How to apply an Instagram filter approach to your work and life.

Remember photos before Instagram? I don’t. Because things are so much better now. Photos are no longer shared in their naked state. Instead, we use filters on our images to make them look their best. And the filtering of photos is fun. Not rollercoaster-riding fun. Or dance party fun. But you know, killing-time-at-the-DMV fun.

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The San Francisco Bay, filtered.

How Filters Work

If you haven’t used Instagram or Snapchat filters, here is an oversimplification.

  1. You take a photograph
  2. You look at that photograph. Every time you do it makes you laugh.
  3. You upload it into Insta, or your favorite photo filtering app.
  4. You apply a filter to the photo.
  5. The filter applies its unique recipe of contrast, saturation, highlights, focal points, warmth and color to the image.
  6. You taste test anywhere from 2 to 102 different filters on the photo to decide which one makes the photo look most amazingable.
  7. You have a hard time deciding between two filters.
  8. You ask someone nearby which of the two is better.
  9. They don’t care.
  10. You just pick one.
  11. You share the image with the world.
  12. Everyone thinks you are cooler, better looking and living a more amazing life than you really are.

Filter Love

I love using these filters. It’s fun to look at the same photo through different filters and see very different images. In fact, I love it so much that I have been using the same process in my work and life.

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My family in Chicago, filtered.

Real World Filters

As Instagram quickly teaches us, there are many ways to look at the world. A seemingly poor image can look great through the right filter. And a great image can look terrible through the wrong filters. The same thing happens with our professional careers, finances, health and relationships.

Business

As an entrepreneur, I use many different filters on my business. I apply the Revenue filter to get a good image of how much money we are bringing into the business. I apply a Profit filter to see how much of that revenue we are actually keeping. I apply a Historical filter to see whether our finances are improving. I apply a Goal filter to see if we are doing what we set out to do.

But those are just the financial filters. I apply a Quality filter to determine whether my advertising and idea agency is producing great creative work. A Customer Service filter tells us whether our service is meeting our expectations and the expectations of our clients. A Happiness filter makes me look at whether me and my teammates at The Weaponry are enjoying the work we are doing. A Culture filter gives me a good look at our company culture and vibe. All of the images are slightly different. And they are all important to look at.

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Santa Cruz, filtered.

Personal Filters

I am always evaluating my personal life with a full spectrum of filters. Here is a list of the filters that I regularly use:

  • Happiness
  • Friendship
  • Adventurousness
  • Quality Time
  • Memory Making
  • Ideal Weight
  • Wedding Vow 
  • Self Actualization
  • Joy
  • Commitments
  • Personal Strength
  • Learning
  • Christianity
  • Dot Connecting
  • New People
  • Yard Care
  • Cleanliness
  • Mentoring
  • Dad
  • Humor

Application and Feedback

I apply these filters often to get a quick look at how I am doing in various areas of my life. Sometimes the picture is beautiful and I want to show everyone. But I don’t always like what I see. That’s okay. A poor image gives me something worthwhile to work on. The filters help me spot my weak links, my blindspots and areas of concern. Once I see them I can give them the attention they deserve. I like to work on my uglies until they are reach a point where I would share them with the world.

Key Takeaway

There are many ways to look at your work, health, relationships and personal lives. Don’t just focus on the filters that make you look good. Use a wide range of filters to see how you are doing in many areas of your life. Find the areas that need improvement. Give yourself credit for the areas that are focused, sharp and beautiful. Always keep the big picture in mind. It’s the best way to live your life in a way that is worth sharing.

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

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11 ways my 11-year old would make my lame business awesome.

When I first launched my advertising and idea agency in 2016, I knew great things would happen. I just couldn’t predict the pace at which those great things would unfold. Despite my confidence, had I been grilled under oath by a great lawyer like Ally McBeal or Jackie Chiles, I would have had to admit that I had no hard facts, and no physical evidence to support my original assumptions about our imminent success.

Today,  The Weaponry has indeed been a great success. Our rate of growth, roster of clients and level of talent is tracking with my lofty expectations. Most people who know the details of our story are impressed. But not everyone. Namely, my 11-year-old son, Johann.

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Johann and I in Hilton Head, just before his little brother kicked his flip-flop under the railing and into the water, never to be seen again.

Johann

Last week, as I drove Johann home from his piano lesson he asked, ‘Dad, what’s new at The Weaponry?’ Which he always pronounces as Webonry. (I’ve noticed about 25% of the population does this.) I excitedly told him about our latest news, the number of employees, the new clients, the new lease and more. I concluded with, ‘It’s pretty great huh?’

Johann responded with, ‘Not really.’

It seems a 2-year old advertising agency, launched from dust, now rolling fast and picking up steam, still has a hard time impressing a 5th Grader. I wanted to know what would seem more impressive to my elementary-aged son. So I asked Johann. And here are his answers.


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Some of my biggest fans, and my biggest critic on their first visit to The Weaponry.

