A few years ago my wife and I went to London. We went without our three kids, which made it feel like we were playing hooky on a global scale. On the second night of our trip we had a world-class dinner experience at The Ritz.
Afterwards we strolled down Piccadilly, hand in hand. It was a wonderful July night. We were excited to be in one of the world’s greatest cities. We were adventurously far from home. And we had just finished a meal that we would talk about for the rest of our days. Life was good.
Then something even more interesting happened. There, in that date-night glow, we witnessed a show that no one in the world saw except us. It was a one-man, one-act play. The script had 5 words.
The stage was on the landing in front of a shop on Piccadilly. A homeless man was making his bed for the night. He was just steps off of the very busy street, outside, exposed to the world, and the elements, with no privacy. Like a zoo animal on display.
As he went about his routine of preparing his bed for the night he said:
Life is hard. No complaints.
I will never forget that. In those five words this man summed up a simple truth about life. And how he chose to respond. He clearly understood that life is a challenging game. He accepted the challenge. Even on the days when it seemed as if he was losing.
Inspiration comes in many forms. That night I was inspired by a homeless man who faced a reality more challenging than most of us will ever face, without complaint.
On this Monday, as you head back to work, back to school and back to your own challenges, I remind you that, yes, life can be hard. But how you choose to respond to it is entirely up to you. And it is your response that makes all the difference.
Everyone has a dream. Me. You. MLK Jr., Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Yet the number of people who do something to make their dreams a reality is really small. Like Pluto vs. Jupiter.
So what’s the difference between Dreamers and Doers? I’m glad you asked. Wait, I asked. Well, I’m glad I asked because you should know the answer.
A goal is a dream with a deadline. -Napoleon Hill
Time constraints motivate you to action. If you are serious about your dream, give yourself a deadline to make it a reality. Because a deadline tells you what you need to be doing now. (Hint: You can start by setting a deadline to take the first step. I do this a lot.)
When you were in school it was easy to set goals like these:
- Make the varsity team.
- Make first chair violin.
- Get the lead part in the play.
- Go to a party with cool kids.
- Become an emcee of the Winter Carnival Talent Show and orchestrate a stunt to get the show shut down forever.
In school you have 4 (or 5) years to bring your dreams to life. That finite amount of time is a critical driver. Because you can’t stay in school forever (unless you were this guy named Brucey from my hometown).
But once you get past your schooling you start to float in an odd, timeless space. It’s like losing the effects of gravity once you leave Earth. Time is still slipping by. You just don’t notice it until it’s too late. Like alcohol in a really fruity drink.
We all need time to ground us.
Time scarcity is what tells us what we need to do NOW.
If you want to accomplish great things, travel exciting places, learn new skills or start a business, you need deadlines. The deadline creates the urgency to act today.
When I turned 40 I set a goal of starting my own ad agency by the time I was 42. I easily beat the deadline. The time limit forced me to start moving. And when I started moving things developed quickly. I set timelines for other business plans at the same time. Those plans are coming to life now too. On the other hand, I have a whole mess of dreams that I haven’t given deadlines. Those dreams are just floating out there, like Sandra Bullock, calling to George Clooney.
Dreaming is fun and easy. But it won’t translate to wealth, experience, accomplishment or pride without a deadline. Set one for yourself. Or set a lot of deadlines. Accomplish a lot. I’m giving you until midnight on Sunday to take the first step. You’re on the clock. Tick…Tick…Tick…
Happy Labor Day! I’m honored that you took a moment to read my blog today. Because as you read this, the last hours of summer are sprinting through the hourglass. You would probably be better off using this time to soak up some sunshine. Either way, that healthy summer tan is going to start fading at sundown. Sorry. I’ll try to make this brief.
Labor Day is for you.
Labor Day is YOUR national holiday. It is a day to honor the work you do. Yes, you!
According to The US Labor Department (Labor Day’s Parents), Labor Day constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
Good for you, Worker Bee! Have some honey! Take the day off. Eat a hotdog, drink a Miller Lite and blow off some steam by throwing some bags in a hole.
This is a great time to reflect on your career.
Labor Day is also the perfect day for your annual career evaluation. It’s like a mammogram or prostate check for you career. Only you get to keep your clothes on, if you want.
Careers are long and complicated journeys. Along the way we often become so consumed with our daily work that we don’t think about the big picture.
It’s easy to focus on the days and lose site of the career.
I took the time to chart my ideal career course at the beginning of my journey. If you haven’t done that yet, do it today. Determine all the things you want to accomplish in your career AND what the end looks like.
