How to get really smart by playing dumb.

I am no longer a beginner. Far from it. I have now amassed 23 years of experience in advertising and marketing. I have worked for several great agencies. And in 2016 I launched my own agency called The Weaponry and gave myself a title that sounds way more important than I will ever be.

Experience

I have worked with hundreds of different brands, including Nike, Reddi-Wip, UPS, Hertz and Wells Fargo. And I have experience in more industries than I knew existed 20 years ago. Including nacho cheese dispensers and rubber chicken feather plucking fingers. #whattheflock

What I have learned.

But the greatest thing I have learned is that I don’t know nearly as much as I could. In fact, there is a never ending supply of new things to know. Because life is an all-you-can-learn buffet.

To continue to grow, learn and improve think of yourself as a glass-half full. Focus on what you don’t know or don’t understand. Focus on the tools you haven’t learned to use yet. Set your sights on the techniques you don’t know or haven’t mastered.

portrait of a man in corporate attire

The Apprentice Mindset

Rather than build a veteran’s false fortress of credibility and experience adopt the expandable mindset of the apprentice. The apprentice mindset is the secret to growth in  entrepreneurship and business. It is they key to improvement in marriage, parenthood and teaching. The apprentice mindset leads to growth in the kitchen and in other rooms in the home too… #brownchickenbrowncow

I have published 440 blog posts. But I feel as if I know very little about blogging compared to what I don’t know. I marvel at others who create posts faster than me. Who have developed massive audiences. Who blog for a living. That’s crazy to me. I am like a kindergartener among graduate students. But the sky is the limit. As long as I stay open minded.

Key Takeaway

Adopting, maintaining or reverting to an apprentice mindset keeps you seeking and learning. It’s the only way to become outstanding. Don’t place a premium on what you already know. Place a premium on the rate at which you accumulate new techniques, approaches, tricks and perspectives. Because the most valuable way to become a valuable expert at anything is knowing that you’re not there yet.

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

Now is the perfect time to pay people in confidence.

A few months ago COVID-19 and The Global Lockdown may have sounded like a cool band name. But today they represent the two dominating forces on the planet. Right now they are locked in an epic standoff, like the FBI and The Branch Davidians. Physical and economic health is under attack. And we need Chip and Joanna Gaines to show up and save Waco with some shiplap.

Every day the news reports the latest health and economic casualties. But there is another human concern that is much harder to quantify.

Confidence, self assurance and motivation are waning. But you can make a difference. Even if money is in short supply.

Right now one of the most valuable things you can do is pay compliments. They can be the most valuable thing you ever give another person. Because they offer confidence, strength and resolve.

black and white laptop
Be this sign for others.

Compliments are the antidote against quitting, and, as a result, failure. Knowing that someone else believes in us is often all we need to believe a little more in ourselves.

I have had people pay me outrageous sums in compliments. Those compliments have expanded my self perception. And those comments helped propel me in ways that those who shared them could not have imagined.

Compliments always seem to land at the right time. When your trajectory is wrong, they help change the angle. When your trajectory is right on target a compliment helps you accelerate.

Too often we avoid or disclaim a compliment because we are afraid it will give the recipient a big head, or feed their ego. But like flour needs yeast to rise, amazing talent often needs positive feedback to rise to the demands necessary to turn great talent into skill, and ultimately results.

If you are wondering what you can do right now to make a difference, send an earnest compliment or 2. Or 200. Or 2000. Deliver it any way you like. You’re likely to make someone’s day. Like a sweet treat in the middle of a no carb diet.

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

How to help others right now by treating them like bicycles.

Life is about as far from normal as most of us can imagine. The unprecedented global disruption caused by COVID-19 is impacting every one of us. Today, our physical, mental and financial health are all at risk. But like John, Paul, George and Ringo, we can all get by with a little help from our friends.

Help, I Need Somebody.

