My time is my most precious asset. Not because my time is any more important than anyone else’s. It is certainly not. Just as Steve Miller’s time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping, into the future, I know that my finite time on Earth is steadily slipping away too. Like sand through an hourglass. Literally. Yet, it is this scarcity of time that is the major motivating force in my life.
My Increasing Impatience
More and more, I find myself interrupting others as they recount their disappointments in the past. I often crash pity parties to point out that time spent dwelling on the things that went wrong will not make them go right.
Spending Your Time Wisely
I am a problem solver, both by nature and by profession. As an entrepreneur and as a professional creative thinker, I view the limitations of any given situation simply as the rules that govern the solution. I have no time to relive something that went wrong in the past. All I care about is what I can do moving forward.
The Serenity Prayer
I find great value in the Serenity Prayer. If you don’t know it, or don’t know it by name, here it is:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. –Reinhold Niebuhr
Many see this statement as a path to Serenity. But I would have named this The Problem Solver’s Prayer. Because what Reinhold is praying for is the essence of problem solving.
Problem solving is like conducting a science experiment. To find a great solution to the challenges you face, you must accept the constants, and vary the variables until you get the results you are looking for.
Focus On The Possible
I don’t spend any time lamenting the constants. I accept the things I cannot change. I pour all of my time, energy and thought into the things I can change. You could say I focus on the positive. But I say I focus on the possible. Mine is not a rose-colored glasses outlook. I focus on reality. Because reality is full of positive possibilities.
Memorize the Serenity Prayer. Accept the cold hard realities of life. And spend all of your valuable, and constantly diminishing time focusing on the amazing opportunities and possibilities that exist anyway.
I am in the middle of a major research project on life. While the research is ongoing, I have discovered, after collecting more than four decades worth of evidence, that life is hard. My study reveals that life is hard at work, at home, in your relationships, and even on vacation. No one is immune. And there is no cure (except that 80’s band with Robert Smith).
Things go wrong all the time. Disappointment shows up repeatedly without an appointment. Things break. Bills pile up. Bills lose Super Bowls. And just when you think you are in the clear, something happens to remind you that you are clearly not in the clear.
I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, two years ago. And I have faced a constant stream of challenges, requirements, setbacks and surprises. As an entrepreneur, you have to be ready for whatever craziness comes your way. Because it will come, and it will be crazy. Like marrying-a-Kardashian-crazy .
A Common Trait
Since starting my entrepreneurial journey I have surrounded myself with other entrepreneurs. I have noticed that the rock stars have a special trait that enables them to be successful in the face of the constant barrage of adversity and the WTF-ity they will inevitably face. And it just may be the most valuable asset in their organizations.
A Helium Attitude.
Helium is perhaps the most magical element on Earth. Because it floats! In fact, you can fill a balloon with helium and the balloon floats too! Had Sir Issac Newton seen a helium balloon float skyward as he saw that apple fall earth-ward, he would have had a much tougher time discovering the laws of gravity. Because helium always rises above the gravity of a situation. Your attitude can too. If you let your attitude get sunk by setbacks, then your attitude is not an asset.
I don’t think about having a good attitude. Because I don’t know what that means. I think about having a helium attitude. Which is a mindset, an approach and an interpretation of the facts that rises above the circumstances. A helium attitude remains up, even when your plans fall down. Thus it always provides the perspective that things will get better. This is an entrepreneurial imperative.
The helium attitude helps lift others too. Someone needs to rise above the disappointment and frustration that we all inevitably face. The helium attitude bounces back quickly, and offers other people a high point to focus on as they navigate forward. Which is why it is important for parents, leaders, teachers and preachers to fill their attitudes with as much helium as they can get (#highandfunnyvoices).
Life is unpredictable. One moment you feel like you are on top of the world. The next moment, you feel like the world is on top of you. But a helium attitude rises anyway. Don’t let setbacks, curveballs, and negative people drag you down. Do what helium does, and just keep rising. Your attitude is everything in life. Make sure you fill it with the right fuel.
Have you ever thought about how you look when you make a phone call? It is easy to think that your appearance doesn’t matter. After all, the person on the other end of the call doesn’t see you. Unless you are a Close Caller. Which is like a Close Talker, only you use your phone, because you can. Which is weird.
But your appearance on a phone call does matter. Because how you look influences how you feel. Even if you are thousands of miles away, the person on the other end of the conversation will pick up on how you feel. And it will influence what they send back to you.
You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile.
When I make or take a phone call, I always put a smile on my face before I start talking. It magically brightens my mood. Because smiling is the ultimate human happiness hack. You don’t have to be happy to smile. You can smile to be happy.
In fact, many a scientific study have proven that your responses to questions are significantly more positive when you hold a pencil between your teeth the broad way. Holding a pencil this way forces you to smile. And the forced smile has the same effect as the real thing. And while Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell would have you believe there ain’t nothing like the real thing (baby), Guy Smiley and Happy Gilmore would disagree.
