The remarkable inheritance I got from my Grandmother!

The greatest asset you can ever create is a strong personal network. That’s why I invest so much time and energy in developing and maintaining my personal relationships. As a result I have an tremendous network of friends around the world. But I am also the beneficiary of what Warren Buffet calls The Ovarian Lottery. Because on the day I was born I was instantly a member of a remarkable network. Despite the fact that I hadn’t done anything to deserve it.

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My grandma Judy at her high school graduation in New Ulm, Minnesota.

Grandma Albrecht

My Grandmother, Judith (Benzel) Albrecht was born in 1919, in New Ulm, Minnesota. God blessed her with a sharp mind and unrelenting determination that would have gained her admission to an elite business school had she been born a century later. She spoke German as her first language.

Following high school graduation she was a valuable asset to a local startup, the phone company. Because she could speak both German and English fluently, she could serve as the middle-woman, literally connecting callers in the heavily German area of southern Minnesota.

In 1940, at 21 years old, she married my grandpa, Alton Albrecht. Together they thrived. They began farming. They began a family. And they began traveling together. It was an adventure that would last more than 66 years.

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My 98 year old Grandma Albrecht when I surprised her with a visit after a work trip to Minnesota.

The News

On April 15th, 2019, while I was on vacation in Texas, I got a text message from my father, Robert, that Grandma Albrecht had passed away. She was 99 years and 7 months old. A funny thing happened when I got the news. There was a moment of sadness. But that moment soon transitioned to awe at the closing of an amazing story of an amazing woman’s life.

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The marriage license that started it all. In 1940 my grandparents ran off to get married south of the border, in Iowa.

Accumulating Assets

In the wake of Grandma Albrecht’s passing, my family and I started calculating the inheritance that Grandma left for us. My Grandma and Grandpa Albrecht had been farmers in Minnesota. Early on they recognized the value of accumulating assets, and knew a good opportunity when they saw it. As a result, the 2 of them bought the Albrecht Family Farm from my great grandparents. Not long after, they found another good opportunity, and purchased another farm. And then another. And then another.

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Grandma Judy and Grandpa Alton 25 years into their 66 years of marriage.

They amassed significant real estate holdings, which provided income for decades. As they eventually sold their farms and invested the proceeds they developed a significant nest egg. My Grandpa Alton died in 2006, having battled with Parkinson’s disease for 8 years. Grandma Judy kept marching, right to the doorstep of 100 years.

The Inheritance 

Over the past 2 weeks everyone in the Albrecht family has been buzzing about just how much Grandma Judy left us when she died. We have been scribbling figures on paper. We have been punching numbers into the calculators on our phones.

However, the numbers we have all been crunching are not measured in dollar and cents. Because the most valuable assets Grandma Judy left us are people. They are the members of our ever growing family she started back in 1940. As we tallied up the descendants of this grand matriarch this is what we found:

Grandma Judy Albrecht Statistics:

  • 12 Children
  • 10 Children who grew to adulthood (7 boys and 3 girls)
  • 25 Grandchildren
  • 38 Great Grandchildren
  • 2 Great, Great Grandchildren

That is a total of 77 descendants, represented by 5 generations. When she passed away she had 7 children in their 70s. Those 77 relatives are in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Arizona and Nevada.

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Grandma Judy’s 10 kids and 21 of the 25 grandkids. Her children in the front row, in order from youngest to oldest are Tim, Chuck, Paul, Linda, Robert (my Dad), John, Mary, Tom, Pat and Jerry.

We Are Family

Not only are we a large family, we are a close family. We enjoy being around each other. And we make an effort to spend time together. In fact, in June about 80 family members will gather in Estes Park, Colorado for a week long reunion, as we do every 5 years. We will all stay in one cabin and enjoy daily meals, activities and adventures, and nightly festivities together. Just like Grandma Albrecht taught us.

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The grandkids having a grand old time.

 

My large family is one of my most valuable assets. It is an ever-present support system, a cheering section, an army of role models, and constant source of humor. It provides each and every one of us with an unfair competitive advantage in life.

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My cousins Dr. Luke Albrecht, Dr. Christine Albrecht and me, bringing down the average.

The Entrepreneurial Influence

My large family also played a major factor in my entrepreneurial journey. I saw the entrepreneurial spirit in my grandparents as they accumulated assets and ran their own farms. Five of my Albrecht Uncles were dairy farmers. And dairy farming is the epitome of entrepreneurship.

The Weaponry

Several years ago my cousin Brooks Albrecht and I began talking about starting a business together. In 2015 the conditions were right, and Brooks and I started planning  our own advertising agency. Despite the fact that I was in Atlanta and Brooks was in Seattle, we worked together perfectly. Like family. Like Grandma Judy taught us. By the spring of 2016 the Albrecht cousins launched The Weaponry like the Wright Brothers launched the first airplane: on a wing, a prayer, a great plan and a familial bond.

