The surprising question I was asked while guest lecturing.

I guest lecture to college students several times each year. Guest lecturing is like a box of chocolates. Because you never know which students will be surprisingly delightful and which will be totally nutty. Last week I spoke to Erin Napier’s marketing campaigns class at Marquette University (which I secretly call a Marquetteing campaigns class, because it’s kinda funny).

Good Evening

There were 36 students in the class. It started at 5:30pm. Which, in case you don’t remember, is not when college students are at their energetic or attentive peak. I decided to bring some extra energy to make sure no one fell asleep (and no one fell asleep).

Sharing Is Caring

I spoke to the class about advertising, my career journey, the creative process and networking. I talked about starting my own business. And about the value of sitting in the front row. When I was done I opened the floor for questions. Not literally, of course.

A Trick Of The Trade

The students asked many good questions. Although I give myself partial credit for the quantity. Because after the first 2 questions I told the the class that I always remember the people who ask questions. If we stopped right then, 2 out of the 36 of them had made a positive impression on me. After my commentary the questions came fast and furious. Like Ludacris.

The Questions

The students peppered me with the follow queries:

  • Where do your best ideas come from?
  • What do you do when you are stuck creatively?
  • What was your favorite project ever?
  • What is your dream project?
  • What has been the greatest challenge of your career?

The Surprise

But there was one very simple question that truly surprised me.  Julian Wright, a freshman on the Marquette track & field team asked:

Why did you want to talk to this class tonight?  -Julian ‘Lefty’ Wright

My Response:

I wanted to share my knowledge with you. I have learned so much from experienced professionals who volunteered their time that I wanted to pay if forward, or backwards, or however you like to think about it. And I hope someday you give your time to share what you have learned with the next generation.

But I also wanted to make a positive impression on you, so that when you are looking for internships or jobs after college, you think of Adam Albrecht or The Weaponry first. I am always looking for rockstars. And I want the next generation of rockstars to be looking for me.

Key Takeaway

Share what you know. Add to the body of knowledge of students and others who are hungry to learn. The greatest impact you will ever have on Earth is the impact you make on other people. Pass along your knowledge, experience and observations. And in the process you will collect even more. Better still, teaching expands your exposure to talented people. It grows your network, and increases the number of opportunities that come your way.

Speaking Of Which…

This afternoon I will be speaking at an event about marketing through storytelling, hosted by the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce. I am excited to learn from the other 2 speakers at the event, Tim Dyer and Richie Burke.  Here is an overview:

WHAT’S YOUR STORY? USING STORYTELLING TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM CST
The Venue at Milwaukee Brewing Co
1130 N. 9th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Behind every business is a great story. As new platforms for content marketing continue to grow, there’s never been more opportunity to use storytelling to strengthen your brand and find strategic ways to reach new audiences.

You can find more details, and register for the event here.

 

 

 

The surefire way to increase your wealth.

I own a lot of books with the word ‘rich’ in the title. Among them you’ll find Think And Grow Rich, Rich Dad Poor DadThe Science of Getting Rich, The Richest Man In Town, and  Rich Like Them. In fact, I have bought so many books with the word ‘rich’ in the title that the Amazon recommendation engine now suggest books like The Adventures of Richie Rich, Rich Desserts, and The Many Impressions Of Rich Little.

The Real Lessons

I like these books because they are about success. They help you think and act in ways that help you accomplish great things. And those great things often attract money like magnets. Or magnates.

I consider the tips, tricks and examples in these books to be important reminders rather than great aha’s. Although there are certainly plenty of both in my library of riches.

The One Thing To Remember

But if you want to know the most important point of all about getting rich it is summarized in the following line:

‘It is the value you bring to a company, an organization, indeed the universe, that ultimately determines your level of wealth.’ -From The Richest Man In Town by W. Randall Jones

Key Takeaway

If you want to earn more money, add more value. If you want more social capital, add more value. If you want more political capital, add more value. Your success is directly related to your contribution. So if you want more, contribute more.

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

My 10 Simple Rules For Business Success.

My 14-year old daughter Ava has been studying The 10 Commandments during her confirmation class. She has lots of questions. Like, ‘How did we arrive at these 10?’ (I said God and David Letterman decided.) And, ‘Which one is the most important of all?’ (I told her it’s the one about honoring thy mother and thy father.) Her many questions are hard for humans to answer. But they serve as great kindling for meaningful conversations.

