How to make great choices when you have many options.

My wife Dawn and I have started scheduling our dental cleanings at the same time. It’s a cute couple quirk I have enjoyed. Yesterday was our big day for getting scraped, polished and flossed as a couple.

When we pulled into the dentist’s office there was one open parking spot. So I took it. It was the easiest decision I made all week. Because it was the only option available. It seems we have a very popular dentist. Or they have a very small parking lot.

But this morning I drove to the airport to catch a very early flight, and the parking structure was practically empty. Which reminded me of something Dawn said to me early in our relationship.

The hardest place to park is in an empty parking lot. 

-Dawn Albrecht

The statement sounds moronic. But it’s highly insightful. 

If every parking spot is open you have to think more than you do when there is only one spot. And you probably have not predetermined your empty parking lot decision-making process. Which means that when you arrive at an empty lot you have to make a decision on the spot.

That decision could involve simply taking the closest space to the entrance. But there are often 2 or more highly coveted close spaces. Plus, many times when you park you are not going to one specific entrance. Like when you park at a park. Which is totally meta.

There are a host of other factors to consider.

  • Is there shade I should consider on a hot and sunny day?
  • Will I be going in one door and out another?
  • Do I have multiple places to visit while in this parking lot?
  • Should I consider staying away from shopping carts?
  • What space makes it easiest to drive away? 
  • Where do I want to be when the parking lot fills up?
  • Does it look like Joni Mitchell or Counting Crows were here before they paved paradise?

These are the branches on the decision tree that suddenly sprout when you arrive at the naked parking lot.

But who cares?  It’s just a parking lot. There is no real way to get this decision wrong, Long Duk Dong.

However…

The parking lot is an analogy for your life.

When you only have one option in life you take what you are given. The decision is simple. Because it is a nondecision.

But when all of the options are available, how do you choose?

  • How do you decide where you will live when you could live anywhere?
  • How do you decide which career path to take when you could do anything?
  • How do you decide where to go to school when you could study anywhere?
  • How do you decide where to invest your money?
  • How do you decide what to eat?
  • How do you decide what clothes to wear?
  • How do you decide if you should add a silly final bullet to a list of serious bullets?

How Do You Decide?

You need to develop your own decision-making criteria. Your criteria should be based on your values, philosophies and beliefs. Developing your personal criteria for decisions large and small helps you make better decisions faster in every area of your life.

It is highly valuable to consider what influences your decisions. What are your core beliefs? What are your priorities? And which factors are simply non-factors to you?

Consider the following exercise related to the empty parking lot.

Rank the following factors when deciding where to park:

  1. Speed to my destination
  2. Exercise opportunity
  3. Ease of exit
  4. Isolation from dings
  5. Access to my car
  6. Most privacy for making out

Once you know which of these are most important you can make better choices faster, pussycat.

Your decision-making criteria apply to the parking lot and your bigger life decisions. Establishing and prioritizing your values before you encounter challenging choices related to drugs, sex and stealing help you make better decisions. Knowing your priorities related to your career, investing, family, relationships, health and religion will enable you to make big decisions faster too.

  1. What is the most important factor that will drive your decisions?
  2. What is the second most important?
  3. What is third?

When you take the time to consider these questions and answer them before you pull into the empty parking lot, or make a more important life decision, the answers become easy and obvious.

Key Takeaway

Know what is most important to you. Consider your decision-making hierarchy before you need it. It enables you to make great choices when you have all of the options. And remember, you always have options.

*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.

To create more opportunities first become great at what you do best.

Friday night my family and I had dinner in Las Vegas. It was the last night of our southwestern adventure, and we didn’t really plan our last meal. At least not the way Jesus did.

Through a strange confluence of forces, including a rare desert thunderstorm that created flash floods in Vegas, we ended up eating at Buddy V’s Ristorante. I realized once we reached the restaurant that it was named after Buddy Valastro.

Shortly after we sat down to eat I spotted Buddy V himself walking into the restaurant. A few minutes later Buddy stopped by our table to say hi, check on our experience, and thank us for coming to the restaurant that night. (I refrained from saying that I loved him in Elf.)

