Yesterday I was driving and saw a sign that told me that the lane I was driving in was ending soon. It was a valuable sign. It warned me that I was going to have to make plans for a future that didn’t involve that lane. And soon.
I quickly began making plans to exit my current lane. I had to. It offered no long term prospects. I soon found a perfectly good lane next to the one I was in. I turned on my left blinker, checked for cars, and finding none I merged onto the adjacent lane. And all was good again.
The thing about lanes.
All lanes end eventually. Just ask the leadership team at Blockbuster, or Chuck E Cheese’s. Or Lemmings. The key is knowing when it is time to find a new option.
We don’t always get a clear sign that our lane is coming to an end. But tastes and technologies change. Jobs end. School ends. And bad habits run out of runway at some point. When they do you are forced to choose something new.
Lanes offer us a path for now. But not forever. Throughout your life and career, you will have to make choices and changes. You can plan, and make changes proactively. Or you can wait until the lane is gone, you are stopped on the shoulder, and the 18-wheelers won’t move over to let you in.
COVID-19 brought lanes to an end.
The racism lane is coming to an end.
Drugs and alcohol abuse lanes are bumpy and popular. But short.
Change is constant. Get used to it. Prepare for it. Get good at it. And you’ll find that new and better lanes are easier to find.
I am a long term thinker. I view lives and careers as long journeys with lots of transformation along the way. I expect to drive my own change and growth. Which comes through a combination of planning and action. Or what might be called plaction.
The Bear In The Trail
However, the COVID-19 crisis has caused me to take my eye off of the long view. Over the past several months I have focused almost exclusively on short-term thinking. It’s as if I was hiking the Appalachian Trail, and suddenly encountered an ornry bear blocking my path. Instead of focusing on reaching Mount Katahdin, I needed to focus on the bear-virus, and live to hike another day. As result, true long-term improvement initiatives have been on hold for months. Darn you bear-virus.
Back In The Saddle.
But today my team at The Weaponry will gather again to think about our long term vision for the first time in months. We will open our planning and improvement session by describing what the fully formed version of our advertising and idea agency looks like. Then we will focus on what we need to do to close the gap between the ideal version of The Weaponry and the organization that exists today. However, we will have nothing to do with The Gap closing at your local mall.
We then assign each person a set of tasks, or rocks, to complete over the next 90 days to help us improve our organization. This approach, which is part of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) outlined in the book Traction by Gino Wickman, has proven to be a highly effective way of helping us grow and progress. Because it ties our vision to meaningful and fruitful actions. Which helps us gain traction towards our goals.
Thinking Long Term
To achieve your long term goals you can’t remain in survival mode for long periods of time. You have to work with purpose towards your vision. You have to recirculate the ideal vision with your team and consider the next actions necessary to reach your vision.
This approach is valuable for organizations. And it is valuable for each of us as individuals. We need to know where our own north star is, and navigate towards it. Even in challenging times. Evn in bad weather. And even after wrestling angry bears.
Starting The Second Half
As we start the second half of the year, remember what you planned to do 6 months ago, before COVID-19 blew you off course and threw you into survival mode. If your original 2020 plans no longer apply to the new world reality, make new plans now. What can and should you do now to progress over the next 6 months? I know this may be challenging. But in the inspirational words of Arthur Ashe:
‘Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.’ -Arthur Ashe
Move forward. We have been doggy paddling long enough. it is time to reimplement some time-tested swim strokes. Remember where you are headed. Or, if you haven’t determined where you are going, now is the time to decide. Determine the short term actions that will lead to your long term goals. Be purposeful. Be consistent. And you are sure to be closer to your ideal 6 months from now.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
This week I am on vacation at the beach. I’ve noticed that people at the beach love sunrises and sunsets. Shocker, I know.
Every morning vacationers and locals alike walk the beach at sunrise and take pictures of the sun coming up. The same think happens each night as the sun sets. It’s almost like a song from Fiddler On The Roof.
But I notice that no one is taking pictures of the sun in the middle of the day when Earth’s favorite fire ball is in mid arc. But that is where the magic happens.
