Why everything you’ve thought about Wednesday is wrong.

Today I’m starting a new Days Of The Week series. It focuses on the importance of each day of the week. The series will feature all of the best known days, including Monday, Friday and Saturday. But it will also touch on less popular days like Tuesday. But we are going to start the series with Wednesday. (Did the name of the post give it away?)

At The Perfect Agency Project we have deep experience in both branding and positioning. After performing careful research, analysis, a few focus groups, an online survey and interviews with key stakeholders, it is clear that Wednesday needs to be repositioned.

As the middle child of the work and school week this day has often been overlooked or forgotten. To most people Wednesday is Hump Day. It’s best known for being the half way point in the week. It represents the weekly hill to get over in order to start the downhill slide to the weekend.

This is so sad.  It is a horrible commentary on life, work and school. A week is not something to get through. To endure. Or to survive. The week, my friends, is your life. If you want the week to go faster and you’re thankful to be halfway done, you are saying that about your life.

Instead of calling Wednesday Hump Day, I would like to call it Evaluation Day. It is the day that we evaluate our progress towards our goals. It is the day we check to see if we should change something in our approach. Or if there is something more fruitful we can do in the last days of the week to make it a week to remember.

After beginning the week with goals in mind, on Wednesday we should take corrective action to make sure we achieve those goals and accomplish what we set out to accomplish. Wednesday should help you build momentum that you can carry through Thursday and Friday. Not to mention Saturday and Sunday, which apparently I just did.

I love me some Wednesday.  It represents the meat of progress. It is the full engagement day. Because it is equidistant from both Sunday and Saturday. Which allows us to keep our focus on the business at hand. If you are not finding the reward in your Wednesday you should find another way to spend your week. A new job, new career or new quest could completely change the way you see the day.

Wednesday is the American Midwest. Hardworking. Honest and real. Wednesday is farming and manufacturing and producing. Wednesday is where great things happen. Wednesday is not the fly-over states of some New Yorker magazine cartoon. (Which is really funny by the way).new-yorker-Map

So let’s all have a great Wednesday. Or Evaluation Day. Or Momentum Day. Or Full Engagement Day. Or maybe even Midwestern Day. Let’s make this the best part of the week. Because whether or not you realize it now, Wednesday is your life.

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How to make your dreams come true in 3 easy steps.

Do you have dreams?  I do. I dream all the time. You could say I’m dreamy. And I wish more people did. But I also know how to bring my dreams to life. I don’t just blow out birthday candles or wish upon stars or listen to Hall & Oates. While all of those activities may help, I use a simple technique that has proven effective thousands of times.

You may ask yourself why a guy who works in Advertising! would know how to make dreams come true. Well, my job as a creative is to dream of new things and then bring them to life. My proven Adam Albrecht Approach To Creating Things (I just made that up) follows a simple 3 step process. And this process applies to anything you want to create. A commercial. A home. A business. An invention. A baby. Or even a commercial about a home business that invents babies.

Today, the Perfect Agency Project hopes to make the world a better place and help make more of your dreams come true by sharing our process. So without further ado, here is how you can create anything you want through Adam Albrecht’s 3 Steps of Non-Religious Creation (I just rebranded it).

Step 1.  Envision The Dream.  

This is as simple as it sounds. This step is about letting your brain run and play. It is about building castles in your head. It is dreaming up the perfect cookie or car wash or app. Picture your ideal fill-in-the-blank. Create a clear image in your head first. Get it in HD if it is available in your area. The more detail the better. This should be fun. And remember not to dream too small.

Step 2.  Write it down.

This too is about as simple as it sounds. However, 99.9969% of dreams/ideas/visions never happen because they don’t make it to this step. They never get written down. They never get described. The never take any form in the physical world.

Simply talking about your dream doesn’t cut it. Talking is like dreaming aloud. So that still falls under Step 1. To make your dreams come true they have to make it to paper or pixels (this will now be known as The Paper or Pixel Principle). Writing the idea down creates the recipe, the blueprint, the formula, the instructions, the map. You get it.

I have notebooks throughout my home that are filled with dreams. I am certain that these notebooks are the most valuable items I own. Because in them are the descriptions, plans and sketches of great things just waiting for step 3!

But before we move on it is important to note that the more time your spend acting in step 2  the easier the final step is. In step 2 you can start small with a few notes and descriptions. But come back early and often to flesh out your idea (please don’t flush it out).

For example, if you’re making a recipe write down the ingredients and the place you plan to go shopping. If you’re building your dream home, sketch out a crude representation (not in oil). Write down the specialist you’ll need to help you. Write down the materials. And the resources you need to find in order to fill in the gaps in your knowledge or abilities. If you need help financing your dream this step is critical. Because it makes the dream real enough for others to see. This is the plan that others can support too.  Which is what makes KickStarter work.

