Getting the vaccine = Getting back together = Getting back to normal

Wednesday was a big day for me. I didn’t win the lottery. I wasn’t named a Most Beautiful Person. And I wasn’t asked to replace Alex Trebek on Jeopardy. Heck, I wasn’t even asked to replace Alex Trebek in the Colonial Penn commercials. It was a big day simply because it was one of the normalest days I have had outside my home in 15 months.

Vaccination Nation

I got my second vaccine shot 2 weeks ago (I’m Team Pfizer, not Hufflepuff or Slytherin). I now feel that I am as protected from the COVID-19 virus as I am going to be. Better yet, I feel as protected as I need to be. So I have started doing regular life stuff again. And I am reminded how much I love regular life stuff.

Wednesday, Normal Wednesday

Wednesday I traveled from Milwaukee to Madison (which is about a 90-minute drive for those of you who are Wisconsin-illiterate). I went to college at The University of Wisconsin in Madison, and I feel as at home in Madtown as I do anywhere on Earth. I was there to see people that I hadn’t seen since before the planet went cuckoo for Covid Puffs.

The Breakfast Club

I started my day at a breakfast meetup with a group of former University of Wisconsin Badger athletes. The last time I saw any of these W Club members in person was March 4th of 2020. The Crew included:

  • Charlie Wills: The Owner of the Charlie Wills Team -Real Estate Partners (basketball)
  • Scott Silvestri: VP and General Manager of Learfield’s Badger Sports Properties (swimming)
  • Derek Steinbach: Director of Development for Wisconsin Athletics (track & field)
  • Nicholas ‘Papa’ Pasquarello: Executive Director of the W Club and Strategic Partnerships – Wisconsin Athletics (soccer)
  • Andy Crooks: Managing Broker at T.R. McKenzie (football)
  • Adam Albrecht: Founder and CEO of The Weaponry and Dude Who Writes This Blog (track & field)
  • Kalvin Barrett: Dane County Sheriff (football (but he will tell you he was a swimmer))
Nick, Me, Derek, Sheriff Barrett, Charlie and Scott at the Original Pancake House in Madison. I’m always amazed at how many of those restaurants there are. Which makes me think most of them are lying.

It felt like a reunion. We were hugging and shaking hands and seeing each other’s naked faces. We were sharing stories, smiling, and laughing. And not once did anyone say, ‘You’re on mute.’

This was a group of ballers, that included All-Americans, Final Four participants, school record holders, Big 10 Champions, and Team Captains. But the rockstar of the group was Sheriff Barrett. Other people in the restaurant were asking to take pictures with him and to asked him to stop to talk. It was fun to see.

I asked Kalvin if he no longer likes the Bob Marley song, “I shot the sheriff.” He said that he loves that song and plays it in the office. Which reminded me of Shaq in the Grown Ups 2 clip below.

Brunch

After breakfast, I visited Dave Astrauskas, the rockstar throwing coach of the University of Wisconsin track and field team. Dave has coached 4 NCAA Champions, 1 NCAA Collegiate Record Holder, 41 NCAA Division I All-Americans, 4 Big Ten Records Holder, 11 Big Ten Champions and Olympic discus thrower Kelsey Card.

Coach Dave Astrauskas He can teach you how to throw anything but a hissy fit.

Dave has forgotten more about throwing than I will ever know. And of all the people I know Dave is the most likely to set off a spellcheck alarm. #astrauskas

I spent time with Dave for 3 reasons:

  1. Because he is a good human.
  2. To learn from someone who is at the top of their field.
  3. To foster a strong bond between the UW Track & Field program and alumni.

Spending time with Dave was enlightening. He offered me a number of new ways to think about throwing, human performance, coaching, problem solving, the Big Ten Conference, athletic facilities and competition. My time with Dave was a great reminder of how much we can all learn if we ask good questions of experts, listen, and maintain a beginner’s mind.

Lunch

My lunch meeting was pure joy. I met with my friend-client-superstar, Anne Norman, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer of UW Credit Union. Anne has been a favorite human of mine since we first met for lunch at Hi-Way Harry’s in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin in 2018. We have been working together weekly ever since. But we have only seen each other in-person once since February of 2020, at our TV commercial shoot with Jonathan Taylor, running back for the Indianapolis Colts.

The 3 greatest exports of Kenosha, Wisconsin are Orson Welles, my high school teacher Mr. Bill, and Anne Norman.

Anne is a burst of sunshine on any day. Even on the phone or on Zoom. Especially if she is wearing her banana costume. But to be with her in person provides a full week’s worth of Vitamin C in one sitting.

