Kickstart your day with this powerful and simple habit.

Your first act of the day sets the tone for how your entire day will go. Some people cuddle with a cup of coffee. Some read. Others exercise. While still others begin their morning by repeatedly jabbing at the snooze button on their alarm clock as if they were picking a fight with the Pillsbury Doughboy.

My First Habit 

My first act of the day is simple, and more impactful than any of the above. The very first thing I do each morning when I wake up, is smile. I smile and instantly the day is good. It makes me feel as if the day is a game that I am ready to play. I feel funny and playful. Because smiling to yourself in the dark for no reason is a funny thing to do. But it puts me in the right frame of mind for the 18-hour adventure ahead.

Life Comes At You Fast.

Like everyone else, I face challenges every day. I have 3 semi-domesticated children (12G, 10B and 7B). I have a home that regularly throws me surprises. I have a commute that I don’t control. I own an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, which comes with employees, contractors, clients, finances, insurance and a landlord. And they all have the potential to hip-check my plans each day.

But that first smile in the morning makes me feel as if I won the day before the sun even gets out of the starting blocks. It sets the tone for everything else. It reminds me that funny things are going to happen that day, and it is up to me to see those events as humourous, and not tragic, vengeful or a clear sign of how much the universe hates me.

Put a smile to work for you.

Try it yourself. It is the easiest positive thing you’ll do all day. Yet it has the power to propel and protect you until you crawl back into bed at night. And if you have not yet smiled today, do it now.

This is Guy Smiley from Sesame Street. Fun fact: while he was a guy, he was not actually smiley, because he was stitched without smiling functionality. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

If you find that a morning smile helps set a positive tone for your day let me know. If you have a great way to start your day that might help me, please share. I’ll take all the help I can get.

*To learn more about how I approach life and business you could shadow me 24-7. Or you could subscribe to this blog. It’s really up to you.


Why you should take more big chances.

I would never take candy from a stranger. But I will take life lessons from anyone. Even Rick Pitino. Pitino, the controversial former basketball coach at the University of Louisville (and Kentucky, The Knicks, The Celtics and Providence) is back in the news again. Not for having naughty relations in a restaurant with the wife of his assistant coach. Or setting up recruits with ‘hired lady friends’. He is back in the headlines today, rumored to be a potential new head coach of the NBA Milwaukee Bucks.

What Rick Told Me.

All this Pitino-talk reminds me of an interesting story he once told me. That’s right. As I was driving to work in Atlanta, Rick told me about his first encounter with the 3-point shot. No, Rick and I weren’t carpooling to pass the notorious Atlanta traffic. I was listening to his audio book, Success Is A Choice.  

Eastern Kentucky v Louisville
Rick Pitino, checking out the scoreboard of his life.

The Power Of The 3-Pointer

Pitino thought the introduction of the 3-point shot would have a significant impact on college basketball. In fact, the first year the 3-point shot was introduced to the college game he told his team that he expected them to take fifteen 3-point shots in every game.

The Russians

Then a funny thing happened. His team played an exhibition game against the Russian national team. And the Russian team attempted twenty-one 3-pointers, in the first half!  Of course many of those shots were nothing but nyet. (Sorry, I could nyet help myself.)

Even though Coach Pitino knew the 3-pointer would have a significant impact on the game of basketball, he grossly underestimated it. Probably because he was surrounded by athletes, not mathletes. Because shooting 50% from 2-point land gets the same result as shooting 33% from 3-point land.

50% from 2-Pointville = 33% from 3-Pointtown

Bigger Rewards

This math holds true in business and in our personal lives too. Taking smaller chances reaps smaller rewards. Taking larger chances reaps larger rewards. So stretch, grow, try, and learn. You can attempt shots with lower percentages and still enjoy a higher payout because of the higher value of each shot made. Don’t limit yourself to the easy stuff. Sooner or later you will regret it.

So step back and think bigger. Try the hard things. And pretty soon you’ll find you’re success rate on the hard stuff will catch up to the success rate on the easier stuff. You’ll be lighting up your own scoreboard. And when you do, you can tell me all about it as I drive.

