What is the best thing you can offer a homeless person?

America has a problem with homelessness. We have a lot of people who don’t have a home or a proper place to shelter. And when you don’t have that basic human need met it is hard to bring your best self to the rest of life’s challenges.

I have a homelessness problem too. My problem is that I don’t know how to respond to homeless people. In most areas of my life, I have a well-considered way of thinking about situations. But when it comes to responding to homeless people I still have glitches in my processor.

Do I give them money? Food? Water? Boxes and sleeping bags? Or do I just walk past?

Early in my career, I got paid for a freelance writing project with a bunch of gift certificates to a crummy restaurant chain. I carried those certificates with me and handed them to homeless people. But when they saw the name of the restaurant they usually looked as if they wanted to hand them right back.

Last Week

On my morning commute last week I saw a homeless man holding a sign at a stoplight. The light was red, so I stopped. Because I remembered that rule from my driver’s education class.

I had my window down and my music up. I was in a great mood on a beautiful morning.

The man on the corner stepped towards me and began nodding his head to my music.

Then he said to me, ‘Man, you are the happiest person I have seen all day!

I smile at him and replied, ‘That’s my thing!’

I asked him his name.

He said, ‘Rick.’

I responded, ‘My name is Adam.’

He shared, ‘I used to be The Humble Artist.’

I replied, ‘You still are aren’t you?’

He said, ‘No.’

I asked what changed.

He confessed, ‘I don’t do art anymore. And I’m no longer humble.’

I said, ‘Neither am I! Deion Sanders once said “They don’t pay nobody to be humble!'”

We both laughed. It was really nice to hear a homeless person laugh.

The light turned green.

And I said “It was nice to meet you, Rick! Have a great day. And do your art!

As I drove through Milwaukee to my downtown office I reflected on my interaction with Rick.

Was our conversation worth more than money or food?

Was it worth anything?

How about the smile and happiness I shared with him?

Or my interest in learning his name?

Or the encouragement to create art?

Did any of that help?

I don’t know.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

But I wrote down his name, so I won’t forget.

And I hope that he feels like he made a new friend. And that someone else knows him by name. I hope that he felt like another human respected him as an equal. I hope he knows I am pulling for him to find a home so that he can spend more time thinking about art.

Key Takeaway

Keep trying to figure out the things you don’t know. Life is a big experiment full of trial and error. Don’t be afraid to try different approaches and learn what works for you. The aim should be to have a positive impact in your own way. And share what you learn so that others can learn too.

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

+For more life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

5 Keys To A Great Life.

This summer my family and I took an amazing vacation to the west coast. We visited Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Bryce Canyon, The Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park. Along the way, we packed in a lot of surfing, hiking, and In-N-Out Burger.

There was also a lot of togetherness. In fact, the togetherness is my favorite part of family vacations. I love having my family of 5 together in the car, at the hotel, at meals, and throughout our activities for a week. It’s one of the perks of taking your kids far from home when they have no money. They are happy to stay close so that they can eat.

The togetherness results in a lot of conversation. This morning I found a list I wrote of 5 Keys to a great life that I shared with my family during a conversation in L.A. The list was written on the notepad from the Loews hotel in Santa Monica. And just being able to bring my family to that beautiful beachfront hotel felt like I was winning at life. (This paragraph has been brought to you by the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica. Where families can enjoy togetherness, beach access and notepads.)

Here is the list.

5 keys To A Great Life.

  1. Dream Big Dreams: The size of your life is determined by the size of your dreams. It’s the same phenomenon that links the size of a goldfish* to the size of its fishbowl. So think big. Dream big. Do big. *This is true of real goldfish. But not the delicious snack crackers, which come in only one size.

2. Take Risks: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Risks are the gateway to rewards. Take chances. Learn to be comfortable with uncertainty. You’ll figure things out along the way. Bet on yourself. Because you have the ability to stack the odds in your favor through determination and hard work.

3. Develop Rare and Valuable Skills: Become really great at something special. The journey is extremely rewarding. The process of self-improvement is empowering. The better you get at a skill the more passionate you become. The world will reward you with opportunities that are not available to those without those skillz. Which will enable you to pay the billz.

4. Develop and Maintain Strong Relationships At the end of our days the only thing that will really matter is the impact we have on each other. Prioritize your human connections. Develop as many relationships as you can. Maintain them over time. Those connections will reward you in more ways than you could possibly count. Unless your rare and valuable skill is counting.

5. Become Self-Reliant: The greatest gift you can give yourself is self-reliance. Become a resourceful problem-solver. Learn to make your own money, cook, and change a tire. Self-reliance builds confidence. Both are attractive to others. The more you can handle on your own the more control you have over your life. This is the basic theme of every song by Destiny’s Child.

