Sometimes the universe hijacks your life for a reason.

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. As frustrating as that may seem, sometimes we just need to go with the flow and see where it takes us. I was reminded of this lesson on an ordinary Saturday last winter. Here’s the story.

The Plan

On January 19th, 2019, my family and I had our day all planned out. We were craving some Swedish meatballs and snap-together furniture. So we decided to check out the new IKEA in Milwaukee. We would do some shopping and eat lunch at the big blue and yellow box. Afterward we would head to my daughter’s basketball tournament in nearby Oak Creek, Wisconsin and watch 3 basketball games for just 3$ per person!

Tossing Wrenches Into Plans

Right out of the gate our plan started to fall apart. First, we got bit by a serious overnight snowfall. I had to pull out our snow blower and clear the driveway before we could get our car out.

Then, as we got into the car, my kids started arguing over who was sitting in which seat. For context, there were 5 seat options for 3 kids. If we had been playing musical chairs no one would have ever been eliminated with our bountiful collection of automotive seating options. And there was no backseat middle hump to avoid like when I was a kid. Yet, they argued.

In a moment of parental frustration, I told everyone to go back inside. There would be no saucy meatballs, no lingonberries and no Swedish Fish for the Albrecht family today. We were not going out for lunch, shopping or to a basketball tournament acting like this. #MeanDad

Compromising

An hour or so later, with our plans for the day blown, we decided that we would take my daughter to the basketball tournament, but we wouldn’t stay to watch it. Instead, the rest of the family would go to Ikea.

We drove slowly over the 25 miles of snow covered highway to the school where her games would be held. We dropped my daughter off in front of the school, and I cooly told her good luck. But before pulling alway, my wife couldn’t bare to have her baby girl feel athletically abandoned. Because Dawn is nicer than I am.

So we changed our changed plans, again. We parked and went into the school to watch her play her first of 3 games. Following the first game, Dawn and I decided to drive to the IKEA with our two sons.

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Yikeskea!

At IKEA we got seriously turned around a few times. I think we were visiting before they had put up all their wayfinding signage. Then again, IKEA is Swedish for the devil’s maze. So we were doomed either way. Eventually, with an employee escort, we found the restaurant, which was tucked at the far back of the store. The whole Ikea experience took far longer than expected.

As we approached the checkout lines to purchase some souvenir frozen meatballs, a crush of shoppers appeared out of nowhere and jumped in line in front of us. It was like an episode of Punk’d. And I was ready to pop Ashton Kutcher in the beak.

The Shortest Long Line

We picked what looked like the shortest line, but it wasn’t moving. At all. So we left the line and moved to another line, which moved faster. That is until the people right in front of us got to the cashier with what looked like hundreds of pieces of shelving. Their checkout process took forever. Like forever-ever.

Frustrated and late for Ava’s next game, I put our merchandise on the conveyor belt and asked Dawn, my wife, to pay for it. I was going to get the car, and pick up Dawn and my 2 sons by the front door.

I started off in a rush. But I only got 10 feet beyond the end of the checkout stations when I heard someone yell, ‘Adam Albrecht!’

Surprise!

I turned to see who was calling my name. And standing just a few feet away was Terry Schmitt, my college roommate from my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. I hadn’t seen Terry in 25 years! Terry doesn’t live in Milwaukee. He lives in his hometown of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, near Green Bay, which is 2 hours away from the Swedish Meatball Palace we were standing in. He had driven down to Milwaukee for a spur of the moment shelf project purchase.

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Me and my original roomie, Terry, whom I hadn’t seen in a quarter century.

What Are The Chances?

Somehow, with my totally fouled up day, and his random Ikea road trip, we ended up in exactly the same place at the exact same time. Each one of my delays throughout the day helped make this happen – his random run to Milwaukee to avoid a significant shipping charge, the snowstorm, my kids arguing about the seats they were sitting in, the line that built while I picked up the meatballs, the extreme shelfers in front of us in line, and my decision to run ahead to get the car and meet my family at the front door. All of the unfortunate events, turned into good fortune when I got to see Terry in real life for the first time in 25 years.

The Alchemist

In 2015 I read the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It taught me that the universe conspires to give us what we want in life. It taught me to listen and watch for the signals and messages that the universe sends me.

