Happy New Year! You now have to begin again at zero.

2018 was an amazing year for me. It was fun, productive and profitable. I felt as if I was racking up points on a scoreboard all year long. I developed great new relationships, new clients and new revenue. I had new ideas, new opportunities, new experiences and new travel. But when I woke up yesterday it was all gone. The scoreboard that tallied all of my points in 2018 had been turned off. Everything had reset to Zero. And I was all like WTF?!?

My Business

My business, The Weaponry, has not made a single dime yet in 2019 (obscure reference to when Americans used to carry real money). We haven’t created any advertisements, designed any logos or scripted any videos. We haven’t crafted any smart strategic plans. We haven’t written any witty copy. We haven’t bought any media or developed any websites.

We haven’t created any new relationships. We haven’t earned any trust. We haven’t won any new business. We haven’t returned any emails, calls or texts. There have been no meetings. No travel. And no new hires to celeberate (in fact it’s just another ordinary day).

In short, we haven’t done anything at all.

My Blog

My blog has reset to zero too. I haven’t written or published any new posts yet this year. No views, likes, comments or shares. I haven’t passed along any newly learned lessons. There have been no new insights on entrepreneurship, success, creativity, advertising, or networking. I have no new subscribers this year. No views from the other side of the world. No silly jokes or obscure references to separate the insiders from the outsiders. No outlandishly inappropriate asides written to make readers snarf (blow drinks or other liquidy foods out the nose).

Reality Check

It’s a new year. Whether you had a great 2018 or a terrible 2018, it’s now over. And you, me and everyone else are starting over again with no points and no wins.

reset

Let’s Do This!

So today, January 2nd, 2019, my team and I will get to work. We’ll start at zero and see how much we can accomplish in the next 364 days. We plan to double down, and double the business again in 2019.

It’s All About The Team…

While it is true that I haven’t done anything yet this year, I do have an amazing team. Our Weapons are super smart, strategic, creative and experienced. But they are also extremely hard-working, fun, funny, collaborative and kind. They are our unfair competitive advantages.

…And The Clients

We have great clients from Washington D.C. to San Francisco. We have been busy developing trust and keeping our commitments. Which means that we are scoring points at a faster and faster pace. We have been building our brand and our reputation. Which has provided us with potential opportunities with new clients that could stretch our business far beyond the United States in the coming year.

Key Takeaway

It is time for all of us to get back to work. It’s time to stoke this fire to see just how hot it can get.** Time to score new points. Time to build on our momentum. Time to turn our potential into reality. Time to rack up great new wins that will make this another year worth remembering.

**But remember, no matter how hot it gets in here, don’t take off all your clothes (at least not at work, or around anyone you work with). We learned this over the last couple years. And that didn’t go away at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Sorry Nelly.

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To make 2019 the best year ever, start right now.

I have a confession to make. When I set my yearly goals, I cheat in order to attain them. It’s not the kind of cheating that hurts anyone else. In fact, it’s not the kind of cheating that hurts anyone at all. But it sure gives me an advantage. And I don’t feel the least bit bad about it either.

Getting it wrong.

Most people set their goals for the year, and begin working towards them, on January 1st. Or maybe they start on January 2nd, depending on when the holiday falls. Or maybe January 3rd, depending on what bowl games are on TV on the 1st and 2nd. Then, despite the fact that we all have 365 days to accomplish our annual goals, most people lose their momentum before the end of the first month.

Getting it right.

I don’t want to be one of those people. So I give myself every advantage possible. I noticed long ago that no one calls you for a false start if you start working towards your annual goals early. So I cheat. I start working on my goals for next year before the current year is over.

Personal Goals

I start working on my fitness goals for the year at Thanksgiving of the year before. I am a bit of a contrarian. So I use Thanksgiving as a cue to get fitter, not fatter. That way I start the new year with a healthy routine already formed.

