Is there enough adventure in your career?

In 2006 I had a 365 day calendar. You know, the type of calendar that has 365 sheets that are stacked like a thick pad of post it notes. I don’t remember the theme of the calendar. In fact, I have forgotten 364 of the pages. But there is one page that I will never forget. At least until the Alzheimer’s kicks in.

My life in 2006

The date was Friday, July 21, 2006. I had been at my first job out of college for nearly 10 years. I had been married to my wife, Dawn, for nearly 4 years. We had owned our first home for 2 years. And our first child, our daughter Ava, was about to celebrate her first birthday by smashing a cupcake into her face.

That July morning I tore off the July 20th page on my calendar like it was yesterday’s news (because it was), and revealed the following message:

“I have always wanted an adventurous life. It took a long time to realize that I was the only one who could make an adventurous life happen to me.” -Richard Bach

The Quote

This quickly became one of my favorite quotes. It serves as a constant reminder to adventure. To try new things. To move beyond our comfort zones. To make our insurance premiums worth paying.

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I keep this little square as a constant reminder to adventure.

We should adventure on our weekends, on our vacations and holidays. But we should also adventure at home on Wednesday nights. We should adventure in our reading and eating and driving. We should try new things, and semi-dangerous or even full-strength dangerous things on a regular basis. We should do the things Rupert Holmes sings about in The Pina Colada song (I know it’s called Escape, but who really calls it that? His lawyer?).

My Career

Shortly after reading this quote I turned my career into a legitimate adventure. After 10 years at my first job I moved on to my second job. I also moved to a new state, and took on 3 successively larger positions over the next 4 years. 7 years later, Engauge, the ad agency I worked for, was bought by Publicis Groupe, and I moved to Atlanta in a new role in a new company. Then, in 2015 I began planning to start my own business. Because that seemed like the natural next step.

Entrepreneurship

There is no career adventure like owning your own business. In April of 2016 I launched the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. And it has been the most exciting chapter of my career. As an entrepreneur, you learn like a college student on a daily basis. Which means that you are constantly growing and pushing yourself into unfamiliar situations.

It is in the pushing and growing and unfamiliar that the adventure happens. Threats and opportunities and excitement now surround me every day. And I love it. It is better than a television show, movie, or book. Because it is happening to me. I am not feeling someone else’s drama. It is very much my own.

Key Takeaway

Before you know it we will all be dead. So while we are here, create your own adventure.    Take that new job. Make that move. Go on that trip. Change careers completely, or get more schooling if you need to do what you really want to do. Start your own business or consult of side hustle or whatever it takes to add more venturing to your life. Give the person who delivers your eulogy something to write about. Give the rest of us great stories to read about.

Remember, no one makes it out of here alive. So there is no use in playing it safe. But as Richard Bach told me in 2006, no one else can give you an adventurous life. You have to make it yourself.

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How to warm up your entrepreneurial spirit.

Admit it, you would really like to own your own business. Most of us would. But getting started is a gnarly tangle of question marks.

  • Do I have what it takes?
  • What do I do first?
  • Do I have the appetite for risk?
  • Should I find a partner?
  • If my business doesn’t take off quickly do I give up food, shelter or clothing first?

Curious-but-careful types turn to books for answers to these questions. While you can read about entrepreneurship all you want, you can’t actually become an entrepreneur without taking action. Which means the best thing to do to warm up your entrepreneurial spirit is practice taking entrepreneurial action (without spending or losing money in the process).

The Challenge

I offer people enamored with the idea of entrepreneurship a simple one week challenge. If you bail on the challenge in the first day, it is a sign that you should not be a sailor on the entrepreneur ship. But if you complete the challenge, not only have you exercised the right behavior, you’ve primed the pump for the next step too.

So here is my challenge to you:


Adam Albrecht’s Unpatented One Week Entrepreneurial Warm Up Exercise.

