Monday night I had dinner with my friend Greg Rozycki at his home in Emeryville, California. Zyck and I grew up together in Norwich, Vermont. We went to high school together at Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire. Which is just across the Connecticut River from Norwich.
Fun Fact: Our school district was the first interstate school district in the United States. It took a bill signed by JFK to be approved. And it was the last thing JFK signed before he was assassinated (so maybe he shouldn’t have signed it… hmm…).
Zyck and I have known each other since we were 12-years old. We played football together. Zyck was a star athlete. Not only did he make the All-State football team, he was an All-American lacrosse player in high school. He went on to have an outstanding college lacrosse career at Brown University. Then he went to medical school at Dartmouth. Today he is Dr. Rozycki, a Pediatrician in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s a pretty amazing dude.
Before Monday night Zyck and I hadn’t seen each other in person in 8 years. When I arrived at his home he re-introduced me to his two children, Sanam (13) and Sachin (11). Then he said something really interesting to his kids:
‘Of all of my friends Adam is the one who has the most perfect career for him.’ – Dr. Greg Rozycki
Since I first started my career as an advertising creative I have heard this same sentiment many, many times. My great childhood friend Marcus Chioffi says this every time I see him. My Uncle Rod says he is glad that I am finally able to put my unique thinking to good use.
Finding Your Perfect Fit
I always laugh at these comments. But they are true. I have found a career that is perfectly suited to my strongest and most natural skills and abilities. I love the work I do and I think it shows. When I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I found the hard work of starting a new business as enjoyable as anything I have ever done. Because I love what I do.
The Big Questions
Would your closest friends and family say you are doing exactly what you should be doing with your career?
If not, what should you be doing?
What are you really great at?
What do you love to do that you are not doing right now?
How can you make money doing that?
Why aren’t you doing it?
Finding work that you love to do is one of greatest discoveries in life. It makes it exciting to get out of bed on a Monday morning. It makes it easy to put in the extra effort that will make you extra successful. It gives you special energy that makes long hours not seem so long. Best of all, you don’t spend any time thinking about the career you wish you had. Thanks for the reminder Zyck.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
The movie The Sixth Sense by M. Night Shyamalan has one of the greatest surprise endings of all time. But the only spoiler here is that at the end of the movie you might not be surprised that you are surprised.
There was a famous line from the movie that was delivered by little Haley Joel Osment. You know H-JO. He was Forrest and Jenny’s little boy in Forrest Gump. His classic line from The Sixth Sense is ranked #44 on the American Film Institute‘s list of 100 Movie Quotes.
‘I see dead people.’ – Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment)
Three years ago when I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency, I became an entrepreneur. With that role came a mindset change that has enabled me to see things that most people don’t.
I See On-Ramps.
You have probably wished for an opportunity to start your own business, make a lot of money or accelerate your own career. Most people have. But most people can’t find the path forward. My entrepreneurial mindset enables me to see on-ramps to exciting new opportunities everywhere. Seriously.
The on-ramps are in the problems you can solve. They are in the people you meet. In the books you read. And the questions you ask. The on-ramps are in the buildings you pass with the For Sale sign out front. The on-ramps are in your taste that people compliment you on. They are in your ability to write, design or photograph. The on-ramps are in the dots you connect. There are more on-ramps than you can count. And new ones appear every day.
Turn On Your Blinker
This week steer yourself onto one of those on-ramps and make something exciting happen. Start writing, planning, thinking, asking, creating, calling, connecting or buying. It is how you begin to take advantage of all of the opportunities that are around you all the time. Opportunities to do what you have always wanted to do.
Today we start a new week. We also start the second half of the year. Which means that today is a great day to make new progress. So start the things you’ve always wanted to start. Don’t put this off any longer. Take the next onramp you see. You will be amazed at where it takes you.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message please share it with them.