Key Takeaway

Dream big. Develop your skills. Invest in your relationships. And learn to count on yourself. Those basic steps make it easy to take risks because you know things will turn out well. After all, you’re going to make it happen.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The important life lesson I learned as a young driver in Vermont.

I grew up in Vermont. Which is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The rolling Green Mountains of Vermont are heavenly. It’s where snow, maple syrup, and Ben & Jerry’s were born. I am always homesick for Vermont in the fall when the leaves perform their grand finale and the landscape explodes with color. It’s why leaf peepers flock to Vermont every fall. What? You’ve never heard of leaf peepers? Ask Larry, Darrell, and Darrell.

Vermont Driving

Vermont is still my favorite place to drive. You are greeted by one amazing view after another. You find yourself wowing a lot. At the bigness, the smallness, the coziness, the quaintness. Vermont is a very simple place that remains largely undeveloped and unpolluted by man-made sights and sounds. Which is why it is recognized as the least polluted state in America. (To be fair, there aren’t a lot of people there to do the polluting.)

When I turned 16 and started driving the quiet, winding country roads of Vermont, I was amazed by the beautiful and everchanging views through the windshield. However, I also discovered something surprising that I never noticed as a passenger.

The best views were often seen in the rearview mirror.

After I discovered this visual secret I found myself frequently checking the rearview in my old Ford Escort, my Mom’s VW Jetta, or my Dad’s Saab 900. I found that the rearview magic could be found in every make and model of car I tested.

Over the past few decades, I have learned that life is like Vermont. Both are full of beauty. And if you are doing life right, there is more beauty behind you every day. So don’t forget to reflect. On your life. On your career. On your successes. And on your growth. Because no matter what’s in front of you, you can always find an inspiring view behind you.

Key Takeaway

Check your personal rearview mirror regularly. Your memories, experiences, and successes of the past are beautiful things. They are reminders of life fully realized. Your personal rearview mirror will show you how wonderful life can be. It will remind you how great you can feel. It will teach you how much you can accomplish. It will reveal the positive impact others have had on you. And it will remind you of the positive influence you can have on others.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

My favorite place in the world may surprise you.

When you ask people about their favorite places you get a lot of similar answers. The beach. The mountains. The woods. A bustling cosmopolitan area. Quaint villages. Maybe a Rennaissance fair for the corset and turkey leg crowd.

But one of my favorite places is on elevators. I love those things. Ironically, the elevator was invented by Elisha Graves Otis, a Vermonter. Which I find hilarious because the tallest building in Vermont is still only about 4 stories high. And that’s a barn in Windsor County.

(Before any cranky Vermonters send me hate mail and explain that there is a six-story hotel in Burlington, let me say I already know that. I am a Vermonter myself. My wife wears maple-scented perfume when she wants to get my attention.)

Back to the elevator.

Elevators are awkward places. They are small boxes where strangers gather too close for comfort. Like an 80s sitcom. But that awkwardness creates the magic of an elevator.

Instead of simply sitting in the uncomfortableness of the elevator I embrace it. I use it to my advantage.

I lob out jokes intended to break the ice. It is easier to get a laugh on an elevator than anywhere else on Earth. Because the situation is inherently funny.

The Weaponry, the advertising and ideas agency I founded, has recently moved into a new office in a 14-story building in downtown Milwaukee. I now ride 2 elevators twice a day. One elevator between the parking garage and the lobby. One between the lobby and my office. And I love them both.

I notice the tension every time I step onboard. And I use it to create human interactions the way a sailboat uses tension on the sail to propel the vessel.

That elevator tension is a gift. Use it. It accelerates human interactions. It facilitates conversation. It’s the perfect place to start a new relationship.

Trust me. I met my wife on an elevator. She laughed at my jokes. I stalked her when she got off. Now we’ve been married for 20 years. #truestory

Key Takeaway.

The oddity of the elevator creates the perfect conversation starter. Use it to your advantage. It will help you meet new people. It will help you laugh more. And relationships that start with a laugh are the most enjoyable.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

10 activities to do away from work that make you better at work.

Happy Labor Day! This is the day we set aside to honor working people like you. Your work is important and noble. It helps you pay for your groceries. And therapy. But today I hope you don’t work at all.

Instead, consider these 10 non-working activities that make you better on the job.

  1. Rest Recover, refresh, and renew. Take time to rest so that you don’t burn yourself out at work. (Yes, I realize that activity #1 is technically an inactivity.)

2. Exercise This keeps your body strong. A strong body is a strong asset during the work day. And if you can run a 5K, rock climb or lift Instagramable weight, then stapling the coversheet on your TPS report should be a breeze.

3. Read: Reading helps you discover new ideas. It inspires. It sparks creativity. It expands your worldview. It enables you to bring new thinking and perspective to work. And like Southwest Airlines, reading helps you get away.