*For more life lessons I’ve learned from winners and sinners consider subscribing to this blog.

How do you measure your professional growth?

When I was a kid I loved being measured. It was a great way to track my growth. I loved standing against the wall and measuring my height to see how much I had grown since the last time I stood against a wall. But I have not grown a millimeter since I was 14 years old. I topped out at 6 feet and 1/4 inch. But I was thrilled to be 6-something and not 5-something. (No disrespect 5-Somethings. #heightgoals)


I used to love stepping on a scale to see how much weight I had gained too. While I didn’t get any taller after my freshman year, I did gain 65 pounds during high school. In the 20+ years since then I have never been more than 10 pounds above my graduation weight. But like most adults, I am no longer excited to see growth on the bathroom scale.

Taking New Measurements

Today I measure my growth in other ways. In 2016 I decided to undertake a personal growth challenge and start an advertising and idea agency. I knew this entrepreneurial adventure would push me to grow in a great number of ways. But when I first began my journey I’m not sure I could have identified those many areas of growth. Or perhaps more importantly, how I would recognize the growth when it occurred.  After all, there is no scale to step on to measure the size of you Entrepreneurium.

Last week I saw it.

Late last Wednesday afternoon I left my office and climbed into the driver’s seat of my car. I took a moment to reflect on my day. There, in the quiet of my car, I could measure my own growth as clearly as I could when I was a kid standing against the wall or stepping on the bathroom scale.

The New Growth

Here are a few things that happened that day that showed me how far I had come in my entrepreneurial journey.

  1. I went to my office at The Weaponry. What had started as a business idea in my head in 2016 is no longer just an idea in my head. It’s a real, physical space with walls, doors and windows. It’s located at 1661 N. Water Street, Suite, #206 in Milwaukee. Stop by when you have a moment.
  2. I spent an hour dealing with our employer-offered insurance. We now offer health and dental insurance to our full-time employees. I had to chase down information that morning to get our new group ID numbers. I then put on my HR Director hat and held an impromptu meeting to update our employees who have enrolled in our insurance. Then I distributed temporary ID cards. Even typing this feels like a big step forward. I will have a whole post on this process to share soon.
  3. I participated in my monthly CEO roundtable discussion. I meet with a group of six business owners on the second Wednesday of every month. This group is part of the Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE), organized by the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). I encourage you to click that link just to see how beautiful their picture of Milwaukee is. Milwaukee is a great city on a great lake. And I am thrilled to be here. But the discussions I participate in at these monthly meetings are a clear indicator of my professional growth over the past 18 months.
  4. I ended my day with a 45 minute discussion with our IT consultant. We are implementing upgrades to our IT infrastructure to meet the stringent security standards of the banking industry. There will be more to come on this in a future post. But when I stop and think about my expanded vocabulary in this space alone it is impossible not to recognize the growth. I’ve come a long way since I was a young copywriter penning headlines like, “It’s so responsive it knows which butt cheek you’re flexing.’  

Take Away

I don’t need a scale or measuring tape to document the growth spurt that I’m experiencing now. It is clearly evident in my daily actions, my language, and the growing circle of impressive people I spend my time with. This is exactly what I was after when I first experienced the urge for more growth, both personally and professionally. I know there is much I don’t yet know. But I am working on it. And that makes all the difference.

*To follow my journey please consider subscribing to this blog. If you’ve never subscribed to a blog before, consider this part of your personal growth. Yay you!



The best way to make your New Year’s resolution stick.

Happy Resolution Season! Today kicks off the magical four-week period at the beginning of the year when everyone wants to change their lives for the better. If you are a regular gym-goer it is the worst time of year. Because when you arrive for your regular workout some dude who hasn’t exercised in eleven months is wheezing and dripping all over your treadmill.

What do you want to change?

You probably have a list of things you want to start, stop or improve. I applaud that. But far too often, despite the fresh optimism of the new year, we fail to turn our resolutions into powerful new habits. So I will share my secret, counterintuitive technique that makes it much easier to create a healthy new habit.

