Do you love your work as much as Jim Cantore loves thundersnow?

During the spring of my senior year of college I was approached by a major pharmaceutical company about an entry level sales position. They recruited college athletes, because they wanted competitive go-getters to go sell, sell, sell for them.

Wearing a suit I borrowed from my Wisconsin track teammate, Greg Gill, I did 2 rounds of interviews. The pay, bonus structure and the benefits all sounded amazing for a kid right out of school. But I had no passion for pharmaceutical sales. Or for wearing business suits. So I passed.

Advertising!

Instead, I looked for opportunities as a copywriter with an advertising agency. I got informational interviews at 2 agencies. I was then offered jobs by both companies. The pay was half what the pharmaceutical sales job would have paid. But the work excited me. So I jumped at the chance to join Cramer Krasselt, one of the country’s best advertising agencies, for $21,000 a year.

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Me and my man Lucian McAfee on a shoot at the Atlanta Braves’ spring training facility in Florida.

Just An Excitable Boy

I loved my low paying job, and it showed. I got my first raise 3 months later. I got another raise 6 months after that. And another raise 6 months after that. Then I got a promotion, and another raise. It was clear I was doing the work I was supposed to do.

 

Love Will Keep Us Together

The quick success and pay increases happened because I loved my work. I was all in on the work. Working hard as an advertising creative was extremely fulfilling. Many advertising creatives will say they didn’t choose the work, the work chose them. That’s exactly how I felt. Somehow the work didn’t feel like work. It felt like playing. And it still does today.

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Me and my fellow Weapon, Adam Emery are the bread in a Blake Pieroni sandwich. Blake is an Olympic Gold Medalist. Guess which sport…

Jim Cantore

I once saw a clip of Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel capturing the super-rare phenomenon of thundersnow on camera. According to a Royal Meteorological Society study (I read all of their stuff), this phenomenon occurs in only 0.07 percent of snowstorms in the United States. And only 6 occurrences are reported each year. In the video, Jim is about as excited about thundersnow as anyone could be about anything, ever.  Here is the clip:

Straight Outta The Upper Connecticut River Valley

Jim Cantore and I grew up in neighboring towns in Vermont. I am from Norwich. Jim grew up 5 miles south in White River Junction. I am super proud of the passion of my  fellow Green Mountain Boy. I wish everyone loved their work as much as Jim loves his.

Passion Powered

I recognize the excitement that Jim showed. Because I feel like that all the time. My enthusiasm for my work has made my entire career feel like, well, not work. My clients and coworkers can feel how much I enjoy the work I do. I think my enthusiasm makes me more enjoyable to work around. Granted, there may be a point of diminishing returns.

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That time me and Danica Patrick filled a Prevost motorhome with ping pong balls for work.

Entrepreneurship

When I first launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I knew it would be successful. Because I loved the work, and was willing to do all of the hard work necessary to make the business fly. As it turns out the work has been just as fun as I thought it would be. Solving problems is fun. Developing ideas is to help my clients thrive is extremely fun. And I never tire of the demands of business ownership.

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Gung-ho in gingham, with Jon Mathews.

Key Takeaway

If you haven’t found work you are passionate about yet, keep looking. Find that thing that makes you lose your mind, like Jim Cantore in thundersnow. Find something that make you pound the table like I pound the table when we have found another great idea that will help our clients win. Don’t settle for good pay, nice benefits and a safe existence. Energize yourself by doing something you really love every day.

Note: I first witnessed thundersnow while snowmobiling with my great friends Greg Gill and George Mort in Saint Germain, Wisconsin. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It’s like seeing lightning in a snow globe. It’s my favorite weather phenomenon.

My daughter thinks I am lucky to have such a cool job. But she is wrong.

