That is actually NOT the definition of insanity.

Do you know what the definition of insanity is? No doubt you have heard a proposed definition of insanity many times. In nearly every meeting about change, or broken processes someone breaks out TDOI. If you haven’t been in a course-correction meeting since the Korean War, here is the statement I am referring to:

 “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”  -unknown

This quote has been misattributed to everyone. Einstein, Twain, Franklin, Cheech, Chong.

But it is not true. I have degrees from The University of Wisconsin in both journalism and psychology. Which makes the inaccurate reporting of this psychological definition feel like a wheel of cheese under my proverbial mattress.

Here is the actual definition

Insanity:

noun. The state of being seriously mentally ill; madness:

or:  extreme foolishness or irrationality.

Insanity comes from the Latin ‘in’ (meaning not) and ‘sanus’ (which makes me snicker, but means healthy).  

When you put them together you get insane, meaning not healthy.

My suggestion

I encourage you to continue pointing out the problem of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. But let’s lose ‘the definition’ part. Definitions sound so… definitive. This statement is more of a creative observation. So let’s try it like this:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

We can call this a metaphor instead of a definition. It still works. Yet it doesn’t make me want to throw my DSM-IV across the conference room table. Deal?

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Are you living the life of a yes-man or a no-man?

There are two kinds of people… We’ve heard this intro line many times before. We love to simplify the world’s inhabitants this way. Because it offers an easy construct to think about complicated topics. I recently read one of these ‘two-types-of-people’ observations that wowed me with its simplicity and profunditude.

Here it is:

There are people who prefer to say ‘yes’ and there are people who prefer to say ‘no’. Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have. Those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.

-Keith Johnstone  Author of Impro

Wow! With this simple statement Johnstone summarizes the difference between accepting and denying offers that come your way. Did you notice that both outcomes are positive? You either walk away with adventure or safety. Nobody goes home empty-handed.

Which one are you?

The key is to know which outcome you really want. I am an emphatic Yes-Man. I like road trips without reservations. I am all in on the adventure or life. I am an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is all about saying yes. So is creativity. I see all of life’s challenges through the ‘Yes,and’ lens of improvisation. It truly makes every day adventurous, exciting and full of new possibilities. I’m not saying it is better than safety. It’s just better for me.

Key Takeaway

Make sure you know what makes you happy. Know what makes you sleep well at night. And reward yourself with more of that. If you prefer the safety, predictability and peace of mind of home then embrace it unapologetically. If you prefer adventure, embrace the bruises, wardrobe malfunctions and flat tires as souvenirs from the trip.

 

*Yes-Man and No-man are not intended to be gender specific. Regardless of your gender please consider subscribing to this blog. It’s written for people who prefer a safe reading adventure.

 

How to determine the best advertisers in the Super Bowl.

Did you see Super Bowl LII? What a show! The game is always hyped as the greatest television event of the year. It certainly lived up to that billing again this year.

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My fellow Wisconsin Badger Corey Clement scored big. He even started a Conga line in the end zone.

The Game

The game itself was amazing. There were so many Super Bowl records set that I think the game set a Super Bowl record for setting Super Bowl records. There were over 1000 yards of total offense. There were two pass attempts to quarterbacks playing wide receiver. And there was an exciting Hail Mary pass into the end zone as the clock expired. The only thing that would have made the game better for me would have been a Patriots victory. But as a huge Pats fan, I have two Super Bowl miracle wins in the last few years to console me.

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JT told the crowd in Minneapolis, ‘I once went fishing on Lake Minnetonka and caught a walleye this big!’

Halftime Entertainment

After getting off to a slow start Justin Timberlake’s halftime show made a nice comeback and finished strong. The momentum turned during JT’s tribute to Prince. His performance of Mirror was spectacular. Although I worried that one of the hundreds of kids running around the stage holding mirrors would drop one and bring seven more years of bad luck to the hometown Vikings.

 

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My cravings for M&Ms decreased dramatically when I saw this commercial.

The Commercials

Then there were the ads. As an advertising professional I love Super Bowl spots. At a price of over $5 million for 30 seconds, commercials during the Super Bowl are too expensive to get wrong. So most of the spots that run during the big game do what good commercials should do. They entertain us. They make us laugh. They surprise us. They wow us. They make us think differently about the products, services or brands they promote.

The Super Bowl ads are so good that people actually want to see them. They are part of the appeal and entertainment of the entire event. Sometimes they are they best part of the program. Especially when Up With People are the halftime entertainment. Or when the Dallas Cowboys are playing the Buffalo Bills.

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This Peter Dinklage spot for Doritos Blaze made me want to breathe fire as if I were the Father of Dragons.

The Best Advertisers 

So who won the battle of the advertisers? This is a question that gets asked every year. It will be a topic of conversation around the proverbial water cooler all week. Marketing types will weigh in with their professional opinions. And there will be polls that try to determine a winner. However, we will never know the real answer.

Here’s Why.

You don’t succeed in advertising by winning a popularity poll. You win by setting a marketing objective, and then nailing it. Advertising can help increase awareness, brand affinity and purchase intent. All of these dimensions are measurable. But not by a poll that asks viewers to pick their favorite commercial.

