Your first act of the day sets the tone for how your entire day will go. Some people cuddle with a cup of coffee. Some read. Others exercise. While still others begin their morning by repeatedly jabbing at the snooze button on their alarm clock as if they were picking a fight with the Pillsbury Doughboy.
My First Habit
My first act of the day is simple, and more impactful than any of the above. The very first thing I do each morning when I wake up, is smile. I smile and instantly the day is good. It makes me feel as if the day is a game that I am ready to play. I feel funny and playful. Because smiling to yourself in the dark for no reason is a funny thing to do. But it puts me in the right frame of mind for the 18-hour adventure ahead.
Life Comes At You Fast.
Like everyone else, I face challenges every day. I have 3 semi-domesticated children (12G, 10B and 7B). I have a home that regularly throws me surprises. I have a commute that I don’t control. I own an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, which comes with employees, contractors, clients, finances, insurance and a landlord. And they all have the potential to hip-check my plans each day.
But that first smile in the morning makes me feel as if I won the day before the sun even gets out of the starting blocks. It sets the tone for everything else. It reminds me that funny things are going to happen that day, and it is up to me to see those events as humourous, and not tragic, vengeful or a clear sign of how much the universe hates me.
Put a smile to work for you.
Try it yourself. It is the easiest positive thing you’ll do all day. Yet it has the power to propel and protect you until you crawl back into bed at night. And if you have not yet smiled today, do it now.
If you find that a morning smile helps set a positive tone for your day let me know. If you have a great way to start your day that might help me, please share. I’ll take all the help I can get.
*To learn more about how I approach life and business you could shadow me 24-7. Or you could subscribe to this blog. It’s really up to you.
I would never take candy from a stranger. But I will take life lessons from anyone. Even Rick Pitino. Pitino, the controversial former basketball coach at the University of Louisville (and Kentucky, The Knicks, The Celtics and Providence) is back in the news again. Not for having naughty relations in a restaurant with the wife of his assistant coach. Or setting up recruits with ‘hired lady friends’. He is back in the headlines today, rumored to be a potential new head coach of the NBA Milwaukee Bucks.
What Rick Told Me.
All this Pitino-talk reminds me of an interesting story he once told me. That’s right. As I was driving to work in Atlanta, Rick told me about his first encounter with the 3-point shot. No, Rick and I weren’t carpooling to pass the notorious Atlanta traffic. I was listening to his audio book, Success Is A Choice.
The Power Of The 3-Pointer
Pitino thought the introduction of the 3-point shot would have a significant impact on college basketball. In fact, the first year the 3-point shot was introduced to the college game he told his team that he expected them to take fifteen 3-point shots in every game.
Then a funny thing happened. His team played an exhibition game against the Russian national team. And the Russian team attempted twenty-one 3-pointers, in the first half! Of course many of those shots were nothing but nyet. (Sorry, I could nyet help myself.)
Even though Coach Pitino knew the 3-pointer would have a significant impact on the game of basketball, he grossly underestimated it. Probably because he was surrounded by athletes, not mathletes. Because shooting 50% from 2-point land gets the same result as shooting 33% from 3-point land.
50% from 2-Pointville = 33% from 3-Pointtown
This math holds true in business and in our personal lives too. Taking smaller chances reaps smaller rewards. Taking larger chances reaps larger rewards. So stretch, grow, try, and learn. You can attempt shots with lower percentages and still enjoy a higher payout because of the higher value of each shot made. Don’t limit yourself to the easy stuff. Sooner or later you will regret it.
So step back and think bigger. Try the hard things. And pretty soon you’ll find you’re success rate on the hard stuff will catch up to the success rate on the easier stuff. You’ll be lighting up your own scoreboard. And when you do, you can tell me all about it as I drive.
*For more life lessons I’ve learned from winners and sinners consider subscribing to this blog.
LinkedIn is an amazing professional resource. It’s offers a great way to further your professional development through education and association. Thank you Reid Hoffman for creating LinkedIn. But I’m sorry to say that I wouldn’t accept a LinkedIn request from you. I get requests from people wanting to join my network almost every day. But I have a clear philosophy that guides my networking on the platform. It goes like this:
I only Link In with you if I know you.
