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.

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This is the best fuel for the best attitude.

I  am in the middle of a major research project on life. While the research is ongoing, I have discovered, after collecting more than four decades worth of evidence, that life is hard. My study reveals that life is hard at work, at home, in your relationships, and even on vacation. No one is immune. And there is no cure (except that 80’s band with Robert Smith).

Facing Reality

Things go wrong all the time. Disappointment shows up repeatedly without an appointment. Things break. Bills pile up. Bills lose Super Bowls. And just when you think you are in the clear, something happens to remind you that you are clearly not in the clear.

Entrepreneurship

I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, two years ago. And I have faced a constant stream of challenges, requirements, setbacks and surprises. As an entrepreneur, you have to be ready for whatever craziness comes your way. Because it will come, and it will be crazy. Like marrying-a-Kardashian-crazy .

A Common Trait

Since starting my entrepreneurial journey I have surrounded myself with other entrepreneurs. I have noticed that the rock stars have a special trait that enables them to be successful in the face of the constant barrage of adversity and the WTF-ity they will inevitably face. And it just may be the most valuable asset in their organizations.

A  Helium Attitude.

Helium is perhaps the most magical element on Earth. Because it floats! In fact, you can fill a balloon with helium and the balloon floats too! Had Sir Issac Newton seen a helium balloon float skyward as he saw that apple fall earth-ward, he would have had a much tougher time discovering the laws of gravity. Because helium always rises above the gravity of a situation. Your attitude can too. If you let your attitude get sunk by setbacks, then your attitude is not an asset.

I don’t think about having a good attitude. Because I don’t know what that means. I think about having a helium attitude. Which is a mindset, an approach and an interpretation of the facts that rises above the circumstances. A helium attitude remains up, even when your plans fall down. Thus it always provides the perspective that things will get better. This is an entrepreneurial imperative.

Lifting Others

The helium attitude helps lift others too. Someone needs to rise above the disappointment and frustration that we all inevitably face. The helium attitude bounces back quickly, and offers other people a high point to focus on as they navigate forward. Which is why it is important for parents, leaders, teachers and preachers to fill their attitudes with as much helium as they can get (#highandfunnyvoices).

Key Takeaway

Life is unpredictable. One moment you feel like you are on top of the world. The next moment, you feel like the world is on top of you. But a helium attitude rises anyway. Don’t let setbacks, curveballs, and negative people drag you down. Do what helium does, and just keep rising. Your attitude is everything in life. Make sure you fill it with the right fuel.

A short reminder for the shortest day of the year.

Christmas brings renewed hope for Christians.

The new year provides a fresh start for us all.

And the new fiscal year offers businesses a chance to measure new growth.

But don’t overlook the importance of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. It’s a symbol that every day for the next 6-months will have a little bit more sunshine than the day before. This is a great reminder that even the darkest times hit a maximum. And after that maximum, things get a little better, and a little brighter every day.

 

 

Focus more on the things you love.

My business plays in a fun sandbox. Brands across the United States and Canada come to my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, looking for smart new ideas. Our team of strategic and creative thinkers explore ideas that extend far beyond what most clients could create on their own. Clients love us because we reveal new possibilities. And because we do ridiculous things that make them laugh a lot in meetings.

Exploring the Possibilities

Clients often hire us to help them reimagine their brand. On a recent project our team presented our client with 40 new logo options to choose from. Yes, 40. We pride ourselves on offering a great range of thinking so that everyone can find something they like. You know, like a buffet. Or a boy band.

Once we concluded the share of new logos and opened the floor for discussion (ok, so the floor didn’t really open), I was surprised by the very first comments that followed. One of the clients said, “I REALLY don’t like option 9.” Then he spent several minutes elaborating on why he didn’t like option 9. After several others shared their favorites, this client spoke up again and said, ‘Did anyone else dislike option 9 as much as I did?’

The Weaponry Way

Let me let you in on one of The Weaponry’s secrets. The reason we show multiple ideas is because our clients might not like them all. I’m fine with that. My friends at Coca Cola sell a wide range of drink options so that we can all find something we like. I love Coke and Gold Peak Tea. I don’t focus on the fact that Diet Coke tastes like liquid bike tires.

It is a waste of time to focus on the things that we don’t like. Or the things that don’t work. I think of the creative process like finding your way through a maze. Once you find yourself at a dead end, immediately turn around and start exploring another option. To stop and focus on that dead end, or worse, go back to the dead end to see it again, and think about how dead that end really is, is a waste of time.

