now, to make it happen.

The one Thing for all areas
The One Thing applies to all areas of your life.

Key Takeaway

If you want to supercharge your thinking and your actions, pick up this book. It will teach you how to focus, prioritize and act to get the most out of your precious time. It will help you think about your long term goals, and what you need to do now to achieve them. And it will help you say no to things that just don’t matter.

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

The unbelievable ending to this basketball team manager’s senior year is straight out of Hollywood.

You can never have too many friends, or hear too many inspirational stories. This weekend one of my close friends sent me an unbelievable story about a special high school basketball team manager in Atlanta. The story made my jaw drop, my heart warm and my gooses bump. Here it is.

Pace Academy

This year, the Pace Academy basketball coach, Sharman White, wanted to send his high school seniors off with a memorable ending. All of his seniors.

Before the last home game of their regular season the coach circled up his team, and thanked senior team manger Daniel Lucke for his faithful loyalty to the team. He then surprised Lucke by announcing that he would be suiting up for Senior Night.

The team went crazy for Daniel. They cheered, hugged and encircled him. Clearly this was a guy the rest of the team really loved. And now, in the last game of his senior, the manager was going to get to wear a team uniform, just like the rest of the players on the team.

And this is what happened…

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Daniel put on his uniform, and his family insisted on taking pics. Daniel gave the camera his best, aw-come-on-mom look.

Then…

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His sister Katie, Dad (Jim), and Mom (Stephanie), proudly escorted Danny when his name was announced.
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Jim and Coach bro-hugged, while Katie thought, ‘Aww… they are bro-hugging.’
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Danny got to participate in team warmups. And a little boy who walked in the gym wearing a blue jacket thought Danny looked legit.
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Danny joined his teammates on the sideline and totally looks like he fits in. He is number 14 (just like he was in the other 4 photos above).

The Game

The Pace Academy Knights proceeded to dominate their opponents from The Lovett School. Which also happens to be the alma mater of my friend Adam Nelson, who won the Olympic Gold Medal in the shot put in Athens in 2000. (Apparently having a Gold Medalist shot putting alum doesn’t help your team dominate in basketball a couple decades later. #gofigure)

The Moment

With 1:30 left in the game, and the win assured, Coach White did something he will never forget. He called Daniel Lucke’s name. And the told the faithful team manager that it was his turn to play.

All of Danny’s service, sacrifice, support and unselfishness over the past 2 years got him 90 seconds of playing time in the last game home game of his senior year. It was a dream come true. But the dream wasn’t over.

Rising To The Occasion

With just seconds left in the game, Danny was passed the ball under the opponents basket, and quickly dribbled up court. After crossing the half-court line, Danny executed an NBA-caliber crossover dribble, behind his back! The move left the poor defender guarding him flat on his bumski. And the crowd went wild.

Then, Danny dribbled to the top of the key, and launched a 3-point shot just before the final buzzer. The whole crowd held their breath, and watched as the final shot of the game arced through the air. And into the basket.

The Reaction

The crowd went cray-cray. The student section poured onto the court, surrounding Danny, and completing a dream-like finale to the team manager’s high school basketball experience.

The Proof

Here is a video of both the announcement that Danny would suit up, and the final play of the game.

Going Viral

Videos of D-Lucke’s buzzer beating shot immediately went viral. The story made news outlets across the country. Within hours, the video had been seen by millions of people. And the world had one more great inspirational story to share.

Danny The Kid

Danny is a great kid. I’m not just saying that because his coach said that. Or because his teammates and classmates obviously loved him. I know Danny.

The person who sent me Danny’s story was his Mom, my close friend Stephanie Herbst-Lucke. She is a fellow University of Wisconsin track athlete. And she is one of the most giving people I know.

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Daniel’s Mom, Stephanie Herbst-Lucke (second from left) was an outstanding track and cross country runner at Wisconsin. But D-Lucke’s crossover dribble skillz must have come from Jim.

Stephanie currently serves as the President of Wisconsin’s W Letterwinner’s Club for Wisconsin Alumni athletes, where she stands out as a special person among special people.

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Until Senior Night, my favorite shot of D-Lucke’s was this pic he took of me and some fellow UW track and field alum at a gathering at the Lucke’s home in Atlanta.

I feel lucky to know the Luckes. Jim and Stephanie are great people. They have clearly taught Daniel and his older sister’s Katie and Maddie well. They selflessly serve others. And when you do that, great things happen. Thank you Coach White for making this happen. And for setting the stage for such a wonderful life lesson.

Key Takeaway

Be like Daniel Lucke. Give unselfishly. Help any way you can. Lean in. Participate. Invest in your relationships. And prepare yourself for the opportunities that come your way.

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

Entrepreneurs are 125% more successful if they do this.

The idea of starting your own business can be scary. The statistics say that there is a high probability of your dream business failing. But then again, there is a really, really high probably that your heart will fail at some point too. And when that happens none of your other failures matter anymore anyway.

A Safer Bet

But there is a way to practice safe entrepreneurship. It’s not perfectly safe. Just like there is no perfectly safe sex. At least not any that involves other people.

Do what you know.

If you want to become an entrepreneur, but your tolerance for risk is sweet n’ low, the safe thing to do is to start a business in an industry you have already worked in.

It turns out that entrepreneurs are 125% more successful if they’ve previously worked in the industry they start their own business in.

Keep on rocking in the free world.

This should be encouraging to those of you who are rockstars in your current job and think you could do it even better on your own. That’s what I did. Okay, so I am not really a rockstar. I am more like a bluegrass artist with a loyal local following, that consists mostly of my family and the hard of hearing.

The Weaponry

After working for other advertising agencies for 19 years, I launched my own advertising and idea agency in 2016. Today, The Weaponry is nearly 4 years old. And I have been able to pour all of my industry experience directly into my entrepreneurial adventure. And in return, it has poured some sugar on me.

Key Takeaway

If you really want to start your own business, and I hope you do, consider starting a business in the industry you are already working in. Your experience and connections give you a major advantage. You do have connections don’t you? If not, work on building that parachute before you jump out of your current airplane.

Fun note: I am writing this on a plane as I fly to Florida to film the CEO of one of our greatest clients. We work with this great client because my friend and former coworker, Erin Lovett recommended us. But don’t worry. I won’t jump out of the plane. It would put a quick end to my 125% advantage.