What is the greatest pain?

My daughter Ava and I went out for a mid-week dinner date on Wednesday night. She had qualified for her sectional track and field meet. Which in Wisconsin is the last step before the state championship meet. If she finished in the top 3 at the sectional meet she would make it to the state meet.

So the night before the meet we decided to go grab her favorite carb-loading meal from MACS Macaroni and Cheese joint. Which, in my opinion, should be the official restaurant chain of Wisconsin.

The Conversation

As we drove we talked about track and field. We talked about her upcoming meet. And we talked about life. Our discussion got deep. Like Johnny Deep. Or Deepak Chopra. During our convo, A.C. (Ava Claire) asked me the following question:

Ava: Dad, what do you think is the greatest pain?

Me: (resisting the urge to say T-Pain…) Physical or emotional?

Ava: Emotional.

Me: Regret

Ava: That’s exactly what I was thinking!

Me: In entrepreneurship, we say that failure is far better than regret. When I started The Weaponry I wasn’t afraid of failing. I was afraid of getting to the end of my days and having never tried to start my own business.

Ava: I love that.

Remember what Teddy Roosevelt said:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

-Teddy Roosevelt

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to lose. Be afraid of regret. That feeling hurts more. And it lasts forever.

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

Make bigger bets on yourself.

Investing is like betting with really good odds. The best investments happen when you know something the rest of the world doesn’t. Just ask Martha Stewart.

But the best odds of all come when you invest in yourself. Because when you invest in yourself, the odds are stacked in your favor. And you do all the stacking. Because you have complete control over yourself. Like Janet Jackson.

The Decider

You decide how much work you put in. You decide not to quit, give up, or cut corners. You force yourself to make things turn out right. You put yourself first. You decide not to embezzle from yourself. You also decide not to bedazzle yourself.

The Safe Bet

Betting on yourself is always the safe choice. Because you have control over the outcome. Better yet, you know the outcome you are looking for. (And the income you are looking for too.)

You are your own best resource. You are your own most reliable asset. Put all your eggs in your own basket. And then protects the basket as if it is your only job in life. Because it is.

More Biggie. Less Smalls.

Too often our bets on ourselves are too small. So think bigger. Go bigger. Because there is no better bet. Plus, the bigger the bet you make on yourself the more pressure you put on yourself to grow.

Spend more time investing in your education and self-improvement. Invest in a coach. And in resources that you can utilize to achieve more. Read. Network. Learn. Listen. You will discover how much more you are capable of if only you pushed yourself to do what you are capable of doing.

Key Takeaway

The safest bet you will ever make is on yourself. You control the odds, the effort and the outcome. It is a completely legal form of insider trading. So bet big on yourself. Push yourself. Tip the odds in your favor. And other people will line up to bet on you too.

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

How you think of your morning alarm makes all the difference.

What is your alarm clock to you?

Is it a warning?

A stop sign?

Is it a buzzer telling you that you are out of time?

Is it an annoyance?

A wet blanket? (gross)

Is it a buzzkill? (Or maybe just a Zzzzzkill?)

Is it a shot to the heart? And you’re to blame?

A necessary evil, heavy on the evil?

Is it like the lights flicking on at bar time telling you that you’re getting kicked out? (And revealing that the person in front of you is fugly with the lights on?)

Is it a call to tumble outta bed? And stumble to the kitchen. To pour yourself a cup of ambition. And yawn and stretch. And try to come to life.

The Alternative

Or is your morning alarm an invitation?

Is it the signal of the start of something great?

Is it like the lifeguard’s whistle, inviting you back into the water?

Is it like the opening bell at the stock exchange inviting you to make money and magic?

It is like a train whistle reminding you it’s time to move Engine Engine Number 9 down the New York Transit line?

It is like the national anthem, telling you to stand up straight and proud, reminding you of all you have to be thankful for, flooding you with the feels, and inspiring you to go write the next chapter of your story?

Key Takeaway

Your perspective is everything. Remember that every day is a new opportunity to grow, create, enjoy and improve. Make sure to fill your life with work, play, people, and places that are worth looking forward to each morning. And happily accept that invitation when it comes.

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

What keeps me up at night.