Rules For Life

I try to live my life according to The 10 Commandments. I’m so-so at it. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t worshipped any golden calves. But I sometimes use the Lord’s name in vain. (Sorry Big Guy.) And I have definitely coveted my neighbors house. But come on, my neighbors have sweet houses!

Rules For Career Success

I love simple rules. And all of our recent talk about The 10 Commandments got me thinking about my own rules. So I wrote down my 10 rules for business success. Here’s my list. These are short enough enough to be carved on just one stone tablet. Which means that you could carry these rules and a gallon of chocolate milk at the same time.

10 Simple Rules for Business Success.

  1. Always do what you know is right.
  2. Develop and maintain strong relationships.
  3. Solve problems.
  4. Deal with the decision maker.
  5. Hire people whose results make you jealous.
  6. Collect Dots and Connect Dots.
  7. Add value.
  8. Focus for greatest results.
  9. Add energy.
  10. Start with the end in mind.
  11. Overdeliver.

Key Takeaway

It is important to develop a strong set of rules to help you perform your best. The rules serve as reminders, guides and inspiration. They stand as pillars that support great people and great performance. If you ever lose your way, go back to your rules. They will never let you down.

What are your go-to rules?

What pieces of career advice would you write in stone and have delivered by Charleston Heston? Please share in the comments section. Or send me a note. If you do I will create another post called The Top 10 Rules I Learned From Readers, and I will give you credit. It will be a collaboration. Like Band Aid, USA For Africa or Dionne and Friends.

How to get your foot in the door like an All-American.

I have a strong appreciation for student athletes. As a former track athlete at the University of Wisconsin I understand how hard it is just to earn an opportunity to participate in college athletics. I know how difficult it is to balance the demands of athletics and academics. And I know how well those demands prepare you for life after college. But I was reminded of this lesson again over the past year.

The W Letterwinners Club

A year ago I started attending W Club events at the University of Wisconsin. The W Club is the varsity athlete letter winners alumni club. If you won a varsity letter as a Badger you are automatically in the club. And if I were to rebrand the club, I would name it the W Letterwinners Club, so that the name would express in two words and one letter what it has taken me 2 sentences to explain.

Scott and Stephanie

The incoming club President, Stephanie Herbst-Lucke, and Vice President, Scott Brinen, asked me to join the W Club’s advisory board when I moved from Atlanta to Milwaukee. Because it is much easier to get involved in things centered in Madison when you live in Milwaukee than in Marietta, Miami or Mozambique.

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That’s me in the middle, sandwiched between Stephanie Herbst-Lucke and my college teammate Scott Brinen. Scott is the W Club VP. Stephanie is the P. (#snickering)

They Meet

At my first advisory board meeting in October of 2018, Stephanie introduced me to one of the representatives from the women’s track team named Sarah Disanza. Sarah was an All-American distance runner who had just graduated 5 months earlier. It was clear that Stephanie and Scott really liked this young woman and had invited her to join the advisory board right after graduation.

Badger Athlete Reunion

Following the W Club meeting we all migrated to a fun event the W Club hosts annually called the Badger Athlete Reunion. It was held at the most iconic of iconic Madison bars, State Street Brats. The event, as the name so aptly implies, is a reunion of all letter-winning athletes who ever attended the University of Wisconsin.

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After the party there’s the after party.

The Badger Athlete Reunion is athletically eclectic. Like the Badger’s version of Studio 54. Every sport is represented. Every era is represented. Female and Male athletes are represented. And it makes it clear that being a student athlete at Wisconsin prepares you for great things after graduation. Because the room was full of ass kickers and name takers. Not just athletically. But in business, and life.

Impressed

That evening I spent more time talking with Sarah Disanza and I was impressed. She seemed to fit right in with groups of former athletes who were 10, 20 and 30 years her senior.

The Suggestive Sell

A few months later Stephanie Herbst-Lucke contacted me and said, ‘I think you should consider hiring Sarah Disanza on your team at The Weaponry.’ The Weaponry is the advertising and idea agency I founded in 2016. Stephanie is a rockstar marketer herself, so I took her suggestion seriously.

Sarah

Sarah was the national runner up in cross country, and a 4 time All-American at Wisconsin. She was still training seriously and had been working at a great restaurant in Madison. But she had met her life quota for garlic smashing. And decided she wanted to start her real career.

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Sarah leading a gang of hungry Badgers to Mickies Dairy Bar for some giant pancakes and scramblers.