Your opinion of the marketing only matters if you are part of the audience the advertiser is trying to reach. I thought the beer commercials were funny. But I don’t drink alcohol. I also liked the Tide commercials, a lot. But I don’t make any of the decisions about which laundry potions my family uses.

 

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I liked this guy. But I still don’t like the taste of alcohol. 

Key Takeaway

Super Bowl commercials are not simply meant to entertain you. They are strategically developed marketing weapons. The only way to evaluate their success or failure is to measure the impact they have on their target audience. Anything else is just playing Monday morning quarterback.

 

 

I was warned this is the worst part of entrepreneurship.

In the spring of 2016 I left my job as EVP, Executive Creative Director of a large advertising agency. It was owned by a publicly held advertising agency holding company that employed 80,000 people in over 100 countries. One of the great benefits of working for a company that size was the benefits themselves. Because when you have that many people in your organization, you have Bezos-level buying clout.

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More People = More Benefit Buying Power 

On My Own.

I love a good adventure. So I left the cushy benefits behind and started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. I love what we have built. The Weaponry is quick and nimble. Strategic and creative. It is a really fun place to work and offers a great culture of collaboration. We have a lot going for us. But one thing we do not have is benefit-buying clout.

The Hard Part

When I launched The Weaponry I asked a lot of questions of my entrepreneurial network about a broad range of subjects. In return I got a lot of great advice. But when it came to insurance I got absolutely nothing. Unless those crickets I heard were trying to tell me something (chirp chirp… run while you can… chirp chirp).

I could tell by the lack of insights that insurance was the toughest nut for entrepreneurs to crack. Those who did comment said things like, ‘Yeah, that’s hard. I don’t know what to tell you.’ And, ‘It Sucks.’ And, ‘I would love to help you, but I would rather set the world record for most paper cuts received over a 24-hour period than talk about health insurance.’

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We must protect this house (with health and dental insurance)!

Me vs Goliath       

However, I am very proud to say that as of January 1st, 2018, The Weaponry offers insurance benefits. I wanted to share my experience with anyone thinking of starting their own business, or wondering how Obamacare impacts a small business and its ability to grow and compete.

Starting The Search

Over the second half of last year I began planning our employee benefits for 2018. I wanted to offer health and dental insurance. But I also considered a couple of other benefits, including life insurance for full-time employees. But as with so many other aspects of this startup adventure, I decided to simplify to make sure we completed the critical mission.

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I felt like this in the beginning. Only without the suit and itchy scalp.

Research

I began with research. I learned right away that you need at least two non-related employees in your business to be able to offer insurance as an employer. We qualified. I found my way to the health insurance marketplace and started poking around and modeling various products and prices. But in a vacuum it was pretty hard to evaluate what was good, what was necessary, and what was not. From this initial poking I learned my first lesson:

Key Insight:  You will not feel empowered to make a good health insurance purchasing decision if you try to do it on your own.

Broker

My business finance advisor encouraged me to talk to an insurance broker, and preferably more than one. He encouraged me to have them model a variety of options so that I could get a feel for the landscape available to me. By talking to more than one broker, he said, you can compare and contrast styles to know that you are getting the right option for you. This was all good advice. But I still didn’t know how to find a reputable broker, let alone multiple brokers.

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This photo is merely a re-enactment. Although we did sit at a desk and look at papers like this, nobody wore a tie. And I didn’t wear a bracelet like the dude in blue.

My Wife To The Rescue

My wife Dawn is a smart woman, and an important part of The Weaponry brain trust. She was the one that finally got us moving in a positive direction on health insurance. How? She talked to our neighbor Sally.

Sally’s husband, Bruce is the President at EBSO,  a third party administrator (TPA) benefits solutions company. However, because of our size and our specific needs EBSO couldn’t help us, yet. But Sally said that Bruce frequently partners with Jon Rauser at The Rauser Agency for clients of our size. Dawn got Jon’s contact info. And within a few days Dawn and I  were sitting in Jon’s office.

Key Insight: A good wife is the best business asset in the world. This may also be true of good husbands, but I’ve never had one of those.

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Before signing anything that may be photographed make sure to get a manicure.

The Rauser Agency

Dawn and I met with Jon, and it couldn’t have gone much smoother. He started by offering us a range of three or four different insurance providers. Based on our preference, and the providers prevalence in our healthcare market, we quickly narrowed in on one health insurance provider. Then it was a matter of comparing deductibles to get to the final premium options. We simply had to share the ages and family status of our employees. With that we were able to see projected costs, broken down by employee.

Once we provided the names and ages of our employees who would be opting in for our insurance we had to sign a couple of forms to initiate coverage. We also needed forms signed by the full-time employees who were opting out, acknowledging that they had been offered coverage. Next, we had to decide how much of the premium we would pay for our employees. Then we had to send in a check for the first month’s premium.

Then we were done. Seriously. 

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We signed documents. But I never saw a stethoscope.

We Did It!

