Take time off to tend to your other business.

I hold 3 jobs. I am the Founder and leader of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Which is a full time job and then some. But I am also a husband. And as if those 2 jobs weren’t enough, I am the proud father of 3 kids. It’s hard to tell which of these 3 jobs is most important. But I know for sure that it isn’t the ad agency gig.

Up North

This past weekend I took a little time off from The Weaponry, and my husbanding duties (I wrote duties…) in order to take my kids camping. With August drawing to an end, this weekend offered a perfect opportunity for Ava(14), Johann (13), Magnus (10) and I (ageless) to spend some time together before the kid head back to school(ing) on September 1st. It also offered my wife Dawn some overdue alone time before she resumes the role of Chief Educational Officer of the Albrecht Family School System. Because this year, our school district will be virtually schooling for somewhere between 1 week and all of eternity.

Spending time together builds a family foundation on stone. (See what I did there?)

Dad’s Camping Adventure 2020 took us 200 miles north of our home in Mequon, Wisconsin. Our campsite was on Bear Lake in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin. (You just mumble-read through the word Chequamegon didn’t you?) To say we got away from it all was an understatement.

Kids, clouds and quiet.

There was no electricity. No lights. No internet. In fact there was no phone service within 10 miles of our campsite. And that’s exactly the way I wanted it. Not only were my kids and I refreshed by the clean air, and cool lake water, we participated in a 3-day digital cleanse. Because with no phone service and no electricity to recharge our digital distractors, our mobile phones were quickly and thankfully dead.

It was 61 degrees this evening. My kids have viking blood.

I didn’t have to compete with social media, video games, or text messages. It was a full weekend of me and my children, fully engaged with each other. We talked and told stories. The four of us piled into our 17 foot canoe to go fishing and explore the lake together. We hiked. We campfired (which really should be a verb, right?). We cooked our own meals together. We stared at the stars as if seeing them for the first time. At night we crowded our sleeping bags close together in the tent.

Larry the Log Hauler.

As we were camping all seemed right with the world. In the middle of the woods we weren’t worried about COVID-19. We weren’t masking up or wearing out the pump on the hand sanitizer. We were just enjoying life together like it was 2019. Or maybe 1819.

We decided to come home through Michigan, which marked the 6th new state of the summer for my kids, who have now seen 42 states.

As a working parent, I can’t think of a better cherry on top of the summer than getting to spend 3 full days alone in the woods camping with my children without digital distractions. We were all completely present. Completely engaged. And completely invested in each other. We made memories we will never forget. At least until the Alzheimers or amnesia kick in.

We capped off our weekend with lunch in Escanaba, Michigan. Our table was as close to Lake Michigan as you can get without getting pruney.

Key Takeaway

It is easy to forget that we all have more than one job. Remember to put time and energy into your other important roles. Take your vacation days. Enjoy your upcoming Labor Day. Spend time with your family and friends. And Dad’s, spend time with your children. You can’t get that time back. Remember, it will be your kids that will decide which nursing home you end up in.

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

When was the last time you became a different person?

My family and I just returned home from a 4100-mile road trip. It was one of the great adventures of my life. I know that sounds dramatic. But the trip itself was dramatic. And I don’t just mean the dramatic splattering of bugs on the front of our car.

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Hiking at the Badlands National Park in South Dakota wasn’t bad at all.

We pulled into our driveway last night just before 6pm, parked and began unloading our Family Truckster. As my 10-year-old son Magnus and I were walking into our home for the first time in a week and a half he turned to me and said,

I feel like I am a different person now. -Magnus Albrecht (10 y/o)

I told him I felt the same way. Over the past 11 days we had seen and done too much to be unchanged. We had seen a Jolly Green Giant and the world’s largest Holstein cow. We had seen famous presidents’ faces carved on a mountainside, creating the greatest marketing tactic in the history of state marketing.

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Magnus didn’t get the memo that he was supposed to wear green.

We got an all-access tour of my cousin Rita and her husband Joe’s 2000 cow dairy where my kids got to pet wet and wobbly calves the moment they were born. If you want to follow a really great blog check out Rita’s blog So She Married A Farmer

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Me and my cousin Rita and a crop of kids.

