5 Random Observations From Vacation.

I’m on vacation this week with my family. We loaded up the Family Truckster and headed south for a week of warmth and adventure. But there is no Wally World for us. This trip is actually last year’s spring break beach trip that got canceled because of the plague. One year later we are certainly enjoying it more than we would have last year.

I have had a lot of time to think over the past few days. Here are 5 random things I’ve been thinking about during my time away.

  1. The work must go on. Even when I am on vacation there is work to do. It is what you sign up for when you become an entrepreneur. To minimize the impact on my family I work early, or late, or both. I am thankful for all the work to be done. I don’t believe in work-life balance. I believe in work-life integration. My vacations are evidence of this. I appreciate my team at The Weaponry who keep things running while I’m away. I’m also thankful for my family who understands my work commitments. They enjoy having food, clothing, and shelter too. And they see how having a job helps pay for such things.

2. Your family role is part of your career. Your role within your family is your most important role of all. You should view your parental and spousal job performance as part of your career success. You need to take it seriously or you will be the only one at your funeral. Seriously.

Me and my 3 interns catching the Baylor vs Gonzaga game.

3. My people are everywhere. I am at the beach in Florida. And I discovered several friends nearby. My former Engauge co-worker Raghu was in a hotel room right above mine. (We first talked on the balcony.) Our across-the-street neighbors from Atlanta, Christy, Kevin, and Fam, are less than a mile away, and we had lunch with them yesterday. Our Columbus, Ohio friends Troy and Katie are just down the beach a piece. So we had dinner with them last night. Running into your people randomly makes the world feel smaller. And better.

The Allens and the Albrechts: Brought together by spring break and alphabetical order.
Raghu isn’t as good at smiling as I am.

4. Boogie boarding is my jam. If I am on vacation at the beach I am boogie boarding. It represents everything you need to know about life. It’s about positioning yourself well, being prepared when opportunities come along, enjoying the ride, and laughing off the crashes. Oh, and if you are not careful you could lose your britches. For more on my life lessons from boogie boarding read 16 important life lessons I learned from boogie boarding.

Skimboarding is my daughter Ava’s jam. I don’t have a pic of me boogie boarding. No one really wants to see that anyway.

5. Funny things happen every day. Each night my 10, 13, and 15 year old kids love to recap all the funny things that happened each day. There is no shortage of funny things to talk about. It’s a great reminder that life is either a comedy or a tragedy, depending on which things you choose to focus on. I choose the funny.

Thanks for reading. I hope your day is full of meaningful work, friends, family, and funny.

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Today I am extra thankful for my partner of 18 years.

Your network is your net worth. Because humans offer each other greater value than anything else in the universe. You can think of your network as a series of concentric circles. The people in the outer rings are the people with whom you have the lightest connection. They are the friends of your friends. The people in your innermost circle are your greatest human connections. This space is reserved for your family and your closest friends.

But if you are lucky, you get one person to stand next to you at the very center of your network. They are your co-pilot. Your partner. Your best friend. They are the Adrian to your Rocky. Or the Rocky to your Adrian. And they got gaps. And you got gaps. But between the two of you, you ain’t got no gaps.

Since this date in 2002, my wife Dawn has stood beside me at the very center of my network. Today, we celebrate 18 years of marriage. And we have been able to accomplish, create and enjoy more together than we ever could have done alone.

The past year 6 months have been unusual, to say the least. And I hear people complain about 2020 being the worst year ever. They say 2020 is the toothpaste-and- orange juice of years. But in many ways, this has been a wonderful year for me. Because if you are locked down with the person you would most like to spend your time with, quarantining can feel like the best of times.

Over the past 6 months, Dawn and I have had unprecedented time together. I have had only one business trip. But Dawn and I have been able to load up the family truckster, and our 3 little Griswolds, and see the country together. We have traveled as far south as Savannah, Georgia, as far north as Fargo, North Dakota, And as far west as Idaho and Montana.

Johann, Dawn, Magnus, Ava and me hiking in The Badlands in July. But it wasn’t bad at all.

As my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, transitioned to remote work in March, Dawn led our family’s migration to homeschooling. She turned our house into a well-oiled education center that would have had a line around the block waiting to get in had it been open to open enrollment. And that’s the non-social-distancing distance.

