It’s time to be more selfish with your time.

Today, millions of  people will be robbed by their co-workers. This thievery is the most under-reported crime in America. Your co-workers are not stealing your cash, or phones or heirloom quality Tupperware from the break room fridge. What they are stealing is far worse.

Time

Time is your most precious commodity. And people take it from you on a daily basis.  They stop by your desk to chat for too long. They cause meetings and phone calls to go longer than necessary. They are turning their lack of planning into your emergencies. The next thing you know, the whistle blows, Fred Flintstone is sliding down his dinosaur, and it’s time to go home. You spent eight hours of your life at work, but your most important work is still undone.

So McGruff The Time Dog is here to tell you that you have got to protect your time. If you want to make a valuable contribution to your organization, you need to use your precious time to execute. You can’t do that when someone stops by to complain that Lucy and Ethel are terrible at packing up the chocolates.

Time Makes The Difference

As a business owner, I look for spare time like spare change in my couch cushions. Because every time I find a few extra minutes, it enables me to spend time working on my business. I can use that valuable time to create new offerings, improve processes and find ways to deliver better work for our clients. But that all takes time.

It is easy to spend all of your time dealing with the needs of others. It may even feel like you are busy working. But you are not advancing your own projects. At the end of the year it is easy to look back and see that you did little to advance your department or your initiatives.

I Must Protect These Hours!

Protecting your time means finding and protecting hours of uninterrupted progress on your own work. That may mean working from home, or a coffee shop, or Chick-Fil-a (which is my secret work-away spot). It may mean blocking off large blocks of time on your calendar so that no one schedules you up. And it may mean putting a sign up in your office space that says you are working on something really important and can’t be interrupted. If that doesn’t work, tell people you have the Bird Flu. Actually, you may want to start with that.

Lock Down The Digital Entries

You will also want to turn off your email, Slack and phone. Because in the digital age, people try to get sneaky and steal your time digitally too. Once your time is fully protected, use it to crank away on your most important work, uninterrupted. Find time to do this every day and you’ll be amazed how much more you can accomplish each week when your are not be constantly chased by Smokey and The Time Bandits.

Key Takeaway

It’s great to be a team player. But you can’t let others take away your scoring opportunities. That’s exactly what happens when you sit in meetings too long, are regularly interrupted, or get sent on wild goose chases (no one ever chases the domesticated geese). Don’t be afraid to be selfish with your time. It’s the only way to advance the work that you are directly responsible for doing. It also keeps your work at work. And prevents you from having to steal time from your personal life to get your work finished.

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How to balance your priorities like a student athlete.

Even 22 years after graduation I have not found a school I would rather have attended than the University of Wisconsin. There is no other town like Madison. And no other culture like the University and its work-hard, play-hard, jump-around-hard students and alumni.

Student

In college I double majored in Psychology and Journalism. I think I also set some sort of school record for most bars and parties attended without drinking alcohol.

Athlete

When I wasn’t studenting I was a proud member of Wisconsin’s Men’s Track & Field team. I threw the discus, the hammer, the 35-pound weight, and the occasional hissy fit. 

The Kickoff Meeting 

Every fall, the track year would kick off with a mandatory team meeting in an auditorium in the athletic center. We had to fill out various forms in order to be cleared to participate. It was more businessy than athleticy. But it signaled the start of the season, and it was the first time the team assembled each school year.

Coach Nuttycombe

My favorite part of the meeting was when our head coach, Ed Nuttycombe, addressed the team. When I joined the program, Nutty had already won several Big Ten championships. By the time he retired in 2013, he had amassed 26 Big Ten titles, more than any other coach, in any sport in Big Ten history. I was proud to be part of that history, as our team swept the Big Ten Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor track titles both my junior and senior years.

Nutty’s Accolades

  • 26 Big Ten Titles
  • 2007 NCAA Indoor National Team Championship
  • 165 Big Ten Individual Champions
  • 11 NCAA Individual Champions
  • 6 Olympians

Priorities

There was one part of this annual meeting I will never forget. Nutty always made a strong point about his expectations of our priorities. He said:

‘Gentlemen, as a member of this team, always remember that academics come first. You are a student at the University of Wisconsin first. Track & Field comes second. Let me be absolutely clear about that. But if you want to be on this team, track better be so close behind your school work that you can barely tell a difference. Academics are priority 1. Track and Field is priority 1A.’     -Ed Nuttycombe

Oh Snap!

