A lesson from the most overlooked event in track and field.

I love track and field. I first got involved in the sport as a freshman in high school, mostly because I was terrible at baseball. But also because it was co-ed. And, I thought the fact that it was a no-cut sport significantly improved my chances of actually making the team.

Trying Everything

I have competed in a wide variety of track and field events. My resume includes the 100 meters, 400 meters, 1600 meters, high jump, long jump, shot put, discus, javelin, hammer, 35-pound weight, 110 meter hurdles, 4×100 meter relay, 4×400 meter relay, and, yes, even the pole vault (which I approached more like the high jump with a stick).

I liked every event I ever competed in. I love the energy and atmosphere at track meets. But you know when track and field becomes really fun?

The Second Meet.

The second meet is the most important and impactful event in a track athlete’s career. In your first meet you are just setting a baseline. But once you get to your second meet you walk in with a time, distance or height to beat. And most of the time, the results in the second meet are a rewarding step forward from the first meet.

In track and field, every result is measured in minutes and seconds, or feet and inches. Which means that your linear progression is clear and quantifiable. Your undeniable improvement in the second meet gets you thinking about the third meet. It makes you think about practicing more, training harder, lifting weights, warming up smarter and getting some better hype music. You start wondering just how much better you can get. The seeds of self-improvement are planted, fertilized and watered in that second meet.

The Broader Lesson

This is not just a track and field thing. This is a life thing. The same principle applies to our careers, our relationships, our responsibilities and our hobbies. Our first attempts simply set a baseline. The second time we do anything we start the improvement process. We recognize that as we pour more energy, time and focus into any activity we get better and better. This is true of presenting a closing argument in court, hiring good employees and folding fitted sheets (although my wife, Dawn is so good at the fitted sheet thing that I focus on the closing arguments in court instead).

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try something new because you think you will be bad at it. You will be bad at it. Or at least you will be the worst you will ever be. But that first attempt creates a starting point. The climb from there is both exciting and rewarding. As you improve, remember that first attempt. Recognize how far you have come since you first started. It is one of the most rewarding reflections in life.

*To see if these posts improve over time, please consider subscribing to this blog. Like the measurements of my track and field days, I now track follows, likes and comments to see if I am getting better. And like track and field, I am happy blogging is a no-cut sport.

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How in the world do you schedule your time?

My daughter Ava wants to work at The Weaponry. She is 12. While a 12-year-old may not seem like a valuable asset to an ad agency, she is a really great writer and a very creative thinker. She has a blog, she has adapted a novel she read into a screenplay, and is currently writing a murder-mystery chapter book. Oh, and she has created a series on the new Instagram TV. But she rarely makes her bed. So there’s that.

She recently asked me when she can come to work with me and help out. I told her that I would have to check my schedule to see what might work. She responded with a very simple, but surprisingly profound question:

How do you determine your schedule?

 Good Question

This made me think more deeply about my schedule in an attempt to explain it. I told her that I start with deadlines. I look at all of the things that The Weaponry has to create and the due dates for each. Then I schedule my time to focus on those projects, in order of priority, from hottest to coolest.

flat lay photography of calendar
Your schedule starts as a blank slate. How much time do you put into thinking about how you fill it?   

But this begs the question, ‘If it weren’t for deadlines or due dates, what would your schedule look like?’ For entrepreneurs, there is always something more to do. But this is really true of every job, right? So, how do you add tasks to your schedule that don’t have deadlines?

blur close up depth of field focus
If you haven’t thought deeply about how you schedule your day, maybe you need a 12-year-old daughter.

How I Do It.

I have found there are 3 things that I incorporate into my schedule, despite the fact that they don’t have due dates.

Connecting:  I am a natural connector.  I think people are the most interesting machines on the planet. I highly value my relationships. More importantly, I maintain my relationships. And when I think of someone, or have a little bell that dings in the back of my head that lets me know it has been too long since we’ve last spoken, I reach out. This is an important part of my regular schedule, and should be part of yours too.

