A better approach to the first day on the job.

Do you remember the first day of your career? I do. It was weird. On the first day of my advertising career I got shown to a mostly empty cubicle, was handed a schedule of my departmental orientations, and was mostly abandoned. The 2 highlights of the day were that I was taken out to lunch by a handful of other creatives at the agency, and that I didn’t get fired.

The Weaponry

Two decades later when I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I wanted to do things differently. I wanted something more profound to happen on the first day. And I wanted it to be OSHA compliant.

This Week

We had an exciting new employee start at The Weaponry this week. She is significant in that she is the first member of our team who started with us right out of college, without prior advertising or marketing experience.

After talking with the new team member for an hour about what we do and who we do it for and why we do it the way we do it, and Mountain Dew and the Dewey Decimal system, we gave her The Weaponry’s unique first day assignment.

The Assignment

The assignment for our new team members is to spend 1 hour writing. Even if you are not a writer.

First: We ask that you spend 30 minutes writing down your career goals and aspirations. We want you to think about the journey you are on and all that you want to accomplish. We ask that you think big, be specific and paint a clear picture of what success looks like to you.

Second: We ask you to write down your goals, aspirations and expectations for the upcoming year. We want to know what you want to know and how you expect to grow. We want you to think about how the first year fits within the Elon-Musky career you just wrote about.

Sharing

We ask our team members to share their goals for the first year. It helps us understand what they are expecting to get out of the year. It ensures that they will get the support and knowledge they most want over the next 365 days.

However

The Career Goals Overview is private. That is just for the new team member. We want our teammates to feel as if they can think really big. We want them to set gonzo goals without judgements. We want them to start their careers with the end in mind, so that they can clearly understand how the next step in their career can help them make progress towards their ultimate goals.

We also acknowledge that their career goals may not involve us. Or even working in our industry. I am Ok with that.

Direction

This exercise helps create career clarity, direction and calibration. It will help them refocus when they lose their way, or stall. It will provide guidance when making decisions about the opportunities that come their way. And It will help them prioritize long term goals over short term rewards. Plus, the writing exercise will make for a cool scene when a movie is made about their amazing career. Note to the director: I want my role to be played by Morgan Freeman or Awkwafina.

Key Takeaway

We all have the ability to positively influence those we interact with. As a business leader, coach, parent or teacher you can have a profound impact on the lives of those you have the privilege to lead and guide. Take that opportunity seriously. Look for ways you can have a positive, long lasting influence. Because at the end of your career and the end of your days, the only thing that really matters is the impact you had on others.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this idea, please share it with them.

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Why you need to think bigger thoughts.

How much time do you spend thinking about your thinking? I know that’s like, totally meta. But your thinking is the most important of all subjects to evaluate. Because your thinking determines your outcomes. That’s cause and effect. You learned about it in science class. In case you were at the orthodontist that day, here’s a recap.

How it works:

Your thinking drives your actions. Your actions drive your results.

Pretty simple, right?  It’s about to get even simpler.

Thinking –>  Actions –>  Results    (sorry my arrows are totes lame)

What This Means

Small thinking drives small actions, which lead to small results. 

And the flip side…

Big thinking drives big actions, which lead to big results.

What Are You Thinking?

Most people spend far too much time on small thoughts. If you think about your basic needs, your thinking will lead to very basic actions, and basic results.

However…

Thinking about your biggest goals and biggest dreams leads to your biggest actions. Which naturally leads to your biggest possible results. This is a big deal. Like a-little-boy- trapped-in-Tom Hanks-body big.

The Price Tag

Big thinking and small thinking cost you the same amount. Which is nothing. Think about that for a moment. The difference is that the return on small thinking is very small. While the return on large thinking is virtually limitless.

Key Takeaway

Think bigger thoughts. They lead to bigger actions. Which lead to bigger outcomes.

  • Think about changing the world for the better.
  • Think about changing your community for the better.
  • Think about changing an organization for the better.
  • Think about changing your family for the better.
  • Think about changing yourself for the better.
  • Think about doing more of what you love.
  • Think about making more money.
  • Think about solving problems.
  • Think about creating value.

You’ll find that bigger, better things will come your way. And in a big country, dreams stay with you. #ILearnedThatInThe80s

*If you know someone who could benefit from this idea, please share it with them.

Why you should never reject a compliment, and 18 ways to accept one.

I love complimenting others. It is one of my favorite things to do. I love recognizing a job well done. I like pointing out strengths. I love celebrating significant accomplishments. And I like telling people they look nice. I am like the Franks RedHot Lady. I put compliments on everything.

