Want to do great things? Follow someone who already has.

If you want to do something great, find someone who has already done it. Or is doing it now. And doing it well, like L.L. Tuck in behind them and learn as much as you can from them. Ask questions. Observe. And follow.

There is no reason to waste time reinventing the wheelie. Get the blueprints. And the Cliff Notes. Learn as much as you can from those who have already traveled the path. And you’ll experience the least resistance.

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This dude is tucked in and ready to draft.

You still have to put in the work. Like RuPaul. Your endpoint will be your own. But playing follow the leader will allow you to expend less energy in the early stages. Which will allow you to travel faster and farther and spend more time on course than off.

You will condense the journey to your initial success by squeezing out the mistakes and missteps. The types of mistakes and setbacks that are inevitable if you go alone. Going down the only road you’ve ever known.

Your success will also be the success of the person you are tucking behind. Because you are Them 2.0. You are them but smarter, sharper, and more efficient. You are them with experience, time traveling back to the beginning. Like Uncle Rico playing high school football again.

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I played follow the leader when I was a kid, and never stopped. 

You can follow a person you know. Or a person you want to know. But you can also follow someone who has done it, and written a book about it. Or created a podcast, newsletter blog or poem about it. You can even follow Robert Frost by not following Robert Frost. Think about that for a moment in the yellow woods.

I have been following too many people to count. They have all made my journey to this point easier. Becuase there is so much already figured out that I didn’t have to figure it out myself. And that has made all the difference

Key Takeaway

Dream a big dream. Then get going. But don’t go it alone. Find someone to break the wind for you. #snickering  Follow a proven recipe for success. Then add your own nuts and marshmallows. The world is full of great stories. Find one you like. Or mix several together to create your own formula. But find a guide. You’ll get there faster. Then just keep going.

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

Happy 4th of July! Will today be your Independence Day?

Before 1776 there was potential. A lot of potential. The American colonies were full of smart, talented, ambitious men and women who wanted more and better than the old world could provide. We had stars. We had bars. And we had Betsy Ross threaded and ready.

The fuse on this firecracker was lit in the summer of 1776. The best and brightest came together with a vision and a quill pen. And when they finally took action they launched the greatest startup the world has ever seen.

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Betsy Ross Like A Boss

But like any startup, they didn’t get everything right, right out of the gate. However, they created a system that enabled the system itself to get better, stronger and smarter over time.

Using the system itself we have been able to clarify that all men are created equal really means all men and women. It includes all colors. It includes all religions. It even includes the New York Yankees.

Today, that cute little Philly startup from 1776 is now the most valuable organization on Earth.

This Independence Day weekend I hope you take a few minutes to consider this amazing organization of ours. An organization that began with just some powdered wigs and a dream.

We must continue using the system to make the system itself better. It is not only our right, as shareholders, but it is also our obligation.

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In the words of the great American writer, Will Smith, Boom, Shake Shake Shake The Room.

I hope the 4th of July also inspires you to consider your own independence.

If you have been thinking of starting your own business, do it now.

If you have lost your job or your entire industry, start fresh now.

If you are energized and eager, it’s go time!

If you are desperate, you have the most powerful fuel of all.

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In the words of Montel Jordan, this is how we do it.

If you want to start your own business but don’t know where to begin, send me a note. I have started my own business. Today, I want to help others experience the same feeling of independence.

And If I can do it, you can too. I know. Because we are all created equal.

Happy 4th of July my fellow shareholders!

God Bless America.

What we can learn about all this craziness from Charles Darwin.

2020 started like any other year. New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day came and went without incident. But by St. Patrick’s Day we had hit the shamrocks. Churches were closed on Easter. Brunches were unavailable on Mother’s Day. And on Memorial Day (my birthday), George Floyd was murdered by the artists formerly known as Minneapolis police officers.

Halftime

As we hit the mid-point it is clear that 2020 is going to be a different kind of year. The 4th of July fireworks will be largely DIY. Basketball will be in a bubble. Popular institutions that have reopened may reclose becuase they are a little too popular to curb the spread of COVID-19. Statues, monuments and names are being changed in an effort to stamp out racism (or what we may call eracism). And entire industries will have to find a new path forward following the disruptions and disallowances of the past few months.

Another Chapter

However, this is not the end of the world. Far from it. This is simply another chapter of change in the book of human history. As we face new and novel challenges it is valuable to get a little big-picture perspective. And who better than Charles Darwin to shed a little light on our current situation? (Ok, God would have been even better, but Chucky D is still solid.)

