15 Things I am thankful for in 2019.

2019 has been great to me. My health is great. My relationships are great. My family is great. My prospects are great. And my go to word is apparently great. As I reflect on all that I am thankful for this is what I found.

15 Things I am Thankful For This Thanksgiving

1. The first laugh of the day.  My friend Diana Keough, whom I share Milwaukee, Ohio, Atlanta and Columbia, Missouri connections with, introduced me to the concept of the first belly laugh of the day. I have since noted the first laugh of the day. It is something I am grateful for every day. And I try not to think too much about my belly.

2. Laughing until I cry.  This is one of my favorite experiences in life. I have done it twice in the past 2 weeks. One of the times was when I found out that the number one song in America when my co-worker Sarah was conceived was Boys 2 Men’s smash hit, I’ll make love to you. (Thanks Paul and Debbie) You can find your own conception song here.

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Laughing until you cry is better that pumpkin pie.

 

3. Travel. Travel is my favorite. It opens the mind, enhances creativity and empathy. And it creates life long memories. Or at least until the dementia sets in. My family and I did some really fun travel this year. Including a road trip that took us from Wisconsin to San Antonio, where I wanted to start a pie shop called Pie Alamo. We went to the Pacific Northwest. We visited British Columbia. Which I would have named Canadian Columbia, but nobody asked me.

4. Randomly seeing people I know far from home. I love running into people I know randomly. It makes the world feel smaller and full of surprises. This year I ran into friends totally randomly and unplanned in Seattle (Andy Bosley), Fort Worth (The Smith Family of Mequon), at basketball tournaments (college teammates Bobby Smith and Bobby Myers), at a hotel in Chicago (PJ Cannon) and at Ikea (Terry Schmitt).

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My college teammate Andy Bosley ran himself into me in Seattle. We live a mile apart in Mequon, Wisconsin.
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I saw my freshman year college roommate, Terry Schmitt, for the first time in 25 years at an Ikea.

5. Great new books.  I love to read and learn. I am thankful to authors who write great books. And I am thankful to discover those books. This year I have added some really great reads to my library.

 

6. Seeing my two oldest friends in the world.  My first memories in life were when I lived on a farm near the shore in Lincroft, New Jersey. My bestest friend was Steve Withycombe. I saw Steve in Seattle this summer for the first time since 2002.

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Me and Steve have known each other since we were about 3 years old.

My actual oldest, oldest friend in the world, is Andy Shirk who lives in Dallas. I thought we met on our own in Columbus, Ohio in 2010. However, soon after we met our parents dropped the bomb on us that we actually have known each other since I was born. Our parents lived in the same apartment complex at the time in Mansfield, Ohio, back in the 1970s. And they had pictures to prove it. I saw Andy and his hilarious wife, Megan in Dallas this spring. I am super thankful to have friendships that have lasted over 40 years.

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Me and Andy on the day I was baptized. I was practicing my swim strokes because I thought there would be more water.

7. The Weaponry The advertising and idea agency that I started in 2016 continues to be one of the greatest chapters in my life. I love our team of Adam (Henry), Kristyn (K-Lil), Kevin (Lower Kayse), Sarah (Ice), Simon (The Harper), Jeanne (Genie), Calla (Super) and Sally (Eggs). Plus our like-family-members Diana, Sue, Gary, Julie, Monica, Tony, John and Todd.

All Rights Reserved

 

8. Clients It’s awfully hard to play advertising agency if you don’t have clients. I am a volcano of thankful lava for everyone who has trusted us enough to work with us in 2019.

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Nicole Hallada has been an amazing client and advocate of The Weaponry since the beginning. Here we are in 97 degree heat, 100 feet over Louisville, in a bucket.

 

9. My Family  I am endlessly thankful for my wife Dawn and kids Ava, Johann and Magnus. I am at truly at home any place where the 5 of us are all together.

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But wait, there’s more!

My parents, Robert and Jill, and my sisters Heather, Alison, Donielle and their families are amazing, and I got to see everyone this year.

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We are family.

But it doesn’t stop there!

My Mom is one of 9 kids (The Spraus) and my dad is one of 12 (The Albrechts). And I am extremely thankful to have so much family to call my own. Heck, I am even thankful that my Grandma Albrecht passed aways this year at 99 years old, because it gave my family a great reason to get together, and let’s face it, she was really old.

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My Dad, far left and his siblings and parents.
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This pic is of me and my Albrecht cousins (3 are missing) after my Grandma Judy’s funeral service, which tells you everything you need to know about my family.

10. My friends  I am lucky to have wonderful friends from many different chapters of my life. I am thankful for how they have all added to my story. Here are just some of my special friend groups.

  • High School friends (Hanover High School, Hanover, New Hampshire)
  • Vermont and New Hampshire Friends
  • New Jersey friends
  • College friends and roommates from the University of Wisconsin
  • College track teammates
  • W-Club members
  • Milwaukee friends
  • Atlanta friends
  • Columbus Friends
  • Work Friends
  • People I met on airplanes
  • Quebec Friends
  • Dionne and Friends

 

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College Roommates
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Childhood Friend Greg Rozycki
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College Track Teammates and Families
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Atlanta Neighbors

11. Enthusiasm  I am extremely thankful that I have as much enthusiasm for life and its mysteries, adventures and challenges as I ever have. Sometimes I think I have too much. And so does Dawn.