How Hard Do You Work?

It is natural to assume that if you want to make a major change in your life you should work hard at it. That approach works for some. The beaver loves to be busy. The sled dog loves to mush. But the couch potato loves to potate on the couch. For most people the hard work simply reminds them how much they dislike the hard work.  That’s why the activity hasn’t developed into a habit, yet.

I was at the gym when it opened this morning to start the year with a leg workout. (I’m not actually as svelte as stick-figure me).

The Easier Approach

My secret formula to goal achievement is to put in less effort. While it is natural to think that hard work in the gym or the office will get you better results faster, your long-term success will be hampered. Because most people quickly grow tired of the work, the suffering, the pain or the sacrifice.

Get Lazy to Win

When I start a new habit, or resume my workout routine after a pause, I do less than I could. I do less than I should. And that is the key. By under-exerting myself I keep the activity enjoyable. I check the box. I know I worked out, or spent time on the project, or studying or whatever the case may be. But I only did the minimum. Or the medium. But never even close to the maximum. At first.

This does 3 things:

  1. It makes me feel accomplished.  After all, I did work towards my goal. I got on the cardio machine. I lifted weights. I created an initial sketch of the business I wanted to start. I skipped dessert. (Yay me! I’m doing it!)
  2. It makes it fun  I did the parts that make the endeavor enjoyable. I worked up some sweat. But I didn’t push hard enough to suffer. I didn’t cramp. I didn’t feel like throwing up. I didn’t overload my brain. And most importantly, I never wished that it was over.
  3. It makes me hungry for more. This is the key. I know I can do more. I know I have more in me. Even in this early stage. So I look forward to more.

Calluses vs. Blisters

Hard works requires calluses. You need to build up layers of your own armor. You do this through repetition. Slowly, repeatedly over time. Your body develops a tolerance to the work and the motion. So you can withstand more.


But most people blister. They work harder than they are prepared for in the beginning.  And their body or brain rejects the work. The effort is seen as a threat rather than a treat. You get sore. The pain says stop. The skin bubbles and peels off and then you bleed. All the feedback is negative. The rational person rejects the entire activity. Then retreats to the couch again to potate.

But people who slowly build calluses keep going. They see the improvement they are after. Which means they can increase the effort without decreasing the fun. They feel accomplished and prepared for more. It’s a beautiful thing.

Staring my business

When I started my adverting and idea agency, The Weaponry, I had a vision for what the perfect, fully-formed agency would look like. But I started small. And slow. I didn’t worry about all the things I should be doing, or that I would eventually need to do to make the business in my head a reality. If I tried to do it all from the beginning I likely would have been overwhelmed, stressed or scared. Instead, I did a little bit more every day. And it’s been fun the entire time. The kind of fun that keeps me coming back for more.

The Key Take Away 

Don’t kill yourself in January. Underdo it. Make it fun. And make yourself want to come back for more. Plan for long-term success. But allow yourself time to build momentum. By doing so you can change your life forever. Starting today. Isn’t that exciting? So do less. Enjoy more. And get a little bit better everyday.

Happy 2018. This is your year!

*If one of your goals is to read more in 2018, subscribe to this blog. I’ll share a few hundred words to read a couple of times per week. Which is not enough to hurt you.

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.



How to learn exciting new skills like Wilbur Wright.

We experience life in three modes.

  1. Growth Mode.
  2. Maintenance Mode.
  3. Atrophy Mode.

These modes are not sequential. You can shift from one mode to another in any order you choose. Read a book and you are in Growth Mode. Do some drugs and you are in atrophy mode. Brush your teeth and you are in Maintenance Mode. (Listen to some 80s English electronic music and you are in Depeche Mode.)

Right now I am spending as much time as I can in Growth Mode. I am reading for learning. I’m working out regularly. And I have started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, which pushes me to grow every day.

Growing By Learning From Others.