It is not the beginning or the end that makes the difference. It is the missable middle. When the work is performed. When actions are taken. When time and effort and attention are invested. That’s where the wow of the day lives. It is where the stories of our lives, careers and relationships are formed. Unless you are a lady of the night, or a cat burglar. In which case, I am impressed that you also read blogs. Who knew.
Highlighting the sunrise and sunset is like focusing on the bookends on a bookshelf. They may be pretty. But they are not the value. The value is on all the pages in the books in between. Be sure not to miss them. They are full of gold.
Don’t forget the middle. It is where all the difference is made.
I have a confession to make. I love Mondays. I dislike the term Hump Day. And I have disdain for the term Finally Friday. Although I dig the song by George Jones. Wait, I think that was 4 confessions.
Your Week Is Your Life
I believe that your workweek is not something to survive. It is your life. In fact, 71% of your time is non-weekend. Which means the workweek is not your enemy. It is your greatest asset. If you dread Mondays and finally feel good again on Fridays, you are doing it wrong. Bang a gong. Now it’s time to get it on.
Rethinking The Week
Think about each week as if it was your entire life. Start Mondays like a youngster. State your goals and plans for the week. Then get to work. If you accomplish your goals by Friday you can enjoy a happy retirement. Which in this case, is your weekend.
I have been using this simple life-week construct for most of my life. There are 3 keys to making this construct work. The first is a clear Monday plan. Knowing what you want to accomplish during your week is key to keeping you focused and progressing.
The importance of Monday is no surprise. Although in my perfect life-week construct I actually start the plan on Sunday night. Which is probably a bit like planning your life while you are still in the womb. Like Womba Thurman. Or Mr. Wombastic.
Work Like Boots
The 2nd key is putting in the work. You have to put in the focused effort to make strong progress towards your goals. Without putting in the focused work you are simply wishing for success. And if wishes were fishes we would all have a fry.
The Wednesday Breakdown
However, the third key to this approach is not so obvious. If you think of your week like your entire life, then Wednesday is not the day to celebrate getting over the humpty-hump. Wednesday is the day to have your midweek crisis.
Having a midweek crisis means having a legit concern that you are not where you thought you would be at the midpoint of the week. This will cause you to closely re-evaluate your plan for the rest of the week. It will force you to make important adjustments in your priorities and productivity. The crisis and refocusing will help make sure you reach the end of your week with the type of progress and accomplishment you set out to have.
The Go In Goals
Your goals are your guides. You can’t just set them and forget them. You must check in with them often. They should guide your daily and hourly actions. They must drive your priorities. They tell you what you must sacrifice and what your non-negotiables are. So set your goals every Monday (or Sunday night). Then every Wednesday you must refocus on what is most important in order to hit your targets by Fri-yay.
If you want to be more productive every week, start thinking of your week like your entire life. Set your goals at the start of the week. Have a serious evaluation of your progress on Wednesday. Refocus your efforts. Use your time. And achieve all that you set out to. Your life is built week by week. Don’t let another one slip by waiting for Friday.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them by Wednesday.
Until yesterday it had been 366 days since I last had a cake under my candles. The 2019-2020 Adam Albrecht season saw many more wins than losses. I enjoyed serious adventures. I made new friends. I experienced my first global pandemic. Because local pandemics just aren’t pandemic-y enough for me. My pace of personal and professional growth for the year met my expectations. So I gave myself a passing grade.
Now I am excited to kickoff a great 2020-2021 Adam Albrecht season. Each year, on opening day, I like to establish new goals for the year. Here are the latest.
Faith: Read The New Testament again. I read a lot. But I haven’t dug into The Bible with purpose for a few seasons now. So, I’m making this a New-Testy kind of year.
Fitness: Drop My Covid Weight. Back in March, when we all boarded the CoronaCoaster, I felt healthy, fit and ready for spring break. Now I have 8 pounds worth of lockdown weight to burn off. I’m aiming to hit an even 210 pounds this summer. Which is less than I weighed when I graduated from both high school and college. Thankfully it’s finally warm enough in Wisconsin to get summer, summer, summertime fit, like Will Smith. Remember when he used to be a rapper?