I first heard about web logs in the early 2000s. I fell in love with the idea right away. Suddenly, everyone could write and share their own ideas with the world, for free! I immediately wanted to write my own. Over the next decade I dabbled with at least 8 different blogs. But like cheap tape, nothing stuck
The Perfect Agency Project
I started this blog in the fall of 2015 as I began planning to launch my own advertising agency, The Weaponry. I wanted to write about the startup process, the entrepreneurial experience, and all that I knew and learned about advertising and marketing. I hoped that people would read this and think that if this clown can start his own business, I certainly can too. (Which is true.)
The Surprise Education
I expected to share what I learned about business. But along the way I also learned a lot about blogging. When I hit 200 published posts last year I wrote a piece entitled, What I have learned about blogging after 200 posts. I shared all my best tips and tricks about blogging. Today, when people ask me for advice on blogging I simply point them to that post, like Babe Ruth calling his shot. Except there is no baseball, no bat, no outfield wall, and no candy bar at the bottom of the country club pool.
Today I am publishing my 300th post. Over the past 100 posts I have learned even more about blogging. So I am adding 12 more tips to my blogging body of knowledge. Here they are in a particular order.
12 More Tips On Blogging Learned From Writing 300 Posts.
1. Just keep writing.
The most important factor in writing 300 posts is to simply keep writing. It is easy to write one post. And it’s really easy to quit after writing that one post. To get to 300 hundred, 3000 or 30,000 posts you have to just keep writing. It’s like Dory’s swimming philosophy. There is no magic to it. Just stick-to-it-ness.
Get your blog posts up and running and fix them along the way.
2. There is always something to fix.
When I look back at my published posts I feel like Michael Jackson looking at his face. Because there is always something I want to change. Always. I would add another example, smooth a transition, insert another joke. But the blog posts must get published. Published is better than perfect. It’s a blog. Not a book. You get a round of writing. A round of improving. And then you have to push that post out of the nest to fly or flop.
3. Errors are part of the game.
In the process of pushing posts live on a regular basis you are going to make mistakes. A typo may sneak through. You may miss a word, or double double a word, or misuse or misspell a word. You have to work to minimize errors. But accept that they will happen. My readers help me find the errors. Kind of like friends who tell you when you have something stuck in your teeth, or toilet paper stuck to your shoe, or a bat in the cave (a booger in your nose). These are good friends and good readers. Because they want to help you succeed.
4. There is no telling what will be popular.
I am often surprised at what posts become really popular. It’s hard to predict what gets passed along. It’s difficult to know what will generate a lot of comments. I haven’t found a lot of consistency in my most popular posts. It’s kind of like dance crazes. So just keep dancing and enjoying it.
Missing, one great blog post. Last seen by nobody.
5. Sometimes a great post goes completely unnoticed.
This is a the hardest fact about blogging. Sometimes you write a post that is really great, that you know is important, and smart and real and maybe even funny. And then it goes virtually unnoticed. This will happen a lot when you first start, because you don’t have much of an audience. And you wonder why you are bothering to write at all. But do bother. Because you learn from writing.
Blogging has a cumulative effect. The more you write, the more your work is discovered, read and shared. You can always repost or update a great post that phantomed through the opera. Know that what you are writing is good and that others are missing out on some great ideas.
6. The off-channel feedback is the best.
In social media and blogging everyone talks about engagement. Which is the aggregate of your likes and comments on your posts. But what I have found most meaningful is the feedback I get away from the blogging and social media platforms.
I regularly get emails, texts and in-person comments about how much people appreciate a post, or my blog in general. These are genuine, thoughtful, appreciative comments that are not intended to show engagement, increase influence scores or sweet talk an algorithm.
When I get these messages they typically come in the following format:
‘All joking aside, I really appreciate that you are writing this blog (or this specific post). I am really getting something out of this. I wanted you to know. Please keep them coming.’ – Feedback Franny or Freddy
This type of feedback is really what motivates me to keep writing. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share such notes.
7. Don’t trust the data.
WordPress offers analytics on my blog about:
But the data doesn’t always jive with reality. I am not sure how the data on page views accommodates for people who subscribe and read the blog via email. Or how pass along of the email is captured. I often see a strong uptick in likes or comments on other platforms where I share a post, like LinkedIn and Facebook. But there is no movement in the data on WordPress. So don’t be a slave to the numbers, or take the WordPress data as gospel. Just keep writing good posts.