Most of us are not professionally trained on how to help others who are dealing with a crisis. But most of us know how to ride a bicycle. It turns out that bicycles and your friends actually need the same kind of assistance from you. And for simplicity’s sake, I am rolling the terms coworker, business associate, and family into the word friend. It will save us a lot of verbosity between here and the end of the post. 

A Please-Don’t-Crash-Course

Instead of heading off to years of clinical training here are some very basic tips you can use to help others by becoming more bike-minded.

forest bike bulls
A bike is a great thing. But it needs a person to make it work.

5 Ways To Help Your Friends By Treating Them Like Bicycles.

1. Prop them up. Recognize when a friend needs a kickstand to lean on. And be that kickstand.

2. Help them steer.  We don’t always know which way to go. This is a simple fact of life. We need help when we come to crossroads. We need help navigating around obstacles. So help your friends make those challenging decisions they will inevitably encounter along the way.

3. Help them balance. The world is throwing epic challenges at us. Knowing how to handle it all can be overwhelming. Notice when a friend is struggling to find their own balance. And help them stabilize. Lend a helping hand or prioritizing advice. Sometimes you just need someone else to show you how to shift your load so you’re not constantly fighting with it. 

4. Help them pedal faster. It is easy for people to fall off their personal pace. Apply constant, gentle pressure on your friends when you know they should be moving faster than they are.

5. Help them stop. We can often see that our friends are heading towards a cliff, a tree or a car before they notice. In those moments, help your friends pump the brakes. Or slam on the brakes. Or remind them that they have brakes. Helping your friends recognize and stop bad behavior is one of the most valuable things you can do for them.

Key Takeaway

Right now your friends, family, and coworkers need your help just as much as your bicycle does. Learn to recognize what inputs would be most beneficial. It could be encouragement, stability, direction or warnings. We’re all dealing with major challenges. And we all benefit from having someone else along for the ride.

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

Are you listening to the right people right now?

When we were young we learned about proper nutrition in school. We learned about nutrients like vitamins, proteins and calcium. Foods were sorted into cliques called food groups. We discovered that our favorite foods like cotton candy, donuts and Cheez Whiz were nutritional ghost towns. While spinach, which was among the un-coolest foods, were the nutritional equivalent to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Cue the Mariah Carey meltdown.

Eating the right things has a major impact on how we feel. As adults we know which foods we should and shouldn’t eat. We know which foods help us feel good, and which ones make us feel bad. #waferthinmint

But it is just as important to recognize the nutritional value of what you listen to. The music you listen to while lying in a hammock is different from the music on your workout playlist. Because what you listen to has a major impact on how you feel.

We all get to choose what we listen to. And who we listen to. And how much we consume.

Take a moment to evaluate your listening habits.

  • Are you listening to the right things right now?
  • Are you listening to the right people?
  • Are you hearing things that make you feel better or worse?
  • Is it helping or hurting your fortitude?
  • Is it positively impacting your mood?
  • Is it making you want to charge the hill or crawl in hole?
  • It is providing answers?
  • Is it inspiring good ideas?
  • Is it calming?
  • It is me you’re looking for? (Lionel Richie wants to know)

Selective Hearing

I have developed highly selective hearing. I have a hard time hearing that which doesn’t help. That which doesn’t get me closer to the answers, make me feel better, or give me something actionable to do. You can do the same thing. And it extremely helpful during challenging times like these.

Key Takeaway

Pay close attention to what you are listening to right now. And who you are listening to. Become a picky listener. Listen to learn. Listen to become energized and inspired. Listen for the good stories. Listen for the positive outlook and the great advice. Remember, You get to choose what you tune in and what you tune out. And the results are significant.

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

I know the economy is going to be fine. Because of dog sledding.

When I was in my early 20s I went to my first dog sled race. Three friends of mine and I thought it would be a fun and relaxing way to enjoy a midwinter day in Northern Wisconsin. When we arrived at the start-finish area a race official eagerly approached us and asked if we would be willing to help at the starting line. We felt like Bill and Ted, and suddenly our excellent adventure got even more adventurous.