Go Big & Go Small

I compliment the big obvious performances. But I really like to highlight the small things that would typically fly under the radar. I love to show people that I noticed the details, the extra effort and the small sacrifices that were not likely to draw much attention.

Thinking Of Going Pro

If I could be a professional complementer I would. It’s one of the few professions that I would enjoy even more than my current role as an entrepreneur. It feels good to offer compliments. It calls more attention to the good things in life. Which in turn helps create a more positive world. Because complimenting is like carrying around a giant highlighter and marking a bright yellow swipe of sunshine on all the good things you find.

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I wonder how the guy on the left lost his hand.  

If I could change one thing.

As much as I love to give a compliment it often generates one of my greatest pet peeves. I really dislike it when people don’t know how to receive a compliment. You may think that denying a compliment makes you appear humble or modest. But it doesn’t. Because when you deny a compliment you are telling the complimenter that they are wrong. Which is rude. Unintentionally rude. But rude nonetheless. #3wordsin1

The Rudeness of Rejection

When you reject a compliment from someone you are telling them that they:

  1. Have bad taste.
  2. Are ill-informed.
  3. Don’t know what they are talking about.
  4. Are too easily impressed.
  5. Don’t know as much as you do.

Do This Instead

Even if you don’t feel worthy of praise you should gracefully accept it. There are many ways to properly accept a compliment. Here are just a few examples:

18 Acceptable Responses To A Compliment

  1. Thank you. (this one works really well)
  2. I appreciate that.
  3. Thanks for noticing.
  4. That is nice to hear.
  5. You made my day.
  6. You are so sweet (works better for ladies)
  7. I’m just doing my job.
  8. I’m thrilled you think so.
  9. You would know.
  10. That means a lot coming from you.
  11. Do you really think so? (this allows them to heap more praise and offer more details)
  12. I got lucky.
  13. I am humbled.
  14. It was a team effort.
  15. That saying about blind squirrels.
  16. Can you follow me around everyday?
  17. Tell me more.
  18. Can you write my Tinder profile? (I don’t know if there is such a thing.)

Key Takeaway

If you want to live in a world with more praise than criticism you have to learn how to accept a compliment. Because if you can’t take a compliment eventually there will be no compliments to deny. Don’t let that happen. Let’s encourage others to recognize the good they see.

Accept compliments with gratitude. Remember them. Write them down. And read them again whenever you need a confidence boost.

Remember, praise is one of the most meaningful gifts we can offer one another. So if you want to see more praise in circulation, make sure not to deny it when it comes your way.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story please share it with them.

The one thing you need to have if you want to start a business.

I love a good proverb. It offers a great way to summarize and remember a simple truth. I recently stumbled upon an interesting old Chinese proverb. By stumbling, I mean I found it by accident. Not that I tripped and fell on top of it.

Here it is:

 ‘A Man Without a Smiling Face Must Never Open a Shop’ -Chinese Proverb

This proverb makes me laugh. It isn’t poetic. It lacks the thought-inspiring depth of Confucius. It’s what I would label a very niche-audience proverb. I don’t know if this was intended for the non-smiling crowd, or the maybe-I-will-open-a-shop crowd.

Smiling Is A Requirement

Regardless of how narrow and niche and blunt the proverb is, it is true. Businesses are about human interactions. If you don’t have a smiling face, you can’t show people you are happy to see them. Customers won’t feel welcomed, appreciated or valued. A person without a smiling face creates a poor customer experience. If you can take someone’s money, but can’t give them a smile in return, there will be no repeat business.

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Dr. Demond Means, one of my great clients, loves a good smile!

Make Them Feel Good

This proverb is a great reminder about the doors that open when we smile. Smiling makes you magnetic, pleasant and warm. Smiling make others feel good. And customers will pay a premium for that feeling. Customers and clients have a wide range of options to choose from. They will always go where they feel welcomed and appreciated. And a smile makes them feel both.

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My client Mike Bortolotti likes smiling. Smiling is his favorite.

Smiling Is a Customer Magnet

When I was young I spent a few valuable Saturdays working at a concession booth at a stadium. I smiled the whole time. It was clear that by smiling I gave the crowd walking past the impression that I was happy to see them. Which made them more likely to approach the booth. I’ll never forget that lesson. As a result I sold a lot of foam fingers.