When you put a smile on your face before a phone call it makes good things happen. It influences what you say, how you say it, and how you respond to your telephonic partner. It makes the call more enjoyable for the other person. It helps you overcome anxiousness when making an important call. And if the call goes poorly, well, it’s easy to laugh it off if you are already in a smiling position.
Next time you pick up the phone, first pick up the corners of your mouth. Wearing a smile will positively impact everything about the call. It will make you sound warmer and more likable. It will influence the words you choose. It will leave a lasting impression on the person on the other end. It can even make them look forward to talking to you again.
If you want to try it now, put on a smile and call my number at 614-256-2850. If I don’t answer, leave a message and let me know you’re practicing your Smile Call. When I call you back you can bet I’ll be smiling too.
The best part of business is the people. I didn’t know that when I started my career. But over the past two decades I have discovered that businesses aren’t just powerful economic engines. They are the primary source of social interactions among adults. The workplace is dramatically undervalued as a matchmaker of friends, mentors, collaborators and life partners. In fact, I met my wife, Dawn, at work.
On Mother’s Day I got a shocking text from my close friend, Jennifer Hanley, whom I first met when she became a client of mine in 2008. She had bad news. My friend and former client, Steven Schreibman, had passed away the day before. This was totally unexpected. He recently began experiencing severe headaches. Then, on May 7th, he suffered a fall that resulted in a brain injury. He never regained consciousness.
I am truly blessed to have known Steven. But we would have never met had it not been for business. Steven was a fancy pants marketing lead at Nationwide Insurance. I was the creative lead at one of Nationwide’s advertising agencies. And we became fast friends.
Steven’s reputation preceded him. My coworkers would come back from meetings with Nationwide telling stories of this wild, rogue client. I couldn’t wait to meet this mythical marketing creature.
He didn’t disappoint. In fact, Steven Schreibman was such a fantastic character, that even though I am only halfway through my advertising career expectancy, I am declaring that I will never encounter another client or coworker that is more spectacularly unique than Steven.
Today I am reflecting on Steven’s impact on my life. My last 10 years have been much more flavorful thanks to Steven. Here are four of the many things I will never forget about him.
The Steven Schreibman Top 4 List.
1. His Laugh
I love to laugh. But Steven’s laugh made me look like the farmer in American Gothic. His laugh felt like the essence of life itself. His laugh was big and loud, like an alarm. And it never contained an ounce of restraint. Nor did it adhere to any social norms. I would have loved to have gone to church or synagogue or a library with Steven just to see if he could actually put a lid on his impulse to laugh without a hint of inhibition at the hilarity of the world. We should all live and laugh like that.
2. He cared.
Steven engaged with people as if he were a talk show host. Which is probably the job he should have had. In fact, I hope he gets that gig in Heaven. Because me and St. Peter would watch the Steven Schreibman Show every night.
Steven always showed a genuine interest in my life. He was full of questions and remembered everything I ever told him. When we first began working together, my family was small and growing. I have three blonde haired, blue-eyed kids named Ava, Johann and Magnus. Steven would always ask me, ‘How is your little Aryan race coming along?’ I laugh out loud when I think about how completely inappropriate he was, even as he demonstrated how much he cared about me and my family.
3. He Was Eternally Optimistic
Steven was a great client to present creative ideas to, because he recognized the potential in every idea. This is an extremely rare and valuable skill. Everything was Fabulous and Brilliant and Amazing. He loved pushing each idea to see how far it could go. He loved making things bigger, wilder and more attention-getting. He loved making ideas more memorable, and less like everything else. He could have taught a class on getting the most value out of a creative idea. He also could have been the class clown in that very same course.
4. He Was Entertaining
Steven was outlandish, and over-the-top, all of the time. His personality was completely incongruent with that of a large, conservative insurance company. But Steven reveled in being the pot stirrer. He understood his role as the person who could balance out a conservative corporate culture with his total irreverence for all things conservative.
The Master of Shock Value
We should all have a friend who is as endlessly entertaining as Steven was. He was so funny, and so outlandishly unpredictable, that you just wanted to be around him to see and hear what he would do next. There were no ordinary conversations with Steven. I think it would have been a violation of his personal brand to give you a straight answer. Every conversation with Steven was like a box of Cracker Jacks. And I looked forward to the joke, the surprise, or the shocking commentary that was tucked into every exchange.
My First Impression
I first met Steven on a Nationwide commercial shoot, on a 100 degree day in North Carolina. His face was lathered in sunscreen that was barely rubbed in. Which meant that he looked ridiculous. And he loved it. He kept asking if there was something on his face, and he acted oblivious to the white creamy mess he wore like Halloween makeup, just to get a reaction.