  1. Pick a good starting day that offers flexibility in your schedule. Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays work well.
  2. Every time you think of someone, reach out to them. Send an email,  text or a call them. Shoot them a message on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Write the impulse down if you can’t send a message at that moment. But send the message that day. If there is a reason that person popped into your mind let them know. *only contact each person once, even if you think of them multiple times during the week. You don’t want to creep them out.

3. Write down the number of days in a row that you completed the mission.


The 3 Reasons You Should Try This Exercise:

1.Entrepreneurship is about turning thoughts into actions. Everyone has thoughts, ideas and impulses. But most of the time these impulses dissipate before they become actions. This exercise helps you transform your moments of inspiration into actions.

2. Entrepreneurship also requires you to actively maintain your network. That means investing time, thought, action and care into other people. It also involves expanding your network. Which could mean reaching out to people you don’t know, or don’t know well.

3. Entrepreneurship requires persistence. You have to keep at it day after day. Even if you really enjoyed a day or two of this exercise, don’t try to launch a business until you can string together a full week of successful impulse activation. 

5 Things You Will Learn From This Exercise:

1. What it is like to activate your thoughts.

2. Whether or not you can activate your thoughts with consistency.

3. Your connections with others will grow stronger.

4. The recency of your communications with make others more likely to think of you again in the near future.

5. Human interactions often set off a chain of interesting positive events. 

Key Takeaway

In entrepreneurship action is everything. In order to invent Facebook you actually have to invent Facebook. And it starts by doing the things you’ve thought about doing but haven’t done. Entrepreneurship requires you to spend a good chunk of your time outside your comfort zone. So practice getting over that discomfort by reaching out to friends and family you haven’t contacted for quite some time. By the end of this Unpatented One Week Entrepreneurial Warm Up Exercise, you won’t have spent any money on your business idea. But you will have created a more fertile environment for it to grow.

Why walking in a blizzard is so good for you.

I recently found this post in my rough drafts folder. It was originally written in June of 2016, but never published. At the time, my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, was a startup in the first months of life. The swirling uncertainty of startup-ness surrounded us. And that can mess with you…

From June 10th, 2016

Today I had a long talk with a co-worker who was having a hard time at work. Which is understandable. Because startups are kinda hard. Launching a startup is like walking in a blizzard. Wind and snow are all up in your grill. It’s cold. Visibility goes into the toilet. It’s difficult to navigate in these conditions.

In the middle of a blizzard your survival instincts tell you to seek shelter. It’s natural to want to escape the relentless wind, disorienting snow and mounting drifts. Sitting by a crackling fire, drinking hot chocolate is far more appealing to most people.

But I like walking in blizzards. I like being out when no one else is. I like doing things that build my character, my will and my personal legend. In the same way a callus rises as the result of repeated friction, strength grows from pushing against resistance.

You have to keep walking. You must have faith that you know where you are heading. You have to take steps forward, even when it is hard. Blizzards of the wintry, professional and personal kind are temporary. Eventually the snow will stop falling. The wind will chill the eff out. And the sun will come out again. When that happens, where will you be? It’s a matter of what you did during the blizzard. If you keep pushing, you will find yourself far ahead of where you started, far ahead of those who sought shelter, and closer to your ultimate goal. You’ll find the ultimate rewards far outweigh the hot chocolate you sacrificed along the way.

*To learn what has happened to The Weaponry over the past year and a half, check out some other posts. To see what happens next, consider subscribing to this blog.

Why I hate networking, and what I do instead.

Since I was in college I have heard career-minded folk talk about the importance of networking. Which begs the question, What the fruit is networking? Because before college I didn’t network, and I seem to have gotten along just fine.

But starting my freshman year in college, professors, advisors and guest speakers talked about networking as if it twas the key to success beyond college (twas is a word you can only use in December). Then I started my career in advertising and I heard the same thing. Business books and career coaches strongly encourage you to network. I have even attended a few functions called networking events. Oy. 

