15 Things I am thankful for in 2019.

2019 has been great to me. My health is great. My relationships are great. My family is great. My prospects are great. And my go to word is apparently great. As I reflect on all that I am thankful for this is what I found.

15 Things I am Thankful For This Thanksgiving

1. The first laugh of the day.  My friend Diana Keough, whom I share Milwaukee, Ohio, Atlanta and Columbia, Missouri connections with, introduced me to the concept of the first belly laugh of the day. I have since noted the first laugh of the day. It is something I am grateful for every day. And I try not to think too much about my belly.

2. Laughing until I cry.  This is one of my favorite experiences in life. I have done it twice in the past 2 weeks. One of the times was when I found out that the number one song in America when my co-worker Sarah was conceived was Boys 2 Men’s smash hit, I’ll make love to you. (Thanks Paul and Debbie) You can find your own conception song here.

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Laughing until you cry is better that pumpkin pie.

 

3. Travel. Travel is my favorite. It opens the mind, enhances creativity and empathy. And it creates life long memories. Or at least until the dementia sets in. My family and I did some really fun travel this year. Including a road trip that took us from Wisconsin to San Antonio, where I wanted to start a pie shop called Pie Alamo. We went to the Pacific Northwest. We visited British Columbia. Which I would have named Canadian Columbia, but nobody asked me.

4. Randomly seeing people I know far from home. I love running into people I know randomly. It makes the world feel smaller and full of surprises. This year I ran into friends totally randomly and unplanned in Seattle (Andy Bosley), Fort Worth (The Smith Family of Mequon), at basketball tournaments (college teammates Bobby Smith and Bobby Myers), at a hotel in Chicago (PJ Cannon) and at Ikea (Terry Schmitt).

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My college teammate Andy Bosley ran himself into me in Seattle. We live a mile apart in Mequon, Wisconsin.
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I saw my freshman year college roommate, Terry Schmitt, for the first time in 25 years at an Ikea.

5. Great new books.  I love to read and learn. I am thankful to authors who write great books. And I am thankful to discover those books. This year I have added some really great reads to my library.

 

6. Seeing my two oldest friends in the world.  My first memories in life were when I lived on a farm near the shore in Lincroft, New Jersey. My bestest friend was Steve Withycombe. I saw Steve in Seattle this summer for the first time since 2002.

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Me and Steve have known each other since we were about 3 years old.

My actual oldest, oldest friend in the world, is Andy Shirk who lives in Dallas. I thought we met on our own in Columbus, Ohio in 2010. However, soon after we met our parents dropped the bomb on us that we actually have known each other since I was born. Our parents lived in the same apartment complex at the time in Mansfield, Ohio, back in the 1970s. And they had pictures to prove it. I saw Andy and his hilarious wife, Megan in Dallas this spring. I am super thankful to have friendships that have lasted over 40 years.

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Me and Andy on the day I was baptized. I was practicing my swim strokes because I thought there would be more water.

7. The Weaponry The advertising and idea agency that I started in 2016 continues to be one of the greatest chapters in my life. I love our team of Adam (Henry), Kristyn (K-Lil), Kevin (Lower Kayse), Sarah (Ice), Simon (The Harper), Jeanne (Genie), Calla (Super) and Sally (Eggs). Plus our like-family-members Diana, Sue, Gary, Julie, Monica, Tony, John and Todd.

All Rights Reserved

 

8. Clients It’s awfully hard to play advertising agency if you don’t have clients. I am a volcano of thankful lava for everyone who has trusted us enough to work with us in 2019.

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Nicole Hallada has been an amazing client and advocate of The Weaponry since the beginning. Here we are in 97 degree heat, 100 feet over Louisville, in a bucket.

 

9. My Family  I am endlessly thankful for my wife Dawn and kids Ava, Johann and Magnus. I am at truly at home any place where the 5 of us are all together.

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But wait, there’s more!

My parents, Robert and Jill, and my sisters Heather, Alison, Donielle and their families are amazing, and I got to see everyone this year.

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We are family.

But it doesn’t stop there!

My Mom is one of 9 kids (The Spraus) and my dad is one of 12 (The Albrechts). And I am extremely thankful to have so much family to call my own. Heck, I am even thankful that my Grandma Albrecht passed aways this year at 99 years old, because it gave my family a great reason to get together, and let’s face it, she was really old.

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My Dad, far left and his siblings and parents.
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This pic is of me and my Albrecht cousins (3 are missing) after my Grandma Judy’s funeral service, which tells you everything you need to know about my family.

10. My friends  I am lucky to have wonderful friends from many different chapters of my life. I am thankful for how they have all added to my story. Here are just some of my special friend groups.