We talked business and branding and teams. We talked about upcoming marketing initiatives. But we could have talked about hang nails, paper cuts and the DMV and I would have enjoyed it. Because spending time with Anne is even more valuable to me now than it was in 2019.

Key Takeaway

Get vaccinated if you can. See your people in real life. Spending time with great humans is joy fuel. And it is even better now that we have had that ability taken away from us. Today, life isn’t just returning to normal. Life is about to be better than ever. Because we have a newfound appreciation for all of the little things. Like simply being together with other good people. Let us never take that for granted again.

Thank you Charlie, Derek, Scott, Nick, Andy, Dave and Anne for sharing some of your valuable time with me.

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

The most valuable asset to leave school with is not a high GPA or SAT score.

The end of the school year is fast approaching. And what a school year it has been! At graduation time I often reflect on my own schooling. It’s interesting to see just how much detail I can remember from that time. I can still picture where I sat in each class, the grades I received, and the number of times I laughed until I sprayed milk out of my nose.

The Numbers

There were a lot of numbers in school. And not just in math class. Do you remember your high school GPA? Or your class rank? How about your College GPA? Or your ACT, SAT, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT scores? (If you had experience with BVDs, HPV or OPP you probably remember those too.)

Most of us have a pretty good memory for these scores. Because it is how we measured how successful we were in school. They represented the scorecard of academic success.

However, there is another number from our school days that is even more important to your long-term success and happiness. Very few people think about it. Almost no one has it memorized.

Perhaps the best indicator of long term happiness and success is the number of friends you make in school. While the overwhelming focus is on academic statistics, the great residual value of your schooling is measured in humans.

Me and some of my University of Wisconsin dorm mates. We had a pretty good time in Madison.

Chuck the Clique

It can seem cool to find your core group of friends and circle the wagons. Or to create an exclusive group. But that won’t serve you best over time. A much better approach is to become part of many different social circles. This vastly expands the total number of people you are exposed to. And if you volunteer to be a sketch or sculpture model for art classes you get exposed to even more people.

Me and some of my high school friends just before graduation. With t-shirts. And no masks. It was a simpler time.

Get Involved

There are a wide variety of high school and college opportunities that are ideal for developing long-lasting relationships.

  • Sports
  • Dance Team
  • Cheerleading
  • Band
  • Orchestra
  • Streaking The Quad
  • Clubs
  • Plays
  • Smoking In The Boys Room
  • Volunteer Programs
  • Yearbook
  • Food Fights
  • Homecoming Committee
  • Fraternities
  • Sororities
  • Epic Prank Planning
  • Class Trips
  • Outing or Adventure groups.
  • Special Interest Groups Of All Sorts
  • Breakfast Club
  • Detention
Me and my college track & field teammates. I am still in touch with many of these guys. We smile more now.

High School

In high school, make a point of knowing as many people as you can. Get involved in extracurricular activities. Introduce yourself to your classmates. Learn names. Meet the kids in grades above and below you. It is especially easy and beneficial as an upperclassperson to introduce yourself to younger students. Because younger students will highly value having older friends, who can drive a car, and grow a mustache like Pedro.

A high school graduation night party pic. We’re looking tough because we just slammed some Capri Suns.

College

In college, live in the dormitory for 2 years, or even become a Resident Hall Advisor (dorm leader). By doing this you are exposed to far more kids than you are living in off-campus housing by yourself or with a handful of roommates. Having hundreds or even thousands of other kids within your orbit on a daily basis vastly increases the total number of friends you are likely to make during that time.

Me and some of my college roommates revisited our off campus house several years after graduation. The wallpaper was still there. But they were out of paper towels.

Introduce Yourself

At parties and at bars introduce yourself to other people. Make a point of meeting someone new every time you go out. Then connect with them on social media too. Because social media is an easy and informal way of turning weak relationship into strong ones.

My college roommates at Dave and Angie Schatz’s wedding. (I have no idea if that is how you possess a plural word ending with Z.)

The Number That Really Matters

My GPA in high school and college was fine. My SAT scores were fine. But I know far more people than most people I know. And that has been one of my greatest advantages in life and business. And one of my greatest sources of happiness and fulfillment.

Me and my high school friends at our last class reunion. The guys with bad backs asked to be up front.

Key Takeaway

Make as many friends in school as you can. Because the benefit of having many friends lasts the rest of your life. And while there is little chance for you to Billy Madison your way to a higher GPA or class rank later in life, it’s not too late to make more friends. Make it a lifelong habit. Or hobby. Or both. Collect as many people as possible. Because at the end of our days the person who has made the most friends wins.