Be A Good Host

As a business owner you must always put the customer first. You must be a good host. By putting a smile on your face you attract customers and keep them coming back over and over again.

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My clients Tarun, Payal, Nina and Jake like to see me and Adam ‘Henry’ Emery smile, even in India.

Resting Smile Face

Smiling is my default. I don’t put a lot of thought into it. Because I don’t have to. I am sure that my naturally smiley nature has been an important factor in my entrepreneurial success. I want to make my clients’ interactions with The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, the most enjoyable part of their day. And by the looks on their faces, it often is.

Key Takeaway

If you can’t put a smile on your face you can’t be an entrepreneur. Because if you can’t put a smile on your own face you certainly won’t be able to put one on anyone else’s. Customers have options. In the age of online commerce, one of the greatest reasons to enter a shop is to see a smiling face that is happy to help you. Offer a smiling face to every customer you see. And you are likely to see them over and over again.

If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them. 

How my mom influences me every day.

As I prepared for Mother’s Day this year I wrote not 1, but 2 different blog posts about my Mom. On Mother’s Day I decided to publish The most important gift my mother gave me. Which meant I had to figure out what to do with my bonus post.

This week is also special for my Mama. Somehow she managed to birth all 4 of her kids in the 4 days between May 22nd and May 25th. You can read about that little bit of Motherly Wizardry in the post: What makes these siblings freakishly unique. So to kick off my Mom’s Giving Birth Week, here is the Non-Mother’s Day Mother’s Day post.


Happy Mother’s Day! A great Mom is like a subscription to the Jelly Of The Month Club, because it is the gift that keeps on giving. I have an amazing Mom. Which is total luck. Because I simply inherited her. But my Mom, Jill Albrecht, has given me an unfair advantage in life.

Mom-ing Runs In The Family

My Mom started off life with an unfair advantage too, because she had a great Mom. My Grammy, Lillian (Anderson) Sprau was a saintly Norwegian American woman. She had 9 children and lived to be 100 years old. When you have 9 kids to practice on, you get to really hone your mothering skills. My Grammy taught my Mom those skills. My mom then taught her children, including me and my sisters Heather, Alison and Donielle.

Big Stuff

My Mama taught us all the big stuff. The importance of a good education. How to advocate for ourselves and for others. To value time with family. And the value of humor.

Little Stuff

My Mom taught us countless little lessons too. In fact, one of the lessons she taught me probably seemed so small to her that it wasn’t much of a lesson at all. But I still use it every day.

Make Your Own Lunch.

My my mom wisely delegated lunch making responsibilities to me and my sisters at an early age. After all, we had a vested interest in eating. By the time I was 12 years old I was packing my own lunch every day before school. It quickly became a habit.

I packed my own lunch every day in junior high and high school. After I moved out of the dorms in college I made my own lunch every day. When I started my first real job after college I made my own lunch too.

Fast forward 2 decades. I have had a successful career in advertising. I have had fancy pants sounding titles, including Executive Vice President, Chief Creative Officer and CEO. Today, I own my own business, an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Yet every day before I leave for the office I still make my own lunch.

Why

  • It saves me a lot of money.
  • I have portion control.
  • I can eat wherever I am.
  • I can eat whenever I get hungry.
  • Nobody can spit in my lunch.
  • It creates a predictable routine.
  • I don’t have to think about where to go for lunch.
  • It teaches my children a good habit.

Key Takeaway

Our mothers create good habits and values that last a lifetime. In fact, you may be surprised how many of your daily habits, your brand preferences and your techniques were created by your Mom. After all, before you met your Mom you were pretty clueless.

Thanks Mom for all the big things you gave me. But today, I am also thankful for the little things. The things I do automatically because you taught me to. They benefit me at home, at work, with friends and amongst strangers. You did a wonderful job teaching me to do things your way. I don’t know what happened with my sisters. They must be Dad’s fault.

A lesson from my son on the value of mistakes.

Over the past week my family and I enjoyed a spring break trip to Texas. On Good Friday my son Johann and I got up early to nab poolside seats for our last day before returning home. In fact, we got down to the pool before it was open for the day. But there was no moose out front telling us the pool was closed for two weeks for cleaning and repairs. So we found some Adirondack chairs near an outdoor fireplace, and sat and talked, like fathers and sons should.

Good Talk Russ

Good Talk Russ

Johann is one of my favorite people to talk to because his mind dances. We talked about whether Star Wars took place in the past or the future. While I said it all seemed futuristic, he reminded me that it took place long ago in a galaxy far, far away. We covered funny Chris Pratt lines from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. And we talked about the leaning tower of Pisa.

