Your mistakes are your most important milestones.

I read as much as I can. I am always searching for knowledge, wisdom, inspiration, perspective and a good laugh. Because I am always searching, I often find what I am looking for.

DaVinci

This morning I was reading Walter Isaacson’s biography on Leonardo DaVinci. On page 59, Isaacson describes the flaws in DaVinci’s painting, The Annunciation. The painting depicts the moment when the angel Gabriel breaks the news to the Virgin Mary that she is going to become the mother of Christ. And Mary is all like ‘WTF!?!’

1200px-Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Annunciazione_-_Google_Art_Project
‘Hey Mary! How’s it going? Um, God wanted me to tell you that he wants you to have his son. Oh, and you get to ride a Donkey!’

Flawed Genius

The painting isn’t perfect. Because Leo was trying out some interesting new moves. The magic of this painting is revealed when you look at it from the angle he wanted you to see it from. But I think the real magic comes from Isaacson’s commentary:

‘In the process, he made some mistakes. But even the mistakes, which came from innovating and experimenting, heralded his genius.’ – Walter Isaacson from Leonardo DaVinci

Way To Grow!

I love that. I like to think that my mistakes are evidence that I am trying. That I am pushing beyond what I know how to do well, into areas of growth, improvement and innovation. I am more afraid of not growing that I am of messing things up.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You, your skills, and your abilities are iterative. Don’t stop at You 1.0. Try more. Learn more. Innovate and experiment more. Push yourself as far as you can. Discover what You 100.0 is capable of. And if you do, someone may write a book about you too.

Advertisements

16 Things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving. (Spoiler Alert: You’re 1 of them!)

Today is the day that we eat Turkey and give thanks. Those two things seem like strange pairings don’t they? I am going to be thankful for all I have, AND, eat a bird. It’s like celebrating Dads and Grads. They have nothing to do with each other, except they both happen in June, and they rhyme. But hey, sometimes that is all it takes.

As I prepare to ingest birds, cranberries and Grammy Beans, I am taking stock of all that I am thankful for this year. It’s quite a list. So in a particular order, here it goes.

Some Things I Am Thankful For in 2018

My Wife: I have always been thankful for my wife, Dawn. But when she fully supported my plan to leave a salaried job to bet on my ability to create a business that will support our family of 5, that made me crazy thankful. This lady is the best!

IMG_8298
Our family of 5, still eating and wearing clothes.

My kids: One of the greatest experiences for a busy business person is to go home and spend time with people who don’t care at all about what you do at work.

My Health:  I feel great. And according to the medical screening I just had, all of my numbers are right at the norm. Either that or I accidentally got some guy named Norm’s test results.

My Fellow Weapons We have hired more great people at The Weaponry this year. We now have employees in Milwaukee, Columbus and Atlanta. And we all work together, cross office, like one team based in Milumbta.

My Office The Weaponry has now been in our office space for a year. And we have made it feel like home. Next week we expect to sign a new lease. But we have to build in some flexibility clauses into our lease because we fully expect to outgrow our current space in the next few months. Which is a great problem to have.

Business Travel.  22 years ago I returned from my very first business trip the night before Thanksgiving. I had flown to El Centro, California with Dan Koel to photograph new tractors for Case IH in the irrigated California farmland just north of the Mexican border. I couldn’t believe how exciting it all was. Today I am thankful that I am just as excited about my career and the travel it offers. My trip to India in September was the pinnacle of work travel for the year.

IMG_2584
Me, Jake, Henry and Nina in India, during the couple of hours we had to go sightseeing.

Retainer Clients At the beginning of 2018 we didn’t have any retainer-based clients. So while we were growing at a healthy pace, we didn’t have much visibility into what was coming next. So our number one goal for this year was to establish retainer-based clients that would help build predictability into our machine.

Today we have 6 clients who pay us a monthly retainer. That has made it easier for us to commit to hiring more great people, and invest in other resources that allow us to deliver even better work for our clients. (Did you think retainer clients were the clients you get after your braces clients are removed?)

Heat The first time it got cold outside after we moved into our offices it was freezing in our space. Our building people sent specialist to seal our windows. Which helped some. But the biggest help was when we talked to our neighbors next door at DanceWorks, and simply asked them to turn up the thermostat. That worked like a charm. Go figure.

Hermann Miller No one has supported me over the course of the last year like Herman Miller. That’s because we have his really great Aeron desk chairs in our office. It makes a difference. Thanks Herman for building these. And thanks to Office Furniture Resources for helping us find these chairs lightly used, and at a good discount.

img_7957
Whoomp, chair it is!

