If you are celebrating your failures you are missing the point.

I hate the word failure. In my book, failure is the real F-word. So why the F has this F-word become so popular lately? Organizational leaders, motivational books and quasi-business coaches are encouraging us to embrace our failures. They tell us to fail fast. And fail more often. They say that if you are not failing you are not pushing yourself enough. I fail to understand this thinking. In fact, I don’t place any value on failures at all.

Emphasizing The Wrong Syllable. 

When I set out to create the perfect advertising agency, I expected it would be a lot of hard work. I expected that I would face a lot of challenges that I was underprepared for.  But one of the best things I did from the beginning of my entrepreneurial adventure was give myself permission to be an amateur. As an amateur, I have valued one thing above all else. It’s not success. And it’s certainly not failure.

I place the greatest value on the attempt. 

The attempt is the action that creates all possibilities of success. Failure is simply a result of the attempt. Failure by itself does not lead to success. Never forget that.

A Life Lesson From Newtonian Physics

Newton’s first law of motion says that a body at rest tends to stay at rest. True dat, Sir Issac! You know what that means to me? A body at rest does not start a business. It does not change paradigms. It doesn’t invent new products or services. A body at rest does not create a magnetic culture. It does not develop a force that helps businesses thrive. A body at rest does not lead a company in sales. It does not create a positive impact on friends, families and communities. In fact, the only thing a body at rest does is remain at rest. Which is tragic.

And… Action!

The supreme value of my entrepreneurial-self is action. As long as I am taking action I give myself credit. Every action gets me closer to success. Action is the energy. Action is the possibility maker. Action is the seed of accomplishment. Remember the old saying that sex is hereditary? (If your parents didn’t have sex, chances are you won’t either.) If you don’t take action, none of your dreams will either.

Golf 

Life is like golf. To get the ball from the tee into the hole you need action. That, my friends, comes from you swinging the club. If you are too lazy or too afraid to swing the club you will never, ever get the ball in the hole. Simply by swinging the club you have given yourself a chance to succeed.

Back to Business

As I build my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I put a premium on action. I place a high value on simply taking one step after another. If the steps are off, or fruitless or inflict pain or damage, that’s ok. The key is to learn, correct and act again.

It was either Steve Perry or Lao Tzu who said, ‘A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.’ But even more importantly, every step of the journey is just a single step taken. Maybe you’ll have some missteps along the way that will ultimately make your journey 1001 miles, or 1110 miles or 2000 miles. That’s ok. That’s not failure. That’s action. Take the first action. Take the second action. Then just keep going. That’s how it happens. Don’t embrace failure. Embrace the action that created the possibility.

If you’re ready to take more action now, consider subscribing to this blog. Where else will you find Sir Issac Newton, Steve Perry, golf and the F-word references in the same 600 word post?

 

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Need some inspiration? I have two people I would like you to meet.

Hugh Hefner always had multiple girlfriends. I can relate to Hugh. I don’t have multiple lady friends. But I always have several books in motion, simultaneously. I wish I could commit to just one at a time. But once an intriguing new book catches my eye, I can’t keep my hands off of it.

In October I read two books with a unique connection. They were both about men who lost use of their legs. This was purely coincidental. It wasn’t as if I was browsing the No Leg Function section of the library. But they were both great, inspirational stories that demonstrated that a strong mind is more important than an able body.

Stronger

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The first book I read was Stronger, by Jeff Bauman. Jeff had both of his legs blown off in the Boston Marathon bombing. But instead of letting the loss of his legs destroy him, as the title indicates, it made him stronger.

He was the key figure who helped the FBI identify the bombers. Even days after the bombing nobody knew who was behind it. Except Jeff.  Following his life-saving surgeries he described Tamerlan Tsarnaev in amazing detail. He had stood next to Jeff, near the finish line of the marathon. They stared at each other for a moment. Jeff knew he was a bad dude. Tsarnaev soon disappeared, but he left his backpack at Jeff’s feet. Jeff noticed it a moment before it exploded, taking his legs with it.

