A lesson from the most important plates in the weight room.

I love to workout. Lifting weights is the core of my workout routine. When I started lifting weights as a high school freshman it changed my life. Suddenly I had a way to burn off my teenage energy supply. I enjoyed it so much that I added 65 pounds during my 4 years of high school without getting an inch taller.

Today

As an adult who no longer competes in anything athletic-y I still love to lift weights. My teenage energy has been replaced by the energy created by the opposing forces of adulthood. But the energy is still there, and still needs to be burned off.

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The best way to make stress go away.

The Plates

For most of the past 30 years I thought of the large 45-pound plates as the most important plates in the weight room. When I was a high school freshman I couldn’t wait to put 45-pound plates on each side of the barbell when I was bench pressing. By my senior year I could put 3 of those bad boys on each side. During college I could bench 4 of those on each side, and squat well over 5. Those 45-pounds plates were milestones. And they were all I focused on.

several rogue gym plates
There’s a lot on your plates. But which ones are the most important?

A Different Perspective

Today my thinking has changed. The 45-pound plates may be the most high profile pieces of iron in the gym. But they are not the most important. Not even close. The most valuable plates in any weight room or home gym are the littlest. The 2 and a half pounders.

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These little guys make big things happen.

The 2.5-pound plates are the key to progress. Every time you workout you need to push yourself a little bit more. Just a little. And that small, consistent push keeps you growing and getting stronger.

Mini Magic Makers

When you put one of those little 2.5 pounders on each side of your barbell you can increase your total load by 5 pounds. Not a lot. Just 5 pounds. But that is how progress is made. Little by little. Consistently. Like a slow and steady, sustainable march forward. You can’t jump 45 pounds at a time. But the 2.5 pound plates will build you a bridge to your next major goal.

Beyond Weights and Plates

All of our personal and professional improvements comes through slow and steady progress. Small steps add up to big steps. That’s why there is immense value in incremental improvements. The small steps are sustainable. They are the building blocks of success. And they are the foundation upon which all forward momentum is built.

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Small steps are a big deal.

Key Takeaway

Small improvements are the secret to success. Together, your small improvements add up to the quantum leaps and major breakthroughs that others notices. But giant steps forward are really just little steps blurred together. Focus on the little steps. They will take you where you want to go.

*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. 

pile of gold round coins
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.

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.

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.

pen calendar to do checklist
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.

400 words on how my Dad taught his kids to be successful without using words.

In 2015 I started The Perfect Agency Project blog when I began planning the launch of my advertising and ideas agency, The Weaponry.  I wanted to share my experience, learnings and insights with others. Today I publish a new post 3 days a week. I enjoy writing this blog because I like sharing what I know. You name a topic and I can write about it. Because I have philosophies on everything. In fact, even my philosophies have philosophies. The wide range of topics I cover include:

My Father

Today is Father’s Day. So naturally I am thinking about my father, Robert Albrecht. He knows so much about so many subjects that he could easily write a great blog and share all of his accumulated wisdom with the word. But he won’t. That’s not his style.

My Dad is not a writer. He is not a philosopher, reflector or pontificator. He would never write a book of Roberts Rules of Order. Although that title sounds like it would be a hit.

My Dad didn’t tell me and my sisters how to be successful, productive or impactful. He showed us.

My Dad is my action hero. Because he is always in motion. He’s a doer. A maker. A baker. A builder. A griller A gardner. A fixer. A shower-upper (meaning he shows up, not that he shows you up). And he’s a see-things-througher. (meaning he completes things, not that he has X-Ray vision).

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My Dad taught me the most important ingredient of successful entrepreneurship: Action.

He is a Can-Do, Will-Do, Did-It, What’s-Next? kind of guy.

He is an early riser. He’s a frick’n workhorse. He makes the most of each day. And he’s really hard to keep up with. I love that about him.

Thank you Dad for being such a great example. You didn’t have to write a blog, a book or a manifesto to teach Heather, Alison, Donielle and I how to be great at life. You showed us. So we get up early. We put in the work. We make and we bake and we do and we don’t complain. We are people of action. Just like you taught us, through your actions, not your words.

I love you Dad. Happy Father’s Day. Thanks for stopping for a moment to read this post.

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.