Time is the world’s most precious resource. That’s why great success requires great time management. In fact, knowing how to properly budget and invest your time is even more important to your ultimate success than budgeting and investing your money.
When I began planning to launch The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency, there was a tremendous amount of work to be done. I knew that how I spent my time during that first year would determine the fate of my startup. As I neared the end of each work week I noticed something interesting about my progress. I repeatedly saw how the activities on one particular day were making all the difference.
The Most Important Day
There are at least 7 different opinions on which day is the most important. Elton John thinks it is Saturday. Mick Jagger is a Tuesday guy. The Mamas and Papas all say Monday, repeatedly. However, 3 years into my entrepreneurial journey I know Paul McCartney was right. That’s why I can state wth great confidence that the most important day for achieving great things is yesterday.
All of your success comes from what you did yesterday. The relationships you developed yesterday strengthen your support system today. The progress you made yesterday becomes momentum today. The exercise you performed yesterday creates today’s strength, endurance and health. The time you invested yesterday becomes the time you saved today.
The reading you did yesterday creates the knowledge you have today. The travel you did yesterday becomes today’s memories and experience. Your preparation yesterday makes you ready today.
Yesterday At Work
As a business owner I know that today’s workload comes from yesterday’s business development efforts. As a professional ideator I know that my creativity springs from what I absorbed yesterday. As a capable human, I know that my confidence grows based on both the successes and failures I experienced yesterday. And the eviction notice I didn’t get comes from the rent I paid yesterday.
One of the things I am most grateful for are those activities I had the foresight and energy to do yesterday. The workout I completed. The process I created. The book I read. The research I performed. The relationship I fostered. In the moment procrastination often feels like the easier route. Which is why it is so valuable to view the moment as if it were yesterday.
There is a great Chinese proverb I think about often.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is right now. -Chinese proverb
The truth is that in less than 24 hours today will be yesterday. And when the clock strikes midnight you will either be smarter, stronger and more prepared, or you will be in the exact same position you are in today.
Big success is a result of the accumulation of small actions. The To-Do list you complete today will become tomorrow’s momentum. That momentum will help you power past barriers that would have previously stopped you.
Today will soon be gone. Tomorrow is a mystery. But yesterday is your library, your museum, your toolbox and your bonding agent. Yesterday is where the wind in your sails comes from. And the winds of yesterday determine both the direction and the speed at which you travel today.
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The greatest asset you can ever create is a strong personal network. That’s why I invest so much time and energy in developing and maintaining my personal relationships. As a result I have an tremendous network of friends around the world. But I am also the beneficiary of what Warren Buffet calls TheOvarian Lottery. Because on the day I was born I was instantly a member of a remarkable network. Despite the fact that I hadn’t done anything to deserve it.
My Grandmother, Judith (Benzel) Albrecht was born in 1919, in New Ulm, Minnesota. God blessed her with a sharp mind and unrelenting determination that would have gained her admission to an elite business school had she been born a century later. She spoke German as her first language.
Following high school graduation she was a valuable asset to a local startup, the phone company. Because she could speak both German and English fluently, she could serve as the middle-woman, literally connecting callers in the heavily German area of southern Minnesota.
In 1940, at 21 years old, she married my grandpa, Alton Albrecht. Together they thrived. They began farming. They began a family. And they began traveling together. It was an adventure that would last more than 66 years.
On April 15th, 2019, while I was on vacation in Texas, I got a text message from my father, Robert, that Grandma Albrecht had passed away. She was 99 years and 7 months old. A funny thing happened when I got the news. There was a moment of sadness. But that moment soon transitioned to awe at the closing of an amazing story of an amazing woman’s life.
In the wake of Grandma Albrecht’s passing, my family and I started calculating the inheritance that Grandma left for us. My Grandma and Grandpa Albrecht had been farmers in Minnesota. Early on they recognized the value of accumulating assets, and knew a good opportunity when they saw it. As a result, the 2 of them bought the Albrecht Family Farm from my great grandparents. Not long after, they found another good opportunity, and purchased another farm. And then another. And then another.
They amassed significant real estate holdings, which provided income for decades. As they eventually sold their farms and invested the proceeds they developed a significant nest egg. My Grandpa Alton died in 2006, having battled with Parkinson’s disease for 8 years. Grandma Judy kept marching, right to the doorstep of 100 years.