Closing Gaps: At The Weaponry we spend time exploring the gaps between where our organization is today, and our idealized, fully formed organization of the future. As a result, we often think about our shortcomings. Although I don’t think of them as shortcomings. I simply see things that we are not doing, or don’t have yet, that we will in our ideal state. This is about improving our processes, procedures, systems and infrastructure. Entrepreneurs call this working on your business. But I think everyone can benefit from more gap closing. Except maybe The Gap.

Things that excite me: I always leave room for things that interest me. Since we are an idea generating machine, there are always exciting ideas bouncing around our office. I try to find as much time to explore those ideas as possible. This could involve a new way to look at our clients’ challenges. It could be a new product idea, an additional service, or an idea that could transform our business. I often get excited about new ideas for t-shirts, buttons, stickers or hats for The Weaponry. I love thinking about new messaging for our walls too. Most businesses could benefit from more time exploring good ideas. I do it everyday. You should pencil in some Idea Time this week.

Key Takeaway

Our lives are full of deadline-driven must do’s. They become the studs around which we build our daily schedules. But the key to making each day great is the elective activities you work into your calendar. Whether you use the same approach I do (time for connecting, closing gaps and ideas that excite) or your own formula, make sure your daily schedule isn’t simply driven by email requests and meetings. As Steven R. Covey notes in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, engaging in important, non-urgent activities is a key determinant of success. Remember that as you schedule your week.

And Ava, this Friday looks like a good day for you to come to work with me. Make sure your pencils are sharp. (That’s just an old expression. I guess it means, make sure your laptop is fully charged.)

 

The best way to find a career you love.

Our planet is full of scary things. The one that scares me the most is lack of planning. What, you’re not frightened? You’re not going to tell scary stories around the campfire about the man without a plan?

Let me explain.

I recently talked to a graduating college senior. I asked him what he planned to do next. He said, ‘Honestly, I have no idea. I’ll see what kind of opportunities come my way.’ To me this sounded like giving up on life. Or letting someone else write your story. Or signing up to become a pawn in someone else’s chess game (a pawn is a chess piece, and not another name for a shrimp, right?).

Reality Check

Without your own plan you will end up in a job that doesn’t fulfill you, in an industry you don’t care about. You will get tossed around like a plastic garbage bag in the wind, with no direction, like the opening scene from American Beauty (or was that the closing scene?). You have to push to find work you are passionate about dong. Even if the money isn’t great. Because not all rewards come in cash.

The Unhappy Drug Salesman

Had I not planned my career I would have ended up in pharmaceutical sales. I studied psychology and journalism at the University of Wisconsin. But before graduation I was approached by some pharma sales people who were recruiting college athletes, because apparently we are competitive people.

The money they offered me was twice what I would earn in an entry-level job in advertising. But I held out for a creative role. Because I had a plan. While pharmaceutical sales is a really great career choice for some people, it did not fit into my plan. Not even a little. Not on a train. Not in the rain. Not with a fox.

I stayed focused, and landed a good, but low paying job as a copywriter with a well-known advertising agency. Over the next 15 years I progressed from a writer to Creative Director to Chief Creative Officer. Then, twenty years after I started my career I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. It was all part of the plan. And I love it when a plan comes together. #A-Team

Start Today

If you don’t have a career plan, or a life plan, start working on it today. Write down what you love to do. Write down what you are good at doing. Then find a way to get paid to do one of those things. Maybe you are already on that track. But maybe you are far away and heading in the wrong direction. You can turn around. But no one else can turn the wheel for you. That’s your job.

If you are a recent college grad, or just got out of the military, or are a career-minded alien who just landed on the planet, start your job search by thinking about your retirement. Plan your entire career with the end in mind. It’s the best way to ensure you’ll make the right decisions, introduce yourself to the right people, continue to properly educate yourself, and finish your career exactly where you wanted to be.

Key Takeaway.

You have to plan your own career. You have to find something that makes you happy. Your career will occupy 50% of your waking life. If you want to be happy in life, you have to be happy in your career. Make a plan and follow it. Don’t follow the money. Because if you love what you do, everything else, including the money, will take care of itself.

The best business development technique I know.

There are two types of jobs:

  1. Those that require you to attract new clients.
  2. Those where you just show up and work for the clients that someone else attracted.

