Why I really hate my stupid smart phone.

I never wanted a mobile phone. In fact, I held out as long as I could. I finally broke down and bought my first non-land line phone in August of 2005. My wife, Dawn was 38 weeks pregnant with our first child. I wanted to be a responsible parent. That meant being accessible when my wife went into labor, and for all of the craziness that would inevitably follow.

The Garter Snake

My first phone was harmless enough. It was a little blue flip phone that was used for phone calls, and nothing else. Yes, it had a camera. But the images it captured were no better than what I could sketch with a dull crayon.

The Rattler

Two years later the ad agency I worked for issued me a Blackberry Pearl, which meant that I could get my email on my phone. Now I could never escape work. Oh, there was also a rudimentary mapping feature. And buttons. Because back then we thought it was more important to have buttons that screens. Those were quaint times.

The Black Mamba

In 2009 I was issued my first iPhone. It had an amazing camera that could capture hi-def photos and videos. It had apps that did everything but make me breakfast. Since then I have rarely been more than 50 feet from my iPhone.

The technology packed into these smart phones is mind-blowing. They have completely transformed life as we know it. And right now I am focused on how much of my time and focus have been stolen by this little fucker.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand that this technology has put the world at my finger tips. That is precisely the problem. I was born with a curious mind that likes to connect dots. I like information. I like to be entertained. I like to know what my friends are doing. And the smart phone has fed my every desire.

Listen All Y’all It’s A Sabotage!

Like Lorelei, the Sirens, and The Gameshow Network, smart phones create a constant distraction. Distraction is the enemy of productivity, imaginative thinking and quality time. My smart phone has repeatedly broken my focus. It has stolen some of my most valuable time, both at work and in my personal life.

On my drive home on Friday afternoon I was analyzing my week. I hadn’t accomplished as much as I thought I would or could. But why? I kept coming back to the little black distraction.

Focused action is the single most important ingredient of success. Distractions sabotage your success. When your attention gets diverted, you lose momentum. You waste energy. And you experience a frustrating loss of traction towards your goals.

The smart phone is the Everlasting Gobstopper of distractions. On any given day I could grab it to check my emails, texts and Slack messages. Then when I am curious about the weather I can grab the phone again. If I want to check in on my company’s cash flow, I can check that on the phone too. Along with the latest updates on my bank account, flight itinerary, the financial markets, and my favorite sports teams.

I can tune in to a quick podcast, listen to music, or get breaking news anytime, anywhere. Then there are the all-knowing twins of Google and Wikipedia that can answer any question that has ever been asked before. This is all before we even mention social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. The distraction is broad and deep. So I am making changes.

This weekend my phone became a phone again. I haven’t used it to explore any curiosities. I didn’t carry it with me yesterday. I didn’t plug it in last night. I don’t even know exactly where it is right now. As a result I have been productive. I have made great progress on several important goals. I had a great new business idea. And I feel more like myself.

Key Takeaway

When you discover chronic distractions you have to eliminate them, or they will prevent you from accomplishing your mission. Smart phones can cause the same type of sabotage as alcohol, drugs, gambling and other vices, simply by diverting your attention. Smart phone time seems harmless enough until you recognize the opportunity cost of that wasted time. Time is our most precious commodity. You must defend it vigilantly if you want to achieve great things.

 

 

Advertisements

Do you create the best kind of heat?

We’ve reached the end of February, and across much of the country it is still wintry cold. But the low temperatures don’t bother me. That’s what happens when you grow up in Vermont, where cold air flows thick like maple syrup. Of the four seasons we experienced in Vermont (Summer, Leaf Peeping, Skiing and Mud Season) two of them are predominantly cold. And one is wicked cold.

To warm the chilly air, most homes in Vermont have either a fireplace or a wood burning stove. The two look, work and produce heat differently. Just like people.

The Fireplace

The fireplace is by far the more popular of the two. It is written about, sung about, and helps add value to your home. Fireplaces are highly coveted because they look beautiful in action. They are romantic. They create ambiance. And they are the perfect backdrop for showing off both bear skins and bare skins.

brown beside fireplace near brown wicker basket

Wood Burning Stove

The wood burning stove is far less popular. They are not sexy or romantic. In fact, they are often located in the sensible center of the home, rather than in a cozy family room, living room of master suite. The visible opening to the burning action is relatively small.  Which means there is a lot less to look at, and not much to sing about.

Hot or Not?

But the wood burning stove has one major advantage over the fireplace: Heat. You see fireplaces are more show and glow than go. They are highly inefficient at heating  anything but the toes next to them and the chimneys above them. In fact, most of the fireplace’s heat escapes up through the chimney, like Andy Dufresne.

On the other hand, the wood burning stove quietly cranks out enough heat to warm your whole house. You can load the stove at night, ignite a hell-strength fire inside, drop the damper like it’s hot, and heat your home all night long. Like Lionel Richie.

ash blaze bonfire burn

 

The 2 types of employees.

Employees are either fireplaces or wood burning stoves. When you are recruiting staff for your team, don’t get fooled by the bright lights and dancing flames of fireplace people. They talk a good game. They give the illusion of action. They show up and show off in meetings. But they generate very little action on their own. And little to no useable heat.