Over the past 2 weeks everyone in the Albrecht family has been buzzing about just how much Grandma Judy left us when she died. We have been scribbling figures on paper. We have been punching numbers into the calculators on our phones.
However, the numbers we have all been crunching are not measured in dollar and cents. Because the most valuable assets Grandma Judy left us are people. They are the members of our ever growing family she started back in 1940. As we tallied up the descendants of this grand matriarch this is what we found:
Grandma Judy Albrecht Statistics:
10 Children who grew to adulthood (7 boys and 3 girls)
38 Great Grandchildren
2 Great, Great Grandchildren
That is a total of 77 descendants, represented by 5 generations. When she passed away she had 7 children in their 70s. Those 77 relatives are in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Arizona and Nevada.
We Are Family
Not only are we a large family, we are a close family. We enjoy being around each other. And we make an effort to spend time together. In fact, in June about 80 family members will gather in Estes Park, Colorado for a week long reunion, as we do every 5 years. We will all stay in one cabin and enjoy daily meals, activities and adventures, and nightly festivities together. Just like Grandma Albrecht taught us.
My large family is one of my most valuable assets. It is an ever-present support system, a cheering section, an army of role models, and constant source of humor. It provides each and every one of us with an unfair competitive advantage in life.
The Entrepreneurial Influence
My large family also played a major factor in my entrepreneurial journey. I saw the entrepreneurial spirit in my grandparents as they accumulated assets and ran their own farms. Five of my Albrecht Uncles were dairy farmers. And dairy farming is the epitome of entrepreneurship.
Several years ago my cousin Brooks Albrecht and I began talking about starting a business together. In 2015 the conditions were right, and Brooks and I started planning our own advertising agency. Despite the fact that I was in Atlanta and Brooks was in Seattle, we worked together perfectly. Like family. Like Grandma Judy taught us. By the spring of 2016 the Albrecht cousins launched The Weaponry like the Wright Brothers launched the first airplane: on a wing, a prayer, a great plan and a familial bond.
As the Albrecht Family gathered yesterday to celebrate the remarkable life of my Grandma Judy, I marveled at all she created. Being an Albrecht has always been a source of great pride for me. This large family has given me love, support and encouragement. It has offered me a sense of belonging to something significant. It has been critical to my entrepreneurial success. And it has provided a lifetime of laughs. Thanks you, Grandma.
The greatest asset you will ever inherit from your family is love, support and a sense of belonging. It is also the greatest asset you can hand down. Invest in your family. And you are certain to enjoy a remarkable return, year after year, and generation after generation.
*To read about my Grammy Sprau, who lived to be 100, and had 9 kids, click here.
When I set out to launch my own business I had no idea what I was doing. So I talked to a lot of successful entrepreneurs. I wanted to learn as much as I could about how to launch and run a company. I was looking for the standard tips and tricks. What I quickly discovered was that there are no standard anythings. Everyone I talked to had their own recipe for success. Or what I call a successipe. Which is a mashup of success and recipe. Admittedly, successipe works better as a spoken word than as a written word. But I have no editor deleting this. So it stays.
Don’t Reinvent The Wheel
When you are learning a new skill or craft, is is a great idea to talk to people who have already done what you are attempting to do. Ask questions. Listen. Observe. Borrow or steal proven plays from someone else’s playbook. It’s how we capitalize on other people’s experiences and mistakes. Which allows you to grow faster than bumbling and fumbling alone. #peeweeherman
A Memorable Encounter
As I prepared to launch my own advertising agency I met with a very successful entrepreneur. I was extremely excited to learn from him, because I greatly admired him as both a friend and a businessman. Over the course of our conversation I remember 3 pieces of good advice he gave me:
Do NOT name your company The Weaponry.
Perfect your elevator pitch.
Focus on your Pro Forma.
This was a trifecta of good advice. All 3 points were grounded in decades of experience. But none of this advice fit with my world view. Or my approach to business. Or my appetite for risk. So I didn’t take any of it.
I love the name The Weaponry. I love that it sounds strong and provocative. I love that it elicits questions. If you want a great conversation starter tell people you work at The Weaponry. When people ask about our name, and people always ask, I have a great answer that always wins people over. I’ve written about our name in the post: What In The World Does The Weaponry Do?.