Technology Thanks to technology, it has never been easier to launch a business. I am extremely thankful to a handful of resources that together create the central nervous system of our business. They are:

  • G-Suite
  • Asana
  • Slack
  • Gusto
  • Zoom
  • Dropbox

Insurance I am thankful that The Weaponry is able to offer our full-time employees both health and dental insurance. In 2018, our first year of offering such benefits, we were able to pay the full premiums on behalf of our individual employees. And it looks like we will be able to do the same in 2019. #Boom

My Commute  My drive to work is 17 miles. And it generally takes under 30 minutes. That is half the time I spent driving too and from work in Atlanta. I’m thankful for that every day. The only downside is that it now takes me twice as many days to finish an audiobook. That’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.

My Car My Acura MDX turned 10 years old this year. And I still love driving it. As my Grampy once told me, ‘A man with miles on his car has money in the bank.’ I am thankful to not have a monthly car payment. It is one less thing to worry about on my entrepreneurial adventure.

Ideas My business and my career are based on new ideas. I guess this blog is too. I am extremely thankful that the ideas keep coming. Because truth be told, I have no idea where they come from. And like a drunk at bar time, I am afraid of being cut off, because God knows I have been over-served.

IMG_3222
Me with old and new friends in Atlanta last week.

New Friends I love meeting new people. I am a collector. I think you can never have too many friends. Unless you are trying to hide in the witness protection program. Then too many friends could totally blow your cover and get you killed. But because I am not in that program, yet, I like having as many people on my team as I can. In the past 10 days I have met, and had significant conversations with the following new people:

  •  Jim Lucke
  • Stephanie Orman
  • Scott Jenkins
  • Reed Connor
  • Taylor Amann
  • Clay Raterman
  • Nate Davis
  • Anne Krueger
  • Eric Wilson
  • Alok Data
  • Larry Compton
  • Peter Kirchof
  • Jasmine Butler
  • Patrick Howe
  • Spencer Reed
  • Josh Schlabach
  • Bill Johnson

My Blog Readers I am extremely thankful for all of you who read, like, comment or subscribe to this blog. I know you have a millions other things you could read, and an endless number of other ways to invest your time. I am appreciative and humbled every time someone tells me they read something I wrote. So thank you for reading all the way to the end of this post. You are so much better people than those who bailed after that Dad’s & Grads observation in the first paragraph.

Key Takeaway

There is so much to be thankful for that I can’t capture it all here. As you count your  blessing, I hope you count really high. I hope you get tired, and lose your voice from all your counting. There are so many things for us all to be thankful for that there really ought to be a day for us to just stop and be thankful. And eat a bird. Yep, that still sounds weird to me.

Why it is so important to find your fit.

Last week I was riding an escalator at the rental car center at the airport in Atlanta. The man in front of me turned to me and asked, ‘Did you go to the University of Wisconsin?’  I proudly replied, ‘Yes!’, and realized I was wearing a Wisconsin hat that had likely invited the question. Either that or I still smelled like brats, cheese and Mickies Dairy Bar.

The man continued:

My daughter goes to school there right now and absolutely loves it. She looked at Michigan State, which is where I went, and Ohio State, because we live in Canton, Ohio. But when she visited Madison she said, “Dad, I found my people.”   -Escalator Dad

I could relate. That is exactly how I felt when I went on my recruiting trip to Wisconsin.

Two days later I was visiting my neighbor Christy Sheahan in Atlanta. She told me she and her son Christopher, who is a high school senior, had just visited Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana (home of my Mom and Dad). Christy and her husband Kevin’s oldest daughter Sydney is currently a freshman at the University of Georgia in Athens. Christy told Christopher, ‘I want you to keep looking at schools until you find a college environment that you love as much as Sydney loves UGA.’  Christopher, listen to your Mom.

The Fit Makes It.

These two comments are great reminders of how important it is to find your people and your places. Whether you are a student looking for the right college, or you are in the workforce, looking for the right job, you should  search for that place that fits you just right. That place that is full of your kind of people. Finding the right fit makes all the difference in your happiness, your self-esteem, your memories, your relationships and your probability of success.

Key Takeaway

If you haven’t found the school that fits you, keep looking. If you haven’t found the workplace that fits you, keep searching. It is out there, and there are people who want to work with you as much as you want to work with them. Life, school and careers are all too short to spend in the wrong place, with the wrong people. There are 5300 colleges and universities in the United States. There is one that is just right for you, Goldilocks. And if you don’t think that the place you want to work exists in the place you really want to live, make it yourself. That’s what I did when I launched The Weaponry. And I couldn’t be happier. Not even if I was a student again back in Madison.

How to make a business trip more than a business trip.

I like to make the most of my business travel. After my work obligations are Sharpied into my calendar, I always fill the open spaces in my schedule with personal activites. That might include eating at an interesting restaurant, exploring, museuming or exercising. But my favorite activity to add to a work trip, by far, is socializing. Sometimes I meet new people. Sometimes I reconnecting with old friends. And sometimes I do both at the same time.