So what the funk does it means to network? 

Oh looky here! I found a definition.

Network (verb): interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.

Ahh. When you put it that way, I understand what you mean. And it kinda makes me want to barf.  ‘Interacting with people‘, ‘exchanging information’ and ‘developing contacts’ is something that can be done by a machine. Or a criminal.

What I do.

While other people network, I am still doing what I did before college. Before I was told that networking was the key to advancing my career. Before I was told networking was crucial to successful entrepreneurship.

No. I don’t network.

I befriend.

What does that mean?  Well, I just happen to have the definition for you right here:

Befriend (verb): act as a friend to someone by offering help or support.
This is what I do. I learned how to do this when I was in pre-school and it has served me well my entire life.  Notice the keys to befriending? You act as a friend. You offer help and support. This is the good stuff. This is what other people really want.  This is how you improve life on the big blue marble.

When you dive into the synonyms of befriending you develop an even richer picture:
  • make friends with
  • make a friend of
  • look after
  • keep an eye on
  • be of service to
  • lend a helping hand to
  • help
  • protect
  • side with
  • stand by
  • encourage

The Take Away

The world would be a better place if we stopped trying to network, and we just tried to make friends. So I encourage you to develop real relationships. Because when you make people the most important thing in your life, everything else magically falls into place.  Our relationships, and the positive impact we have on one another, are the only things that really matter. It is true at home. It is true in pre-school. It is true in college. And it is true in business. So if you really want to be a great success, be a great friend. If there is any way I can help, please let me know.

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

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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.

 Conclusion

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.

How Walt Disney saved his best for last. And you can too.

I have finally finished reading Walt Disney. The Triumph of the American Imagination.  It was not a small book after all. To the contrary, it was large, dense and fascinating. Author, Neal Gabler, is an enviable writer who pulls back the curtain to reveal Disney as a complex, chain-smoking, reluctant American icon.

What I learned.

I picked up this book because I wanted to understand the formula behind Disney’s magic.  I wanted to know how he made all those great movies and cartoons. How he got us to put on those silly mouse-ear hats and think we looked cool. And how he got us to pay $100 a noggin to visit his Land or World.

As Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I am always looking for insights from other great creative businesses. So I’ve been studying organizations like Disney, Pixar, The Wright Brothers Workshop, Andy Warhol’s Factory and North Korea’s Vacation and Tourism Board.

I expected Walt Disney would be a book about creativity. Certainly there is a lot of creativity and imagineering in the book. Walt was a visionary who had a crystal clear picture in his head of everything he set out to create. But the reason everyone should read this book is to see how hard his journey really was.

DisneyDali_Walt

For almost 500 pages of the biography you wonder when Walt Disney will finally catch a break. Seriously. The classic movies we know and love today were largely box office flops, failing to make enough money to pay for production. Disney was a half-step ahead of the Financial Grim Reaper for what seemed like the bulk of his career. In the 1940s he narrowly avoided bankruptcy thanks to government film contracts during WWII. He just kept doing what he had to do to keep his mouse ears above water.

The next time you are working on unsexy projects for tough clients, take comfort in knowing that Walt Disney did the same thing to keep his dreams alive too.

walt-disney-animator-photograph

Saving The Best For Last

But the most fascinating thing about the book was that the greatest achievement of his career didn’t come until the very end. In fact, it wasn’t even mentioned until page 603 of the 633 page book. That’s right, Disney World, the 40 square mile resort the size of San Francisco, was his best and last chapter.

Walt-Disney-Disneyland

When Walt told his wife about his plans for Disney World she was aghast, asking him, ‘What do you want to do that for?’  He replied,

I would get stagnant if I didn’t do new things.

Today Disney World employs 62,000 people, making it the largest single-site employer in the country.

disney-on-dreaming-walt-disney1

What it means to you and me.