I am not trying to play it safe, or avoid a raised eyebrow. In fact, I like a good raised eyebrow. I’ve been getting them my whole life. Today, 3 years into my entrepreneurial journey, I can tell you that The Weaponry’s name has been a powerful weapon for our business.
The Elevator Pitch
I hate the term elevator pitch. I have never once found myself on an elevator with a couple of floors to pitch for my one and only chance to woo a client. It’s a bullshit term that assumes we have one specific offering for our customers. That is not how The Weaponry rolls. And I knew that from the very start.
My sales pitch is not a sales pitch. It is a conversation. It focuses on unmet needs. If you don’t have any unmet needs my elevator pitch is not going to work anyway. And if a potential client ever tells me I have :30 seconds to sell myself or she will bang a gong (#PowerStation), I know we are probably not right for each other. I have written about my disdain for such nonsense in This is where I encourage you to pitch your elevator pitch.
The Pro Forma
Pro forma refers to a method of calculating projected financial results using certain presumptions and projections. It’s a very finance-centric approach that simply isn’t how I process the world. In fact, in these early years of rapid growth creating a pro forma feels like fiction writing.
In our first year, The Weaponry started with no clients. So our projections would have been $0 in revenue. Then, we started acquiring clients, but we had no retainers or contracts guaranteeing how much the clients would ultimately spend. So what could I project? Totally made up numbers? In years 2 and 3 The Weaponry doubled in business. I could neither predict nor plan on that type of growth either. What to do?
The Kite Flying Method
What I use instead of a pro forma is what I call the Kite Flying Method. When you fly a kite, your goal is to get the kite as high in the sky as possible. This is a matter of wind and string. To fly the kite higher and higher you let out string, little by little, based on what your wind will keep aloft. You can’t plan your kite height ahead of time. You have to react to the conditions, in the moment, based on the wind you have to work with.
To do this right I always play it conservatively. I let out less string than the wind would support. This keeps tension on the string and keeps the kite in the air. You also have to know the difference between sustained wind and a short term gust.
All of this is to say that we invest only what our revenue allows. When revenue increases, we can spend more. We have a wish list of positions we would like to hire and resources we would like to have. But we only hire or buy what we can clearly cover today. I have also written about this in a post called If you want to be an entrepreneur start by flying a kite.
There are a broad range of ways to be successful. Don’t let anyone make you think there is only one approach. You have to find what works for you, and your unique set of beliefs. It is great to have a Mastermind Group to turn to. It is wonderful to study others who have done or are doing what you aspire to do. But you don’t have to emulate them. In fact, you can do just the opposite if it feels right to you. Study, learn and listen. Incorporate the things you like. Or invent your own approach. There is no right way. Be your own boss. Be true to yourself. And do it your way.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
I always wanted to start my own advertising agency. So on April 12th, 2016 I went online and officially registered The Weaponry LLC. I then marched over to another website where I got a federal tax ID number. I surfed over to a Capital One’s website, where I applied for a Visa Spark Card, because my friend Dan Richards recommended that credit card for business. Finally, I headed to the bank to set up a business checking and savings account for The Weaponry. And just like that, I had birthed a business.
The Hard Part
Setting up a business is easy. Any teenager can do it. The hard part is building a machine that will feed, clothe and shelter you and your family. It’s even harder to feed, clothe and shelter additional employees and their dependents. That’s why I am so proud The Weaponry is celebrating its 3rd birthday! We have doubled our business in the past year. And thankfully, I am not naked, starving or homeless.
The 3rd birthday is a fun milestone to reach. Just as each wedding anniversary is represented by a different gift (Honey I got you a new sponge!), each business birthday represents something unique. The first birthday is the ‘We’re really doing this!’ birthday. The second is the ‘We’re still alive!’ birthday. And the third is the ‘Now we’re rolling!’ birthday.
Indeed, The Weaponry is rolling. This past year has been exciting for our team.
A Few Highlights:
We hired more full-time and part-time staff.
We renewed our lease on our first office in Milwaukee.
We opened a new office in Columbus, Ohio.
We worked with President Jimmy Carter.
We worked with Olympic Gold Medalists Jennie Finch and Blake Pieroni.
