Last week I was riding an escalator at the rental car center at the airport in Atlanta. The man in front of me turned to me and asked, ‘Did you go to the University of Wisconsin?’ I proudly replied, ‘Yes!’, and realized I was wearing a Wisconsin hat that had likely invited the question. Either that or I still smelled like brats, cheese and Mickies Dairy Bar.
The man continued:
My daughter goes to school there right now and absolutely loves it. She looked at Michigan State, which is where I went, and Ohio State, because we live in Canton, Ohio. But when she visited Madison she said, “Dad, I found my people.” -Escalator Dad
I could relate. That is exactly how I felt when I went on my recruiting trip to Wisconsin.
Two days later I was visiting my neighbor Christy Sheahan in Atlanta. She told me she and her son Christopher, who is a high school senior, had just visited Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana (home of my Mom and Dad). Christy and her husband Kevin’s oldest daughter Sydney is currently a freshman at the University of Georgia in Athens. Christy told Christopher, ‘I want you to keep looking at schools until you find a college environment that you love as much as Sydney loves UGA.’ Christopher, listen to your Mom.
The Fit Makes It.
These two comments are great reminders of how important it is to find your people and your places. Whether you are a student looking for the right college, or you are in the workforce, looking for the right job, you should search for that place that fits you just right. That place that is full of your kind of people. Finding the right fit makes all the difference in your happiness, your self-esteem, your memories, your relationships and your probability of success.
If you haven’t found the school that fits you, keep looking. If you haven’t found the workplace that fits you, keep searching. It is out there, and there are people who want to work with you as much as you want to work with them. Life, school and careers are all too short to spend in the wrong place, with the wrong people. There are 5300 colleges and universities in the United States. There is one that is just right for you, Goldilocks. And if you don’t think that the place you want to work exists in the place you really want to live, make it yourself. That’s what I did when I launched The Weaponry. And I couldn’t be happier. Not even if I was a student again back in Madison.
I like to make the most of my business travel. After my work obligations are Sharpied into my calendar, I always fill the open spaces in my schedule with personal activites. That might include eating at an interesting restaurant, exploring, museuming or exercising. But my favorite activity to add to a work trip, by far, is socializing. Sometimes I meet new people. Sometimes I reconnecting with old friends. And sometimes I do both at the same time.
I had to travel to Atlanta this week for a film shoot. Since I had to fly in on Monday I began filling my afternoon with interesting activities. Here is what I did between 12:30 and 6:30pm:
Had lunch with a former client
Had back-to-back-to-back meetings with 3 different freelancers who are currently working with my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.
Met with a college senior to talk to him about his career options after he graduates.
Guest lectured to a college marketing class about creativity and the creative process.
Stuck around 20 minutes after the lecture to talk to a group of 5 students who had more questions.
Drove to my Atlanta neighborhood in East Cobb and talked to my neighbor, Dr. Betty Garrot about my recent trip to India (Betty’s family is from India, and they contacted me when I was in Bangalore).
It was a fun and interesting day. But what I had planned for Monday evening was really special. Last Friday I texted my college teammate Jabari Pride, who lives in Atlanta, and asked him if he would like to get together Monday night. He said yes. So I reached out to another, former University of Wisconsin track athlete, Lenton Herring, who lives in Atlanta, and invited him too. Then I reached out to Stephanie Herbst-Lucke, who was not only up for getting together, she invited us to gather at her home. So we decided to contact a couple more former Badger track athletes to tell them what we were doing.
Just three days later, on a rainy Monday night in Atlanta, these are the Badger track alum who showed up:
Adam Abrecht: Discus and hammer thrower from Norwich Vermont, now living in Milwaukee (but still a proud Atlanta home owner).
Jabari Pride: Sprinter and all-around athlete from Los Angeles, now living in Atlanta.
Lenton Herring: Jumper and sprinter from Gainesville Florida, now living in Atlanta.
Stephanie Herbst-Lucke: Distance runner from Chaska, Minnesota, now living in Atlanta.
Tina Erps-McGee: Sprinter and jumper from Bettendorf Iowa, now living in Atlanta.
Terry Reese: Hurdler from Fort Wayne Indiana, now living in Atlanta.
Scott Jenkins: Distance runner from Kenosha, Wisconsin, now living in Atlanta.
Stephanie (Bassett) Orman: Distance runner from Bloomington, Indiana now living in Atlanta.
Mark Euler: Jumper from Madison, Wisconsin, now living in Atlanta.
Reed Connor: Distance Runner from The Woodlands, Texas, now living in Atlanta.
Socializing not Social Networking
It was an amazing night. I got to see friends and teammates I have known for decades, some of whom I hadn’t seen in decades. I also got to meet three new Badgers. We talked about our families and careers. We shared stories about our days competing for the University of Wisconsin. We talked about our coaches and the things we learned from Ed Nuttycombe, Peter Tegen, Martin Smith, Mark Napier, Scott Bennett, Mick Byrne, Mary Grinaker, Robert Hackett and others.
We talked about how there is no other experience quite like spending your college career in Madison. We talked about the unique people, the unique setting and the unique educational environment. Because of our shared history, the group instantly felt like a community. We traded contact information and made plans to gather again. Just like that, the W Club-Atlanta was born.
Connect In Person
This was a great reminder to make sure you see your people in real life. It is great to keep in touch with each other on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. But people are better in person. We all need to experience real human connections. Those connections are strongest, and most impactful, when we are in a room, talking to each other, face to face.
I encourage you to reach out to your people. Get together with friends from home, from college or camp. Organize a gathering of former co-workers, teammates or roommates. Get together with your neighbors. Or create your own social or professional groups.
At the end of our days, the only thing that will really matter is the relationships we build, and the impact we have on each other. Don’t be afraid to make the first move. I did. And because of it, ten former Badger track athletes are now part of another special community 803 miles from Madison.
*Special thanks to fellow Badger, James Lucke for hosting us and joining us Monday evening! On Wisconsin!
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.