We chased Lewis and Clark across the land and water they first navigated over 200 years ago. We saw fields of sunflowers, and I heard Post Malone every time.

We saw the world’s only Corn Palace. So there’s that.

We visited the Minuteman Missle National Historic Site and learned about all the nuclear missiles that dotted the Northern Great Plains, designed for peace, but ready to destroy the Earth and its inhabitants in just 30 minutes. Like a Dominoes pizza.

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Yellowstone blew Magnus’ mind.

We had close encounters with moose, mice, mountain goats, elk, bighorn sheep, a fisher, prairie dogs and a dead snake.

We were surrounded by a herd of buffalo at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. We swam in glacier-fed streams in Montana. We went cliff jumping. We saw geysers and gal-sers, glaciers and bubbling mud volcanoes.

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Being among the buffalo at Theodore Roosevelt National Grasslands was wild.

We hiked to a lake fed by no less than 6 waterfalls. We hiked in badlands that looked like the moon, only closer, and less made of cheese. We camped just feet from where dinosaur fossils were found and can still be seen, and we lived to tell about it.

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My son Johann and a bit of scenery at Glacier National Park.

We connected the dots of 4100 miles of America. As a result, our brains, our lives, and our image of our country and our planet will never be the same. We developed new mental maps that showed the connections between previously unconnected places, experiences and ideas. Which is exactly why we adventure in the first place. To see, do, learn and grow.

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Me and Magnus at Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park. We were both disappointed to not see any avalanches. #FalseAdvertising

Key Takeaway

Experience as much of life as you can. See the world. Understand it. It will help you grow and expand your views and thinking. It improves creativity and innovation. It will make you more compassionate and empathetic. It will help you relate to others. It helps you refuel and reset and come back smarter and more capable than before. You know, like a whole new you.

I am not sure I am a very good father.

If you are a dad, Father’s Day is a good day to give yourself a job review. And if recent events are any indicator, I am not doing a very good job.

On Friday, while running errands with my 14-year-old daughter Ava, I let the gas tank in my car get to 0 miles to empty before I went to a gas station. I thought that was fun and exciting. When we got home and Ava told my parenting partner what happened I was reminded that I was setting a bad example for our soon-to-be daughter driver. Oops.

Yesterday morning I woke all 3 of my kids up at 6am, on a Saturday, during the summer. Then I forced them to road-trip for 800 miles. Crossing through 7 different states. All while Covid-19 is still a real threat to real people.

I let them eat junk food, and drink Blue Mountain Dew that probably rotted their stomachs. I gave them unlimited access to their electronics, which probably rotted their brains.

I drove way too fast through winding mountain roads, causing my youngest to throw up on the side of the road at 10:30pm on Father’s Day Eve.

At 11:45 PM I got a call from the front desk of the hotel where we are staying. We had only been in our room for 30 minutes and already there had been a noise complaint. Despite a moderate amount of effort, I have not trained these kids how to be quiet when close to other humans.

Did I mention that I made all 5 of us stay in 1 hotel room with only 2 beds? Apparently that is less than the good fathering books say you need for 5 people.

My Dad

But yesterday I did take my kids to see a really great father. We saw my parents for the first time since November of 2019. My Dad made us a really good homemade lunch. It had fruits, vegetables, grains and meat. You know, the foods kids are supposed to eat.

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Dad, you have always been like a father to me.

He baked a strawberry-rhubarb crisp for dessert. We ate around a real dining room table. We talked and laughed and used napkins. We got a tour of his gardens and his yard projects. That guy is a doer. He makes me feel like a don’t-er by comparison.

Thanks Dad

Thanks Dad for being such a great Father. And even though I may not have turned out so well, you did a great job with my 3 sisters. And 3 out of 4 ain’t bad. Sorry. I meant isn’t bad.

I’ve been teaching my son about business. And here’s what I have learned.

Being a dad can be hard. One of the great challenges for me as a dad is not laughing at the really funny but inappropriate things my kids say and do. Potty humor has not lost its power over me. I regularly get in trouble with Dawn, my parenting partner, for laughing at things I’m not supposed to laugh at. I am told that I am encouraging my kids’ behavior. But hey, I want to be an encouraging Dad.