Maximizing

A few years ago I did a Strength Finders analysis. The test concluded that I am a Maximizer. Which means I don’t spend any time focusing on what happened in the past, or what can’t be changed. I focus on the possibilities in front of me and how to make something good into something great. Which is a good construct to have when you are a professional creative. Or an entrepreneur. I help my team and my clients find ideas with a lot of potential, then bring out the maximum potential in each of them.

The Take Away

Focus on the things you love most. Spend your time looking for the solutions, the answers, the wows. The beautiful building, the kind act, the smart idea, the great looking jacket, the blog post about focusing on the things you love (that you loved enough to like and share). When you see something that doesn’t work for you, move on. Focus on the great, the exciting possibilities, the things that make you happiest. You will find more good in the world. Let’s all let go of our own option #9. The other 31 options are better anyway.

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The most inspiring statistic in Super Bowl history.

Wow! Originally I thought I would post something today about the Super Bowl LI commercials. But I barely remember them. The fragments I do recall are only because I’m trying really, really hard to come up with something. As if I’m being interrogated during a crime investigation.  Um… there was the Skittles spot. Um… then Alfa Romeo showed up for some reason. Justin Timberlake referred to an old NSYNC song. And Terry Bradshaw was a mess. I’m sorry. I’ll go back and watch them later to see what I should have remembered.

Last night was all about the game. It was hyper-relevant to me and my social circles because I grew up in New England as a huge Patriots fan. But I recently lived, and still own a home, in Atlanta. I have great love for my Atlantans and the way they embraced the Y’Albrechts.  I didn’t want either fan base to lose.

But I wanted the Patriots to win.

I won’t recap the entire game. FOX, ESPN and the NFL Network can do that ad nauseam.  I’ll simply share a couple of inflection points.

At the opening kickoff the game was close. Really close.

Then, when the Patriots went down by two touchdowns, the announcers were quick to point out that no team in Super Bowl history had ever come back from a 14 point deficit.

Gulp.

That concerned me, statistically. But come on, my team is the Pats! You know, Tom Brady, Malcolm Butler, Bill Belichick. We can make up 14 points wicked fast. It was early in the game. I’ve seen this movie before.

But suddenly it was 21 nothing. Even the eternal optimist in me was discouraged going into halftime down 21-3.

It didn’t get any better in the 3rd quarter. In fact, the Patriots were down by 25 points with just over 2 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.  That was 2.5 times the largest lead any team had ever overcome in the Super Bowl! This was not good.

I felt like 12-year-old Adam, watching my team get steamrolled by the 1985 Bears. I was having painful Steve Grogan, Tony Eason flashbacks. Even Billy Buckner made an appearance.

There, in the lopsided 3rd quarter, an amazing Super Bowl statistic was born. Maybe the most shocking statistic in the history of sports. It has the potential to change your life if you let it. According to ESPN:

Atlanta had greater than a 99.5% win probability when leading 28-3 in the 3rd quarter.

Or, said another way (which may be statistically illegal):

New England had less than a 0.5% win probability when trailing 28-3 in the 3rd quarter. 

Yet we know what happened.

I am not viewing the comeback as a Falcons fan. I don’t see a letdown. Or a choke. Or an improbable loss.

I view the comeback as a Patriots fan. It was unbelievable in the truest sense of this overused word. And as the statistic shows, it was all but impossible.

But I also look at this crazy statistic outside of football. As a human. As a father. As a family member. As the owner of The Weaponry. As a friend of people battling with terrible hardships and nasty diseases and demons and addictions. What happened last night is a reason for the hopeless to hope. To believe the unbelievable. I have never purchased a copy of a championship game. But this game belongs in my library of reminders and inspirations. It may belong in yours too.

Winning in business is hard. It requires you to never give up, never give out and never give in. Let this game and this statistic serve as an inspiration when you are pitching new business, cold-calling, interviewing and recruiting. Let this game remind you to push harder when you are behind in revenue. And when you are ahead of projections. When you are losing market share and when creditors are calling. There is always something you can do to turn things around.

To my Falcons-fan friends, I know it hurts to sit on the other side of this inspirational teeter totter (seesaw). But the Falcons are on the rise. Great things will come your way too. Take it from me, going through a game like this, or getting demolished by the 1985 Bears, makes the eventual Super Bowl win even sweeter.

