The greatest teacher of all time doesn’t work at a school.

One of the great mistakes you can make in life is studying things to death. By this, I mean that you read and research the things you want to do. And then you die. Your life is full of studying, thinking and preparing. But never actually doing. This is a big mistake. Huge. Like Julia Roberts said.

Most people think they need to prepare to get started. But they are never prepared enough to go. If you subscribe to this philosophy you will never meet the greatest teacher of all. Because she isn’t in your books. And she isn’t part of the PTA in Harper Valley.

The best teacher in the history of the planet is action. Action provides immediate lessons, feedback and progress. You learn by doing. You do not really learn by not really doing. I think Dr. Doolittle said that.

You learn to play a game by actually playing the game. This was true on the playground. It’s true in board games, video games and head games. (Just ask Lou Gramm.) It is also true in the game of life and in the great game of business.

As an entrepreneur, I learned how to start and run a business by simply jumping in and doing it. I learned more in the first week I launched The Weaponry than I learned from all of the books, magazines and articles I ever read.

I’ve learned how to coach sports by jumping in and doing it, while I was still totally ignorant. (Now I am just 3/4 ignorant.) Each step you take teaches you what you should do next. It’s how Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook. And why the Winklevosses did not.

Key Takeaway

If you really want to learn how to do something don’t study it. Do it. You will learn more and faster by taking action than you could through any other approach. The more action you take the more you will learn. You are already prepared enough. It’s go-time.

*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 book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The best thing to do after you set your goals.

Like a soccer player, I am goal-oriented. I always have been. I set goals in all areas of my life. They challenge me. They motivate me. And they make it easy to track my big-picture progress.

However, I also recognize that my ultimate goals are really lag measures. They are results. Or outcomes. Or accumulated totals. And if all I ever did was focus on my lag measures, I would be unlikely to ever achieve them. Which would be laggravating

The secret to achieving your goals is to focus your attention on the lead measures.

The lead measures are the inputs that are likely to lead you to the results you want.

An Example We Can All Relate To

I have a big birthday coming up in May. So I set a goal of weighing 210 pounds by May 25th. I picked the number because it is what I consider to be my ideal weight, where I feel and look my best. For context, I weighed 215 lbs when I graduated from high school and 211 lbs when I graduated from college. But I have been as heavy as 224 lbs within the last 6 months.

But I don’t obsess over the number 210. And I am not dieting. Instead, I am focusing on the 2 lead measures that impact weight loss:

  1. Calories consumed
  2. Calories burned.

It’s that simple.

I weigh myself first thing every morning. That gives both a progress report and a baseline for the day. I write the number down every day to track progress over time. Because if I can measure it I can manage it. (Which I think was a quote from Stanley, the retractable tape measure guy.)

I eat every day. But I don’t eat beyond the just-full feeling. (Which is better than that not-so-fresh feeling.) This means I am eating what I need. But I’m not taking on excess food or calories. So my lead indicator is ‘Did I eat past just-full? If ‘no’, I have a positive meal experience, and I give myself a tally, Ali. I want to have 3 of those every day.

However, I also track my calorie burning. In fact, to improve my calorie-burning habit I bought cardio equipment for my home gym so that I can burn calories every day that I am home. Each day I track whether I burned calories through deliberate exercise of at least 30 minutes.

By focusing on my lead measures I am taking actions that are leading to predictable weight loss. Today I weigh 214 pounds. And I have 4 months to lose 4 pounds. Which is quite manageable. Or woman-ageable.

But Wait, There’s More!

On my quest for self-improvement and achievement, I track several other lead indicators:

  1. Hours of sleep at night: This is a great indicator of energy, mood, productivity and Zzzs caught.
  2. Books Read Per Month: This is my indicator of increased intelligence. I want to read at least 2 books per month. One of them can’t be a picture book.
  3. Hours spent writing per day. This is a great indicator of how many blog posts I will publish and pages I will write for my next book. If I write for 1-2 hours every day, my progress is steady and good. By doing so I can usually come up with one funny joke per day. (As judged by me, which is totally cheating.)
  4. Hours spent on business development per day. I am the Founder & CEO of the advertising and ideas agency The Weaponry. Which means that I am responsible for growing the business. The most important thing to know about business development is that you have to plant seeds in the spring if you want to harvest in the fall. So I track the time I spend planting. #WWJAD (What Would Johnny Appleseed Do?)
  5. Placing water on my vanity each night: Drinking water is a valuable part of my health plan. It helps with my mood, and alertness, and makes me feel full, which prevents overeating. I track whether or not I set a glass of water next to my sink each night. Because if I do that I drink water first thing in the morning.
  6. Dates with my wife per month. This year I want to have at least one date with my wife every month. It is an important investment in our relationship. You can’t just set the goal of having a happy marriage. You have to spend quality time together, talk, and focus on each other regularly to achieve the goal.
  7. Speaking events per month: Since publishing my book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? I have had a lot of speaking opportunities. These enable me to share more positivity, inspiration and valuable life lessons with the world. I can track my positive influence on others, in part, through the number of talks I give.

Key Takeaway

Set measurable goals. Then determine which lead indicators you can measure to track your effort toward achieving your goals. Your lead indicators are great predictors of success. Focus on the lead measures and they will lead you where you want to go.

*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 book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

If you want to be an entrepreneur the great limiter is you.

I thought about becoming an entrepreneur for a long time before I summoned my inner David Lee Roth and actually jumped. In fact, I thought about starting a business for nearly 2 decades before I launched the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Which means that, unlike Geddy Lee, I didn’t rush into anything.

Once I had my entrepreneurial awakening in the summer of 2015 I began generating income within just a few months. I officially legalized The Weaponry as an LLC (yeah, you know me) in the spring of 2016. And while I have physically looked back since then, I have had no regrets.

Over the past 7 years, I have learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons about entrepreneurship. (Starting with how to spell the word itself.) But the most important thing to know about entrepreneurship is this:

The entrepreneur is the great limiter of the business.

10 Ways Entrepreneurs Limit Their Business

  1. You will be limited by your energy and ability to work hard.

2. You will be limited by your network and willingness to reach out and connect.

3. You will be limited by your ability to recruit and hire. (Think about it. There must be hire love.)

4. You will be limited by your willingness to create standardized processes.

5. You will be limited by your ability to give up control to others.

6. You will be limited by the size and scope of your vision.

7. You will be limited by your ability to control your greed and keep your hands off the cash flow, Gordon Gekko.

8. You will be limited by your ability to grow sales to scale your operation into a more effective and efficient machine.

9. You will be limited by your creativity and willingness to innovate

10. You will be limited by your risk tolerance. If you are not willing to walk the tightrope to the promised land you will never get there.

Perhaps most importantly, there is no one else to blame if you don’t become an entrepreneur at all. And if you are an entrepreneur, there is no one else that will prevent you from growing your business’s annual revenue to $100,0000, $1,000,000, $100,000,000, or $1,000,000,000 per year. That’s on you.

As the entrepreneur, you are both the gas pedal and the brake. Most people are afraid to take their foot off the brake, and as a result, never get going. Which means they never see where their journey could have taken them. Don’t let that be you.

Key Takeaway

Find your entrepreneurial gas pedal. Get going. Keep going. Then go faster. It will be your willingness to go, grow, create, and accelerate that will determine how far your journey takes you. We all have a limited amount of time. So go while you can. Realize that you are the determining factor. So be determined to be more.

*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 best way to have a great year is to tighten your tolerances.

Yesterday morning, at 6 am, my alarm went off, just like it does every weekday. But yesterday the alarm woke me up in the middle of a dream. Which is rude. Because dream sleep, or REM sleep, is the hardest to wake up from. In fact, it is so deep that in REM sleep not even Wham wants you to wake them up before you go go.

As a result of my alarm going off during my body’s no-wake zone, I didn’t spring out of bed immediately, like I usually do. I lay in bed thinking ‘Dude, it’s time to get up.’

I was disappointed with myself for how long I was laying in bed. And I really dislike disappointing myself. I pride myself on being a morning person. The whole, laying-in-bed all morning thing was messing with my self-construct. And I don’t like anyone messing with my self-construct. Especially me.

Finally, I put a smile on my face (which is my daily habit #1) and I motivated myself enough to crawl out of bed.

I grabbed my pillows to make my side of the bed. (Which is daily habit #2.)