I have had a significant role in attracting new clients since the 3rd year of my career. In fact, I spent so much time earning the trust of prospective clients throughout my career that it gave me the confidence to launch my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016.

One of the questions I have been asked most often over the past two years is: Where do you find your clients?’  There are a lot of fun answers I could give. Because all of our client relationships seem to have a fun origin story. But a couple of facts stand out. 

4 Fun Facts About Our Clients.

  1. Our first four clients at The Weaponry were clients I had worked with earlier in my career.
  2. Two of our clients have now hired The Weaponry for two different businesses.
  3. One of our clients has now hired The Weaponry for three different businesses.
  4. One of our collaborative partners has introduced us to 8 new businesses that have become clients.

Key Takeaway

Doing great work for your current clients is the best approach to business development.  Those clients will recommend you to others. They will hire you again when they change jobs. The partners you collaborate with will see how you treat your shared clients and recommend you to other clients they work with. It has been a key driver of growth for The Weaponry. So, as Bill Belichick would say, ‘Do your job.’ Because when you do, more opportunities will come your way.

Why you should put a smile on every time you get your dial on.

Have you ever thought about how you look when you make a phone call? It is easy to think that your appearance doesn’t matter. After all, the person on the other end of the call doesn’t see you. Unless you are a Close Caller. Which is like a Close Talker, only you use your phone, because you can. Which is weird.

But your appearance on a phone call does matter. Because how you look influences how you feel. Even if you are thousands of miles away, the person on the other end of the conversation will pick up on how you feel. And it will influence what they send back to you.

You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile.

When I make or take a phone call, I always put a smile on my face before I start talking. It magically brightens my mood. Because smiling is the ultimate human happiness hack. You don’t have to be happy to smile. You can smile to be happy.

In fact, many a scientific study have proven that your responses to questions are significantly more positive when you hold a pencil between your teeth the broad way. Holding a pencil this way forces you to smile. And the forced smile has the same effect as the real thing. And while Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell would have you believe there ain’t nothing like the real thing (baby), Guy Smiley and Happy Gilmore would disagree.

When you put a smile on your face before a phone call it makes good things happen. It influences what you say, how you say it, and how you respond to your telephonic partner. It makes the call more enjoyable for the other person. It helps you overcome anxiousness when making an important call. And if the call goes poorly, well, it’s easy to laugh it off if you are already in a smiling position.

Key Takeaway

Next time you pick up the phone, first pick up the corners of your mouth. Wearing a smile will positively impact everything about the call. It will make you sound warmer and more likable. It will influence the words you choose. It will leave a lasting impression on the person on the other end. It can even make them look forward to talking to you again.

If you want to try it now, put on a smile and call my number at 614-256-2850. If I don’t answer, leave a message and let me know you’re practicing your Smile Call. When I call you back you can bet I’ll be smiling too.

*If you’d rather not call me, but would still like to hear what I’m thinking, consider subscribing to this blog. If you want to read about another fun smiling technique I use, read Kickstart your day with this powerful and simple habit.

Why Wheel Of Fortune is the perfect interview game.

I like watching Wheel of Fortune. It’s not because of Pat Sajak’s perma-tan, perfect hair or witty commentary. And it’s not because of Vanna White and her seemingly irreplaceable skills at touching lighted rectangles. Although 30 years ago that was a compelling draw.

The best part about Wheel of Fortune is trying to solve the puzzles. In case you hadn’t noticed, life is one big puzzle. As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I am constantly trying to solve client problems. That’s why I am hunting for world-class problem solvers the way Imelda Marcos hunted for footwear.

The Interview

Lately I’ve been thinking about introducing WOF into the interview process. Because the game show offers valuable insights into a candidate’s approach to solving real world puzzles. Not only is this kind of problem solving valuable in marketing, it translates to success in business, finance, medicine, auto repair, courtship and just about every career Sally Struthers might mention.

The 3 kinds of contestants on The Wheel of Fortune.

Early Solvers.

My WOF heroes are the people who solve the puzzle in the least amount of time with the  least amount of information. I’m always impressed by those who find the answer well before I do. They are the see-ers of the unseen. These people are clever, insightful and daring. You should hire as many of these types as you can get your hands on (in an HR appropriate way).