It is never too late in your career to have your biggest and best chapter. If you are willing to keep growing and pushing and driving yourself, the best is still in front of you. Employ all of your accumulated experiences, insights and know-how to create bigger and better chapters of your own story.  Keep doing new things until you are done. Like done, done.

Thanks for reading.

See you real soon.

The End.

Two questions to refocus your career every Labor Day.

Happy Labor Day!  I’m honored that you took a moment to read my blog today. Because as you read this, the last hours of summer are sprinting through the hourglass. You would probably be better off using this time to soak up some sunshine. Either way, that healthy summer tan is going to start fading at sundown. Sorry. I’ll try to make this brief.

Labor Day is for you.

Labor Day is YOUR national holiday. It is a day to honor the work you do. Yes, you!

According to The US Labor Department (Labor Day’s Parents), Labor Day constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Good for you, Worker Bee! Have some honey! Take the day off. Eat a hotdog, drink a Miller Lite and blow off some steam by throwing some bags in a hole.

This is a great time to reflect on your career.

Labor Day is also the perfect day for your annual career evaluation. It’s like a mammogram or prostate check for you career. Only you get to keep your clothes on, if you want.

Careers are long and complicated journeys. Along the way we often become so consumed with our daily work that we don’t think about the big picture.

It’s easy to focus on the days and lose site of the career.

I took the time to chart my ideal career course at the beginning of my journey. If you haven’t done that yet, do it today. Determine all the things you want to accomplish in your career AND what the end looks like.

I had a vision for my entire career from the starting blocks. Luckily for me, my wife Dawn always seems to know when it has been too long since I have revisited my career map.

At those times she poses these two simple questions:

  1. Are you where you want to be?
  2. Where are you going next?

These questions have been extremely helpful to me over the past 15 years. Here is how they can be helpful to you.

6 ways these questions help your career.

  1. They remind you that you have a career plan (if you haven’t written yours down do it now).
  2. They make you cognizant of the passing of time.
  3. They remind you of your valuable accumulation of experience and abilities.
  4. They remind you that if you want to accomplish everything in your plan you need to keep moving.
  5. They help you rise above your current day-to-day work to see your entire career and how much of it is yet unwritten.
  6. Most importantly, they are a scary reminder that if you don’t start writing the next chapter, there will be no next chapter. There will be no rising drama. There will be no cray-cray challenge that tests your fortitude. No great triumph. Your career story will end on this chapter. That is perfectly acceptable if you have accomplished everything in your plan. I have not.

You just read the critical part of the post. Feel free to go enjoy some sun now. If it is raining or nighttime as you read this, I baked you some more blog cookies below.

My last 3 Labor Day evaluations.

On Labor Day 2015 I was deep into my plans for starting my own advertising agency. My career evaluation was full of excitement and potential. But only if I followed through with the plan and plunged into entrepreneurship, which was the next square on my Career Candyland board game.

On Labor Day 2016 I had launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, and had already worked with 8 clients. I was learning. We were growing. I was on course.

Today, Labor Day 2017, I couldn’t be happier. I love what I am doing. I love what we are building at The Weaponry. I have a great team of full-time, part-time and some-time coworkers.  I love the clients we have been honored to help. We have now worked with 20+ great brands in the United States and Canada. This is the most exciting and rewarding chapter of my career. But I wouldn’t have gotten to it if I had not regularly pondered where I stood in my career and where I wanted to go next.

So each year, at Labor Day, as you enjoy the tribute to your labor, take a few minutes or a few hours to ask yourself, what’s next for my career?  Find the next step towards the type of success you’ve always wanted.  Take the steps that add new, more interesting chapters to your life story. Don’t just coast through each year trying not to get fired. If you stop evaluating long enough it becomes too late. The game is over. The book is done. And no one wants to read it. But if you chart your progress and refocus every Labor Day, you’ll have a book to be proud of. And I can’t wait to read it.