Within just months of the bombing Jeff learned to walk again with artificial legs. He has become a hero in Boston. And his inspiring story was turned into a book (obviously) and a movie, in which he is played by Jake Gyllenhaal.

The Impossible Just Takes A Little Longer 

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The second book was The Impossible Just Takes A Little Longer by Art Berg. Art was in a car accident when he was 21 years old that left him a quadriplegic. No one would have faulted him for living a small life after the accident. But Art had other plans.

  1. He got married.
  2. He had three children.
  3. He started several businesses.
  4. He played wheelchair rugby.
  5. He became a highly sought after motivational speaker, giving 150 speeches a year.
  6. He was inducted into the prestigious National Speakers Hall of Fame.
  7. He completed a grueling, 7 day, 350 mile ultramarathon from Salt Lake City to St. George, Utah, in July, despite the fact that he can not sweat to cool himself. Oh, and he set the world record in the process.
  8. He wrote several books.
  9. He won a Super Bowl Ring for his motivational efforts with the Baltimore Ravens

In the final pages of the book Art recounts a profound recent event in his life. He was on a plane with landing gear problems. As the plane circled to burn off fuel before attempting a dangerous landing, he reflected on his life and all that had happened since the accident. He realized that his accident had pushed him to become a stronger, more motivated person. He did more with his life because of the accident than he would have, had he not faced such a challenge (you’ll have to read the book to learn what happened when the plane touched down).

I loved his attitude. As I finished the book I noticed his website listed on the back jacket of the book (www.artberg.com). I typed the site address into my browser, but got an error message. So I googled Art Berg. The top result was his obituary. He died in February of 2002. The same year the book came out. He was 39 years old.

Conclusion

As you think about the obstacles that stand in your way, and the hardships you face, think about Jeff Bauman and Art Berg. I have faced setbacks. But nothing like losing my legs like Jeff did.  I have started my own business, I am married and have three kids. But I am not in a wheelchair with only partial use of my upper extremities like Art.

Both Jeff and Art used their adversity to make them stronger.  That’s what I am trying to do everyday. That’s why I started the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. I wanted to try something hard. Because the harder something is to do the greater the reward.

If life doesn’t throw any adversity your way, find it yourself. Take on challenges that stretch, test or torture you. They’ll make you stronger. They’ll keep you growing. Growth and progress towards your goals, even if there is significant suffering as a result, will lead to a happier life.

Don’t lose sight of the WOW!

Do you remember the first time you ever flew in an airplane? It was crazy exciting, right? Remember how the plane began down the runway, slowly at first, then gaining speed until the plane’s nose levitated. Then the rear wheels left contact with the runway and things got quiet, and smooth, and it all blew your mind?

I remember that. Then I started flying so much for work that I would read, work, talk to my seatmate or rearrange my sock drawer during takeoff. I had become immune to the magic.

Then one day about 15 years ago I recognized just how crazy it was that I could yawn through an airplane takeoff. That day I decided to become a born again flying virgin. Every time I have launched to the sky since then, even as a Delta Gold or Platinum Medallion flier, I have stopped what I am doing at takeoff, and experienced the thrust, lift and other-worldliness of the experience as if it were the first time.

Holy David Copperfield!

Today I remind you that the entire world is mind-blowingly magical. Unbelievable things are happening all around you. Look outside. The sunrise, sunset, skies and storms are all sorts are phenomenal.

Watching your garden transform from dirt to sprouts to vegetables and fruit is awe-inspiring. The way the foliage transforms each fall from green to red or yellow or orange is no less miraculous than the caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

That mobile phone that is surely within arms reach of you right now provides access to every bit of information and entertainment ever known And yet it doesn’t have a cord, or pipe or conveyor belt to connect it to anything!  Somehow it all flows through the ether. WTF?

 

Do you realize that the automobile you drive is like a magic carpet that will take you anywhere on the continent that you want to go?!? Imagine time traveling back to any period in time before 150 years ago and seeing the look on people’s faces as you drove by in your car! Even if you drive a Yugo.

Those clothes you are wearing were somehow transformed from plants or animals or chemicals or all of the above into something soft and attractive and shaped just like you! Seriously!?!