To counterbalance my chronic immaturity, I also try to be a good influence and teach my kids important life lessons. I have been reading Dale Carnegie with my 13-year old son, Johann. I have read Rich Dad. Poor Dad. to my now 14-year old daughter Ava. And I  am currently reading Rich Dad. Poor Dad. with my 9-year-old son, Magnus.

Magnus is really fun to teach about business. Even though he is only 9 he is displaying the same type of interest in business ideas that he has in sports. Which is great, because business is the ultimate competitive sport. And because Magnus is now my retirement plan.

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Me and Magnus and our hair and some wind in Astoria, Oregon.

As we read Rich Dad. Poor Dad. Magnus is fascinated by the good financial advice offered by the book. He now knows that assets are things that make you money and that liabilities are things that cost you money. He knows that poor people work for money and that rich people make their money work for them.

Over the past few weeks, Magnus has shared a steady stream of business thoughts. He has a notebook that he is filling with ideas. The ideas range from a garage cleaning business to a business idea for boys with long hair. Because Magnus has long hair, like his father. And like 9-year-old girls. Which I expect is why he likes wearing baseball caps. And why he doesn’t like wearing pink dresses.

Magnus and I have talked about business processes, research, pricing, margin and the value of good employees. What started out as a father wanting to teach his son a few important ideas about business has turned into a son asking lots of great questions to extract more information in order to help him paint a more complete picture in his head.

Last weekend as we were working on a yard project, Magnus revealed with great excitement that he came up with a business that he and I could partner on. I was proud and curious about what he was thinking. So I asked him to tell me more about his business idea. He started by sharing that he picked out a great name for the business already.  Curious, I asked him what the name of the business was going to be. He said, ‘We’ll be Madams! It’s a combination of Magnus and Adam’s!

It tried not to burst with laughter. He was so proud of his name. It was the perfect mashup of our first names. But little did little Magnus know that it also sounded like this 9-year-old boy thought it would be a great business idea to run a brothel. It seems I have much more to teach. 

Key Takeaway

Take time to teach your kids, nieces, nephews and neighbors what you know. Whether it is about business, how to fix a lawnmower, applying first-aid, or any of the millions of things in between, your knowledge is valuable. Pass it along. You may be surprised how enthusiastically a child responds to your teaching. It can help develop confidence and prepare them with life skills. But it could also expose them to a career path or hobby that will positively influence the trajectory and quality of their life. Who knows, you may also enjoy a good laugh along the way. Because kids say the darndest things.

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

The valuable business lesson I taught my 9-year old.

I often talk about work at home. I want my 3 children to learn as much about business and entrepreneurship as possible. In the same way languages are easier to learn when you are younger, good business lessons are easier to learn before you become a cog in a machine. I learned that from reading Rich Dad. Poor Dad. And from becoming a cog in a machine.

The Proposal Parade

My advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, has been writing a lot of proposals lately. You write a proposal when a client or potential client wants to know how you would handle a specific project. The proposal, also called a statement of work (S.O.W.), includes a proposed course of action, timing and budget. It does not include getting down on one knee. #KaepernickCouldDoIt

The Conversation

Earlier this week I was telling my wife about an exciting new proposal that we were working on. My 9-year old son Magnus overheard the conversation. Mostly because I wanted him to overhear the conversation. #sneakydadlessons

When I tucked Magnus into bed that night he asked me, ‘Dad, is someone really going to pay your business Vague Large Sum of Money? I was glad he asked. Because his interest gave me a perfect opportunity to share a lesson…

The Bedtime Story

Me:  Yes Magnus. Someone is really going to pay us Vague Large Sum of Money. But there is more to it that you should understand. Remember when we went to Dallas during spring break last year? And on the last day we went to Dunkin Donuts?

Magnus:  Yes.

Me:  Remember after we ate donuts, Mom dropped me off to have chocolate milk with my friend? Then Mom took you, Ava and Johann to some shops and to that park nearby where you played on that long horned cow statue?