8. 3 times per week is my sweet spot.
Over the course of the past year I went from publishing 2 posts per week to 3. As a general rule I publish on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Occasionally I may slide those a day earlier or a day later based on my travel, work or world events. But I fully expect this to be my final answer on blogging frequency. It offers me 2 days to write each post. It offers 2 days for each post to be read before a new one takes its place at the top of the pile. The algorithms seem to want you to post about every other day so that you don’t flood the feeds.
Adding the Sunday post means that I no longer go Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday without publishing. As a result I have seen my overall monthly readership increase by 50%. If you can trust the data.
9. The real impact is not measured in views, follows, likes or comments.
Let me address measurement one more time. I am certain after 300 posts that you can not measure the impact of a blog in views, follows, likes or comments. The true impact of a blog is in how it impacts a life. It is in how the insights, education, information, motivation or inspiration you share improves the lives of your readers.
Blog posts are meant to help in some way. That help is not measured in likes and comments. It is measured in confidence, and in successful actions taken and in opportunities seized. Never lose sight of this. The real impact of your blog may not be recognized for years, or even decades. Be patient. And just keep writing.
10. The Blogger learns as much through writing as the reader does through reading.
When I first began writing my blog I expected to teach others a bit about the things I write about. Including advertising, marketing, creativity, entrepreneurship, business, and networking. But I am learning more than anyone else.
Regular writing forces a lot of self reflection, and analysis. You start viewing everything in life as lessons and insights worth sharing. The writing and editing process teaches you to clarify and refine your thinking. You draw scores of new connections and aha’s along the way. #takeonme So regardless of whether or not anyone ever reads your writings, you will profit from the writing itself.
11. Sneak in anything you want.
It’s your blog and you can write whatever the ef you want to. Sure, it’s best to have a general theme, direction, perspective or angle in your blog. People want to know generally what they can expect from reading it. But take advantage of the fact that it is your platform to share your stories and your perspective.
Blogging pays off. But it pays off slowly. You have to be patient. And persistent. But the cumulative effect of writing and sharing good content regularly increases your value to others. Which in turn becomes valuable to you in ways that are both monetary and life-i-tary.
Blogging keeps your voice and your viewpoint top of mind for others. Which means that you are both recently and relevantly recalled when opportunities surface. It works for me. It can work for you too. And despite all the tips it really comes down to this:
Think, Write, Review, Publish, Repeat.
If you know someone who writes a blog, or would like to, please consider sharing this post with them.
Last Saturday morning I went to Starbucks. A typical Starbucks run is not exactly newsworthy. Or Blogworthy. Or spongeworthy, But this Starbucks trip provided an expresso shot of inspiration for me. Because this wasn’t just any Starbucks. It was the original Starbucks at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
I should mention that I don’t drink coffee. My standard meet-up/networking drink of choice is chocolate milk. I’ll do a venti hot chocolate when my go-to chocolate milk is not on the menu. You know, when I’m slumming it.
But I wasn’t viewing this Starbucks as a meet-up joint. Or a beverage joint. Or even as a tourist attraction. Although clearly it was. I saw the original Starbucks through the eyes of Adam Albrecht, the Founder of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. I evaluated the original Starbucks through the lens of a guy who started a small business and has large ambitions.
The first Starbucks serves as a reminder that we all start small. Because even the biggest brands, companies and cultural pillars begin as a vision. That vision, combined with action, soon becomes a small store, office, shop or stand. And if you just keep taking more steps and more action there is no telling how big your vision can become.
Even the biggest, most influential businesses start small. The key is having a vision and taking action. We can all do this. There is no magic formula. All you need is a venti vision with a double shot of action, topped with some stick-to-it-ness. That’s how Howard Schultz started Starbucks. And it is how you will start your next big thing.
I love a good proverb. It offers a great way to summarize and remember a simple truth. I recently stumbled upon an interesting old Chinese proverb. By stumbling, I mean I found it by accident. Not that I tripped and fell on top of it.
