The best way to pay lower taxes next year.

April 15th is once again upon us. If you pay a lot in taxes it might feel like Uncle Sam is upon you too. This time of year people always complain about how much they owe the government in taxes. Clearly the complainers don’t know how easy it is to dramatically lower your tax burden.

Disclaimer

Before I share my surefire tax lowering technique I should acknowledge that I am not a licensed tax professional. So anything I share here should be verified by your tax consultant, or by actually reading the IRS publications. But I am pretty sure this is not the same tax lowering strategies used by Wesley Snipes, Martha Stewart or Willie Nelson.

Tax Paying Experience

While I am not a certified tax professional, I own my own business and file taxes in 3 different states. I have been paying taxes since I was 14 years old. I have calculated my taxes on my own and I’ve used Turbo Tax. Today, I use a team of professional tax accountants. All 3 of these tax preparing approaches have confirmed my bulletproof tax reduction strategy.

My Tax Reduction Technique

My surefire technique for lowering your tax burden is so easy anyone can use it. Even better, it is legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

If you want to pay far less in taxes next year simply make far less income.

The Ultimate Tax Hack

If a lower tax bill is a high priority, simply throttle back your effort and contribution at work. Unless a family member owns the company, or you are really, really good-looking (#Zoolander), you will certainly feel an equal drop in both your compensation and your tax liability. It’s that easy to do. In fact, it is much easier to lower your taxes significantly than it is to raise them.

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This is not me. It’s a stock photo created to represent someone doing business or taxes. Or perhaps it’s a photo of a magician about to make that phone disappear by drawing your attention to the succulent in the upper left hand corner, then slipping the phone up his sleeve. Any hoo, the image is here to add visual interest to the story. I hope it helped.

My Tax History

When I was in high school and college, I typically made between $3000 and $5000 working during the summer. As a result my taxes were tiny. In fact, I am pretty sure the government lost money on the time they spent reviewing my taxes.

In the first year after I graduated from college I made $21,000. My taxes were still really low. In fact, the government gave me almost all of the money I paid in taxes back to me. When I received my refund check from the IRS that year it was accompanied by a note that said, ‘Thanks for the laugh!’

My Taxes Today.

Now I make a lot more money. And I pay a lot more in taxes. In 2016 I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Clearly I didn’t listen to those who told me that if my income goes up, my tax bill will too. In fact, this year I will pay more in taxes than I made in gross salary during the 7th year of my career. And I love it.

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Reinterpreting Those Damn Taxes

Taxes are a sign of success. To pay a lot in taxes you have to make a lot of money. If you are paying a lot more now than you did a few years ago, congratulations! You must be making a lot more. If your total tax bill is obscene, even better! You must be making an obscene amount of money!

The Tax Reminder

Remember, taxes enable us to pay for things together. If it weren’t for taxes, you would have to build your own roads, your own schools, and your own parks. But thanks to the tax system, we all give a little and get a whole lot in return. Which means that taxes help us save money overall, and increase our quality of life. If you are not paying taxes it is like going to a pot luck dinner and not bringing any pot or any luck to share. That makes you a mooch. Or a free loader. Don’t be that kid.

Key Takeaway

To pay a lot in taxes you have to make a lot of money. Never lose that perspective. Be proud of that money you contribute to benefit us all. I hope you make a boatload of money next year. Then I hope you ship a life raft’s worth of tax payments to the IRS to help save us all. Be proud to pay a larger tax bill each year. It’s a sign of success. Sure, it’s easy to slash your tax bill by lowering your income. But after you’ve done that once you will realize it feels a lot better to pay a lot more.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share with them.

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Yesterday I had an amazing chance to complete a life goal!

I spent the last hours of my 39th year reflecting on my life. I wrote down a long list of things I was proud I had accomplished so far. It was good to take a 40-year view of life. In fact, I consider this moment one of the pivotal moments in my adventure on Earth. It helped put my journey and path in perspective. After I took inventory of all the good things I had accomplished and experienced I turned my attention to the future.

I asked myself a simple question:

If life ended right here, what things would I regret not doing?

This was an exciting question. Because it would form my to-do list for the next chapter of life. At that point I felt like I was living up to most of my expectations. My personal life was great. I had a wonderful wife (Dawn), a daughter (Ava) and two sons (Johann and Magnus). My parents, sisters and their families were all doing well. I have a huge and wonderful extended family and great friends around the world.