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Magnus ripped his shorts getting off this statue in Dallas, and it was the last time he ever wore them. #hookedemhorns

Magnus: Yes.

Me: Well, after my friend and I caught up on what had happened over the past 13 years since we had last seen each other, he said, ‘I could use your help on some projects I am working on.’

Then he called me after we got home from vacation, and we set up a video conference meeting between our teams. We did 3 small projects together. And they really liked how those projects went. So they asked us to do more work for them. And we did a good job on those project too.

Because we did a good job on all those projects, now they are going to give us Vague Large Sum of Money to do an even larger project.

But, think of that money as a loaf of bread.  They give us the whole loaf. And that is called Revenue.

But then we need to give slices of bread to the workers at The Weaponry who work on the project. And we have to give slices of the bread to the film crew and the photographers and editors who work on the project. And we have to give a slice to other companies, like the airlines and the hotels that we use when we travel to do the work.

After everyone else who works on the project gets their slices of bread, The Weaponry keeps a few slices for itself for helping to organize all of the work that needed to be done.

And those slices of bread that we keep are called profit.

Magnus: How much profit does the business keep?

Me:  We like to aim for 25%. Or 1 out of 4 dollars. So if they gave us $100 our profit would be $25.  (Profit is actually a bit more complicated, and depends on the project. But I was trying to keep things simple.)

Putting Math To Work

Magnus and I then applied the 25% rule to the Vague Large Sum of Money so that Magnus could understand what a project of that size represented after all of the work was done, and all the bills were paid.

The Lesson Learned

After completing Daddy’s Bedtime Business Lesson, I asked, ‘So Magnus, what is the key lesson you learned here?’

And without a moment of hesitation, Magnus replied:

‘Have chocolate milk with your friends.’  -Magnus Albrecht (9 y/o)

Key Takeaway

Have chocolate milk with your friends. Or coffee, or beer or Kool Aid. Spend time with your people. Good things happen when you first develop and maintain good relationships. Even a 9-year old knows that.

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

Are you keeping your priorities straight?

Last night I was supposed to have a nice dinner at a nice restaurant in Minneapolis. I was supposed to stay at a great hotel too. And this morning I was going to have an easy start to the day before we rolled cameras on our video shoot at 10am.

Instead, I woke up in Milwaukee this morning at 4am. I quickly got ready and hurried off to the airport to catch a 6am flight to Minneapolis. But don’t cry for me, Argentina. The truth is I am living the dream. My dream. It’s that dream where you get to enjoy all the most important things in life.

Orchestral Maneuvers

I rearranged my travel plans and took the pre-dawn flight because my daughter Ava and son Johann had a school orchestra concert last night. And in my perfect life, I get to play creative advertising guy, entrepreneur, business traveler, AND, involved father and husband. I get to attend my children’s events in person, instead of seeing them on video, in photographs or while supervised in the prison visiting room. 

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That’s my daughter Ava, to the right of the violin in the middle of the photograph.

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My son Johann is the 3rd from the left.

The Talk

Last week I had a speaking engagement to over 120 marketers, sales people and small business owners. I was the 3rd of the 3 speakers to talk to the group about storytelling. Apparently they were saving the least for last. When my talk was finished it was time for food, beverages and networking. All of which I love.

But as soon as the applause quieted after my talk (which took seconds), I grabbed my work bag and Usain Bolted for the door. There would be no food, no drinks, no meeting of new people. No spoils of public speaking. No attaboys as I hurriedly exited the venue like the Von Trapp Family Singers.

Good Reasons 

Meeting new people is one of my favorite things. But my 9-year old son Magnus was performing in a school choral concert that night, honoring America’s Veterans. He had a speaking part, and I worked with him to prepare for his concert as I prepared for my own presentation. I wasn’t going to miss his concert for all the appetizers in Milwaukee. And Milwaukee knows how to appetizer. #CheesilyTheBest.

So I left the swanky downtown socializing event to race to the folding chairs of the Wilson Elementary school gym, 30 minutes away in Mequon. And I couldn’t have been happier.

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My little guy Magnus is the boy in the back row, in the white shirt, with the long blonde hair.