Here it is:
‘A Man Without a Smiling Face Must Never Open a Shop’ -Chinese Proverb
This proverb makes me laugh. It isn’t poetic. It lacks the thought-inspiring depth of Confucius. It’s what I would label a very niche-audience proverb. I don’t know if this was intended for the non-smiling crowd, or the maybe-I-will-open-a-shop crowd.
Smiling Is A Requirement
Regardless of how narrow and niche and blunt the proverb is, it is true. Businesses are about human interactions. If you don’t have a smiling face, you can’t show people you are happy to see them. Customers won’t feel welcomed, appreciated or valued. A person without a smiling face creates a poor customer experience. If you can take someone’s money, but can’t give them a smile in return, there will be no repeat business.
Make Them Feel Good
This proverb is a great reminder about the doors that open when we smile. Smiling makes you magnetic, pleasant and warm. Smiling make others feel good. And customers will pay a premium for that feeling. Customers and clients have a wide range of options to choose from. They will always go where they feel welcomed and appreciated. And a smile makes them feel both.
Smiling Is a Customer Magnet
When I was young I spent a few valuable Saturdays working at a concession booth at a stadium. I smiled the whole time. It was clear that by smiling I gave the crowd walking past the impression that I was happy to see them. Which made them more likely to approach the booth. I’ll never forget that lesson. As a result I sold a lot of foam fingers.
Be A Good Host
As a business owner you must always put the customer first. You must be a good host. By putting a smile on your face you attract customers and keep them coming back over and over again.
Resting Smile Face
Smiling is my default. I don’t put a lot of thought into it. Because I don’t have to. I am sure that my naturally smiley nature has been an important factor in my entrepreneurial success. I want to make my clients’ interactions with The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, the most enjoyable part of their day. And by the looks on their faces, it often is.
If you can’t put a smile on your face you can’t be an entrepreneur. Because if you can’t put a smile on your own face you certainly won’t be able to put one on anyone else’s. Customers have options. In the age of online commerce, one of the greatest reasons to enter a shop is to see a smiling face that is happy to help you. Offer a smiling face to every customer you see. And you are likely to see them over and over again.
If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
I am an idealist. Early in my advertising career I had a vision of what the perfect advertising agency looked like. The vision was so clear that on the eve of my 40th birthday I made a commitment to myself to start my own agency, and bring that vision to life. By the spring of 2016 I left my job, established The Weaponry as a legal entity, and I was on a vision quest, like Matthew Modine.
As I stared the business I also began writing The Perfect Agency Project blog. My goal was to chronicle the entire experience here. I wanted to share the challenges, learnings and progress along the way.
My hope was that readers could follow my story and gain insights, information and encouragement to start their own business, personal adventure, blog or Ponzi Scheme.
Sharing The Vision
Today, I re-share my vision for The Weaponry in a team meeting every Friday afternoon. We call it our Rocks Meeting. It is part of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) that we use to run our business. The system is introduced in the book Traction by Gino Wickman. If your organization needs help gaining traction towards its goals, I highly recommend both the book and the system. I also recommend progress in general. Progress is good. It’s my favorite type of gress.
At the beginning of each of our Friday Rocks meetings I restate my vision of the fully- formed version of The Weaponry. This includes annual revenue, number of employees, number of offices, the type of work we do and the type of clients we work with. I then say that we are meeting today to help close the gap between the ideal, fully-formed version of The Weaponry and where we are today. I do this each week because I want our team to know exactly what we are trying to create together.
I Once Was Lost
I have been part of Whitesnake businesses, where I didn’t know where we were going (but I sure know where we’ve been). There was no shared vision. We didn’t go on a mission. We just went to work. Which meant that when new programs and policies were introduced, they didn’t feel like they were part of a larger purpose. Therefore, the team did not embrace them as if they were mission critical.
Last Friday something interesting happened as I restated the long term vision for The Weaponry. I was listing the numbers we were after, and I noticed one of the women on our team stating them right along with me. Like the way you mouth the words to a song that you know by heart. You can’t help but sing along because you know all the lyrics so well. #OhMickeyYoureSoFine
I knew in that moment that the vision of what we are working to create is being clearly shared, being heard and being internalized.