I can’t tell if this is a really simple and obvious philosophy, or if it is a radical departure from the norm. But I am always surprised by how many requests I get with absolutely no introduction or context as to why we should be LinkedIn. I find this very odd. Which is only surpassed in oddness by people who send me an introductory note trying to sell me something. I hate that. It’s like be approached by a stranger whose opening line to you is, ‘Hey! Let’s have sex.’ It tells me everything I need to know about you. And your sex.
My Network As A Garden
I think of my LinkedIn network as a garden. Everyone in my LinkedIn garden is there because I planted them. So if anyone in my garden says, ‘Hey Adam, (yes, these are talking plants) I see there is a Bob Smith growing in this garden. Tell me about Bob.’ I say, ‘Ah, Bobby is one of my college track & field teammates. He grew up in little Marshall, Wisconsin, near Madison. He used to raise ferrets, and he could put the shot farther than most people can throw a fit. He is an art teacher. And he makes amazing pottery. I own two of his pieces.’ Suddenly Bob Smith goes from the most generic name in America to a specific human with colorful details.
What strangers need to do first.
I want to be able to vouch for everyone in my network. Including you. It’s how my network becomes valuable. This doesn’t mean that we can’t meet and develop a relationship on LinkedIn. But if you want to join my collection of professional contacts, we must have contact first.
Here’s how it works.
You send me a LinkedIn request.
You add a note about why you think it would be good to connect.
We set up a call or a chocolate milk meeting (I don’t drink coffee).
We talk, and you don’t try to sell me anything or exhibit psychologically deviant behavior.
I accept your LinkedIn request.
This process works because I make connections quickly. I can learn a lot about you in an initial conversation. Then, when someone in my network asks me about you I can share your story.
The Right Way.
Here is a request I received recently. It is a great example of the right way to introduce yourself to a stranger on LinkedIn:
Adam -We don’t know each other, yet. I moved here from Minneapolis and I am hoping to connect with a few fun people. My sister-in-law sent me your blog. You seem fun. -Jennifer
This stared a dialog. I discovered that Jennifer is related to one of my former coworkers (that’s co-worker, not cow orker). I have invited her to stop by The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, for an introduction. After that, we can be LinkedIn.
Don’t let just anyone into your professional network on LinkedIn. It devalues your network because there is nothing that distinguishes those inside your group from those outside your group. When you are sending LinkedIn request don’t be lazy. Don’t be random. Be purposeful and personal with your introductions. And for Reid’s sake, please don’t try to sell anything in your intro. It’s a turnoff.
There are some business secrets they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School. Like the fact that every great business needs a great sticker. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, now has a great sticker. It comes from Sticker Robot. Which I think is where The Jetsons and R2-D2 get their sticker supplies.
Sticker Robot makes the best silkscreened stickers in the business. But if you want some for your business you should order them the same day you establish your legal business entity. Because they take a loooong time to produce. We ordered ours back in November. They finally arrived on January 16th.
A video on how Sticker Robot make their world-famous stickers.
The Modern Branding Iron.
The whole concept of branding originated from ranchers who branded their livestock with a hot iron to identify their little dogies. Today I find very few people who will let me sear them with a red-hot iron. So we use these 2.5 inch X 2.5 inch vinyl stickers instead. I have already placed one on my computer, my Yeti tumbler, my car and all three of my children.
Check out that backside… (It’s stickerlicious!)
But what I really love about them is their backside. Sticker Robot allows you to print a message or design on the back of the sticker. So we added some of our philosophy. And some of our philosophy about our philosophy. And we added a call to confusion. Which is like a call to action, if the action actually leads to more confusion, like our website does. Visit theweaponry.com to see what I mean.
Then we also added a note about the importance of proofreading. See the *note below? I’ll wait while you review.
Did you find the typo? Did you look carefully?
If you didn’t find the typo it is probably because there is no typo. We just thought it was a funny addition. And perhaps it would increase engagement. Who reads the back of a sticker two or three times? Well, if it’s a sticker from The Weaponry, and you feel challenged, maybe you will. Then, maybe you walk away with a story about how you spent 60 seconds looking for a typo that wasn’t really there.
This sticker sums up The Weaponry pretty well.
We believe in the power of a consistent brand look.
Red reflects our enthusiasm.
We believe the most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind.
We believe that business is war.
We believe we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.
And we believe in finding fun ways to increase engagement.
