To live your best life, capture fewer Selfies, and more Self-A’s.

I recently took a vacation to the Pacific Northwest with my wife and 3 children. We visited amazing places, including Seattle, Mt. Rainer, Mount St. Helens, The Columbia River George, Multnomah Falls, Cannon Beach and Astoria. We visited Forks and Port Angeles, Washington, of Twilight fame. We also visited Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Which taught me that one nation’s Pacific Northwest lies directly below another nation’s Pacific Southwest. #mindblown

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Hiking on Mt. Ranier felt like visiting the Alps. We even think we saw the Von Trapp Family Singers.

Natural Beauty

That corner of the world is incredibly beautiful and picturesque. Which explains why we saw so many people taking pictures. However, I noticed many of the people were actually taking pictures of themselves, even though those people were not nearly as beautiful as the natural surroundings that, well, surrounded them.

The Selfie

The selfie is an interesting cultural phenomenon. We take pictures of ourselves with people and things that we think will make us look cooler, more interesting, richer or more attractive. Sure, selfies can help capture a memory. However, I can’t help but feel like the selfie snappers I encountered on vacation were missing the essence of the experience. Because the goal is not to take a picture that make it look as if you are having a great experience. The key is to actually have an amazing, fulfilling and rewarding experience.

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We spent Father’s Day on an epic hike that made me feel I was living the life I imagined for myself.

Self-A

The key to a great life is not to collect selfies. Instead, we should collect Self-A’s. A Self-A is a slangy and shortened way to reference our feelings of Self Actualization. Self Actualization, for the uninitiated, represents the highest rung on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is the ultimate state of human existence. It is the moment when we feel we have achieved our full potential. They are moments of completeness. And moments of bliss. But they only occur for a brief time. So you have to be self aware, or you’ll miss them. 

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The Next Level

You can only experience Self-A, if all your basic needs are met. Which means that you need food, water, shelter, sleep, safety, relationships and confidence first. But once you collect all of those prerequisites you can go for the bonus round of Self-A.

Living the Dream

When you experience Self Actualization, you are literally living your dream. Over the past 3 years, since I began my own entrepreneurial adventure, and took more control over my life, I have been experiencing more and more moments of Self-A. In fact, the increase in Self-A’s is the most quantifiable and meaningful change in my life.

The moments occur at work, when I am ideating, when I am with my team, when I am with friends, and when I am driving my John Deere lawn tractor. However, these magical moments of Self-A seem to happen most frequently when I am totally present on a family adventure.

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My wife, Dawn, on Mt. Ranier in June.

Self Awareness

On my recent visit to the PNW I noted that I was allowing myself to be absorbed into amazing moments. While I noted that others were whipping out their mobile phones or selfie sticks to capture the moment. Stopping to capture a selfie kills your Self-A. Because you start focusing on the photo, not just the feeling.

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This is one of my favorite photos from the day. I had no idea Dawn was taking this picture. I was totally in-the-moment, and relived the experience of awe when Dawn showed me this photo later that night.

 

A Notable Notebook Idea

To fully enjoy these moments we should carry notebooks to document the details of our Self-A, making the following notes:

  • Where were you?
  • Who were you with?
  • What were you doing when you felt a moment that feels as good and real and amazing and as close to your dream as life ever gets?

By collecting notes on your Self-A’s you’ll gain insights into how to experience even more of these priceless moments. Which is how you win at life.

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My son Johann and I soaking it all in.

Key Takeaway.

Don’t settle for selfies. Don’t aim to take pictures of yourself doing cool things in cool places with cool people. Focus on experiencing the moments. Aim for more moments when your reality feels as good as, if not better than the dream. That feeling creates the best memory of all. Aim to feel that way as often as you can. You’ll be rewarded with a life well lived. Rather than simply a life well photographed.

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

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Start seeing the amazing opportunities that surround you.

The movie The Sixth Sense by M. Night Shyamalan has one of the greatest surprise endings of all time. But the only spoiler here is that at the end of the movie you might not be surprised that you are surprised.

There was a famous line from the movie that was delivered by little Haley Joel Osment. You know H-JO. He was Forrest and Jenny’s little boy in Forrest Gump. His classic line from The Sixth Sense is ranked #44 on the American Film Institute‘s list of 100 Movie Quotes.

‘I see dead people.’ – Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment)

Entrepreneurship

Three years ago when I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency, I became an entrepreneur. With that role came a mindset change that has enabled me to see things that most people don’t.

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I See On-Ramps.

You have probably wished for an opportunity to start your own business, make a lot of money or accelerate your own career. Most people have. But most people can’t find the path forward. My entrepreneurial mindset enables me to see on-ramps to exciting new opportunities everywhere. Seriously.

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The on-ramps are in the problems you can solve. They are in the people you meet. In the books you read. And the questions you ask. The on-ramps are in the buildings you pass with the For Sale sign out front. The on-ramps are in your taste that people compliment you on. They are in your ability to write, design or photograph. The on-ramps are in the dots you connect. There are more on-ramps than you can count. And new ones appear every day.

Turn On Your Blinker

This week steer yourself onto one of those on-ramps and make something exciting happen. Start writing, planning, thinking, asking, creating, calling, connecting or buying. It is how you begin to take advantage of all of the opportunities that are around you all the time. Opportunities to do what you have always wanted to do.

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This week head for that place you have always wanted to go. But turn around if you hear banjos.

Key Takeaway

Today we start a new week. We also start the second half of the year. Which means that today is a great day to make new progress. So start the things you’ve always wanted to start. Don’t put this off any longer. Take the next onramp you see. You will be amazed at where it takes you.

*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.

Why you should be proud of your slow progress.

I love podcasts. I use them as part of my continuing education. Most of what I listen to is somehow related to business. One of the podcasts that I listen to always ends by asking guests what they think separates people who are successful in business from those who fail, or never get started.

I Say

Every time I hear this question I repeatedly shout out, ‘Action!’ as if I was an audience member on The Price Is Right. I believe that action is the most important ingredient to entrepreneurial success. In fact, I wrote about it in the post: The most important ingredient to entrepreneurial success.

Confucius Say

Earlier this week, while writing a post called The one thing you need to have if you want to start a business, I started exploring the philosophies of Confucius. I quickly found out that he wasn’t as hilarious as I always thought he was. It seems that all those funny sayings the my crazy Uncle Jonny attributed to Confucius most likely came from my crazy Uncle Jonny himself.

Actual Confucius philosophy is smart, insightful, and deep. With almost no double entendres referring to your private parts. The Confucius saying that sticks out to me today is:

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop. -Confucius

This is another great way to emphasize the importance of action. There will be times when your progress will feel snail-y, or turtle-y, or glacier-y. Sometimes that is just how the process works. But remember, that by simply moving forward a few inches every day a glacier can change the entire landscape.

Key Takeaway

There is a fine line between slow progress and no progress. But that line makes all the difference. Keep moving forward. Keep acting. Keep doing. And you will get a little closer to your goals every day.

If you know someone who could benefit from a little Confucius, please share this story with them.

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.