 

12.  Faith  This has been a wonderful year of faith for me and my family. My daughter Ava and son Johann took their first communion this year. Ava is in Confirmation class. Dawn and I have taught Sunday School and generally feel both the joy of giving and receiving in our church community.

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13. Entrepreneurs  I am extremely grateful for all the entrepreneurs who have supported and advised me. Entrepreneurship can be isolating or it can be uniting. I am thankful to be united with so many talented, experienced and sharing entrepreneurs. I belong to a great CEO roundtable group through the Metro Milwaukee Area Chamber (MMAC). And I have a strong tribe of entrepreneurs who I lean on regularly (Richards, Hilimire, Bandy, Florsheim, Salamone, Wong). And I am always open to adding more.

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Dan Richards is one of my best friends in the world. We grew up together in Norwich, Vermont. His company, Global Rescue, became The Weaponry’s first client. And he has been an important advisor to me on business ever since.

 

14. A Comfortable Home As the weather has turned colder, and the winter wind and snow have arrived in Wisconsin, I am extremely thankful for a warm and comfortable home. As Maslow’s knows, a comfortable home enables you to enjoy more joy in life.

15. Blog Readers Thank you to all of you who take time out of your busy day to read my blog. I appreciate your time, likes, comments and shares more than you will ever know.

Key Takeaway

There is a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. The people in your life, laughter, knowledge and magical accidents are amazing gifts. If you have those things you can count yourself among the richest people on Earth. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

5 reasons you should think of people like bicycles.

My family and I went for our first bike ride of the year yesterday. It was amazing. I was once again reminded that bicycles are magical. They are The Two-Wheeled Fountain of Youth. Because the instant you start riding a bike you feel like a kid again. They make exercise fun. They allow you you to travel much faster and farther than any other human powered form of locomotion. And unlike swinging a golf club, once you learn how to ride a bike you never forget.

Revelation

As I rode yesterday I thought about how friends are like bicycles. How? I’m glad I asked for you. And for simplicity’s sake, I am rolling the terms coworker, business associate, and family into the word friend. It will save us a lot of verbosity between here and the end of the post. Let’s ride…

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A bike is a great thing. But it needs a person to make it work.

5 Ways Friends Are Like Bicycles

1. Sometimes you need to prop them up. Recognize when a friend needs a kickstand to lean on. And be that kickstand.

2. Sometimes you need to help them balance. Life constantly throws challenges at us. Knowing how to handle it all can be overwhelming. Notice when a friend is struggling to find their own balance. And help them stabilize. Lend a helping hand or prioritizing advice. Sometimes you just need someone else to show you how to shift your load so you’re not constantly fighting with it. 

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My wife Dawn and son Magnus spinning some quality miles together on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

3. Sometimes you need to help them steer.  We don’t always know which way to go. This is a simple fact of life. We need help when we come to crossroads. We need help navigating around obstacles. So help your friends make those challenging decisions they will inevitably encounter along their journey.

4. Sometimes you need to help them pedal faster. It is easy to fall off your personal pace. Apply constant, gentle pressure on your friends when you know they should be moving faster than they are.

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My son Johann taking on the world on his Little Orangey.

5. Sometimes you need to help them stop. We can often see that our friends are heading towards a cliff, a tree or a car before they notice. In those moments, help your friends pump the brakes. Or slam on the brakes. Or remind them that they have brakes. Helping your friends recognize and stop bad behavior is one of the most valuable things you can do for them.

Key Takeaway

Your friends, family, and coworkers need you just as much as your bicycle does. Learn to recognize what inputs would be most beneficial. It could be encouragement, stability, direction or warnings. Remember, life is challenging. And we all benefit from having someone else along for the ride.

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

The simple way to make anyone feel like an insider.

I want you to try an experiment. Over the next 24 hours note how many people you encounter that you don’t know. I warn you, it may freak you out. Most of us live anonymously in a sea of strangers. They are everywhere. Like minivans. Yet we have become immune to these strangers that surround us. It’s as if they disappear when we ignore them. Like reality TV stars.

I was reminded of my own anonimity recently at my gym. After I scanned my membership card, the guy who routinely works at the reception desk said, “Have a good day, man”. A normal person would have just done what they were told, and had a nice day. But instead, I had a flashback to college…

It was my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. I was on the track team, and was lifting weights in the weight room (research indicates that’s the best place for such activities). One of the football players who I saw regularly walked through the room. When he passed by he said, “Hey! What’s up man?”  I replied with something like, “Hey, Man. What’s up?’ I thought nothing of it.

But then he stopped and asked, ‘What your name?’

I said, ‘Adam’ (that’s my go-to answer).

We shook hands.

He said “My name’s Aaron. Enough of this bullshit, saying, “Hey man.” or “What’s up bro?” F-that! I see you in here every day.  We should know each other’s names!’

