On a recent car ride I heard my children debating a topic in the back seat. At one point my 13-year old daughter made a point about what she felt was an important precedent set the day before. My son Johann had a simple and elegant response:
Today is not yesterday. -Johann Albrecht (11 y/o)
I love this declaration. It serves as both an inspiration and a warning. Today is indeed, not yesterday. If you had a bad day yesterday, forget about it. It’s over. Today you get to start again fresh. Today is a chance to bounce. It’s a whole new chance to be great. To be productive and smart. To be the you that you want to be.
For those who had a great day yesterday, full of success, productivity and Maslow-quality self actualization, remember that yesterday is gone with the wind. And we have to begin again. To fully capitalize on a great yesterday you need to put in the work again today to build momentum.
You are either getting better or you are getting worse. You get to decide which direction you are going every single day. And today is the day that matters most.
There are conversations that stay with you forever. Today I am reflecting on a conversation that I had two decades ago. I was at the house of my high school track coach, Jude Dutille, in New Hampshire. Jude’s wife, Val made a comment that I will never forget. It was about my Mom.
Val observed that there was something unique about the kids in my family. It wasn’t that she thought me and my sisters Heather, Alison and Donielle were smart, funny, or kind. It wasn’t that we were hard working, well mannered or good looking. It wasn’t even the crazy thing I wrote about it the post, What makes these siblings freakishly unique. (Which is worth the read.) There was one noteworthy trait that Val recognized in me and my sisters. And she gave my Mom all the credit for it. It was our confidence.
Val wondered what my Mom, Jill Albrecht had done to create such confidence in her children. I am not sure I had the answer in that moment 20 years ago. But today I do.
We felt confident because we knew were loved unconditionally. We felt confident because we trusted our Mom and our Dad. We always felt supported. Our Mom always made sure we were prepared. Because preparation is a major ingredient in the confidence recipe.
My Mom designed her home to feel safe. I had lived in 5 states by the time I started 7th grade. And despite the changes, or perhaps because of them, I always felt the stability of home, no matter what state, city or time zone we were in.
My Personal Success
Today I recognize the confidence my Mom developed in me as a key factor in my personal success. I have always believed in myself. Even when the odds were long and the path was uncertain. My confidence has played a major role in my career success. And it was my confidence that things would turn out well that allowed me to launch my own business 3 years ago, when there was really no proof that I could pull it off.
Today, my wife Dawn provides our 3 children with the same type of support, security and preparation that I enjoyed as a child. While you can’t give someone else confidence, you can create the perfect environment for confidence to flourish. That’s exactly what Dawn is doing.
Dawn continues to bolster my confidence too. When I told her I wanted to leave my job and start my own advertising agency, she was 100% behind it. Her unwavering belief in me made me believe in myself. Launching a startup can be extremely scary. But the truth is I wasn’t scared at all. A major reason was that Dawn, who had the most to lose, never doubted that the business would be successful. And she was right.
The Power Of Self Worth
Lately, I have been studying the lessons of vulnerability expert Brene Brown. Brown, a famed vulnerability and shame researcher at the University of Houston, says there is one key indicator that helps people stick their neck out and feel comfortable with vulnerability. That key factor is worthiness. That’s exactly what my Mom always made me feel. I felt worthy of good things. I felt worthy of love, friendship, of career success, and high achievement. And that self worth has fueled my confidence, motivation and posture my entire adult life.
The greatest gift we can give each other are the building blocks of confidence and the self worth that comes as a result. My mother made confidence development a priority. My wife is building it into our children. Confidence is the fuel and the foundation for success. There is no greater source of confidence than our mothers.
Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom, Dawn, my mother in law, Cynthia Zabel, and to Val Dutille. Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s who have worked hard to build confidence and self worth in their children. Your job is the most important of all jobs on the planet. The results of your work will not only last a lifetime, it will be passed along for generations to come.
*If you know a mother who deserves to hear this message, please share it with her.
The greatest asset you can ever create is a strong personal network. That’s why I invest so much time and energy in developing and maintaining my personal relationships. As a result I have an tremendous network of friends around the world. But I am also the beneficiary of what Warren Buffet calls TheOvarian Lottery. Because on the day I was born I was instantly a member of a remarkable network. Despite the fact that I hadn’t done anything to deserve it.
My Grandmother, Judith (Benzel) Albrecht was born in 1919, in New Ulm, Minnesota. God blessed her with a sharp mind and unrelenting determination that would have gained her admission to an elite business school had she been born a century later. She spoke German as her first language.
Following high school graduation she was a valuable asset to a local startup, the phone company. Because she could speak both German and English fluently, she could serve as the middle-woman, literally connecting callers in the heavily German area of southern Minnesota.
