A great way to prepare for your next networking opportunity.

I made plans last week to meet an interesting new person. My friend and client Bethany Grabher recently introduced me via email to DJ Shawna. Not only is DJ Shawna the official DJ for the NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks, she was also selected to DJ at the NBA bubble in Orlando during the 2020 playoffs. But before all that, she played basketball for the University of Wisconsin Badgers. And the Badgers are my favorite (along with smiling).

To prepare for our in-person meeting DJ Shawna and I connected on both LinkedIn and on Instagram. Those platforms are great resources to get to know someone before you meet them in person. (Unless the person is deep into IG filters.) But DJ Shawna also taught me that you can use these vehicles to set the tone for your in-person meeting.

A couple of days before we were scheduled to meet up I posted my Key Takeaway from a recent blog post on my Instagram Story. (You can regularly catch the key takeaway from my blog posts at @adamalbrecht on IG. Also, check out the Silly Highlight.) Not long after I shared the Key Takeaway DJ Shawna responded to it with the following comment:

I can already tell we are going to be friends.

-DJ Shawna

I found myself thinking about that response a lot. It may have seemed like a simple pleasantry to others. And maybe it is the kind of statement that women share easily. But to me, it felt profound. Because it communicated the following:

  1. I’m researching you too.
  2. I like what you wrote.
  3. We value the same things.
  4. I like positive thinking.
  5. I like positive people.
  6. You have already passed my test.
  7. I’m interested in becoming your friend.
  8. I can read. (This was actually my first takeaway.)

That simple statement changed the nature of our meetup. Instead of going to meet a stranger for a networking coffee, I felt like I was going to meet a friend for the first time. Which is the friend version of meeting a relative for the first time. The relationship is already established. It is simply a matter of bringing reality to life.

As DJ Shawna and I were enjoying some Rocket Fuel downtown Milwaukee we ran into friend and fellow Badger Ben Brust, who captained Wisconsin’s 2014 Final Four basketball team and now hosts the Scalzo and Brust Show on ESPN radio. Go Badgers!

Side Note.

I noticed that being a DJ is like being a doctor. It’s fun to add DJ before the name of a DJ to distinguish them from other regular people without the need for a last name. However, Shawna does have a last name. Her birth certificate calls her Shawna Nicols. (I actually haven’t seen her birth certificate so I’m just guessing at that using the information I have.)

Key Takeaway

If in the process of researching someone before you meet them in person, don’t be afraid to let them know that you think you are going to be friends. Or that you have a lot in common. Or that you find them interesting, fascinating or impressive. It sets the tone for a positive in-person introduction. Because when relationships start well, they tend to go well, last longer, and run deeper. And if you like that, I think we are going to be friends.

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

Entrepreneurship taught me I can create my own friend groups.

When I was in high school I was part of a few natural groups. I played football and felt like part of the team. I participated in track & field and I felt like I was part of that team too. The track team was far bigger and was co-ed. Which was cool. Both teams offered me a great sense of belonging and contributed to my identity. Although I discovered neither was an acceptable form of identity for the TSA or for most college bars.

College

When I attended the University of Wisconsin I continued my track and field career. The track team gave me a sense of belonging to a special group. It hit that Goldilocks sweet spot of being bigger than I was alone, which is key, but much smaller than the full student population at UW Madison of 43,000. The track team gave me a social group, an identity, and a support system that prevented me from ever feeling lost in the sea of studentia.

This was the 1995 Big 10 Championship team. We won again in 1996. And yes, we did have color photography back then. Just not colored media guides.

Work Work Work Work Work Like Rihanna.

After college, I joined the workforce. I felt a sense of belonging at each of the advertising agencies that employed me. Those included Cramer Krasselt, Engauge, and Moxie. Interestingly, I also felt a sense of belonging within many of my clients’ organizations. I’m not sure if that was a result of my strong personal relationships or my delusional thinking.

Coworker friends from NYC, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

Entrepreneurship

When I started my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I felt an extreme sense of belonging. Because I created the agency itself, the organization was born with a place for me. But thanks to Thomas Edison, this created a lightbulb moment for me.

The Weaponry Friends.

What happened as a result of creating The Weaponry was that I realized that I had the power to create my own groups to be part of. So I started reforming social groups from my past that had disbanded because of the time and space continuum.

Getting The Band Back Together

I started with my original peer groups. I helped re-organize my high school football team. I helped pull together the guys from my class who played together. We now have a text group that chirps regularly with hilarity. We have Zoom calls to catch up. Thanks to our re-strengthened connections, we make real efforts to connect in person whenever we can. In fact, I have seen 6 of the guys in person this summer alone. (By alone I mean just during the summer. We weren’t alone. We were actually together.)

I helped my high school class get together via Zoom in February and in person in July.

Like adding water to orange juice concentrate, I also helped reconstitute my college track team. We now gather every couple of months on Zoom. Those relationships were a huge help in 2020 as we navigated health, financial, racial, and political craziness. Our team offered a trusted and safe space for a diverse family of brothers to discuss important but sensitive topics. We are also jonesing to gather again in person once our latest health crisis is behind us. (Oh, you didn’t know we had a health crisis?)

New Kids On The Block

However, I didn’t simply reform groups I had been part of in the past. I envisioned groups I wished existed. Then I started to create them too. Today, I regularly think about new and nuanced groups to create. Just as a chef considers recipes with new and novel combinations of ingredients, I think about how various people would form an interesting new social group. Then I make it happen. You can do it too. It’s easier and more rewarding than you think.

An original collection of former UW Badger varsity athletes.