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My son Magnus is the 3rd from the right. His big line was, ‘N stands for Never Give Up!’

Today

This morning I was up at 4am. I will have a full day of filming on location in Minneapolis. And my plane will land back in Milwaukee tonight at midnight. It will be a long day. But it’s a small price to pay to get to maximize my time at home.

Key Takeaway

For working parents, and especially business owners, it is easy to feel like work is your most important priority. Because keeping the business in business and earning a living is also important to the rest of your family, whether they recognize it or not. But don’t miss your family events if you can possibly help it. Those concert years go by in a blink. The sports years sprint by. And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon say we need to set great examples for our kids too. So get creative. Problem solve. And whenever possible, be there for the things that are meaningful to those who mean the most to you.

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

How my mom influences me every day.

As I prepared for Mother’s Day this year I wrote not 1, but 2 different blog posts about my Mom. On Mother’s Day I decided to publish The most important gift my mother gave me. Which meant I had to figure out what to do with my bonus post.

This week is also special for my Mama. Somehow she managed to birth all 4 of her kids in the 4 days between May 22nd and May 25th. You can read about that little bit of Motherly Wizardry in the post: What makes these siblings freakishly unique. So to kick off my Mom’s Giving Birth Week, here is the Non-Mother’s Day Mother’s Day post.


Happy Mother’s Day! A great Mom is like a subscription to the Jelly Of The Month Club, because it is the gift that keeps on giving. I have an amazing Mom. Which is total luck. Because I simply inherited her. But my Mom, Jill Albrecht, has given me an unfair advantage in life.

Mom-ing Runs In The Family

My Mom started off life with an unfair advantage too, because she had a great Mom. My Grammy, Lillian (Anderson) Sprau was a saintly Norwegian American woman. She had 9 children and lived to be 100 years old. When you have 9 kids to practice on, you get to really hone your mothering skills. My Grammy taught my Mom those skills. My mom then taught her children, including me and my sisters Heather, Alison and Donielle.

Big Stuff

My Mama taught us all the big stuff. The importance of a good education. How to advocate for ourselves and for others. To value time with family. And the value of humor.

Little Stuff

My Mom taught us countless little lessons too. In fact, one of the lessons she taught me probably seemed so small to her that it wasn’t much of a lesson at all. But I still use it every day.

Make Your Own Lunch.

My my mom wisely delegated lunch making responsibilities to me and my sisters at an early age. After all, we had a vested interest in eating. By the time I was 12 years old I was packing my own lunch every day before school. It quickly became a habit.

I packed my own lunch every day in junior high and high school. After I moved out of the dorms in college I made my own lunch every day. When I started my first real job after college I made my own lunch too.

Fast forward 2 decades. I have had a successful career in advertising. I have had fancy pants sounding titles, including Executive Vice President, Chief Creative Officer and CEO. Today, I own my own business, an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Yet every day before I leave for the office I still make my own lunch.

Why

  • It saves me a lot of money.
  • I have portion control.
  • I can eat wherever I am.
  • I can eat whenever I get hungry.
  • Nobody can spit in my lunch.
  • It creates a predictable routine.
  • I don’t have to think about where to go for lunch.
  • It teaches my children a good habit.

Key Takeaway

Our mothers create good habits and values that last a lifetime. In fact, you may be surprised how many of your daily habits, your brand preferences and your techniques were created by your Mom. After all, before you met your Mom you were pretty clueless.

Thanks Mom for all the big things you gave me. But today, I am also thankful for the little things. The things I do automatically because you taught me to. They benefit me at home, at work, with friends and amongst strangers. You did a wonderful job teaching me to do things your way. I don’t know what happened with my sisters. They must be Dad’s fault.

Starting your own business is as easy as getting pregnant.

It is easy to talk about starting your own business. I started talking about it within the first year of landing my first job in advertising. I have heard countless colleagues and friends dream about starting their own business over the years. But few have done it. Last year I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. I also started this blog to share my learnings about the process.

So, what have I learned?

Most people think that starting a business is really hard. It is not. It is actually pretty easy.  In fact, as the title of this post suggests, it is as easy to start a business as it is to get pregnant. And for many people it’s actually way easier.