  • High School friends (Hanover High School, Hanover, New Hampshire)
  • Vermont and New Hampshire Friends
  • New Jersey friends
  • College friends and roommates from the University of Wisconsin
  • College track teammates
  • W-Club members
  • Milwaukee friends
  • Atlanta friends
  • Columbus Friends
  • Work Friends
  • People I met on airplanes
  • Quebec Friends
  • Dionne and Friends

 

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College Roommates
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Childhood Friend Greg Rozycki
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College Track Teammates and Families
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Atlanta Neighbors

11. Enthusiasm  I am extremely thankful that I have as much enthusiasm for life and its mysteries, adventures and challenges as I ever have. Sometimes I think I have too much. And so does Dawn.

 

12.  Faith  This has been a wonderful year of faith for me and my family. My daughter Ava and son Johann took their first communion this year. Ava is in Confirmation class. Dawn and I have taught Sunday School and generally feel both the joy of giving and receiving in our church community.

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13. Entrepreneurs  I am extremely grateful for all the entrepreneurs who have supported and advised me. Entrepreneurship can be isolating or it can be uniting. I am thankful to be united with so many talented, experienced and sharing entrepreneurs. I belong to a great CEO roundtable group through the Metro Milwaukee Area Chamber (MMAC). And I have a strong tribe of entrepreneurs who I lean on regularly (Richards, Hilimire, Bandy, Florsheim, Salamone, Wong). And I am always open to adding more.

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Dan Richards is one of my best friends in the world. We grew up together in Norwich, Vermont. His company, Global Rescue, became The Weaponry’s first client. And he has been an important advisor to me on business ever since.

 

14. A Comfortable Home As the weather has turned colder, and the winter wind and snow have arrived in Wisconsin, I am extremely thankful for a warm and comfortable home. As Maslow’s knows, a comfortable home enables you to enjoy more joy in life.

15. Blog Readers Thank you to all of you who take time out of your busy day to read my blog. I appreciate your time, likes, comments and shares more than you will ever know.

Key Takeaway

There is a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. The people in your life, laughter, knowledge and magical accidents are amazing gifts. If you have those things you can count yourself among the richest people on Earth. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

What happened to me in June.

Sometimes life gets in the way of my writing. Sorry. I try to spend an hour each day, five or six days per week collecting and sharing my thoughts here. My publishing goal is to share two posts per week. Which for the math-challenged is roughly 8-10 posts per month. But June came up significantly short. Like Emanuel Lewis. Or a Smurf.

The Numbers

I performed some June-y data analytics. By that I mean I counted some things. I only shared 5 posts. Or about 1 post per week. Then I tallied my travel over the past month. I was away from home for 17 days in June. Which means over half of my June was spent on the road. So while there wasn’t a lot of Doogie Howser-Style thought typing (comment if you understand this reference), there was a lot of travel.

In June I saw:

  • Columbus, Ohio
  • The COSI Museum
  • The place where the Kent Sate May, 4 Shootings happened.
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Ellis Island
  • The 9/11 Museum
  • The top of the Empire State Building
  • The Natural History Museum in NYC
  • Gettysburg, PA
  • The Maryland Mountains (yes this is a thing)
  • Morgantown, WV
  • Wheeling, WV
  • Lafayette, IN (#FathersDayVisit)
  • Atlanta (twice)
  • Athens, GA (twice)
  • Columbus, GA
  • Albany, GA

My friend Audrey Lowder took me and my family to the top of the Empire State Building. My kids re-enacted some Sleepless in Seattle scenes. She had a major birthday yesterday. Happy Birthday Audrey!
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My family visited this top-secret location in New York City, that I can not disclose.

People, People, People

I saw a lot of people in June. I visited clients. I saw my parents. I saw my cousin Tim in a random grocery store parking lot outside of Philadelphia. I saw former co-workers I hadn’t seen in 7 years. I saw the private equity studs that used to own Engauge, the adverting agency I worked at for 7 years. I got together with a whole gillooly of friends from my neighborhood in Atlanta. I even got to hear one of my doctor friends tell the story of how he learned to do pelvic exams.

I spent time with Dr. Demond Means in Athens Georgia, sharing new logos, tagline, manifestos and gumbo.
I got together with my neighborhood friends in Atlanta, who taught me how to scare off home intruders, who are actually your friends stopping by to walk your dog (like you asked them to do).
I grabbed a fancy beverage with my friend Nicola Smith, who has started her own business called Rebel and Reason. Billy Idol wrote her theme song in 1983.
I saw my cousin Tim in a grocery store parking lot and we were more excited than popcorn popping.

 


Key Takeaway

When I set out to launch my perfect adverting agency, I wanted to build something that would 1. Create enough demand to keep me busy. 2. Provide enough income to be able to take family vacations. 3. Offer enough scale that I could step away from the machine for a few days and the machine would keep running.

Today, The Weaponry is delivering on all three points. But I need to stay focused on getting better, to make sure that doesn’t change. So while I may not have been able to share as often as I would like in June, I can share that what I’m working on is working.

