Don’t just think big. Schedule big.

Great achievement begins with great thinking. The great news is that great thinking costs the same as terrible thinking. Because they are both free. But the return on great thinking is infinitely better.

As Napoleon Hill wrote in Think and Grow Rich:

Whatever Your Mind Can Conceive and Believe, It Can Achieve.”

Napoleon Hill

But it’s not enough to think big thoughts, dream big dreams, or goal big goals. You have to schedule them into existence. You have to set specific times on your calendar to do the important work of bringing those goals to life. You must schedule time for research, action and creation. Even God scheduled his creation days. You have to block specific times for connecting, scripting, ordering, booking or whatever other ings your plans require.

Calendering is Key

Dedicate time on your calendar to make progress. THIS IS THE KEY to alchemizing goals, hopes and dreams into reality. So when you think big make sure to calendar big too. Like Marie Callendar.

Shopping For Goals vs Buying Them.

Thinking big is like window shopping. Which means that you walk by stores looking at things and consider buying them. But by simply thinking-shopping you don’t get to leave the store with the stuff you want. Because to actually own those things you have to buy them. And you buy your goals with time on your calendar.

The Weaponry

Before launching The Weaponry, the advertising and ideas agency I lead today, I thought about every aspect of the business. I had a clear image of what we would create, how it would run, who would work there, and what the culture would be like. I imagined there would be no A-holes at The Weaponry. I even baked that into the logo.

Notice the A in our logo? There’s no A-hole. Because there are no A-holes allowed at The Weaponry. And since there are 5 letters to either side of the A, this rule is as central to our beliefs as possible.

This Blog

I then thought about writing a blog to share my experiences and learnings as an entrepreneur. I could see the whole thing in my head.

My Book

A few years later I had a goal of writing a book. I envisioned what it would be about and who it would be for. I could see the book being read by people around the world.

Bringing It All To Life

All the envisioning simply let me know what I wanted. It didn’t make any of it real. (Read that sentence again.) But I then put time on my calendar to do the real work of bringing the business to life. I scheduled time every morning to write my blog. This blog. And I gave myself a deadline and dedicated time to writing the book. Today all 3 of those dreams are realer than Real Deal Holyfield. All because I dedicated time on my calendar to bring them to life.

My new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? is now published because I made time to write, edit and push the book forward on my calendar.

Key Takeaway.

Don’t just think big. Schedule big. Give the big things you want to achieve big spaces on your calendar. It’s the only way to achieve your big goals. So block time in your day today. You’ll find that working towards your biggest goals is the most rewarding way to spend your time.

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

If you like messages like this you’ll also enjoy my newly published book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

It’s not too late to be who you wanted to be.

At the end of a gym workout recently my son Magnus asked if we could go sit in the hot tub. I said yes, and we made our way to the pool area. When we got to the hot tub there was one other guy already in it. After we settled into the water I greeted the guy, who was staring out the window, and we began to speak. (Which is also how the song The Gambler starts.)

As the conversation proceeded I asked him where he was from and what he does for work. He shared that he grew up near Mequon, Wisconsin, the town north of Milwaukee where we both live. And when he is not hot tubbing, he works at a nice job for a good company.

Then he asked me where I was from (Vermont), where I went to school (The University of Wisconsin), and what I do for work. I told him I owned my own business. I started my own advertising and ideas agency called The Weaponry.

My pruney new hot tub friend told me The Weaponry was a cool name for an ad agency. Then he revealed to me with great resignation, ‘I always wanted to start my own business. But now I am too old.’

I asked, ‘How old are you?’

He answered, ‘I am 37.’

I shot back, ‘F**k you. I was 42 when I started The Weaponry. This is a great time to start a business. And a great time to stop making excuses.’

(I should also mention that my son Magnus was cooling off in the swimming pool at that time. So he didn’t get hit with f-shrapnel when I dropped my f-bomb.)

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

― George Eliot

Key Takeaway

If there is something you’ve always wanted to do, then do it. Do the things the kid version or young adult version of you wanted to do. You are not too old. It’s not too late. It’s time to get going. Now you have 2 weeks to plan the great thing you are going to start doing with your life in 2022.

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

You need one of these 3 things to maximize your carreer.

I have thought a lot about my professional career lately. Writing a book about the most important lessons you’ve learned in life will do that to you. And it’s far more enjoyable to reflect on your career because you are writing a book than because you are on your death bed, thinking about what you would have done differently. Although the death bed reflection involves far less proofreading.