Buddy then greeted the table next to us. The family at that table asked if they could take a picture with Buddy. Which tipped off our kids that this guy was a celebrity. So they asked us why he was famous.

Dawn and I explained that Buddy V owned Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken, New Jersey. (Fun Fact: Dawn lived in Hoboken right after graduating from college as she worked at Lifetime, Television For Women, in New York City.)

We told our kids that Buddy was so good at making cakes that he got his own show on TLC called Cake Boss. He has now starred on 5 other TV shows. He owns 18 bakeries. And he is currently launching other restaurants.

After explaining this to our kids, I said that the real lesson from Buddy V was that if you want to create a lot of opportunities for yourself you should first become really great at something. And that something could be anything.

Buddy V was so good at making cakes that the world took notice and wanted to see and know more about him and his work. His personality made him interesting to a broad crowd and the opportunities just keep coming.

But it all started because he became great at his craft.

And maybe because he has a sweet accent.

Key Takeaway

Become really great at what you do. Expertise opens doors to new opportunities. It offers you career capital. Which leads to social capital. And financial capital. Keep practicing and improving your skills and you will become sought after. And when you are sought after everything changes.

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

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

Why you should declare your lifespan today.

You are a lean, mean, scheduling machine.

When you have both a destination and an arrival time, you can easily figure out when you need to leave to get to the destination on time.

When you have work to do and a deadline to meet, you know how to complete the work on time.

It’s simple.

The amount of work to be done, and the time allotted, determine the pace. (But not the Picante sauce.)

Pace = Effort / Time

This is the basic computation we do every day to accomplish everything.

It determines how much time we allot to commute to work.

It determines how much time we need to run an errand. Or exercise. Or make whoopee.

When you know the task to complete and the time that task requires you know your start time and your pace.

Life Goals

But when you apply this innate ability to schedule and complete activities to your life goals there is a problem.

Because you don’t know the deadline.

So you don’t know how much time you have to complete the task.

Which means that you can’t determine your start time.

And you can’t determine your pace.

As a result, there is no sense of urgency.

Even to your biggest, most important goals.

The Fix

But there is a simple fix.

Declare your lifespan.

Determine the age that you will die, or no longer be capable of performing the task or achieving your goals.

This exercise helps you live more effectively.

Determine if you will have 100 years or 80 or 60 or 40 or 25.

A declared lifespan provides the proper motivation.

Equally important, it provides the math your brain needs to figure out how to get from point A to point B on time.

It makes your life-goals urgent. Like Foreigner.

Then you can get to work. And achieve your goals within the time you have left.

The deadline is the only way to make the required pace tangible. (Which I always think sounds like the ability to turn into a tangerine.)

It’s Go Time

Set your own death timer and you will find yourself moving faster.

My assumed death provided the timeline I needed to launch my own business.

My assumed death motivated me to write and publish a book.

My assumed death is driving my financial savings, investing and spending.

My assumed death is driving my travel plans.

My false deadlines are making life manageable, goals achievable and days productive. Which makes false deadlines far more attractive than false eyelashes. (What’s up with those thangs?)

Key Takeaway

Declare how much time you have left. It will provide the missing data you need in order to schedule and pace the rest of your life. It will motivate you. And it will enable you to achieve your dreams. It is one of the greatest gifts you will ever give yourself. Because the best way to spend your time is knowing that you are quickly running out of it.

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

+For more of the best life lessons the universe has shared with me, check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Why I love my gaps and you should too.

I’m willing to bet that you are not as great as you want to be. If you are, you can stop reading here.

(I see you are still reading. Which means that either I was right, or the brakes on your eyeballs don’t work.)

You may not be as fit, rich, successful, kind, patient or brave as you wish you were.

In fact, you probably fall short of your ideal on a lengthy list of skills, states, and attributes.

That’s a gift.

The gap between where you are now and your ideal provides the motivation to act. It provides the motivation to improve. It creates the silent force that propels you. It fuels your hunger, drive, and growth.

And ultimately, your gap helps close your gap.*

*If The Gap at your local mall has recently closed it’s not your fault. Unless you were the manager.