Yesterday my daughter Ava had a basketball tournament 90 minutes from home. Ava and I enjoyed some daddy-daughter time as we drove to and from the tournament together. We always talk a lot on our drives. Our conversation yesterday included such random topics as:

  • Top 3 cities in the US you would want to live in someday
  • How to become a songwriter
  • How old you have to be to join the CIA
  • Elbows to the throat
  • Billy Eilish
  • Basketball moves that work
  • How Silicon Valley became a thing
  • Hair tossing and checking my nails
  • Honors Geometry terms (we studied for her quiz together)
  • How the championship medals they won glow in the dark
  • What is the 3rd Jonas Brother’s name (It’s Kevin)

Entrepreneurship

We also talked about my work. When I started The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency, I also started this blog to share what I learned on my entrepreneurial journey. This is the 382nd post. So I must be learning something. But I don’t just blog about what I am learning. I try to teach my children as much as they can absorb. And maybe just a little more.

Recent Updates

I told Ava about some of the projects I am working on. I told her about work travel that I have coming up to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and potentially Orlando. I gave her an update on some of the things I just did on trips to Dallas and San Antonio.

Then she said something that really struck me. She said,

‘Dad, you are so lucky. You have the coolest job.’ -Ava Albrecht (14)

I smiled, and told Ava that my entire advertising career has been filled with cool opportunities and experiences. But the thing worth noting now is that I created my own job. I started my own business. All of the cool things I get to do now were not offered to me by an employer. I didn’t find this job like you find a 4-leaf clover. I created the opportunity to do cool things myself.

How Long Does It Take?

I knew that when I launched my own business I would be walking away from a number of amazing opportunities to do fun and interesting work. I wondered how long it would take before I got to do those same kinds of projects for The Weaponry.

It didn’t take long. Today I get to work on rewarding projects for many of my clients. I get to travel all over the country. I get to work with interesting and well known people. And so do my teammates.

Go Luck Yourself

Ava was right, I do have a cool job. But I am not lucky to have this job. I made this job. I knew the kind of work I wanted to do. And I created a job where I would get to do it. I told Ava that I want to make sure she knows that she has the ability to create her own dream job. And I want you to know that you do too.

Key Takeaway

The best way to land your dream job is to create it yourself. Know what you want. And realize you have the potential to make it happen. Today, I am busy creating my dream job. I am certainly not done yet. And neither are you.

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

I fancy myself a badass. And you should too.

I fancy myself a badass. A bull rider. A street fighter. A come-back-here-and-I’ll-bite-your-kneecaps-off type. A finger-waving, head-shaking Hulkimaniac who won’t stay on the mat, even when the rest of the world is saying, ‘Stay on the mat!’ (I was also an impressionable boy in the 1980’s).

The Truth

Am I really a badass? I don’t know.  And I don’t care.

The Value

This self concept, false or real, has helped me more than anything in my personal weaponry. It helps when I have to work long, sleep little, stand my ground, or attack. It prevents me from being intimidated, or from feeling that I am ever not good enough.

I Use My Inside Voice.

It is important to note that I would never tell anyone but myself that I am a badass. It’s like telling people you are cool. The moment you do, you are decidedly uncool. Which perhaps means that when you call yourself a badass, people think of you as a good ass, (which is interesting reverse psychology).

I am simply sharing my mindset here. Because it might help you the way it helps me.

Key Takeaway

Think of yourself as a badass. It helps you do hard things.


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

**I had a really hard time finding a picture of myself where I am not smiling. Which perhaps means that I am a very smiley badass, if there is such a thing. Which there probably isn’t. #selfperceptioniseverything

Are you disappointed enough in yourself to do something about it?

I love being an entrepreneur. After spending the first 19 years of my career working for ad agencies owned by other people I decided to start my own. That was almost 4 years ago. It was also a leap year. Which is a good year to do anything because it gives you a 24 hour advantage. I tell this to presidential candidates and olympic hopefuls all the time.

The Reaction

Since I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, people often treat me like I am doing something impressive. Or daring. They are positive and supportive of my entrepreneurial adventure. I often hear from people who want to launch their own business. They tell me I was really brave to set out on my own. But when I analyze the driving force behind my leap into entrepreneurship it was not bravery. Not even close.

Ambition

I wanted to own my business since the beginning of my career. I envisioned myself as a business owner or business launcher-type-guy. Whatever that meant. In fact, in my head it was so clear that I would be an entrepreneur that after 15 years of working for other people I considered myself a failure for not actually being a real entrepreneur.