To push myself for more growth, I am soaking up as much as I can about inventors and pioneers. Recently I’ve studied Walt Disney, Lewis and Clark, the team at Pixar, and Ernest Shackleton. Right now I am studying Orville and Wilbur Wright. Notice I say that I am studying them. Not reading about them. You can read simply to be entertained. Or to kill time. I’m studying because I am trying to learn and grow.

The Wright Brothers

For those of you who aren’t up to date on your turn-of-the-last-century trivia, Orville and Wilbur Wright, from Dayton, Ohio, invented the airplane. Which changed the world forever. In fact, if it weren’t for them you wouldn’t be able to complain about the lack of leg room or that spotty in-flight wi-fi as you cross the entire country in just 6 hours.

One of the things that stood out to me about the Wrights was their highly pragmatic approach to their own growth and learning. Today, you and I can use their approach to develop our own breakthroughs, both personally and professionally.

The Wright Stuff

To learn and grow like the Wright Brothers read the following excerpt from a talk Double Dubs (my nickname for Wilbur Wright) gave to a group of engineers in Chicago:

Now, there are two ways of learning to ride a fractious horse: One is to get on him and learn by actual practice how each motion and trick may be best met; the other is to sit on a fence and watch the beast a while, and then retire to the house and at leisure figure out the best way of overcoming his jumps and kicks.

The latter system is the safest, but the former, on the whole, turns out the larger proportion of good riders. It is very much the same in learning to ride a flying machine; if you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds; but if you really wish to learn, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual trial.   -Wilbur Wright  1901

Orville and Wilbur Wright were no couch potatoes. They were the worlds first airplane potatoes.

Applying Wilbur’s Approach

The same holds true for you my friend. You can study that challenge in front of you from the comfort of your couch. You can read about it, talk about it and watch other people do it. But if you really want to learn how to do it yourself, you have to climb aboard your own flying machine and learn the tricks yourself, through trial and error.

That’s how I started The Weaponry. I read and studied and tried to prepare ahead of time. But eventually I had to jump in the cockpit, pull back on the wheel and start messing with the controls. I’m learning by doing. And I’m learning faster than I ever could from a book or a class.

Your Growth

The same approach holds true for learning anything. You learn how to kayak, juggle, write code, start a non-profit, lead, cook, invest and speed-eat hot dogs by doing.  Experience is the greatest teacher. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes help you course-correct and keep you moving forward.


Don’t settle for Maintenance Mode. Avoid Atrophy Mode at all costs. And keep growing. Not by watching or reading. But by doing. Get off the fence and climb aboard your own horse, bicycle or flying machine today. Then just keep at it until you get it Wright.

*If you got anything out of this post consider subscribing to receive future posts via email. I’ll try to write something smart or funny to make it worth your while. Heck, I’ll even spring for the email postage.

What kind of phone are you?

Have you ever wanted to be someone else? I have that feeling every day. I want to be a better version of myself. I want to be the me that I see in my head. That version of me is pretty amazing. Which means that the today-me is pretty lame by comparison.

But that doesn’t discourage me. I am no Eeyore. You won’t find me feeling bad about myself. Because I don’t see myself as less-than.

I see myself as an iPhone. I am constantly creating a new, more powerful model of myself. I’m adding more features, capabilities, a longer battery and more memory.

I read as if my future success depends on it. I listen to audiobooks while I drive, podcasts about entrepreneurship while I eat lunch, and podcasts about real estate investing while I mow the lawn. Each day I become a little smarter, a little more capable and a little closer to the me in my mind.

My vision of me as a better model of myself is why I workout. It’s why I set goals.  It’s why I try new things that force me to grow. It’s why I travel and see and do as much as I can. It is why I am excited to meet new people. All of these help me grow, expand and improve.

As Founder of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry, I am growing and learning on the job, every day.  The resistance that entrepreneurship provides works just like the weights at a gym. They are both there to help you develop a better, stronger version of yourself.

If the you in your head is an iPhone X and the real you feels like a flip-phone don’t be discouraged. Keep moving. Keep iterating. Keep learning and growing. There are thousands of versions of you yet to come. Each one gets stronger, smarter and more capable. And each new model of you is even more valuable than the one before.