In your career you will have the opportunity to work with a broad range of clients. Some will help you make a lot of money. Some will help you make a little money. Some will help you grow old friendships. Some will help you make new friendships. Some will be strictly business. And some will be a party. Some will enable you to do great work. Some will help you make a difference. Some will build your confidence. Some will test your limits. Some will cost you money. Some you will love. And some, you will wish you never met. But if you pay attention, they will all help you grow smarter, stronger and more capable. So on the toughest days with the toughest clients, and the best days with the best clients, don’t forget to learn.
Today is Election Day in America, and I love to vote. In fact, I would vote for more voting if I could. I never feel more powerful than when I walk into an election booth and personalize my ballot. I love weighing in on officials and referendums. I love voting for obscure roles, like Coroner General, Keeper of the Records, Chief of Lawns and Registrar (which sounds like a role that should be held by lions).
I love wearing the sticker that says I Voted. Or I V(Ohio)ted or I V(peach)ted, depending on the state I live in during the election. It’s a great way to show the world that you have lived up to your civic responsibilities. That sticker is a great little advertisement that reminds others to vote. And when you put that badge of honor on your shirt it also tells your friends, family and co-workers that even thought you are a legal adult, you still like wearing stickers on your clothes.
The Other Team
Not everyone feels the way I do. Not everyone votes. Or cares about voting for anything more important than the next American Idol, a Who Wore It Best poll, or the Pringle flavor they want to munch next. That’s why the following question is worth asking in job interviews:
Did you vote in the last election?
The answer to this simple question reveals a great deal about your job candidate. It offers insights about their sense of responsibility, time management and teamwork. It tells you whether or not they feel empowered to make a difference. And it may reveal whether of not they know how to read a calendar, and a map.
My Dream Team
If I knew that a candidate didn’t vote it would be a deal breaker for me. As an entrepreneur, I want my team members to have an opinion, to take initiative and to feel empowered. I want team members who believe their ideas matter. I want coworkers who want to weigh in, speak up and tell me when there is a better way. I want people who want to continuously improve the world, and our business.
Honoring The Sacrifice
Today we should also honor all of the men and women who have sacrificed in order to defend our ability to vote. The least we can do to show our gratitude is go fill in some tiny circles.
Vote. Have an opinion. Exercise your duty as an American. Know that your views and your values count, and are counted. Help determine the direction that your country, state and local community are headed. Show that you care, and that you are involved, even if you are not fully informed. It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican, Democrat or an Independent voter. Get your vote on today. Because the only thing that matters to me, is that it matters to you.
Today marks the end of Daylight Savings Time. Which means that today it will get darker one hour earlier than it did yesterday. According to my AcuRite SmartHUB weather station, today the sun will set on my backyard at 4:41pm Central Standard Time. If you have a Charlie Brown outlook, you might think this is the worst day of the year. But good grief people, you couldn’t be more wrong.
The Best Day
Today is absolutely the best day of the year. Why? Because if you have ever wanted to get more out of your day, and more out of your life, today is the day to make it happen. Today, Ladies and Gentlereaders, is the Unicorn of Days! The Once-In-A-Blue Moon Event! Today, is the needle in the haystack, and you have found it! Today is the 25-hour Day!
Your Chance To Do More
Today is like a bigger pair of jeans, which means that you can squeeze more in. I woke up today like a kid on Christmas morning. At 5am I was fully cooked and ready to get after this 25-hour day. I hope you are ready to make the most of it too. Because it’s go time!
Think Of The Possibilities
Today you can literally spend more time with family and friends (kids, notice how I literally used the word literally correctly). You can get to church or your place of worship (God knows we could all use it). You can find time for exercise without feeling like you are running behind. You can go for a hike, or a drive, and fall in love with fall. You can visit a museum. You can read and get inspired and learn something new.
You can trade in some fast food for slow food by cooking, baking or grilling yourself (I mean that you are doing the cooking yourself, not that you are literally cooking yourself). You can organize your closet, garage, basement or sock drawer, which will help you enjoy this day for many days to come.
If you like to draw, write, paint, sew, knit, build, photograph, or create any of a billion other things, do it. Do it now.
Today, you can even catch up on the sleep you never get enough of.
Plan Your Next Chapter
You can start planning your next vacation. Or that job or career change you wish you had more time to think about. You know that business idea that you think would be so exciting to launch, but never seem to have the time to focus on? Well, today is a great day to tap into your inner Richard Branson and sketch out a plan, even if you are an entrepreneurial virgin (see what I did right there?)
Time To Give Back
Today you can spend time thinking about how you can give more of yourself to others. You can think about giving of your time or money to worthy causes and charities. Or create a new worthy cause or charity to benefit others.