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

If I could do it all again I would make more friends.

I always laugh when someone says ‘If I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything different.’ I appreciate the conviction of such a statement. But it shows that they have not learned and grown much during this dress rehearsal. So they obviously wouldn’t profit much from a life mulligan anyway.

My Re-do

I can find a seemingly endless supply of things I would do differently on my life do-over. I would have slowed down that night when I lost control of my car and flew it into a pasture full of cows Duke’s of Hazard-style. I would have skipped that Wednesday football practice when I tore my ACL my senior year. I would NOT have bought that cheap home printer that constantly jammed and guzzled ink like a drunken donkey. And I would NOT have taken work from that client who was like a real-life Mikey, and really did hate everything. Even Life cereal.

I have been thinking a lot lately about things I would change If I could do it all again. And there is one clear answer that rings out every time I ponder this question. It’s not a regret that haunts me. It’s not a mistake I would fix. And it’s not a detour I would take to avoid pain or punishment. It is something I wish I had more of.

More, More, More

If I could go back and do it all over I would make more friends. There is no greater asset on Earth. There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet. But when I think about the tiny percentage of those people I actually know it gives me a major case of FOMO.

When I was younger I remember people saying that the person who dies with the most toys wins. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It is the person who collects the most friends, who develops and maintains the most and best human relationships that really wins this game. And if those friends have lots of toys, even better.

Friends With Benefits

Friends deliver on our most basic needs. They offer a sense of home and belonging. They offer support, encouragement and inspiration. They make us smile and laugh and sometimes blow things out of our noses involuntarily. And as I have gotten older I have found you can never have too many people in your friend column.

Collecting Friends

I still maintain friendships from pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school and college. I am still in touch with friends from all 9 cities I have lived in. I have friends I have met on airplanes, while on vacation, and while playing at the park with my kids. But I can’t help but think of all of the amazing friends I haven’t met. Especially the ones who have kidneys just like mine.

Work Friends

Friends have been the most important ingredient of my career success. My coworker-friends, client-friends and partner-friends have not only contributed immensely to my workplace wins, they have made me feel as if I am hanging out with friends all day long. In fact, I met my all-time best friend Dawn at work. And we have now been married for 18 years. #CompanyPicnicsAreTheBest

Entrepreneurship

When I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, it was my friends who became my first clients, coworkers and champions. Today, the business and all of the peripheral activities that come with it are a great source of new and growing friendships. In fact, I think of the ability to develop and maintain strong relationships as the greatest input to entrepreneurial success and the greatest fringe benefit of entrepreneurship.

The Greatest ROI

I have friends in every state in America and in dozens of countries around the world. They offer the greatest return of any investment I have ever made. But like the dollars I have squirreled away in my 401(k) plan, I wish had invested even more. Alas, if wishes were fishes we would all have a fry. So the best we can do is make more in the days and years ahead.

Key Takeaway

Keep growing your tribe. Make as many friends as you can in as many places as you can. Connect your friends to each other. Invest in your relationships. Make them deep and wide. At the end of our days, the only thing that matters is the impact we have made on each other. So create more impactful relationships, and enjoy the positive impact they have on you.

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

Why you should reunite your tribe.

I am a dreamer. I love to think about things that would be cool to do, have, make or experience. But I have also learned that if you step towards the things you dream up, you can also make them real. Like Real Deal Holyfield.

One of my favorite things to dream about is people gatherings. Recently, I had a conversation with my high school classmate Kelly (McKeown) Gaudet, who lives in Denver. We talked about how fun it would be to have a Zoom call with our classmates from Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire.

That’s Kelly. (She’s the one on the left.)

What Kelly didn’t know is that I am kinda like an assassin. Because once I start talking about a social gathering like that I won’t stop until the deal is done. Ok, I don’t know if that’s how assassins really work, but that’s what they said in the movie The Bodyguard. Which is where I got most of my assassin knowledge. (Side note: I always think assassin sounds like a verse of the Hokey Pokey: You put your assassin, you put your assassout, you put your assassin and you shake it all about…)

Taking Action

The week after Kelly and I talked about how fun it would be to have a class reZoomion, I announced that we would be having a reunion on our class Facebook page. Because I have learned that if you make thing up, and act like they are real, them somehow magically become real.

Some of my classmates at our last in-person reunion. (Before there were non-in-person reunions.)

Getting The Party Started

A funny thing happened last Thursday night at 8:28pm ET. People who haven’t seen each other in years, or decades, started piling into our class Zooom call. In fact, It was the most attended Zoom call I have been part of in the past year.