Members of our team experienced work traveled to Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington DC, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, California, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
We had our first International shoot, on the other side of the world, in India.
A fun experience was had by all.
In the last 12 months we have worked with 23 Clients! Who works with 23 clients? I guess The Weaponry does.
Our broad and diverse client roster reminds me of one of my favorite things about being a business owner: I get to say yes to anything I am interested in doing. As result we have a fun mix of large, medium and small clients. Just as crop rotation keeps farm fields producing at their best, the variety of industries we play in keeps our team fresh and stimulated with a constant stream of new and varied challenges.
10 Lessons From My 3rd Year of entrepreneurship.
As I reflect on this past year I have gathered a few key lessons I’ve learned. Here they are in a particular order.
People make all the difference. A business is nothing but a collection of people running plays together. So find great people to run great plays and you are likely to experience great success.
Slow and steady wins the race. At The Weaponry we are trying to build a business that lasts forever. You make different decisions when your goal is to survive eternally instead of generating hockey stick growth or making a quick sale.
Do the important but not urgent work. Maintain your human relationships and invest time and energy in them. This will pay you back in a wide variety of rewarding ways.
Diversify your clients. With so many different clients we are well-balanced financially. All of our clients are important to us. None of them are critical to our survival.
Nothing is sure. We signed a large monthly retainer with a new client last summer, only to deal with a major reorganization within their business that changed everything one month later. I received a ‘This is your official notice that we are activating our right to cancel this agreement!’ from someone I didn’t know. Those things can happen at anytime.
You never know when you are going to get the next opportunity of a lifetime. I got a random but welcomed call one day from my good friend Dennis Giglio at Fifth Third Bank, telling me that he had a project he wanted us to work on, and that there was a good chance we would have to go to India to shoot part of it. He was right. And it was amazing. Thank you Fifth Third and SLK Global friends for the opportunity!
Set Your Sights High. The Weaponry has Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, and they force us to grow. I share our goals with our team in every agency-wide meeting. And despite the largeness of the goals, or perhaps because of them, I can always see the team focus, and lean in when we restate them. Everyone knows what we are after. We all know that we have a lot of work to do to close the gap between where we are today and our idealized, fully formed version of ourselves. And we are willing to do the work to get there.
Use A System For Growth. We use the EOS System from the book Traction by Gino Wickman. It makes a huge difference. If you are struggling to make satisfying progress with either a startup or a fully formed business, pick up this book and start the EOS Process. Setting quarterly rocks helps a business focus on continually moving the business forward. (This has been an unpaid endorsement of the book Traction. You can find it by clicking here.)
Make Cash Flow plans This past year The Weaponry was owed a lot of money. For several months we carried an accounts receivable balance of over $700,000. Which meant that we had performed that much work, had paid what it cost us to create the work, but were not yet paid by our clients. You have to have a plan for such times. Because a business that runs out of cash is like a car that runs out of gas, or a human that runs out of blood.
Develop Great Partners Over the past year other businesses that we partner with on projects have brought great new clients to us. This is a total game changer. Because it is like having an additional business development team, or multiple business development teams bringing you opportunities. Sometimes it comes in the form of a collaboration. But other times the work comes simply as a trusted referral. And it works like compounded interest. Which is why you should compound your interest in great partners.
The Weaponry continues to grow. I am learning and growing just as much as the business. I have not done any of this alone. My fellow Weapons have been key to our success. As has the growing list of great clients we are lucky to work with. Thank you for following the story or being part of the story as it unfolds. It’s been an exciting adventure. I look forward to what the next year brings!
*If you know anyone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
Over the past week my family and I enjoyed a spring break trip to Texas. On Good Friday my son Johann and I got up early to nab poolside seats for our last day before returning home. In fact, we got down to the pool before it was open for the day. But there was no moose out front telling us the pool was closed for two weeks for cleaning and repairs. So we found some Adirondack chairs near an outdoor fireplace, and sat and talked, like fathers and sons should.
Good Talk Russ
Johann is one of my favorite people to talk to because his mind dances. We talked about whether Star Wars took place in the past or the future. While I said it all seemed futuristic, he reminded me that it took place long ago in a galaxy far, far away. We covered funny Chris Pratt lines from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. And we talked about the leaning tower of Pisa.