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My family.

My career was going very well. I was the Chief Creative Officer of a 275-person advertising agency called Engauge, and we were about to finalize a deal to sell the agency to Publicis, the giant advertising agency holding company out of Paris.

The 4 Things

With my personal and professional life on track, what were the things that I would regret not doing if died the next day? There were 4 things that quickly rose to the top.

  1. More international travel. I had visited 11 foreign countries at that time. But that left about 200 that I hadn’t seen.
  2. Starting an advertising agency.
  3. Starting a real estate business.
  4. Donating blood.

This became my checklist of things to accomplish in the decade ahead.

The Advertising Agency

Within 2 years I began plans to launch my own advertising agency. And within 3 years I had actually left my job, started the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, and had clients in Atlanta, Boston, Quebec, Milwaukee and San Francisco.

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Me and my cousin Brooks at The Weaponry.

The Real Estate Business

By the end of that 3rd year, Dawn and I had bought a new house and converted our home in Atlanta into a rental property, complete with tenants and rental income. Which meant that we had birthed our real estate business.

The International Travel

Last year I had a really exciting opportunity to travel to India to film a video for a great client, Fifth Third bank. My experience there was incredible. In fact I summarized it in this popular blog post, 20 interesting things you notice when you travel to India. Now America is the only country that reads my blog more than India.

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I am excited to be making good progress on these 3 areas. Which are the toughest 3 on my list to accomplish. Which leaves just one of my goals for the decade unaddressed.

Until yesterday.

Donating Blood

Yesterday morning when I got on the elevator to go to my office I saw a flyer posted above the keypad. There was a blood drive, from 10am to 2pm in the office space directly above The Weaponry. I was thrilled. This was the sign I needed. And today was the day!

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The Flyer

My Dad

A quick bit of background. My Dad, Robert Albrecht donates blood like it is his job. He is the equivalent of a Million Mile Flyer for giving blood. But I had never given blood myself, and have always felt bad about this. When I was on the track team at the University of Wisconsin our coaches discouraged us from giving for training and performance reasons. After graduation I simply never found the on-ramp to giving. I have no fear of blood or needles or ‘I gave’ stickers. I just hadn’t done it.

At 11am I left my office and made my way to suite 307. I was more excited than most people to donate blood. But then again, most people don’t have donating blood on their bucket list. I walked in the room and was greeted by a blue scrubbed technician. I said, ‘If you have any time slots still available I am full of blood, and willing to give some to you.’ She laughed and told me there was an open slot at 11:50am.

I was thrilled. And at 11:50am I was back and got the process started. I signed in on a clipboard and was taken to a semi-private cubicle for my pre-screening. They took my driver’s license and entered a bunch of information about me into a computer. Then they had me scan a binder previewing the questionnaire I was about to take.

The Questionnaire

Then I took the questionnaire. It was crazy. It asked if I was, or ever had been pregnant. It asked if I took any drugs, received a blood transfusion, had AIDS or Cancer. It asked if I had ever had man on man sex, or sex with a prostitute. #thingsIhadn’texpectedtoreadthatday.

When I was finished with the 45 question survey I only said Yes to one question. The technician then reviewed my answers and said, ‘It looks like we have just one question to review.’ It says that you have traveled outside of the US or Canada in the past year. I proudly said, ‘Yes!’

The technician asked where I had traveled. I told her I had been to India. She then asked me what area I visited. I replied that I had been to Bangalore, in southern India.

She then pulled out a binder to check on any restrictions that may apply, based on my travel. Once she found what she was looking for she turned the binder around towards me. She put her finger next to the word India. She then slid her finger to show me that travelers to India were prohibited from donating blood for one year, due to the threat of Malaria.

I was denied.

She told me to come back at the end of September and they would happily take my blood. She then handing me my parting gift. It was a ticket that provided free admission for four people to Mt. Olympus Water Park in Wisconsin Dells. While I love a good water park, this was little consolation for not being able to check off one my major life goals.

Reflecting

But I couldn’t help but smile, reflecting on the last few hours of my 39th year. That night I declared I would launch my own business. Which lead to exciting international travel. Which prevented me from donating blood. In other words, I still have unfinished business.

Key Takeaway

Take inventory of your life. Give gratitude for all you have and all you’ve done, both personally and professionally. And think about the things you will regret not doing next. Write them down. Prioritize them. And give yourself a deadline to accomplish them. Then take action. Even long lives fly by. If you don’t recognize, declare and take action towards the things you want most, they will never happen.