I had a vision for my entire career from the starting blocks. Luckily for me, my wife Dawn always seems to know when it has been too long since I have revisited my career map.
At those times she poses these two simple questions:
- Are you where you want to be?
- Where are you going next?
These questions have been extremely helpful to me over the past 15 years. Here is how they can be helpful to you.
6 ways these questions help your career.
- They remind you that you have a career plan (if you haven’t written yours down do it now).
- They make you cognizant of the passing of time.
- They remind you of your valuable accumulation of experience and abilities.
- They remind you that if you want to accomplish everything in your plan you need to keep moving.
- They help you rise above your current day-to-day work to see your entire career and how much of it is yet unwritten.
- Most importantly, they are a scary reminder that if you don’t start writing the next chapter, there will be no next chapter. There will be no rising drama. There will be no cray-cray challenge that tests your fortitude. No great triumph. Your career story will end on this chapter. That is perfectly acceptable if you have accomplished everything in your plan. I have not.
You just read the critical part of the post. Feel free to go enjoy some sun now. If it is raining or nighttime as you read this, I baked you some more blog cookies below.
My last 3 Labor Day evaluations.
On Labor Day 2015 I was deep into my plans for starting my own advertising agency. My career evaluation was full of excitement and potential. But only if I followed through with the plan and plunged into entrepreneurship, which was the next square on my Career Candyland board game.
On Labor Day 2016 I had launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, and had already worked with 8 clients. I was learning. We were growing. I was on course.
Today, Labor Day 2017, I couldn’t be happier. I love what I am doing. I love what we are building at The Weaponry. I have a great team of full-time, part-time and some-time coworkers. I love the clients we have been honored to help. We have now worked with 20+ great brands in the United States and Canada. This is the most exciting and rewarding chapter of my career. But I wouldn’t have gotten to it if I had not regularly pondered where I stood in my career and where I wanted to go next.
So each year, at Labor Day, as you enjoy the tribute to your labor, take a few minutes or a few hours to ask yourself, what’s next for my career? Find the next step towards the type of success you’ve always wanted. Take the steps that add new, more interesting chapters to your life story. Don’t just coast through each year trying not to get fired. If you stop evaluating long enough it becomes too late. The game is over. The book is done. And no one wants to read it. But if you chart your progress and refocus every Labor Day, you’ll have a book to be proud of. And I can’t wait to read it.
There are valuable lesson to be found in everyday items. I was reminded of this recently while eating breakfast at a Bob Evans restaurant with my family. The waitress gave each of us a bendy straw for our drinks. Unlike a crazy straw, these bendy straws don’t come pre-crazied. You have to add the crazy yourself. The straws were flexible enough to twist, coil and angle in entertaining ways. So we twisted, coiled and angled them.
As we played with the straws I imagined the creative possibilities with these simple yet interesting devices. And let’s face it, a straw is a moronically simple device. It’s a tube. It’s purpose in life is to help you move liquids short distances. But these particular straws did their job with a flair that made them stand out. Which is a good lesson for us all.
Lesson 1: A simple job done with flair becomes memorable.
If you can find ways to do your simplest jobs with a bit of entertainment you can create valuable memories and experiences. This is the calling card of Benihana restaurants. It happens when a pizza maker tosses dough in the air instead of stretching it on a work surface. It’s not hard to add a little wow and wonder. The payoff lasts a long time in the minds of your audience. This is true if you are an entertainer, a brand trying to create memorable experiences or a parent making pancakes on a Saturday morning. So let your flair flag fly.
After a bit of creative play, my six-year-old son, Magnus, tried to use his straw to straw-up some lemonade. He turned to me and said, ‘It doesn’t work anymore.’ He handed me the straw and I noticed a tiny hole in its bendy region. I had seen this before. The prognosis was not good.
It reminded me of one of the simple truths of straw-ology.
Lesson 2: A small hole ruins the straw.
If you’ve never experienced this before, take a pin, needle or your favorite pricking device, and put a small hole in a straw. Then try to use it. It will no longer suck properly.
If a small hole can ruin a straw, small holes in your business, or team can cause serious problems too. Every business and team has a purpose. My advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, exists to help our clients look more attractive to their most important audiences. Even a small hole in our system could prevent us from delivering our products and services. So we have to continuously scan our system for flaws. Then fix them.
It can be easy to ignore the small things. But if you want to create something great, you have to continuously eliminate weaknesses and keep improving the machine. Watch out for the holes in your straw. Your small issues or flaws may seem insignificant. But they can ruin the integrity of your entire system.
There you have it. Lessons from a straw.