I remember being surprised the first time I heard this speech. I thought he was going to say academics are always the priority. Athletics come second. But that’s not the Nutty way. In his world, if you can’t fully dedicate yourself to both high academic and athletic achievement, then you don’t belong on his team. That was a badass statement. And we all felt badass for living up to his standards.

Hall of Fame

Last Friday, Nutty was inducted into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. And with great reason. But I would also induct Nutty into the Prioritizing Hall of Fame for the way he pushed us to achieve great things in multiple areas of our lives. My teammates were impressive on the track, in the field and in the classroom. But I am just as proud of all the successes my teammates are having today in their careers, and as husbands and fathers.  

Takeaway

I carry on Nutty’s dual commitment today to my family and my work. I don’t think about balancing the two. I think about prioritizing them both. I must succeed at both. There is no way around it. There are no shortcuts to take. There are no excuses. That’s what Nutty taught me. And just look at his track record. #PunIntended

It’s time to tell the full truth about the business I made up.

Three years ago I started writing the story of a fictional advertising and idea agency. I dreamed up the details of the business and then wrote them down in a notebook. I would fire up my laptop, open a google doc, and fill it with vivid descriptions of this company that only I could see. In the same way that children have imaginary friends, I had an imaginary ad agency. I thought about that agency all the time. I was obsessed.

The more I thought about it, the more I wrote about it. And the more I wrote about it the more vivid this fictional business became to me. So I did something crazy. I started talking to other people about my imaginary agency. I described it as if were absolutely real. I told people what kind of services it offered, what kind of people worked there. I talked about its culture and why it was the perfect agency. I even gave it a name.

Then a funny thing happened. Other people began talking about this completely fictional agency like it was a real business. They started asking questions about it. Smart, talented,  sane people wanted to know if they could work there.

So I began talking to marketing professionals and business owners about my imaginary agency. Then something unbelievable happened. Someone asked if they could hire this imaginary agency to create some real advertising.

Suddenly, this agency that was completely made up had a real client, a real project to work on, and a real deadline. I quickly filled the imaginary roles within the agency with real people, who did the real work and delivered real ads to a real business for real money.

From that moment on, this fictional story of mine became non-fiction. People started referring to my imaginary agency by name. They called it The Weaponry. The United States Government started sending it mail. Businesses started sending it money. People started listing it as their employer, and banks started calling it to make sure it was ok to offer applicants mortgages. How crazy is that?

Key Takeaway 

If you want to create a real business you start by creating a fictional business. Imagine every detail. Write it all down. Paint a picture so vivid it feels absolutely real. Talk about it in such detail that others start to see it too. Give it a name. Others will start calling it by that name too. Talk about your fake business to real customers and clients. It will be weird and surreal. It will warp and bend your sense of reality for a while. But if you believe in it enough, others will too. Then suddenly, and undeniably it will all become completely real. I know it sounds crazy. But it’s true.  

16 important life lessons I learned from boogie boarding.

Vacation time is the most important time in your career. If you squander your vacation time it will have a negative impact on your work, your happiness, your family, your friends and your tan lines.

I spent last week on vacation at the beach in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. My family of 5 loaded up our Family Truckster and drove from the western shore of Lake Michigan to the Eastern Shore of the second largest barrier island on the east coast. We drove because we bring 5 bikes and 5 boogie boards, which are hard to stuff in the overhead compartment on a plane.

Boogie On Board

I spent a lot of time boogie boarding. It is one of my favorite ways to spend a vacation day. Boogie boading is like life (#gettingdeep). I have thought a lot about why I enjoy boogie boarding so much, and what it has taught me. Here’s what I came up with.

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My daugher Ava and I about to boogie.

Top 16 lessons I have learned while boogie boarding.