I am excited to have made such good progress on 3 out of 4 Decade Goals. In September I expect to knock off another. Unless, of course, I have more exciting international travel before then. Which is always a possibility. Afterall, it is on my to-do list.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. 

What this entrepreneur is suddenly afraid of.

I’m not easy to scare. I’m not an anxious or nervous person. In fact, I am so normal that I am often bored by my lack of lunacy. My kids say that the only thing I am scared of is missing out on a fun time. In the past, they may have been right.

But I have a new fear that seems to have crept up on me when I wasn’t looking. I feel it in libraries and bookstores. It makes me truly uncomfortable in these places that should be quiet and calming.

So What’s Up?

I have tracked and analyzed this feeling and have discovered its source. Libraries and bookstores make me anxious, because I am now comparing all of the books I want to read with how little time I have left to read them. The equation does not work in my favor. And this freaks me out.

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I enter each bookstore as if it were my last. And it is wigging me out.

Organ Transplants

I love to read. Reading a book is like being the recipient of an organ transplant. Because as you read, someone else’s knowledge gets transferred to your body of knowledge. Yet, unlike when you receive a new, kidney, heart or appendix, your body rarely rejects new reading material. Even when you disagree with what you’ve read, you incorporate it into your understanding and world view.

Entrepreneurship Makes Symptoms Worse

I have always loved to read. But ever since I founded my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, my reading pace has picked up. So has my phobia. My FOLAB (Fear Of Libraries and Bookstores) is like FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Except the FOLAB stems from the knowledge, perspective, and mental stimulation I know I will never receive.

I have read several sources that say the average CEO reads one book per week. This doesn’t surprise me. Because entrepreneurs are looking for as much knowledge as they can accumulate. I turn to books as my primary source of professional inspiration and education. I pick up something useful in everything I read. I always juggle several books at once (because they are safer than chainsaws). And most of my commute is done listening to audio books. Yet, time is slipping away.

Key Takeaway

I am confronting the finite amount of book-reading life I have left. And I am in desperate  need of some knowledge donors. Please share some of your go-to books that you feel I  should prioritize. The average age of my four grandparents was only 95 years old.* So I may only have 50 years of reading left. Oh, my gosh. Seeing that in print is totally freaking me out. Please help by sending your reading recommendations today.

*My Grandma Albrecht is 98 and still going strong. So the average is still going up. But  still…

Are you really in control of your career?

It was December of 1999. The world was facing a possible Y2K apocalypse, and I was surrounded by cranberries. I had written a national TV commercial for Northland Cranberry Juice and was now preparing to shoot the spot in their hometown, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Rapids (just in case you’ve never been there) is to cranberries what Nashville is to country music.

The premise of the commercial we were shooting was that the honest, hardworking people of Wisconsin Rapids put 100% into everything they do. So they would never consider putting anything less than 100% juice into a bottle of Northland. The same could not be said for those villains at Ocean Spray. Their cranberry cocktails ranged from just 17% to 27% juice. Cut to the close up of the Ocean Spray ingredient label, and cue the horror movie music.

The Director

But this story is not about juice. It is about the director. Ashley Lazarus. While Ashley Lazarus is one of the most beautiful names I have ever heard, it belongs to a bear of a man. A South African man. A man best known in America for launching the Saturn car brand with the iconic Spring in Springhill commercials. In other words, Ashley had mad directing skillz.

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Ashley Lazarus and a camera that won’t fit in your pocket.

Location Scouting

My first two days with Ashley were spent scouting for locations to shoot the commercial.  We were looking for the most interesting locations in and around Wisconsin Rapids to capture on film.

The conversation

While driving between locations in the Wisconsin countryside, Ashley, who was in his 60s, turned to me and slowly asked in his deep, South African accent, ‘Adam, how old are you?’

I replied, ’26’.

Not only will I never forget what he said next, it helped steer the course of my career, and my life.

Ashley continued,

‘Adam, eventually you must open your own advertising agency. You will be promised great positions in your career. You may even be offered them. But eventually all creatives are either passed over or forced out of agencies. The only way for you to remain in control of your career is to own your own agency.’

