Are you in the career you are supposed to be in?

Monday night I had dinner with my friend Greg Rozycki at his home in Emeryville, California. Zyck and I grew up together in Norwich, Vermont. We went to high school together at Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire. Which is just across the Connecticut River from Norwich.

Fun Fact: Our school district was the first interstate school district in the United States. It took a bill signed by JFK to be approved. And it was the last thing JFK signed before he was assassinated (so maybe he shouldn’t have signed it… hmm…).

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Zyck and I holding a board during our high school talent show. (that was our talent).

Zyck and I have known each other since we were 12-years old. We played football together. Zyck was a star athlete. Not only did he make the All-State football team, he was an All-American lacrosse player in high school. He went on to have an outstanding college lacrosse career at Brown University. Then he went to medical school at Dartmouth. Today he is Dr. Rozycki, a Pediatrician in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s a pretty amazing dude.

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Zyck and I and our Buddy Rett Emerson.

The Introduction

Before Monday night Zyck and I hadn’t seen each other in person in 8 years. When I arrived at his home he re-introduced me to his two children, Sanam (13) and Sachin (11). Then he said something really interesting to his kids:

‘Of all of my friends Adam is the one who has the most perfect career for him.’ – Dr. Greg Rozycki

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Me, Zyck and Sanam on Monday night in California.

Advertising!

Since I first started my career as an advertising creative I have heard this same sentiment many, many times. My great childhood friend Marcus Chioffi says this every time I see him. My Uncle Rod says he is glad that I am finally able to put my unique thinking to good use.

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Spending time back home in Vermont. That’s little Sanam in the green shirt.

Finding Your Perfect Fit

I always laugh at these comments. But they are true. I have found a career that is perfectly suited to my strongest and most natural skills and abilities. I love the work I do and I think it shows. When I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I found the hard work of starting a new business as enjoyable as anything I have ever done. Because I love what I do.

The Big Questions

Would your closest friends and family say you are doing exactly what you should be doing with your career?

  • If not, what should you be doing?
  • What are you really great at?
  • What do you love to do that you are not doing right now?
  • How can you make money doing that?
  • Why aren’t you doing it?

Key Takeaway

Finding work that you love to do is one of greatest discoveries in life. It makes it exciting to get out of bed on a Monday morning. It makes it easy to put in the extra effort that will make you extra successful. It gives you special energy that makes long hours not seem so long. Best of all, you don’t spend any time thinking about the career you wish you had. Thanks for the reminder Zyck.

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

 

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What special skill can you spin into gold?

Last night I flew back to Milwaukee from San Francisco. I rarely watch movies on flights. But last night there was a movie that was calling my name. It was a documentary called The Biggest Little Farm, about a young couple in Los Angeles who decide to become farmers. #nonotcannabis

The couple, John and Molly Chester, know nothing about farming. But they find an investor willing to help them buy a 200-acre farm an hour north of L.A. However, the farm they buy is terrible. Like Charle Barkley would say. The soil is lifeless, nutrient-less, moisture-less and generally worthless. But they try anyway.  And as so often happens in the movies, they made it work, and end up living into their dreams.

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The Golden Quote

90 minutes into the 91 minute documentary I found a golden nugget. John Chester, the farmer and movie director, talks about the critical importance of the microorganisms that were reintroduced to bring the soil back to life. He says,

‘On our farm there are 9 billion organisms churning away at decaying life forms —purpose driven organisms, alchemizing death to life.’  -John Chester

Whoah! 

Circle that last part:  Purpose driven organisms, alchemizing death to life?!?

The idea of organisms alchemizing death to life is incredibly inspiring. Those scrappy little microorganisms have found their powerful micro purposes: To help create life out of death. That is, to break down what had been living (plants/insects/manure), and prepare it for use by the next lifeforms to hit that patch of soil.

Alchemy

Alchemizing is perhaps the most powerful concept on the planet. It refers to transforming the nature or properties by a seemingly magical process. Which is certainly what was happening in the soil of the Chester’s farm. 

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Stay Gold.

True of False?

However, in chemistry class we were taught that there is no such thing as alchemy.  My high school chemistry teacher made it very clear that you can’t turn ordinary metals into gold. Or go Rumplestiltskin and spin straw into gold. Or turn your lab partner’s Chuck Taylors into gold. 

But I have learned through real life experience that you can indeed alchemize the abundant elements that surround you into gold. Because through passion, skill and hard work you can turn anything into into gold. Anything.  Just ask Brian Scudamore who started 1-800-GOT-JUNK.

Things of yours that can be spun into gold.

  • Creativity
  • Sense of Humor
  • Charisma
  • Personal network
  • Mechanical ability
  • Photogenicity
  • Culinary skills
  • Work Ethic
  • Writing skillz
  • Organization skills
  • Discipline
  • The body of a God or Goddess
  • Public speaking
  • Courage
  • Analytical skills
  • Personal energy
  • A great smile
  • Social skills
  • Problem solving abilities
  • An ability to write lists like this one

I have seen people turn their abilities in all of these areas into a great deal of money. The investment it takes is personal. Not financial. But the payout comes in every form you can imagine.