11 Things Johann thinks would make The Weaponry way more awesome.


1. A Better Building  Johann said, ‘Dad, nobody even notices your building. You need a much taller building. Either move into a building 20 stories high, or build one of your own. (He liked that my old office in Atlanta was on the 22nd floor.)

2. A Breakfast Buffet I couldn’t argue with this.

3. Promote Yourself!  ‘You need to advertise The Weaponry on billboards all over the city! You need big signs with your logo that say “The Weaponry is for hire!”‘ I think all the  personal injury attorney ads have gotten to him.

4. More People ‘Dad, don’t be an average business with very few people working for you. You need more than 100 people to be a big business. And the more people you have the more money you will make.’

5. More Clients  ‘You need more clients. Like hotels and resorts. You should work with Coca Cola, Ramen Noodles, Fortnite, oh, and movies!’

6. More Offices: ‘You should have offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta and Orlando. You know, the big ones.’ I said, ‘You know I have employees in Atlanta, right?’ He responded, ‘Yeah, but they just work with you online. You don’t have an office there yet.’ Touché! #appealdenied

7. Even More Offices ‘You really should have international offices in Tokyo, London, Paris and Sydney.’   Me: ‘What about Greenland?’ Johann: ‘Greenland has a very low population.’

(Yet I dream of my blog one day being read in Greenland. It is the largest country on Earth that has never viewed my blog. #popularitygoals)

8. Celebrities: ‘You should work with celebrity spokespeople, like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Justin Timberlake and the woman who plays Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins Returns. Jack Black and the guy who plays Remy in Ratatouille. Oh, and Rachael Ray and Jimmy Fallon! But Not Miley Cyrus, because she was naked on a wrecking ball.’

9. Athletes ‘You should also work with sports people like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick, Aaron Rogers, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, LeBron James and Gronk!’

10. Directors: ‘You should work with directors like Brad Bird and John Lassiter. And you should also make memes.’

11. Real Weapons: ‘And Dad, The weaponry would be cooler if you actually made weapons. Like swords with skulls on the handles. That would be really cool. And you should have a sailboat that has your logo on the sail!’  Apparently I would be cooler if I was a pirate.

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Johann would be jumping for joy if The Weaponry was more Hollywood. Or more Pirates of The Caribbean.

Key Takeaway:

It is always helpful to have someone remind you that you are capable of more. It is easy to spend time counting your successes, and to surround yourself with those who tell you how great you are doing. But if you want to really accomplish amazing things that are universally impressive, find someone who will tell you all the things you have not yet done. You know, the things that would make you a worldwide success. And if you can’t find someone like that in your circle of friends, try stopping by an elementary school. Because as the saying goes, kids and the dumb ones tell the truth.

Your mistakes are your most important milestones.

I read as much as I can. I am always searching for knowledge, wisdom, inspiration, perspective and a good laugh. Because I am always searching, I often find what I am looking for.

DaVinci

This morning I was reading Walter Isaacson’s biography on Leonardo DaVinci. On page 59, Isaacson describes the flaws in DaVinci’s painting, The Annunciation. The painting depicts the moment when the angel Gabriel breaks the news to the Virgin Mary that she is going to become the mother of Christ. And Mary is all like ‘WTF!?!’

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‘Hey Mary! How’s it going? Um, God wanted me to tell you that he wants you to have his son. Oh, and you get to ride a Donkey!’

Flawed Genius

The painting isn’t perfect. Because Leo was trying out some interesting new moves. The magic of this painting is revealed when you look at it from the angle he wanted you to see it from. But I think the real magic comes from Isaacson’s commentary:

‘In the process, he made some mistakes. But even the mistakes, which came from innovating and experimenting, heralded his genius.’ – Walter Isaacson from Leonardo DaVinci

Way To Grow!

I love that. I like to think that my mistakes are evidence that I am trying. That I am pushing beyond what I know how to do well, into areas of growth, improvement and innovation. I am more afraid of not growing that I am of messing things up.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You, your skills, and your abilities are iterative. Don’t stop at You 1.0. Try more. Learn more. Innovate and experiment more. Push yourself as far as you can. Discover what You 100.0 is capable of. And if you do, someone may write a book about you too.

The maturing of my entrepreneurial dream.

I started planning the Perfect Agency Project blog when I began planning to birth my own advertising agency.  It was August of 2015. It was also really hot in Atlanta. So it was a nice time to sit indoors in the air-conditioning and think.

I had big dreams back then. I was going to start my own advertising agency.  I was going to write a blog to share my challenges, wins and losses, surprises and learnings. But back then The Weaponry was just a vision. There were no clients. No employees. No office. No religion, too.

There was no reason to think The Perfect Agency would become a reality. Other than my vision. But in my head The Perfect Agency was very real. It would be an amazing company that would help its clients win the war of business. It would be a bottomless well of excellent creative ideas. Best of all, it would offer a fun and rewarding experience for everyone involved.

doo-da-doo… doo-da-doo…doo-da-doo….

Now let’s do the dream sequence bit from Wayne’s World, and fast forward two years.

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Fall of 2017 Updates

Today The Weaponry LLC is realer than Real Deal Holyfield. Don’t let theweaponry.com fool you. We have real clients. Real Processes. Real creative ideas. And a really real relationship with the IRS.