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The universe wants you to read this book. And no, it is not about a chemist named Al.

Prepare Yourself

Because I read The Alchemist, I was ready the day in August of 2015 when 2 former clients called me and asked me if I would consider starting my own advertising agency. Just months later The Weaponry was open for business.

And on a snowy day in the winter of 2019 the universe conspired, through a seemingly random collection of signals, to reunite me with my college roommate, Terry Schmidt. And I was suddenly thankful for all those little things that had gone wrong throughout the day.

Key Takeaway

There are forces at work that are far beyond our control and our comprehension. Whether you are suddenly put in just the right place at the right time, or oblivious to how a delay or a mistake kept you out of other trouble, there are forces that contribute mightily to the course and story of our lives. Maybe it’s magic. Maybe it’s God (of course it is), and maybe it’s fate. But it helps create your adventure. And sometimes, like a lazy tube ride down a river, you just need to relax and enjoy the ride.

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

Fun Extra:  Terry said that he saw my wife Dawn first. He had never met her before, but he had seen her in my social media posts. So when he recognized her at the cash register he immediately began looking for me. Which means a small thanks for this Swedish reunion also goes to Mark Zuckerberg.

The best 5-word compliment your content, service or relationship could ever receive.

I started writing The Perfect Agency Project blog in 2015 as I was preparing to launch by own advertising agency called The Weaponry. After 2 decades as a salaried employee, I wanted to document and share my experience as I attempted to transition to a self reliant entrepreneur. I wasn’t sure if I was writing a how-to story, or a how-not-to story. But I figured it could provide value either way.

Entrepreneurship

Along the way I have learned a lot about being an entrepreneur. Including how to spell it. I learned that the word in german is unternehmer. Which I think is hilarious. Because it can be literally translated as undertaker. So you should be careful before signing up for that Unternehmer Conference in Stuttgart.

Content Creation

I have also learned a great deal about blogging. And content creation in general. Although I’ve never liked the term ‘content’. Content sounds like ‘stuff’. And no one should just be creating stuff. But alas, the masses have spoken, and they have adopted content, like they adopted VHS over Betamax.

Positive Feedback

When I began sharing my blog posts with friends and family I began getting positive feedback. It was nice to hear those close to me say that they thought a post was good, or funny or interesting.

I shared my posts more broadly on social media, and I started hearing people I didn’t even know say that they learned something. Or were inspired to act by something they read on my blog. I appreciated the feedback and was happy to know others were gaining some value from my writings.

All Rights Reserved

New Feedback

But lately I have heard something different from readers of my blog. It’s not that my posts are interesting, funny or inspiring. It’s not that they are insightful or informative. The new comment that I have heard lately is short and sweet. Just 5-words in total. But those words are extremely meaningful to me.

The 5 Words

The 5 words that I have been hearing people say a lot about my blog lately are:

‘I look forward to it.’

The Reward

I don’t need a million readers. I’m not trying to win any awards. I am not trying to quit my job and become a full time blogger. Although as an entrepreneur I think it would be funny to have to resign to myself. (It’s not you, it’s me. Just kidding, it’s you!) I don’t need to make a dime off of my blog. Because knowing that there are people who look forward to my next post is the greatest reward I can imagine.

These 2 readers, and that’s all I need.

I don’t need any other validation that what I am writing and sharing is worthwhile than knowing that there are readers who look forward to each new post. It tells me that the posts add value. I’m not sure if it is entertainment, education or inspiration that readers look forward to. Or if my blog simply provides a rich habitat for typo hunters. Maybe it is a combination of factors. I am grateful regardless.

Developing A Brand

When people look forward to the content you serve up it means you have delivered consistently. Which translates to a brand with value. Even on a very small scale, that is very rewarding.

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Have you tried Blog n’ Coffee?

Sunday Coffee

Over the past 2 weeks I have had multiple people tell me that they look forward to The Perfect Agency Project Sunday morning post. They have told me that reading the post has become part of their Sunday morning coffee routine. I had no idea that anyone picked up on the fact that I always post on Sunday morning by 8am CT, before I rush off to church. And I couldn’t be more touched. At least not without having to press charges.

