How I designed my life. And suddenly it became true.

On the eve of my 40th birthday I sketched out a vision for the rest of my life. I wrote in great detail about what I felt was my personal legend. By starting with the end in mind, I was able to determine the actions I needed to start making in order to accomplish all of my personal and professional goals.

It was a transformational evening.  In the last hours of my 39th year I determined the best way to grab control of my life, and design it exactly the way I imagined, was to start my own business.

I became totally focused on bringing my design vision to life. I put my plans into motion. Two years later, I launched my own advertising and idea agency in Atlanta. I named it The Weaponry. And I have been living into the vision ever since.

One Life. One Wife.

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We are family. Except on the last day of school. Then it’s every Albrecht for her or himself.

 

My wife, Dawn, gets co-creator credit on my life design. Like Al Jarreau said, we’re in this love together. Because a good marriage is like a 3-legged race, my life plan had to accommodate Dawn’s, and vice versa. We also had to consider our 3 children as part of the design. While we liked Atlanta, it didn’t quite fit all of our design requirements for our perfect long-term home base. So we had to plan our next move.

We didn’t mind moving our children while they were young. But we wanted to stop moving by the time our oldest child, Ava, reached middle school. We wanted to be closer to our families. And as a couple who grew up in Wisconsin and Vermont, we wanted winter. So we began looking for a northern headquarters for our family and bouncing baby business.

The City Search

We began looking for our 13-year home. A 13-year home would mean none of our children would have to move again before they graduated from high school. We drew a circle of acceptability around an area that included Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis. All of these cities are in the Central Time Zone, which we felt was the best time zone for a well designed life, and maximum business flexibility. These cities also put us within a comfortable driving radius of our parents. And we like our parents.

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As part of our life design we like to cut down our own Christmas tree. We like them full, with a lot of sap.

In the Goldilocks And The 3 Bears analysis of these cities, we decided that Chicago didn’t offer the best quality of life (cost of living and the commute were Boos). Madison was too small for the business I wanted to build. And Minneapolis needed another ad agency like an NBA player needs another tattoo.

The Brew City Sweet Spot

After much deliberation, we chose Milwaukee as our 13-year home. It put us within a 3.5 hour drive of both of our parents. I have a substantial network in Milwaukee, that includes former clients and co-workers from my time at Cramer Krasselt. Dawn and I both graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and Milwaukee is ground zero for Badger alumni. The city offers a great quality of life. The suburban schools are excellent. Plus, it offers easy access to Madison and Chicago, both just 90 minutes away.

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This is the view in front of my office on The Milwaukee River. Full disclosure: this photo was not taken in January.

But I’m A Rolling Stone…

While I wanted to provide my wife and children with long-term stability, deep down, and maybe not that deep, I like moving. By the summer of 2016 I had lived in 9 different cities. I wasn’t sure I could commit to one place for 13 years. So I built a solution into the master design.

The Home Office Strategy

As part of my life design, I developed The Weaponry’s Home Office strategy.  Which is my strategic plan to have an office for The Weaponry every place I’ve had a home. This strategy would provide regular travel and consistent interaction with the friends, co-workers and clients I have made along the way. It would also make me feel like I am part of several communities, so I don’t have to choose just one.

The cities on The Weaponry Home Office Strategy list include Milwaukee, Columbus and Atlanta. Because I grew up in New England I also want an office in either Burlington or Boston. Both of which are wicked good options.

Laying The Groundwork

When I began looking at potential employees and freelancers to join The Weaponry, I was biased towards people based in the cities listed above. So I began forming little clusters of resources in the Home Office Cities to help me live into the dream. In the fall of 2017 we signed a lease on 1000 square feet of space overlooking the Milwaukee River in, you guessed it, Milwaukee.

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It’s great having an office where you can point at someone with both hands.

What’s Next…

Today, I am really excited about the next step we are taking to bring the Home Office Strategy to life. We have been putting a lot of time and effort into the next phase, which may mean a new office in a new city. So tune in next week, when I share the unfolding news of our HQ2. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

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Our next office will be somewhere on this map.

Key Takeaway

If you want to live your ideal life you have to write down a vision of what you want your life to look like. You have to map out the steps to get you to your ideal design. Then you have to take deliberate actions to make it all come true. It’s an amazingly rewarding and fulfilling adventure. I’m typing proof.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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!

Today is the day I leave for India!

I start my journey to India today. The team at my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, are working on a project with a really impressive business in Bangalore. But the first big moment of the trip actually came yesterday. 24 hours before takeoff I received a push notification from Delta that it was time to check in for my flight. I have traveled so much that the mere check-in notice doesn’t usually get me excited. But this one did. There is so much unknown ahead of me in the next 30 hours that I got a fun flock of butterflies flittering in my stomach. I love that feeling. It makes me feel both alive and buttery.

The first big question is, How will I tolerate 2-hour, 8.5-hour and 10-hour flights back to back to back?  I have a regular-person seat for both long flights. No first class or business class. No exit row. No incrementally-less-discomfortable seats. The second question obviously is, Do I have enough material to maintain over 20 hours of conversations with my seat mates? I am sure whoever sits next to me on the long flights is going to expect us to have an ultramarathon conversation, like at a no-sleep sleepover. And I don’t want to disappoint.

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I flagged today to fly to India on a day that India is flying a flag. 

Today’s Indiatinerary

I leave Milwaukee just before 1pm today and fly to Atlanta. I have a 2-hour layover in my other-home airport, and meet up with my fellow Weapon, Adam Emery. Adam, or Henry as we call him, is our Associate Creative Director, and has been a full-time employee of The Weaponry for a year. When you celebrate an anniversary as a full-time team member of The Weaponry, we like to offer a special project, like working with a celebrity athlete or something that allows you to fly to the other side of the planet. #benefits

From Atlanta, Henry and I have an 8+ hour flight to Paris. There, we will try to find an all-you-can-eat croissants buffet during our 3-hour layover. We will also meet up with the two clients who are traveling with us. I envision us filling our lengthy layover with sitcom-style airport hijinks, and general foreign country hilarity. After 3 hours of ooh la la-ing, we will jump on the final leg of the journey to India. Our 10 hour flight will take us to Bangalore, also known as Bengaluru, where we plan to watch Hulu with a guru.

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This is exactly what I expect the airport to look like in Bangalore, except none of the signs will mention Helsinki.

If all goes according to plan, we will arrive in India just before midnight on Sunday night. Then Henry and I will catch a ride with a transportation service to our hotel in the city center, which is about 35 kilometers from the airport.

This will definitely be interesting adventure. I have watched a bunch of movies to prepare me for this experience. My Pre-India Film Festival included Gandhi, Eat. Pray. Love., Slumdog Millionaire, Lion and Hoosiers. I later realized that Hoosiers actually took place in Indiana. Oops. (or should I say Hoops?)

Thanks for following the journey. I also plan to post updates, pics, vids and stories on Instagram at @adamalbrecht if connectivity allows.

Let’s do this!