Here’s what new graduates should do now to improve their careers.

Most high school seniors will graduate within the next week or two. High school commencement is one of the most exciting events in a human’s life. And with good reason. The best, most interesting chapters of your story start after high school. Unless, of course, you were in an epic high school-based movie. In which case, it’s all downhill from here.  (You can check the 50 Greatest High School Movies of All Time here to make sure you weren’t in one).

As you begin down the yellow brick road of life you will constantly encounter new challenges and opportunities. You will find people who are trying to help you, people who need your help, and people who just want to steal your slippers.

You’ll benefit from as much good advice from those who have traveled the road before you as you can get. So please allow me to contribute a little worthwhile advice from someone who has been there, done that, and discovered some secrets to a successful journey.


An Open Letter to High School Seniors.

Dear Seniors,

Four to ten years from now, when you graduate from college, finish your military obligations, or give up on your Hollywood/Nashville/YouTube/Lottery dream, you will start focusing on your real career. When you do, everyone will tell you that you need to start building your network.

But they are wrong. You need to start building your network now. So before you throw your binders in the trash, your graduation cap in the air, and carve your initials into the wood paneling of the senior lounge, you should begin building your professional network.

WTH Is A Professional Network?

Your professional network is a collection of the people you know that may be able to positively impact your professional career. The people in your network, or community, will be able to help with career advice, finding a job, and connecting you to other people and businesses that are important to your career advancement. You will also be able to provide the same sort of help to others in your network. Because it takes a village to keep a child from moving back into their parents’ basement.

Who Are My Connections?

Your connections are your friends, your family, and your teachers. Your connections are your friends’ parents. They are the adults you know from church, and the extracurricular activities you’ve participated in. They are your coaches. They are the kids you competed both with, and against, in sports. They are the kids you know from camp (like that one girl who played the flute).

Starting A Connection Collection.

The best career move you high school seniors should make right now is to create a profile on LinkedIn and start collecting your connections. LinkedIn is an online social networking site for the business community. And right now is the best time to start collecting your network. By starting now, you will collect the most connections. And the more connections you properly maintain, the stronger your network will be. It’s kinda like being popular in high school. Only this type of popularity can dramatically impact your salary (your salary is the adult version of an allowance).

Grow As You Go

You will want to continue collecting your friends and acquaintances throughout college, trade school, military service, your walkabout, or your creative exploratory period. Every time you meet someone new, don’t just think about adding them to Snap or Insta.  Sure, do that too. But definitely add them to LinkedIn. Granted, the filters on LinkedIn aren’t as good as Snapchat. But having a good job makes you look better than any photographic editing or augmented reality can.

It’s All About The Network, (and the Benjamins)

Eventually, everyone is going to tell you to network and build your network, and that it is all about your network. That’s just an adult way of saying:

Stay in touch with the people you know, because it will connect you to opportunities, advice and endorsements that will prove highly beneficial down the road.

Why Start As A High School Senior?

You know a lot of people now that you are going to forget. Those kids you go to school with are going to do amazing things with remarkable organizations. And they are going to have opportunities for you, but only if you stay in touch. You are also going to have opportunities for them. Even better, in the real world, there are things called referral bonuses. Which means you can make extra money for helping your organization find good talent. #cha-ching

Monitoring Your Classmates

Adding your friends to LinkedIn is like putting a tracking device on them. It will allow you to collect intel on each person, like where they went to school, what they majored in, and where they worked after college.

It also puts a tracking device on you, so that others will remember your educational track, your career path and your special interests and activities. That way your connections will know when their opportunities intersect with your skills, interests and abilities.

The Adult Rock Stars Around You

Your neighbors, teachers and friends’ parents are more successful and connected than you know. Four or five years from now you could end up in a job interview with them. Or with their friends or relatives. When that happens, you will want every advantage you can get. Like a good endorsement from someone who knew you were always such a good kid. (You were always a good kid, right?)

Trust Me. I Know.

I started my career in advertising as a copywriter. But I always envisioned becoming an entrepreneur and someday starting my own ad agency. 19 years later, that’s exactly what I did. In 2016 I launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.