The Shirt Incident
One of my favorite Steven memories was from his birthday in 2009. We had a meeting together, and I wore a wild paisley shirt. When the SS waltzed into the meeting he was wearing the exact same shirt! When he spotted me wearing his birthday shirt, his jaw dropped, and he exclaimed, ‘Oh. My. Gawd! We HAVE to sit next to each other!!!!’ So we did. The rest of the meeting felt like a Saturday Night Live skit. It was all just too ridiculous to take anything seriously. As I think about Steven now, I immediate go back to that meeting. We looked like twin clowns. And we loved every minute of it.
Steven was the most engaged reader of this blog. Literally. The insights page on The Perfect Agency Project show that he has provided the most comments on this blog, by far. In fact, Steven has 33% more comments than the next most prolific commenter. This blog will miss him.
I love characters. And Steven was one of the greatest characters I’ve ever known. My conversations with Steven were more provocative and entertaining than the Howard Stern show. Always hilarious. Always inappropriate. And never a bit predictable.
Steven was indeed larger than life. And to those of us whose lives he touched, he is larger than death. Nothing can undo the impact you’ve had on all of us Steven. We will miss you greatly. I can’t wait to hear your laugh again on the other side.
*If you know a friend or family member of Steven’s, please consider sharing this post with them.
Your first act of the day sets the tone for how your entire day will go. Some people cuddle with a cup of coffee. Some read. Others exercise. While still others begin their morning by repeatedly jabbing at the snooze button on their alarm clock as if they were picking a fight with the Pillsbury Doughboy.
My First Habit
My first act of the day is simple, and more impactful than any of the above. The very first thing I do each morning when I wake up, is smile. I smile and instantly the day is good. It makes me feel as if the day is a game that I am ready to play. I feel funny and playful. Because smiling to yourself in the dark for no reason is a funny thing to do. But it puts me in the right frame of mind for the 18-hour adventure ahead.
Life Comes At You Fast.
Like everyone else, I face challenges every day. I have 3 semi-domesticated children (12G, 10B and 7B). I have a home that regularly throws me surprises. I have a commute that I don’t control. I own an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, which comes with employees, contractors, clients, finances, insurance and a landlord. And they all have the potential to hip-check my plans each day.
But that first smile in the morning makes me feel as if I won the day before the sun even gets out of the starting blocks. It sets the tone for everything else. It reminds me that funny things are going to happen that day, and it is up to me to see those events as humourous, and not tragic, vengeful or a clear sign of how much the universe hates me.
Put a smile to work for you.
Try it yourself. It is the easiest positive thing you’ll do all day. Yet it has the power to propel and protect you until you crawl back into bed at night. And if you have not yet smiled today, do it now.
If you find that a morning smile helps set a positive tone for your day let me know. If you have a great way to start your day that might help me, please share. I’ll take all the help I can get.
*To learn more about how I approach life and business you could shadow me 24-7. Or you could subscribe to this blog. It’s really up to you.
Ever since I started the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, the comment I hear most often is:
It must be nice to be in a position to say “No”.
As employees, most of us feel we don’t have the right to say things like:
No, I don’t want to work on that project.
No, I don’t want to work those hours.
No, I don’t want to work with that client.
No, I don’t want to go on that business trip to Newark, again.
No, I don’t want to partner with Stinky Frank the close-talker.
There are plenty of benefits to being an employee. But you have to do what the job requires.
However, now that I am a business owner, the ability to say ‘No’ never crosses my mind. Sure, I’ve heard in-demand artists, actors and musicians talk about being able to say no to opportunities. I know doctors that no longer take new patients (and I kind of hate them for it).
I like having more control over the work my team does. But I approach the opportunity from the opposite direction.
The best thing about owning your own business is being able to say ‘Yes!’ I like to help people as much as I can. So now I say Yes! more than Meg Ryan in the diner scene in When Harry Met Sally. (I’ll have what she’s having).
I get to say Yes! to obscure requests.
I get to say Yes! to small projects.
I get to say Yes! to huge projects.
I get to say Yes! to ultra-fast turnaround projects.
I get to say Yes! to demanding celebrities who have unique pet projects.
I get to say Yes! to startups who don’t yet have the money our work is truly worth.
I get to say Yes! to novel partnerships with other agencies and organizations so that we can both take on bigger challenges together.
I get to say Yes! to clients who have never worked with a team like The Weaponry and have no idea how to get started.
I get to say Yes! when The Weaponry is the mistress agency that gets involved when the client’s lead agency can’t or won’t do what they need.
I get to say yes to projects that are less that $2 million, less that $200,000, less than $20,000 and less than $2000.
Saying Yes!makes me happy. It makes me feel empowered to help. It allows me to work with the people I want to work with, and make decisions that are not driven first and foremost by the income I receive today. It allows me to think about long-term benefits. It allows me to find creative ways to get important work made. It forces me to think creatively. Which is what people come to The Weaponry for in the first place.
If you are looking for more happiness, find more ways to say yes. Help more. Enable more. Get creative more. The world looks better when you are looking for possibilities.
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