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Me and my cousin and co-founder of The Weaponry, Brooks Albrecht.

As the Albrecht Family gathered yesterday to celebrate the remarkable life of my Grandma Judy, I marveled at all she created. Being an Albrecht has always been a source of great pride for me. This large family has given me love, support and encouragement. It has offered me a sense of belonging to something significant. It has been critical to my entrepreneurial success. And it has provided a lifetime of laughs. Thanks you, Grandma.

Key Takeaway 

The greatest asset you will ever inherit from your family is love, support and a sense of belonging. It is also the greatest asset you can hand down. Invest in your family. And you are certain to enjoy a remarkable return, year after year, and generation after generation.

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Grandma Judy and her great grandson, my son Magnus Albrecht.

 

*To read about my Grammy Sprau, who lived to be 100, and had 9 kids, click here

 

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How to lean in to team building at work and at home.

I come from a large family. Actually, I come from two large families. My Dad is one of twelve children. My Mom is one of nine. Both sides of my family have made family a priority. Not only have they committed to a lot of procreating, they have committed to a lot of recreating too. Both The Albrechts and The Spraus have made pilgrimages to the Snow Mountain Ranch in Winter Park, Colorado, which has been rated as the #1 location in America for family reunions. Although how one mountain in Colorado is known as Snow Mountain confounds me. Don’t all of Colorado’s mountains have snow?

Bonding and Building

Family bonding and team building are the focus (or is that foci) of our reunions. We stay in large family cabins that house 40 to 80 people each. We play together, eat together, and enjoy general togetherness together.

On one of the days at each reunion we participate in organized team building exercises. The ranch offers a wide variety of activities that require you to learn how to work with a partner, or an entire team, in order complete a challenge.

One of two 40-person cabins we occupied at the Not-So-Snowy Mountain Ranch

The Cable Walk

One of my favorite challenges is the partner cable walk. In this challenge two partners stand on separate cables suspended 18 inches off the ground. Facing each other, the partners have to move as far along the cable as possible without falling off. The kicker is that the cables are arranged in a V-shape, so they spread farther and farther apart as you walk.

Taking Notes

When we took on this challenge several years ago with my Mom’s family, I sat back and observed the other pairs as they navigated the cables. I studied what worked and what didn’t. The best performance (farthest distance traveled) was from my brother-in-law Uriah, and my cousin Jacci’s husband, Mike. If you laid Uriah and Mike end-to-end (which to my knowledge we have never done) they would be close to 13 feet long. All things being equal, height was a major advantage.

But wait…

But all things were not equal. I quickly spotted what I thought people were doing wrong. All of the pairs who went before me held hands and started inching down the cables. While holding on to each other seemed like a good strategy, I could tell it was not the best strategy. And eventually it became a limiting strategy.

Our Attempt

Finally, using the insights from our observations, my wife Dawn and I took our turn. Unlike everyone else, we didn’t hold on to each other. Instead, we leaned against each other. As we started, we looked as if we were doing standing push ups against each other. Or maybe we looked like we got caught playing Patty Cake with crazy glue on our palms.

As we made our way along the v-shaped cables we became a human hinge, with our hands forming the connection point. As the cables formed a large and expanding V-shape, Dawn and I also formed a V-shape that allowed us to match the angle of the cables. This made all the difference. In fact, our lean-on-me technique enabled Dawn and I to travel twice as far as any other pair. Or pear. Or Pierre.

Dawn and I basking in our glory, while being shot by a very short photographer.

The Difference

It is easy to think we are teaming with others when we are in the same office, or on the same court or field. But proximity and contact are not enough. You have to reorient yourself to rely on your partners or teammates to do their jobs. You have to sacrifice your individual posture in order to create an even stronger team, machine, company or partnership.

Applying This At Work

As we grow the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I know we need to continue building and operating as an interdependent team. In order to thrive we need to create a scalable organization that gets larger and broader and deeper to accommodate the increase in demand. Which means that each of our members must do what is best for the entire team. And each of us must be able to trust our teammates to do their jobs, without handholding. It is the only way to achieve our ambitious goals.

Key Takeaway

In order for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts, we can’t simply hold on to each other. We must lean on each other. We must trust that our teammates will lean back on us. By creating this dynamic, we create a structure of support that can produce much greater results than we could ever create on our own. This is true at work, in athletics and in families. It is certainly true within our marriages. 18 years ago today Dawn and I had our very first date. Ever since then, we have been leaning on each other, and accomplishing more together than we ever could have on our own. Just like we did on the partner cable walk at the family reunion in Colorado.