1182700

Burn Baby Burn!

To create a great team you want to collect as many wood burning stoves as you can get you hands on. (Actually you should keep your hands off of them, and read this post I wrote on Matt Lauer.) You want those people who can create the most heat with the least amount of fuel. People who are more go than show.

Fill your team with people who use their time and energy efficiently. People who don’t need to poked and rolled to come to life. These are the team members who get their work done when no one is watching. They produce surprising amounts of heat. And you don’t need to sit right next to them to benefit from having them on your team.

At my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, we are full of wood burning stoves. We have recruited a team of smart, self-starters who put a premium on results. No one needs to be poked, prodded or doused with lighter fluid to get going. A fireplace employee simply wouldn’t survive in our environment.

Key Takeaway

There are two types of people. Those who put on a good show, and those who generate heat. If you want to assemble or be part of a red-hot team, focus on the quantity of heat produced. Not the dancing flames.

How to enjoy the best results from your reading.

 As I began planning to launch my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2015, I could tell something was changing in me. In hindsight I now know that this is when I became an entrepreneur. I still had a full-time job, but I was creating The Weaponry in my spare time. I was transitioning from dreamer to doer.

I wrote the blog post below at that time. But I think about the basic lesson in this post often, and felt it was worth re-sharing. Especially since it was one of my very early blog posts, and very few people read it (Besides Joe, Jessa and Jeff, who all commented on it. Apparently it appeals to the J-crowd). 

Originally posted to The Perfect Agency Project on January 7th, 2016

books

I love to read.  Like most people I was born highly uneducated. Reading has become an instrumental part of my plan to overcome my early shortcomings. I love to learn and to become inspired. And if you are reading this I expect you do too.

I like reading classic literature because it makes me feel worldly. I liked reading the first three Harry Potter books because they made me feel magical. But then I realized my life is too short to read four more books about a fanciful wizard boy. Today I read a lot of books on self-improvement, business, and biographies. I also read healthy portions of magazines like Fast Company  and Inc because I find them both creatively stimulating and educational (and I like the pictures).

Your Reading Changes You

Several years ago I read an interesting quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones that said,

“You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things: the books you read and the people you meet.”  -Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

This reading about reading encouraged Adam “Ordinary” Albrecht to read even more.

The Revelation

But today I’m trying to read less. Because I have found that too much reading leads to too little doing. If I fill my time with learning and inspiration I leave no time for action.

When I began The Perfect Agency Project I created a simple rule of thumb that influences my reading today:

Read just enough to learn something new and become inspired. Then act on it.

Since I started following this rule I have accomplished more. I’ve wasted less time. And I’m more excited about my work.

Let’s Go!

I think of reading now like a pregame speech. One that I listen to just long enough to become properly motivated. And as soon as I am lathered up, I jump to work, acting on the inspiration.

That’s when I start writing, planning, structuring, detailing, calling, creating, wizarding or potioning. And what I’ve found is that when I have one hour available, instead of one hour of reading, I can do 10 or 15 minutes of reading. And then I can spend the rest of the hour implementing. And the return on that one hour is significantly higher.

Key Takeaway

I encourage you to try this for a week. Read enough each day to want to do something new and exciting. Then do it. Then repeat the process. And let me know how it works for you. I’ll read at least part of whatever you write me.

The one thing that helps me make each day great.

Every day starts full of potential. Your Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays are all born ready to be amazing. It’s what you do with each of them that sets them apart. I am a card carrying optimist. But I know that I will be dead long before I want to be. So making the most of each of the days I’m given is a top priorities.

There is a saying that goes through my head every morning that helps me make each day great.

“Get on top of your day before your day gets on top of you.”

I can’t remember who said that. It may have been Anonymous, or Unknown or one of those other prolific writers. But this statement pops in my ears each morning and prompts me to write down the list of things I want to accomplish each day. Then I start cranking. And crossing things off. And feeling accomplished.

However, my lists don’t help me get the urgent things done. They help me get to the important things that aren’t urgent. Between the major tasks of the day (that I couldn’t ignore if I tried) I am able to fit in things like writing a blog post, mapping out a new business idea, connecting with friends, family members or business contacts. It helps me prioritize exercise. And family time. If it’s on my list I will take a few minutes to work on a long term project that could otherwise slide forever. The list helps me find time to learn. And time to be quiet. Ok, I know those who know me don’t believe the last point. But one of my favorite activities is what I call ‘mental jogging’. And it only happens when I’m quiet.

Today I encourage you to get on top of your day. Picture the end of the day like an award show that recognizes you for your Daytime Achievement (It’s like a daily Lifetime Achievement award). What did they say you did that was so special? Include the big pillars of the day. But fill your list with the quick little wins that you never seem to get to. And then get to it. You’ll be amazed how five minutes can make the rest of your day so much more valuable. If you don’t read this until 4pm or 9pm, try writing a list anyway. I have saved many an afternoon and evening with a late list. Now, I would love to wrap this post up with a clever little statement. But I don’t have the time. There are too many other things on my list.