I had dreamed of owning my own agency since I first started my career three years earlier. But now, at 26 years old, I was told I had no choice. If I wanted to be in control of my career and my life’s path, I would have to start my own advertising agency and create my own opportunities.

That advice stuck in my head like a cocklebur to corduroy. I believed Ashley was right. Over the next 15 years I was promoted from Copywriter, to Senior Writer, to Associate Creative Director, to Creative Director, to Executive Creative Director to Chief Creative Officer. But I never forgot what Ashley said. And I wanted the ultimate control over my career path.

The Weaponry

In 2016, when I was 42 years old, I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. I also launched this blog to chronicle the entire journey (if you’d like to follow along at home consider subscribing). Today, I’d like Ashley to know that I listened, appreciated and followed the advice he gave me in the back of that SUV in Wisconsin, Rapids in 1999.

Key Takeaway

What Ashley said about my career holds true for you too. Your career path, and your life path will be determined by someone else if you don’t take control of it. You too should start your own business, or side hustle, or consulting gig. Prepare your own plan B before you need it. It’s the key to writing your own script with your own happy ending.

The Weaponry Turns 2 Years Old Today!

From the very beginning of my career I wanted to start my own advertising agency. I dreamed about it for years. I envied those I knew who had done it. And I had wise counselors tell me that starting my own agency was the only way I would be able to control both the path and the length of my advertising career. I figured it would also make it harder for my coworkers to tell me to turn down my music.

I began making concrete plans in the summer of 2015 after a couple of former clients strongly encouraged/challenged/incentivized me to launch a new agency. My cousin Brooks Albrecht and I began formulating plans to launch the new venture from opposite corners of the country. I was in Atlanta. He was in Seattle. We had a lot of late night phone calls fueled by sweet tea and coffee. We were like the Rumpelstiltskin Cousins, trying to spin straw into gold while the world slept.

Brooks was working at Amazon at the time. He was amazing at developing a smart, scalable infrastructure. We devoured the book The E-Myth, and were determined to build our machine the right way from the start. We thought we had a solid plan in place, and even performed some early ‘proof of concept’ alpha testing with two clients, one in Boston and the other in California.

I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having and how excited I was by what we were attempting to do. Then, in the spring of 2016, I filed the paperwork to make it official. Two years ago today on April 12th, 2016, The Weaponry was born, and the adventure began.

Our First Client

 

Our very first client was Global Rescue. On an early trip to Boston to meet with the GR team, I stayed at the home of their Founder and CEO, Dan Richards. When you are first starting off you do things like stay at your client’s home. Both because your first opportunity often comes from someone who you know really well (Dan is one of my closest friends in the world). And because when you are a lean start-up you’ll do anything you can to save money.

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Me and Dan Richards. We’ve known each other since we were 12. Since then we have been football and track teammates. We have been in each other’s weddings. We have helped each other launch companies. And we’ve hitchhiked together.

I had helped Dan with some foundational branding and marketing elements when he first launched his business in 2004. At the time, Dan was the only employee. But by 2016 Global Rescue had hundreds of employees, millions of members, and six offices around the world.

Dan and I went for an early morning workout before we got down to business. As we snaked through the empty streets of Boston at 5:30am on our way to the gym, I asked Dan,

“How long after you launched your business did it no longer feel like a startup?

The Answer

Dan responded quickly and confidently (the way he does everything). He said, ‘2 years.’  At two years he had clients, cashflow, systems and employees. It no longer felt like a victory just to be open for business. I filed that away, and wondered if that would hold true for The Weaponry.

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One of the greatest parts of starting The Weaponry has been sharing the experience with my family. Especially because it gives us a new place to take family photos.

Joining the 2 Year club.

Now that we are officially at the two-year mark, I can say with great confidence, that The Weaponry no longer feels like a startup. As we have approached this milestone, many of my friends who are entrepreneurs have pointed out that a startup’s life expectancy is barely longer than that of a fruit fly. They have emphasized how few startups actually live to eat their second birthday cake.

 

But I think about it differently. I don’t care what the average is. And I don’t think making it to two years in a major victory. My goal wasn’t to build a business that could break the 24-month barrier. It was to build the perfect advertising agency that could stay in business forever.

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We printed way more than 2 year’s worth of stickers. It was a sort of sticky life insurance policy.

 

Motor Boating.

