Get in a groove. Not in a rut.

When you start something new it usualy feels uncomfortable. A new approach or skill is clumsy and awkward at first. Like an interview with Borat or Ali G. This is a normal part of the new.

Over time, however, things become easier or even second nature and instinctive. You dial in your process. You get in a groove. You find your flow. (And she tries to sell you Progressive Insurance, or tell you to kiss her grits, depending on your age.)

Getting in a groove is a great feeling. It’s familiar. Repeatable. Even easy.

But if you are not careful, that groove will turn into a rut. You’ll do the same thing over and over. Without improvement or variation. It becomes old and boring. Or outdated. Like a Hall of Fame hairstyle.

It’s important to find your way. The way that feels good and makes you feel strong, smart and capable. But don’t forget to keep trying new things. Keep experimenting, exploring and growing. Learn the new way. Adjust your approach. Apply creativity. Keep things interesting. Like the Dos Equis man.

Key Takeaway

Grooves are good. Ruts are bad. Explore the new, better and different. This applies everywhere. To your processes at work and home. To foods, travel, music, recreation and getting jiggy. It’s how you improve, keep things fresh, and flex your creative muscles. It’s the best way to find an even better way.

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

For more ideas on growth and self-improvement check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? at FortuneCookieBook.com. It offers 80 life lessons the universe is trying to share with you.

Why you are less creative today, and what to do about it tomorrow.

The Torrance Test is like the IQ test, but for creativity. New research on the Torrance creativity scores by researchers at the University of William and Mary show that U.S. Torrance creativity scores have been dropping steadily since the ‘90s. (The decade not the age.)

One of the main reasons for our decrease in creativity is that we are no longer doing one of the most important things you need to do to think creatively. It is not creating Shrinky Dinks, wearing acid wash jeans, or rocking a mullet.

We no longer simply sit and think.

We don’t allow ourselves to be quiet and un-entertained. Today, we have cured ourselves of boring moments with our arsenal of digital devices, televisions, and computers. As long as you have electrical power you have something to do to fill your empty time.

But the ubiquitous digitization of our planet has a devastating effect on our creativity. It is like the burning of the South American rainforests. Or the melting of the polar ice caps. Except what we are losing isn’t trees or ice. It is our creative thinking and innovation.

So how do we solve this?

We need to be bored.

We need to stop entertaining ourselves at all times.

We need to turn our digitals off regularly.

We need to lie quietly in bed at the start and end of the day.

We need to turn our idea generators on and let them run uninterrupted for long stretches.

We need to reprogram ourselves to use these incredible digital machines as tools for creativity rather than time killers, entertainment crutches, and boredom erasers.

Creativity Tip: While you are waiting you should be creating.

Employers need to adjust expectations too. If you expect your employees to respond to emails, calls, texts and slacks quickly, you are programming them to check their digitals often. And that leads to the type of check-in habit that eliminates room to think. Instead, we should slow down our response expectations. And put a premium on regular stretches of total focus on creation, problem-solving, and strategic thinking.

Key Takeaway

The longer you spend thinking the closer you get to great ideas. Make sure you spend the time you need to get all the way there. Long, uninterrupted stretches of thinking are where the gold is. So go there. Get yours. You’ll find your quiet time pays off in many valuable ways.

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

Why it’s good to explore options that sound terrible.

Yesterday I grabbed lunch at a Willy’s Mexicana Grill in Atlanta. After I ordered my go-to lunch, The Frito Burrito, I headed for the beverage area to determine how I was going to liquidate my meal.

The beverage area included a Coca-Cola Freestyle beverage mix-master. There was an iced tea section with several suitably southern options. And there was a lemonade department with both lemon-flavored (go figure) and raspberry-flavored lemonade.

I love such liquidation stations. Not just for the variety. But for the opportunity to play mixologist and create my own signature concoction.

But you know who else loves that kind of liquidation station? Little kids.

As I was prepping to Frankenstein my cup I heard a kid tell his Dad about his fun new drink concoction. His Dad wrinkled his nose and furrowed his brow at the thought of the boy’s non-intuitive flavor collision.

Then the boy said something important.