Key Takeaway

When others look forward to your content, programming, services or products you are doing it right. Because we only look forward to such things when they are good. When they offer value. And when they are enjoyable. The same holds true in our relationships. When others look forward to what you offer you are on the right track. So dig in and keep it coming. More good things will surely come your way.

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

The poem that brought my Grandfather to tears.

My Grampy, Kenneth Adam Sprau was born in 1916 in Meservey, Iowa. Meservey was a small farm town that mostly consisted of the 12 Sprau children in Grampy’s family, and sounded like someone was trying to say Missouri after too much Wild Turkey.

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Grampy served in the Navy in the Pacific fleet during World War II. He came home (Thank God), married my Grammy, and they raised 9 kids in Southern, Minnesota. They also raised beef cattle, hogs, corn and soybean. He farmed well into his 80s when they finally decided to retire and move to town.

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Over the course of Grampy’s life he saw the world transform in unfathomable ways. When I once commented on all of the change he and my other grandparents had witnessed he said to me, ‘Adam, you could never understand what it was like to be us. We went from horse and buggy to putting a man on the moon.’ Grampy was my witness to the greatest century of change in human history. He also taught me 98% of the swear words I know today.

The Library

Grampy was a library of interesting sayings, songs, jokes and poems. Some of it was purely silly. (I’ve got a dog his name is Rover. He is nothing but a pup. He will stand up on his hind legs. If you hold his front legs up.) And some of it was serious and profound.

The Poem

At a family gathering in Dublin, Ohio, when Grampy was much closer to the end of his 92 years than the beginning, my uncle Jon Sprau asked Grampy to share ‘the poem about the 2 Ships’. I had never heard the 2 Ships poem. And I bet Grampy hadn’t recited the poem in the past couple of decades. But Grampy immediately accessed 2 Ships in the jukebox in his head and performed it for our family.

Here is the poem:


Tis The Set Of The Sail — Or — One Ship Sails East

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

But to every mind there openeth,

A way, and way, and away,

A high soul climbs the highway,

And the low soul gropes the low,

And in between on the misty flats,

The rest drift to and fro.

But to every man there openeth,

A high way and a low,

And every mind decideth,

The way his soul shall go.

One ship sails East,

And another West,

By the self-same winds that blow,

‘Tis the set of the sails

And not the gales,

That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea

Are the waves of time,

As we journey along through life,

‘Tis the set of the soul,

That determines the goal,

And not the calm or the strife.


Grampy and Grammy

The Response

Hearing this poem was one of the most profound moments of my life. Not just because the poem itself is profound, and inspiring. But after Grampy recited the following passage, he broke down in tears:

One ship sails East,

And another West,

By the self-same winds that blow,

‘Tis the set of the sails

And not the gales,

That tells the way we go.

The Life Lesson.

When a man who has experienced more than 8-decades of life on a farm, witnessed the greatest evolution in human history, enjoyed more than 60-years of marriage and participated in a worldwide war breaks down while reciting these words, you know these words are important. It was the first and only time in my life I ever saw Grampy cry. And I still think about that moment and that message when making important life decisions.

Key Takeaway 

Tis the set of the sails, and not the gales, that tells the way we go.

*Check out the background image on the featured picture for this post.

What will you do with your bonus hour?

There are not enough hours in a day to do all of the things you would like to do. That is just a fact. Time is the most precious commodity on Earth. It’s worth more than diamonds, helium and CBD. At the end of your days you won’t wish for more money, a nicer car or a fancier home. You would trade all your worldly possessions (and some of your purely regional possessions) for more time.

Bonus Hour

Today marks the end of Daylight Saving Time. Most people focus on the negative fact that the sun now sets earlier. But don’t be a Debbie Sundowner. Today is a great day. It is the one day a year when the universe, Father Time, and the American Clocker’s Panel give you a bonus hour.

At 2am local time you received your annual 1-hour time bonus. With that additional hour the universe also handed you an important question:

‘What will you do with your bonus hour?’ -Universe

When you receive a work bonus, a tax refund or a lottery payout, you spend a lot of time thinking about what you will do with the money. But have you spent any time thinking about what you will do with your extra hour? You should. Because until you can buy a time machine from Marty McFly, your hour is more valuable and more precious than any monetary bonus you will ever receive. 