The Leaning Tower

As we discussed the leaning tower from a long time ago in a country far, far away, Johann shared an interesting observation. He said, ‘You know Dad, no one would care about the tower if it wasn’t leaning. It is the leaning that makes it interesting.’

I asked Johann if he thought there was a life lesson to be learned from the leaning tower. He quickly replied,

‘Even our failures can be a work of art.’  -Johann Albrecht (age 11)

Key Takeaway

Don’t beat yourself up over your failures. They make you and your story more interesting. Make the lean in your tower work for you. Make a wrong turn at Albuquerque, then make that your catch phrase. Don’t avoid your mistakes. Embrace them. They are often blessing that pay dividends for years, or even centuries to come.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

The best way to pay lower taxes next year.

April 15th is once again upon us. If you pay a lot in taxes it might feel like Uncle Sam is upon you too. This time of year people always complain about how much they owe the government in taxes. Clearly the complainers don’t know how easy it is to dramatically lower your tax burden.

Disclaimer

Before I share my surefire tax lowering technique I should acknowledge that I am not a licensed tax professional. So anything I share here should be verified by your tax consultant, or by actually reading the IRS publications. But I am pretty sure this is not the same tax lowering strategies used by Wesley Snipes, Martha Stewart or Willie Nelson.

Tax Paying Experience

While I am not a certified tax professional, I own my own business and file taxes in 3 different states. I have been paying taxes since I was 14 years old. I have calculated my taxes on my own and I’ve used Turbo Tax. Today, I use a team of professional tax accountants. All 3 of these tax preparing approaches have confirmed my bulletproof tax reduction strategy.

My Tax Reduction Technique

My surefire technique for lowering your tax burden is so easy anyone can use it. Even better, it is legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

If you want to pay far less in taxes next year simply make far less income.

The Ultimate Tax Hack

If a lower tax bill is a high priority, simply throttle back your effort and contribution at work. Unless a family member owns the company, or you are really, really good-looking (#Zoolander), you will certainly feel an equal drop in both your compensation and your tax liability. It’s that easy to do. In fact, it is much easier to lower your taxes significantly than it is to raise them.

top view of man holding android smartphone near macbook and newspaper
This is not me. It’s a stock photo created to represent someone doing business or taxes. Or perhaps it’s a photo of a magician about to make that phone disappear by drawing your attention to the succulent in the upper left hand corner, then slipping the phone up his sleeve. Any hoo, the image is here to add visual interest to the story. I hope it helped.

My Tax History

When I was in high school and college, I typically made between $3000 and $5000 working during the summer. As a result my taxes were tiny. In fact, I am pretty sure the government lost money on the time they spent reviewing my taxes.

In the first year after I graduated from college I made $21,000. My taxes were still really low. In fact, the government gave me almost all of the money I paid in taxes back to me. When I received my refund check from the IRS that year it was accompanied by a note that said, ‘Thanks for the laugh!’

My Taxes Today.

Now I make a lot more money. And I pay a lot more in taxes. In 2016 I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Clearly I didn’t listen to those who told me that if my income goes up, my tax bill will too. In fact, this year I will pay more in taxes than I made in gross salary during the 7th year of my career. And I love it.

photo of a woman holding an ipad

Reinterpreting Those Damn Taxes

Taxes are a sign of success. To pay a lot in taxes you have to make a lot of money. If you are paying a lot more now than you did a few years ago, congratulations! You must be making a lot more. If your total tax bill is obscene, even better! You must be making an obscene amount of money!

The Tax Reminder

Remember, taxes enable us to pay for things together. If it weren’t for taxes, you would have to build your own roads, your own schools, and your own parks. But thanks to the tax system, we all give a little and get a whole lot in return. Which means that taxes help us save money overall, and increase our quality of life. If you are not paying taxes it is like going to a pot luck dinner and not bringing any pot or any luck to share. That makes you a mooch. Or a free loader. Don’t be that kid.

Key Takeaway

To pay a lot in taxes you have to make a lot of money. Never lose that perspective. Be proud of that money you contribute to benefit us all. I hope you make a boatload of money next year. Then I hope you ship a life raft’s worth of tax payments to the IRS to help save us all. Be proud to pay a larger tax bill each year. It’s a sign of success. Sure, it’s easy to slash your tax bill by lowering your income. But after you’ve done that once you will realize it feels a lot better to pay a lot more.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share with them.