In 1940, at 21 years old, she married my grandpa, Alton Albrecht. Together they thrived. They began farming. They began a family. And they began traveling together. It was an adventure that would last more than 66 years.
On April 15th, 2019, while I was on vacation in Texas, I got a text message from my father, Robert, that Grandma Albrecht had passed away. She was 99 years and 7 months old. A funny thing happened when I got the news. There was a moment of sadness. But that moment soon transitioned to awe at the closing of an amazing story of an amazing woman’s life.
In the wake of Grandma Albrecht’s passing, my family and I started calculating the inheritance that Grandma left for us. My Grandma and Grandpa Albrecht had been farmers in Minnesota. Early on they recognized the value of accumulating assets, and knew a good opportunity when they saw it. As a result, the 2 of them bought the Albrecht Family Farm from my great grandparents. Not long after, they found another good opportunity, and purchased another farm. And then another. And then another.
They amassed significant real estate holdings, which provided income for decades. As they eventually sold their farms and invested the proceeds they developed a significant nest egg. My Grandpa Alton died in 2006, having battled with Parkinson’s disease for 8 years. Grandma Judy kept marching, right to the doorstep of 100 years.
Over the past 2 weeks everyone in the Albrecht family has been buzzing about just how much Grandma Judy left us when she died. We have been scribbling figures on paper. We have been punching numbers into the calculators on our phones.
However, the numbers we have all been crunching are not measured in dollar and cents. Because the most valuable assets Grandma Judy left us are people. They are the members of our ever growing family she started back in 1940. As we tallied up the descendants of this grand matriarch this is what we found:
Grandma Judy Albrecht Statistics:
10 Children who grew to adulthood (7 boys and 3 girls)
38 Great Grandchildren
2 Great, Great Grandchildren
That is a total of 77 descendants, represented by 5 generations. When she passed away she had 7 children in their 70s. Those 77 relatives are in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Arizona and Nevada.
We Are Family
Not only are we a large family, we are a close family. We enjoy being around each other. And we make an effort to spend time together. In fact, in June about 80 family members will gather in Estes Park, Colorado for a week long reunion, as we do every 5 years. We will all stay in one cabin and enjoy daily meals, activities and adventures, and nightly festivities together. Just like Grandma Albrecht taught us.
My large family is one of my most valuable assets. It is an ever-present support system, a cheering section, an army of role models, and constant source of humor. It provides each and every one of us with an unfair competitive advantage in life.
The Entrepreneurial Influence
My large family also played a major factor in my entrepreneurial journey. I saw the entrepreneurial spirit in my grandparents as they accumulated assets and ran their own farms. Five of my Albrecht Uncles were dairy farmers. And dairy farming is the epitome of entrepreneurship.
Several years ago my cousin Brooks Albrecht and I began talking about starting a business together. In 2015 the conditions were right, and Brooks and I started planning our own advertising agency. Despite the fact that I was in Atlanta and Brooks was in Seattle, we worked together perfectly. Like family. Like Grandma Judy taught us. By the spring of 2016 the Albrecht cousins launched The Weaponry like the Wright Brothers launched the first airplane: on a wing, a prayer, a great plan and a familial bond.
As the Albrecht Family gathered yesterday to celebrate the remarkable life of my Grandma Judy, I marveled at all she created. Being an Albrecht has always been a source of great pride for me. This large family has given me love, support and encouragement. It has offered me a sense of belonging to something significant. It has been critical to my entrepreneurial success. And it has provided a lifetime of laughs. Thanks you, Grandma.
The greatest asset you will ever inherit from your family is love, support and a sense of belonging. It is also the greatest asset you can hand down. Invest in your family. And you are certain to enjoy a remarkable return, year after year, and generation after generation.
*To read about my Grammy Sprau, who lived to be 100, and had 9 kids, click here.
Today marks the end of Daylight Savings Time. Which means that today it will get darker one hour earlier than it did yesterday. According to my AcuRite SmartHUB weather station, today the sun will set on my backyard at 4:41pm Central Standard Time. If you have a Charlie Brown outlook, you might think this is the worst day of the year. But good grief people, you couldn’t be more wrong.
The Best Day
Today is absolutely the best day of the year. Why? Because if you have ever wanted to get more out of your day, and more out of your life, today is the day to make it happen. Today, Ladies and Gentlereaders, is the Unicorn of Days! The Once-In-A-Blue Moon Event! Today, is the needle in the haystack, and you have found it! Today is the 25-hour Day!
Your Chance To Do More
Today is like a bigger pair of jeans, which means that you can squeeze more in. I woke up today like a kid on Christmas morning. At 5am I was fully cooked and ready to get after this 25-hour day. I hope you are ready to make the most of it too. Because it’s go time!