Start Me Up

The official walked us to the starting gate and told us that the dog sled teams would come to the chute one at a time, one minute apart for their staggered start times. Our job was to simply hold the sleds in place until it was time for them to run. When the countdown clock reached zero we would let go of the sled, the dogs would take off, and we would wait for the next team to enter the chute.

Dog Sled Stuff

I Think I Understand

It sounded easy. In fact, the 4 of us laughed and joked about the simple instructions. ‘Wait, first we hold on and then we let go? Or first we let go, and then we hold on? We were all recent college graduates, and found the rudimentary nature of the task hilarious.

Go Time

A few minutes later the first team approached the starting line. It was a team of 8 dogs pulling a sled that carried a driver. Or musher. Or Mushy Donald Driver.

The configuration was exactly what we expected. But what we didn’t expect was that the dogs would be going mad dog crazy! These dogs charged into the chute, with handlers trying to restrain them. It was like drop-off at preschool. And we were the teachers receiving the wild, barely restrained children, and told ‘good luck’, as the parents bolted for the exits.

Dog-sledding-in-Alaska

Born To Run

What we quickly learned was that sled dogs love to run. It is in their nature. And when they enter the starting chute they are conditioned to go crazy, in preparation for running as hard as they can. Which made it hard to hold those eager beaver doggies back.

The Final Countdown

As the starter began his countdown from 10 seconds, the dogs went absolutely nuts. They barked and foamed and strained at their harnesses. The driver stomped on his or her brake spikes, which theoretically anchored the sled to the snow. But it took all the 4 of us had to prevent the dogs from taking off down the trail and pulling us with them, like stooges in a Tim Allen comedy.

Heavenly-Mountain-Dog-Sledding

Saved By Zero

Finally, the starter hit zero, the timer beeped, and we let go of the sled. The dogs shot down the trail like a dragster. The team disappeared into the woods, and another frenzied team entered the chute to challenge our strength and stamina. The pattern repeated until all 50 teams had left the starting line, and we were exhausted.

We understood why the race official picked the 4 of us young, healthy 20-somethings for the job. It was both physically and mentally demanding to hold the dogs back. Because the dogs were born to run. And not even human animals that were 2 or 3 times their size could hold them back for long.

Key Takeaway

I am not worried about the economy bouncing back. Because we are just like those sled dogs. We are born to run. And I can feel the same intensity building today that I felt in the dog sled shoot 2 decades ago. When the gates open we are going to run. We are going to work hard. We are going to play hard. We are going to travel, for both business and pleasure. We will go back to school. We will go to restaurants, bars, beaches, concerts, games, and festivals.

Yes, just as soon as the countdown reaches zero and we are no longer held back, we are going to attack life again. Because it is in our nature.

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

The COVID-19 response is a great reminder about rules.

I don’t like rules. It’s not that I don’t like order. It is that I am wired to find the scenarios where the rules don’t work. I love discovering conditions where something other than the rule is better than the rule itself. And I especially love pointing out these exceptions in rule-heavy environments, like schools, libraries and school libraries. #stopshushingme

Suspension

All the rules that have been suspended during the COVID-19 crisis have been interestingly satisfying to me. They are evidence that rules are not really rules. They are general agreements we make for now. And when a change in conditions warrants, those general agreements will be unmade. Because we will have entered into the rule-defying scenarios I love to think about.

Over the past 2 months there have been an endless parade of rule changes. Rules about schooling, business, the Olympics, start dates, end dates and requirements of all sorts. Rules about drug trials, telemedicine and sports. Even rules about rules. Which makes this a ruley, ruley interesting time.

Current Conditions

Rules that prohibited employees from working from home went out the window when everyone was told they had to work from home. Rules about how long you can hold onto a library book, have changed. And church rules now say we can’t show up for Sunday morning service. Where was that rule when I was 12?