 

Talent Scouts

I asked Simon Harper, one of my talented account leaders, to meet with Sarah the next time he was in Madison. He did. And he liked her like everyone else does. So we invited her to come to Milwaukee to meet with our broader team. (Broader meaning diverse, not wide.)

Sarah came to our office a week later. She was on time. She was prepared. She asked great questions. Again, everyone liked her. But we didn’t have an obvious opening for her to fill. So we didn’t have an obvious next step forward.

The Surprise

Then Sarah did something that distinguished her from other talented people. Yes, she followed up. Which is always the right thing to do. (See How to impress others with a follow up note for how to crush the follow up letter.)

True Value

But what Sarah did went beyond manners, protocol and good form. She added value. When she followed up with me she noted an initiative I had mentioned during our conversation in my office. It was a research project that I wanted to undertake related to new business development.

WTF!?!

She shocked me when told me she did the project on her own! When she sent me the file containing her research work it was so good I told her that she had to charge us for her time, because it was truly valuable to us.

The Door Opens

I then invited Sarah to do some freelance work for us on another project for a major client. Sarah always showed up early, ready to roll. She took initiative. Displayed great people skills with our client. And she did such a great job we found ourselves looking for more places to get Sarah involved.

High Jumping

Sarah eagerly jumped at anything we offered. And I was convinced we should add this go-getter to our team full-time. But before we did, I wanted to do one last check on Sarah with someone who knew her as well as anyone: her college coach.

Jill Miller
Jill ‘The Coach’ Miller

Jill Miller

Jill Miller coached Sarah in both Track and Cross Country at The University of Wisconsin. I emailed her, asking if she would be willing to talk to me about Sarah. She enthusiastically agreed.

Jill and I had a fun conversation as we connected dots between the people and places we both knew (#DublinOhio #RachelWeber). Then the conversation turned to Sarah. Jill enthusiastically confirmed all of the great things we saw in Sarah. She talked about her work ethic, her punctuality, her sense of responsibility and accountability. She talked about Sarah’s great family and the strong character that clearly came from her parents, Paul and Debbie Disanza.

Just Do Grit

Jill told me that Sarah had the highest pain threshold of anyone she has ever coached. Which is a clear indicator of grit and determination. Which is valuable in every endeavor in life. I had heard enough. But Jill Miller (who I would like to nickname Jiller) had one more thought to add.

‘As a coach I often think about which of my athletes I would hire if I had my own business. I have had a lot of great athletes that I would gladly hire. But there are 2 that stand out as the first people I would hire. And Sarah is one of them.’  – Jill Miller

That was quite an endorsement. I told Jill how much I appreciated her time and insights. And I had all I needed to know.

The Offer

In August we offered Sarah a full time position with The Weaponry. She started the day after Labor Day. And she has been as good as advertised. Or better. She is eager. She is a fast learner. She asks great questions. And she has deftly handled everything we throw her way.

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Sarah and her new team of smiley Weapons.

Best of all, she is super fun, super funny, and has a great personality that really adds to our team. Which means that she is like so many badger athletes, past and present: Hard working, smart and determined. Yet as fun and full of personality as the kids who fail out of lesser colleges.

Taking Initiative

But the reason Sarah is on our team is that she took initiative. She spotted an opportunity during the interview process to wow us. She performed her own research that was highly valuable to our business. She built her own on-ramp. And she was so good we couldn’t ignore her. So we didn’t. Anyone can do this. Although very few will. Just those willing to perform like All-Americans.

Key Takeaway

If you want to get your foot in the door with a new employer, a new client or a new relationship, add value. Show how much you would bring to the table every day. Don’t wait to be asked. Show initiative. It will tip the scales in your favor. Those you are trying to impress won’t want to lose you as a valuable asset. They’ll make exceptions for you. Be patient, but persistent. And keeping adding value. You’ll find that doors will open for you over and over again.

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

Is your work preventing you from feeling joy?

There is a unique word that popped up in my news feed twice this week: The word was Joy. It appeared as a key reason that 2 high profile Americans quit their jobs. What was even more unique is that both of these Americans played a game for a living. And if anyone should be experiencing on-the-job-joy it should be people playing a game for money.

Work Takes A Toll

But Andrew Luck, the recently retired 29-year-old quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League, and 30-year-old tight end Rob ‘Gronk’ Gronkowski, who recently retired from the New England Patriots, the best football team in the history of history, both stated this week that their jobs had actually taken their joy from them.

