Some businesses are slowing down for the holidays. But at The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, we are in overdrive. December has been our busiest month of our busiest year yet. And we see no slowdown in sight. Today is my 12th day working without a day off. I have the only house on my block without Christmas lights. And I couldn’t be happier.
This level of demand forces you to make a variety of logistical decisions in order to meet all of the needs. In this period of record demand we have had to make a lot of really important decisions.
Last Thursday we began an exciting project that had us shooting a series of videos across the state of Texas for 10-days. There were massive amounts of logistics to coordinate to pull it off. We would be working with 5 different powersports dealerships, 5 different charities, and we had nearly 100 different locations to scout and film. There would be daily travel as each of the locations were 1 to 4 hours away from each other. Because apparently everything is bigger in Texas (I am surprised they don’t talk about that more…).
The First Puzzle Piece
Planning this shoot was a puzzle. And just like solving a jigsaw puzzle, we had to start by finding our first corner piece. We had to find that important, non-barbecue-related factor that we must plan all of the other details around.
In this case the entire plan started with a 3-year old boy’s Christmas play. When we looked at the 10-day shoot, our creative director, Adam ‘Henry’ Emery and I had to determine how we would split our time on the shoot so neither of us had to be out of the office for 10 days. Henry said, ‘My son has a Christmas program on Tuesday evening, December 10th and I would hate to miss it.’ So we built the 10-day travel schedule, and all of our logistics around that.
In our busiest month in agency history, the decision to build our travel around a child’s Christmas program was the single most important decision we made. With all of the challenges we faced, we started with the most important. We value our people above all else. We want them to prioritize the people and events they value most. And while we will have many more work obligations, there is only one Christmas play when you are 3-years old. And Mom’s and Dad’s should be there.
Put first things first. Prioritize family and friends whenever you can. Help your co-workers and clients do the same. When you develop organizations that support families, you also develop families that support your organization. And like Van Halen said, that is the best of both worlds.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
The true measure of your financial success is your net worth. I calculate my net worth regularly. I track it month over month. I set goals for growing it over the near, mid and long term. It’s a fun game to play. One that pays long term dividends. Literally.
However, your net worth, or financial assets, don’t represent your true value. Lately I have been thinking about another way to measure my worth that is even more meaningful. A way to not simply tally the money I have accumulated. But to measure the value I bring to other people.
Your Social Value is important for several reasons. At the end of your days the only thing that really matters is the impact you have had on other people. But offering a great deal of social value is also a leading indicator of your financial well-being. Because when you help others you are always helping yourself. And if you are finding yourself poor and alone, chances are you are not offering much social value. And your situation is a result.
To determine your social value ask yourself this simple question:
How valuable am I to the people I know?
Know Your Social Value
I have been asking myself this question a lot lately. Because I am evaluating how much I contribute to those around me. It is easy to focus on what you are receiving, or what you are accumulating. But I have a sneaking suspicion that when I get to the Peary Gates the entrance criteria might not be financial. Unless Heaven is more like Disney World than we realized.
There are many ways to add value to others. Here are some of them. Evaluate yourself on the following 20 areas.
Give yourself 3 points for each element that you give generously.
Give yourself a 1 if you give it occasionally.
Give yourself a zero if it is simply not something you offer others.
Here we go.
1. Smiles Do you give away a lot of smiles every day? Could you give more?This small investment pays big dividends for others who need a smile the most.
2. HelpDo you offer others help? When people need it do they turn to you? Or do they write you off as a dead end when they are in need?
3. Entertainment:Are you entertaining to be around? Do you do and say things that other find interesting, amusing or amazing? Will people put down their mobile device around you because you are likely to serve up something more compelling than a cat in sweater or a football-to-the-groin video?
4. Education: Do you teach people what you know? Do you have knowledge to share?
5. Wisdom: Do you have valuable experience to share? Have you made mistakes, overcome obstacles and come out smarter, and with better perspective that you are willing to talk about?
6. Encouragement When people are down do you help pick them back up?When others face great challenges do you become a cheerleader?
7. Positive Peer Pressure We talk a lot about peer pressure as being negative. But peer pressure comes in 2 flavors. Do you exert positive peer pressure to keep people between the ditches? To help force people to make positive choices or overcome bad habits?