“It sounds bad. But it tastes great!”

-Experimental Beverage Boy at Willy’s

When I heard the boy’s cheery response I felt immense gratitude for humans like him. I am thankful for curious minds who want to discover new options. People brave enough to try things that sound bad, but that turn out to be amazing. Like Ben & Jerry for putting pretzels in Ice Cream. Like Willy, for putting Fritos in my burritos. And for whoever it was that first decided to try drinking the white liquid that came out of a cow. And the brave soul who thought to eat the egg-shaped thing that popped out of a chicken’s nether regions.

Key Takeaway

It is those willing to experiment that discover the great new ideas. They create new flavors, sounds, styles, designs, and processes. They create new genres and shake up industries. They disrupt categories and reveal new possibilities for growth and expansion. Thank you explorers, creatives, inventors and pioneers. And thank you to the little boy and his beverage experiment that reminded me of all this yesterday at lunch. This week I hope you try something new that sounds bad. May you be well rewarded for your curiosity.

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

The great value of reading through your old notebooks today.

I love great books. I have several of them lately. So far in 2021, I have read The Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki (again), Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. by Ron Chernow, and The Magic of Thinking Big by Daniel Schwartz. I highly recommend all of them. Although Titan is 832 pages. So if you are low on time you may prefer to ready about someone poorer.

What I’m Digging Now

However, I have also been into another fascinating series recently. These books are not by a well-known author. They are not flying off the shelf. In fact, they have never even been published. Because the other great books I have been reading lately are my own notebooks. Like James Garner, but without the nursing home and the dementia.

I have a shelf of old notebooks. They are filled with notes, quotes, ideas and doodles. There is humor and profound thought. Lessons and charts. There are business ideas T-shirt designs. And there are inappropriate comments I had in meetings that I wrote down and nudged over to the person sitting next to me to read.

Pro Tip: Always sit next to me in boring meetings for the notebook nudge.

Each time I crack open an old notebook I feel like I am transported to a day of discovery and creation in my past. I find so much inspiration in these books that I regret not looking at them more frequently. I also appreciate the really boring meetings more in hindsight because they filled pages with doodles and funnies.

Plan A Revisit

Make sure to find time to read YOUR old notebooks. There is gold in them thar quills! And it is waiting to be cashed in by you.

Whether you keep notebooks, sketchpads, journals, diaries, or even notes on your phone, make sure to revisit them regularly. Because once you begin filling the blank pages, they are transformed into books you have written.

Your notebooks are full of inspiration, reminders, lessons, and quotes. They are sprinkled with great ideas you’ve had, or heard. The ideas captured in your notebooks are likely your most powerful, memorable, and important. They spring from your greatest moments of inspiration, and the depths of boredom. And either will do.

They may contain plans you’ve had, strategies you’ve considered, or challenges you faced. They may hold the schedules of days in the past, that you can look back on and see when important steps were taken that positively impacted your path. They may serve as your personal history books of dates, plans, tasks, priorities, meetings and obligations. With the gift of hindsight you can determine the value of your actions, and perhaps the cost of your inaction.

Notebooks from talks, presentations, seminars are particularly useful. Because at those time you were exposed to new people, ideas, lessons, methods, and insights. Often times the value we reaped in such situations goes unrealized until we revisit our notes again.

Only You Can Think That Thought

Your life experience and perspective create thoughts that only you could have. Which is why they are so valuable. But you are also so busy that a fleeting thought is often gone forever if not captured in your notebooks. Which means that your notebooks are often full of gems you never would have rediscovered any other way.

Key Takeaway

Some of the best ideas you have ever had are found in your old notebooks. Make sure to revisit them. Remind yourself of your best lessons, thoughts, and plans. They can serve as inspiration, comfort, or humor. Of all the books that you should reread, the books you’ve written yourself often hold the most value. Keep them close. Read them often. And profit from the rediscovery.

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

Why it is so valuable to wonder as you wander.

In 2005 I spent a week working in Iceland and never saw the sun go down. While in the land of the ice and snow (with the midnight sun where the hot springs flow), I enjoyed a few closeup experiences with icebergs. In fact, one day we filmed my friend Thor Kjartanson waterskiing among freshly-calved icebergs. Which made Thor the most badass Viking since Fran Tarkenton.