It was amazing to see so many friends from our class of 150-ish students together again. We debated exactly how many kids were in our class, with several participant noting that their class ranks were lower than the class population I stated (it’s hard to be 155th out of 143).

Unlike a traditional high school reunion where you tend to gravitate to the people you knew best, we all spent the whole call together. As if we were sitting around a campfire back in the Upper Connecticut River Valley, one by one, we each took a couple of minutes to update our fellow Marauders on our lives since graduation. We each shared:

  • Where we lived now
  • What we have been doing
  • Who we have been doing it with (snickering)
  • Who was the last person/people we saw from our class in real life

You’re Unbelievable, Like EMF

What we heard was amazing. Unlike at our 10-year reunion when we all just getting started, the stories now are remarkable. We were all blown away by the adventures and accomplishments of our classmates.

We had become educators and doctors. NASA scientists and lawyers. Sales experts and IT specialists. Entrepreneurs and professional singers. Marketing executives and CEOs, Nurses and farmers. Financial experts and artists. Hospitality leaders and physical therapists. Engineers and End-of-Life Doulas (bet you didn’t see that coming). Musicians and carpenters. Therapists and consultants. One of our classmates joined from Africa where she is working on human rights initiatives (thanks for joining in the middle of the night Willow!) And best of all, we had stay at home Moms, busy with the most important job we will ever have.

Many of our classmates had written books and traveled the world. We have spread across the continent and well beyond. I couldn’t help but be inspired by all that my classmates have done. And all that We have done as a class.

ProTip: The best time to do a social Zoom call is on Thursday night, starting at 8:30 ET. This avoids weekend conflicts. It also clears work obligations in all 4 U.S. mainland timezones.

Zooming Overtime

We stayed on the call for over 3 hours, with some people staying for 4 hours plus. We laid plans for an in-person class reunion in July, which I am thrilled about. Because you don’t get to make new old friends. And no one knows you like the people you grew up with know you.

Over the past year, we have all learned not to take the ability to simply spend time with friends and family for granted. Make sure to connect with your favorite people and reconnect with your long-lost people. Life is short. And at the end of our days, the only thing that really matters is the impact we have on each other.

Key takeaway.

To reunite your social groups, don’t be afraid to make the first move. You are likely to find others grateful for you taking the initiative. Strengthening our social bonds strengthens our mental and emotional well being too. Gather your tribe. Fuel that sense of belonging. And reinforce your social safety net. You never know when you may need it.

Thanks to my classmates for a fun and surprisingly profound Thursday night. I look forward to more!

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

How to fill your life with Category 3 people.

There are over 8 billion people on Earth. That’s hard to wrap your head around. In fact, wrapping your head around anything is hard to do. And it’s not good for your head. But despite the astronomical number of Earthlings, all people fall into 3 categories.

The 3 Categories of People

  1. People you don’t know.
  2. People you kinda know.
  3. People you know.

An Important Distinction

So, what is the difference between Category 2 and Category 3? To be categorized as someone you know, you must know their name. This is the gateway to a real relationship.

Key Idea

To fill your life with Category 3 people you should introduce yourself to everyone you spend time with.

Category 3 is The Magic Category.

Category 3 is full of your friends and family. This is your network. It’s your safety net. The more people you have in bucket 3 the more support you have. The more love you feel. Category 3 is where your opportunities come from. These are the people that can help advance your career, can help you make a sale, or offer you a kidney. These are the only people who will show up at your funeral (other than random people who love little ham sandwiches and sorrow).

Turn 2s into 3s

Category 2 contains people that you see or interact with. However, you remain anonymous to each other. Literally. The definition of anonymous is a person not identified by name; or of unknown name.

What you do with your category 2 people has a major impact on your life. The greater the percentage of people that you move from category 2 to category 3 the richer your life will become.

Conversely, the more people you allow to accumulate in category 2 the more loneliness and isolation you feel. A negative emotion builds in us when we are surrounded by people that we don’t know on a first-name basis (And I don’t mean like Cher, Madonna and Pele.)

The Power of 2s

This means Category 2 people are the swing people in your life. Leave them in Category 2 and they will always be familiar but nameless strangers. A natural tension accumulates between such people. You will wonder why you don’t actually introduce yourselves to each other. You create theories about dislike, or snobbishness, or standoffishness, or Eliot Ness. These theories are almost always unfounded. And almost always negative. Just ask Al Capone.