Whoa…

If you had heard that Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble quit their jobs because it was stealing their joy you would understand. After all, those dudes worked in a rock mine, operating dinosaurs. So if they told you they didn’t want to yabba-dabba-do it any more you would get it.

Money Isn’t Everything

But we are talking about 2 guys whose jobs have brought them fortune and fame. Luck earned over $100 million dollars. Gronkowski made $53 million by the time he turned 30, while winning 3 Super Bowls.

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Andrew Luck announced his retirement at 29, saying that football has taken his joy. Then he Eskimo kissed the mic.

Yet the work robbed them of their joy. The pain, the grind, the mental and physical fatigue, the injuries, surgeries and stress that came with it all negated the benefits of the handsome compensation.

The Reminder

This is a reminder to that money and fame are no fair trade for our joy. Because without joy, a delicious cocktail of pleasure and happiness, it’s hard to find value in our work and our careers.

The Question

This raises an important question for us all.

Is your work adding joy to your life or taking it from you? 

For some people that answer is easy. A quick check of the ole joy-meter may show that your joy is at maximum levels. Others will find their work is more or less joy-neutral. Which is fine. But just fine. However, if your work is exporting your joy like Art Vandelay, you need a new job. Or a new career.

Search Yourself

A little self evaluation will tell you whether you need a new environment, new boss, new challenge, or new career. This may be the right time to focus on an old life goal that has gathered dust, moss or rust. Because by making a career change or launching a new business you may experience a flood of joy and excitement that will make you wonder why you didn’t do it earlier. That’s exactly what happened to me when I started my entrepreneurial adventure. And 3 years after starting my own company I am shocked that more people don’t do it.

Key Takeaway

If your work is depleting your personal joy you have to make a change. Life is too short not to enjoy your work and the people you work with. Money is not the most important contributor to a joyful life. So make sure you are not trading money for happiness. Make joy your number one goal. And everything else will fall into place.

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

How to keep A-holes out of your organization.

I’m not a huge fan of rules. Creative people as a species are naturally averse to them. But if you want to develop a business with a strong culture and a rock solid, repeatable process you need some rules to guide you.

Some Background

Prior to starting my own ad agency I had been part a fun, feisty and progressive agency called Engauge. We had offices in Atlanta, Austin, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Orlando. And we worked with some of America’s best brands, including Coca Cola, Wells Fargo, UPS, Nike, Chick-Fil-A, Nationwide, Walgreens, and Cisco. We had a lot of very talented people. And we had a great company culture. #weness  But it didn’t happen by accident.

Rules That Free Us

When I joined Engauge’s restructured executive leadership team in 2011 our first order of business was to create some simple rules to govern the organization. Because we believed that a great organization is made of great people who enjoy working together, the first rule we unanimously agreed on was the ‘No A-holes’ rule. For those unfamiliar with the rule, or the obviousness of the phrase, it means that your organization will not tolerate people who act like A-holes.

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This dude is acting like a textbook A-hole. Well, maybe not a medical textbook A-hole, but you know what I mean. 

Prevention

Preventing the A-holes from joining your team isn’t easy. Because they are on their absolute best behavior in interviews. Sometimes we sniff them out (yeah, I said it). But often they sneak past our filters. So as much as we try to prevent an A-hole from getting into our organizations in the first place, they get in. So now what?

The Conundrum

You just get rid of them, right? After all, no one likes an A-hole. Unfortunately, it’s typically not that simple. Because let’s face it, there are a lot of talented A-holes. The drive, intelligence, confidence and will of a typical A-hole help makes things happen. It’s common for them to make a quick impact and create immediate wins.

The Problem

But that upside comes with an equally significant downside. Because A-holes are uncomfortable to be around, they drain morale and sap energy. The unfortunate reality is that when you retain an A-hole, (which means you are A-hole retentive) it sends a terrible message about your values to your most valued employees. You’ll watch them drop like flies. Among the employees you will retain you’ll lose untold dollars in productivity as co-workers gather to talk about what an A-hole the A-hole is.

Even Worse

Of course the worst problem of all occurs when an A-hole develops a close relationship with a client. Because then the business has to decide whether they want to lose the valuable contributions of the A-hole and irritate or lose a client.

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The Solution

There is a proven 2-step process to handling such problem employees. First, ask a handful of cross functional team members if they think the co-worker in question is an A-hole. Second, if the consensus is yes, you put on your scrubs and perform an Assholectomy.