We participated in our annual Dublin Cannonballer Outing in Dublin, Ohio.

How to make your business trips more personal.

I am not a control freak. I believe there is more than one way to skin a cat. Although most cats I have met strongly prefer not to be skinned at all. I like to hire good people and let them do their jobs. I am very comfortable delegating responsibility. With one notable exception.

Travel

When it comes to business travel I become a micromanager. You will never find me handing over my travel planning to an assistant or simply booking what everyone else is booking. Because when I travel for work I always have a hidden agenda… (cue the sinister music).

As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, my first priority on every business trip is to take care of business. I call this my Bachman-Turner Overdrive Philosophy.  I want to arrive with plenty of time to prepare for the meeting or the shoot, or whatever I’m travel to do. And I build in enough time for a travel backup plan in case anything goes wrong.

But once the work plan is set I always turn my attention to my hidden agenda. It’s not finding great restaurants or a fancy hotel or seeing a great show.

My People Plan 

When I travel for work I always think about the people I can see. Business trips offer us all a chance to keep in touch or reconnect with friends and family. I take advantage of this every chance I get. You should too.

The moment I know I need to travel I start working on my people plan. I study the location I am traveling. I look at a map to see who I know within a reasonable radius of my business.

Then I build my itinerary.

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This is my cousin Janelle. I saw her on a recent trip to Fort Myers. She saw me too. 

 

The 3 Parts To My People-Seeing Travel Plans.

Flight:  I look at flight options that will get me in early enough and allow me to leave late enough to see my people. Often I will take the last flight home on any given day to help open my schedule and improve my odds of connecting.

Lodging:  My lodging is always an important part of my plan. I book hotels that make it easy to see my people. This is either because the lodging is centrally located, or because it is in the middle of a pod of my peeps. However, sometimes the lodging is not a hotel at all. I stay with friends or family members whenever they offer to host me. This allows for the best people experience of all.

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I recently stayed with the DeMarinis Fam in Boca Raton. It was totes great. The photo was blurry. My memory is not.

 

Car  Unless I am staying in Manhattan or a similar car-unfriendly location I rent a  car from Hertz. That’s because Hertz has the best cars, the best service and the best loyalty  program. A rental car gives me the most flexibility to see my people. And it gives me the greatest people-seeing range. If I am ambitious, which I usually am, a rental car enables me see several people, over a large area, for a fixed price. This is a major advantage that rental cars have over a ride sharing service.

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I recently rented a convertible Mustang, which I drove 50 miles to see my college track coach, Mark Napier. 

 

 

A Recent Example

Last Thursday The Weaponry conducted an all-day branding workshop with a client in Minneapolis. I scheduled a flight that landed in Minneapolis at 5pm on Wednesday afternoon. I picked up my rental car, then Jeanne, our amazing account director and I picked up two of our clients and went to a really enjoyable dinner. (Side note: One of those clients was a friend before she was a client. And the last time I had seen her was on a people-seeing side trip in Atlanta earlier this year.)

Then I dropped off Jeanne and the clients at their hotels before heading to my sister Heather’s house for the night. There I got to see Heather, her husband John, my nephew Addison, and nieces Rebekkah and Rachael.

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Me and my nieces, making memories in the middle of a business trip.

Thursday was the branding workshop. It was great. Productive, insightful and fun.

Thursday evening I had dinner with Heather’s family at one of our favorite restaurants.

Then I met my friend Tom Burger for after-dinner lemonades. Tom and I were college roommates and track teammates at the University of Wisconsin. It was really great catching up on family, friends and careers.

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My college roommate Tom Burger and I got over-served on lemonade.

Friday morning was special.  I got up early and drove 70 miles west of Minneapolis to Hutchinson, Minnesota. I went to surprise my 98-year-old Grandma Albrecht. And boy was she surprised. Which made me think that surprises and 98-year-olds may not be a healthy mix.

It had been too long since I saw Grandma. It was a real gift to be able to spend a couple of hours alone with her.  This was all the more special because I lost my other grandmother, Grammy Sprau, two months ago at 100 years old.

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My 98 year Grandma, Judy Albrecht.  When I surprised her she was sitting at her kitchen table doing a crossword puzzle.

Then I drove back to Minneapolis and met my friend Mark Setterholm at his production company, Drive Thru.  Mark and I had worked together on a fun Ski-Doo project many  years ago and have kept in touch ever since. I got to see his latest office space, I reconnected with members of his team, and met new DriveThruvians. Mark and I had lunch, we updated each other on our latest work developments and talked about life in general. It was great.

Then I headed to the airport and home.