Career Path

While writing, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say, I have examined my career path and the forces that have influenced it. The short story is that I started my career at the bottom of the advertising ladder, as a junior copywriter. (Although truth be told, I have never actually seen the professional ladder. Or the Emporer’s new clothes. Or a snipe.)

My professional titles progressed as follows:

  • Junior Copywriter
  • Copywriter/Producer
  • Senior Copywriter
  • Associate Creative Director
  • Creative Director
  • Executive Creative Director
  • Chief Creative Officer

Entrepreneurship

After I became a Chief Creative Officer I decided it was time to start my own advertising and ideas agency called The Weaponry. That was 5 years ago. Today, my title is Founder and CEO. Which is a lesson in itself. Because if you have the fortitude to start your own business you can give yourself any title you want. I just thought that Galactic Czar was a little too much.

But Wait. There’s More.

I have made the full professional progression from entry-level to C-suite to entrepreneur. But I’m not done yet. I am just days away from publishing my first book with independent publisher Ripples Media. And I have several other exciting and challenging chapters of my professional career ahead of me. Some of these chapters are already planned. And I am sure there are some surprises in store. There always are.

Your Career Guide

To make the type of forward progress I have made you need at least one of the following people in your life:

  • A Mentor
  • A Career Coach
  • A Spouse or Life Partner

These 3 roles all have the ability or responsibility to look after you throughout your career. They can all help you map out your entire journey, and offer feedback, guidance, encouragement, and direction based on your goals. But only the third one should ever see you naked.

The important commonality is that mentors, career coaches, and spouses are not concerned about your current employer’s needs. They are not trying to keep you happy today. They are focused on the big picture, which might not include your current employer.

Mentor

I have never had a real long-term mentor. I have had mentor-ish people help me at various times, with specific roles or challenges. But not someone with whom I had an official ongoing mentor-mentee relationship. I would be happy to have one. I simply haven’t. Maybe it’s not ment to be.

Career Coach

I have never worked with a professional career coach either. Again, I see great value in this role, and would certainly be open to adding a coach to my weaponry. Because I am smart enough to know that I still have a lot to learn and that I could use all the help I can get.

Spouse

My wife Dawn has been the primary career minder for me. She knows what my goals are and she knows the timeline I have set for myself. For over 20 years she has regularly helped me evaluate my professional development and career progress with 2 simple questions:

  1. Are you where you want to be?
  2. Where are you going next?

The answers to these 2 questions provide the regular reality check I need to make sure I arrive at each of my preset checkpoints, but that I don’t stay there too long if I want to complete the race I am in.

Key Takeaway

Find someone to help you map out, navigate, and complete your career journey. Someone who can be there for the entire journey. Who is unbiased towards any particular role or employer, but simply wants you to accomplish all that you set out for yourself. Don’t be afraid to request a mentor relationship. Don’t underestimate the value of a professional coach. And if you have a spouse or life partner that’s in it for the long run, let them help ensure you reach the finish line together.

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

If you want to be an entrepreneur you have to be willing to eat the butt.

Yesterday I was making myself a sandwich for lunch. I have packed my own lunch for school or work nearly every day since I was 13 years old. The sandwich is always the star of the show, with pretzels and a banana typically playing Kramer and Costanza.

When I pulled out the bread to make my daily sandwich magic I realized I had come to the last 3 pieces of bread in the loaf. Two out of the 3 pieces were butts (meaning the end slices of the loaf). However, there was a fresh new loaf sitting on the counter right next to the sad bag of butts. (Which is what we called the math teachers at my high school.) Now I had to decide what kind of sandwich to make.

Would I…

A: Make a sandwich with 1 butt and 1 regular slice?

B: Open the new bag and make a sandwich with 2 regular slices?

C: Eat a 2 butt sandwich?

Moment of Profunditude

At that moment I realized that this wasn’t really about sandwiches. It was about life. It was about my choices, values, and philosophies. I could decide that life is too short to not eat great sandwiches. Or I could decide to suck it up and eat a 2-butt sandwich for lunch.

The Choice

The choice was clear and easy for me to make. Throughout my life, I have trained myself to do the harder things and take the harder path. It has helped me as an athlete. It has helped me as a parent. And I simply would not have succeeded as an entrepreneur if I wasn’t willing to take the more challenging path. Because as an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make the business succeed. Failure is simply not an option. At least not if you want to keep putting sandwiches on the table.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship is like eating a 2-butt sandwich. You have to take on whatever is in front of you. You use all of your resources. You don’t make excuses or avoid hard or unpleasant things. Train yourself to be comfortable with less than the ideal and success will come much easier. And it will be more enjoyable as a result.