8. Role ModelWe all could use a positive role model to serve as an example of what is possible. Are you doing that for others? Or are you more Charles Barkley-ish
9. Humor Laughter is the best medicine. Are you serving up large doses of it, like doctors serve up opioids?
10. ListeningAt the end of the day, most people just want to be heard. Are you known as a listener? As someone others can talk to, even without offering brilliant advice? Often others are not looking for you to solve their problems. They just need to talk to someone who will listen as they try to work out their own challenges. #justnod
11. Connections Do you have strong connections? Do you know other people with high Social Value scores? The more you know and can tap into, the more value you offer.
12. Action: Are you a person of action? Do you do? Do you throw water on a fire or do you tell someone else there is a fire? Do you help when you see it is needed? Or do you leave it to others?
13. Remembering Names: Do you make a point of remembering names? We’re not real friends until we remember each others’ names. Because you can’t properly greet, contact or introduce another person unless you know their name. And nothing in life is sweeter than the sound of your own name being positively called. Except maybe sweet tea. That stuff is super sweet.
14. Showing Up: Do you show up when people are in need? When there is an event, activity or funeral do you make a point of being there whenever you can?
15. Promises: Do you keep yours? Is your word good? Are you trustworthy? Can people count on you to come through when they need you?
16. Influence: Do you have influence on people, situations and decisions? People who have influence over decisions, other people, and outcomes are valuable to know. Just ask any politician, lobbyist or mobster.
17. Positivity: Do you bring a positive outlook with you? Do you help encourage positivity in others? Seeing things in a positive light and expecting positive results helps you shape the world positively. I am positive about this.
18. Inclusive: Do you include others? Do you look for ways to bring more people into the fold? Do you make people feel like part of a group, activity or movement? #notbowelmovement
19. Introductory: Do you introduce people to each other? Do you help increase connections, create larger, more powerful social groups? Do you see that as part of your responsibility, or do you let others fend for themselves?
20. Initiating: Do you initiate social interactions? Do you call, email or text first? Do you organize events, coffees, beers, lunches, or hangouts? In all social interactions someone needs to make the first move. If you aren’t doing your fair share the relationship will start to feel one sided. Which is simply a less valuable relationship.
Tally Your Score
If you got a 60 you are amazingly valuable to know.
If you got a 0 you are worthless to others, like a social Ebenezer Scrooge.
If you are closer to 60 than 0 you are doing pretty good.
If you are closer to 0 than 60 you have a lot of room for improvement. But you can do it. I know you can.
If you are interested in self improvement start with increasing your Social Value. It will have the greatest positive impact on others. And when you positively impact others it will lead to more positive outcomes for you. Offering strong Social Value means that people will be drawn to you, seek you out, and think of you when they are in need. Which means that your Social Value makes you more popular and move valuable than your net worth ever could.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
2019 has been great to me. My health is great. My relationships are great. My family is great. My prospects are great. And my go to word is apparently great. As I reflect on all that I am thankful for this is what I found.
15 Things I am Thankful For This Thanksgiving
1. The first laugh of the day. My friend Diana Keough, whom I share Milwaukee, Ohio, Atlanta and Columbia, Missouri connections with, introduced me to the concept of the first belly laugh of the day. I have since noted the first laugh of the day. It is something I am grateful for every day. And I try not to think too much about my belly.
2. Laughing until I cry. This is one of my favorite experiences in life. I have done it twice in the past 2 weeks. One of the times was when I found out that the number one song in America when my co-worker Sarah was conceived was Boys 2 Men’s smash hit, I’ll make love to you. (Thanks Paul and Debbie) You can find your own conception song here.
3. Travel. Travel is my favorite. It opens the mind, enhances creativity and empathy. And it creates life long memories. Or at least until the dementia sets in. My family and I did some really fun travel this year. Including a road trip that took us from Wisconsin to San Antonio, where I wanted to start a pie shop called Pie Alamo. We went to the Pacific Northwest. We visited British Columbia. Which I would have named Canadian Columbia, but nobody asked me.
4. Randomly seeing people I know far from home. I love running into people I know randomly. It makes the world feel smaller and full of surprises. This year I ran into friends totally randomly and unplanned in Seattle (Andy Bosley), Fort Worth (The Smith Family of Mequon), at basketball tournaments (college teammates Bobby Smith and Bobby Myers), at a hotel in Chicago (PJ Cannon) and at Ikea (Terry Schmitt).
5. Great new books. I love to read and learn. I am thankful to authors who write great books. And I am thankful to discover those books. This year I have added some really great reads to my library.
6. Seeing my two oldest friends in the world. My first memories in life were when I lived on a farm near the shore in Lincroft, New Jersey. My bestest friend was Steve Withycombe. I saw Steve in Seattle this summer for the first time since 2002.