Do you know who my very first client was? My friend Dan Richards, whom I have known since 7th grade. Dan is the Founder and  CEO of a badass company called Global Rescue.  Which means that Dan and I went from high school classmates, and football and track teammates, to summer job coworkers, to trusted business partners. We have helped each other launch highly successful companies.

Today, one of my important clients is Sarah Wilde at Sonic Foundry, an innovative technology company based in Madison, Wisconsin. But Sarah and I have also known each other since 7th Grade, and we grew up together in Norwich, Vermont.

Sarah helped plan a couple of our Hanover High School class reunions. And I planned the most recent one. At that reunion back home in New England, we talked about potentially doing work together. Since then we have launched 2 completely new brands together from dust. As we would say in Vermont, that’s wicked awesome.

Note To Self

They say the best day to plant a tree is 20 years ago. And the second-best day is today. The same holds true for building your network. Start now by collecting your connections before you leave high school. But if you are already in college, serving your country, or in the middle of your career, and you haven’t been building your network, start now. (By now I mean after you read the next paragraph.)

Key Takeaway

There are amazingly talented people all around you. So start collecting them today. It’s the very best way to assure an abundance of everything you will need later in your career. By doing so you may help one of your high school classmates find their dream job. Or launch their own business. Or they may help you launch your dream business. I know. Because it happened to me.

-Adam Albrecht

Founder & CEO of The Weaponry

+If you realize that this is worthwhile advice, you might also like my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? It is full of more lessons like this. It features 80 of the best life lessons I have learned since graduation. Good luck graduates! It just gets better from here.

* If you know a recent graduate that you think could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

You don’t need a passion to have a fulfilling career.

I used to think that in order to be really happy in your career you had to find something you were passionate about. Then you just make that your life’s pursuit. But I no longer believe that is true. And neither should you.

Passions are: 

  1. Difficult to find
  2. Difficult to define
  3. Difficult to turn into a lucrative career.
  4. Likely to make you cut off your ear and mail it to someone you admire. #WayToVanGogh

The problem is that most people’s passions are things like music, art, yoga, puppies, food, sleep, alcohol, video games, and sexual activities. These are all good passions. And it’s easy to express how much you love these things with bumper stickers. It’s much harder to turn them into lucrative careers.

To become really happy with your career you don’t need to start out with a passion. 

You simply have to find an interesting challenge. 

If you are into problem-solving or skill development, almost anything can be considered an interesting challenge.

Next, focus on getting really good at that interesting challenge. As you get better and better at it, people will notice. They will turn to you first as a trusted resource. Then people will turn to you as an expert in that area. And that feels great. (Unless you are a hired assassin. In which case you probably have mixed feelings.)

Through the process of becoming really good at your chosen work, you are highly likely to develop a passion for your area of expertise. Consider that most people aren’t born with a passion for supply chain management, textile manufacturing, or currency trading. But a surprising number of people die with those passions.

Which means that when you dive into an interesting challenge, the challenge itself can ignite your passion. We develop passion in areas that make us feel strong, skilled and admired. We become passionate when we understand nuances and develop extreme intelligence in specific areas. Because what we are really becoming passionate about is self-improvement, mastery, and excellence.

Key Takeaway

Passions develop over time. Don’t make finding your passion your goal. Instead, recognize that the world offers an endless supply of interesting challenges and problems to solve. Grab one of them. Any of them. Then dive in. The challenge itself will be interesting. Your professional development will be fun and rewarding. Your expanding knowledge, skills and perspective will increase your value to others. Which is highly rewarding. And somewhere along the way, your interesting challenge alchemizes into your passion. When it does your work no longer feels like work. It feels like passion. And it will make others wonder how to discover their own passion so that they love their work as much as you do.

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

+ For more life lessons the universe is trying to share with you check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

What Does That Say About Me?

Yesterday was the Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend. It was a great day to sleep in, relax and recharge.

But I was up at 5:30am. Which was 30 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. I had things I wanted to do and didn’t want to waste any time. Because like Ben Franklin said, the early morning has gold in its mouth. (And so does Lil’ Wayne.)