If you would like a sticker just ask (I now carry them with me everywhere). Or leave a request in the comment section below. You can also stop by The Weaponry to pick one up (1661 N. Water Street In Milwaukee). If you are looking for a job, an internship, a chance to network or just a good excuse to come for a grand tour of The Weaponry’s World Headquarters, a sticker request is a good in. And we have a sticker with your name on it. Well, actually our name is on it. That was just a figure or speech.
*If you would like to stick around to learn more about The Weaponry and my entrepreneurial journey please subscribe to this blog. You may even find some real typos.
When I was a kid I loved being measured. It was a great way to track my growth. I loved standing against the wall and measuring my height to see how much I had grown since the last time I stood against a wall. But I have not grown a millimeter since I was 14 years old. I topped out at 6 feet and 1/4 inch. But I was thrilled to be 6-something and not 5-something. (No disrespect 5-Somethings. #heightgoals)
I used to love stepping on a scale to see how much weight I had gained too. While I didn’t get any taller after my freshman year, I did gain 65 pounds during high school. In the 20+ years since then I have never been more than 10 pounds above my graduation weight. But like most adults, I am no longer excited to see growth on the bathroom scale.
Taking New Measurements
Today I measure my growth in other ways. In 2016 I decided to undertake a personal growth challenge and start an advertising and idea agency. I knew this entrepreneurial adventure would push me to grow in a great number of ways. But when I first began my journey I’m not sure I could have identified those many areas of growth. Or perhaps more importantly, how I would recognize the growth when it occurred. After all, there is no scale to step on to measure the size of you Entrepreneurium.
Last week I saw it.
Late last Wednesday afternoon I left my office and climbed into the driver’s seat of my car. I took a moment to reflect on my day. There, in the quiet of my car, I could measure my own growth as clearly as I could when I was a kid standing against the wall or stepping on the bathroom scale.
The New Growth
Here are a few things that happened that day that showed me how far I had come in my entrepreneurial journey.
I went to my office at The Weaponry. What had started as a business idea in my head in 2016 is no longer just an idea in my head. It’s a real, physical space with walls, doors and windows. It’s located at 1661 N. Water Street, Suite, #206 in Milwaukee. Stop by when you have a moment.
I spent an hour dealing with our employer-offered insurance. We now offer health and dental insurance to our full-time employees. I had to chase down information that morning to get our new group ID numbers. I then put on my HR Director hat and held an impromptu meeting to update our employees who have enrolled in our insurance. Then I distributed temporary ID cards. Even typing this feels like a big step forward. I will have a whole post on this process to share soon.
I participated in my monthly CEO roundtable discussion. I meet with a group of six business owners on the second Wednesday of every month. This group is part of the Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE), organized by the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). I encourage you to click that link just to see how beautiful their picture of Milwaukee is. Milwaukee is a great city on a great lake. And I am thrilled to be here. But the discussions I participate in at these monthly meetings are a clear indicator of my professional growth over the past 18 months.
I ended my day with a 45 minute discussion with our IT consultant. We are implementing upgrades to our IT infrastructure to meet the stringent security standards of the banking industry. There will be more to come on this in a future post. But when I stop and think about my expanded vocabulary in this space alone it is impossible not to recognize the growth. I’ve come a long way since I was a young copywriter penning headlines like, “It’s so responsive it knows which butt cheek you’re flexing.’
I don’t need a scale or measuring tape to document the growth spurt that I’m experiencing now. It is clearly evident in my daily actions, my language, and the growing circle of impressive people I spend my time with. This is exactly what I was after when I first experienced the urge for more growth, both personally and professionally. I know there is much I don’t yet know. But I am working on it. And that makes all the difference.
*To follow my journey please consider subscribing to this blog. If you’ve never subscribed to a blog before, consider this part of your personal growth. Yay you!
I don’t have any tattoos. I probably never will. But I do have an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. And ever since we moved into our new office space I can understand the passion for tattoos. Because The Weaponry office now offers a blank canvas to adorn with meaningful words and images that are profound to us. I find myself giddy over the new ink we could apply to our empty spaces. Yet I don’t worry that my Mom and Dad will keel over dead, wondering where they went wrong as parents. #winwin
Our Latest Sign
Every time we personalize our new space it feels even more like The Weaponry. More like home. More like us. Yesterday was really fun for me because we had a new sign added to the wall behind my desk.