Key Takeaway

Purpose and passion are powerful forces that enable you to turn your natural assets into gold. Understand your innate skills and abilities. Hone them. Focus them. And use them to turn all that you have into all that you every wanted. It’s easier than you think. While you can certainly do this by starting your own business, you can use the same approach to drive great wealth or freedom as an employee or hired gun. Make your own magic. Spin your own gold. You don’t even need a pile of straw to get started.

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

In the digital age, your best marketing tool is made of paper.

Recently I made the cardinal sin of business cards. I ran out. I didn’t realize it was about to happen until it was too late. I stash my business cards everywhere. In my wallet, my work backpacks, in the pouch of my Moleskin notebooks, in my car, my suitcase and my gym bag. Because you never know when you will need a business card. Or said differently, because you always need to be ready with a business card.

Marketing Weapons

Your business cards are the most important part of your marketing weaponry. They are mini ads that you can place directly in the hand of a prospective client or potential partner right at the moment when you make a strong positive impression on them. (Not when you do a great impression of them.)

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Despite what you heard on MTV’s Cribs, this is where the magic happens.

Business cards are bread crumbs you leave behind that lead people back to you.

Business cards are like Trojan horses that gain access into the businesses and homes you want to be in first. Once they are in, they help you and the rest of your business gain access too. 

Business cards become powerful pop up ads when they suddenly surface in a pile of cards.

The Ultimate Ad

The most impactful ad space you could ever buy would be an ever-present ad on your prospect’s desk, ready to serve up a direct line to you the moment the prospect needed one. They only thing I know that can do that is a business card.

Your Business Card Scorecard

A great leading indicator of how well you are doing at marketing yourself or your business is how many business cards you are getting into circulation. In other words, running out of business cards is a sign you are actively and personally promoting yourself and your business. It means you are meeting people and they are either asking for your card, or you made it to a natural place (or semi-natural place) in the conversation to offer your card.

Key Takeaway

If you want more opportunities, hand out more and better business cards. Your business cards are a direct line to you when a prospect needs the kind of help you offer. In this high tech, digitally-empowered, over-analyzed marketing age your business cards are the most underutilized marketing and networking tool you have. Because they are a reminder of a personal interaction and a personal relationship. And despite what you may have heard, business is all personal.

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

 

How to use fake deadlines to make your dreams come true.

You have dreams. I know you do. You have visions of a future that is better than today. In your dream state you have a better job, a more exciting career or your own thriving business. You have lost weight, gained fame, made a fortune and crossed off everything on your bucket list. You, my friend, are Forrest Gumping.

Want To Do’s vs Have To Do’s

The hard part about making your dreams come true is that dreams are electives. They are not required. Which means that unlike taxes, you can put dreams off forever without getting into any trouble. The downside is that when you die your dreams die too. And as you are carried off to your final resting place your unrealized dreams will be left behind, still in their wrappers. Like sad little veal dreams.

Making Your Dreams Come True

The key to bringing your dreams to life is simple. You have to create fake deadlines. How do you do this? You just make them up. It’s the same way we created Leprechauns, Unicorns and the Backstreet Boys. You simply create your own fake timeline to make your dreams a reality.  Then deadline your way forward.

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Give yourself deadlines to keep your dreams alive.

My Entrepreneurship Deadline

On the eve of my 40th birthday I set a series of goals and fake deadlines for myself. One of my goals was to start my own advertising agency. Less than 3 years later I formed The Weaponry. A fake deadline gave my entrepreneurial dream urgency. Which made it a priority. Which gave it attention. Which created the action it required to meet the fake deadline. #3Whiches

Traction Deadlines

Today The Weaponry sets quarterly rocks, or goals, that we must accomplish within 90 days. The 90-day deadline is completely made up. But it creates urgency and forces us into action. It gamifies our efforts and keeps us moving forward and improving as an organization.

My Blogging Deadlines

I publish 3 new posts to The Perfect Agency Project blog every week. I do this to share my experiences, insights and wisdom gained from building my own advertising agency. No one is making me write. No one else is telling me that a new post needs to go live every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. But that’s what my fake deadlines demand. So I deliver. As a result my readership steadily increases by 50% each year.

Key Takeaway

Fake deadlines make things happen. They are the true keys to progress. To accomplish something that is important to you start by setting a fake deadline to get started. Then set a fake deadline for completion. And set lots of fake deadlines to meet important and aggressive milestones along the way. Without fake deadlines dreams die. That’s just reality. But don’t let it happen to you. Instead, set your fake deadline today, by 10pm local time. Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

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

My inspirational visit to the original Starbucks.

Last Saturday morning I went to Starbucks. A typical Starbucks run is not exactly newsworthy. Or Blogworthy. Or spongeworthy, But this Starbucks trip provided an expresso shot of inspiration for me. Because this wasn’t just any Starbucks. It was the original Starbucks at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

I should mention that I don’t drink coffee. My standard meet-up/networking drink of choice is chocolate milk. I’ll do a venti hot chocolate when my go-to chocolate milk is not on the menu. You know, when I’m slumming it.