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

Why you should bring an entrepreneurial spirit to your social life.

At some point we all experience dissatisfaction. You may find yourself disappointed by your career path, your opportunities, your social interactions, or this game Prince called, Life. But don’t go crazy. Because if the elevator tries to bring you down there is always something you can do.

Entrepreneurship

Remember that you have the power to start your own business, be your own Bruce Springsteen, and control your own career. It changes everything. Entrepreneurship is the big excuse eraser. Because you no longer are at the mercy of the decisions of other people.

Beyond Business

But regardless of whether you decide to start your own business, you can take an entrepreneurial approach to everything else in your life. Instead of starting your own business, you can start your own social group. Made up of people you want to spend time with. That’s what Mark Zuckerberg did. (And besides the congressional hearings and the Winklevoss twins, it’s going pretty well for him.)

A group of some of my oldest friends at a gathering I organized this summer.

Social Creation

By starting your own group you are creating new connections and ultimately, a new community. That community may have a greater impact on your life than simply starting your own business. In fact, the community may create new opportunities for you to grow and expand your career in ways you had never considered before.

Create your own social circle. Then put a camera on the floor and take a selfie.

Key Takeaway

If you love the idea of being an entrepreneur, but don’t have the risk tolerance to give up your job and strike out on your own, start a social group. Find great people. Organize them. Activate them. Foster and strengthen the connections between them. You will have created your own organization that could offer far greater profits than a business alone would provide.

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

Fun Fact: This pic is me and my cousins after our Grandma Albrecht’s funeral.

Become more focused and more productive by adding more pressure.

I recently moved into a new house. Moving is like putting your world into a blender. Or a tornado. Or a tornado full of blenders. You box up all of your belongings, move them into a foreign space, then you have to find spaces for everything in the new house. It creates chaos, disorganization and discomfort. It can be hard to know where to focus your efforts to make progress before a producer from the show Hoarders shows up on your front steps with a contract and and a pen.

Last Week

This past week I had a plan to help add focus to the chaos. I knew that Sunday night the Patriots were going to play Tom Brady and the Buccaneers for the first time since Brady left New England. #Boo

Under normal circumstances the game would have created a good opportunity for me to have some guys over to watch the game in the lower level of our new home. The problem was that the lower level was a high level disaster.

Despite the disaster, I invited some friends to come over for the game. #WAAZZZUP #ChillinHavinABud

Then I got to work. Like Daniel in a Karate Kid training montage.

I unpacked boxes, and put things in cabinets and drawers. I moved furniture. I organized the exercise room. I calibrated the downstairs refridgerator and filled it with a variety of beverages. (Ok, so my wife Dawn did that.) I set up the ping pong table, I mounted the downstairs TV and put the video game station together. I moved the piano into its new space. I organized the bar and pulled out the bottle opener. I made sure the downstairs bathroom was clean and ready. Then I stood in the middle of the basement and did The Crane Kick.

The result was that by Sunday night at 6:30 pm the lower level of our house was organized and ready for my friends. The false deadline gave me focus and motivation. It spurred me to action. And I checked a major to-do off my list.

You Can Too.

You can do the same thing. Invite guests over to force you to prepare your home. Sell a product, service, or event before it is ready. Then work like crazy to deliver it on time. Sign up for the race or competition to make yourself train. That pressure is great for you. It turns your electives into requirements. Which is where the magic happens.

Key Takeaway.

Force progress and growth by adding pressure to pressureless situations. It is a great way to create motivation and urgency. It’s a simple trick that makes you immensely more productive. And the rewards of the pressure often compound far into the future.

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

If you want your pot to boil just keep the heat on.

Inc. Magazine is a great publication about entrepreneurship. I got a subscription to Inc. when I was in my early 20s. Every month I would devour the magazine. (To be clear, I did this with my mind, not my digestive system.)

From my readings I learned about every aspect of starting a business. I knew all the lingo. I knew the major influencers. I felt like I was part of the entrepreneurial tribe. I had everything I needed except my own business. Which is kind of like having everything a cowboy needs except the horse, ranch and loneliness.

I had been a subscriber to Inc. for nearly 2 decades before I became an actual entrepreneur when I opened The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency. But when I did, I was well prepared. And it was well worth the wait.