Dawn secured the vital supplies necessary for our family in the new-normal, including masks, sanitizers, toilet paper and backups to everything in case things got worse. She attended to our family’s physical, psychological and emotional needs. It felt like war time, and I got to partner up with General Patton, only he was beautiful, a great cook, and knew we needed a deep freezer in the garage.

In 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic fallout, the isolation, the renewed focus on racial inequities, and toxic political climate have made the stability, comfort and enjoyment of our own homes more important than ever. And I couldn’t ask for a better home environment, roommate or teammate than the one I have enjoyed for the past 18 years.

Key Takeaway

If you want to enjoy a good life surround yourself with good people. But if you want an amazing life, partner with someone who amazes you every day. Someone who makes your world better in good times and bad. In 2019 and 2020. At the end of our days the only thing that will matter is the impact we had on others. And Dawn’s impact on me could never be overstated. Thank you for this wonderful adventure Dawn Albrecht. You are my certainty in uncertain times.

Take time off to tend to your other business.

I hold 3 jobs. I am the Founder and leader of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Which is a full time job and then some. But I am also a husband. And as if those 2 jobs weren’t enough, I am the proud father of 3 kids. It’s hard to tell which of these 3 jobs is most important. But I know for sure that it isn’t the ad agency gig.

Up North

This past weekend I took a little time off from The Weaponry, and my husbanding duties (I wrote duties…) in order to take my kids camping. With August drawing to an end, this weekend offered a perfect opportunity for Ava(14), Johann (13), Magnus (10) and I (ageless) to spend some time together before the kid head back to school(ing) on September 1st. It also offered my wife Dawn some overdue alone time before she resumes the role of Chief Educational Officer of the Albrecht Family School System. Because this year, our school district will be virtually schooling for somewhere between 1 week and all of eternity.

Spending time together builds a family foundation on stone. (See what I did there?)

Dad’s Camping Adventure 2020 took us 200 miles north of our home in Mequon, Wisconsin. Our campsite was on Bear Lake in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin. (You just mumble-read through the word Chequamegon didn’t you?) To say we got away from it all was an understatement.

Kids, clouds and quiet.

There was no electricity. No lights. No internet. In fact there was no phone service within 10 miles of our campsite. And that’s exactly the way I wanted it. Not only were my kids and I refreshed by the clean air, and cool lake water, we participated in a 3-day digital cleanse. Because with no phone service and no electricity to recharge our digital distractors, our mobile phones were quickly and thankfully dead.

It was 61 degrees this evening. My kids have viking blood.

I didn’t have to compete with social media, video games, or text messages. It was a full weekend of me and my children, fully engaged with each other. We talked and told stories. The four of us piled into our 17 foot canoe to go fishing and explore the lake together. We hiked. We campfired (which really should be a verb, right?). We cooked our own meals together. We stared at the stars as if seeing them for the first time. At night we crowded our sleeping bags close together in the tent.

Larry the Log Hauler.

As we were camping all seemed right with the world. In the middle of the woods we weren’t worried about COVID-19. We weren’t masking up or wearing out the pump on the hand sanitizer. We were just enjoying life together like it was 2019. Or maybe 1819.

We decided to come home through Michigan, which marked the 6th new state of the summer for my kids, who have now seen 42 states.

As a working parent, I can’t think of a better cherry on top of the summer than getting to spend 3 full days alone in the woods camping with my children without digital distractions. We were all completely present. Completely engaged. And completely invested in each other. We made memories we will never forget. At least until the Alzheimers or amnesia kick in.

We capped off our weekend with lunch in Escanaba, Michigan. Our table was as close to Lake Michigan as you can get without getting pruney.

Key Takeaway

It is easy to forget that we all have more than one job. Remember to put time and energy into your other important roles. Take your vacation days. Enjoy your upcoming Labor Day. Spend time with your family and friends. And Dad’s, spend time with your children. You can’t get that time back. Remember, it will be your kids that will decide which nursing home you end up in.

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When was the last time you became a different person?

My family and I just returned home from a 4100-mile road trip. It was one of the great adventures of my life. I know that sounds dramatic. But the trip itself was dramatic. And I don’t just mean the dramatic splattering of bugs on the front of our car.

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Hiking at the Badlands National Park in South Dakota wasn’t bad at all.