Darwin

Charles Darwin, best knows for inventing the Darwin Awards, properly spelling Galapagos, and for his role in the hit movie The Pirates! Band of Misfits, also created a few popular theories. Including the following:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.  -Charles Darwin

Change

Change is inevitable. There will be changes to our economy, to our environment and to our political leadership. There will be changes to industries, to culture and law. There will changes to facemask wearing policies. There will be changes to bar and beach access. And changes to the rules governing how we ride elevators. Strange, I know.

There will also be changes as a result of the Me Too movement and the Black Lives Matter movement that will change outcomes for rapey and racists humans. #SorryNotSorryHarvey. And there will be more movements. Ones that we can’t imagine yet. And they will serve the greater good as they bring on more change.

Survival

The individuals, businesses, industries, cities, states and countries that respond well to these inevitable changes will survive. It doesn’t matter if you are smart, or were in a position of strength before. The only thing that matters now is how well you respond and adapt to change. That is the rule that governs the game, and always has.

Key Takeaway

Change is inevitable and never-ending. You must respond. Understand what works now. Embrace change and the opportunities it affords you to reinvent yourself, your career, your business and your community. Keep improving. Keep adapting. There is so much good ahead. Make sure you are prepared to enjoy it all.

*If you know somoene who could benefit from a friendly reminder from Charles Darwin, please share this with them.

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 am not really me.

I am not really Me.

If you met Me today you wouldn’t know the real Me. Because the real Me lives in the future. And I have a clear vision of that guy in my head. And he’s nearly perfect.

If you met Me today you would only see a work in progress. You would see a construction site. An early sketch. A minimum viable product.

But I am continuously trying to close the gap between the real Me and the person you would find today. The real Me is in better shape. He is smarter. Better at connecting dots. And solving problems. He is kinder. He is a better father, husband, friend, son, neighbor, brother, entrepreneur, creative thinker, volunteer, and giver than I am today.

He has donated blood. And rescued a kitty from a tree. He can spin a basketball on his finger. He can solve a Rubiks Cube. He speaks Spanish. He can fold a fitted sheet as well as my wife. He is so rich that everybody wants him. Even Billy Squire. He uses his money to improve the world. He knows every step to every dance. And he looks good doing them.

I am gaining on the real Me a little every day. I read, exercise and listen. I am analyzing my mistakes and finding better models. I am asking questions. And questioning answers.

I am trying to contribute more than I take. I am finding a better frequency, Kenneth. And it seems to be working. Slowly but surely.

The Real You

I hope you are improving every day too. Like Elvis Costello. I hope the Real You, the Best You, is still to come. I hope you are closing the gap on the Real You every day. I hope you are spending more time looking at the horizon than the rearview mirror. I hope you are reading and exercising and learning and listening. I hope you are still wet clay. A minimum viable product, ready to become the Maximum You.

Key Takeaway

You’re not done yet. Not even close.

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

 

 

Did you know that you own a business?

There are two types of business owners. The first type are those who work in their business. They do whatever needs to be done to deliver the goods and services the business produces. They are doers. They are time-to-make-the-donuts types. They make the business run.

Then there are business owners who work on their business. They are like race mechanics who are tinkering with and tweaking the machine to make it more powerful, more capable, more efficient, and easier to work with. Like Ricky Bobby, they want to go fast.

The business owner who simply works in her or his business never creates a better business. They never grow beyond the limitations of there current inputs and processes. They are hamster wheel owners. And they will never get ahead.

No Limit Soldiers

But the business owner who works on his or her business will know no limits. They will continuously find ways to improve the machine. Sometimes in small ways. Sometimes in transformative ways that make the new version of the business so different from the old that you wouldn’t recognize them as the same organization. Kind of like the Bash Brothers of business.

Those who work on the business create growth organizations. These are the success stories. The highly profitable businesses that attract the best and brightest to join and contribute their ideas for improvement. This is the most rewarding organization to be a part of. And it contributes the highest returns to its employees.

The United States Inc.

Our nation is a business too. You and I are the nation-owners. And we have to decide whether we are going to work in the business or on the business.

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As Americans, we own this thing together. Never forget that.

If we simply decide that we are going to work in the nation, then we as the owners are not growers, increasers or improvers. The nation we hand down to our children will be the same one we inherited. We will be the forgotten ownership era who did nothing to increase value.

However, if we decide to work on the nation there is no limit to how much better we can make this business of ours. Abraham Lincoln worked on the business. So did FDR. And Susan B. Anthony. And Martin Luther King Jr. And Team America, World Police. They were all owner-citizens, just like you and me. Yet the visions they had, the decisions they made, and the actions they took improved our business in immeasurable ways.