Step 3.  Make it real.

Despite what you may think, this step is also easy when you follow the process. That is because your dream has already been created, twice.  First, in your head when you created your vision. Then when you wrote it down and created the recipe. Now you simply start cooking. Or moving. Or building. You should see the steps and functions required to make progress from step 2.  If not, bounce back to step 2 for a moment to write it out.

Keep moving. Dreams are like sharks: if they stop moving humans will make up sayings about them both. As long as you are working on one of the 3 steps you are making progress. Although the goal must always be to move forward to the next step in order to complete the process.

So there you have it.  Whether your dream is to build a great BLT, create a hilarious video or put a human on Mars the steps are the same. See it. Write it down. Make it for realsies. So get started today. Keep Moving. Create something great. And then send me a note to tell me all about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one thing that helps me make each day great.

Every day starts full of potential. Your Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays are all born ready to be amazing. It’s what you do with each of them that sets them apart. I am a card carrying optimist. But I know that I will be dead long before I want to be. So making the most of each of the days I’m given is a top priorities.

There is a saying that goes through my head every morning that helps me make each day great.

“Get on top of your day before your day gets on top of you.”

I can’t remember who said that. It may have been Anonymous, or Unknown or one of those other prolific writers. But this statement pops in my ears each morning and prompts me to write down the list of things I want to accomplish each day. Then I start cranking. And crossing things off. And feeling accomplished.

However, my lists don’t help me get the urgent things done. They help me get to the important things that aren’t urgent. Between the major tasks of the day (that I couldn’t ignore if I tried) I am able to fit in things like writing a blog post, mapping out a new business idea, connecting with friends, family members or business contacts. It helps me prioritize exercise. And family time. If it’s on my list I will take a few minutes to work on a long term project that could otherwise slide forever. The list helps me find time to learn. And time to be quiet. Ok, I know those who know me don’t believe the last point. But one of my favorite activities is what I call ‘mental jogging’. And it only happens when I’m quiet.

Today I encourage you to get on top of your day. Picture the end of the day like an award show that recognizes you for your Daytime Achievement (It’s like a daily Lifetime Achievement award). What did they say you did that was so special? Include the big pillars of the day. But fill your list with the quick little wins that you never seem to get to. And then get to it. You’ll be amazed how five minutes can make the rest of your day so much more valuable. If you don’t read this until 4pm or 9pm, try writing a list anyway. I have saved many an afternoon and evening with a late list. Now, I would love to wrap this post up with a clever little statement. But I don’t have the time. There are too many other things on my list.

 

What leaves the room when you do?

There are a lot of people on this planet. The last time I lined everybody up and counted them I tallied 7.4 billion humans. With that many people, all connected by the interwebs, you have a lot of options when you need a human. Whether you need an employee, a spouse or a plumber the supply works in your favor.

But we often find ourselves on the other side of that equation. We want to be employed. We want to be asked on a date. We want to snake someone’s drain. So how do we stand out in this 7.4 billion person crowd? It’s an important question that people spend far too little time contemplating. Yet I found a quote that states the answer quite succinctly:

Something special must leave the room when you leave the room. -Peter Drucker

Read that again a couple of times. (I’ll wait.)

Do you bring something special everywhere you go? You may have never thought about you in these terms. But you should. Over the next week I want you to think about what you bring to a room when you walk in. What do you add to the meeting, to the organization, to the relationship, to the overall value equation that others do not? What disappears again when you leave? If you can’t come up with anything you are a commodity. Our country places a very specific value on the commodity human. It’s called minimum wage. 

You’ve sat in meetings where there were too many attendees. You know there were too many because the meeting would have been exactly the same had one or more of the attendees not attended. On the other hand, we have also been in meetings when we asked, ‘Why are we meeting if Fill-In-The-Name isn’t here?’ You, my friend, want to be Fill-In-The-Name!

So what leaves the room when you do?

Here is a sample of the things you might bring to a room. Mix and match to create unique combinations. Or collect them all!

  • Energy
  • Experience
  • Connective tissue
  • Humor
  • Creativity
  • Compassion
  • Insight
  • Reason
  • Balance
  • Knowledge
  • Relationships
  • Trust
  • Positivity
  • Diversity
  • Know how
  • Spunk
  • Confidence
  • Reality
  • The wi-fi password

As you think about differentiating and marketing yourself The Perfect Agency Project reminds you that the same Principle of Specialness applies to all products and services.  What changes if your iPhone walks out of your life? Or your Yeti tumbler? Or your Johnsonville brats? You can’t simply replace these things with commodities without feeling you have lost something.