4. Socialize: Develop and maintain relationships to improve your mental well-being. Socialize to expose yourself to new opportunities in a clothes-on-kind-of-way. All of this contributes to your workplace success.

5. Sleep: Experiment to discover your optimal amount of sleep. Then hit your number as often as you can. Getting the quantity of sleep your body loves will help you wake up ready for the world, like an 80’s band. And ready for the work day ahead. Waking up each day feeling strong and rested for the work day ahead is a beautiful way to start your day.

6. Travel: When you see new things it exposes you to new ideas. It leads to a greater understanding of the world and all of its beautiful diversity. Which contributes to creative thinking, problem-solving, and points with your travel loyalty program. (You did sign up for the loyalty program, right?)

7. Spend time with nature. Spend time away from the human-made world to recharge and gain perspective on life. It is a great way to slow down, destress and break out your cute outdoor clothing. While you are out there you have time to think. And thinking is the worker’s most valuable activity.

8. Volunteer: Offer your time, talent, and energy to do meaningful work without pay. It reminds you of the ways your work can create a better, more caring world. It reminds you that there are many ways to add value and contribute. And that there are many ways to be compensated for your efforts that are not monetary.

9. Laugh: Laughing is living. It relieves stress. It makes you feel like everything will be alright. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. See the world as a great comedy and your perspective will contribute immensely to your enjoyment of both your work and play.

10. Spend time with your family: Make sure to balance your commitment to work with a commitment to family time. Spend quality time with your spouse and children. (If you have them.) Spend time with your parents and siblings. (If you have them.) It will remind you why you are working in the first place. (Especially when you see your kids’ smiling, crooked teeth in need of orthodontia.)

Key Takeaway

You don’t become a better teammate, employee, or leader by spending all of your time at work. You become better away from work. Use your time off to become a better, smarter, more relaxed human. Up your creativity, connectedness, and curiosity away from work. Then show up to work a little better every day. Now go make the most of your Labor Day. I want to hear all about it on Tuesday morning.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Choose your ultimate destination and all your decisions become clear.

When you travel you start with a destination in mind. Once you know where you want to go the planning begins. You make decisions about how you will get to the destination. Maybe you will take a plane, a train, or an automobile. Maybe you will ride in the back of a truck with the Kenosha Kickers.

When you start with a clear destination you develop clear ideas for getting there with your available resources. Like Claritin Clear.

But most people never declare their destination. It is the critical first step that informs every step that follows. Without the decision, you will run in circles. Or stand still. Like a U2 song.

Declare your destination now.

Where are you ultimately trying to go?

Once you’ve chosen your destination you can plan your path. You can determine the time, actions and resources needed for your adventure. Every one of your decisions will be clearer. You will know when to jump on opportunities and when to let them pass you by. You can evaluate every decision you make by whether it will get you closer to your end goal.

Key Takeaway

Think hard about your destinations. Where do you want your life to go? Where is your career taking you? What is your family goal? What about your finances, health, relationships and religion? Determine where you want to end. Make all of your decisions to get you to the destination. With a clear endpoint in mind, you will enjoy the entire journey.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

My best advice on how to enjoy a concert more.

This has been an amazing summer of music concerts for me. After covid cleared stages around the world in 2020 and left groupies fawning over grocery store stockboys with access to the new shipments of toilet paper, live music is thankfully back.

Here is the list of artists I have seen since Memorial Day weekend:

  • Eric Church (Milwaukee)
  • Brothers Osborne (Milwaukee)
  • Parker McCollum (Milwaukee)
  • Zac Brown Band (Atlanta)
  • Night Ranger (Mequon)
  • 38 Special (Mequon)
  • Poison (Boston)
  • Motley Crue (Boston, where I saw ladies do things they only do at rock shows and biker rallies)
  • Def Leoppard (Boston)

Tonight my family and I are closing out our Summer Concert Series by seeing Keith Urban and Ingred Andress at the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee.

Seeing ZBB in ATL with my FMLY

Getting The Most From The Music

I am always looking for better strategies for success and happiness. And that applies to my concerting too.

Here are 3 of my favorite concert-going tips:

1. Bring Ear Plugs. Ear plugs are cheap and slip into your pocket. Use them as needed. But you hate to want them and not have them. The closer you are to the front, and the more tattoos the artists have on their face, the more likely you are to need them.

2. Live Nation’s Concert Week

Around Memorial Day Live Nation has a concert week promotion. During the promotion they sell tickets to shows for $25 all-in. That means that the tickets, including all the sneaky concerting fees, is just $25. I snagged 5 tix for the Eric Church, Zac Brown and Keith Urban shows. Which meant my family of 5 saw 3 major concerts for just $125 per show. When we saw Zac Brown Band as a family last year each ticket was nearly that price.