There simply is no room for the distraction, the division and the drama caused by A-holes. Accepting them tells the rest of the organization that It’s okay to be an A.  That can’t happen. Because eventually enough people will leave, or threaten to leave that you have no choice but to get rid of the A-hole A-nyway.

 The Result

After implementing the A-hole rule in the past, I’m proud to say we purged several very talented but very difficult people. By dropping those stinky sphincters, the culture, vibe, productivity and overall love for the organization improved.

The Weaponry

When I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016, the first rule we implemented was the No A-Holes Rule. But we didn’t just make it a rule. We baked this non-negotiable into the center of our brand identity. You’re probably wondering how we did this.

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See the A in the middle of the word Weaponry? Notice that it has no A-hole? That’s because there are no A-holes at The Weaponry. #TrueStory #BakedInFromTheStart

By establishing this rule from the beginning we have had no A-hole problems at The Weaponry over the past 3 years. None. Not even a whiff of a personality problem. #snickering  All of our full-time and part-time team members have been exceptional people who work great with others.

Key Takeaway

If you want to create a great work environment, team and culture you have to invite the right people in and keep the wrong people out. There simply is no room for A-holes. Even really talented A-holes. Because you will be cleaning up their crap until the day they leave. So create a policy and a process to prevent them from getting into your organization, and for removing them if they sneak in. By eliminating A-holes you will have avoided the negative distractions that kill both productivity and culture. Which means you and your team can focus on building a great business. And building great, long lasting relationship with each other.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message (like someone dealing with an A-hole) please share it with them.

Why you should never reject a compliment, and 18 ways to accept one.

I love complimenting others. It is one of my favorite things to do. I love recognizing a job well done. I like pointing out strengths. I love celebrating significant accomplishments. And I like telling people they look nice. I am like the Franks RedHot Lady. I put compliments on everything.

Go Big & Go Small

I compliment the big obvious performances. But I really like to highlight the small things that would typically fly under the radar. I love to show people that I noticed the details, the extra effort and the small sacrifices that were not likely to draw much attention.

Thinking Of Going Pro

If I could be a professional complementer I would. It’s one of the few professions that I would enjoy even more than my current role as an entrepreneur. It feels good to offer compliments. It calls more attention to the good things in life. Which in turn helps create a more positive world. Because complimenting is like carrying around a giant highlighter and marking a bright yellow swipe of sunshine on all the good things you find.

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I wonder how the guy on the left lost his hand.  

If I could change one thing.

As much as I love to give a compliment it often generates one of my greatest pet peeves. I really dislike it when people don’t know how to receive a compliment. You may think that denying a compliment makes you appear humble or modest. But it doesn’t. Because when you deny a compliment you are telling the complimenter that they are wrong. Which is rude. Unintentionally rude. But rude nonetheless. #3wordsin1

The Rudeness of Rejection

When you reject a compliment from someone you are telling them that they:

  1. Have bad taste.
  2. Are ill-informed.
  3. Don’t know what they are talking about.
  4. Are too easily impressed.
  5. Don’t know as much as you do.

Do This Instead

Even if you don’t feel worthy of praise you should gracefully accept it. There are many ways to properly accept a compliment. Here are just a few examples:

18 Acceptable Responses To A Compliment

  1. Thank you. (this one works really well)
  2. I appreciate that.
  3. Thanks for noticing.
  4. That is nice to hear.
  5. You made my day.
  6. You are so sweet (works better for ladies)
  7. I’m just doing my job.
  8. I’m thrilled you think so.
  9. You would know.
  10. That means a lot coming from you.
  11. Do you really think so? (this allows them to heap more praise and offer more details)
  12. I got lucky.
  13. I am humbled.
  14. It was a team effort.
  15. That saying about blind squirrels.
  16. Can you follow me around everyday?
  17. Tell me more.
  18. Can you write my Tinder profile? (I don’t know if there is such a thing.)

Key Takeaway

If you want to live in a world with more praise than criticism you have to learn how to accept a compliment. Because if you can’t take a compliment eventually there will be no compliments to deny. Don’t let that happen. Let’s encourage others to recognize the good they see.

Accept compliments with gratitude. Remember them. Write them down. And read them again whenever you need a confidence boost.

Remember, praise is one of the most meaningful gifts we can offer one another. So if you want to see more praise in circulation, make sure not to deny it when it comes your way.

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