 

How I am making the nap my secret business weapon.

Remember Kindergarten?  I do. It was great. Blocks, snacks, learning to read and being the cutest kids in the school. It was a sweet gig for a 5-year old. And, of course, there were the naps. I remember curling up on my squishy little quadrifold mat. Speckled blue on one side. Flecked red on the other. I zonked and drooled for a few minutes every day. And I always came out of the nap better than I went into it.

For most of us Kindergarten was the last time in our lives we were encouraged, if not forced to take a nap. Now, I want to bring the nap back. But this time for creative professionals. I can’t think of anything that would help my mind perform at its best and  make my days more enjoyable than a regular nap-cation. Even at the office.

Too often we push ourselves until we run out of gas. And you are simply not at your best when you are running on fumes. Call me crazy, but I don’t think we should pay great people with great minds great money and have them operate on low batteries. (Yes I mixed fuel and batteries. I’m a hybrid.) 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers. Which means they sleep in short siestas throughout the day. But somehow we’ve rejected what the rest of our hairy relatives have heartily embraced.

Napping isn’t just important for creative professionals. In various other lines of work the nap is a must. If you drive an 18-wheeler I want you to stop and nap whenever you need to so that you don’t get your Peterbilt in my chocolate. Doctors, if you’re on for a 24-hour shift, wait, scratch that. ANYTIME you need to make sure you are at your best, you take yourself a nap. I’ll even write you a prescription.

Cultures in other parts of the world highly value the workplace nap. In China you’ll find entire teams facedown at their desk over the lunch hour. I love this! And not just because I would take and post hilarious sleeper pics on Instagram every day. In Spain they siesta. Italy has they rock the riposo. And other countries from the Philippines to Nigeria say don’t worry, be nappy.

My friend and former officemate Vince DeMarinis used to announce every day at 3pm, ‘Welcome to the worst hour of the day!’  But with a well timed nap we could be as great at 3pm as we were first thing in the morning. My Grandfathers were both farmers. And you know what they did between the morning and evening chores to prepare for operating heavy and spinny and choppy farm equipment?  They fed their nap-petites on the couch for a few minutes every day. And their cattle and appendages were better off for it.

So I want to apply the same principle to The Perfect Agency Project. When me and my team are worn down from a long day slinging the pickaxe in the Idea Mine, I don’t want the team to simply push through with caffeine. Or 5-Hour Energy. Or Red Bull. Or Crack. What a fatigued mind really needs is a nap. A nap powers us up like our iPhones plugged into the wall. Only without the electricity and charging cords in our orifices.

I’m not proposing long naps where you shut your doors for a few hours and change into your footy pajamas. A quick cat nap will do the trick. A study by the research journal Sleep found that 10 minute naps were optimal in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. Another study of theirs showed that almost no one reads the research journal Sleep.

NASA performed some rocket science on sleepy military pilots and astronauts. They found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%. It even made Tang taste tangier. Since most of the ideators and pencil pilots I work with spend a lot of time with their heads in the clouds I find these results highly relevant.

I am planning out a napping policy and facility now. We may have mats, build bunk beds or hang hammocks. But the nap will be used. It will be sacred. It will help us develop better ideas faster. And it will help us be more productive. I firmly believe it will give us a competitive advantage in ideation. I encourage you to consider incorporating naps into your routine as well. And when you do, let me know. I’d be happy to come take some pictures of your team hard at sleep.

 

 

How to get greater results from your reading.

I love to read.  Like most people I was born highly uneducated. Reading has become an instrumental part of my plan to overcome my early shortcomings. I love to learn and to become inspired. And if you are reading this I expect you do too.

I like reading classic literature because it makes me feel worldly. I liked reading the first three Harry Potter books because they made me feel magical. But then I realized my life is too short to read four more books about a fanciful wizard boy. Today I read a lot of books on self improvement, business, and biographies. I also read healthy portions of magazines like Fast Company  and Inc because I find them both creatively stimulating and educational (and I like the pictures).

Several years ago I read an interesting quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones that said, “You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things: the books you read and the people you meet.” And this reading about reading encouraged Adam “Ordinary” Albrecht to read even more.

But today I’m trying to read less. Because I have found that too much reading leads to too little doing. If I fill my time with learning and inspiration I leave no time for action.

When I began The Perfect Agency Project I created a simple rule of thumb that influences my reading today:

Read just enough to learn something new and become inspired. Then act on it.

Since I started following this rule I have accomplished more. I’ve wasted less time. And I’m more excited about my work.

I think of reading now like a pregame speech. One that I listen to just long enough to become properly motivated. And as soon as I am lathered up I jump to work, acting on the inspiration.

That’s when I start writing, planning, structuring, detailing, calling, creating, wizarding or potioning.  And what I’ve found is that when I have one hour available, instead of one hour of reading, I can do 10 or 15 minutes of reading. And then I can spend the rest of the hour implementing. And the return on that one hour is significantly higher.

I encourage you to try this for a week. Read enough each day to want to do something new and exciting. Then do it. Then repeat the process. And let me know how it works for you. I’ll read at least part of whatever you write me.