My wife Dawn and I begin planning our travel adventures for the next year as soon as we have taken our final trip of the current year. Which is now typically right before Labor Day (because kids ruin everything). I found that when I waited too long to plan my vacations they didn’t plan themselves. Which meant they didn’t happen. Now we schedule our adventures early, and we get more out of them.

WWGGD (What Would Gordon Gekko Do?)

I would never consider waiting to act on my professional goals until January 1st either.

Because in business, your year is determined by what you do in the 4th quarter of the year before.

When you add new business in the fall, you start benefiting from it right away, in the  beginning or the first quarter. And it pays out all year long. Whereas new opportunities that surface in the first quarter might not bear any fruit until the second, third or 4th quarter. Which means that a piece of business worth $1 million, $100,000 or $1000 over the course of 12 months will only be worth a fraction of that in the first calendar year.

Starting your own business

I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in the spring of 2016. But I began planning my business in August of 2015. I took on freelance projects beginning in October of 2015. And I used the income from those projects as the seed money to start my own agency. That early start was key to a successful launch. You can do the same thing.

Key Takeaway

If you want to be great, you can’t wait (that sounds like a Jesse Jacksonism).  You can’t coast from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve. You have to build momentum. So improve your chances of making 2019 your best year ever by starting today. Do more tomorrow. Because a New Year’s resolution is most successful when you find your resolve in the old year.

*If one of your resolutions is to read more in the new year, consider subscribing to this blog.

Why you should mind your own business.

In 2016 I left a comfortable job to start my own business. After working in the advertising industry for two decades I had a clear vision of what the perfect advertising agency was like. I used that vision as a blueprint to create a new agency called The Weaponry. At the same time, I began writing The Perfect Agency Project blog to share my experience and learnings along the way. And in case you didn’t notice, I just created a link to this blog, in this blog. Which may technically be the silliest thing I’ve done in 219 posts.

The Perfect Agency

I have thought about every aspect of the perfect advertising agency. From the dress code (which is only 9 words long), to the way we respond to client requests (always explore them), to the way we deliver invoices (singing telegram*), we are creating both the agency I would want to hire to create my advertising, and the place I want to work.

Competitors

But one thing I haven’t done since launching The Weaponry is think about our competitors. In fact, I don’t even know who our competitors are. We are not trying to win a geographical area. We are not trying to win a singular discipline, or serve a niche industry. So it’s hard to find another agency to throw in a cage match with us.

We are focused on building a machine for developing great creative ideas, delivering excellent customer service and providing a fun experience for everyone involved. That’s it. Oh, we’re also drinking a lot of chocolate milk. 

Occasionally in an RFP (Request For Proposal) we are asked who we compete against in various services. I always respond by saying we compete against everyone who offers those services.

But I don’t pay any attention to those supposed competitors. I don’t worry about what other agencies look like. Or what their websites say. I don’t go to awards shows to see their work. There is not a thing I can do about how they conduct their business. I am not trying to hurt them or steal their business. I am solely focused on us handling our business and delivering against our client requests.

In fact, there are only two agencies I think about at all.

  1. The Weaponry in its current state.
  2. The fully formed version of The Weaponry.

I am focused on closing the gap between the two, and making the business we work in today look more and more like the ideal.

Key Takeaway

Mind your own business. Don’t become distracted by what everyone else is doing. Understand what your customers and your employees want, and work diligently on delivering that at the highest level. It’s the shortest path to success.

This same principle hold true for us as individuals. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, or how they are doing it. Focus on what you believe in. You can never go wrong doing what you know is right.

(*Okay, so we haven’t fully implemented the singing telegram invoice delivery system yet. But let me know if you would like to be part of the beta test.) 

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.

How to evaluate your career and your life with one simple question.

I love a good rule of thumb. While other people collect stamps, art or sports memorabilia, I collect rules of thumb. In fact I have far more rules of thumb than I have thumbs. Which, upon further reflection, is not saying much. But I love a good, simple lens through which to view complex issues.