After starting my morning by investing 90 minutes in a personal project I quickly got ready for my day. I headed down to my office in Milwaukee. On a Saturday. I was there from 8 am until 5pm, working on a special project that I will share more about soon.

After I wrapped up things at work I quickly drove home, cleaned up, and within an hour headed to American Family Field, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, for a fun night with my wife Dawn and my kids Ava, Johann and Magnus. We went to a concert featuring country artists Parker McCollum, Brothers Osborne, and headliner Eric Church. The show was incredible. And long. Eric Church played so long that I was afraid that when I returned to my parking space my Ford Expedition would be replaced by a pumpkin and a family of mice. #BibbidiBobbidiBoo

By the time we got home, it was after 1:00 am. I got to bed at about 1:45 am. It was a Jam Master Jay-packed day.

This morning, on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, after getting to bed at 1:45 am, I woke up at 6:30 am. Because I have things to do.

I could have slept in. I had a hard day of work yesterday. I had a late night of play. And today is the Sunday of a long holiday weekend. If any day was made for rest, this is it. Like Kenny Loggins said.

But you are what you do. Your actions are proof of your commitment and character. I have made a commitment to myself to show up and take care of my business. To work on my personal projects. I have long-term goals. And they require consistency, no matter what.

I like doing hard things. I love delaying gratification. I enjoy sacrificing comfort and ease. Because you can trade them for bigger prizes later.

This morning I have the chorus to one of Parker McCollum’s hit songs playing in my head. Reflecting on his recent actions in the song Pretty Heart, McCollum asks the question, ‘What does that say about me?’ This morning, I’m doing the same.

Key Takeaway

What do your actions say about you? Are they proof that you are who you say you are? Are they reminders that you can count on yourself? That you are consistently investing in you? That you are taking care of yourself? That you are living up to your values and personal vision. These are important questions to ask. And the answers are in your actions.

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

+If you appreciate this message you’ll also like my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Why I do so much public speaking and why you should too.

Over the past 5 months, since first publishing my book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? I regularly get asked if I do any public speaking. The simple answer is an emphatic Yes! (And an emphatic Yes! is also the basic message of most of my public speaking.)

The truth is I never turn down an opportunity to speak if there is a chance I can work it into my schedule. Not just because I enjoy it. But also because it is my way of passing along all of the lessons, insights and encouragement that the world has shared with me. Plus, you usually get a free bottle of water.

UW Credit Union hooked me up with 2 bottles of water!

I enjoy offering motivation and encouragement. I like to teach and share lessons from my own experience. Which is why I think about the following philosophy when I am asked to speak at an event:

“The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.”

-David Viscott

I also love to entertain. If I would have been born with more funny bones I would love to have been a standup comedian. (But alas, I only have the two not-so-funny bones in my elbows.) So when I get asked to speak I always try to find opportunities to make the audience laugh. And occasionally they will.

My recent speaking events include a book talk to a marketing association, company meetings, guest lectures, and 3 TV appearances.

Talk show talking with Molly Fay.

Over the next weeks and months my speaking engagements include:

A Career Day event for 8th graders. (A notoriously tough and attention-challenged crowd. I’ll probably resort to some potty humor to keep them engaged.)

Moderating a panel discussion Tomorrow morning I’m hosting a panel at American Family Field with some interesting and well-known panelists. (Which is sure to induce some panel envy.)

A talk in Cleveland for a large conference. (I hope they don’t throw any of those Cleveland rocks!)

Speaking to the leadership team of a very large household brand in Columbus. (Ok, so it’s really more of a Garagehold brand.)

Speaking to a conference in Chicago about branding. (I had to assure attendees that they would not be getting their hide seared.)

Several association meetings. (I’d like to create a talk titled, ‘Is there an ass in your ociaton?’)

• Guest interviews on podcasts

Plus, I have at least 5 other events in the planning stages.

Talking to the Milwaukee Athletic Club about how to carry 2 watermelons at once.

These speaking events are great opportunities for me to share what I know with the world. I get to pass along energy, enthusiasm and positivity. And I get to remind people that they are responsible for writing a great story of their own life and career every day.