Humans

Don’t even get me started on humans. Humans are the most amazing, beautiful and complicated of all machines. And somehow we all stack into a set of our relatives like Russian Nesting Dolls. Which means you were somehow inside both of your parents, and their parents and their parents, and on an on until the beginning of humans! Even if you are not Russian! Nyet. I can’t fathom that.

 

All businesses, teams, organizations, nations are created by humans. Somehow we have figured out how to collect, organize and activate groups of humans to do amazing things together.  From dancing to designing and operating the International Space Station, we have found millions of ways to work together to create things that are totally unnecessary to providing food, shelter and clothing. How cool are we!?!

Dawn

Today is my lovely wife Dawn’s birthday. I have been awed by her since I first saw her. I will never forget that moment. Today we have a wonderful life full of amazing everyday adventures. We have three little miracles named Ava, Johann and Magnus. And I am thankful everyday for the indescribable joy that fills our lives. And it’s all because, on this planet of billions, Dawn’s life-path crossed mine 17 years ago. Thank God.

 

 

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This is what Dawn looks like at dusk in Paris.

So as you go about your day, don’t miss the Wow. It is literally everywhere. Our entire world is full of magic. It is easy to overlook. Because there is just so much of it. Even right next to you, today, at home.

What kind of phone are you?

Have you ever wanted to be someone else? I have that feeling every day. I want to be a better version of myself. I want to be the me that I see in my head. That version of me is pretty amazing. Which means that the today-me is pretty lame by comparison.

But that doesn’t discourage me. I am no Eeyore. You won’t find me feeling bad about myself. Because I don’t see myself as less-than.

I see myself as an iPhone. I am constantly creating a new, more powerful model of myself. I’m adding more features, capabilities, a longer battery and more memory.

I read as if my future success depends on it. I listen to audiobooks while I drive, podcasts about entrepreneurship while I eat lunch, and podcasts about real estate investing while I mow the lawn. Each day I become a little smarter, a little more capable and a little closer to the me in my mind.

My vision of me as a better model of myself is why I workout. It’s why I set goals.  It’s why I try new things that force me to grow. It’s why I travel and see and do as much as I can. It is why I am excited to meet new people. All of these help me grow, expand and improve.

As Founder of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry, I am growing and learning on the job, every day.  The resistance that entrepreneurship provides works just like the weights at a gym. They are both there to help you develop a better, stronger version of yourself.

If the you in your head is an iPhone X and the real you feels like a flip-phone don’t be discouraged. Keep moving. Keep iterating. Keep learning and growing. There are thousands of versions of you yet to come. Each one gets stronger, smarter and more capable. And each new model of you is even more valuable than the one before.

Life lesson in London.

The Dinner

A few years ago my wife and I went to London. We went without our three kids, which made it feel like we were playing hooky on a global scale. On the second night of our trip we had a world-class dinner experience at The Ritz.

Afterwards we strolled down Piccadilly, hand in hand. It was a wonderful July night. We were excited to be in one of the world’s greatest cities. We were adventurously far from home. And we had just finished a meal that we would talk about for the rest of our days.  Life was good.

The Show

Then something even more interesting happened. There, in that date-night glow, we witnessed a show that no one in the world saw except us. It was a one-man, one-act play.  The script had 5 words.

The stage was on the landing in front of a shop on Piccadilly. A homeless man was making his bed for the night. He was just steps off of the very busy street, outside, exposed to the world, and the elements, with no privacy. Like a zoo animal on display.

As he went about his routine of preparing his bed for the night he said:

Life is hard. No complaints.

I will never forget that. In those five words this man summed up a simple truth about life. And how he chose to respond. He clearly understood that life is a challenging game. He accepted the challenge. Even on the days when it seemed as if he was losing.

Inspiration comes in many forms.  That night I was inspired by a homeless man who faced a reality more challenging than most of us will ever face, without complaint.

On this Monday, as you head back to work, back to school and back to your own challenges, I remind you that, yes, life can be hard. But how you choose to respond to it is entirely up to you. And it is your response that makes all the difference.