I usually sleep very well at night. I think it has to do with expending a lot of energy during the day. I kick off significant human wattage between the rooster’s crow and the cricket’s chirp. As a result, when my head paperweights the pillow I am quickly in La La Land, like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

But last night I was up in the middle of the night for a couple of hours. I finally got out of bed and went down to my office to put some thoughts on paper. And in the dark and quiet hours of the barely-morning, I thought about other times when this happens. And I asked myself the proverbial/literal question:

‘What keeps me up at night?’

-Me

The Answer:

As The Most Interesting Man in The World might say, ‘I am not always up at night. But when I am, it is because of excitement!’

It is almost always because I am too excited to sleep. I get The-Night-Before- Christmas syndrome. Or I-Just-Spent-The-Day-At-The-Amusement-Park syndrome. The excitement of the day, or the days, months and years to come turn my machines back on like Randolph Duke demanded at the end of Trading Places.

Big and fun thoughts, plans, and possibilities are like crack. Or at least like a really great late-night infomercial that I can’t turn off. Pursuing creative ideas in the middle of the night makes me feel like Rumpelstiltskin. Only I get to keep the girl, the gold, and the first-born child. All of which is far more appealing than simply catching Zzzzs.

Explore Your Excitement

You have to find the mental candy to enjoy in life. I hope that you fill your days with enough fun, interesting, and exciting professional and personal pursuits that they spill into your sleeping hours. I hope you have interests that get your juices flowing even when the pump should be turned off.

Key Takeaway

Focus more on the wow and the wonder than the worry. Find the things that excite you in your work and play. Not only will those things make it easy to get out of bed in the morning, they won’t let you wait for the alarm. That’s a great way to face the day. Even in the wee hours of the morning.

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

Don’t be the cheapest. Be the best.

There has been a recurring theme at work lately. My team at The Weaponry has been involved in several new business pitches. Which means we are competing with other advertising or design agencies to win a project. Sometimes there are 2 agencies. And the pitch is like a rap battle, or the knife fight in Michael Jackson’s Beat It video. Sometimes it is a Royal Rumble where you are competing with every superhero and their sidekick.

The 3 Factors

There are 3 factors involved in winning a new project from a client or customer. At least where organized crime is not involved. (Those organizations add a few other important factors. Like how much you enjoy your family, and your limbs.)

  1. The Proposal. This is the written plan detailing what you are going to offer the customer or client if they choose you. This is quite literally the overview of the product or service being offered.
  2. The Price: This is the summary of how much your offering is going to cost. Your price relative to your competitor’s price is important. The critical question is how does the price and value of your offering stack up against the other options they are considering.
  3. Your likability. Do the deciders like you? Do they trust you? Are you funny, smart, kind, good-looking or tell great stories? Do they want to spend time working and problem solving with you?

All Things Considered

Recently we have heard several times that our price was more expensive than the other options we were weighed against. However, they chose us anyway. This creates a valuable math equation boys and girls.

The Math

In this case, what we were offering and our likability combined was greater than the price we were charging for it.

Offering + Likability > Price

This is exactly where you want to be in business. When you offer superior products or services, and a combination of likability, fun, and trustworthiness, more times than not you will not lose out on price. In fact, if the other two factors are strong enough you can charge more, because you are offering more value. And everyone comes out ahead.

Key Takeaway

In any business transaction, there are always more factors at play than price. As the seller, your responsibility is to provide a superior product and service. And if you deliver that with more likable, more trustworthy people you will not only break any ties, you will add more value to the overall experience, and people will be willing to pay more for your offering. So don’t fight others on price. Compete with them on the offering itself, and on the people who offer it. And like Bob Barker said, the price will always be right.

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

Why you should invite yourself to all the great things you want to do.

In all areas of life, there are gatekeepers. They are the deciders. The ones who offer permission. They are the ones who give you the thumbs up or thumbs down on all of the things you want to do. People line up in front of the gatekeepers like Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan in A Night At The Roxbury hoping that someday they will be granted permission to slip inside where they will hear What Is Love. And baby won’t hurt them no more.

The Gate-Kept Secret

But there is always a way around the gatekeeper. There is an unguarded entrance that is always available to you. And you should take it any time you don’t feel like waiting in line. Or anytime you won’t take no for an answer.

Your Private Gate

When other people are blocking your path, remember that you always have your own private gate. No one can stop you from using it. Your private gate is often the better, faster and more rewarding way in. And it is always playing Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way.