I love the challenge of taking what could easily be a boring and forgettable event and turning it into something fun, entertaining and inspiring. Which is why I get so many speaking requests. And why I am often asked to fill the last slot of the day. (I’m the Keep-Them-Awake Specialist.)

Key Takeaway

If you have great experience and a positive perspective you should share it with the world. Look for opportunities to speak, educate and inspire. Not only will others learn from you, but you will learn from the experience too. The process of sharing with others forces you to organize and crystalize your own thinking. Which means everyone comes out ahead.

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

> If you are looking for someone to speak at your next event you can reach me at adam@theweaponry.com.

+To learn some of the life lessons I like to talk about, check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

12 important life lessons for new graduates.

It’s graduation time! Students across the country are thrilled to finally be done with classes, done with books and done with teachers’ dirty looks. But what they will soon find out is that the real life lessons start after school ends. Because suddenly your life becomes one big multiple choice test. And if you thought you were done with all that writing, here comes the big surprise:

Now you have to write the story of your own life.

Looking back, I can see that I have learned far more since graduating from Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire and The University of Wisconsin than I did in school. In fact, I read more now than I did in school. I ask more questions. I study people and events, and people at events.

I have been collecting the best lessons I have learned since the day I graduated from high school. Then, during the Covid lockdown, I turned my collection of most valuable life lessons into a book called What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?

I thought the book would help people like me who were trying to get the most out of life. I wanted to help my contemporaries maximize their happiness and success. I wanted to share some of my accumulated knowledge, inspire others, and make people laugh. Not necessarily in that order.

Since publishing my new book I have heard 2 responses over and over from readers.

  1. I wish I had read this when I was younger.
  2. This book will make an excellent graduation gift.

The positive response to the book confirms that the life lessons I pass along offer real value. For new graduates, the lessons will help build the life and career you imagined. Which is why so many people are picking up copies now, during graduation season to give as gifts.

My friend Kris picked up these copies for some special graduates in her life. Including her daughter Emma!

If you are a new graduate, congratulations! Welcome to the club! Here are a few things that will help you in your exciting next chapter of life. (And you thought you were done with all that reading…) (If you graduated last year or last century the lessons still apply.)

12 important life lessons for new graduates.

  1. Constantly Upgrade Your Thinking: You may have graduated, but you are not done growing. Never stop improving yourself. You are like an iPhone. You should constantly be creating better versions of yourself. Each one is smarter, stronger and more capable than the one before. (And now that you will start paying for your own phone you’ll want to put a screen shield and protective case on that thang. Phones are frick’n expensive.)

2. The best way to live a great life is to start at the end. By viewing your life from the end you can clearly see what you could have done and what you should have done. Do this now, while you can do something about it. And you will be able to turn your life into an epic story as big as your imagination. (And go to funerals. They will teach you more about life than death. Plus, there are always free ham sandwiches.)

3. It’s the first step that matters most. Far too many people dream about the things they want to do but never take a single step towards making it happen. Your dreams start with that first step. Take it. Make it happen. (And watch Hamilton. That dude did not throw away his shot.)

4. Let envy be your guide. Don’t get fooled into thinking envy is a deadly sin and try to squash it. Envy offers insight. Note the things you envy and truly want and add them to your life list. Then create a plan to make them yours. And get to work. (Sloth, however, is a deadly sin. Don’t mess with sloths, Sid.)

5. Your Success Is Directly Related to Your Contribution. Success is easy to understand. If you want more, contribute more. If you want to earn more money, add more value. If you want more social capital, add more value. If you want more political capital, add more value. It is the value you bring to the world that determines what the world offers you in return, Jedi.

6. Nothing will happen unless you make it so. JFK said, ‘Things do not happen. They are made to happen.’ Remember that action is everything. It is the difference between dreaming and doing. If you want something to happen you have to force it and will it to happen through your vision, action, and energy. This wisdom applies to friendship, entrepreneurship, and every other ship in between.

7. Kickstart your day with a smile. The first thing you should do every day, while still lying in bed, is put a big smile on your face. Science has proven that not only do we smile when we feel good, we actually feel good when we smile. Smiling is the easiest positive thing you’ll do all day. Yet it has the power to propel and protect you until you crawl back into bed at night. (So, if you haven’t smiled yet today, do it now, brown cow.)