The Leaning Tower
As we discussed the leaning tower from a long time ago in a country far, far away, Johann shared an interesting observation. He said, ‘You know Dad, no one would care about the tower if it wasn’t leaning. It is the leaning that makes it interesting.’
I asked Johann if he thought there was a life lesson to be learned from the leaning tower. He quickly replied,
‘Even our failures can be a work of art.’ -Johann Albrecht (age 11)
Don’t beat yourself up over your failures. They make you and your story more interesting. Make the lean in your tower work for you. Make a wrong turn at Albuquerque, then make that your catch phrase. Don’t avoid your mistakes. Embrace them. They are often blessing that pay dividends for years, or even centuries to come.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
This week my family and I loaded up the old Family Truckster for a road trip across the Lone Star State. We are covering Dallas, Fort Worth, Frisco, Plano, Waco, Austin, San Antonio and more. What I like most about this type of travel are the unexpected gems you discover along the way.
While we were in Dallas we decided to see the site of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It was both interesting and sobering to see where this historic event occurred in 1963. We saw the book depository, although I still don’t know what a book depository is. We saw the route JFK’s motorcade was traveling in his last moments. We saw some grassiness. We saw some knoll. And we saw the JFK Memorial. Which made me think they must not have had many memorial options.
The JFK Quote
We stopped into the JFK Museum store, where I was greeted by a JFK quote I had never heard before. Of course there are plenty of famous JFK quotes:
“Ask not what your country can do for you… ask what you can do for your country.”
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
“Honey, let’s keep this our little secret…’
But I liked the new-to-me JFK quote better than any of the others.
“Things do not happen. They are made to happen.” -John F. Kennedy
Making Things Happen
This quote summarizes everything I know about making an impact and achieving great things. It summarizes how you build and maintain a strong network of friends and family. It applies to everything from gardening to creating a new law to building a business from dust. These things don’t just happen. You have to make them happen.
None of the things you want in life will happen on their own. They require energy and action. This is both a warning and an inspiring call to action. It warns us that without action you will get nothing and have nothing. But with action you can have anything you are willing to work for.
Action is everything. It is the difference between dreaming and doing. If you want something to happen you have to force it to happen. You have to will it to happen through your vision, action and energy. This simple rule applies to friendship, to entrepreneurship and every other ship in between.
Also, do more road tripping. It is the best way to collect dots and connect dots.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
500 years ago there was a rebellious Polish astronomer named Nicolaus Copernicus. He was born with a name worthy of a faculty position at Hogwarts. More importantly, we was blessed with a contrarian world view. Copernicus developed a crazy heliocentric model of the cosmos. In this model, he declared the sun was the center of the universe, and the Earth and the other planets actually revolved around it. #ohnohedidnt
The Universal Truth
At the time heliocentricity was considered a radical idea. But as every graduating preschooler now knows, Ni-Co was right. His revolutionary solar-centered model of the universe soon changed how we viewed and understood the world. It applied rules and order that helped the world make sense. It also gave employees at the local Sunglass Hut a false sense of superiority.
Copernicus-Style Thinking At Work
The same thinking that makes sense of the cosmos can also be applied to business. You must never lose sight of who is at the center of the business universe: the customer. In your arena the customer might be called the client, member, student, attendee or John (#nojudgement). Regardless, the person paying for goods or services is the central figure around whom everything else in business revolves.
Your actions and decisions should always be driven by your customer’s wants and needs. Your products and services only exist to serve your customers. It is the customer that provides the forces that propel all business activity. Because without customers businesses drift into oblivion. (#Blockbuster #Sears #AllianceofAmericanFootball)
Your Customer’s Customers.
At my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, everything we do is driven by 2 forces: our customers, and our customer’s customers. Without those forces money does not move and business does not exist. Sales, marketing, engineering, research and development, customer service and accounting are all driven by the gravitational pull of the customers. Remember, you can dance with yourself, but you can’t do business alone.
If your business is not customer-centric, it is time to re-center. Ask yourself ‘What Does The Customer Want?’ before every business decision. Even better, ask them what they want, and what they want to avoid. It will help you maintain proper focus on the star of your show. And prevent you from thinking the world revolves around you.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
April 15th is once again upon us. If you pay a lot in taxes it might feel like Uncle Sam is upon you too. This time of year people always complain about how much they owe the government in taxes. Clearly the complainers don’t know how easy it is to dramatically lower your tax burden.