Icebergs are magical creations. They are beautiful. Like floating sculptures. Icebergs are always moving and always transforming. However, as magnificent as one of these floating masses of Titanic-sinking ice art is to look at, roughly 90 percent of an iceberg is below the surface, and thus goes unseen.

Below The Surface

I feel like an iceberg. On a typical day, 90% of my activity is below the surface and goes unseen. Because my mind is always going somewhere. I am always thinking, wondering, and building in my brain.

Mental Jogging

One of my favorite hobbies is mental jogging. I simply start to think about anything I am interested in. Then I quickly jump from topic to topic and idea to idea, noting the connective tissue between each. It’s an enjoyable and useful form of mental parkour. (If you don’t know what parkour is check out this video explanation and the hilarious twist on the sport from The Office.)

Valuable Thinking

I spend a large percentage of my time thinking. But I am not just thinking about things I need to do or remember. I am exploring, creating, ideating and wondering as I wander. Like Fred Savage.

But despite the millions of miles of mental jogging that I have logged, only recently have I ever thought that not everyone does this. Which I think is a form of thinking bias I didn’t think I had.

I can jump into full ideation and creation mode, anywhere, anytime. I have made a career out of it. Heck, I have created two businesses out of it, including my t-shirt business, Adam & Sleeve, and my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.

This person has magical feet that leave the footprints of many people.

Get Quiet And Get Thinking

I can think of new ideas, adventures, inventions and connections all day long. You can too. But do you? It simply requires a little quiet spot in your day. You can find time while you drive, or shower or lie in bed. Don’t fill your quiet moments with digital distractions. Allow yourself a little boredom, and let your thinking fill the void.

Thinking is the most valuable activity you can do.

Here are 14 Reasons Why:

  1. Thinking is what creates new ideas.
  2. Thinking is where winning strategies are born.
  3. Thinking leads to paradigm-shifting innovations.
  4. Thinking is where entertainment comes from.
  5. Thinking solves problems.
  6. Thinking creates opportunities.
  7. Thinking creates advantages and helps reveal them.
  8. Thinking changes perceptions and outlooks.
  9. Thinking inoculates you from a sense of helplessness
  10. Thinking provides freedom.
  11. Thinking creates adventure.
  12. Thinking turns the tables
  13. Thinking develops habits
  14. Thinking can give your courage, and heart, and a brain, and helps you find a lift back home.

Key Takeaway:

Thinking is the seed from which all great realities are born. To improve both your situation and your outlook, improve your thinking. Make a habit of thinking, and your thinking habit will make you.

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

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

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

Suspension

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

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

Current Conditions

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

Taxes

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

Rule Flexibility

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

Key Takeaway

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

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

It’s a great time for you to take more showers.

There are a lot of activities you can’t do right now. In fact, most things outside your home that involve anyone other than a cashier, pharmacist, healthcare worker or delivery professional are currently off the table. At the same time, many of the hard working among us have been prohibited from working. Which creates another level of challenges.

Time to Think

When you can’t take action, the most valuable thing you can do is think. I have spent my entire career as a professional creative thinker. I’ve worked through thousands of business challenges of all sizes and shapes (except for a tiny rhombic dodecahedron). And the great solutions always come during times of deep, focused thinking.

And there is no place to think like the shower. It’s a perfect environment to relax, clear your head and do the type of thinking that makes a real difference. The type of thinking that solves problems, sparks valuable new ideas, and helps you rebalance again. All while controlling your dandruff. #multitasking

The Thinking Prescription

  • Find some time each day for a long hot shower.
  • Make sure there is no music or sound from a TV.
  • Shower by yourself. (Otherwise you’ll be thinking other thoughts.)
  • Relax. And think of what you can do right now. For yourself, your community, your clients, your family or friends.
  • Think about what you can do tomorrow.
  • Think of the opportunities.
  • Work through your work challenges
  • Think bigger than you think you should.

You’re sure to come out with a clear head and new ideas. Oh, and you’ll also be clean. And right now that’s more valuable than ever.

