In your career you will have the opportunity to work with a broad range of clients. Some will help you make a lot of money. Some will help you make a little money. Some will help you grow old friendships. Some will help you make new friendships. Some will be strictly business. And some will be a party. Some will enable you to do great work. Some will help you make a difference. Some will build your confidence. Some will test your limits. Some will cost you money. Some you will love. And some, you will wish you never met. But if you pay attention, they will all help you grow smarter, stronger and more capable. So on the toughest days with the toughest clients, and the best days with the best clients, don’t forget to learn.
When I was a child I was fascinated to learn that the brain is not one solid organ. The brain is actually divided, down the middle, into two hemispheres un-creatively known as the right brain and left brain. The brainispheres have different job assignments. Essentially they work like a great team, dividing the responsibilities of braining for humans into separate but equal parts. Which means your brain works like Siegfried and Roy, Abbott and Costello or Dumb & Dumber.
People often talk about being either right-brained or left-brained. If you have not heard such talk, it goes like this: The right side of the brain is thought to control your creative and artistic thinking. While your left brain controls your logic and rational behavior. As with politics, when it comes to braining, people often identify with one side or the other.
I have spent my entire career as a professional creative thinker. I started out as a Copywriter and progressed to the title of Chief Creative Officer. Every title I had for 20 years had either the word writer or creative in it. So it’s natural to sort me into the right-brained team. People do it all the time. In conversations I hear people say ‘You right-brained types…’ or ‘Us right-brained types…’
I have never thought of myself as being right-brained. Not once. Ever. I have never thought of myself as being primarily a creative thinker. It’s not that I don’t think creatively. I know I do. But I also use careful analysis and logic every day. I love the scientific method and the absoluteness of math. I enjoy calculating my taxes. But I don’t enjoy stereotypes. Except for Bose. Those guys make great types of stereos.
The latest role in my career has been as an Entrepreneur. As the Founder & CEO of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry, I am required to use all of my brain at work. While our service offering is unquestionably creative, everything else about the business is decidedly based in the left brain. I have to think about our accounting, finances, benefits, and human resources. I have to establish processes for project management, account management, and invoicing.
There is not an element of business that I don’t I feel comfortable with. I understand, appreciate and enjoy all of the thinking that goes into starting and running a business. I see it all as a big system of constants and variables. Some disciplines require more creative thinking. Others require very practical analysis. I am thankful that my brains get along like Bert and Ernie. Their daily cooperation helps me function as one whole person.
It is limiting, if not damaging to label people, including yourself, as right-brained or left- brained. According to Dr. Daniel G. Amen in his book Making A Good Brain Great, it is a myth that we only use 10% of our brain. Our entire brain is on and working our entire lives, even when we sleep. If you were born with, and still have, both hemispheres of your brain, use them. Some skills and processes may come more naturally. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t work to develop the others.
The danger in the right-brain, left-brain labels is that you will start to believe that you can’t do things. Then you won’t take on tasks or challenges, because you have told yourself you are no good at them. But you can be. You just have to make sure you are not limiting your thinking.
Today is Election Day in America, and I love to vote. In fact, I would vote for more voting if I could. I never feel more powerful than when I walk into an election booth and personalize my ballot. I love weighing in on officials and referendums. I love voting for obscure roles, like Coroner General, Keeper of the Records, Chief of Lawns and Registrar (which sounds like a role that should be held by lions).
I love wearing the sticker that says I Voted. Or I V(Ohio)ted or I V(peach)ted, depending on the state I live in during the election. It’s a great way to show the world that you have lived up to your civic responsibilities. That sticker is a great little advertisement that reminds others to vote. And when you put that badge of honor on your shirt it also tells your friends, family and co-workers that even thought you are a legal adult, you still like wearing stickers on your clothes.
The Other Team
Not everyone feels the way I do. Not everyone votes. Or cares about voting for anything more important than the next American Idol, a Who Wore It Best poll, or the Pringle flavor they want to munch next. That’s why the following question is worth asking in job interviews:
Did you vote in the last election?
The answer to this simple question reveals a great deal about your job candidate. It offers insights about their sense of responsibility, time management and teamwork. It tells you whether or not they feel empowered to make a difference. And it may reveal whether of not they know how to read a calendar, and a map.
My Dream Team
If I knew that a candidate didn’t vote it would be a deal breaker for me. As an entrepreneur, I want my team members to have an opinion, to take initiative and to feel empowered. I want team members who believe their ideas matter. I want coworkers who want to weigh in, speak up and tell me when there is a better way. I want people who want to continuously improve the world, and our business.