Today is a great day to put the electronic time wasters in a drawer, so that you can get the most out of this beautiful, rare 25-hour day. Go do more. Take time to recognize, embrace and wallow in the good that is all around you. If time is precious, and life is a gift, a 25-hour day is the most valuable present we will ever have. So be present. Be productive. And spin your extra time into gold.
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Milk is in my blood. In 1870 my Great, Great Grandpa Fred Albrecht came to America from Schwerin, Germany and began dairy farming in Minnesota. His son Hermann Albrecht, and grandson Alton Albrecht continued pumping out the white gold. Five of my Grandpa Alton’s sons, my uncles Jerry, Tom, Paul, Chuck and Tim Albrecht, spent their entire careers as dairy farmers. My father Robert Albrecht managed dairy farms. Then he oversaw the Dairy Herd Improvement Association work for the states of Missouri, Vermont, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Throughout my childhood, milk put food on our table.
A New Path
I did not continue the family tradition. I decided to go into advertising instead. I started as a copywriter, and worked my way up to Chief Creative Officer. Then, in 2016, I launched my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry.
What I have discovered is that dairy farmers are really entrepreneurs. I have to believe that coming from a long line of farmers has somehow prepared me for entrepreneurship. I get up early, before the sun, and get to work, just like each generation before me. And just like dairy farmers produce milk, we produce new ideas everyday.
Farming and entrepreneurship are both risky endeavors. I remember a farmer once saying to me,
You will never find a farmer in Las Vegas. Because we are gambling out here every day.
Words of Wisdom
To be an entrepreneur, or a farmer, you have to be bold and take on risks. And sometimes things will go wrong. As I face the unavoidable risks of entrepreneurship I am emboldened by one of my favorite dairy-isms:
Don’t worry about how much milk you spill, as long as you don’t lose your cow.
As an entrepreneur I have faced challenges that have cost us money. And trust me, that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Kinda like a swig of milk from a cow that grazed in the onion patch. But it is part of the process. You learn, and grow and then head back to the barn the next morning, where the cows are anxious to be milked.
Things sometimes go wrong. Sometime you lose money. Or lose a client. Or lose your job. It may feel terrible in the moment. But don’t focus on the milk you spilled, or the money you lost. Focus on your cow: your skills, experience and know-how that provide great value to others. As long as you have that, you will always make more money. Because as I have seen for generation after generation, if you take good care of the cows, they will keep providing you with more milk, twice a day, every day. And they will take care of you.
Trick or Treating is a grand lab experiment for humans. Over the past four days my children have gone Trick or Treating three times, in three different neighborhoods, with the same results. They are like lab rats who discover that if you ring the bell on the doors with lights, you will be rewarded with a treat.
My kids can’t get enough of this reward. I am certain they would go Trick or Treating again tonight and tomorrow night if I let them. But I won’t let them. Because I have seen what happens to the lab rats in this experiment. And I don’t need any heat from Family Services.
I loved Trick or Treating when I was a kid. I would come home with a huge haul of candy, dump it on the floor in my room, sort it, count it and virtually roll around in it. But then I would do something unusual. I would save it. It is not that I don’t like candy. I like it a lot. But I liked exhibiting control over the candy even more.
Delay of Gratification
What I have learned is that I am really good at the delay of gratification. As a kid that meant stockpiling candy. Today I do the same thing with hotel points and air miles. A quick check of my accounts shows that I have 538,336 unused miles on Delta Airlines and 782,719 unused points with Marriott.
It’s not that I don’t care about those miles and points. I think about them often, and what I will be able to do with them, someday. I love saving and planning for something bigger than a flight to Detroit and a stay at the Airport Courtyard (no offense to either). I have always loved building towards something bigger and more exciting down the road.
Looking back, I can now see that an important entrepreneurial trait could be seen in my youth each year at Halloween. Because as an entrepreneur you have to be willing to show up, make the rounds, find the doors with lights on, ring the bell, and engage with people in order to get the rewards.
But you also have to be willing to not eat your candy right away. You have to be patient and willing to wait for a bigger, better, longer-lasting feast later.
If you are willing to do all that, you can become a great entrepreneur.
Today the Mega Millions lottery jackpot is expected to reach $1.6 billion dollars. The Power Ball lottery will reach $620 million by tomorrow. And you will not win either of them. In fact, you would get more value for your money by burning your cash for heat, or eating it for the nutritional value of the paper.
I learned this lesson early in life. When I was 18 I had a lottery experience that forever shaped my perspective on this get-rich-instantly game. I shared this story a few years ago, but with lottery fever once again creating a jackpot mirage, it felt like a good time to reshare.