Entrepreneurship

If you want a job and no one will offer you one, make your own. Start your own business. Become a freelancer, contractor or consultant. Then show everyone who didn’t hire you what a mistake they made. (Huge!) Then steal business from them. And laugh all the way to the bank. (Or credit union, where they are nicer and always treat you like a member.)

Entertainment

If you want to be an entertainer and no one will give you air time, or stage time, go to YouTube. That is quite literally what YouTube is for. Your big self-made break is waiting for you there between the cute cat videos, videos of people getting hit in the tenders and tutorials on how to replace the flux capacitor on your Delorean.

Writing

If no one wants to publish the book you wrote, then self-publish that bad boy. If the newspaper, magazine or website won’t hire you to write for them start your own blog. I publish 3 blog posts every week. And I don’t need permission from anyone. Heck, I kan evan spel thyngs rong aynd knot git fihred. Buuwm!

Social Groups

If no one invites you to join their meet-up, club, group, or society simply create your own. They are all made up anyway. I should know. I have made up several of my own. And they are my favorite groups of all.

Key Takeaway

To live the great life you imagined for yourself fire the gatekeepers who are trying to hold you back. Become your own insider. Don’t wait for an invitation. Don’t ask for permission. Just go. You always have access through your private gate. And no one can stop you but you.

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

If you want to be happy, plan to be all you can be.

I am a huge fan of the thinking of Abraham Maslow. Not just because he was a University of Wisconsin psychology student like me. But because he did so much to help us all understand our pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness is amongst the 3 greatest pursuits in life. (Along with Trivial Pursuit and Roscoe P. Coltrane’s Hot Pursuit! from The Dukes of Hazzard.)

Here’s a new Maslow quote I heard recently. To be clear, it is new to me. Not something he said recently. He hasn’t produced any new material since June 8th of 1970.

“If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life.

-Abraham H. Maslow:

Key Takeaway

Plan to become all that you are capable of. The pursuit is more important than the achievement. Think big. Working to become a fully realized, best-possible version of yourself is the most rewarding life-long project. And it is the best way to finish with no regrets at the end of your days.

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

Why it’s good to explore options that sound terrible.

Yesterday I grabbed lunch at a Willy’s Mexicana Grill in Atlanta. After I ordered my go-to lunch, The Frito Burrito, I headed for the beverage area to determine how I was going to liquidate my meal.

The beverage area included a Coca-Cola Freestyle beverage mix-master. There was an iced tea section with several suitably southern options. And there was a lemonade department with both lemon-flavored (go figure) and raspberry-flavored lemonade.

I love such liquidation stations. Not just for the variety. But for the opportunity to play mixologist and create my own signature concoction.

But you know who else loves that kind of liquidation station? Little kids.

As I was prepping to Frankenstein my cup I heard a kid tell his Dad about his fun new drink concoction. His Dad wrinkled his nose and furrowed his brow at the thought of the boy’s non-intuitive flavor collision.

Then the boy said something important.

“It sounds bad. But it tastes great!”

-Experimental Beverage Boy at Willy’s

When I heard the boy’s cheery response I felt immense gratitude for humans like him. I am thankful for curious minds who want to discover new options. People brave enough to try things that sound bad, but that turn out to be amazing. Like Ben & Jerry for putting pretzels in Ice Cream. Like Willy, for putting Fritos in my burritos. And for whoever it was that first decided to try drinking the white liquid that came out of a cow. And the brave soul who thought to eat the egg-shaped thing that popped out of a chicken’s nether regions.

Key Takeaway

It is those willing to experiment that discover the great new ideas. They create new flavors, sounds, styles, designs, and processes. They create new genres and shake up industries. They disrupt categories and reveal new possibilities for growth and expansion. Thank you explorers, creatives, inventors and pioneers. And thank you to the little boy and his beverage experiment that reminded me of all this yesterday at lunch. This week I hope you try something new that sounds bad. May you be well rewarded for your curiosity.

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

The best moment of my life was 14 years ago today.

If you asked me what the best day of my life was I couldn’t tell you. My wedding day was spectacular. So was the day I first met my wife Dawn. And our first date. And the day I asked her to marry me. And the day we moved into our first home.

There were days snowmobiling and riding roller coasters that were thrilling and made me feel as alive as a human can feel.

There was the Father’s Day when my family and I hiked on Mt. Rainier and then watched a purple-sky sunset at Mt. St. Helens that was epic.

I had a day in Iceland that never turned to night. (And I ate like 12 lamb dogs with crispy onions.)