Aaron ‘Scrappy’ Norvell was right. It was bullshit that we would repeatedly see each other, even greet each other, and not know each other’s names. After this introduction he was no longer a guy I saw. He was a guy I knew. The difference is profound.

I expect I wasn’t the only person Scrappy made an effort to get to know by name (he currently has 4,912 friends on Facebook).  He is  funny, outgoing and entertaining. We would see a lot of each other over the next few years in Madison. Today, he is an actor in Hollywood.  If you ever need to cast a police officer, Obama look-a-like, former college linebacker, or someone who can deliver the line, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’ he is your guy.

Now, back to the story…

With this random flashback playing in my head, I asked the guy working the counter at Elite Sports Club, “What’s your name?’  He replied, ‘Andrew’. I said, ‘My name is Adam’ (that’s my go to).  We shook hands. Now, every time I walk into the gym we greet each other by name. We have real conversations. Instead of an awkward, “Hey-Man” relationship.

Insiders vs Outsiders

Everyone we encounter in business, at social gatherings and at the grocery store are either Insiders or Outsiders.  The difference is whether or not we know each other by name.  That sense of familiarity and friendship that can only develop once you know a person’s name makes an enormous difference on this planet, where we are so often surrounded by John and Jane Does (that was supposed to be Doe-plural. But it looks like does, doesn’t it?).

I think about names at work. At the advertising agency, The Weaponry, we encounter people when we visit our clients that we don’t have to know by name. The receptionists. The people who sit next to the conference rooms where we make too much noise.  The IT person who inevitably saves every presentation. But I want to meet them too. So I make a habit of introducing myself, by name. Suddenly we are not just people who see each other regularly. We become people who know each other, by name.

I encourage you to convert more of those people you see or say hello to regularly into people you really know by name. It’s easy. Introduce yourself, by name and ask for their name in return. Write the names down. Start a list with a description of who they are on your phone or in a notebook. Refer back to the list as neccesary. The rewards are profound.  Just ask Andrew from Elite. Or Norm from Cheers.

How Mark Zuckerberg helped me put my life back together.

Some people live their entire lives in one nest. You know the type. You can see the hospital where they were born, their high school, their first job, their bowling alley and their nursing home all from the highest point in town. That’s not me. Life has been an exciting adventure of change from the jump. I lived in five states by the time I started 7th grade. I went to college 1000 miles from home. And I have traded license plates many times since graduation. #WitnessProtectionProgram.

I love my nomadic lifestyle. I have been exposed to traditions, foods, history, religion, weather and sports from a wide variety of angles. This has been a blessing for a creative professional. The one oddity, is that for a very long time, when I changed chapters, I would never see or hear from people in the previous chapter again.

But in 2007 that all changed. Because of Facebook. That thing that we so often take for granted as a silly time waster, quite literally changed my life. It allowed me to reconnect with childhood friends and neighbors from New Jersey, Wisconsin, Missouri, Vermont and New Hampshire.  Then I was able to find classmates from The University of Wisconsin. And coworkers from Cramer Krasselt, and Engauge. (Ohio, Georgia and Moxie/Publicis Groupe were added later).

I reconnected with clients and vendors. Neighbors and distant relatives. And people I’ve met at parties and on planes (I’ve met a lot of people on planes). Suddenly, I stopped losing track of people. As a people collector and connector I no longer have to box friends up and store them on a shelf every time I move or change jobs. Now I can play with them whenever I want.

Of course there is LinkedIn too. Which I love. The great Link-A-Roo has allowed me to reconnect and collect people in another, more quasi professional way. (The quasi is all me LinkedIn. You have been nothing but professional). I recently discovered that my friend Nissa Kubly (UW Track) and Cher Fesenmaier (cousin) both work at the same high school in Phoenix.  One of the craziest connections that I discovered through LinkedIn is that three of my friends, Neil Miklusak (college buddy from Wisconsin), Audrey Lowder (former co-worker at Engauge in Atlanta) and Erika O’Toole (we met on a flight to NYC) all work together, in the Empire State Building, at LinkedIn!

The simple fact is that if it were not for Facebook and other social platforms I would likely never see, or have any interactions with the majority of my friends and Linkys ever again. (I don’t know what you actually call a person on LinkedIn. Linkletters? Linkins? Linklings?

As I have started The Perfect Agency Project, my connections have become even more important. I am always looking for ideas, support and people to join the project.  Over the past few months, thanks to my online network, I have reconnected in person with dozens of people I hadn’t seen in 10 to 30 years. That’s cray.

So thank you to Mark Zuckerberg for allowing me to have my personal “This is your life’ moments every day. It is absolutely mind-blowing to think I may never lose a friend again. Except maybe Alex ‘Big Drawz’ Mautz, my college track teammate who moved to San Diego and must enjoy such perfect weather that he never needs to connect to the rest of us.

As a fun demonstration of the topic of this post, and to see who, if any of my people read this all the way to the end, I would love for you to share a word or a sentence about how we know each other. Thanks for playing.