Preparing

It’s natural to give a lot of time, thought, and energy to a dream. By dream I mean things like the following:

  • Starting your own business
  • Hiking the Appalachian Trail
  • Buying a vacation home
  • Epic travel
  • Running a marathon
  • Learning to play an instrument
  • Moving
  • A career change
  • Taking on a major hobby
  • Buying a motorcycle
  • Starting a club, group or society
  • Learning to dance properly
  • Writing a book
  • Streaking the Quad

Don’t get down on yourself for having a dream that you think about a lot but haven’t yet realized. Keep pouring your thoughts and energy into preparing for your dream to come true. Keep reading and studying. Learn all you can. Talk about it. Write your plans down. Know the next step you need to take to make it real.

The next steps could be saving money, finding resources, getting prices, or simply putting a date on the calendar. The key is to make directional progress instead of swirling. Because no one likes a swirly.

To boil a pot of water you have to light the burner, then just keep pouring on the heat. It won’t look like anything is happening for some time. But eventually, that water will boil. As long as you keep increasing the energy you invest in your goal and keep looking for the next step forward to take, you will make it happen.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney didn’t start his epic journey by opening Disney World. He started by reading comics. Then he made drawings. Then he made up stories and put on plays for friends. All of these are easy, small steps in the right direction. Make sure to keep taking your easy small steps. Eventually, they lead to your goals.

Key Takeaway

Set your goals. Then read, learn and prepare yourself. It may take months, years, or decades to get where you want to go. Be patient, but persistent. And keep the heat on. It’s how you make the pot boil.

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

Chase all your crazy dreams until you catch them.

I first met my wife Dawn in the summer of 2000. From the first moment I saw her on the elevator at my office I was cray cray for her. 6 weeks later we had our first date. 5 days later we talked about marriage. #WhenYouKnowYouKnow

We were young and just starting to build momentum in our careers. After college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Dawn had lived and worked in New York City and Chicago. To this country boy she seemed like Christie Brinkley in the Uptown Girl video.

Dawn and Adam in 2001 in Vermont.

At the time, I had already lived in Ohio, New Jersey, Missouri, Vermont, and Madison. Then, like Joanie and Chachi, we met in Milwaukee in 2000. I was still living in my first apartment after college, but I had big ambitions. The kind that don’t keep you tied to a specific geography.

Like Bill and Ted, Dawn and I talked about our excellent adventures ahead. We wondered where they might take us. Our jobs, apartments and city all felt temporary. We knew we had much more to explore.

During that exciting first year, Tim McGraw released a new album called Set This Circus Down. The first time I heard the title track I thought the song was written for us.

Here is the chorus:

“Set This Circus Down”

And we go rolling down this highway
Chasing all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside of some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

I loved the theme of this song. An adventurous couple was traveling the highway of life together, pursuing their crazy dreams. But they knew that someday when they had everything they were chasing, they would stop running and plant themselves somewhere wonderful.

Us on Hilton Head Island, like the chair says.

We adopted this song as the unofficial theme of our relationship in that first year. Since then we have had quite an adventure. We have lived in 4 apartments and owned 4 homes in several different states.

My career has been as successful and rewarding as I could have ever wanted. We’ve added 3 great kids along the way. Our circus got a little crazier and more fun with each new performer we added. Dawn has been the amazing wife and mother I knew she would be when I asked her to marry me under the St. Louis Arch in a thunderstorm in 2002.

This land is your land. This land is my land. This land is Badland.

Five years ago we bet on ourselves and I started my own business called The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency. We were living in Atlanta at the time. But due to a serious health scare in our family, we decided we needed to be closer to our parents. So we moved to Milwaukee. Which is where we bought home number 4.

At the time we said that if things went well with the new business we would look for one more home in 2 or 3 years.

Just after moving into The Weaponry’s first office in Milwaukee.

The Weaponry has been very successful. (Thanks to our fun and talented people, and really great clients.) So Dawn and I began looking for our forever home (#5) two years ago.

We have an excellent Realtor named Jamie Lubner who we love. But with all of the homes we have seen over the past 2 years, we didn’t make a single offer. We have been picky because we had waited a long time for this and wanted it to be special.

The process was growing long. And time was ticking because our daughter Ava was in high school. She only had 3 years at home before she left for college, or a van down by the river.

We found this cute little waterfall, delicious grapes and tons of honeymooners in upstate New York.

Then, on the morning of June 17th, 2021, Dawn and I saw a beautiful home listed for sale in our very favorite neighborhood in town. A great subdivision set in the middle of the Wisconsin countryside. We walked in and were amazed. It was just what we were looking for. A beautiful home on 1.5 acres.

We wrote a full-price offer immediately and had it accepted the next day.

We moved in 2 weeks ago.

Our new home is just a mile from this farm.