Key Takeaway

The 2 most valuable ingredients of success are strong actions and strong thinking. When you can’t act, think. It will help you solve problems and create a plan of action. Thinking  unlocks doors. And it reminds you, in case you forgot, that you are still in control.

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

You have perfected the old way. Now what?

I have spent the last few days speaking to smart people at a giant trade show in Las Vegas. Just as the World Health Organization recommended that we should all hole up in our closets for 2 weeks, I decided to hangout with 100,000 trade show attendees in Sin City. #RollingTheDice

CONEXPO

CONEXPO, the mammoth construction industry show, is the largest trade show in the history of my personal trade show experience. It is like the construction industry’s Super Bowl. Only without the extravagant halftime show. Or football.

Why Are You Here?

My advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry works with CONEXPO in a super secret capacity that I can not disclose. Yet. But as part of our work, yesterday I talked to people about why they come to the show. One particular attendee I talked to had a very simple way of summarizing why he comes. He said:

‘We have the old way of doing things down. We need to find the new way.’ -CONEXPO Attendee

I love this idea.

Out with the old.

It is really easy to master a way of doing things, and think that you can simply repeat that process, technique or approach for the rest of your days. But if you do, you will stop growing. You will stop improving. You will stop learning. And you will forfeit your competitive advantage to those who continue looking for the new way. The better way. The faster, easier and more profitable way.

Grow, Grow, Grow Your Boat.

Always be growing. Technology and innovation are continuously improving. The fact that we can instantly exchange information and cat videos across the globe means that we have unprecedented access to new information and ideas to help you improve virtually everything you can think of. Including your thinking.

New And Improved!

I worked in the advertising industry for 19 years before I started my own agency. But from day one, the technology and applications we implemented at The Weaponry were completely different than those I had previously used. Because we did our homework, and found new, smarter ways to perform our work. And to collaborate with our teammates and partners.

Today, as we close in our 4th birthday, we are challenging assumptions. We are open minded, and ready to advance as soon as the advancements are ready to be taken advantage of. And you should be too.

Key Takeaway

Once you have mastered the old way, start looking for the new way. Always be learning, growing and improving. Embrace change. Put innovation and advancements to work for you. They provide a competitive advantage. And if you don’t utilize them, your competition will.

Oh, and if you see me at CONEXPO, or out enjoying Las Vegas tonight, please stop by and say hi. Or bump my elbow with yours. Or point and smile. Just don’t shake hands. That’s the old way. Before the coronavirus inspired, new, smarter, safer techniques.

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

My daughter thinks I am lucky to have such a cool job. But she is wrong.

Yesterday my daughter Ava had a basketball tournament 90 minutes from home. Ava and I enjoyed some daddy-daughter time as we drove to and from the tournament together. We always talk a lot on our drives. Our conversation yesterday included such random topics as:

  • Top 3 cities in the US you would want to live in someday
  • How to become a songwriter
  • How old you have to be to join the CIA
  • Elbows to the throat
  • Billy Eilish
  • Basketball moves that work
  • How Silicon Valley became a thing
  • Hair tossing and checking my nails
  • Honors Geometry terms (we studied for her quiz together)
  • How the championship medals they won glow in the dark
  • What is the 3rd Jonas Brother’s name (It’s Kevin)

Entrepreneurship

We also talked about my work. When I started The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency, I also started this blog to share what I learned on my entrepreneurial journey. This is the 382nd post. So I must be learning something. But I don’t just blog about what I am learning. I try to teach my children as much as they can absorb. And maybe just a little more.

Recent Updates

I told Ava about some of the projects I am working on. I told her about work travel that I have coming up to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and potentially Orlando. I gave her an update on some of the things I just did on trips to Dallas and San Antonio.

Then she said something that really struck me. She said,

‘Dad, you are so lucky. You have the coolest job.’ -Ava Albrecht (14)

I smiled, and told Ava that my entire advertising career has been filled with cool opportunities and experiences. But the thing worth noting now is that I created my own job. I started my own business. All of the cool things I get to do now were not offered to me by an employer. I didn’t find this job like you find a 4-leaf clover. I created the opportunity to do cool things myself.