Invest Your Time

Take a moment today to think about how you will invest your bonus hour. If you came to Albrecht Time Investment Advisors LLC, we would encourage you to invest your time in one of the following areas:

  • Your health
  • Your family
  • Your faith
  • Your friendships
  • Your personal growth
  • Your peace of mind
  • Your community
  • Your future
  • Your career
  • Your hobbies
  • Your bucket list
  • Your experiences
  • Your personal legend
  • Anything that will make you laugh.

Key Takeaway

Don’t waste time. Invest it in the most important areas of your life. By spending your time wisely you will enjoy a richer, more fulfilling and more impactful experience on Earth. Remember, you will be dead sooner than you want to be. So take advantage of all the time you can get while you are still here.

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

The creative mind behind the Thriller dance.

Halloween is packed with creativity. The holiday offers an annual creative outlet for adults and children alike. Costumes, decorations, and pumpkin carving all provide great opportunities to show off your imagination. I am always inspired by the ideas and executions I see at Halloween.

This Is Thriller

There is one epic stroke of creativity that re-emerges every Halloween that I have been awed by for the past 36 years. The Thriller Dance. Michael Jackson released the Thriller album in 1982. And In 1983 the music video to the title track was released as a 14- minute mega video, or short film, depending on whether you are more impressed by really long short things, or really short long things.

The Wows

The video is creepy and totally engaging. There are 2 wowing surprises. The first comes when MJ transforms into a werewolf, which allows him to chop a tree down with his bare hand. The other comes 8 minutes and 30 seconds into the video, when the zombies break into the Thriller Dance.

Thriller Vid

The Thriller Dance

Thirty six years after its introduction I still see the Thriller dance performed every year at Halloween. But this year when I saw it, in the post-Leaving Neverland era, I wondered who actually choreographed the Thriller video. Thanks to the Googler machine, I didn’t wonder for long.

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Michael Peters

Michael Peters

The Thriller dance was the brainchild of Michael Peters, the talented choreographer who also danced in the video as a zombie. Peters’ highly entertaining dance has not only stood the test of time, it is one of the worlds’ best known dances.

‘The Thriller dance is just so universal. The moves from the dance are so iconic that you can go anywhere in the world and people will recognize the moves immediately.’  – Amy Brinkman, Director of Education at Danceweorks

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Beyond Thriller

But if you know 80’s pop culture you know some of Michael Peters’ other work too. Not only did he choreograph Michael Jackson’s Beat It video, he was the dancing gang leader, dressed in all white, who was delivered to the gang fight via forklift. Because when you choreograph a dance fight you get to decide your own entrance. I imagine him talking through the steps in rehearsal like:

‘5, 6,7, 8… Forklift, Switchblade, Tie-Our-Wrist-Together, Stab…’   -Michael Peters

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Michael Peters wearing shades, and what looks like a belt and giant belt buckle around his neck.

Peters also wore sunglasses despite the fact that the video takes place at night. Apparently Peters was inspired by the era’s Corey Hart, who also wore his sunglasses at night.

Beyond MJ

Peters staged the dance moves in Pat Benetar’s Love Is A Battlefield video. And Lionel Richie’s classic Hello video, where he teaches Richie’s blind date to dance.

Michael Peters and MJ

Tony Tony Tony!

In 1982 Peters won a Tony Award for Best Choreography for the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. He also helped mold Angela Bassett into a Tina Tuner-type dancer for the movie What’s Love Got To Do With It. In fact, Basset became such a good dancer that Ike Turner thought about beating her too.

Michael Peters Lives On.

Michael Peters died of an AIDS related illness in L.A. at just 46-years old. But his work lives on. Especially in the Thriller dance. Thank you Michael Peters for adding to our annual Halloween celebrations. Thanks you for creating such iconic cultural art. And thanks for reminding us that if you want to be delivered to a dancing gang fight via forklift you have to script that yourself.

If you haven’t seen the Thriller dance yet this year, or just want to see it again, here it is.

Happy Halloween!

How your spouse can be your greatest career coach.