My actual oldest, oldest friend in the world, is Andy Shirk who lives in Dallas. I thought we met on our own in Columbus, Ohio in 2010. However, soon after we met our parents dropped the bomb on us that we actually have known each other since I was born. Our parents lived in the same apartment complex at the time in Mansfield, Ohio, back in the 1970s. And they had pictures to prove it. I saw Andy and his hilarious wife, Megan in Dallas this spring. I am super thankful to have friendships that have lasted over 40 years.
7. The Weaponry The advertising and idea agency that I started in 2016 continues to be one of the greatest chapters in my life. I love our team of Adam (Henry), Kristyn (K-Lil), Kevin (Lower Kayse), Sarah (Ice), Simon (The Harper), Jeanne (Genie), Calla (Super) and Sally (Eggs). Plus our like-family-members Diana, Sue, Gary, Julie, Monica, Tony, John and Todd.
8. Clients It’s awfully hard to play advertising agency if you don’t have clients. I am a volcano of thankful lava for everyone who has trusted us enough to work with us in 2019.
9. My Family I am endlessly thankful for my wife Dawn and kids Ava, Johann and Magnus. I am at truly at home any place where the 5 of us are all together.
But wait, there’s more!
My parents, Robert and Jill, and my sisters Heather, Alison, Donielle and their families are amazing, and I got to see everyone this year.
But it doesn’t stop there!
My Mom is one of 9 kids (The Spraus) and my dad is one of 12 (The Albrechts). And I am extremely thankful to have so much family to call my own. Heck, I am even thankful that my Grandma Albrecht passed aways this year at 99 years old, because it gave my family a great reason to get together, and let’s face it, she was really old.
10. My friends I am lucky to have wonderful friends from many different chapters of my life. I am thankful for how they have all added to my story. Here are just some of my special friend groups.
High School friends (Hanover High School, Hanover, New Hampshire)
Vermont and New Hampshire Friends
New Jersey friends
College friends and roommates from the University of Wisconsin
College track teammates
People I met on airplanes
Dionne and Friends
11. Enthusiasm I am extremely thankful that I have as much enthusiasm for life and its mysteries, adventures and challenges as I ever have. Sometimes I think I have too much. And so does Dawn.
12. Faith This has been a wonderful year of faith for me and my family. My daughter Ava and son Johann took their first communion this year. Ava is in Confirmation class. Dawn and I have taught Sunday School and generally feel both the joy of giving and receiving in our church community.
13. Entrepreneurs I am extremely grateful for all the entrepreneurs who have supported and advised me. Entrepreneurship can be isolating or it can be uniting. I am thankful to be united with so many talented, experienced and sharing entrepreneurs. I belong to a great CEO roundtable group through the Metro Milwaukee Area Chamber (MMAC). And I have a strong tribe of entrepreneurs who I lean on regularly (Richards, Hilimire, Bandy, Florsheim, Salamone, Wong). And I am always open to adding more.
14. A Comfortable Home As the weather has turned colder, and the winter wind and snow have arrived in Wisconsin, I am extremely thankful for a warm and comfortable home. As Maslow’s knows, a comfortable home enables you to enjoy more joy in life.
15. Blog Readers Thank you to all of you who take time out of your busy day to read my blog. I appreciate your time, likes, comments and shares more than you will ever know.
There is a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. The people in your life, laughter, knowledge and magical accidents are amazing gifts. If you have those things you can count yourself among the richest people on Earth. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Life doesn’t always go according to plan. As frustrating as that may seem, sometimes we just need to go with the flow and see where it takes us. I was reminded of this lesson on an ordinary Saturday last winter. Here’s the story.
On January 19th, 2019, my family and I had our day all planned out. We were craving some Swedish meatballs and snap-together furniture. So we decided to check out the new IKEA in Milwaukee. We would do some shopping and eat lunch at the big blue and yellow box. Afterward we would head to my daughter’s basketball tournament in nearby Oak Creek, Wisconsin and watch 3 basketball games for just 3$ per person!
Tossing Wrenches Into Plans
Right out of the gate our plan started to fall apart. First, we got bit by a serious overnight snowfall. I had to pull out our snow blower and clear the driveway before we could get our car out.
Then, as we got into the car, my kids started arguing over who was sitting in which seat. For context, there were 5 seat options for 3 kids. If we had been playing musical chairs no one would have ever been eliminated with our bountiful collection of automotive seating options. And there was no backseat middle hump to avoid like when I was a kid. Yet, they argued.