As I grabbed the pillows I reluctantly glanced down at the clock on my nightstand the way you might look at the bathroom scale the morning after you skipped a workout and replaced it with a Brontosaurus burger with a side of large fries covered in gravy and cheese, and washed it all down with a cake shake.

Even though I thought I was prepared for the worst, when my eyes finally found the digital numbers displayed on my alarm clock I was stunned.

It was 6:01 am.

Key Takeaway

Raise your standards. Create great discipline and high expectations. By shrinking your tolerances you will experience greater results. And you will live closer and closer to your ideal life. This is one of the best things you can do for yourself in the new year. Because your standards and tolerances drive your self-improvement efforts. And they will ensure you are a better person a year from now than you are today. Which is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

*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.

Why it is so important for your dreams to survive the pre-boil stage.

Success always sounds easier than it really is. You set a goal. You work hard. And you accomplish it, right? It’s all so so logical, and linear.

But the logic overlooks the most overlooked stage of success. The pre-boil. You remember. It’s the lesson we learned in science class. And it’s a lesson we’re reminded of every time we watch a pot. Because that mofo never boils.

When you boil water there are 5 stages to the process:

  1. You fill a pot with water.
  2. You place the pot on the stove.
  3. You turn on the burner
  4. The burner heats the water.
  5. The water boils.

4 out of the 5 stages of the process last only a matter of seconds. Like an Instagram story. But one of the stages takes much longer.

Stage 4: The Pre-Boil.

The Pre-Boil is the part of the process when you put in the necessary work to get the result. But you are not yet getting the result you are after.

You have to go through the pre-boil phase:

  • When you exercise.
  • When you want to lose weight.
  • When you want to establish a successful career.
  • When you want to be an influencer.
  • When you start your own business.
  • When you are a student.
  • When you write a book.
  • When you want to make a tasty lobster dinner.
  • And when you want to build Rome. (Because everyone knows that is not a one-day job.)

The Most Common Cause Of Failure

Most attempts fail because they don’t survive the pre-boil. Because during this stage the effort you put in is far greater than the results you get out.

However, during the pre-boil, your effort, work, dedication, and sacrifice are accumulating. Just like the heat that is accumulating in that pot of water on the stove.

The pre-boil is the price of entry. It is the initiation to the club. It is the test to see if you really want what you think you want. If you really want that dream to come true you must keep marching through the pre-boil. It is the only way to get to your goal.

Key Takeaway

All great accomplishments require sustained effort. The energy you exert is added to your account. But you won’t see the results right away. Know that. Accept that. And keep going. Success is a test. The universe holds back the reward to sweeten it. Which makes it worth both the work and the wait.

*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.

It’s not too late to write your great comeback story.

Unlike L.L. Cool J, I love a good comeback story. The kind of story where you thought all was lost. That defeat was imminent. And the small amount of time left was not enough to support the amount of work left to do. We have great examples of these types of comebacks. And they are amongst the most inspiring human stories. Cue Eye of The Tiger.

But good comeback stories are not just written by big-time sports teams. Nor are they just for famous actors and rockstars who once got too deep into drugs or ice cream to remain hot and bookable.

Write Your Own Comeback Story Today

In fact, you can write your own comeback story any day. We all have days when it feels like we don’t get anything accomplished. We get sidetracked at work and don’t feel productive. We don’t get our exercise in. We don’t get much on our to-do list to-done.

But you can always do something valuable late in the day, or evening, or night to save the day. Like Mighty Mouse.

I am frequently surprised by how much I can accomplish in a late-day flurry of activity when I thought a whole day of productivity had been lost. I often sneak in a trip to the gym at 9pm, or I exercise at home as late as 11pm because I still can. I regularly read, write or work late in the evening. This not only helps me keep my commitment to myself, it also helps keep my momentum rollin’. Like Limp Bizkit.

Today is December 1st. This is the beginning of the last month of the year. And if you haven’t been highly productive in 2022 it’s not too late. You still have a full month to work on your goals. You have 31 days to create a new great habit. You have the same time to break a bad habit. You have 4.5 weeks to invest in a bucket list item. You still have time to start a business. To write a book. To plan and book that epic vacation. To start exercising. To go to church. To read a good book. To reconnect with someone you’ve lost. Or to find yourself. So let’s get going.