But I wasn’t viewing this Starbucks as a meet-up joint. Or a beverage joint. Or even as a tourist attraction. Although clearly it was. I saw the original Starbucks through the eyes of Adam Albrecht, the Founder of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. I evaluated the original Starbucks through the lens of a guy who started a small business and has large ambitions.

The first Starbucks serves as a reminder that we all start small. Because even the biggest brands, companies and cultural pillars begin as a vision. That vision, combined with action, soon becomes a small store, office, shop or stand. And if you just keep taking more steps and more action there is no telling how big your vision can become.

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Raising a cup to Howard Schultz!

Key Takeaway

Even the biggest, most influential businesses start small. The key is having a vision and taking action. We can all do this. There is no magic formula. All you need is a venti vision with a double shot of action, topped with some stick-to-it-ness. That’s how Howard Schultz started Starbucks. And it is how you will start your next big thing.

An unusual life hack for people who work best under pressure.

I love advertising. Some people find it is way too stressful. But for most of us who thrive in advertising and other high pressure jobs (like deep sea diving and Instapot cooking) we love the pressure. It brings out our best. We are motivated, excited and engaged when the heat is on. Like Glen Frey.

The Heat Is Off

But sometimes the heat isn’t hot. For heat seeking professionals it can be harder to be as productive on days when there aren’t looming deadlines, freaking clients and nail biting coworkers. On those days, I have a life hack that’s fun, motivating and really grabs your attention.

The Hook and Bladder

To maximize productivity on low pressure days, I challenge myself to get absolutely as much work done as possible before I visit the restroom. What I have found is that this self-imposed deadline turns my productivity into a game. It forces me to rapidly knock things off my to do list, and quickly look for the next task, project or chore.

The mounting bladder pressure creates a looming deadline. And a challenge. For people who like to prove how tough they are, the Bladder Beater Challenge pushes your can do attitude, while you think about what you could be doing at the can.

Key Takeaway

If your slow-day productivity could use a little kick in the pants, try the Bladder Beater productivity challenge. Try to get as much done as possible before you take a bathroom break. You will zip through that to do list faster than Game Of Thrones goes through leadership changes. Now if you don’t mind I really have to go…

The one thing you need to have if you want to start a business.

I love a good proverb. It offers a great way to summarize and remember a simple truth. I recently stumbled upon an interesting old Chinese proverb. By stumbling, I mean I found it by accident. Not that I tripped and fell on top of it.

Here it is:

 ‘A Man Without a Smiling Face Must Never Open a Shop’ -Chinese Proverb

This proverb makes me laugh. It isn’t poetic. It lacks the thought-inspiring depth of Confucius. It’s what I would label a very niche-audience proverb. I don’t know if this was intended for the non-smiling crowd, or the maybe-I-will-open-a-shop crowd.

Smiling Is A Requirement

Regardless of how narrow and niche and blunt the proverb is, it is true. Businesses are about human interactions. If you don’t have a smiling face, you can’t show people you are happy to see them. Customers won’t feel welcomed, appreciated or valued. A person without a smiling face creates a poor customer experience. If you can take someone’s money, but can’t give them a smile in return, there will be no repeat business.

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Dr. Demond Means, one of my great clients, loves a good smile!

Make Them Feel Good

This proverb is a great reminder about the doors that open when we smile. Smiling makes you magnetic, pleasant and warm. Smiling make others feel good. And customers will pay a premium for that feeling. Customers and clients have a wide range of options to choose from. They will always go where they feel welcomed and appreciated. And a smile makes them feel both.

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My client Mike Bortolotti likes smiling. Smiling is his favorite.

Smiling Is a Customer Magnet

When I was young I spent a few valuable Saturdays working at a concession booth at a stadium. I smiled the whole time. It was clear that by smiling I gave the crowd walking past the impression that I was happy to see them. Which made them more likely to approach the booth. I’ll never forget that lesson. As a result I sold a lot of foam fingers.

Be A Good Host

As a business owner you must always put the customer first. You must be a good host. By putting a smile on your face you attract customers and keep them coming back over and over again.

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My clients Tarun, Payal, Nina and Jake like to see me and Adam ‘Henry’ Emery smile, even in India.

Resting Smile Face

Smiling is my default. I don’t put a lot of thought into it. Because I don’t have to. I am sure that my naturally smiley nature has been an important factor in my entrepreneurial success. I want to make my clients’ interactions with The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, the most enjoyable part of their day. And by the looks on their faces, it often is.

Key Takeaway

If you can’t put a smile on your face you can’t be an entrepreneur. Because if you can’t put a smile on your own face you certainly won’t be able to put one on anyone else’s. Customers have options. In the age of online commerce, one of the greatest reasons to enter a shop is to see a smiling face that is happy to help you. Offer a smiling face to every customer you see. And you are likely to see them over and over again.

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