This Week

I had to travel to Atlanta this week for a film shoot. Since I had to fly in on Monday I began filling my afternoon with interesting activities. Here is what I did between 12:30 and 6:30pm:

  1. Had lunch with a former client
  2. Had back-to-back-to-back meetings with 3 different freelancers who are currently working with my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.
  3. Met with a college senior to talk to him about his career options after he graduates.
  4. Guest lectured to a college marketing class about creativity and the creative process.
  5. Stuck around 20 minutes after the lecture to talk to a group of 5 students who had more questions.
  6. Drove to my Atlanta neighborhood in East Cobb and talked to my neighbor, Dr. Betty Garrot about my recent trip to India (Betty’s family is from India, and they contacted me when I was in Bangalore).

Monday Night

It was a fun and interesting day. But what I had planned for Monday evening was really special. Last Friday I texted my college teammate Jabari Pride, who lives in Atlanta, and asked him if he would like to get together Monday night. He said yes. So I reached out to another, former University of Wisconsin track athlete, Lenton Herring, who lives in Atlanta, and invited him too. Then I reached out to Stephanie Herbst-Lucke, who was not only up for getting together, she invited us to gather at her home. So we decided to contact a couple more former Badger track athletes to tell them what we were doing.

IMG_3217
Jabari, Adam and Lenton. One fo these guys is allergic to shoes.

Just three days later, on a rainy Monday night in Atlanta, these are the Badger track alum who showed up:

  1. Adam Abrecht: Discus and hammer thrower from Norwich Vermont, now living in Milwaukee (but still a proud Atlanta home owner).
  2. Jabari Pride: Sprinter and all-around athlete from Los Angeles, now living in Atlanta.
  3. Lenton Herring: Jumper and sprinter from Gainesville Florida, now living in Atlanta.
  4. Stephanie Herbst-Lucke: Distance runner from Chaska, Minnesota, now living in Atlanta.
  5. Tina Erps-McGee: Sprinter and jumper from Bettendorf Iowa, now living in Atlanta.
  6. Terry Reese: Hurdler from Fort Wayne Indiana, now living in Atlanta.
  7. Scott Jenkins: Distance runner from Kenosha, Wisconsin, now living in Atlanta.
  8. Stephanie (Bassett) Orman: Distance runner from Bloomington, Indiana now living in Atlanta.
  9. Mark Euler: Jumper from Madison, Wisconsin, now living in Atlanta.
  10. Reed Connor: Distance Runner from The Woodlands, Texas, now living in Atlanta.
IMG_3231
Tina, Stephanie and Steph, between two lamps.

Socializing not Social Networking

It was an amazing night. I got to see friends and teammates I have known for decades, some of whom I hadn’t seen in decades. I also got to meet three new Badgers. We talked about our families and careers. We shared stories about our days competing for the University of Wisconsin. We talked about our coaches and the things we learned from Ed Nuttycombe, Peter Tegen, Martin Smith, Mark Napier, Scott Bennett, Mick Byrne, Mary Grinaker, Robert Hackett and others.

IMG_3211
Lenton telling us the story of how he invented the fist bump.

We talked about how there is no other experience quite like spending your college career in Madison. We talked about the unique people, the unique setting and the unique educational environment. Because of our shared history, the group instantly felt like a community. We traded contact information and made plans to gather again. Just like that, the W Club-Atlanta was born.

IMG_3222
The W-Club Atlanta, freshly birthed.  

Connect In Person

This was a great reminder to make sure you see your people in real life. It is great to keep in touch with each other on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. But people are better in person. We all need to experience real human connections. Those connections are strongest, and most impactful, when we are in a room, talking to each other, face to face.

Key Takeaway

I encourage you to reach out to your people. Get together with friends from home, from college or camp. Organize a gathering of former co-workers, teammates or roommates. Get together with your neighbors. Or create your own social or professional groups.

At the end of our days, the only thing that will really matter is the relationships we build, and the impact we have on each other. Don’t be afraid to make the first move. I did. And because of it, ten former Badger track athletes are now part of another special community 803 miles from Madison.

*Special thanks to fellow Badger, James Lucke for hosting us and joining us Monday evening! On Wisconsin!

Recognizing the tremendous value of your client ark.

In your career you will have the opportunity to work with a broad range of clients. Some will help you make a lot of money. Some will help you make a little money. Some will help you grow old friendships. Some will help you make new friendships. Some will be strictly business. And some will be a party. Some will enable you to do great work. Some will help you make a difference. Some will build your confidence. Some will test your limits. Some will cost you money. Some you will love. And some, you will wish you never met. But if you pay attention, they will all help you grow smarter, stronger and more capable. So on the toughest days with the toughest clients, and the best days with the best clients, don’t forget to learn.