How Long Does It Take?

I knew that when I launched my own business I would be walking away from a number of amazing opportunities to do fun and interesting work. I wondered how long it would take before I got to do those same kinds of projects for The Weaponry.

It didn’t take long. Today I get to work on rewarding projects for many of my clients. I get to travel all over the country. I get to work with interesting and well known people. And so do my teammates.

Go Luck Yourself

Ava was right, I do have a cool job. But I am not lucky to have this job. I made this job. I knew the kind of work I wanted to do. And I created a job where I would get to do it. I told Ava that I want to make sure she knows that she has the ability to create her own dream job. And I want you to know that you do too.

Key Takeaway

The best way to land your dream job is to create it yourself. Know what you want. And realize you have the potential to make it happen. Today, I am busy creating my dream job. I am certainly not done yet. And neither are you.

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

When you have a great idea avoid sharing it in a bad way.

I love ideas. In fact, I love them so much that I create new ideas for a living. And I can’t think of a better job. As a professional creative thinker my ideas help sell products and services. My ideas help name products, build brands and solve problems of all sizes and shapes, except hyperboloids.

Seek A Professional Opinion

In the same way a medical doctor is sought out to offer medical advice, businesses seek me out for creative advice. And I have written some pretty funky, yet effective prescriptions. Like filling a Prevost bus full of ping pong balls with Danica Patrick for Nationwide Insurance. And claiming that a Ski-Doo MX-Z snowmobile is so responsive it knows which butt cheek you’re flexing. And dressing 100 Argentinian men in pink bodysuits for Snickers.

Things I Hate

As much as I love a great idea I hate it when non-professional creatives share their ideas. You’re probably thinking that I am a typical creative A-hole who thinks no one else could possibly have a good idea. (See ‘The No A-holes Rule”). But, Au contraire, mon frère!

Where Great Ideas Come From

I know with 100% certainty that great ideas can, and do come from anywhere. And anyone. There is no monopoly on creativity in a creative department. No, what I abhor about non-creatives sharing their ideas is the way they typically do it.

analysis blackboard board bubble
Just keep thinking. Just keep thinking.

You’re Doing It Wrong!

I know that probably sounds like I am judging people on their idea sharing etiquette. Or shaming people for the poor idea sharing technique. But that’s not what I am getting at.

What profoundly bothers me when non-professionals share their ideas is how they often discount the idea before they even unwrap it. Nothing takes the punch out of a great idea like introducing it with one of the following phrases:

  • ‘This is probably stupid but…’
  • ‘I’m not creative at all but…’
  • ‘Feel free to shoot this down…’
  • “I’m not the creative person here…’
  • “Here comes a bad client idea…’
  • “Ok, bad account person idea…’
  • ‘What if… no, never mind, bad idea.”

Share Without Apology

These type of apologetic disclaimers are poison to the creative process. Just as improv works on the ‘Yes-And’ Rule, meaning that every idea shared is embraced and built upon, a strong creative development process requires us to embrace fully-baked, half-baked and raw idea as they are presented. Because there is something to build on within every idea.

Water splash
Sharing your idea can impact others in profound ways. 

Connect The Dots

Creativity is about connecting disparate elements. So we should all throw our unique thoughts and ideas on the table. Not just the professional creatives and strategists. Clients, account people, media, technologist, sales, engineering and accounting can all add a very valuable perspective. Spouses and children who know the problem to be solved can too.

Loud and Proud

We all need to contribute our ideas without apologizing. Because when you eliminate the disclaimers, and stop unselling your work before you share it, you’ll get a much better reaction. Which makes everyone more comfortable exploring and sharing their ideas in the future.

Key Takeaway

Great ideas can come from everywhere. There is no monopoly on creativity in creative departments and creative businesses. Which means that no one should ever apologize for having a good thought. The best idea wins. It’s that simple. So share your thinking without discounting it. Encourage others to do the same. And let’s recognize and value all the disparate thoughts that helped us build to the best final idea. When you do that you create an environment that generates more great ideas. I should know. I am a professional.

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