I love this statement. It is a constant reminder of the power of the human mind. It offers us the power to create anything. It can solve any problem. And it is the greatest resource any of us will ever possess.
Here is a time-lapse video of our new sign being applied.
If you find this statement as powerful as I do let me know. I would be happy to share an image you could use as a lock screen on your phone or a background image for your computer. Maybe we’ll even put it on a sticker, poster, button, t-shirt or temporary tattoo. But if you want to turn it into a permanent tattoo, not only will I send you the artwork, I may pay for it myself.
*If you want to see the other sign we installed yesterday consider subscribing to this blog. I’m sure there will be a post about that soon too.
Have you engaged in some self-evaluation over the past week? I have. The start of a new year has a funny way of forcing us to take stock of what we have, how we look, the state of our careers, our relationships and the effects of our bad habits. Then, once a year, we take actions to course correct. But this once-a-year-course-correction approach is severely flawed. Almost as flawed as my ability to properly fold fitted sheets.
Life is a highway
Imagine your ideal life as a road. All you have to do is drive on it. Now, imagine you find yourself veering ever-so-slightly towards the ditch, or oncoming traffic. When should you make a course correction? As soon you recognize you are veering! But what if you don’t? What if you only steer once a year?
The problem with annual corrections
If you only make a course correction once a year, you will only ever make a maximum of 100 adjustments (and that’s making some generous assumptions about your longevity and the age at which you scribbled your first New Year’s resolution).
At just 100 adjustments over a lifetime, one of two things happens. You either veer far off course each year, or you travel really, really, really slowly to prevent winding up in the ditch before the end of the year. Either way, 100 lifetime corrections severely limits your ability to travel your ideal path.
Driver Safety Quiz
Question: How often do you need to make subtle adjustments when you are driving an actual car on an actual road?
Answer: Every few seconds.
What should you do instead?
It’s simple math. An annual evaluation and course correction will allow you 100 chances to follow your true path. A monthly correction will provide you with 1200 chances. Weekly evaluations provide 5200 lifetime adjustments. While a daily course correction will provide you with 36,500 chances to travel your true path (plus roughly 25 leap days which you can use as you please).
I’m not saying you need to course correct every day. I’m also not saying you shouldn’t. But a weekly or monthly inventory check will dramatically improve your odds of attaining your goals and living into the life of your design.
So don’t wait until the end of the year. Start by re-evaluating your course today, one week into the new year. If you are not heading towards your own true north, make the necessary adjustments now. Keep recalibrating. And steer yourself exactly where you want to go.
*If you want to read a post from this blog more than once per year please subscribe to receive about two posts per week via email.
What would you do if nothing scared you? Would you wrestle a rabid alligator? Be the first person on the dance floor? Jump out of rocket ships? Invite a family of termites to your log cabin for a long weekend? Or would you do something even scarier, like change career paths in your prime?
Fearless you would be unstoppable. Unfortunately, fear is the greatest tranquilizer on Earth. It can stop a talented human like you in your tracks. Fear can prevent you from becoming the amazing person you were born to be. I hate that.
Fear vs Courage
I’ve had several conversations this week about fear and courage. It becomes a central topic this time of year as we aim to renew ourselves each January. So I’ve turned to one of my favorite quotes on the topic from Cus D’Amato. Cus was one of the greatest boxing trainers of all time. He used to train World Heavyweight Champion, Mike Tyson. If anyone knows about fear, Cus does. Here’s what he says:
I tell my kids, what is the difference between a hero and a coward? What is the difference between being yellow and being brave? No difference. Only what you do. They both feel the same. They both fear dying and getting hurt. The man who is yellow refuses to face up to what he’s got to face. The hero is more disciplined and he fights those feelings off and he does what he has to do. But they both feel the same, the hero and the coward. People who watch you judge you on what you do, not how you feel. -Cus D’Amato
The key is not being immune to fear. Because everyone feels it. The key is to keep moving and keep doing despite the fear. What you feel is irrelevant. What you do makes all the difference.
Me and Fear
Since I founded the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I have been meeting fear on Main Street at high noon every day. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know what the second quarter of the year looks like. And I don’t have a back-up plan.