There are many amazing people who have had a significant impact on my career. There have been CEOs I admire. Entrepreneurs that inspired me. Creative Directors who have guided me. And successful marketers of all sorts that have provided me with important lessons and insights.

My Wife

But there is one person who has had the greatest positive influence on my career, by far. My wife, Dawn Albrecht. Dawn and I have a special relationship. I fell in love with her at first sight. Then, just seconds later I realized that she was actually my new coworker. It was a little like the moment Kelly McGillis walked into Tom Cruise’s classroom in Top Gun. #SoYoureTheOne

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My wife Dawn serves up career magic.

The Downside

Initially the fact that we worked together was a negative. It made it awfully hard to ask her out. Because a failed office romance provides a constant reminder of your failed office romance until one of you quits or gets fired.

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The last picture of us before we became BF &GF.

The Upside

But once we became an actual couple, not just a couple in my imagination system, the fact that we worked together became a major advantage. Dawn fully understood my job, my industry and my career path. She understood the workplace dynamics I faced. She saw my untapped potential. And she knew just how to push me forward.

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Dawn always coordinates her shirt with seasonal gourds. #nextlevel  

You know I thought I had it so good.

When we first met I was just 4 years into my career. I thought I had a great title. And I was very proud of my salary. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Dawn, on the other hand, had spent 7 years working for great companies in New York City and Chicago, including the Lifetime Channel (television for women), Times Mirror Publications, Discovery Networks and Cars.com.

Simply put, Dawn knew more than me. She recognized my growth potential and she pushed me to realize it.

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Our wedding day. (You knew it was either that or Halloween, right?)

Here We Go

Over the course of the next 10 years Dawn went from my coworker, to my wife and best friend, to the mother of my 3 children. But she also became my career coach. And my personal motivator. She made me think about whether I was stretching and growing. She made me think about my professional skills and abilities. She taught me about the true value I brought to my clients and employers. And she called me out when she thought I had grown too comfortable. And she was always right.

An Endorsement For Coaching

Dawn taught me the value of having a strong career coach. And over the first 10 years of our relationship my title grew from Senior Writer at Cramer Krasselt to Chief Creative Officer at Engauge, an agency with 4 office locations and 275 people in Atlanta, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Orlando.

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The Agency Takes Off

13 years after Dawn and I met, Halyard Capital, the private investment firm that owned Engauge, decided the agency was on the right trajectory to sell. I was part of the 4-person leadership team that represented Engauge as we met with 15 potential buyers. In August of 2013 the agency was bought by Publicis, the world renowned ad agency holding company in Paris. And I was ready for my next chapter.

Entrepreneurship

I always wanted to start my own business. And just 2 years later I began plans to launch my own advertising agency. Despite the fact that I would be trading in a nice salary, and comfortable benefits, Dawn was 100% behind the plan. She never questioned or doubted that an agency I created would be successful. Her total confidence in me added to my healthy confidence in myself.

The Weaponry

I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, when I was 42 years old. Today, I am frequently asked what the scariest moment of my entrepreneurial experience has been. But I really haven’t been scared at all. I credit much of that to Dawn. Because she has had full confidence that this would work out exactly as planned. And if Mama’s not worried, nobody’s worried.

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Our tribe at The Weaponry.

Birthday Girl!

Today is Dawn’s birthday (at least it is if you are reading this on October 29th). I will take the day off, just like I do every year. We will spend the day together. And I’ll reflect on how I wouldn’t have made it this far down my path this fast if it wasn’t for her. She has encouraged me, inspired me and challenged me. She has put her complete faith in me (and maybe my life insurance policy).

She has fully supported the decision to walk away from a comfortable life in search of an adventurous and even more rewarding experience. Dawn is like the Jelly of The Month Club. Because she’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year. In friendship. In family. And yes, even in business.

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Key Takeaway

If you want to be do great things, find someone great to go with you. Someone who believes in you. Someone fun and funny. Someone who won’t let you get comfortable. Someone who challenges you to grow and become all that you were supposed to be. If you find someone like that never let them go. Never take them for granted. And if you can take their birthday off every year and spend it with them, do it. You’ll never regret it.

If you liked this I also wrote about the first time ever I saw Dawn’s face in the post It was an ordinary day until I got on that elevator.

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.