Key Takeaway

Social groups are human creations. So create and maintain the groups you want to be part of. If you envision a great new group of humans, make it happen. If you want to recreate a group from the past, reform it. You will be surprised at how interested others are in being included in a social group, new or old. Most people simply don’t know they have the power to make it happen. Now you do.

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

Why you should share your circle with more people.

When you first meet someone new, you have nothing in common. At least not that you know of. You are just two individual circles in a Venn Diagram, separate and distinct, with no shared areas. Like the lenses of John Lennon’s glasses. (Imagine that for a moment. It’s easy if you try.)

However, the more time you spend together the more the circles in your Venn Diagram will overlap, like the Mastercard logo. (Which is priceless.) This Venning happens for 3 reasons:

  1. Conversation reveals how much you have in common.
  2. You share everything new that you experience together.
  3. Through discussion, idea sharing, and learning you begin to incorporate their knowledge and thinking into your own.
Venn Diagrams show venn you have things in common and venn you don’t.

This phenomenon of Venning is extremely valuable. It is key to friendship and courtship. It is how people with diverse backgrounds and experiences profit from each other. This sharing leads to understanding, acceptance, and ultimately to peace and goodwill.

Venning is the reason to network. By meeting others and learning what they know and who they know you not only grow the number of people you have in common with others, but you also incorporate their body of knowledge into your own.

This process can have a powerful influence on your career. By spending time with those who have more experience than you, you pick up their knowledge and techniques. It is key to apprenticeships, internships, mentorships, and probably building ships. You can quickly accelerate past the natural pace of learning and mistaking on your own through the guidance you receive from others.

Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones  said, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” This is because both the books and the people will add to your knowledge, your way of thinking, and your ability to connect to others. And evidently, the more people you know the more likely you are to pick up a tremendous nickname.

Key Takeaway.

Meet as many people as you can. Learn who and what they know. Absorb as much knowledge, experience and perspective as possible. Tap into their networks, and bring as many of their people into your own sphere as you can.

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

When I smile at people one of two things always happens.

I smile a lot. As Buddy Elf said, smiling is my favorite. I smile first thing in the the morning when I open my eyes to start my day right. On a typical day I try to smile at everyone I encounter. Oh, who am I fooling? I don’t really try to smile at everyone. It just happens, even without trying. It’s just the way I am programmed.

Me and my friend Chris Winters smiling when we saw each other for the first time in 10 years.

When I greet others with a smile one of two things always happens.

1. The other person responds with a great smile.

I love it when people smile back. When this happens the world improves. When my smile generates a smile in another person I enjoy a huge return on my investment. It feels as if I have more friends and fewer foes. I see others in the best light. A shared smile means we are more likely to talk to each other. More likely to develop a significant relationship. And more likely to know if the other person has spinach in their teeth.

Me and Amy Meadows smiling in Carmel, Indiana. Because it is the happiest place in Indiana.

2. The other person does nothing.

A surprising percentage of the time when I smile at someone I get nothing in return. No smile. No smirk. No Mona Lisa impression. Nothing. When the non-response happens it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I always think it is funny. As if the person is facial expression illiterate.

Here my good friend Raghu demonstrates smile immunity.

The lack of a return smile is rarely if ever about me. It is about the other person, and what they are or are not prepared to give. I don’t feel shunned, rejected or ashamed. I simply think, that person either can’t smile right now or doesn’t know how. When this happens I move on and smile at the next person. And the person after that. And the person after that. Because you can’t let an unreturned smile impact the next person you see.

Smiling with my fellow Weapons Adam Emery and Kevin Kayse.

Key Takeaway

Share your smile with others. It is one of the most valuable gifts you can give another person. Don’t worry if they don’t know what to do with it. Most people do. Most people deeply appreciate it. Smile for them. And for yourself. Do what you know is right, and don’t worry about those who get it wrong or take it wrong. Some people don’t know how to play smile tennis. Just keep serving them aces.

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

It’s time for you to enjoy quality time with others again.

One of my favorite things to do is spend time with other humans. I am naturally curious, like George. I love hearing other people’s stories, experiences and perspectives. While I always regret wasting time consuming nutrition-less digital nonsense, live, human interactions almost never disappoint. (Except when I interact with Debbie Downer, Andy Angry or Michael Myers.)

Covid-19 and the cancelation of up-close and personal interactions was super odd. But I adapted. I really enjoyed my focused time with my wife and 3 kids. But the experience dragged on so long that I almost forgot what I was missing with other non-nuclear family interactions. Until recently.

I was pfully vaccinated in early May, and I am now a Pfizer pfan pfor life. With so many others in my circles now vaccinated, life feels more and more normal (or moremal) all the time.

But over the past few weeks things have grown insanely normal. I have enjoyed in-person meetings with clients, in-person chocolate milk meetings, (because I don’t drink coffee), breakfasts, lunches and dinners. I have invited people to drop by my office. And I am visiting people in their offices, homes, and vans down by the river.

Art and Laurie Mazor, my former next door neighbors in Atlanta, are great people who I have had a great mask-less time with recently.

It all feels like a social springtime. Conversations are blooming. Interesting topics are popping up. New collaborations are unfurling. But it’s nothing to sneeze at. Because when humans come together they create the future through ideas, visions, collective action, motivation and inspiration.

Key Takeaway

Get vaccinated. And get back together. The best part of life is our togetherness. Inspire and encourage others to do great, fun, interesting, meaningful and important activities together. Help each other. Share talents, connections and energy. Grow personally and professionally through positive shared in-person experiences. They are available to you again. Take advantage of it. Because great relationships are your secret advantage in life.

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

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.