In a moment of parental frustration, I told everyone to go back inside. There would be no saucy meatballs, no lingonberries and no Swedish Fish for the Albrecht family today. We were not going out for lunch, shopping or to a basketball tournament acting like this. #MeanDad
An hour or so later, with our plans for the day blown, we decided that we would take my daughter to the basketball tournament, but we wouldn’t stay to watch it. Instead, the rest of the family would go to Ikea.
We drove slowly over the 25 miles of snow covered highway to the school where her games would be held. We dropped my daughter off in front of the school, and I cooly told her good luck. But before pulling alway, my wife couldn’t bare to have her baby girl feel athletically abandoned. Because Dawn is nicer than I am.
So we changed our changed plans, again. We parked and went into the school to watch her play her first of 3 games. Following the first game, Dawn and I decided to drive to the IKEA with our two sons.
At IKEA we got seriously turned around a few times. I think we were visiting before they had put up all their wayfinding signage. Then again, IKEA is Swedish for the devil’s maze. So we were doomed either way. Eventually, with an employee escort, we found the restaurant, which was tucked at the far back of the store. The whole Ikea experience took far longer than expected.
As we approached the checkout lines to purchase some souvenir frozen meatballs, a crush of shoppers appeared out of nowhere and jumped in line in front of us. It was like an episode of Punk’d. And I was ready to pop Ashton Kutcher in the beak.
The Shortest Long Line
We picked what looked like the shortest line, but it wasn’t moving. At all. So we left the line and moved to another line, which moved faster. That is until the people right in front of us got to the cashier with what looked like hundreds of pieces of shelving. Their checkout process took forever. Like forever-ever.
Frustrated and late for Ava’s next game, I put our merchandise on the conveyor belt and asked Dawn, my wife, to pay for it. I was going to get the car, and pick up Dawn and my 2 sons by the front door.
I started off in a rush. But I only got 10 feet beyond the end of the checkout stations when I heard someone yell, ‘Adam Albrecht!’
I turned to see who was calling my name. And standing just a few feet away was Terry Schmitt, my college roommate from my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. I hadn’t seen Terry in 25 years! Terry doesn’t live in Milwaukee. He lives in his hometown of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, near Green Bay, which is 2 hours away from the Swedish Meatball Palace we were standing in. He had driven down to Milwaukee for a spur of the moment shelf project purchase.
What Are The Chances?
Somehow, with my totally fouled up day, and his random Ikea road trip, we ended up in exactly the same place at the exact same time. Each one of my delays throughout the day helped make this happen – his random run to Milwaukee to avoid a significant shipping charge, the snowstorm, my kids arguing about the seats they were sitting in, the line that built while I picked up the meatballs, the extreme shelfers in front of us in line, and my decision to run ahead to get the car and meet my family at the front door. All of the unfortunate events, turned into good fortune when I got to see Terry in real life for the first time in 25 years.
In 2015 I read the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It taught me that the universe conspires to give us what we want in life. It taught me to listen and watch for the signals and messages that the universe sends me.
Because I read The Alchemist, I was ready the day in August of 2015 when 2 former clients called me and asked me if I would consider starting my own advertising agency. Just months later The Weaponry was open for business.
And on a snowy day in the winter of 2019 the universe conspired, through a seemingly random collection of signals, to reunite me with my college roommate, Terry Schmidt. And I was suddenly thankful for all those little things that had gone wrong throughout the day.
There are forces at work that are far beyond our control and our comprehension. Whether you are suddenly put in just the right place at the right time, or oblivious to how a delay or a mistake kept you out of other trouble, there are forces that contribute mightily to the course and story of our lives. Maybe it’s magic. Maybe it’s God (of course it is), and maybe it’s fate. But it helps create your adventure. And sometimes, like a lazy tube ride down a river, you just need to relax and enjoy the ride.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
Fun Extra: Terry said that he saw my wife Dawn first. He had never met her before, but he had seen her in my social media posts. So when he recognized her at the cash register he immediately began looking for me. Which means a small thanks for this Swedish reunion also goes to Mark Zuckerberg.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Have bad taste.
Don’t know what they are talking about.
Are too easily impressed.
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
Thank you. (this one works really well)
I appreciate that.
Thanks for noticing.
That is nice to hear.
You made my day.
You are so sweet (works better for ladies)
I’m just doing my job.
I’m thrilled you think so.
You would know.
That means a lot coming from you.
Do you really think so? (this allows them to heap more praise and offer more details)
I got lucky.
I am humbled.
It was a team effort.
That saying about blind squirrels.
Can you follow me around everyday?
Tell me more.
Can you write my Tinder profile? (I don’t know if there is such a thing.)
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.