8. Fill your attitude with helium. Life is unpredictable. One moment you feel like you are on top of the world. the next moment you feel like the world is on top of you. But a helium attitude rises anyway. Don’t let setbacks, curveballs, and negative people drag you down. Do what helium does, and just keep rising. Your attitude is everything in life. Make sure you fill it with the right fuel. (And if you ever need a good laugh, suck in some real helium and say ‘Luke, I am your Father.’)

9. Always bet on yourself. Don’t buy lottery tickets. Don’t bet on sports or horses. Instead, bet on yourself. Bet on your ideas. But on your intuition. Bet on your determination. And on your willingness to affect the outcome. Stack the odds in your favor. It is the easiest way to mitigate risk and set yourself up for an epic payout. (And add Take A Chance On Me by ABBA to your life soundtrack. It’s a real toe-tapper.)

10. Find your Sliver Mentors. Everyone will offer you advice. But only take advice from people who are already doing what you want to do be doing. And rather than have one mentor for everything it is useful to have many mentors for slivers of your life. Learn the tips and tricks of the people who behave the way you want to behave. Don’t listen to every voice in the wind. Instead, carefully curate the advice you accept from those who offer great examples. (And keep a good tweezer around for regular slivers.)

11. Ask For What You Want. Never be afraid to simply ask for what you really want. A closed door will often open when you show just how much you want to go inside. Remember, someone holds the key to unlock every locked door. (Don’t simply take what you want. Unless you look great in an orange jumpsuit.)

12. Don’t Build A Network. Build Friendships. Throughout your career, people will tell you that you should network. This essentially means you should meet people who can help further your career. This is bad advice. Don’t network. Instead, befriend as many people as you can. Prioritize developing genuine relationships. When you make great friends you will have a great network. Because when you make people the most important thing in your life, everything else magically falls into place. (And keep eating Lucky Charms. They’re magically delicious.)

Key Takeaway:

Commit to a lifetime of learning and growing. Get a little better every day. Read. Think. Make friends. Find people who can teach you. And always bet on yourself. The best is yet to come. But it’s up to you to make it happen.

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

+If a $16 graduation gift fits into your budget, consider grabbing a copy of What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? for a graduate in your life.

How to get the most out of any experience.

Every experience in your life has the potential to be valuable. Every day, every meeting, every interaction. From major holidays to kickoff meetings to casual conversation, there is gold to be found everywhere. But too often the experience comes and goes without living up to the potential it promised. This is the deeper message behind the play Our Town and the movies The Sixth Sense and Weekend at Bernie’s.

The best way to get the most out of any experience is to imagine it is already over before it has begun.

Before the meeting starts imagine you are walking out of it. Before you get in the car with another person imagine the drive is over. Before your guests arrive imagine they are leaving. Before you try that pick-up line imagine what the other person looks like when you are sober.

Then ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What went right?
  2. What went wrong?
  3. What would I do better next time?

With this quick and easy pre-mortem evaluation you can ensure that you will:

  1. Make the right things happen.
  2. Fix what went wrong before it occurred.
  3. Do things better THIS time.

I use the simple evaluation technique all the time. And I use it on massively different types of experiences.

Before Christmas or a birthday, I imagine the perfect day, map it out and schedule the day to live up to my expectations. More detail is better. So is more eggnog and more smiling. Smiling’s my favorite.

But I also use this technique when I drive my kids to or from school. I think about the conversation I wish I had. I think about the opportunity to connect, encourage, or entertain as if it already slipped away. Then I make sure to connect, encourage or entertain while I still have a few minutes. And when the ride ends with my kids opening the door laughing I feel like we are winning at life. Especially if they remembered their backpacks.

Key Takeaway

Understand your opportunities before they are gone. Imagine the final outcomes before they are baked. Then adjust anything you can to align your actual experience with your ideal. Great events don’t just happen. You make them happen. And a little forethought provides the road map you need to a better ending.

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

+For more ways to create better outcomes, check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.