I have joined a CEO roundtable group through the chamber of commerce. I think it is hilarious that the table we meet at is actually rectangular. At our meeting this week we were asked to share one word that describes what’s going on in our world right now, and then spend 2-3 minutes describing why we chose that word.

My word: Maturing

Here are the latest ways The Weaponry has been maturing.

  • We are in the middle of our search for a new office space. I’m learning interesting nuances, terms, tricks and oddities of the commercial leasing world.
  • We are preparing to offer our first employee benefits. Health and Dental are the starters. We may also add Fortune Telling.
  • We have been in significant contract negotiations and budget discussions with several great clients. This provides longer term visibility and increases our ability to plan, hire and invest in the business.
  • We’ve hired lawyers. It’s a good problem to have. But I’m not sure there is anything that makes you feel as much like an adult as having to spend time with a lawyer.  It’s the adult equivalent of going to the Principals office. Trust me.
  • We’re discussing establishing a line of credit with our banker. It will allow us to tap into capital when our cashflow is burdened by a lot of activity at once, and longer payment terms from our clients.
  • We are transitioning more of our significant freelance team to part-time employees. This is part of a development process that identifies and moves great talent from our outer rings to our core full-time team.
  • We are working with international clients and have to clarify on our invoices that all numbers are in US Dollars. That feels significant to me.

Thank you for being a friend #GoldenGirls

Thank you for following the journey. Or being part of the journey. Or being Steve Perry and singing all those great songs for Journey. But the best is yet to come. I can see it.

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Why I ask job candidates if they can Double Dutch.

Starting something new is hard. I’m not just talking about things like going to prison. Which I imagine is really hard at first. And in the middle. And towards the end.  It’s hard to be a rookie at anything. Some people enjoy the luxury of not caring whether or not they look dumb doing something new. I don’t have that luxury. I care.

But I also really enjoy taking on new challenges. And I have developed my own technique for starting new activities that you may find usefeul. I refer to it as my Double Dutch technique.  You remember Double Dutch. It’s the playground activity where you try to jump two ropes, swinging simultaneously, in opposite directions. Because jumping one swinging rope just isn’t hard enough.  Double Dutch can be a ridiculously intimidating activity. Those ropes are relentlessly nipping at your heels. And once they bite your foot the game immediately halts to bring everyone’s attention to your failure.

But I like Double Dutch. It’s an activity for people who like to try hard things. It’s much more challengeing than single Dutch, or non-Dutch rope jumping. And it’s infinitely harder than just jumping up and down with no rope (which always earns me funny looks).

I like to try hard things.  It makes me feel stronger, more confident and more capable. It makes me feel like I am growing. And I like to work with others who enjoy pushing themselves.

Today, I utilize my Double Dutch technique all the time as I grow my advertising agency, The Weaponry. Because not only am I taking on new challenges personally, I want our entire team to continuously expand our capabilities and find new and better ways to help our clients.

Here’s how my Double Dutch technique works.

I get close to the activity. To get a feel for Double Dutch you have to step into that space right next to the ropes. And when I start something new I try to first get really close to the action without fully engaging.  There is something about being close to the activity that helps you absorb how it works quicker. If you want to climb Mt. Everest go to basecamp first to get aclimated.

I watch others. Aside from the very first Double Dutchers on Earth, whom I assume were twins from Amsterdam, I bet no one has ever tried jumping the two-ropes-of-doom without first watching someone else do it. That’s why I always watch other people performing the task I want to learn. I study the moves, the attitude and the technique. Much like an actor studies others when preparing to play a role.

I find the rhythm  Double Dutch has a unique rhythm all its own. You have to get in sync with it to succeed. Most human interactions are like this. The interactions at a networking event, a yoga class, and in business meetings follow a certain flow and cadence. Learn them so you can anticipate the order and timing of the activity.

I jump in. At some point if you want to Double Dutch you have to jump in.  Once I have armed myself reasonably well by getting close to an activity, watching it, and finding the rhythm, I channel my inner Davd Lee Roth and I jump (might as well, right DLR?). Sometimes it goes well from the start. Other times I need a mulligan.

I recalibrate  In Double Dutch the rope tells you what you did wrong. And the problem is always that you touched the rope. The question is where. Use that feedback to do better on the next try. If you jumped too soon, wait another beat. If you jumped too late, go a bit sooner.  This is little data at its best. Create a new plan based on the learnings.

I jump in again. And again.  To jump ropes you have to keep trying. This is how life works. Get in and jump, over and over until you get it right. Whether you want to build a great brand, learn how to knit, or run QuickBooks, there is ultimately no substitute for doing. Be a do-er.

As you focus on growth and acquiring new skills consider the Double Dutch approach. Give yourself a chance to get close, observe, absorb, try, learn and try again. Soon you will find yourself in rhythm, jumping, and singing, ‘Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish, Quarter Pounder, French Fries.’ Let’s talk about how well you’re doing when I see you at recess. Until then, here’s a little inspiration.