Think Of The Possibilities
Today you can literally spend more time with family and friends (kids, notice how I literally used the word literally correctly). You can get to church or your place of worship (God knows we could all use it). You can find time for exercise without feeling like you are running behind. You can go for a hike, or a drive, and fall in love with fall. You can visit a museum. You can read and get inspired and learn something new.
You can trade in some fast food for slow food by cooking, baking or grilling yourself (I mean that you are doing the cooking yourself, not that you are literally cooking yourself). You can organize your closet, garage, basement or sock drawer, which will help you enjoy this day for many days to come.
If you like to draw, write, paint, sew, knit, build, photograph, or create any of a billion other things, do it. Do it now.
Today, you can even catch up on the sleep you never get enough of.
Plan Your Next Chapter
You can start planning your next vacation. Or that job or career change you wish you had more time to think about. You know that business idea that you think would be so exciting to launch, but never seem to have the time to focus on? Well, today is a great day to tap into your inner Richard Branson and sketch out a plan, even if you are an entrepreneurial virgin (see what I did right there?)
Time To Give Back
Today you can spend time thinking about how you can give more of yourself to others. You can think about giving of your time or money to worthy causes and charities. Or create a new worthy cause or charity to benefit others.
Today is a great day to put the electronic time wasters in a drawer, so that you can get the most out of this beautiful, rare 25-hour day. Go do more. Take time to recognize, embrace and wallow in the good that is all around you. If time is precious, and life is a gift, a 25-hour day is the most valuable present we will ever have. So be present. Be productive. And spin your extra time into gold.
*If you want to read about more great things consider subscribing to this blog.
I come from a large family. Actually, I come from two large families. My Dad is one of twelve children. My Mom is one of nine. Both sides of my family have made family a priority. Not only have they committed to a lot of procreating, they have committed to a lot of recreating too. Both The Albrechts and The Spraus have made pilgrimages to the Snow Mountain Ranch in Winter Park, Colorado, which has been rated as the #1 location in America for family reunions. Although how one mountain in Colorado is known as Snow Mountain confounds me. Don’t all of Colorado’s mountains have snow?
Bonding and Building
Family bonding and team building are the focus (or is that foci) of our reunions. We stay in large family cabins that house 40 to 80 people each. We play together, eat together, and enjoy general togetherness together.
On one of the days at each reunion we participate in organized team building exercises. The ranch offers a wide variety of activities that require you to learn how to work with a partner, or an entire team, in order complete a challenge.
The Cable Walk
One of my favorite challenges is the partner cable walk. In this challenge two partners stand on separate cables suspended 18 inches off the ground. Facing each other, the partners have to move as far along the cable as possible without falling off. The kicker is that the cables are arranged in a V-shape, so they spread farther and farther apart as you walk.
When we took on this challenge several years ago with my Mom’s family, I sat back and observed the other pairs as they navigated the cables. I studied what worked and what didn’t. The best performance (farthest distance traveled) was from my brother-in-law Uriah, and my cousin Jacci’s husband, Mike. If you laid Uriah and Mike end-to-end (which to my knowledge we have never done) they would be close to 13 feet long. All things being equal, height was a major advantage.
But all things were not equal. I quickly spotted what I thought people were doing wrong. All of the pairs who went before me held hands and started inching down the cables. While holding on to each other seemed like a good strategy, I could tell it was not the best strategy. And eventually it became a limiting strategy.
Finally, using the insights from our observations, my wife Dawn and I took our turn. Unlike everyone else, we didn’t hold on to each other. Instead, we leaned against each other. As we started, we looked as if we were doing standing push ups against each other. Or maybe we looked like we got caught playing Patty Cake with crazy glue on our palms.
As we made our way along the v-shaped cables we became a human hinge, with our hands forming the connection point. As the cables formed a large and expanding V-shape, Dawn and I also formed a V-shape that allowed us to match the angle of the cables. This made all the difference. In fact, our lean-on-me technique enabled Dawn and I to travel twice as far as any other pair. Or pear. Or Pierre.
It is easy to think we are teaming with others when we are in the same office, or on the same court or field. But proximity and contact are not enough. You have to reorient yourself to rely on your partners or teammates to do their jobs. You have to sacrifice your individual posture in order to create an even stronger team, machine, company or partnership.
Applying This At Work
As we grow the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I know we need to continue building and operating as an interdependent team. In order to thrive we need to create a scalable organization that gets larger and broader and deeper to accommodate the increase in demand. Which means that each of our members must do what is best for the entire team. And each of us must be able to trust our teammates to do their jobs, without handholding. It is the only way to achieve our ambitious goals.