2. Set List Prep

A couple of weeks before I see a concert I look up the artist’s setlist online. The setlist is the list of songs the artist performs at a concert, in the order they perform them. I usually look up the setlist from their last few concerts to see if they are consistent or if they mix it up a bit. I like Setlist.fm, but there are others.

Then I take the setlist from the most recent concert, and the additional songs that pop up from the other shows I research, and I create a playlist of those songs, in order, on Spotify.

If there is an opening act, or multiple headliners I will also add their setlists to the playlist. Then I share that playlist with my family or friends with whom I will be Rock’n into the night, like 38 Special.

Then I listen to that playlist when I am driving, working or chillaxin over the next couple of weeks.

This approach has 3 major benefits:

  1. It gets me excited for the concert. (I am a naturally excitable boy, so it doesn’t take much.)
  2. It helps me freshen up on the lyrics of the songs I know, or know-ish, but haven’t heard or sung in a while.
  3. I learn the songs off the new album. Traditionally, the new songs played at a concert are a downer because even if they are good songs you don’t know the words. So when they are played, it’s like a participatory timeout for anyone who doesn’t know the lyrics.
  4. I know which cover songs to expect. Cover songs are songs by other popular artists. Zac Brown Band is the best at working in amazing cover songs into their setlist. By adding these songs to your prep playlist you will be able to sing along and sound like you know every song by every artist ever. Like ever, ever.

Key Takeaway

The best way to maximize success and happiness is through strategic preparation. Do your homework. Find great deals. And find great ideas that help you maximize results and enjoyment. Remember that when people show up and know every word to every song, there was probably a great deal of prep involved that you just didn’t see. It’s true at concerts. It’s true in sports. And it’s true at work. Spandau Ballet taught me that.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

What great lessons would you learn if you met the ideal you?

Life is a choose-your-own-adventure game. Every moment of every day, you get to decide what you do next. You choose action vs non-action. You choose the type of action. You choose where you are. And who you are with. You even choose which way to put the toilet paper roll on the holder. Which determines whether or not you are a heathen.

Imagine that with every choice, you are splitting into multiple versions of yourself. There is a version of you that said yes and no, who did and did not with every choice you ever had the opportunity to make.

Every one of the possible choices led to a different possible you.

Now imagine that once you reach the afterlife, you are all there. All of the iterations of you spawned by different decisions converge at You-a-palooza. Even Death Row you would be there, fresh from the electric chair. You would recognize them by their hair. And the spark in their eyes.

Super You

You would meet the version of you that accomplished the most and made the most good decisions. You would meet the you who took the most actions, who put themself in the right place at the right time, and spent time with the best people.

Think about how that person compares to the you that you are today.

Would you be very alike, or very different?

What could you learn from them?

This is a semi-creepy photo that semi-represents the Multi-You Concept.

Now, consider what you can do to get closer to that version of yourself, starting today.

Would you:

  • Take new actions?
  • Make different decisions?
  • Update your goals and decision-making criteria?
  • Move?
  • Change jobs or careers?
  • Start that personal project?
  • Volunteer and give?
  • Create a business?
  • Take a leap?
  • Not be afraid?
  • Exercise?
  • Hang out with different people?
  • Stop a bad habit?
  • Pick up new hobbies?
  • Study?
  • Read?
  • Ask questions?
  • Put the donut down?

Key Takeaway

There is a best version of you. You have the opportunity to get closer to that person every day. Consider what they are like, who they are and what they do that makes them so great. Compare yourself to Super You. Let them guide you. And close the gap between the two of you every day.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The important life lesson we can all learn from rivers.

Last week I crossed over 2 rivers I have crossed a thousand times before.

But this time the rivers were different.

Completely different. (Like Stand By Me River and Sidewalk in Front of The Viper Room River.)

I was farther north than I had ever seen the rivers before.

If it weren’t for the signs on the bridges that told me what rivers I was crossing I would have never recognized them.

They were much smaller bodies of water than they are farther downstream.

They were more like creeks.

And if you only knew the creekish version of the rivers you would be shocked to learn what they transformed into 50, 100, or 200 miles south.

I took the fact that this happened with two different rivers as a universal reminder that this is what happens with all rivers. (Even Joan and Philip.)

It was also a reminder that those rivers are like you and me.

We all start small.

But we are designed to grow, strengthen, accumulate and expand as we go.

We get smarter and more capable. We grow in our knowledge and experience. We expand our skills and capabilities.

As a result, our influence, access, and impact grows.

Our potential, momentum, and power increase.

It’s a wonder to witness in someone else.

It’s an amazing feeling inside yourself.

But you have to reflect to recognize it.

Just like visiting the river upstream.

Key Takeaway

Keep going. Keep flowing. Keep growing. Just like the river does. You’ll become more impressive, more impactful and more useful to others as you travel your journey.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.