Could you pass the Fender Bender Test?

Sunday afternoon I was in a fender bender. Boo. I was driving my daughter home from basketball practice. We were having a nice conversation about her practice and I was looking forward to making chili when we got home. Then I was going to bake a couple of pies with the apples we picked at a local orchard in the morning. Then Normal Rockwell was going to sue me for infringing on his schtick.

I was driving within the notorious Five Mile Circle of Doom: that 5 mile radius that surrounds your home. Statistically, this is where the majority of accidents happen. As I passed into the invisible circle I slowed down because a tanker truck was stopping at a railroad crossing in front of me. Then I heard it. That telltale crunchy metallic BANG of a car slamming into another car. A moment later I heard another BANG. But this time I felt it too. I had been hit from behind. And suddenly the chili, apple pie and Norman Rockwell lay in shattered fragments on the pavement. Now Danica Patrick was going to sue me for stealing her schtick.

I pulled my car off the main drag and onto a side street. I got out of the car. And that’s when I realized what had happened. I had been part of a 3 car pileup. I was the third and final ball in a Newton’s Cradle fender bender.

Back on the main road there were two cars still intimately engaged like two dogs getting it on in public. Which is always such an awkward thing to see. Even for dogs.

After a moment the two cars disengaged and gingerly limped off the main road and onto the side street with me. We got out of our cars and remembered to first ask if everyone was okay. Then we introduced ourselves. This is one of the all-time oddest ways to meet someone new. Hey, crash here often?  How about this crashing inducing weather we’re having?

First I met the woman who hit me. I’ll call her Laura (because that is her first name, and her last name is too difficult to spell). She was driving a new grey Honda Oddessy mini van. She had a car full of humans and was finally heading home from a long day of volleyball at the high school.

The person driving the car that created the crash was a tall goofy boy who was college-dropout aged. He was odd. And he raised an eyebrow of the responding police officer who said, “I’m going to talk to him first. He’s acting pretty shifty.’ But I don’t think he was acting. That was just him being himself.

This left me, Laura, her kids, and soon her husband John (who came to help) to talk amongst ourselves as we waited. And the more we talked the more I liked them. They were nice people. Laura asked my daughter how her basketball practice was. Which was a very nice thing to ask a kid who had just been in her first accident. And it demonstrated Laura’s ability to think beyond herself, even though her brand new minivan has just been dented, gashed and bruised. And her engine was now wheezing like a junkyard conversion van. John was friendly, composed and funny. He said, ‘Well at least it didn’t happen during the Packer game.’ I laughed.

But as we talked we realized we had more in common. Laura and I had both gone to the University of Wisconsin. We quickly found several people we knew in common. And then we realized that we both work in (and love) advertising.

So there we were. Our cars dented and saddened by recent events. Yet Laura was cool, collected, considerate and humorous. Which are the traits you need to have to be successful in advertising. Because in this industry fender benders and traffic jams and last minute surprises are routine. After this surprise-round of speed networking we decided that we should meet again to talk about doing business together.

While we at The Perfect Agency Project don’t recommend getting in an accident, it does provide a valuable look at how people respond to the negative. It gives you a good look at who they really are under pressure. And if you like them then, you will probably like working with them too. Laura passed The Fender Bender Test with flying colors. Would you? I encourage you to think about it. But I hope you never know.

The most common phrase you should never say.

At the Perfect Agency Project we have a fairly obvious goal. In case you’re not great at reading comprehension, the goal is to create the perfect agency. And at the perfect agency people collaborate and are nice to each other.  Which means they don’t do or say jerkilicious things.

That’s why we are banning a very common phrase you probably hear or say all the time. Ready for it? Still ready?  Further ado. Even further ado  Okay, here it is:

I don’t disagree.

Please stop saying this.  This is one of the jerkiest statements we can make to each other.  It paints your reaction in a negative light. Both don’t and disagree are negative words.  Which makes it a double negative.

As most of you don’t not know, the double negative actually makes a positive. So this statement actually says, I agree.  But it states it in the most negative, reluctant, non-affirming way possible.

Instead let us say things like I agree. Or You’re right.  Let us support each other. Let us acknowledge our alignments positively. And most importantly, let us eat more lettuce. Now if you agree with me, please respond to this post by saying, completely don’t disagree with you. It won’t make me not laugh. But it will let me know who read all the way to the end.