Using The Vision
When making a decision about a new hire, a policy update or an expense, I always look to the future. I ask myself WWTFFWD? Which of course means What Would The Fully Formed Weaponry Do? I encourage my team to bring challenges and requests viewed through the WWTFFWD lens. Whenever financially possible, we try to make decisions in line with our future state, rather than our current state. Because the best way to bring your vision to life is to act like you are already there.
If you want to start breaking records you have to sound like a broken record. Share your vision of the future early and often. Because when others can envision your ideal they can also help you create it. This is true of organizations, products, services and relationships. Others will help you get where you already know you are going. And you are sure to get there faster with a little help from your friends.
If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
When I was in college I had a great study routine. I went to the Helen C. White Library on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison every Monday through Thursday night. I headed straight to the quiet study section of the ‘brary, found a private study cube, and focused intensely for 45 to 60 minutes at a pop.
15 Minute Breaks
At the end of each period of intense focus I would leave the quiet study space and head to the non-stop party in the Group Study section of the library. There I would talk with friends, or flirt with the ladies for 15 minutes.
Then I would head right back to quiet section for another Total Focus study session. I would repeat this routine for several hours, until it was time to take the Drunk Bus home and get some sleep.
I loved this routine. In the quiet section there were no distractions. No laptop, mobile phone, or smart watch. Just papers, pens, and books. In that environment my brain soaked up knowledge like a sponge. I felt intensely productive. I felt on top of game. And my good grades indicated it was working.
Dealing With Distraction
Fast forward 2 decades, and I don’t feel intensely productive very often any more. Ever since I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, there are distractions everywhere. In fact, even my distractions have distractions. My ever-present iPhone is always trying to feed me news and alert me and ping me and generally mess with me like a digital Larry, Curly or Mo.
My laptop is like a 3-ring circus of emails, Slack notifications and calendar notices. All of them are vying for my attention all the time. Most of us deal with this digital sideshow. But as a business owner it is unrelenting. And it can feel as if staying on top of the pinging and dinging is how you stay on top of the business. But it is actually the death of productivity by a million beeps, blips and bites.
Going Back To College
That’s why I am going back to college. I’m not actually enrolling and going to class and keggers and the KK. But I AM going back to Helen C. White Library mode. I am getting back into my periods of Total Focus. Or ToFo as I like refer to it. As in, ‘Yo, Bro, I need some ToFo!’
I recognize that ToFo is my superpower. ToFo, not Budweiser Light, brings out my best.* ToFo helps me get the most accomplished. It helps me do my best thinking and creating. It makes me feel strong and capable. It unleashes the full power of mono-tasking. And I want more of this right now.
Scheduling The ToFo
I have at least an hour of ToFo in the morning when I write my blog. This focused, uninterrupted work helps me publish 3 new blog posts each week. I have also begun adding ToFo time into my work calendar. I am scheduling 60-minute periods of intensely focused work where I block out all interruptions and distractions.
I turn off the ringer on my phone, and the turn the phone over, so that I don’t hear or see any digital noise. I turn off Slack to avoid momentum killing Slack attacks. Then, for one hour, I am in ToFo mode. Just like I was back in the quiet study section at the library in Madison. I can literally feel the productivity and the progress at work as I am cranking through work and crossing things off on my daily to-do list.
ToFo For Everyone
I also want my team to be able to have more ToFo time for deep work. In the same way that we schedule meetings and lunch I want The Weapons to spend more time focused without interruption for longer periods of time. Which means scheduling time when they are not on a digital leash. It is good for my teammates. And it is good for business.
Find more time for ToFo. Silence your digital distractions. Be selfish. And mono-task for 45 to 90 minutes at a time. You can do this by scheduling time when you are totally available, and time when you are totally off limits to coworkers, clients and family. By scheduling this time the rest of your team knows when they can ask question and get feedback, and when the will have to wait. ToFo is your super power. You should use it every day.
*Click on this link to see some memorable beer commercials that treat beer as if it was Gatorade or Red Bull. I was totally inspired by these spots when I was a little kid. Go Beer!