Taxes

I knew we were getting into interesting territory when the tax rules changed. Paying taxes, once one of the 2 certainties of life, along with death, has been pushed off for several months. At the same time, criminals are not serving time for breaking rules that typically would put them behind bars. And speaking of bars, the crazy rule is no longer that you can’t smoke in a bar. It’s that you can’t drink in one either.

Rule Flexibility

The closing of everything, and the extreme measures taken to combat the health and economic challenges of COVID-19 illustrate that rules can be changed whenever necessary to serve the greater good. So we must keep in mind that rules can also be regularly, and temporarily modified to serve the smaller, individual good.

Key Takeaway

Rules don’t rule. The people who make them do. And people can change the rules anytime to accommodate for unusual conditions. Which is a reminder for those of us who are charged with making and enforcing rules that we always have the flexibility to acknowledge the exceptions and respond appropriately, compassionately and creatively.

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

4 things I have done wrong in my first 4 years as an entrepreneur.

After 19 years of working for other advertising agencies I started my own business 4 years ago this week. As the Founder & CEO of The Weaponry, I have made some good decisions over the past 4 years. But I have also made mistakes. As I look back at the past 48 months here are 4 things I did wrong that I will try to get right in the years ahead.

4 Things I Did Wrong Over The Past 4 Years.

1. I didn’t think big enough

My goals are big. And hairy. And audacious. To achieve them I need to push myself more. I recently read Grant Cardone’s book The 10X Rule. And I know my next challenge is to think and act bigger on a daily basis to accumulate the progress it takes to get to Goalville. I also know that if we don’t stop sheltering at home soon I will be 10X-ing my body fat.

2. I didn’t start a newsletter.

We launched The Weaponry’s first real website in the fall of 2019. (Yes we waited 3 years to launch a real website. You can read about that here.) I knew the next thing we should do is launch a newsletter. It would offer us a chance to regularly share additional value with our clients and friends of The Weaponry. We planned it all out. In fact, we have had our first edition 90% created for 6 months. We bought our Mailchimp subscription in the fall. And we have paid for it every month since, without sending a single email. Booo. We have been extremely busy over that same time period and haven’t made it a priority. But we will. (If you send your email address to info@theweaponry.com I will create a special first newsletter for you.)

3. I didn’t take enough chances.

Entrepreneurship requires you to take a fairly significant leap of faith. I had no problem Carl Lewis-ing into this adventure. And right or wrong, I am comfortable betting on myself. But I I have been conservative with our investments.

Specifically, I have been slow to invest in additional team members who would allow us to expand our offering, our impact and our t-shirt wearing population. It has helped put us in a confident position during the Corona-cootie crisis. But when I turned 40 I realized I didn’t want to lie on my deathbed and regret not starting my own business. Now I don’t want to lie on my deathbed and feel like I wasn’t brave enough either. Fortune favors the bold. So do barbecue sauce sales. And I want to be much bolder between now and next February 29th.

4. I didn’t offload enough responsibility 

When you first start a new business every box on the org chart has your name in it. Eventually you erase your name and put someone else’s name in that box. Over the past 4 years I certainly have moved many of my responsibilities to others. But I am still handling more than I should. Which means that I should be transferring more of my load to others, and hiring additional people power. This would allow me to focus more time and energy on the things that would have the most positive impact on our clients and on our own business. Plus, I am pretty sure there are lots of other people who can buy stamps and bottled water as well as I can.

Key Takeaway

I am thrilled to have started my entrepreneurial journey. I know that The Weaponry has become a valuable resource for many. But there is so much more opportunity ahead. It is important to recognize the positive things we are doing first. To give ourselves credit for the attempts and the accomplishments already in the books. But if we want to be great we have to push ourselves. We have to give ourselves a regular performance review from our deathbed to see where we should focus our time and energy while we still have the chance. It turns out I still have a lot of work to do.

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