How to get inspired when you are running behind.

Do you ever feel like you are running behind? I do. All the time. I have high expectations. Which means that I also have goals, lists and timelines. But I find myself running behind my established deadlines all the time. Which means I would probably fit right in at United Airlines.

I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!

I am frequently behind on both my long-term and short-term goals. I am often behind on my daily to-do list as well. I can’t tell you how many times I have approached the last hour or two of my day at work or home, looked at the list of things I wanted to accomplish that day, and been shocked at how little I had crossed off.

Don’t Give Up

I don’t let myself get discouraged in those moments. In fact, I am thankful to recognize how little I have achieved while there is still time to do something about it. Because in those moments I am always reminded of my 9 years as a track and field athlete.

Life is like a track race.

Over the course of my track career at Hanover High School and the University of Wisconsin I saw amazing things happen at the end of races. I saw runners who looked as if they were destined for last place do amazing things. They didn’t give up. Instead, they kicked.

The Kick

In track and field The Kick is the late race attempt to shift to a higher speed than you were running the rest of the race. The Kick is used to finish strong. It is used to overcome the slower pace you had run to that point that put you behind. In full disclosure, I never had a track kick. I had more of a wave goodbye as other runners left me behind to contemplate my dietary choices.

Inspiration

I saw hundreds of inspiring Kicks in person during my track career. I saw hundreds more as a lifelong fan of the sport. I am always amazed to see how a strong, short, focused effort can completely change the outcome of a race.

Kicking At Work

Today, when I find myself behind late in the day, or late in a timeline, I don’t throw in the towel. I kick. I look at what I can still accomplish. I push distractions aside. I focus. And I sprint.

I have found that these late in the race sprints have the same ability to change outcomes in business and life as they do on the track. A concentrated effort over a short time often produces an entire day’s worth of productivity and progress in just an hour or two. Even better, I have had days where I crossed more off my daily to-do list in the last 20 minutes than I did in the previous 8 hours.

Key Takeaway

It is never too late to Kick. Whether you are talking about daily goals or lifetime goals, career or personal aspirations, your Kick can change everything. When you find yourself behind, use the time you have, to give everything you’ve got, to accomplish as much as you can. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes in the final outcome. And at the end of the day, the end is all that matters.

Here is a great collection of finishing kicks to inspire you today.

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

** The cover image for this post is of Sarah Disanza, who has joined me and my team at The Weaponry. She knows a thing or two about kicking too.

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Why September 3rd is the real New Year’s Day.

Happy New Year! That’s right, Tuesday September 3, 2019 is the real New Year’s Day. I know you’re wondering, what the Dick Clark is this guy talking about!?!

Allow me to explain.

January Ain’t Even Right

Americans traditionally celebrate the new year at the worst possible time. In January you are stumbling out of the most hectic and stressful time of the year. Which makes it a poor time to set new goals, quit bad habits and reinvent yourself.

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New Year’s is a great time for drinking. Not for resolving.

Think Fall Once And For All

The simple fact is that the fall, not spring, and certainly not January 1, is the best time for new beginnings.

It’s Grow Time!

If you were a tree, today is when your next ring would start to grow. Preschool starts in the fall. So does kindergarten, middle school, high school and college. Which means fall is the start of the next chapter for kids, parents and teachers alike. In fact, the day after Labor Day is the first day schools everywhere are back in session and fully engaged.

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We’re all back to school now like Rodney Dangerfield.

Back To Full Strength

When summer break is over for kids, summer vacations are over for adults. Which means that starting today, we are all back to work. Our businesses are operating at full strength for the first time in 3 months. Factories are humming. Offices are buzzing. And farms are farmy.

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Let’s do it, do it, do it.

Can I get An Amen?

Churches now begin their regularly scheduled programs. So if you see a church, and see a steeple, open it up and you’ll see all the people.

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Take me to church.

The new television season starts now. (Remember television?)

Both NCAA and NFL football kickoff now too.

This is a great time of year.

100% Battery Life

For those of you who used your summer vacation days well, you are hitting September 3rd fully recharged. Not only did you take the last three months to fill up on Vitamin D, travel, relaxation and inspiration, you got a three-day weekend to top it all off. #noexcuses

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This is where we are right now.

Go Team Go!

At The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, we are fully engaged. We’re all primed, rested and ready. Your team should be too. Let’s push hard. Have fun. And make this the best year ever. And here you thought today was just another Tuesday.

Key Takeaway

Fall is the very best time of year for growth and development. Now that your tanks are full and you are refocused, it is time to treat this like the new beginning you almost missed. Set new goals. Drop a bad habit. Pick a new challenge. Plan your next chapter. Grab that next rung. Or build your own ladder.

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

It’s my birthday! Time for 5 new goals.

Today, May 25th, is my birthday. I consider my birthday the most important day of my life. Seriously. If it wasn’t for my birthday I doubt I’d have a wedding anniversary. Or kids. Or my birthday suit. Or a blog.

The Real New Year’s Day

I think of my birthday, not New Year’s Day, as the starting point of my year. And this year I am focused on some very important goals. Or as a Mexican soccer announcer would say, I have some ‘Muy Importante Gooooooooooals!’

My 5 Goals For The Next Year

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Me at work with my favorite saying.

1. Get More Aggressive.  Recently I’ve done more leaping and less looking. I’ve taken several premature steps forward on initiatives rather than taking the time to properly prepare, and consider all of the possible outcomes. The results have been impressive. By simply moving forward when I get an inkling I am creating more progress than I do when I carefully consider my options. So in the year ahead, less thinking. More doing. Or as Toby Keith said, a little less talk and a lot more action.