Marriage: 12 Dates Wih My Wife. If Dawn and I have a real date every month, all feels right with the world. Granted those dates may be curbside pick up at Culver’s. Or masked hikes through Costco. But I don’t care where we go. I don’t care what we do. I don’t care pretty baby. Just take me with you.
Parenting: Meaningful Life Conversations With Each of My Children Every Week. My children are 14, Turning-13-This-Week, and 9. Which means they are in the thick of childhood changes, challenges and life lessons. I want to make sure that I am helpful during this time, and not just an annoying old guy who keeps telling them to hand over their electronics at night.
My Parents: Talk Every Week. My Mom used to call my Grammy every Saturday morning like clockwork. I want to develop a regular weekly check-in with my parents. Maybe during my commute. Assuming we will have commutes again.
My Business: I want to add 3 great new people to The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency. Great people are the heart of a great business. Finding great people to add is both important and challenging. So that’s what we’re going to do. If you are one of those people, or know someone who is, let’s talk!
Finances: Increase My Net Worth By 25%. Tracking your net worth is an import habit to help you understand, maintain and improve your financial health. I want to improve mine by 25% over the next 12 months. Much of that will be related to how the financial markets recover. But it also means acting on new opportunities that are available due to the financial cliff that we all just lemmingied off. Or hadn’t you noticed?
Volunteering:Give Blood. I have some. Other people need it. Let’s make this happen. 10-4 Good Bloody.
Relationships: Expand The Breakfast Meet Up Club. Earlier this year I started a breakfast meetup of really badass guys who live on Milwaukee’s North Shore. It’s comprised of entrepreneuers and highly successful businessmen who are also husbands and fathers. We meet once a month to trade ideas on how to be great, and talk about the important things that guys don’t always have a chance to talk about with other guys. I want to add 3 more impressive cats to the group this year to bring us to an even 10.
Book: Publish My First Book. Thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown I am much further along on this project than I expected to be at this time. Now I’d like to put the hammer down, get my Johannes Gutenberg on, and get this thing to a printing press.
Home: Make A Home Base Improvement Decision. Dawn and I have been exploring the idea of some remodeling, buying a new home or building for years. But you can explore forever and never arrive anywhere. I would like to arrive somewhere in the next 12 months.
Birthday’s offer a great time to reevaluate your life. Each year on your birthday check your trajectory, your happiness meter and your contribution to others. Push yourself to do more each year. Life is like a soap opera. Which mean we only get one life to live. Take advantage of it. And make sure that each season of You is worth watching.
I am a reflector. I reflect on what went right and what went wrong nearly every day. In the last days of 2019 I reflected on what I did right that year in hopes of doing more of what worked in 2020. Little did I know that a tiny virus was about to create the greatest global disruption in human history. And much of what worked in 2019 would be taboo just months later.
Following my blog post 19 Things That Worked For Me In 2019 I got a lot of positive feedback. People told me they picked up new ideas, were motivated or inspired by some of the activities I wrote about.
However, there was one point that I shared that generated a strong thanks-but-no-thanks response from a large number of readers. Interestingly, it was the #1 thing on my list. It was the action that set up all the other actions.
Set An Alarm.
I set my alarm for 6:00am every weekday, and no later than 6:30am on the weekends. I get up and write, read or workout right away. The alarm helps me get the most out of every day. And I mean every day. Weekends, vacation days, holidays, beach days, leg days and Hollandaise.
When I started this alarming habit several years ago I started gaining traction on my dreams. I started accomplishing more. I felt like I was pulling ahead in life. Because the most valuable time I could find to invest in my goals and dreams was early in the morning.
I am keenly aware of the fact that I will be dead long before I want to be. So I try to do all the things I want to do while I still have the time. And my alarm clock has helped me add hours to my days. Which puts more life in my life. Like Mikey’s cereal.
The Wake-Up Call
If 2020 is the year you are going to make great progress on your lifelong dreams you are going to need some help from your alarm clock. Like Rodney Dangerfield, that little noisemaker doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Because it doesn’t just squawk in your earhole. It can help make your entire life more fulfilling.