  1. Be present. When you are boogie boarding you become totally absorbed in the moment. Like Bounty. Being present makes you feel alive. Feeling alive feels good.
  2. You have to choose the waves you want to ride.  Opportunities come at us over and over. We have to decide which ones are best for us. Others around you will jump on waves that aren’t right for you. Let them.
  3. You have to kick to get started. To catch a wave you have to start with a little forward momentum. Which means you need to get moving first. Never forget that. My son Johann (11) says ‘If you don’t start kicking you’ll just float.’ #truth
  4. Sometimes you are too early. We often get excited about an opportunity too early. Oh well. We tried.
  5. Sometimes you are too late. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. I’ve missed many a great wave because I didn’t time it right and it got away.
  6. Sometimes what looks great isn’t. A job, a client, an opportunity can look perfect. But it doesn’t turn out that way. This will happen. A lot. But on the other hand…
  7. Sometimes what looks bad isn’t. I have caught waves that I thought would be forgettable, and they turned out to be the best rides of the day. My career has been like that too. Some of my favorite clients and opportunities started inconspicuously. Don’t write them off.
  8. There will always be more waves to catch. Whenever you miss an opportunity, know there will be an endless supply of others. You just have to paddle back out and get ready for them.
  9. Sometimes a great ride ends with a spectacular crash. This is part of the fun. It’s part of the story and the experience. Take the ride anyway.
  10. Sometimes you lose your suit. Waves and jobs and life all have a funny way of trying to return us to our natural state of nudity.
  11. Sometimes you get stung by jellyfish.  3 of the 5 members of my family were stung multiple times by jellyfish on our latest trip. The sting is temporary. The story is forever. And now we include a bottle of vinegar in our beach bin. #nobodygotpeedon
  12. Sometimes you swim with sharks. When you wade into the ocean you are entering the shark’s world. I have seen sharks several times while boogie boarding.  Look for fins. Listen for the Jaws music. If you see or hear these signs, quickly back out of the water while not smelling tasty. The sharks will pass. There are sharks in businesses and social circles too. Keep an eye out for them.
  13. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and hold on. Really great waves can get gnarly. In those cases you have to get primal. Hold on to your board. Shut your eyes to keep the saltwater and sand out, and try to outlast the chaos. The rest of life works the same way.
  14. The scarier the wave the more exciting the ride. That’s all I have to say about that.
  15. Rip currents are real.  There is always a chance you will get sucked out to sea. We review how to swim out of rip currents and rip tides with our kids every time before we boogie. We also talk to our kids about how to avoid drugs and drinking and the wrong crowds. Which are the rip currents of dry land.
  16. People on the beach wish they were doing what you are doing. But people boogie boarding are never jealous of those lying on the beach. The same holds true of entrepreneurship and exercise and all kinds of adventure. Because Active > Passive.

Key Takeaway

Take your vacation time. Enjoy as much life as you can. Take chances. Be Present. Learn from everything you do. And come back better than you left.

What is the defining event of your life?

John McCain died of brain cancer this week. In the first alert I received on my mobile phone announcing the death of this long time senator from Arizona, there was a lengthy summation of his life. Which was remarkable to say the least. But there was one new thought in the summation that jumped off the screen at me. Figuratively, that is. There was no literal jumping.

McCain was a Naval fighter pilot who was shot down, captured, imprisoned and tortured for 5 and a half years in Vietnam. But upon his release in 1973, he was determined to make sure that his experience as a POW was not the defining event of his life.

This is a great reminder not to allow bad things to be the things others remember about us. It is a great reminder to continuously push ourselves to do more and be more. We have the ability to add so much good to our life story, our careers, and our relationships that it minimizes the bad.

McCain’s story also reminds us that even in a life full of happiness and success we have the ability to do more and be better. I’m working at it. I hope you are too.

Is there enough adventure in your career?

In 2006 I had a 365 day calendar. You know, the type of calendar that has 365 sheets that are stacked like a thick pad of post it notes. I don’t remember the theme of the calendar. In fact, I have forgotten 364 of the pages. But there is one page that I will never forget. At least until the Alzheimer’s kicks in.