Honoring The Sacrifice
Today we should also honor all of the men and women who have sacrificed in order to defend our ability to vote. The least we can do to show our gratitude is go fill in some tiny circles.
Vote. Have an opinion. Exercise your duty as an American. Know that your views and your values count, and are counted. Help determine the direction that your country, state and local community are headed. Show that you care, and that you are involved, even if you are not fully informed. It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican, Democrat or an Independent voter. Get your vote on today. Because the only thing that matters to me, is that it matters to you.
Milk is in my blood. In 1870 my Great, Great Grandpa Fred Albrecht came to America from Schwerin, Germany and began dairy farming in Minnesota. His son Hermann Albrecht, and grandson Alton Albrecht continued pumping out the white gold. Five of my Grandpa Alton’s sons, my uncles Jerry, Tom, Paul, Chuck and Tim Albrecht, spent their entire careers as dairy farmers. My father Robert Albrecht managed dairy farms. Then he oversaw the Dairy Herd Improvement Association work for the states of Missouri, Vermont, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Throughout my childhood, milk put food on our table.
A New Path
I did not continue the family tradition. I decided to go into advertising instead. I started as a copywriter, and worked my way up to Chief Creative Officer. Then, in 2016, I launched my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry.
What I have discovered is that dairy farmers are really entrepreneurs. I have to believe that coming from a long line of farmers has somehow prepared me for entrepreneurship. I get up early, before the sun, and get to work, just like each generation before me. And just like dairy farmers produce milk, we produce new ideas everyday.
Farming and entrepreneurship are both risky endeavors. I remember a farmer once saying to me,
You will never find a farmer in Las Vegas. Because we are gambling out here every day.
Words of Wisdom
To be an entrepreneur, or a farmer, you have to be bold and take on risks. And sometimes things will go wrong. As I face the unavoidable risks of entrepreneurship I am emboldened by one of my favorite dairy-isms:
Don’t worry about how much milk you spill, as long as you don’t lose your cow.
As an entrepreneur I have faced challenges that have cost us money. And trust me, that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Kinda like a swig of milk from a cow that grazed in the onion patch. But it is part of the process. You learn, and grow and then head back to the barn the next morning, where the cows are anxious to be milked.
Things sometimes go wrong. Sometime you lose money. Or lose a client. Or lose your job. It may feel terrible in the moment. But don’t focus on the milk you spilled, or the money you lost. Focus on your cow: your skills, experience and know-how that provide great value to others. As long as you have that, you will always make more money. Because as I have seen for generation after generation, if you take good care of the cows, they will keep providing you with more milk, twice a day, every day. And they will take care of you.
Trick or Treating is a grand lab experiment for humans. Over the past four days my children have gone Trick or Treating three times, in three different neighborhoods, with the same results. They are like lab rats who discover that if you ring the bell on the doors with lights, you will be rewarded with a treat.
My kids can’t get enough of this reward. I am certain they would go Trick or Treating again tonight and tomorrow night if I let them. But I won’t let them. Because I have seen what happens to the lab rats in this experiment. And I don’t need any heat from Family Services.
I loved Trick or Treating when I was a kid. I would come home with a huge haul of candy, dump it on the floor in my room, sort it, count it and virtually roll around in it. But then I would do something unusual. I would save it. It is not that I don’t like candy. I like it a lot. But I liked exhibiting control over the candy even more.
Delay of Gratification
What I have learned is that I am really good at the delay of gratification. As a kid that meant stockpiling candy. Today I do the same thing with hotel points and air miles. A quick check of my accounts shows that I have 538,336 unused miles on Delta Airlines and 782,719 unused points with Marriott.
It’s not that I don’t care about those miles and points. I think about them often, and what I will be able to do with them, someday. I love saving and planning for something bigger than a flight to Detroit and a stay at the Airport Courtyard (no offense to either). I have always loved building towards something bigger and more exciting down the road.
Looking back, I can now see that an important entrepreneurial trait could be seen in my youth each year at Halloween. Because as an entrepreneur you have to be willing to show up, make the rounds, find the doors with lights on, ring the bell, and engage with people in order to get the rewards.
But you also have to be willing to not eat your candy right away. You have to be patient and willing to wait for a bigger, better, longer-lasting feast later.
If you are willing to do all that, you can become a great entrepreneur.