When It All Starts.
The idea of a long lazy morning in bed has no appeal to me. The opportunity cost is too high. I started my business early in the morning. I think early. I write my blog early. I work out early.
Early in the morning no one bothers you. You have energy and focus and hope. Take advantage of that. Block your time. And milk it for all it’s worth. #wholemilk
Go to bed early when you can. Get as much sleep as you can. But don’t get to the end of your days with regrets that you didn’t do all that you wanted to do when you had the time to do it.
Don’t sleep in on the weekends. Or holidays. Or ever. Set an alarm. Get up. Get things done. Read something. Learn something. Do something. Get more out of your time. And if you don’t have a great reason to get up early on the weekends and on vacation, find one. Your life will be more enjoyable once you do.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share this with them.
Every situation provides you with reasons to act. And reasons not to act. You can rationalize every decision you make. And you would be right. Just point at the reasons.
Whether you are looking for reasons to get into action or reasons to opt out of action, you will find what you are looking for. (Unlike Bono) Those reasons will provide the rationale that will govern your commitment, participation, and effort.
Because it is not the conditions that determine what you do. It is your predisposition. It is your default approach to life, work, and opportunities that determine what you will do in every situation.
Develop a bias towards action. Towards Yes. Towards attendance. And involvement. This bias will lead to an expanding life. This mindset will lead you to the experiences, successes, and learnings that will make your life interesting, enviable and valuable to others.
Look for reasons to do. To act. To try. Life is a yellow traffic signal. It is up to you to decide to stop or go.
I have a 4-word philosophy for success. I lean on it every time I want to do something new. It applies to fitness goals, to business and career success. It applies to creative endeavors, and charitable giving.
It applies to all manner of self-improvement and behavior change.
It is not secretive or complex. And because it is only 4 words long it’s useful even if you have a really, really short attention span.
Start Small. Think Big.
The key to success is action. You have to get going to get results. Too often people make the mistake of starting big. When you focus on the fully formed, fully finished version, the vision itself becomes intimidating. Which prevents people from taking the first step.
By starting small you create an easy on-ramp. By giving yourself permission to start small you create an invitation to action. And that action, as small as it may be, changes everything. Think about how small COVID-19 started. #amIright
Once you’ve begun, go all in. Think about what is possible if you keep going and growing. Think about momentum. Think about compounding actions. Once you have begun the results are only limited by your thinking. So go as big as you can.
Mom’s Know This
Every Mom knows that this is exactly how you raise a successful child. You start small. You teach the most basic skills, rules, and manners. Then you think big. You think of the successful person you want your child to become. And you do all you can to empower your child to grow into the best version of themself.
Thank you Moms. Thank you for giving us a great start when we were small. And for thinking about all we would need to be successful when we became big. It has made all the difference. Sorry we can’t take you to brunch today to show our appreciation.
When I was in 6th grade I went to the Lake of The Ozarks in Missouri. It was long before Jason Bateman made it look both scary and binge-able. I lived in Columbia, Missouri at the time, and my friend Matt had a family lake house in the LOTO. Matt and his family invited me to come down to the lake for a summer weekend. Which at the time felt as big and exciting as going to Cancun. Except I could speak the language, and drink the water.
I remember 4 things from that weekend:
‘Glory Days’ by Bruce Springsteen was brand new and we listened to that song over and over all weekend long. I had a sneaking suspicion that the Boss Man was trying to tell me that my glory days as a 12-year old kid would soon pass me by.
I saw a monster truck in the middle of the lake. The giant tires held so much air that the truck floated. It was tooling around the lake just like a boat. Except it was a monster truck. That was some real hillbilly shiznit.
My friend’s sister Lisa and her friend Brooke asked me if I would jump in the lake and fetch the inner tube that was floating away from the dock. I gladly dove in, swam to the tube, and brought it back to the dock. When I climbed out of the water feeling 6th grade-heroic, they expressed their extreme gratitude. Then they added, ‘We didn’t want to go get it because we just saw a huge water moccasin swim under the dock.’