The Graduation Lesson
At my high school graduation, my classmates and I received our Hanover High School diplomas from our principal, the late, super-great Uwe Bagnato. As he handed us our diplomas, we each handed him a lottery ticket. It was an exciting experiment.
We all wondered how much he might win with 143 chances (my high school scoured ten towns from Vermont and New Hampshire to find 143 educatable kids). We imagined Uwe would become mega-rich, and we would be the last class to graduate under his principality. But when we discovered that he only won a couple of bucks, and would be back at work again after Labor Day, the lottery was forever dead to me.
Don’t flush your hard-earned money down the lottery toilet. If you want a great return on your money, you should always bet on yourself. Bet on your ability to think. On your will to succeed. On you determination and stick-to-it-ness. Bet on your ability to create value. And bet on your ability to do what you are doing right now, but for yourself.
Collect that money you were going to spend on the lottery and invest it in your own business. Buy something to resell. Or purchase equipment so that you can offer a valued service, or create a new product. Get certified at a valuable skill that you can market on your own. Because if you do that, and you have the drive to succeed, you will succeed. There is much more money to be made through entrepreneurship than the lottery could ever provide.
“More gold had been mined from the minds of men than the earth itself.” -Napoleon Hill from Think and Grow Rich.
In 2016 I left a nice job at a big advertising agency to bet on myself. I left the perceived stability of a regular paycheck to see if I could make even more money, be even happier and feel even more fulfilled by creating my own jackpot. And I did it by investing less than most people spend on the lottery. In fact, when I started The Weaponry, I invested more time, energy and focus than money. And my business has been profitable from the beginning.
But forget about getting rich quick. Forget about the instant cash payout, which is the surest way to bankruptcy. Opt for the get rich slow route. If you build your own business slowly and steadily, you can turn hundreds of dollars of side hustle income into millions of family supporting dollars.
The next time you think about filling out a lottery ticket, think about sketching out a business idea instead. Think of all the great businesses started by men and women no smarter or more talented than you. Think about how those businesses, have turned those people into millionaires and billionaires. I hope it encourages you to invest in your own ideas and your own initiative. Because take it from me and Uwe, the chances of winning the lottery are far better in your head. Your best bet is to put your money to work for you. Because the odds of hitting an entrepreneurial jackpot are determined by you.
I always wanted to write a blog. Ok, that’s a total lie. The term weblog wasn’t even born until after I was out of college. But ever since I first heard about blogs I knew I wanted to write one. But like a lame shopping mall, I didn’t have a hot topic to write about.
That all changed when I started planning the launch of my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. I knew my entrepreneurial journey would make for an interesting story to write about. I just didn’t know if it would be more comedy, tragedy or a bit of both.
I launched the blog The Perfect Agency Project to share my entrepreneurial experience, and to serve as a personal journal of the adventure. Since the fall of 2015 I have written regularly. I have also written posts when I was irregular*. (*Not true, but I don’t have an editor to stop me from writing such nonsense. Which is one of my favorite things about blogging.)
It’s A Hard Blog Life
But writing a blog is hard. It is an elective that can take up as much time as your required coursework. Maintaining a blog requires a dedication to writing and editing. It requires a commitment to learning, observing and listening to the feedback you receive.
This, my readers, is my 200th post. I am extremely thankful for all of you who have taken the time to read any of my writings. This feels like a good time to reflect on the experience so far, and share what I have learned from my first 200 posts.
17 lessons I have learned from writing my first 200 posts.
#1 Starting is the most important step. I talk to people all the time who tell me they want to start a blog. And my response is always, ‘You should.’ And ‘The best way to start a blog is to go to wordpress.com and start writing a blog.’ It is really that easy to get started. Remember in A Social Network with Fake Mark Zuckerberg said, “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented facebook.’? The same holds true here. If you want to write a blog, start a blog. (And how cute is that little Chariots of Fire Duckling pic above?)
#2 Write and publish 5 posts before you share any with others. This 5-post commitment ensures you are serious about blogging. It also offers your first visitors an established base of content to peruse on their first visit. This helps entice them to come back for more. The 5-post commitment also works for building fences.
#3 Posts Don’t Have To Be Long. Seth Godin’s blog posts are often very short. Often a paragraph or so. These are easy to read and easy to write. In our attention-deficit world people like a quick blog hit. If writing shorter keeps you writing, write short. And remember, if you dare wear short shorts, Nair for short shorts.
#4 Make people laugh. One of the most important reasons people look forward to my writings is that I try to sneak funnies, or ridiculouses into my posts. I think humor is key to keeping people coming back, like the Costanza hat. But if you don’t do funny well, try profound, or smart. They offer value too.