The day I broke the state record in the discus, 8 months after ACL reconstruction surgery was indescribable.

But I don’t have a clear and obvious answer to which day was the best of the best.

But if you asked me what the best moment of my life was I have an easy answer. It was the moment my son Johann was born. But I didn’t choose the moment. The moment chose me.

At the time Dawn and I had a 21-month old daughter named Ava. And right up until we met baby #2 we didn’t know the baby’s gender. In fact, we didn’t find out the gender of any of our 3 children before they were born. That surprise is perhaps the greatest surprise of your life. And Dawn and I are both don’t-eat-the-marshmallow types.

Minutes before the baby arrived the delivering doctor asked us what male and female names we had chosen. We told her Johann and Giselle. (Although I was tempted to say Tina and Uncle Rico.) And then, when the new addition to our team made the grand entrance, the Doctor held the baby up like Simba in “The Lion King” and declared, ‘It’s a Johann!’

When she said those 3 words, and I saw the evidence for myself, and double-checked to make sure I was not looking at the umbilical cord, I was filled with more joy than I could ever imagine feeling.

However, it was not because the baby was a boy. It was because I now had everything I could ever want. Finding a spouse, and then having both a daughter and a son were out of my control. The universe would have to provide those things for me. And I would have been perfectly happy to have 2 daughters. But in that moment when Johann was born, I immediately realized that I had everything I ever wanted. Or ever could want. I checked all the boxes. I had the complete set. I felt like I had won the lottery. And in many ways I had.

Happy 14th Birthday Joh! Thanks for being a Johann. And for making my life full and complete.

8 great ways to overcome your setbacks.

Long-term success is hard. Partially because short-term success isn’t that hard. It’s easy to string together a couple of quick improvements when you start anything new. Because you start everything new at your lowest level. Which means the first few steps often offer quick wins, confidence, and rewards. You just follow the yellow brick road, and all the little people cheer you on and give you new shoes.

Things Get Harder

But then you run into a non-improvement event. Or the unthinkable: Deprovement. Then you take a few steps back. This is especially common when you have really great success right out of the gate. Because you set the bar higher than you have the capacity to clear with your early skills and experience. #childactors

It Happens To The Best Of Us

But setbacks also occur when you have loads of experience. Because what used to drive better and better results stops working. Frustration sets in. Your confidence takes a kick in the tenders. And there you are at the crossroads of success.

This is your movie moment. This is when too many people quit or give up. Which is the only way to truly fail. When you face such challenges, and challenges will be faced, here’s a recipe to move beyond the swirly-whirly swamp of stalled progress, and fulfill your personal legend.

8 great ways to overcome your setbacks.

  1. Short-term goals. Set easily achieved short-term goals that get you moving in the right direction again. Make some of them laughably easy. That way you will both meet your goals and laugh. #winwin
  2. Long-term vision. Remember the big picture. Your long-term goals will not be achieved in one straight push. Keeping the long-term perspective reminds you that this is just a chapter in your story. And adversity helps make every story better.
  3. Focus on the most impactful area of improvement. Find your one thing to focus on that will have the greatest impact. There are almost always small actions that have huge consequences. Find those actions and take them.
  4. Forget your failures. Don’t dwell on your failures. Move past them as quickly as possible. Nike Founder and CEO Phil Knight said, “The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.”
  5. Identify with your successes. Remember that the successful you is the real you. The setbacks and stumbles are temporary and will soon be purged. Like Chris Gaines or Sasha Fierce.
  6. Take responsibility for your failures. Take complete ownership of your failures and shortcomings. By taking ownership of them, instead of blaming others or making excuses, you are taking full ownership of the solution too.
  7. Look at other areas of your life. Humans are complex machines. Often a disruption in one area of your life has an impact on other areas. Examine your sleep, your nutrition, your relationships, your other stresses, and your time commitments. Chances are that the challenges you are experiencing in one area of your life are having an impact on other areas of your life as well. Because the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone.
  8. Believe in yourself. Have faith in your ability to identify the problem and make the necessary adjustments. Lead your own fan club. Because the person who thinks they can and the person who thinks they can’t are both right.

Key Takeaway

Setbacks are a key part of any great story. They force you to improve. Which ultimately makes you stronger, smarter, and more capable to face the next challenge. So embrace your challenges. Then go write your next great chapter.

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