How to get pregnant.

To get pregnant you simply need two people to agree to a somewhat awkward exchange. One time. That’s all. And boom, your pregnant! You don’t need foreplay or formality. You don’t need to be experienced or even be particularly good at it.

Starting a business works the exact same way. Two people agree to a very basic, if not awkward initial exchange. They connect a problem and a solution. And when the money changes hands you have a business transaction. Once you have created a business transaction, even a micro-transaction, you have started a business.

The rest of it is romance. Window dressing.

Congratulations, it’s a business!  Now what?

Once you have made that exchange (become pregnant or started a business) you can figure out what to do next. In fact you don’t have to do much. You don’t have to be a good business owner, or parent. Certainly there are many parents who make their greatest, if not only contribution at conception.

You don’t have to get married to have children. And you are not required to make your business official by creating a separate business entity. It can remain a sole-proprietorship.

Sole Proprietorship

Income and losses are taxed on the individual’s personal income tax return. This is the simplest business form under which one can operate a business. It aint even a legal entity. It simply refers to a person who owns the business and is personally responsible for its debts.    -Entrepreneur

Remember, the pass-fail question here is, ‘Did you exchange a product or service for money?’ Once you have done that, you have a business, whether you claim it or not. Putting a lot more energy into the business is up to you. You get to decide what kind of parent of owner you want to be.

Conclusion

Stop thinking it is so hard.  Stop thinking you have all sorts of prerequisites to starting a business. You don’t. You don’t need any foreplay at all. You just need to play. And if you like it, the after-play is where you can develop the business further.  You have time to figure all of that out as you go.

But if you really want to start a business just take that first small step. It’s really not that hard.

If you know someone who has been talking about starting a business forever, please pass this post along to them. And if you found a bit of value in this post yourself, please consider subscribing to my blog.

 

The most important and overlooked role of mothers.

To celebrate Mother’s Day my family and I went out to brunch.  Actually, it was late enough that it could have been brupper. Or maybe brinner. As we sat down at our table the waitress brought each of my three kids a card to fill out that had 10 open-ended questions about My Mom.  My Mom is ______ years old.  What I like best about My Mom is __________. My Mom shows me she loves me by _______________. The best thing My Mom cooks is _____________.

The cards gave us something fun and engaging to do while waiting for our food. They stimulated conversation and made us all laugh. These cute questionnaires highlighted the typical way we think about our Moms: As maternal figures who support us, love us, cook for us and clean up after us.  My Mom certainly was that figure throughout my childhood. Today, my wife is that figure for our children. But there is another, far more important role that Moms play that goes mostly unnoticed by children.

As a creative professional, I recognize that our Moms don’t just raise us, care for us and love us.  They Design us. From the Moment we are born, until we leave home, our Moms are designing us as the humans they want us to be.  They implement rules and instill values which shape us. They expose us to people and places that stretch and expand us.

From the day you went home from the hospital your Mom chose your clothing to create an image. Your hairstyle was chosen by your Mom to reflect the person she wanted the world to see.  The birthday parties she threw, the gifts she gave, and the punishments she leveled were all part of the design.  The people she steered you towards and the ones she steered you away from were intential, always with the end result in mind.

Ever thought about why you lived where you lived as a child? Or why you went to the schools you went to?  That was your Mom, and Dad, designing you. Those classes your Mom signed you up for each had a purpose.  The musical instrument, community activities, volunteering, clubs and sports were all part of the design too.

The complicated choices she made to have pets, or not reflected her preferences for your life that may take a long time to understand.  How she taught you to address adults was part of the design.  Her lessons about driving, chores and how to answer the phone were part of the master plan. So were the talks about recycling and turning off the water while you brush your teeth. When she gave you money to put in the offering plate at church, that was shaping you. The decision she may have made not to attend church would have been a design decision too.

More thought went into the choices your Mom made in order to form who your are today than you will ever know.  Thank you Mom for all the decisions you made to help create me according to your vision. To my wife, Dawn, thank you for sweating all of the details that help shape Ava, Johann and Magnus. They are the greatest design concepts, responsibilities and successes we will ever know.