#5 500-word rule of thumb. I like a 500-word average for my posts. That seems to be a good length that lets me share a full thought, but not so long that it starts to drag. For perspective, we just hit 500 words in this paragraph. And maybe I should stop here. But not today! Today, we’re going Ludacrous Length.
#6 Use the Headline Analyzer. I often type my headline into the headline analyzer at coschedule.com. It helps me tweak the headline for maximum interest. It will show you what is likely to help your headlines draw more eyes and clicks. It gives each headline a score between 1 and 100. The headline on this post only scored a 69. But I snickered and thought that was good enough. Aim higher than I do.
#7 You never know what topics are going to resonate with readers. Everyone comes to my blog from a different mindset. So different topics, perspectives, and quotes are more relevant to some readers than others. I am often surprised when readers tell me that a recent post was their favorite thing I’ve written so far. So keep writing. You never know who will benefit from it. There are a handful of random blog posts that have had a major impact on my thinking. Your wisdom could have that kind of impact too. Which is better than an impacted wisdom tooth.
#8 A photo is important. The featured image seems to have a significant impact on readership. WordPress has a library of free images to use. Use them. They help. Apparently humans are visually stimulated. Who knew? (#ThePornIndustryKnew)
#9 Tuesdays and Thursdays work. Every community has specific days and times that work best for post readership. Although I have published posts on all 31 days of the week, Tuesday and Thursdays get the most love. I don’t know why. Experiment to find days and times that get the best response for your blog.
#10 Read your blog out loud before publishing. All of my posts are read out loud (ROL) before I push them live. You should do this too. It helps you find errors and omissions that you may not have found otherwise. For instance, by ROL-ing I might have realized there are 7 days in a week, not 31.
#11 6 is the magical monthly number. I talked to a mathematician who did statistical analysis on blog posts and readership. He found that posting 6 posts per month or more had a much greater impact on engagement and memorability. I have found this to be true. As soon as I made a habit of hitting 6 posts or more per month my average monthly readership doubled. Which doubled the pleasure and doubled the fun.
#12 Create a writing habit. I start each weekday morning by writing for about an hour from 6am to 7am. This has become a regular routine. It’s a positive habit that allows me to publish 2 posts per week. Establishing the writing habit is the key to making the blog work. My friend Jeff Hilimire, who blogs regularly, said that he frequently uses a 20 minute rule. He writes for 20 minutes, and publishes what he has when the dinger dings. I actually don’t know if there is a dinger. But the point is to find your habit and grab it like a rabbit.
#13 Run Spellcheck. WordPress and other blogging platforms have a spell checking feature. Use them. They will catch things you don’t, like Odell Beckham Jr. You will have the occasional error sneak through. My readers will often shoot me a heads up when I pull a Billy Buckner. I appreciate this. It takes a village to raise a grammatically proper post.
#14 Start a draft whenever you get an idea. Inspiration for posts can come from anywhere. When inspiration strikes, write the basic idea into a quick draft on your phone or computer. I currently have 195 unpublished drafts. In fact, my blog is so drafty it needs weather-stripping. Your ideas are likely to disappear if you don’t write them down. Having several drafts started gives you plenty of options to work with on days when you are less inspired to write something new.
#15 Posts are a great way to recognize others. I have written many posts about the people who have inspired, impressed and supported me. The posts offer a great way to say thanks, or show your appreciation or respect for others. In fact, my most popular post to date is my tribute to my friend Steven Schreibman. I have written about friends, family, clients, coaches, rappers and a strange woman I encountered at the Piggly Wiggly. They have all been popular posts. Granted, some of them had nothing to do with advertising or entrepreneurship. But it’s my blog, I can write what I want to.
#16 Posting brings good things. Every time I publish a post something good happens. I get an opportunity or an introduction. I hear from a friend or family member. Or I get a kind, thankful or supportive comment from a reader. Or I get asked to emcee a charitable luncheon by my friend Stacy Sollenberger, where I meet a future employee who helps bring great new opportunities to The Weaponry. Or my friend Tim McKercher forwards a post to Vanilla Ice, who tweets the post out to the world.
#17 Don’t get caught up in readership numbers. I would prefer to have one person read a post and really take something away from it than have a million people read it and forget it. Write for the one person who needs to hear your message that day. Not for the massholes who don’t care. Write good posts that offer value. That is all you should ever care about. Well, that and human rights.
The Perfect Agency Project has been the perfect writing project for me. It allows me to write a bit everyday. It forces me to think more about my life, my career and my observations. Nothing I have ever written feels truer to my style of thinking, writing and self-expression.
You have something to share too. We all do. I hope you consider sharing your thoughts, feelings, observations and learnings in your own blog. You never know who you might help along the way. Or who may help you. Life is funny that way. I hope to keep writing about this funny life adventure we are on for another 2000 posts.
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