You and I both know you are not a commodity. But you must make sure that others clearly recognize the specialness you bring to the room. So reflect on your brand. What are your features and benefits that make you special. Focus on enhancing and augmenting them. Study the business and social situations you find yourself in. What isn’t there that you could add so that others miss you when you’re gone? I’ve always said that I never want to attend a meeting that I’m not in. Which sounds like something Yogi Berra might say. But if I can bring enough to the party that others are disappointed by my absences, we’re talking pure Drucker.

 

 

 

How I am making the nap my secret business weapon.

Remember Kindergarten?  I do. It was great. Blocks, snacks, learning to read and being the cutest kids in the school. It was a sweet gig for a 5-year old. And, of course, there were the naps. I remember curling up on my squishy little quadrifold mat. Speckled blue on one side. Flecked red on the other. I zonked and drooled for a few minutes every day. And I always came out of the nap better than I went into it.

For most of us Kindergarten was the last time in our lives we were encouraged, if not forced to take a nap. Now, I want to bring the nap back. But this time for creative professionals. I can’t think of anything that would help my mind perform at its best and  make my days more enjoyable than a regular nap-cation. Even at the office.

Too often we push ourselves until we run out of gas. And you are simply not at your best when you are running on fumes. Call me crazy, but I don’t think we should pay great people with great minds great money and have them operate on low batteries. (Yes I mixed fuel and batteries. I’m a hybrid.) 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers. Which means they sleep in short siestas throughout the day. But somehow we’ve rejected what the rest of our hairy relatives have heartily embraced.

Napping isn’t just important for creative professionals. In various other lines of work the nap is a must. If you drive an 18-wheeler I want you to stop and nap whenever you need to so that you don’t get your Peterbilt in my chocolate. Doctors, if you’re on for a 24-hour shift, wait, scratch that. ANYTIME you need to make sure you are at your best, you take yourself a nap. I’ll even write you a prescription.

Cultures in other parts of the world highly value the workplace nap. In China you’ll find entire teams facedown at their desk over the lunch hour. I love this! And not just because I would take and post hilarious sleeper pics on Instagram every day. In Spain they siesta. Italy has they rock the riposo. And other countries from the Philippines to Nigeria say don’t worry, be nappy.

My friend and former officemate Vince DeMarinis used to announce every day at 3pm, ‘Welcome to the worst hour of the day!’  But with a well timed nap we could be as great at 3pm as we were first thing in the morning. My Grandfathers were both farmers. And you know what they did between the morning and evening chores to prepare for operating heavy and spinny and choppy farm equipment?  They fed their nap-petites on the couch for a few minutes every day. And their cattle and appendages were better off for it.

So I want to apply the same principle to The Perfect Agency Project. When me and my team are worn down from a long day slinging the pickaxe in the Idea Mine, I don’t want the team to simply push through with caffeine. Or 5-Hour Energy. Or Red Bull. Or Crack. What a fatigued mind really needs is a nap. A nap powers us up like our iPhones plugged into the wall. Only without the electricity and charging cords in our orifices.

I’m not proposing long naps where you shut your doors for a few hours and change into your footy pajamas. A quick cat nap will do the trick. A study by the research journal Sleep found that 10 minute naps were optimal in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. Another study of theirs showed that almost no one reads the research journal Sleep.

NASA performed some rocket science on sleepy military pilots and astronauts. They found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%. It even made Tang taste tangier. Since most of the ideators and pencil pilots I work with spend a lot of time with their heads in the clouds I find these results highly relevant.

I am planning out a napping policy and facility now. We may have mats, build bunk beds or hang hammocks. But the nap will be used. It will be sacred. It will help us develop better ideas faster. And it will help us be more productive. I firmly believe it will give us a competitive advantage in ideation. I encourage you to consider incorporating naps into your routine as well. And when you do, let me know. I’d be happy to come take some pictures of your team hard at sleep.

 

 

10 tips every graduate should use to find a job.

It’s that time of year again. College seniors are triumphantly crossing the stage and grabbing their pricey diplomas to the proud applause of their relieved families. The smiles, pride and sense of accomplishment last until the student loans come and the U-haul carries the humbled graduate’s futon back home to start life in The Basement. That is unless they can land themselves a job in the mysterious new frontier we call ‘The Real World’. If you are anything like I was when I graduated you don’t have a clue how to land that first job. So here are my 10 keys to opening the door to the first job in advertising (and probably most other fields).

1. Request an informational interview.

This is the single best advice I can offer. It’s a free audition for you and the agency. And if the person you are calling won’t take the time to help out a young prospect you don’t want to work for that selfish bastard or bastardette anyway.