If this post wasted your time, leave a comment saying ‘The straw post sucked.’
If you got something out of this post, leave a comment saying ‘The straw post didn’t suck.’
Thanks in advance for participating in my straw poll.
Recently I posted about being asked to MC a fundraising luncheon. Based on the popularity of the post I expect there are people who read the post who wondered how it went. I also expect some people liked the post without even reading it. I’ll take what I can get.
To quickly recap, my friend Stacy Sollenberger asked me a HUGE favor, which was to serve as the MC for Emerge Scholarships’ annual fundraising luncheon and celebration in Atlanta. Emerge Scholarships, as the name would indicate, offers scholarships to badass women who have had their educations interrupted by all sorts of challenges that life has thrown their way.
I am thrilled to say the event was a great success. I didn’t trip or fall off the stage (although I was prepared with a line in case that happened). There was very little booing. However, there were some boo-like sounds when I dropped this line in my welcoming remarks:
‘This will be a great event if you are out of here by 1pm. I will make that happen. Because everyone knows that in Atlanta, we don’t like it when our events go into overtime.’
Stacy told me I would meet some amazing people at the event. And I did. The co-chair and Keynote Speaker, Jill Ratliff of Empowerhouse Leadership Consultancy is a total powerhouse who rocks lavender streaks in her hair. The woman in charge of pulling the event together, Latasha Smith-Emeri, from Coca-Cola, was so badass and bulletproof in her planning and organizing of the event that I would raise my hand to work with her, anywhere, anytime. Stacy, who is a total professional and an amazing friend to everyone, was special to see in action. She was thoughtful and kind to everyone involved (she also treated me to a Frito Burrito afterwards, so bonus points for SS). Amy Critzer of Meeting Expectations met every expectations in taking care of all the random things that needed to be done to pull off the event.
But best of all, we did what we set out to do. Which is raise money to help provide more scholarships. We set a goal of raising $30,000. As the final bell rang at 1pm we had raised $33,300. Donations have continued to come in. The current total is over $35,000. You can see the latest total here.
It was extremely rewarding to help these strong, determined and inspiring women and such a great cause. I was proud to see so many of my friends at the event, getting involved and contributing. I encourage you to get involved in something bigger than yourself. Something that pays you back internally. And maybe in the next life. Thanks again to Emerge Scholarships for asking me to play. Now let’s cut this off before it goes into overtime.
I recently received a cryptic text from my good friend Stacy Sollenberger in Atlanta. It simply said, ‘Do you have a few minutes to talk? I have a HUGE favor to ask you.’ My curiosity was piqued. What could Stacy’s huge favor possibly be? Does she need me to take in one of her brainiac kids for a summer to teach them what a non-brainiac parent is like? Does she need a kidney? Does she need bail money? (I figured it was bail money). Either way, huge favors are interesting. Because having to ask someone for a huge favor is an inherently awkward situation.
Which begs the question, how do you respond when someone asks you for a huge favor? Do you lean in and want to help any way you can? Do you open up your excuse case (the buck-passing cousin to the suitcase) and pull out a good excuse because you are not into offering favors? Do you worry that the favor, and therefore your personal sacrifice will be too great? Or does it all depend on who is asking?
Now, back to the story.
Stacy called the next morning and revealed the favor…
Stacy co-chairs a remarkable organization called Emerge Scholarships. They offer academic scholarships to women whose educations have been interrupted, who are doing everything they can to better their lives, despite facing and overcoming some ridiculous obstacles. The kicker: to earn the scholarship you also have to be giving back to your community.
Stacy asked me if I would be willing to MC Emerge Scholarship’s annual celebration luncheon. What The What? This was no HUGE favor. This was a HUGE opportunity for me to help a great organization in its efforts to help others. Not to mention it’s an opportunity to dust off my powder blue bell-bottomed tuxedo.
She said, “We want the event to be fun, and uplifting and a good time for everyone.” Which was perfect, because I triple majored in those areas in college. I was all in on this favor. So we began planning.
The more I heard about the women Emerge Scholarships helps the prouder I was to be involved. I heard story after story of inspiring women who had faced things that would cause others to throw in the proverbial towel on their dreams. Disease, divorce, abuse, poverty, etc. Yet these women were determined to complete their education in order to become the person they had always envisioned, and provide a better future for their families. On top of that, the eligible women were all helping others, despite facing real struggles themselves. This is a special sub-set of human.