Number 4 On Cove 4
But it was the 4th memory from that trip that I have thought about most often over the past 3 decades.
One day me, Matt, Lisa, Brooke and several older kids went out on the family’s water ski boat. After all the older kids had skied, Matt’s cousin, who was in his early 20s, asked if I wanted to go waterskiing. I said no. I explained that I had never gone before and that I didn’t want to waste everyone else’s time.
He responded by saying, ‘Hey man, don’t worry about that. We’re just out here killing time.’ He said it as if killing time was a good thing. A necessary thing to do to get rid of all this pesky time we all have to deal with.
I understood what he meant. But I couldn’t get past what he actually said. Killing time seemed crazy to me, even then. Killing time sounded as rational as burning money. Or eating veal.
Time For Time
Today, during the global lockdown created by the COVID-19 crisis, you may find yourself with a surplus of time. And you could be tempted to just kill it. But don’t. Don’t waste it. And don’t pass it either.
Time is the scarcest of all resources. In fact, one of the most impactful things I’ve read over the past 2 months was So Much Quarantine. So Little Time. by my friend Drew Hawkins. He details how he and his wife are extremely time-challenged right now as they both work from home, while simultaneously caring for their 1 and 3-year old children. They are spinning plates like a carnival act. For Drew and Megan free time is harder to find than live sports. Almost all of their time is multi-tasking. And that time is working as hard as any time ever has in the history of time.
If you are lucky enough to have time right now, for Drew and Megan’s sake, don’t kill it. Cherish it. Use it. Employ it. Value it. Make the most of it. Time is a gift. It’s the most valuable thing you will ever have. Except for maybe toilet paper.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
When I was a boy my family always planted a garden. Ok, that may be an understatement. We were the only family I knew that had fresh cow manure delivered by the truckload to be spread over our sprawling vegetable garden. Which meant that when spring was in the air it was really in the air at my house.
When I bought my first home I proudly continued my family’s gardening tradition. However, I buy my cow manure by the bag, not the big rig. It helps maintain more neighborly relations.
Vegetables you grow yourself taste better. Which alone would be enough reason to grow your own. But there is more. You can save yourself a lot of money growing your own fruits and vegetables. You feel safer eating your own harvest because you know how the plants were raised. And today, the garden feels like a safer place to go for produce than the local grocery store. Which looks like it has been taken over by masked suburban bandits, all trying their hardest to stay 6 feet away from each other.
Filling the Cornucopia
Each year my wife Dawn and I plant tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the backyard garden boxes we built ourselves. We plant carrots, peas, beans, lettuce, onions, pumpkins and squash.
But my favorite things to plant every spring are radishes. I love the taste of radishes. They are full of flavor. And these bright red spheres of spice add color and personality to both the garden and to our plates.
But that’s not what I love most about radishes.
After we plant most of our vegetables we have to wait months to harvest them. Typically that means 60, 70, 80 or even 110 days of tending to them before we get eat.
But radishes are different.
Radishes are ready quickly. Usually in just 20 days. Which makes radishes like short term goals. They offer a quick sense of progress and a tasty reward far before the other vegetables are ready. Radishes keep us motivated and satisfied until the peas, beans and lettuce are ready to step up to the plate. (See what I did there?)
Gardening is like life and business. You must sow seeds before you reap rewards. Gardening requires long term thinking. There is watering, weeding, and fertilizing required along the way. And you only get out of it what you put into it.
To get us to our long term goals we all need short term goals along the way. We need to see quick progress. Especially now. We know that our world and our economy will bounce back eventually. But we could use some quick wins. Some short term progress. Something tasty and rewarding to sink our teeth into sooner than later. So make sure you are planting seeds in both your personal and professional life that you can harvest and enjoy quickly. Preferably something legal in all 50 states.
As humans we need quick, positive reinforcement. We need these wins now to remind us that we are making progress over the short term. Which gives us the fortitude we need for the long term. The tomatoes, peppers, and pumpkins will all come eventually. But right now the radishes will help get us through.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.