Before I share my surefire tax lowering technique I should acknowledge that I am not a licensed tax professional. So anything I share here should be verified by your tax consultant, or by actually reading the IRS publications. But I am pretty sure this is not the same tax lowering strategies used by Wesley Snipes, Martha Stewart or Willie Nelson.
Tax Paying Experience
While I am not a certified tax professional, I own my own business and file taxes in 3 different states. I have been paying taxes since I was 14 years old. I have calculated my taxes on my own and I’ve used Turbo Tax. Today, I use a team of professional tax accountants. All 3 of these tax preparing approaches have confirmed my bulletproof tax reduction strategy.
My Tax Reduction Technique
My surefire technique for lowering your tax burden is so easy anyone can use it. Even better, it is legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
If you want to pay far less in taxes next year simply make far less income.
The Ultimate Tax Hack
If a lower tax bill is a high priority, simply throttle back your effort and contribution at work. Unless a family member owns the company, or you are really, really good-looking (#Zoolander), you will certainly feel an equal drop in both your compensation and your tax liability. It’s that easy to do. In fact, it is much easier to lower your taxes significantly than it is to raise them.
My Tax History
When I was in high school and college, I typically made between $3000 and $5000 working during the summer. As a result my taxes were tiny. In fact, I am pretty sure the government lost money on the time they spent reviewing my taxes.
In the first year after I graduated from college I made $21,000. My taxes were still really low. In fact, the government gave me almost all of the money I paid in taxes back to me. When I received my refund check from the IRS that year it was accompanied by a note that said, ‘Thanks for the laugh!’
My Taxes Today.
Now I make a lot more money. And I pay a lot more in taxes. In 2016 I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Clearly I didn’t listen to those who told me that if my income goes up, my tax bill will too. In fact, this year I will pay more in taxes than I made in gross salary during the 7th year of my career. And I love it.
Reinterpreting Those Damn Taxes
Taxes are a sign of success. To pay a lot in taxes you have to make a lot of money. If you are paying a lot more now than you did a few years ago, congratulations! You must be making a lot more. If your total tax bill is obscene, even better! You must be making an obscene amount of money!
The Tax Reminder
Remember, taxes enable us to pay for things together. If it weren’t for taxes, you would have to build your own roads, your own schools, and your own parks. But thanks to the tax system, we all give a little and get a whole lot in return. Which means that taxes help us save money overall, and increase our quality of life. If you are not paying taxes it is like going to a pot luck dinner and not bringing any pot or any luck to share. That makes you a mooch. Or a free loader. Don’t be that kid.
To pay a lot in taxes you have to make a lot of money. Never lose that perspective. Be proud of that money you contribute to benefit us all. I hope you make a boatload of money next year. Then I hope you ship a life raft’s worth of tax payments to the IRS to help save us all. Be proud to pay a larger tax bill each year. It’s a sign of success. Sure, it’s easy to slash your tax bill by lowering your income. But after you’ve done that once you will realize it feels a lot better to pay a lot more.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share with them.
I am a self-proclaimed Early Owl. This rare avian species is a cross between an Early Bird and a Night Owl. Which means I love to go to bed late AND get up early. It’s how I am squeeing* as much as I can out of life. (*Squeeing is just squeezing without the required Zzz’s).
I don’t sleep nearly as much as I should. But I recognize the value of good sleep. Whenever I force myself to get a little more of that night magic I feel even better. Lately, I’ve been going back to school on the power of sleep. My coursework includes the writings by born-again sleep evangelist, Ariana Huffington, including her books Thrive and The Sleep Revolution.
I have learned that only 27 percent of American grown-folk get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night during the week. Only 10 percent prioritize sleep over other daily activities. And I want to be in that number, when the saints come marching in.
Your Best Bet Is A Better Bedtime
The key to getting more sleep is going to bed earlier. In fact, going to bed early is the adult version of sleeping in. Historically I have had serious trouble with this. And I have identified the main cause.
My late nights are not a result of drugs or alcohol. I never found the on-ramp to either of those hobbies (although they look fun). I don’t stay up late playing video games or studying pornography (although they both look fun too). I don’t guzzle coffee or energy drinks. Unless you consider chocolate milk an energy drink. I just call it delicious.