The vetting process is so thorough, and the candidates so worthy, that this doesn’t even feel like a charitable organization. It feels like an insider-trading deal. They type of thing Martha Stewart would want in on. Betting on these women is a sure thing. They are absolutely determined to make the most of the opportunities they have been given. If you are looking for an idea for an inspirational book or movie, talk to one of these women. And my agent. #FindersFee
Emerge Scholarships is the story of strong women who have had great success in life helping other strong women who know that their success is waiting for them, just on the other side of their college degrees.
So I have a HUGE favor to ask of you.
Find a cause you believe in and dedicate a portion of your time every month to helping others who need it. If you are looking for a great cause, and you are in the Atlanta area, and you are a human between the ages of 2 and 122, check out emergeluncheon.swellgives.com. Consider attending the event on Thursday, February 16th. It’s at the Cherokee Country Club in Buckhead (if they will let me in the place, anyone can get it). If you can’t attend, it would he helpful to donate a couple of dollars or offer a quick share of the event on The Twitter or The Facebook.
We should all remember that the more we give, the more we shall receive. And it is immensely enjoyable to give. Especially to those who deserve it, appreciate it, and do their part to amplify the contributions of others.
Thanks for the opportunity, Stacy. Oh, and I’m not really wearing a blue tuxedo. An event like this deserves the orange one.
Wow! Originally I thought I would post something today about the Super Bowl LI commercials. But I barely remember them. The fragments I do recall are only because I’m trying really, really hard to come up with something. As if I’m being interrogated during a crime investigation. Um… there was the Skittles spot. Um… then Alfa Romeo showed up for some reason. Justin Timberlake referred to an old NSYNC song. And Terry Bradshaw was a mess. I’m sorry. I’ll go back and watch them later to see what I should have remembered.
Last night was all about the game. It was hyper-relevant to me and my social circles because I grew up in New England as a huge Patriots fan. But I recently lived, and still own a home, in Atlanta. I have great love for my Atlantans and the way they embraced the Y’Albrechts. I didn’t want either fan base to lose.
But I wanted the Patriots to win.
I won’t recap the entire game. FOX, ESPN and the NFL Network can do that ad nauseam. I’ll simply share a couple of inflection points.
At the opening kickoff the game was close. Really close.
Then, when the Patriots went down by two touchdowns, the announcers were quick to point out that no team in Super Bowl history had ever come back from a 14 point deficit.
That concerned me, statistically. But come on, my team is the Pats! You know, Tom Brady, Malcolm Butler, Bill Belichick. We can make up 14 points wicked fast. It was early in the game. I’ve seen this movie before.
But suddenly it was 21 nothing. Even the eternal optimist in me was discouraged going into halftime down 21-3.
It didn’t get any better in the 3rd quarter. In fact, the Patriots were down by 25 points with just over 2 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. That was 2.5 times the largest lead any team had ever overcome in the Super Bowl! This was not good.
I felt like 12-year-old Adam, watching my team get steamrolled by the 1985 Bears. I was having painful Steve Grogan, Tony Eason flashbacks. Even Billy Buckner made an appearance.
There, in the lopsided 3rd quarter, an amazing Super Bowl statistic was born. Maybe the most shocking statistic in the history of sports. It has the potential to change your life if you let it. According to ESPN:
Atlanta had greater than a 99.5% win probability when leading 28-3 in the 3rd quarter.
Or, said another way (which may be statistically illegal):
New England had less than a 0.5% win probability when trailing 28-3 in the 3rd quarter.
Yet we know what happened.
I am not viewing the comeback as a Falcons fan. I don’t see a letdown. Or a choke. Or an improbable loss.
I view the comeback as a Patriots fan. It was unbelievable in the truest sense of this overused word. And as the statistic shows, it was all but impossible.
But I also look at this crazy statistic outside of football. As a human. As a father. As a family member. As the owner of The Weaponry. As a friend of people battling with terrible hardships and nasty diseases and demons and addictions. What happened last night is a reason for the hopeless to hope. To believe the unbelievable. I have never purchased a copy of a championship game. But this game belongs in my library of reminders and inspirations. It may belong in yours too.
Winning in business is hard. It requires you to never give up, never give out and never give in. Let this game and this statistic serve as an inspiration when you are pitching new business, cold-calling, interviewing and recruiting. Let this game remind you to push harder when you are behind in revenue. And when you are ahead of projections. When you are losing market share and when creditors are calling. There is always something you can do to turn things around.
To my Falcons-fan friends, I know it hurts to sit on the other side of this inspirational teeter totter (seesaw). But the Falcons are on the rise. Great things will come your way too. Take it from me, going through a game like this, or getting demolished by the 1985 Bears, makes the eventual Super Bowl win even sweeter.