2. Research the company you want to talk to.

If you really want to talk to me you should know something about me and my company. So show up with as much knowledge as you can find on the business you’re interested in and its clients. A great tool I recommend using to do your research is the internet. Because it has all the information ever accumulated by mankind. #noexcuses

3. Make connections.

I’m not just talking about people networking. Make connections between the organization’s needs and your own areas of knowledge and expertise. I got my first job because I knew a lot about farming. And the agency had a new client that manufactured farm equipment. The agency seemed to know nothing about agriculture. So to them I was like Doogie Howser in flannel.

4. Show up a little early.

Don’t get carried away here. There is a proper amount of early. Too early and you look socially awkward. And late is the kiss of death.

5. Dress professionally.

Determine what that means in your world. For my first interviews out of school I borrowed a suit from my college buddy, Greg Gill. Greg is now a judge and wears a black dress to work. I have never worn a tie to work since. But I made a good first impression.

6. Lose the like.

If there is one thing that reminds me that you’re still a kid it’s using like the word like like way too like much.

7. Prove direction.

It’s great to be open to various possibilities. But I want to hire someone who knows what she or he wants. So know your skills. Know what interests you. Have a vision. And don’t get lost on the way to or from the bathroom.

8.  Don’t drink at the interview.

Advertising interviews can be tricky. Especially if you show up late in the afternoon or on a Friday. The beer is often available and encouraged (this is starting to sound like an ad for advertising). Don’t play along. The dangers outweigh the risks in this case. Demonstrate your self restraint. Ad people are really good at drinking (see Mad Men).  And there are always plenty of permanent markers around and artists who know how to use them on your face.

9. Talk about how you and your friends never use Facebook anymore.

Even if you are on Facebook all day every day say that you can’t stand it. Advertising people are always trying to spot the next trend they know nothing about. Kids, that is the ace up your sleeve. Tell them about the cool new things you are into and how you are rejecting all previously embraced media. Your stock will rise. Trust me.

10.  Follow up.

After the interview send a note thanking the people you met for their time.  This is important in several ways. It shows that you are considerate. It shows that you follow through. And it ensures that the people you talked to have your contact information. Send a note in the mail or by email. Both work. Email makes it easy for them to reply to you. A mailed note always feels special. And retro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 words from my Grampy that will improve your business and marriage.

Marriage is one of life’s greatest adventures. You can never be too prepared for it. Half of marriages end in I don’t. A healthy percentage of the other half aren’t any healthier. So on my wedding day I wanted to cram in one last bit of preparation. I scheduled breakfast with my three marriage mentors, my dad and my two grandfathers (who would all laugh me off the family tree for calling them my marriage mentors). At the time my parents had been married 32 years. My grandparents had been hitched 61 and 63 years.

After we sat down at Emma Krumbies in Wausau, Wisconsin and worked through some Northwoods pancakes and sausage I decided it was time for the knowledge share. I asked The Paternity, ‘What is the key to making a marriage great?’  With 156 years of experience at the table I felt like I just lit the fuse on a 4th of July fireworks grand finale. This was going to be an amazing show. So I sat back to take it all in.

Then my maternal grandfather, Kenny Sprau, crossed his arms, leaned back in his chair and said,

‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’

Um… WTF Grampy?  61 years of trial and error, nine kids and a World War, and that’s all you’ve got?  I wanted to give him a mulligan and see if he could hit it past the women’s tee this time. But he went on. ‘You have to keep doing the things that got you to this point.’

Over time I’ve come to understand what Grampy was saying.  When we are dating we are at our best. The unfortunate tendency is to drop the hard work, the energy, the attention, and charm we put into the relationship after the contract is signed.

This advice holds true in business as well as marriage.  Treat your potential partners well. Act as if you would like nothing more than spending the rest of your time together. Listen. Make them laugh. Show them you are interesting, kind and thoughtful. Get the contract signed.  And then keep doing what you’ve been doing.

If you are a creative it is easy to get precious about the work you do.  It’s easy to throw hissy fits (although the best place to grab the hissy to throw it is hard to determine). It’s easy to be combative. Oh, and it’s easy to go out of business. The statistics aren’t good.

But in business, as in marriage, listening and collaborating are valuable approaches to your growth strategy. Clients and spouses alike really like that stuff. Crazy right?  When you respond favorably to a client’s request they generate something called ‘good feelings’ about you.  And these ‘good feelings’ make them want to see you more and work with you more. And the result is business growth.

The opposite is also true.  If you are the all-time best seller at The Jerk Store no one wants to be around you. This is true of both the individual and the organization.

If you recognize complacency, apathy or combativeness between your organization and your clients stamp that out like a flaming bag of dog poo on your front porch. The behavior may feel justified today. But you’ll regret the justice leveled tomorrow when you’re trading the offspring in the McDonald’s parking lot.

At the Perfect Agency Project our goal is to treat our current business like new business. We never want to take them for granted.  We are trying to re-win them every day. Even after we put a ring on it. Thanks for the wise advice Grampy. Me and Grammy miss you.