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 I remember being excited to hit 200 blog posts. That was almost 100 posts ago. Art credit goes to Intern Ava.

2. Write more.  I already write like I am Orville and Wilbur’s third brother. But in the year ahead I have goals to crank my typewriter up to 11. In addition to this blog that I post to 3 times per week, I now have 3 book ideas started. I also met with a couple of magazine publishers yesterday about writing a regular piece for their pub. (That’s slang for publication. I am not writing for an Irish bar.) How did this opportunity come about?  I got aggressive and contacted them on an impulse, before I really thought it through. (See Goal #1)

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I launched my first business with my cousin Brooks Albrecht. Now we’re discussing other ideas.

3. Create Another Business. There is something about entrepreneurship that is like Pringles. Because once you pop, you can’t stop. I have 3 leading business ideas I am currently working through. One involves cheese. (#WhenInWisconsin…) One is a franchise opportunity (not to be confused with a french fry opportunity). And the other involves fo real estate. (#forealdo). Of course I have other ideas that get added to the list daily. So I want to bring at least one of the ideas to life in the next year. But no matter which one wins, I want to eat more cheese.

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The stud in the middle is my man Enrique Perez-Guerra, my college athletic trainer. We reconnected recently after 20 years. My teammate Scott Brinen and I now video conference with each other once a month.

4. Become A Greater Connector. I am a dot connector. It is how I process the world. I love creating, maintaining and facilitating connections. This is my most meaningful contribution to the people in my circles. Because at the end of our days the only thing that really matters is the impact we have on each other’s lives. Wait, did that just get real serious, real fast? #crickets

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My family on the Riverwalk in San Antonio during Fiesta.

5. More Quality Time With Family. I put my family at the top of the list of people I want to connect with. Like the meatball on top of spaghetti. My family includes my wife, Dawn and children Ava, Johann and Magnus. But it also includes my parents, sisters and their families. As well as my very large extended family. Especially now that I am about to make my first lap around the sun without any grandparents. Which means my generation needs to prioritize and facilitate our gatherings now that my 4 grandparents are sitting together at the great card table in the sky.

Key Takeaway

Birthdays are important. They serve as an annual reminder of the scarcity of time. To make the most of each year, reevaluate what is most important to you on your birthday. Set new and higher goals and expectations. Then charge forward to meet them. It’s how we create a life worth writing about. Which, if I’m lucky, would be book number 4.

My Birthday Wish

If you want to do me a special free favor on my birthday, please subscribe to get this blog gift wrapped and delivered to your inbox. It would really mean a lot to me. The subscribe button is on the home page.

*Also, Happy Birthday to my sister Heather. Yes we share a birthday. No we’re not twins. #howweirdisthat

Why it is so important to just keep swimming.

I recently had the chance to work with Olympic Gold medalist Blake Pieroni.  Blake won a gold medal at the Rio Olympics as part of the 4×100 freestyle relay. He is such a strong swimmer that he recently became a Mizuno sponsored athlete. Which is saying something, since Mizuno makes the best racing suit in the pool.

While filming with Blake I asked the Indiana native, and Indiana University student athlete about the major breakthroughs in his career. I was surprised to hear this world-class athlete say he really hasn’t had any.

Slowly Getting Faster

Blake said his progress has been steady and incremental. Day after day he continues to invest time in his training and preparation. As a result, he has slowly gotten faster. Which is a ridiculous thing to write. Yet it’s a proven, oxymoronic formula for success.

Blake’s career is a testimony to the power of slow and steady progress. It is not showy. Or gimmicky. It’s not based on shortcuts, or nepotism, or your mama paying to get you into USC. This is a get rich slow scheme. And if you are willing to put in the work it takes, it is the most certain way to continuously reach beyond your previous best.

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Blake and photographer Lucian McAfee. See if you can figure out which one is the 23-year old Olympian.

My Business

I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016. I bootstrapped the business, which is an Arkansas-sounding way of saying the business was self-funded. We have not grown by adding one giant account. Our growth has come by steadily accumulating great clients, and steadily growing our businesses together.

I was looking at numbers related to The Weaponry’s revenue yesterday when I noticed something interesting. At just 2.5 months into 2019 we have already generated more revenue this year than we did in our entire first year. Yet we haven’t acquired an Amazonian client. We didn’t go Uber-style and quadruple our pricing due to heavy rain and an umbrella plague. We have simply accumulated 17 active clients. And they all matter to our success.

The Blog

I also started writing The Perfect Agency Project blog when I launched The Weaponry. My goal was to tell the story of my entrepreneurial journey. I wanted to share my experiences and challenges, so that others could benefit from my learnings.

Coincidentally, I noticed an interesting statistic about this blog yesterday too.  As of March 20th, in 2019 I have already surpassed the total number of visitors and viewers I had in all of 2016.

Perhaps the blog is getting better too. Because my posts have already generated 14 times (14X) more likes than the entire first year. (And by likes I mean signs of social appreciation from readers. Not likes written into the body of my posts, because I write like a 16-year-old, like, kid from Likesylvania.)

The Reward

The business and blog growth are both very rewarding. Especially because they are growing too slowly to notice on a daily basis. But when I look at the year-over-year data, the results are clear.

Key Takeaway

Just keep swimming. Keep doing what you know you need to do to get better. Whether it is swimming, writing, growing a business, studying or any other pursuit worth pursuing. The progress might never be obvious, or dramatic. But keep at it anyway. Because if you do, eventually you will turn around and notice just how far you have come. It is the cumulative progress that matters. Not the speed. Not the attention. Just the results.

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.

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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.

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.)