Key Takeaway

At the end of an unproductive day, week, month or year, let the scarcity of time create a sense of urgency to act. It is not too late. Make great use of your remaining time. The older you get the more you recognize the true value of time. Let those remaining sands in the hourglass inspire your comeback story. Tomorrow you will be thankful you did.

*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.

5 simple steps to convert your dreams into reality.

I had several conversations this week with dreamers. They all had interesting ideas that they wanted to bring to life. Which led to our discussions about the next steps on their journey.

Through my countless conversations, with dreamers, it is clear that we do a poor job of teaching people how to bring their dreams to life. Which means that most people have an easier time creating a human than creating a blog. Which is crazy. Or it’s a sign that God wanted more babies than blog posts.

I have spent my entire career bringing ideas to life. First, as a professional advertising creative, then as a t-shirt creator. I ramped up the degree of difficulty when I created The Weaponry, a full-service advertising and ideas agency. Most recently I published the book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? Then I made 80 real fortune cookies, with my real fortunes inside them.

I know how to make dreams a reality. I follow a simple process. And I want to make sure you know it too. Here it is.

5 simple steps to convert your dreams into reality.

1. Dream: Think of the fun, interesting, and rewarding things you would like to create or do. Most people who come to me to talk about their next steps have gotten this far. I’m guessing you’ve gotten this far, or you probably wouldn’t have been interested in this article. Because headlines help us decide. That’s the power of advertising.

2. Write: Get the dream out of your head and write it down. This creates the first real manifestation of your idea in the real world. It makes it tangible and detailed. This physical form of the idea is like a blueprint or a recipe card. Once you have the dream written down you can bring it to life. The more detail the better. You would be shocked how few people come to this step on their own. Most dreams never make it to written form. Yet it is the easiest part of the process. Easy like Sunday morning.

3. Research Once you have your dream written down, do a little research to educate yourself on the topic, process, industry, or whatever you need to learn to get the train moving. Google is your friend. (If you’d don’t know what Google is just google it.) But the key is to do a little research. Don’t analyze things to death. Learn just enough to get moving. Then go. If you are researching more than a week before you take your first steps you are procrastinating.

4. Deadline Give yourself a deadline. Dreams without a deadline are pure fantasy. To get into the non-fiction section you have to constrain your plans with a due date. Or a Do-date. Or a Zippity-do-date. Set a date to take your first action. And set a date for completion. If you really want results, create an entire timeline. And block time on your calendar to take action, Jackson. Again, none of this is hard.

5. Action Get to the doing. Take the very first action. When you do, the next action will magically appear. Like Platform Nine and 3 Quarters. Then just keep taking steps. Always have a bias towards action. Bloggers Note: I once dreamed of writing a blog. By the end of this month, I will have written 800 blog posts. Because I just keep taking action.

Key Takeaway

Bringing your dreams to life is easier than you think. Follow the process. The steps are not hard on their own. Just keep taking steps and soon your dream will be your reality. If your progress stalls, revisit the process. Your problem will be solved by taking steps 2, 3, 4 or 5.

*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.

You made a great plan. Then life got in the way. What do you do now?

Humans are extremely intelligent animals. We have been able to transform the planet to better suit our needs. We envision a world that doesn’t exist and then we create plans to make it a reality. We are like the Walt Disney of the animal kingdom. (Meaning the real animal kingdom, not the Animal Kingdom that Disney created to illustrate this point.)

Humans are really good at knowing what actions we should take to get the result we want. In a perfect world, we would always get the results we wanted. Because we would always take the right steps. Like John Travolta.

But between deciding on the right actions to take and actually taking them a funny thing often happens. Not funny haha. Funny strange.

Every day, all over this big blue marble, the regular events of life get in the way of our plans.

Things change. New demands pop up. Curveballs get thrown. Wrenches get thrown. And eventually, the towel gets thrown in the ring.

But there is one simple solution that will prevent your plan from failing.

Remember that play that you were going to run to make your plans a reality? Before the noise and static?

Run the play anyway.

Do what you set out to do.

Modify your execution if you have to.

Take shorter actions.

Or change the time frame.

Adjust your process to work with the new conditions.

But don’t make excuses.

Change what needs to be changed.

But not the play.

You know that play will work.

Key Takeaway

Run the play anyway. You know it is right. You just need to run it.

*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.

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.