Today, September 28th, Dawn and I celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. While 20 years of marriage may look more significant on paper, this is the year we have been thinking about since we first heard Tim McGraw’s song back in 2001.

We have finally found our piece of ground
Just outside of some sleepy little town
And set this circus down.

Today it feels like we are winning at life.

Key Takeaway

Envision what you want your life to look like. Start with the end in mind. Then create a plan to get there. Chase all of your crazy dreams until you catch them. And enjoy the circus, wherever your tent is set.


Here is a link to the full song

And here are the full lyrics.

“Set This Circus Down”

Sometimes this road, it just keeps winding
Round and round and back again
But you’ve always kept me smiling
Over every hill, round every bend
Baby you’re the one smiling with me when the sun comes up
I got the wheel, you got the map and that’s enough

And we go rolling down this highway
Chasing all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside of some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

Sometimes I lie awake just thinking
Of all the horizons we have seen
And as another day is sinking
I thank God you’re here with me
‘Cause baby you’re the one laughing with me when the sun goes down
Living on faith and holding on tight to the love we found

And we go rolling down this highway
Chasing all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside of some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

And set this circus down

Maybe one of these days, gonna set this circus down
Set this circus down

Writer(s): William Luther, Josh Kear

The best way to grow your own business, or a giant pumpkin.

The world is full of possibilities. There is no shortage of problems to solve and great new things to introduce. If you have an entrepreneurial mind you will find a never-ending parade of opportunities to convert into businesses.

This is a problem.

The infinite opportunities you see distract you from the one business you should start. Or should continue building.

Ideally, you should look for opportunities until you find one great one that fits you. Then you should wear blinders and block out all other possibilities. The same way you should scout for a mate until you find one. Then you should NOT scout for a mate anymore.

If you want to grow a gigantic pumpkin you start with a gigantic seed. Then, when the plant starts to grow, you snip off all the blossoms but one. That way all of the energy, nutrients and focus of the plant go into growing one huge fruit. Although if you can find seeds to grow just the pumpkin spice, do that. Pumpkin spice is where the real money is.

When I started The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, I became obsessed with it. I put all my energy into it. Which forced the business to grow. I have had a million other business ideas since then. I detail the ideas in my notebooks. But my focus remains on the one business I am committed to growing.

You need to do the same thing.

Find your giant seed. Plant it in good soil. Fertilize it with your energy. Water it with enough cash to keep it hydrated. Shine your light on it. And make sure to snip off all but one blossom to maximize your focus and growth.

Key Takeaway

To maximize your chances of creating a wildly successful business, find one opportunity and go all in on it. Don’t dabble. Don’t sample. Don’t put 1% into 100 things. Put 100% into one thing. Until it soars. Then you can sell it, or have someone else run it for you. At that point, go find another opportunity to make fly.

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

Are you offering others promises of what you can do, or proof?

Winning new business is exciting. It means you convinced a customer or client to take a chance on you. (Like ABBA said.) But at this point, you are selling the promise of what you can do for them. Because in the beginning, the promise is all you’ve got.

The best moment in business is when a customer or client comes back for the second helping. Because this time it is not because of a promise you made them. It is because of the proof you gave them. (It’s in the pudding.)

The first transaction is based on your promise. The second is based on your proof.

The first engagement is based on hope. The second engagement is based on expectations met. Businesses live and die based on met expectations. Which is why repeat business is so important. It is the lag indicator that you are offering value and a positive experience.

If you track just one measurement on your way to success it should be repeat purchases. It is the pass-fail measure of long-term success. Because without repeat purchasers, you will run out of new prospects. And your business will be all grind, and no bump.

Recent History

Last week I had two great repeat experiences.

First, The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I lead, got a call from one of our first-time clients. We were almost done building a website for this client, and they called to tell us they want us to take on another website build for another division of their business.

Second, we had our first creative presentation to another new client. At the end of the presentation, The Boss Man told us he wanted us to work with their procurement team to get set up as an official, long-term supplier. Boom!

These second projects came because we lived up to expectations. We passed an important test. We weren’t one and done, like a University of Kentucky freshman basketball player. Which means we are running a sustainable business.

A Personal Note

The same principle holds true in your personal life. You get a first shot at relationships, opportunities, and trust based on the promise of delivering the goods. The second shot comes because you proved you were worthy the first time. Keep delivering and good things just keep coming your way.

Key Takeaway

Winning new business is simply an opportunity to prove what you can do. It is where the hard work begins. Make sure to deliver on the promises you made to that first-time customer. Because when you do, they’ll come back for more. And businesses only thrive if happy customers keep coming back for more.

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