Summary

In the past two months alone I have had three business trips just like this. All of them were greatly enhanced with friends and family time. By integrating my work and personal life I am able to get the most out of both.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram offer us a great way to stay in touch with our friends, family, and business associates. But it is not the same as seeing your people in real life. Take advantage of the opportunities to grow, maintain, rekindle or develop relationships while you are away from home. You’ll be glad you did. Life is short. And nothing matters more than our relationships.

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My college teammate Bryan Jones and I had breakfast recently on a business trip.  On Wisconsin!

My little business travel trick.

I travel a lot for work. In fact, I am flying from Milwaukee to Miami right now. As we all know, 9/11 made travel tougher on all of us. Especially if you travel with liquids. Or have feet.

I own an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry.  Which means I am in the business of coming up with ideas that solve problems.  But sometimes the problems I solve are my own.

One of my problems is that I have long hair. Not like Crystal Gale. But long for a guy. My hair also has some curl to it that turbocharges in high humidity. You know, like the kind of humidity I wil find this afternoon in Florida.

So, I am embarrassed to say, I need me some hair products when I travel. But none of my stash comes in airport-legal bottles of 3.5 ounces or less.

The Solution

Contact cases.

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When I am only traveling for a night or two I use contact cases and fill the wells with the daily dose of whatever liquids I may need:

  • Styling gel
  • Leave in conditioner
  • Wash-out conditioner
  • Contact solution
  • vodka
  • Tears of a mermaid

These little cases help me travel lighter and quicker.  Because these liquids are not in big bottles I don’t need to check a bag. Because they are not in small bottles I don’t need to put them in a ziplock bag, and then remove them when I go through security.

Try this contact case trick the next time you are traveling. Just make sure to keep your cases straight. I don’t want you to be mad at me when you put vodka soaked contacts in your eyes before you big meeting.

Safe travels.

When Plan A, B, C & D Fail.

I love meeting new people. And I love helping people solve problems. And I got to do both of those things this morning before most people were alarmed by their clocks.

I arrived at Hartsfield Jackson International airport in Atlanta just before 6:30am for a flight to New York City. As I write this I’m flying to meet with a celebrity on the set of her TV show about some upcoming work we will be doing together. But as I stepped out of my car in the parking garage a panicked woman approached me saying, 

“I’m so sorry to bother you. But I just locked myself out of my car. My phone, purse, laptop and suitcase are all locked inside. I don’t know what to do.”

Talk about an exciting start to your day! She said she was flying to St. Louis on an 8:00am flight. So we started going through our options. And yes, I said OUR options. Becuase as a professional problem solver when someone brings me a problem it becomes my problem too. Except for maybe hair loss. With hair loss you’re on your own.

So like a couple of resourceful first world problem solvers we sprang into action. I pulled out my trusty smartphone and we called the airport to see if they had an unlocking service. They didn’t. Boo. But they did offer us the phone number of a locksmith partner that may be able to help. Yay! 

So we called the locksmith. And yes, they could send someone to help. Yay! But not until  9:00am. Boo.

So we looked at other options. 

Me: Do you have a AAA membership?

Kelly: No.

Me: Do you have emergency services through your car manufacturer?

Kelly: No.

Me: Hmmm. Do you have any sevens?

Kelly: No. Go Fish.

Me: What time is your meeting in St. Louis?

Kelly: 11:00am.

Me: So a later flight won’t work?

Kelly: No. And my company is counting on me to be there. We have built a technology product for this client and they are refusing to close the deal becuase they don’t understand it. I need to walk them through how the product works and solves their problem or the multimillion dollar deal will fall apart! (Dun-Dun-Dun!)

Me: Do you have your drivers liscence? 

Kelly: No.

Me: Why don’t we go see how we can get you through security without ID. (Heck, I got into bars in college all the time without an ID. How hard could it be?)

Kelly: (reluctantly) Let me check my car one more time just to make sure I’m not losing my mind.

At this point she walked back to her Ford Edge for another check. And I began searching on my phone for a Ford dealership that may be able to help.

A moment later she returned, slumped her shoulders and said, “You should go and catch your flight. And you can tell everyone on Facebook and Twitter that you met the dumbest woman in America. Becuase I have a Ford Edge. And the Edge has a keypad on the driver door.”

Me: Do you know the code?

Kelly: Yes.

Me: So you’re all set! 

 Kelly Yes!
At this point Kelly and I, strangers only moments ago, hugged, laughed and cheered on the top of the parking deck at the airport in the pre-dawn darkness. We celebrated our victory like we had just won the Showcase Showdown on The Price Is Right.
So I made a new friend this morning before 6:45am. Kelly made her flight. I got a test run on a valuable problem solving scenario. The Ford Edge got serious credit for a great problem solving, flight catching and potentially deal saving feature. And as Kelly said, I got to tell all of my friends on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn about her morning. Have a great day Kelly! I hope you close that deal. But don’t close your car door until you have your key in hand.