Disappointment for the win!

Eventually, it was the disappointment, and  sense of dissatisfaction in myself that finally moved things forward. Don’t get me wrong, I like myself. But I have a strong vision of my ideal self. And whenever I am not acting in accordance with that vision, or I am too far off the pace I set in my head, I really bothers me. And that disappointment and embarrassment is a powerful fuel. One we should guzzle regularly.

Disappointment (Is better den dat appointment)

Most people never become so disappointed in themselves that it propels them forward. But that is extremely valuable. An injury to your pride is one of the best things that can happen to you. You don’t have to become a prostitute or a heroin addict. Because there is a point of diminishing returns. You just need to be incongruent with your self perception. That feeling eventually pushes you forward like the other side of the magnet.

Key Takeaway.

Create a strong image of who you really are at your core. Write a glorious story about yourself in your head. Make it vivid and real. Think about it all the time. And eventually you will get so fed up with not being that version of yourself that you will take drastic measures. It’s in those drastic measures that the magic happens. And when you do you will feel remarkably alive. Like you are no longer coasting through life. I hope that happens to you. Here’s to you experiencing disappointment in motivating quantities in 2020.

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

This year treat your spare time like valuable gemstones.

Happy 2020! I absolutely love the Mulligan that every new year brings. If you are like most people you’ve resolved to make this your best year yet. According to a quick and dirty research project I conducted there are four basic ways to improve your life with a New Year’s resolution.

  1. You can start something good.
  2. You can quit something bad.
  3. You can make a habit of something positive.
  4. Or you can generally just stop being lame.

Best! Year! Ever!

I have one goal that will help make 2020 the best year in my career and personal life. Simply stated, I want to make the most of my remnant time.

What That Means

We all have a slew of things we have to do. Those include our standard work and home obligations. Make sure you take care of those must-do’s or your fresh new year will spoil before February. But like that poor forgotten ‘r’ in February, we all have time in every day that we are overlooking.

Today I’m envisioning all that I can do with my remnant time over the next 12 months. In fact, I am considering adding this quote to the back of the next round of business cards I print this year:

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Apparently Ralph Waldo was into the bling.

Go Rumpelstiltskin in 2020

Today consider what you can do with the time hidden between your must-dos. Instead of killing that time with digital thumb twiddling or catching Zs, spin that time-straw into gold.

The Perfect You Project

I challenge you to use your remnant time to do the things the perfect version of you would do. Read something, write something, create something, solve something, learn something, experience something, accomplish something, improve something. Or maybe buy a thesaurus and find other words to use instead of something.

Compounding Interest

Like compound interest, even little moments add up over the course of a year. Two months ago I began picking up my daughter’s guitar each night and practicing for just a few minutes. And while I’m no Eddie Van Halen, a little invested time each night enables me to play most Christmas songs well enough to not get booed off stage at a nursing home.

Entrepreneurship

I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry in my spare time. I looked for little moments at night, on the weekends or over my lunch hour to research, plan and create the business. And like Andy Dufresne, by using my remnant time wisely, I was able to create a path to the place I always wanted to be. Except, unlike Andy, I didn’t have to crawl through an active sewer pipe. And chances are, neither will you.

Key Takeaway

Make the most of 2020 by making the most of your spare time. Use it to make magic in your career. Strengthen your connections to family and friends. Start that business you always wanted to start. Read more. Finally do those things you have always wanted to do. Use you spare moments to having more fun, learn something new, and accomplishing more than ever. Start today. You have 1440 minutes every day to work with.

 

The key to great problem solving.

I love my job. I thoroughly enjoy all aspects of my work. Not just the advertising-specific stuff. But all of the businessy work I have to do as an entrepreneur. The problem solving I do is extremely rewarding. Every day feels like a game. Sometimes it’s Monopoly. Sometimes it’s Go Fish. Sometimes it’s The Running Man.

Netflix

As much as I love the work I do, one of my favorite parts of the workday at The Weaponry is when we eat lunch and watch shows on Netflix. We watch a broad range of programming that either helps stimulate our thinking, makes us laugh, or both.