We had an employer health insurance plan! We have dental insurance too, which was easy to get. We were all grown up! And we were becoming an even more attractive place for smart creative people to work! We had climbed the most daunting mountain on the Entrepreneurial Range. And we planted The Weaponry’s flag at its peak.

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Apparently when someone took a closer look at Obamacare a line came shooting out of a piggy bank’s right nostril.

Obamacare

Why was the process so easy? Obamacare. I should insert here that I am a staunchly independent voter. I grew up in Vermont where independent thinking flows like maple syrup. I think the two parties are antiquated and don’t allow for my complex vision of the world. But Obamacare made it really easy for this startup to insure our employees. There are no pre-existing conditions. We didn’t need medical exams. We didn’t need to take a lie detector test. I didn’t have to tell anyone that my Great-Great Uncle Nels choked on a peach pit when he was eight years old. (RIP Little Uncle Nellie…)

Is Obamacare perfect? No. It has driven insurance costs up by 30%. But you know what? My baseline is today. So I simply look at the price today and ask, ‘Can we afford to pay this?’ And the answer is yes.

I can’t change the costs. But what should it really cost? I have no idea. All I know is that we were able to get it fairly easily, and all we had to do was pay for it. Our premiums are not much more expensive than the COBRA prices I had been paying since I started The Weaponry.

Conclusion. 

I may hate Obamacare in the future. And I certainly don’t want to ever pay more than I have to. But today I am happy to have easy access to health insurance for my team. I want to make sure they are protected. So as you follow the political fight over Obamacare, know that this independent voter, who owns a small business said it was easy to protect his team because of Obamacare. And the small price to pay is simply a larger price to pay. And today, we’ll take it.

*If you know someone thinking of starting their own business that could benefit from this story, please share it with them. If you would like to learn more from my entrepreneurial journey consider subscribing to this blog.  If you have more specific questions about my health insurance experience please contact me directly. I am happy to share what I know.

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.

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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.  

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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.

You are NEVER going to be in my network unless you do this first.

LinkedIn is an amazing professional resource. It’s offers a great way to further your professional development through education and association. Thank you Reid Hoffman for creating LinkedIn. But I’m sorry to say that I wouldn’t accept a LinkedIn request from you. I get requests from people wanting to join my network almost every day. But I have a clear philosophy that guides my networking on the platform. It goes like this:

I only Link In with you if I know you.

I can’t tell if this is a really simple and obvious philosophy, or if it is a radical departure from the norm. But I am always surprised by how many requests I get with absolutely no introduction or context as to why we should be LinkedIn. I find this very odd. Which is only surpassed in oddness by people who send me an introductory note trying to sell me something. I hate that. It’s like be approached by a stranger whose opening line to you is, ‘Hey! Let’s have sex.’ It tells me everything I need to know about you. And your sex.

My Network As A Garden

I think of my LinkedIn network as a garden. Everyone in my LinkedIn garden is there because I planted them. So if anyone in my garden says, ‘Hey Adam, (yes, these are talking plants) I see there is a Bob Smith growing in this garden. Tell me about Bob.’ I say, ‘Ah, Bobby is one of my college track & field teammates. He grew up in little Marshall, Wisconsin, near Madison. He used to raise ferrets, and he could put the shot farther than most people can throw a fit. He is an art teacher. And he makes amazing pottery. I own two of his pieces.’ Suddenly Bob Smith goes from the most generic name in America to a specific human with colorful details.

What strangers need to do first.

I want to be able to vouch for everyone in my network. Including you. It’s how my network becomes valuable. This doesn’t mean that we can’t meet and develop a relationship on LinkedIn. But if you want to join my collection of professional contacts, we must have contact first.

Here’s how it works.

  1. You send me a LinkedIn request.
  2. You add a note about why you think it would be good to connect.
  3. We set up a call or a chocolate milk meeting (I don’t drink coffee).
  4. We talk, and you don’t try to sell me anything or exhibit psychologically deviant behavior.
  5. I accept your LinkedIn request.

This process works because I make connections quickly. I can learn a lot about you in an initial conversation. Then, when someone in my network asks me about you I can share your story.

The Right Way.

Here is a request I received recently. It is a great example of the right way to introduce yourself to a stranger on LinkedIn:

Adam -We don’t know each other, yet. I moved here from Minneapolis and I am hoping to connect with a few fun people. My sister-in-law sent me your blog. You seem fun. -Jennifer

This stared a dialog. I discovered that Jennifer is related to one of my former coworkers (that’s co-worker, not cow orker). I have invited her to stop by The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, for an introduction. After that, we can be LinkedIn.

Key Takeaway

Don’t let just anyone into your professional network on LinkedIn. It devalues your network because there is nothing that distinguishes those inside your group from those outside your group. When you are sending LinkedIn request don’t be lazy. Don’t be random. Be purposeful and personal with your introductions. And for Reid’s sake, please don’t try to sell anything in your intro. It’s a turnoff.

Do you have a LinkedIn philosophy? Please share it in the comments section. If you want to know my other philosophies consider subscribing to this blog. If you want to know about my philosophy that Vanilla Ice tweeted about, click here.