The Search

A few years ago when I was looking to hire an Executive Creative Director in Atlanta, I found  many interesting candidates. While discussing their various merits, Michael Palma, my headhunter, dropped an interesting rule of thumb into the conversation. He said,

‘I think you always have to ask yourself, is the candidate’s best 5 years in front of them, or behind them.’

Evaluating The Path

person holding chart and bar graph

I found this to be a startlingly simple way to evaluate a job candidate. Because it boils a career down to trajectory. Is the candidate growing and learning and becoming more capable, more energetic, more inspired, more influential, more well-connected and more wise? Or have they peaked?  Have they begun coasting? Have they begun living off of past successes? Are they still seeking out bigger challenges? Are they still hungry and feisty? Are they still showering on a regular basis?

Self Evaluation

person on a bridge near a lake

Palma’s rule of thumb isn’t just useful when evaluating job candidates. Its real power is that it is a great way to think about our own careers. And our own lives. I have sought out and surrounded myself with people who maintain an upward trajectory. I am inspired by people who continue to grow and challenge themselves to do, learn and be more.

I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, as part of a personal growth plan. I knew it was the next challenge I needed to maintain my trajectory of growth, passion and impact. As the business continues to grow and expand, it is clear to me that the best 5 years of my career are still ahead.

Key Takeaway

Take a moment today to look at your own big picture. Are you getting better? Are you pushing yourself? Are you taking on challenges that scare you? Are you maintaining a commitment to life-long learning and self-improvement? Are your interpersonal skills, maturity and accountability improving? If not, it is time for you to spend more time working on you.

A lesson from the most overlooked event in track and field.

I love track and field. I first got involved in the sport as a freshman in high school, mostly because I was terrible at baseball. But also because it was co-ed. And, I thought the fact that it was a no-cut sport significantly improved my chances of actually making the team.

Trying Everything

I have competed in a wide variety of track and field events. My resume includes the 100 meters, 400 meters, 1600 meters, high jump, long jump, shot put, discus, javelin, hammer, 35-pound weight, 110 meter hurdles, 4×100 meter relay, 4×400 meter relay, and, yes, even the pole vault (which I approached more like the high jump with a stick).

I liked every event I ever competed in. I love the energy and atmosphere at track meets. But you know when track and field becomes really fun?

The Second Meet.

The second meet is the most important and impactful event in a track athlete’s career. In your first meet you are just setting a baseline. But once you get to your second meet you walk in with a time, distance or height to beat. And most of the time, the results in the second meet are a rewarding step forward from the first meet.

In track and field, every result is measured in minutes and seconds, or feet and inches. Which means that your linear progression is clear and quantifiable. Your undeniable improvement in the second meet gets you thinking about the third meet. It makes you think about practicing more, training harder, lifting weights, warming up smarter and getting some better hype music. You start wondering just how much better you can get. The seeds of self-improvement are planted, fertilized and watered in that second meet.

The Broader Lesson

This is not just a track and field thing. This is a life thing. The same principle applies to our careers, our relationships, our responsibilities and our hobbies. Our first attempts simply set a baseline. The second time we do anything we start the improvement process. We recognize that as we pour more energy, time and focus into any activity we get better and better. This is true of presenting a closing argument in court, hiring good employees and folding fitted sheets (although my wife, Dawn is so good at the fitted sheet thing that I focus on the closing arguments in court instead).

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try something new because you think you will be bad at it. You will be bad at it. Or at least you will be the worst you will ever be. But that first attempt creates a starting point. The climb from there is both exciting and rewarding. As you improve, remember that first attempt. Recognize how far you have come since you first started. It is one of the most rewarding reflections in life.

*To see if these posts improve over time, please consider subscribing to this blog. Like the measurements of my track and field days, I now track follows, likes and comments to see if I am getting better. And like track and field, I am happy blogging is a no-cut sport.

Why you should put a smile on every time you get your dial on.

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.

Key Takeaway

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.

*If you’d rather not call me, but would still like to hear what I’m thinking, consider subscribing to this blog. If you want to read about another fun smiling technique I use, read Kickstart your day with this powerful and simple habit.