The Repair Shop

Yesterday we watched an episode of The Repair Shop, which is a reality show about a British repair shop (go figure) that people bring antique treasures to in order to have them restored to their former glory. At the shop there is a furniture expert, a fabric expert, an art expert, an electronics expert, a clock expert and more.

The Repair Shop

I love watching the experts at The Repair Shop work, because they are all really great problem solvers. And I learn from the way they solve their problems

The Desk

In the episode we watched yesterday an old Davenport desk came into the shop with a great deal of damage. One of the problems that had to be addressed was that there were drawers with locks but no keys to open them. Because the furniture expert really wanted to get in those drawers (#snickering), he approached the clock and lock expert to see if he could help unlock the locked drawer. The clock and lock jock was happy to help.

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A Davenport desk, like the one on The Repair Shop. Not like the Davenport my Grampy used to nap on.

The Keys

The lock expert then pulled out a large jar full of all kinds of random old keys. The man explained that he has a large collection of old spare keys that he uses to help unlock tricky locks. He then said that whenever he sees keys in an antique shop he will always buy them to add to his collection. So that he can unlock even more locks in the future.

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A collection of skeleton keys, in case you ever need to get inside a locked skeleton.

Ditto

I instantly recognized that I do the same thing. I am always collecting keys. Except my  keys don’t come from antique shops. They come from books, magazines and podcasts. From discussions with experts, and from asking a lot of questions.

The keys that I collect don’t go into a jar. They get stored in my library, my notebooks and in the files of information in my head. My keys wait patiently for me to call on them to help me unlock the next problem I need to solve. And while I can’t display them for the world to see, I know they are there. And the older I get, the more keys I have in my collection. Which means I can unlock problems faster now than ever before.

Key Takeaway (literally)

There are keys to unlocking problems everywhere. They are found in the things you read and the experts you meet. They are found through experience, and observation. So look for them. Collect them before you need them. And be prepared for whatever your world and your work send your way.

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

The most important business decision I have made this month.

Some businesses are slowing down for the holidays. But at The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, we are in overdrive. December has been our busiest month of our busiest year yet. And we see no slowdown in sight. Today is my 12th day working without a day off. I have the only house on my block without Christmas lights. And I couldn’t be happier.

Decision Making

This level of demand forces you to make a variety of logistical decisions in order to meet all of the needs. In this period of record demand we have had to make a lot of really important decisions.

Last Thursday we began an exciting project that had us shooting a series of videos across the state of Texas for 10-days. There were massive amounts of logistics to coordinate to pull it off. We would be working with 5 different powersports dealerships, 5 different charities, and we had nearly 100 different locations to scout and film. There would be daily travel as each of the locations were 1 to 4 hours away from each other. Because apparently everything is bigger in Texas (I am surprised they don’t talk about that more…).

The First Puzzle Piece

Planning this shoot was a puzzle. And just like solving a jigsaw puzzle, we had to start by finding our first corner piece. We had to find that important, non-barbecue-related factor that we must plan all of the other details around.

In this case the entire plan started with a 3-year old boy’s Christmas play. When we looked at the 10-day shoot, our creative director, Adam ‘Henry’ Emery and I had to determine how we would split our time on the shoot so neither of us had to be out of the office for 10 days. Henry said, ‘My son has a Christmas program on Tuesday evening, December 10th and I would hate to miss it.’ So we built the 10-day travel schedule, and all of our logistics around that.

Prioritize

In our busiest month in agency history, the decision to build our travel around a child’s Christmas program was the single most important decision we made. With all of the challenges we faced, we started with the most important. We value our people above all else. We want them to prioritize the people and events they value most. And while we will have many more work obligations, there is only one Christmas play when you are 3-years old. And Mom’s and Dad’s should be there.

Key Takeaway

Put first things first. Prioritize family and friends whenever you can. Help your co-workers and clients do the same. When you develop organizations that support families, you also develop families that support your organization. And like Van Halen said, that is the best of both worlds.

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