My life in 2006

The date was Friday, July 21, 2006. I had been at my first job out of college for nearly 10 years. I had been married to my wife, Dawn, for nearly 4 years. We had owned our first home for 2 years. And our first child, our daughter Ava, was about to celebrate her first birthday by smashing a cupcake into her face.

That July morning I tore off the July 20th page on my calendar like it was yesterday’s news (because it was), and revealed the following message:

“I have always wanted an adventurous life. It took a long time to realize that I was the only one who could make an adventurous life happen to me.” -Richard Bach

The Quote

This quickly became one of my favorite quotes. It serves as a constant reminder to adventure. To try new things. To move beyond our comfort zones. To make our insurance premiums worth paying.

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I keep this little square as a constant reminder to adventure.

We should adventure on our weekends, on our vacations and holidays. But we should also adventure at home on Wednesday nights. We should adventure in our reading and eating and driving. We should try new things, and semi-dangerous or even full-strength dangerous things on a regular basis. We should do the things Rupert Holmes sings about in The Pina Colada song (I know it’s called Escape, but who really calls it that? His lawyer?).

My Career

Shortly after reading this quote I turned my career into a legitimate adventure. After 10 years at my first job I moved on to my second job. I also moved to a new state, and took on 3 successively larger positions over the next 4 years. 7 years later, Engauge, the ad agency I worked for, was bought by Publicis Groupe, and I moved to Atlanta in a new role in a new company. Then, in 2015 I began planning to start my own business. Because that seemed like the natural next step.

Entrepreneurship

There is no career adventure like owning your own business. In April of 2016 I launched the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. And it has been the most exciting chapter of my career. As an entrepreneur, you learn like a college student on a daily basis. Which means that you are constantly growing and pushing yourself into unfamiliar situations.

It is in the pushing and growing and unfamiliar that the adventure happens. Threats and opportunities and excitement now surround me every day. And I love it. It is better than a television show, movie, or book. Because it is happening to me. I am not feeling someone else’s drama. It is very much my own.

Key Takeaway

Before you know it we will all be dead. So while we are here, create your own adventure.    Take that new job. Make that move. Go on that trip. Change careers completely, or get more schooling if you need to do what you really want to do. Start your own business or consult of side hustle or whatever it takes to add more venturing to your life. Give the person who delivers your eulogy something to write about. Give the rest of us great stories to read about.

Remember, no one makes it out of here alive. So there is no use in playing it safe. But as Richard Bach told me in 2006, no one else can give you an adventurous life. You have to make it yourself.

When you are great at what you do, no one cares what you wear.

Yesterday I had a bee and wasp specialist come to my house to handle a situation. A buzzillon yellow jackets found a small opening in my siding, and Goldilocks-ed their way into the just-right attic space above my garage, where they built a watermelon sized nest.

Dennis, aka The Bee Guy, (not to be confused with the Bee Man, Bee Boy or Bee Gees) walked up to the spot where the yellow jackets were throwing me a house swarming party, and calmly said he could take care of the problem. He said, ‘But first let’s look to see if there are any other areas of concern.’

Those Little Stingkers!

We walked around the house, and sure enough, he found another active area on the back side of the house that we hadn’t noticed. Then he got to work. He treated both of the nests, and soon it was clear that these Georgia Tech mascots were no longer active residents in my home.

The Kicker

Dennis never put on any protective gear. He never put on any netting, or armor or even bug spray. He did his work in jeans and a short sleeve shirt. And he did it really well. He talked me through each step. He even walked me through the proprietary equipment he used that he had invented and created himself. I could tell that Dennis knew his profession as well as anyone could (I bet he got all bees in school).

Key Takeaway

Don’t be fooled by clothing. It is easy to buy the right clothes to look the part. It is much harder to have the skills the part requires. There is no direct relationship between clothing and expertise. I have found over and over again that people who are truly experts don’t get caught up in looking the way you think they would or should or could. So focus on gaining knowledge and experience. Become great at what you do. The more value you offer others, the less value they will place on your appearance. Which is good news for a man who looks like me.