The other good book you should have in church.

I enjoy going to church. I like the routine and rituals. I love taking time to reflect. I like the grounding it provides. I always appreciate the music. And I like that it is the only time that I am ever in a room with hundreds of other people who all decide to put their little digital buddies down and be present.

Lessons

But what I like most about church is learning. Through the sermon, the scripture and the stories, a church service shares wisdom, perspective and philosophy. It teaches lessons on morality and history. I always learn something new. In fact, I find that a good church service feels like a combination of attending a class and reading a book.

Taking Notes

Speaking of books, as an Entrepreneur, blogger and professional creative, I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go. I take notes in meetings, while on airplanes and while grabbing chocolate milk . But I don’t bring a notebook to church. Suddenly, after 40+ years of attending services, this seems really odd to me.

Sure, I have written notes in church. Sometimes in a bulletin or on a spare offering envelope in the pew rack (pew, it smells like church!). But I have never had a dedicated notebook that I take to church, and use to collect all of the pearls of wisdom, words of inspiration, worthwhile bible passages, and funny thoughts that I have that I can’t share with anyone in the moment.

Searching For Another Good Book

Now I am considering what the best notebook would be. Should it be something created specifically for church? Or is a blank Moleskin the perfect receptacle? Size matters too. Should it be small and easily tucked into my pocket, so I don’t forget it. Or should I carry a large stone tablet with room for 10 lessons that begin with Thou?

What do you do?

Do you bring a notebook to your church, synagogue, mosque, tabernacle or other place of higher learning?  If so, I’d love to hear about it. Does anybody type notes into their phone, and risk looking like they are texting during worship (with one eye on the screen, and one eye looking for lightening)? If you think bringing a dedicated notebook to a place of worship seems odd, I’d like to hear that too.

Happy Sunday. I hope you all have a noteworthy day.

ef0caf04c0c3481db28100dedabb6d62
This is the Norwich Congregational Church, the church I grew up in Norwich, Vermont. As a teenager I used to usher here before Usher made ushering cool.

Why the right-brain vs left-brain talk makes me want to scream.

When I was a child I was fascinated to learn that the brain is not one solid organ. The brain is actually divided, down the middle, into two hemispheres un-creatively known as the right brain and left brain. The brainispheres have different job assignments. Essentially they work like a great team, dividing the responsibilities of braining for humans into separate but equal parts. Which means your brain works like Siegfried and Roy, Abbott and Costello or Dumb & Dumber.

Choosing Sides

People often talk about being either right-brained or left-brained. If you have not heard such talk, it goes like this: The right side of the brain is thought to control your creative and artistic thinking. While your left brain controls your logic and rational behavior. As with politics, when it comes to braining, people often identify with one side or the other.

I have spent my entire career as a professional creative thinker. I started out as a Copywriter and progressed to the title of Chief Creative Officer. Every title I had for 20 years had either the word writer or creative in it. So it’s natural to sort me into the right-brained team. People do it all the time. In conversations I hear people say ‘You right-brained types…’ or ‘Us right-brained types…’

nervous2
Lookie there! Your brain has a coin slot too.

However…

I have never thought of myself as being right-brained. Not once. Ever. I have never thought of myself as being primarily a creative thinker. It’s not that I don’t think creatively. I know I do. But I also use careful analysis and logic every day. I love the scientific method and the absoluteness of math. I enjoy calculating my taxes. But I don’t enjoy stereotypes. Except for Bose. Those guys make great types of stereos.

Business Thinking

The latest role in my career has been as an Entrepreneur. As the Founder & CEO of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry, I am required to use all of my brain at work. While our service offering is unquestionably creative, everything else about the business is decidedly based in the left brain. I have to think about our accounting, finances, benefits, and human resources. I have to establish processes for project management, account management, and invoicing.

There is not an element of business that I don’t I feel comfortable with. I understand, appreciate and enjoy all of the thinking that goes into starting and running a business. I see it all as a big system of constants and variables. Some disciplines require more creative thinking. Others require very practical analysis. I am thankful that my brains get along like Bert and Ernie. Their daily cooperation helps me function as one whole person.

Unlabeling

It is limiting, if not damaging to label people, including yourself, as right-brained or left- brained. According to Dr. Daniel G. Amen in his book Making A Good Brain Great, it is a myth that we only use 10% of our brain. Our entire brain is on and working our entire lives, even when we sleep. If you were born with, and still have, both hemispheres of your brain, use them. Some skills and processes may come more naturally. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t work to develop the others.

Key Takeaway

The danger in the right-brain, left-brain labels is that you will start to believe that you can’t do things. Then you won’t take on tasks or challenges, because you have told yourself you are no good at them. But you can be. You just have to make sure you are not limiting your thinking.