We pulled into our driveway last night just before 6pm, parked and began unloading our Family Truckster. As my 10-year-old son Magnus and I were walking into our home for the first time in a week and a half he turned to me and said,

I feel like I am a different person now. -Magnus Albrecht (10 y/o)

I told him I felt the same way. Over the past 11 days we had seen and done too much to be unchanged. We had seen a Jolly Green Giant and the world’s largest Holstein cow. We had seen famous presidents’ faces carved on a mountainside, creating the greatest marketing tactic in the history of state marketing.

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Magnus didn’t get the memo that he was supposed to wear green.

We got an all-access tour of my cousin Rita and her husband Joe’s 2000 cow dairy where my kids got to pet wet and wobbly calves the moment they were born. If you want to follow a really great blog check out Rita’s blog So She Married A Farmer

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Me and my cousin Rita and a crop of kids.

We chased Lewis and Clark across the land and water they first navigated over 200 years ago. We saw fields of sunflowers, and I heard Post Malone every time.

We saw the world’s only Corn Palace. So there’s that.

We visited the Minuteman Missle National Historic Site and learned about all the nuclear missiles that dotted the Northern Great Plains, designed for peace, but ready to destroy the Earth and its inhabitants in just 30 minutes. Like a Dominoes pizza.

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Yellowstone blew Magnus’ mind.

We had close encounters with moose, mice, mountain goats, elk, bighorn sheep, a fisher, prairie dogs and a dead snake.

We were surrounded by a herd of buffalo at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. We swam in glacier-fed streams in Montana. We went cliff jumping. We saw geysers and gal-sers, glaciers and bubbling mud volcanoes.

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Being among the buffalo at Theodore Roosevelt National Grasslands was wild.

We hiked to a lake fed by no less than 6 waterfalls. We hiked in badlands that looked like the moon, only closer, and less made of cheese. We camped just feet from where dinosaur fossils were found and can still be seen, and we lived to tell about it.

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My son Johann and a bit of scenery at Glacier National Park.

We connected the dots of 4100 miles of America. As a result, our brains, our lives, and our image of our country and our planet will never be the same. We developed new mental maps that showed the connections between previously unconnected places, experiences and ideas. Which is exactly why we adventure in the first place. To see, do, learn and grow.

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Me and Magnus at Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park. We were both disappointed to not see any avalanches. #FalseAdvertising

Key Takeaway

Experience as much of life as you can. See the world. Understand it. It will help you grow and expand your views and thinking. It improves creativity and innovation. It will make you more compassionate and empathetic. It will help you relate to others. It helps you refuel and reset and come back smarter and more capable than before. You know, like a whole new you.

I am not sure I am a very good father.

If you are a dad, Father’s Day is a good day to give yourself a job review. And if recent events are any indicator, I am not doing a very good job.

On Friday, while running errands with my 14-year-old daughter Ava, I let the gas tank in my car get to 0 miles to empty before I went to a gas station. I thought that was fun and exciting. When we got home and Ava told my parenting partner what happened I was reminded that I was setting a bad example for our soon-to-be daughter driver. Oops.

Yesterday morning I woke all 3 of my kids up at 6am, on a Saturday, during the summer. Then I forced them to road-trip for 800 miles. Crossing through 7 different states. All while Covid-19 is still a real threat to real people.

I let them eat junk food, and drink Blue Mountain Dew that probably rotted their stomachs. I gave them unlimited access to their electronics, which probably rotted their brains.

I drove way too fast through winding mountain roads, causing my youngest to throw up on the side of the road at 10:30pm on Father’s Day Eve.

At 11:45 PM I got a call from the front desk of the hotel where we are staying. We had only been in our room for 30 minutes and already there had been a noise complaint. Despite a moderate amount of effort, I have not trained these kids how to be quiet when close to other humans.

Did I mention that I made all 5 of us stay in 1 hotel room with only 2 beds? Apparently that is less than the good fathering books say you need for 5 people.

My Dad

But yesterday I did take my kids to see a really great father. We saw my parents for the first time since November of 2019. My Dad made us a really good homemade lunch. It had fruits, vegetables, grains and meat. You know, the foods kids are supposed to eat.

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Dad, you have always been like a father to me.

He baked a strawberry-rhubarb crisp for dessert. We ate around a real dining room table. We talked and laughed and used napkins. We got a tour of his gardens and his yard projects. That guy is a doer. He makes me feel like a don’t-er by comparison.

Thanks Dad

Thanks Dad for being such a great Father. And even though I may not have turned out so well, you did a great job with my 3 sisters. And 3 out of 4 ain’t bad. Sorry. I meant isn’t bad.

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.

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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.

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