I admit, I am a fairly loud human. As an extrovert I love to interact with other people. I like to talk, laugh, and not-so-occasionally sing. It doesn’t surprise people when they find out that I work at an advertising agency. More specifically, in 2016 I founded an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Naturally, you would expect an agency to reflect the personality of the Founder. And indeed, it does.
But right now it is deafeningly quiet in our office. There is no witty banter among colleagues. No loud music thumping. No pinging and ponging. No pinball machine dinging. No sounds of ball-smacking at the foosball table.
Many times during my career, in moments just like this, an agency executive would stride through the quiet office, excited to show off the totally cool agency to a client. And the executive would be clearly disappointed by the quiet.
They would often apologize to their tour mate with a line like, ‘It’s usually much louder in here.‘ Or, ‘We have a lot of people out right now.’ Or ‘We have to be careful since we got that last noise violation…’
This is all because ad agencies like The Weaponry are supposed to be loud, fun, energetic and entertaining, right?
And often times we are.
But other times, like now, we are as quiet as a library on Saturday night. Because creators gotta create. And we don’t need to get loud to do it. Quite the opposite (or is it quiet the opposite?). The harder I work, the more focused I am, the quieter I am. So are my fellow Weapons. Because the most important work we do is the mental processing we perform when we are alone. That is when we are finding the language to articulate our new ideas in words and images. It is when we are editing our thinking down to the simplest, cleanest, clearest expressions. And that takes quiet focus.
If you stop by an ad agency when the people are really, really quiet, don’t be disappointed that you didn’t get a show. Stick around a few minutes to watch the work in progress. It’s usually, fast, focused and fascinating. During a break in the action ask if you can see the work hot-off-the-fingertips. When you see the freshly crafted art, read the newly woven words, or ingest the just-birthed strategy, you’ll understand that silence is golden.
It’s where the real magic happens.
Today the Mega Millions lottery jackpot is expected to reach $1.6 billion dollars. The Power Ball lottery will reach $620 million by tomorrow. And you will not win either of them. In fact, you would get more value for your money by burning your cash for heat, or eating it for the nutritional value of the paper.
I learned this lesson early in life. When I was 18 I had a lottery experience that forever shaped my perspective on this get-rich-instantly game. I shared this story a few years ago, but with lottery fever once again creating a jackpot mirage, it felt like a good time to reshare.
The Graduation Lesson
At my high school graduation, my classmates and I received our Hanover High School diplomas from our principal, the late, super-great Uwe Bagnato. As he handed us our diplomas, we each handed him a lottery ticket. It was an exciting experiment.
We all wondered how much he might win with 143 chances (my high school scoured ten towns from Vermont and New Hampshire to find 143 educatable kids). We imagined Uwe would become mega-rich, and we would be the last class to graduate under his principality. But when we discovered that he only won a couple of bucks, and would be back at work again after Labor Day, the lottery was forever dead to me.
Don’t flush your hard-earned money down the lottery toilet. If you want a great return on your money, you should always bet on yourself. Bet on your ability to think. On your will to succeed. On you determination and stick-to-it-ness. Bet on your ability to create value. And bet on your ability to do what you are doing right now, but for yourself.
Collect that money you were going to spend on the lottery and invest it in your own business. Buy something to resell. Or purchase equipment so that you can offer a valued service, or create a new product. Get certified at a valuable skill that you can market on your own. Because if you do that, and you have the drive to succeed, you will succeed. There is much more money to be made through entrepreneurship than the lottery could ever provide.
“More gold had been mined from the minds of men than the earth itself.” -Napoleon Hill from Think and Grow Rich.
In 2016 I left a nice job at a big advertising agency to bet on myself. I left the perceived stability of a regular paycheck to see if I could make even more money, be even happier and feel even more fulfilled by creating my own jackpot. And I did it by investing less than most people spend on the lottery. In fact, when I started The Weaponry, I invested more time, energy and focus than money. And my business has been profitable from the beginning.
But forget about getting rich quick. Forget about the instant cash payout, which is the surest way to bankruptcy. Opt for the get rich slow route. If you build your own business slowly and steadily, you can turn hundreds of dollars of side hustle income into millions of family supporting dollars.
The next time you think about filling out a lottery ticket, think about sketching out a business idea instead. Think of all the great businesses started by men and women no smarter or more talented than you. Think about how those businesses, have turned those people into millionaires and billionaires. I hope it encourages you to invest in your own ideas and your own initiative. Because take it from me and Uwe, the chances of winning the lottery are far better in your head. Your best bet is to put your money to work for you. Because the odds of hitting an entrepreneurial jackpot are determined by you.