In order for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts, we can’t simply hold on to each other. We must lean on each other. We must trust that our teammates will lean back on us. By creating this dynamic, we create a structure of support that can produce much greater results than we could ever create on our own. This is true at work, in athletics and in families. It is certainly true within our marriages. 18 years ago today Dawn and I had our very first date. Ever since then, we have been leaning on each other, and accomplishing more together than we ever could have on our own. Just like we did on the partner cable walk at the family reunion in Colorado.
Many people have told me they are sorry for my loss. But I’ve had nothing but gain. My Grammy, Lillian (Anderson) Sprau, was 100.5. She was a purebred Norwegian saint from Minnesota. She was the sweetest, kindest person I have ever met.
She was also fun and funny. She loved to travel. She loved a good party. And she loved her family. She was married for 67 years before my Grampy realized he couldn’t keep up with her at 92. She had 9 children, 23 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren (not including those of us regular grandchildren who were also great).
I used to call my Grammy regularly on my commute home from work. We would talk about all kinds of things; from weather to family happenings to politics to travel to world news to sports. I would always spend a part of the conversation talking about our family heritage. I knew that Grammy was my best source of family history, and that she wouldn’t be around forever.
On one of our calls, when Grammy was in her northern 90’s, I asked her, ‘What is the key to living so long?’ She paused a moment, then stated confidently,
‘I think you can’t take everything so seriously.’
That is some great Grammy advice.
The stress we feel when we take life so seriously wears down our machinery. As of 2017, humanic machinery still can’t be replaced. So often we take work, politics, sports, family, school and social interactions so seriously that it takes years off of our lives.
As you go about your day today, remember my Grammy’s words. Don’t take everything so seriously. Don’t stress yourself out. Don’t let others do it to you either. Have fun. Find the humor in life. Laugh more. And live more.
Do you know what makes you unique? As an advertising professional I am always looking for the things that make brands and people stand out. In marketing, we call this a Unique Selling Proposition. A USP helps a brand, product or service stand apart from the competition in a meaningfully way. At The Weaponry, we help our clients discover and amplify their USP. Sometimes it is obvious. Other times we have to dig. Sometimes we dig to China.
I love discovering the USP in humans too. Everyone is special in his or her own way. I remember being told this many times in my preschool and elementary school days. I believed it. While other kids may have had to do some soul-searching or head scratching to discover what made them special, I knew.
I am one of four children of Robert and Jill (Sprau) Albrecht. My parents got married 4 days before the 1960’s expired. They had my older sister, Heather, 17 months after that. Two years later they had their next child. Their first and only son. Me. Now, when I say I was born two years later, I mean it. My older sister and I have the same birthday.
My parents then slowed their roll, and waited almost 3 years to have my younger sister, Alison. Two years after that, our family caboose arrived. We named my baby sister, Donielle. (note to SpellCheck, AutoCorrect and Starbucks baristas: it is Donielle, with an ‘o’)
To recap: my older sister, Heather, and I have the same birthday, 2 years apart. My two younger sisters, Alison and Donielle, have the same birthday, 2 years apart. Heather and I were born May 25th. Alison and Donielle were born May 22nd. Which means my parents had 4 kids, on two days, just 3 days apart.
That’s pretty unique.
When telling new friends about our birthdays my parents would always conclude the story with:
…So we always say, “No more vacations in August!”
This always generated a huge laugh from the adults in the room. I’m a quick study. So when I would meet a new friend and tell them my origin story, I would always end it just like my parents did. I remember being at a sleepover and telling my friend’s parents this story, with the standard Albrecht-Family punchline. But as a 7-year old, I didn’t get big laughter. I made parents’ jaws drop. I got a look that even a 7-year-old could read as, ‘That is NOT an appropriate things to say. You won’t be playing with our Johnny again.’
But I had no idea what I was saying. In fact, it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I ever bothered to count back the 9 months from May to get some insight on the baby-making. And there it was. August. My parents made me and my 3 sisters in August. Apparently, while on vacation. Which is gross. And TMI. That’s why it wasn’t a cool thing for a 7-year old to say. Suddenly, all those horrified reactions made sense. They thought I knew something that clearly I did not.
My family’s unique birthday story has always made me feel special. I now recognize that there are a handful of other things that make me special too. I can make a loud popping sound with my jaw. I may have the flattest feet on earth. I can make a pun out of any word you throw my way. But my birthday story always makes me feel like I was special from day 1. If you are giving birth to a business, brand, product or service, be sure to create it to be special from the start. Then you’ll have as much fun telling your story as I have telling mine.
Today kicks off the Albrecht Family Birthweek. The biggest week of the year in the Albrecht family. Happy birthday today to my sisters Alison and Donielle, who are both in Houston. Happy be-earlied birthday to my sister Heather in Saint Paul. I love all 3 of you more than footy pajamas, ice cream in a can and roller coasters. You make me proud to be your only bro. And you make me thankful for vacations in August.