But I show up every day. I put one foot in front of the other. I keep moving forward. And I keep winning. I keep living into the life I want and traveling the career path I created in my head. If it all ended tomorrow I would be proud to have been brave enough to try. Brave enough to leave a predictable path for the potential of a greater reward on many levels. The fear just makes the victories sweeter.
Key Take Away
At the beginning of the year you should have big plans and goals for yourself. You should want to become a better You. But perhaps the most important goal you should have is to simply step towards the fear and fight through it. We all feel fear. It is hardwired into us. Bur fear is just a yellow traffic light. You get to choose whether you treat it like a red light or a green.
*If you know someone who you think needs a little push to get them to step towards their fear, please share the Cus D’Amato quote with them. When facing fear it helps to have all the ammunition you can get.
Happy Resolution Season! Today kicks off the magical four-week period at the beginning of the year when everyone wants to change their lives for the better. If you are a regular gym-goer it is the worst time of year. Because when you arrive for your regular workout some dude who hasn’t exercised in eleven months is wheezing and dripping all over your treadmill.
What do you want to change?
You probably have a list of things you want to start, stop or improve. I applaud that. But far too often, despite the fresh optimism of the new year, we fail to turn our resolutions into powerful new habits. So I will share my secret, counterintuitive technique that makes it much easier to create a healthy new habit.
How Hard Do You Work?
It is natural to assume that if you want to make a major change in your life you should work hard at it. That approach works for some. The beaver loves to be busy. The sled dog loves to mush. But the couch potato loves to potate on the couch. For most people the hard work simply reminds them how much they dislike the hard work. That’s why the activity hasn’t developed into a habit, yet.
The Easier Approach
My secret formula to goal achievement is to put in less effort. While it is natural to think that hard work in the gym or the office will get you better results faster, your long-term success will be hampered. Because most people quickly grow tired of the work, the suffering, the pain or the sacrifice.
Get Lazy to Win
When I start a new habit, or resume my workout routine after a pause, I do less than I could. I do less than I should. And that is the key. By under-exerting myself I keep the activity enjoyable. I check the box. I know I worked out, or spent time on the project, or studying or whatever the case may be. But I only did the minimum. Or the medium. But never even close to the maximum. At first.
This does 3 things:
It makes me feel accomplished. After all, I did work towards my goal. I got on the cardio machine. I lifted weights. I created an initial sketch of the business I wanted to start. I skipped dessert. (Yay me! I’m doing it!)
It makes it fun I did the parts that make the endeavor enjoyable. I worked up some sweat. But I didn’t push hard enough to suffer. I didn’t cramp. I didn’t feel like throwing up. I didn’t overload my brain. And most importantly, I never wished that it was over.
It makes me hungry for more.This is the key. I know I can do more. I know I have more in me. Even in this early stage. So I look forward to more.
Calluses vs. Blisters
Hard works requires calluses. You need to build up layers of your own armor. You do this through repetition. Slowly, repeatedly over time. Your body develops a tolerance to the work and the motion. So you can withstand more.
But most people blister. They work harder than they are prepared for in the beginning. And their body or brain rejects the work. The effort is seen as a threat rather than a treat. You get sore. The pain says stop. The skin bubbles and peels off and then you bleed. All the feedback is negative. The rational person rejects the entire activity. Then retreats to the couch again to potate.
But people who slowly build calluses keep going. They see the improvement they are after. Which means they can increase the effort without decreasing the fun. They feel accomplished and prepared for more. It’s a beautiful thing.
Staring my business
When I started my adverting and idea agency, The Weaponry, I had a vision for what the perfect, fully-formed agency would look like. But I started small. And slow. I didn’t worry about all the things I should be doing, or that I would eventually need to do to make the business in my head a reality. If I tried to do it all from the beginning I likely would have been overwhelmed, stressed or scared. Instead, I did a little bit more every day. And it’s been fun the entire time. The kind of fun that keeps me coming back for more.
The Key Take Away
Don’t kill yourself in January. Underdo it. Make it fun. And make yourself want to come back for more. Plan for long-term success. But allow yourself time to build momentum. By doing so you can change your life forever. Starting today. Isn’t that exciting? So do less. Enjoy more. And get a little bit better everyday.
Happy 2018. This is your year!
*If one of your goals is to read more in 2018, subscribe to this blog. I’ll share a few hundred words to read a couple of times per week. Which is not enough to hurt you.