Middle Solvers

The majority of the puzzle solvers take a crack at the answer somewhere in the middle of the fill. They offer an answer once many letters are exposed, and the puzzle is relatively easy to solve. At this point the viewer at home either has the answer or has several of the words figured out, but still fails to see a couple of un-purchased vowels. These are your average people. If you fill your organization with these average people you can build an average company. I would rather go bankrupt.

The Reader

At the tail end of the spectrum are the readers. These are the people who don’t attempt to solve the puzzle until every letter is filled in, and they can literally read the entire answer. These are the types that only bet on a sure thing. They are the belt and suspenders types. But Wheel Of Fortune favors the bold.

Please don’t be the reader. When you wait until the answer is obvious you have lost all competitive advantage. Because when there is no risk there is no reward.

Key Takeaway

The further upstream you can solve a problem the move valuable you are. There is a significant market for those who can see the unseen, forecast a trend, or alert a team to an opportunity or catastrophe hiding in the shadows.

In business development, you can’t wait until the account you want goes into review and invites you and every Tom, Dick and Mary to pitch. To offer value you have to be able to solve a problem before the answer is flashing in the middle of Times Square. Or before Vanna has flipped her final consonant.

How to warm up your entrepreneurial spirit.

Admit it, you would really like to own your own business. Most of us would. But getting started is a gnarly tangle of question marks.

  • Do I have what it takes?
  • What do I do first?
  • Do I have the appetite for risk?
  • Should I find a partner?
  • If my business doesn’t take off quickly do I give up food, shelter or clothing first?

Curious-but-careful types turn to books for answers to these questions. While you can read about entrepreneurship all you want, you can’t actually become an entrepreneur without taking action. Which means the best thing to do to warm up your entrepreneurial spirit is practice taking entrepreneurial action (without spending or losing money in the process).

The Challenge

I offer people enamored with the idea of entrepreneurship a simple one week challenge. If you bail on the challenge in the first day, it is a sign that you should not be a sailor on the entrepreneur ship. But if you complete the challenge, not only have you exercised the right behavior, you’ve primed the pump for the next step too.

So here is my challenge to you:


Adam Albrecht’s Unpatented One Week Entrepreneurial Warm Up Exercise.

  1. Pick a good starting day that offers flexibility in your schedule. Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays work well.
  2. Every time you think of someone, reach out to them. Send an email,  text or a call them. Shoot them a message on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Write the impulse down if you can’t send a message at that moment. But send the message that day. If there is a reason that person popped into your mind let them know. *only contact each person once, even if you think of them multiple times during the week. You don’t want to creep them out.

3. Write down the number of days in a row that you completed the mission.


The 3 Reasons You Should Try This Exercise:

1.Entrepreneurship is about turning thoughts into actions. Everyone has thoughts, ideas and impulses. But most of the time these impulses dissipate before they become actions. This exercise helps you transform your moments of inspiration into actions.

2. Entrepreneurship also requires you to actively maintain your network. That means investing time, thought, action and care into other people. It also involves expanding your network. Which could mean reaching out to people you don’t know, or don’t know well.

3. Entrepreneurship requires persistence. You have to keep at it day after day. Even if you really enjoyed a day or two of this exercise, don’t try to launch a business until you can string together a full week of successful impulse activation. 

5 Things You Will Learn From This Exercise:

1. What it is like to activate your thoughts.

2. Whether or not you can activate your thoughts with consistency.

3. Your connections with others will grow stronger.

4. The recency of your communications with make others more likely to think of you again in the near future.

5. Human interactions often set off a chain of interesting positive events. 

Key Takeaway

In entrepreneurship action is everything. In order to invent Facebook you actually have to invent Facebook. And it starts by doing the things you’ve thought about doing but haven’t done. Entrepreneurship requires you to spend a good chunk of your time outside your comfort zone. So practice getting over that discomfort by reaching out to friends and family you haven’t contacted for quite some time. By the end of this Unpatented One Week Entrepreneurial Warm Up Exercise, you won’t have spent any money on your business idea. But you will have created a more fertile environment for it to grow.