The first two phases of a new business are like the first two phases of motor boating (snickering). In phase 1 you are happy to be moving forward and not hitting rocks or docks. But you are plowing through the water with a lot of resistance, and very little speed or elegance. Then you transition to phase 2. In phase 2 the boat builds enough speed that it actually climbs on top of the water and planes out. The ride smooths out, speeds up, and becomes a lot more fun. The nose of the boat (or bow) comes down, and visibility improves dramatically. At two years old, The Weaponry feels like it is planing and gaining speed.

6 Reasons The Weaponry No Longer Feels Like A Startup:

  1. We have a real office.
  2. We offer our employees insurance benefits (from companies you actually know).
  3. We have retainer clients that provide predictable work and cashflow
  4. We have systems in place to organize, produce and deliver everything we do.
  5. We have a steady stream of new opportunities.
  6. We need to hire more great people

 

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I love that my parents can come visit me at my business. And I’m even happier that I haven’t had to move back in with them.

 

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Cheers!

Conclusion

I am thrilled that this perfect agency project is now two years old. Starting my own business has been the most exciting chapter of my exciting career. Thank you to all of the clients who have trusted us. Thanks to all of our team members who have made the magic. Thanks to my family for having faith. And thank You for taking the time to read about it.

If you are thinking about starting your own business and have questions, I am happy to share what I know. If you are looking for an exciting, growing and positive place to work, let’s talk. If you are looking for a date to the Marketing Prom, give us a ring (this isn’t a real thing, but if it was, we would totally go with you). And if you are looking for an interesting story to follow, consider subscribing to this blog. The next 12 months are sure to provide plenty to read about.

 

Why envy can be your most powerful force for good.

Most people will tell you that envy is bad. They will say you should be happy with what you have. But don’t believe them. Envy is one of the most powerfully positive forces on Earth. Envy reveals what we truly enjoy, what we really want, and who we want to be like. This is nothing to feel bad about. Baby, you were born this way.

Using envy for good starts with recognizing it as a powerful, natural, innate draw within you. Don’t try to quiet that voice. Tune in to it. Understand it. Learn what envy can teach you. Envy is like a gravitational force pulling you towards your own happiness. Or at least towards a great pair of pants.

Definition (from the great online dictionary)

Envy (noun): a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

Envy (verb): desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to someone else.

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Interview Your Envy

Envy offers insights to feelings that are hard to articulate.

  • Do you envy the person who doesn’t have to travel for work? Or the person who does?
  • Do you envy your friend who has dinner with his or her family every night?
  • Do you envy the entrepreneur? Or the volunteer? Or the activist?
  • Do you envy the rich and famous?
  • Do you envy the simple and anonymous?

Your envy is trying to lead you on your true path. Don’t protest too much.

My Envy

I have found myself attracted to, and envious of all kinds of random things throughout my life. But instead of feeling bad about it, or trying to turn the feelings off, I have tuned in, and recognized the things I truly want to have, do or be. And those things I once envied have contributed greatly to my own happiness.

Here is a quick list or random things I have envied:

  • A pair of well-worn work boots
  • High schoolers who could lift a lot of weights
  • Entrepreneurs
  • People who have canoes.
  • People who vacation on islands
  • Mountain climbers
  • People who don’t follow popular opinion
  • People who have great blogs
  • Volunteers

These things that I once envied have now contributed greatly to my own happiness. My feelings were not negative. They were motivating.

Today, my work boots (and my flip-flops) are my favorite shoes to wear. I began lifting weights my freshman year in high school and have found it to be the absolute best thing for my mental health. I launched my own business, The Weaponry, almost two years ago, and I am eager to get to work each day. I own a beautiful 17-foot canoe, and a couple of kayaks, which bring me and my family great joy. I have had wonderful vacations on islands with my wife and kids, where we felt as if we had escaped the real world together. I’ve climbed many a mountain, and felt the rewards of accomplishment. I am confident in my unpopular ways. I’m working on the blog thing. But I still have a nagging feeling that I don’t volunteer enough, and envy those who do.

Key Takeaway

Don’t feel bad about your lust for those shoes, that job or the epic vacation. Don’t think you don’t measure up because you haven’t started your own business, created a charitable foundation or bought a second home. If you really want those things, add them to your list. Then create a plan to make them yours, and get to work.  That’s what I do. And someday I expect to have them all.

Now that I have shared, is there something you have envied that you have used as motivation?  Please share it in the comments section. I’d like to think I am not the only one.

 

 

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.