My sleep problem is a result of a chronically curious brain. At night, when my wife and three children are in bed, my curiosity and I are ready to party. I love to read. I gobble up books, magazines, and online articles like a turkey. My curiosity helps me chew through online videos, social media posts, and Netflix programing like a starving goat. My curiosity will devour everything and anything. The whole world is interesting to me. Which makes my curiosity the #1 enemy of my sleep.
If my curiosity is allowed to run feral, it will sprint past midnight, and well into the early morning hours. But my alarm is always set for 6am, whether I go to bed at 10pm (never) or 2am. I typically get under 6 hours of sleep. But I am working hard to up that to 7 hours.
The New Plan
I have come up with an idea to help me sleep more. It is borrowed from an idea that has been around since the invention of the teenager. I have implemented a self-imposed Curiosity Curfew. As of 11pm on weeknights, I have to put the books, magazines and iPhone down. I turn my TV/Netflix/Internetting device off. If I have work to do I can still do it. But no more exploring the world. It is the best thing I can think of to get my head to bed earlier.
Sleep is important. It’s how you refresh, recharge, rebound, reenergize and regenerate. If you are going to bed too late, identify the cause, and implement a curfew on the offender. It will help you increase your overall sleep. And getting enough sleep is both a health and quality of life issue. As good as you may think you are with little sleep, you are always better with more.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
Most of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life have come from sports. They come from the successes and failures I have experienced personally, and from the countless sporting stories I’ve witnessed. The lessons have come from all levels of athletic competition. And from sports ranging from horse racing to floor hockey. #Epic3rdGradeGymClassComeBackStory.
I have been collecting life lessons from sports since I was a little boy. From The Miracle On Ice, I learned that miracles really do happen. From Kirk Gibson and Ray Rice I learned that sometimes all it takes is one swing. Billy Buckner taught me that there is no such thing as a routine ground ball. Steve Bartman taught me that people love a scapegoat (my wife Dawn was at that Cubs game and called me, afraid for his life). Buster Douglas taught me to take every opponent seriously. And my New England Patriots taught me that even when there is a 99.5% chance that you will lose, you can still win. I wrote about that in The most inspiring statistic in Super Bowl history.
My Greatest Lesson
In high school I learned my own sports lessons through football and track and field, with an emphasis on the field. But the greatest lesson I ever learned came in the fall of my senior year back in Hanover, New Hampshire. During an ordinary football practice, 4 weeks into the season, two of my teammates crashed into my left knee, tearing both my ACL and MCL. If you are lucky enough not to know these acronyms, they refer to two of the critical ligaments that hold your knee together.
Not only was my knee crushed, so were my spirits. But following knee reconstruction surgery at the end of October, I set my sights on coming back to compete in the spring track season. Competing was a long shot. But I was 100% determined to make it happen. I rehabilitated my knee completely on my own. I didn’t need any outside motivation. I was obsessed.
Just 7 months after surgery I completed my unlikely comeback. At the New England High School Track and Field Championships in East Hartford, Connecticut, I won the boys discus title. Even better, I set a new New Hampshire state record in the discus. A record that would stand for 12 years. As a result, I learned that determination is your most valuable asset.
The University of Wisconsin
That fall I enrolled at The University of Wisconsin, where I continued my track and field career. My senior year I became the 4th best discus thrower in school history. Even better, our team won its second consecutive Big 10 Track & Field Championship.
But there was another significant event that happened just before my senior year at Wisconsin that feels even more relevant this morning. That’s when the great Dick Bennett was hired as Wisconsin’s head men’s basketball coach.
Coach Bennett is a wonderful man and a brilliant coach. He came to Madison from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he had created an off-broadway powerhouse of a basketball program. The shining star of the UWGB Fighting Phoenix was Dick’s son Tony, who I believe still holds the all-time record for career 3-point shooting percentage.
I loved seeing Dick Bennett around the McClain Center, our athletic facility in Madison. He always had a pleasant greeting for this unknown track participant. And I had high respect for everything he did for the basketball program. In fact, he was the 4th head coach for the Badgers in my 5 years of college. Just 4 years later, in 2000, he would lead the team to the Final Four.