Most people simply avoid making the first move to introduce themselves to their 2s. It may be the discomfort of making the first move, a fear of rejection from a disinterested party. Or it may be that a body at rest simply tends to stay at rest.

It’s Smart To Hide Your Smartphone.

When we have a free moment among category 2 people we often invest our time and attention in our smartphone and its endless rabbit holes. It would be a much more valuable investment of your time and attention to introduce yourself to those around you. Exchange names and pleasantries. Find commonalities. Express your desire to turn your 2s into 3s. (You may have to reference this post for it all to make sense.)

Key Takeaway

Introduce yourself to everyone you spend time with. Clear out your category 2 bucket Move as many people to category 3 as you can. You will find your life fuller, friendlier and more enjoyable. More people will know your name. Which makes your world feel smaller, more personal, and more rewarding. By filling your world with category 3 people you win at life. It is how you develop a successful career. And it is how you create positive energy everywhere you go.

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

The best thing you can invest in right now is friendships.

I like to create friends and allies everywhere I go. It’s the way I am wired. If you asked me what my number one hobby is I would say befriending. Or turning strangers into friends. Like Courtney Cox and David Schwimmer.

I develop strong friendships quickly. And my friends are like snowflakes. Meaning they are special, not cold and icy. They are all different. And they all add to my life in unique ways. Like human seasoning. #MrsDash

Non-networking-networking

We are repeatedly told that to be successful in our careers and in our lives we need to network. But I don’t think of networking as networking. It isn’t shallow and transactional for me. Instead, I spend real time befriending people. I don’t expect to get anything in return, other than an additional friend. I wrote about my approach to befriending in the post, Why I hate networking, and what I do instead.

But a funny thing happens when you develop a lot of friends. You develop a lot of allies. People who look out for you, who advocate for you. People who alert you to opportunities. And people who invite you to things.

New Business Opportunities

When I am not making friends, road-tripping out west with my family, or writing blog posts, I own an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Last week I had two new business meetings, both of which arose because friends of mine submitted my name for interesting opportunities I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

The first came from a neighbor of mine in Atlanta who introduced me to a friend of hers who was looking for marketing help. (Thanks Jennifer!)

The second came from a friend of mine who knew that his organization in Chicago was looking for advertising help, and thought we might be a great fit. (Thanks Arun!)

Through those new business calls, I feel like I befriended 3 new people that I really liked. Even if we don’t do work together (which I hope we do), I already profited by adding to my friend collection.

The Library

However, the benefits of befriending others goes far beyond business and career success. Yesterday I had to return an audiobook to the library. I hadn’t had it very long, but I got a notice that I couldn’t renew it.

The book is called Last Stand. It is not about the end of nightstands as we know them. It is about Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle Of Little Big Horn. Following my recent road trip out west, that I wrote about in When was the last time you became a different person?, I have an exciting new geographical awareness to apply to this historic American tale.

Last stand
This is a great book that has nothing to do with REM’s song Stand.

I am about halfway through the book, and things are getting really good. Well, things are getting really good for me as the reader, and about to get really bad for General Custer. So when I stopped by the library I planned to ask if I could return the book and check it out immediately.

Luckily for me, my favorite librarian was working yesterday.  I will call her Page to protect her identity. Page is probably in her 60s, and looks like she knows her way around the Dewey Decimal System. I always joke around with Page. So I expect I stand apart from most people she deals with at the library. Plus, I usually wear flip flops, which creates a flagrant noise violation in the ‘Brary. Which gives me more to discuss with the staff.

I told Page that I was loving my book, like McDonald’s, but wasn’t quite done with it. So I was really hoping I could check it out again. I handed her the audiobook case and she looked it up in her Librarian machine. She then said, ‘Someone has a hold on this book, so you can’t renew it.’

I made a disappointed boo boo face by sticking out my bottom lip and pretending I was about to cry. I was obviously just trying to be funny. Page laughed. Then she paused a moment, and looked around to see if anyone was listening. They weren’t. So she leaned towards me and said in a quiet voice, ‘We aren’t collecting late fees right now. Why don’t you take this back and finish it…’ She flashed me a mischievous librarian smile, and she handed me the now illegally possessed, but secretly un-fined book. I whispered ‘thank you’, flashed her a big smile, and bolted for the door.

Key Takeaway

Make as many friends as you can. It makes the world smaller and more enjoyable. The rewards of friendship are the most meaningful and lasting perks you will find on this planet. You never know when you will need someone to talk to, an encouraging word, a good laugh, an introduction, a kidney, or extended hours with a good book. And like Dionne and friends said, that’s what friends are for.

*If you liked this post, consider sharing it with a friend.

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