During my senior season, and the following summer I would often see young and handsome Tony Bennett in the McClain Center weight room. His wife Laurel would often work out there too. I regularly talked with Laurel, and learned that she was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and went to LSU. Her accent was as cute as she was. We talked about some of my favorite memories from competing in track meets at LSU. Including the tiger cage right next to the discus cage, the crawfish, Lou’s Fries, Pleasant Hall and my favorite track and field venue on earth.
Based on my casual acquaintance with the Bennetts, I followed Tony’s career closely, and always pulled for him as if he were one of my own. I was thrilled to see him land the job as the University of Virginia’s head basketball coach in 2009. In fact I began rooting for this seemingly random school’s men’s basketball program. Tony’s rise in Charlottesville came quickly. Which would set Tony and his team up for a historical fall.
In 2018, with a 31-2 record, Virginia earned the highly coveted #1 seed in the men’s championship tournament. Everyone who has ever filled out a March Madness bracket knows that you never pick a #16 seed to upset a #1. Because it had never happens. Never-Ever. In fact, it had never happened in the history of the NCAA tournament. Until last year.
Following what had been a dream season, Virginia suffered a nightmarish loss to UMBC. Most people had no idea what those initials even stood for. It was not the University of Michigan-Battle Creek. It was actually the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. But it could have been the University of My Butt Crack for all I knew of this team.
Yet suddenly, the UMBC Retrievers were the ultimate dragon slayers. They did what people said no one could ever do. As a result of their victory, Coach Tony Bennett and his Virginia team would have to carry the burden of their unprecedented defeat for the rest of their lives.
What Happened Next
But Bennett’s response to the unfathomable loss was composed, dignified and gracious. He would later refer to the loss as a painful gift. The Virginia team, lead by Bennett, then did the hardest thing in sports. Perhaps the hardest thing in life. After crashing and burning, they rose again from the ashes, like a fighting Phoenix. They used their historic loss as fuel. And they powered forward with new resolve.
The 2019 regular season would prove to be every bit as successful as 2018 for the Virginia men’s basketball program. The team went 29-3 during the regular season and ended the year ranked 2nd in the country. They once again won a #1 seed in the NCAA Division 1 Championship Tournament. And this time, the whole country watched to see if they would once again exit the Big Dance under historical circumstances.
Unfortunately, it soon appeared they were doomed to repeat the past. In the first half of their matchup against 16th-ranked Gardner-Webb they were down by 14 points, before pulling out of their nosedive, and rallying to a 71-56 win. They then won a series of heart stopping victories over Oregon, Purdue and Auburn.
In the unbelievable win over Auburn in the semi finals, Virginia was down by 2 points with 0.6 seconds on the clock. But a foul on a 3-point shot attempt sent Virginia’s Kyle Guy to the free throw line, where he coolly hit all 3 free throws to win the game and send his team to the National Championship.
The National Championship
Last night in the title game, Virginia played like champions. So did their rivals, Texas Tech. The result was a thrilling 68-68 tie at the end of regulation. But in the overtime period, Bennett’s team showed their true character, pouring on a dominating performance when it was needed most. When the final buzzer buzzed, the scoreboard read Virginia 85, Texas Tech 77.
The New Lesson
And just like that, the world of sports had another lesson for its followers. It came from the too-good-to-be true story of the 2018-2019 Virginia men’s basketball team. The team that suffered the worst defeat in the history of college basketball, and then bounced like no one has ever bounced before. And in just one year, this team of character, grit, brotherhood and respect rebounded to win a national championship. The first in school history.
Tony Bennet has a belief that he often references: ‘The most faithful wins.’ Well, I for one believe. I believe that if you believe in yourself, have faith in your abilities, in your teammates, in the power of hard work, sacrifice and determination, and in a higher power to strengthen you, great things will come your way.
Bad things will happen to you. This is a simple fact. But it is how you respond to the setbacks that makes all the difference. If you see your losses as painful gifts, and not prepackaged excuses, you have already won. Because you have put yourself on the right path for future success.
Have faith that if you do all the right things, the right things will come to you. Virginia’s championship now serves as a monumental reminder of this lesson. It’s a wonderful story that will be revisited for decades, as coaches, parents and friends console athletes after devastating defeats. Because with the right mindset a loss is not a loss. It is a painful gift that can positively change your life forever.
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