Get To Work

Today, as nation-owners, we all have the ability to work on the business in large and small ways. Voting helps. Speaking out helps. Taking action helps. Fixing the system to work better for all Americans helps. By improving the system we can add more fuel,  more horsepower, more capacity, and more contribution. Which leads to more output, greater results and a more prosperous nation for all.

As nation-owners we should expect profit sharing. When the nation does well, all who contribute enjoy a bonus. The more who contribute the greater the bonus will be.

I like a good bonus. I expect you do too. So does Gordon Gekko. The promise of a bigger bonus is how you get Gordon to buy into the plan.

Key Takeaway

Our nation is like a business. It is time for us as the nation-owners to work on the business. Let’s turn this business of ours into a high-powered, smooth-running, high output machine. Because when we do, all shareholders will enjoy greater dividends. And we’ll be able to pass down an even greater asset to the next generation.

*If you know a fellow nation-owner who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

You are complicated. And so am I.

I read the same way a prospector pans for gold. I sift through words looking for gold nuggets. Once I find those nuggets of wisdom, inspiration and insight I lock them into my mental vault. There they begin to appreciate by improving the way I think. Which ultimately makes me a more valuable human.

One of the most valuable nuggets in my collection came from a book I read on Thomas Jefferson. There was an interesting idea that appeared in his writings multiple times. It jumped off the page at me the first time I read it. Ole TJ was a complicated cat. On the one hand, he fancied himself a great champion of human freedom. On the other hand, he was a racist slave owner in love with black woman. Go figure. In an attempt to describe his complex thoughts and feelings he dropped this gold:

Of all machines, ours is the most complicated and inexplicable.  -Thomas Jefferson

This nugget serves as a valuable reminder that your thoughts, feelings and action are complicated. But more importantly, it reminds us that all humans are complicated machines.

The COVID-19 crisis has stressed human machinery in ways we have not been stressed before. Add to that the senseless killing of Geoge Floyd and the complex issues it raises, and it is no wonder that so many are glitching, smoking and crashing. #reboot

As humans, we must recognize that we are complicated. We are not mass-produced. We are individually crafted. Our hardware and software are custom made. We each have a unique collection of inputs that influence our outputs. Our individual experiences, wiring and programming mean that no two of us process life the same way. This is true in the best of times. And it is true in the most challenging of times. Like right now. And during tax season.

Key Takeaway

Humans are inexplicably complicated machines. To get the best from a human, approach them with empathy and compassion. Listen. Aim to understand. Find common ground. Accept that our diversity runs deeper than we could possibly categorize. When all else fails, treat others the way you want to be treated. That’s a little gold we can all profit from.

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

The touching story of a repurposed billboard.

The week of March 16th was like nothing I had ever experienced. That Monday morning The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, met with the University of Wisconsin Credit Union about updating their outdoor billboards and TV commercials in response to the emerging COVID-19 crisis.

By the end of the day, The Weaponry presented a whole new billboard campaign. The new outdoor boards were up practically overnight in both Madison and Milwaukee. In the process, The Weaponry set new turnaround expectations that are likely to haunt me for the rest of my career.

Standing Together

I was very proud of the new work that we developed in a single day. I especially loved the billboard that said, ‘Even when we’re apart we, stand together.’  It was a great way to express UW Credit Union’s promise to be Here for every you. During that time of growing isolation and uncertainty, as our community faced both a health and financial crisis, the message was spot on. And true.

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Rome was not built in a day. But a new UW Credit Union billboard campaign was.

George Floyd

Two months later, just as our nation was beginning to emerge from the COVID-19-induced isolation, George Floyd was killed by police officers, and our country found itself deep in another crisis.

In the days since George Floyd’s murder, people across the country have searched for ways to express their outrage and create change. Some have found powerful forces for progress. A few have engaged in more divisive actions. Unfortunately, the media coverage of the divisive has far exceeded that of the progressive. Because flames, shattered glass, and unpaid for merchandise with legs make for more interesting video than peaceful demonstrations.

Back To The Billboard

Early Tuesday morning I received an email from Anne Norman, the Chief Marketing Officer at UW Credit Union. She had received an update from Adams Outdoor, the billboard company in Madison, Wisconsin. As the Adams team (no relation) arrived to do a scheduled replacement of the We Stand Together billboard they discovered the billboard has been spray-painted with the words George Floyd. They took a picture of the graffitied billboard and shared it with us so we could see what had happened.

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The George Floyd Board. It features a curious extra E, removed by Yellow-Out.

Wow

Anne and I were both struck by how powerful the graffitied board was. And we thought it would have been better to have simply left the billboard and its modified message in place. I suggested that we share the George Floyd board via our social channels.

Anne suggested an even better idea. She asked what I thought of putting the graffitied board back up. I thought it was an excellent idea.

The Reposting

Yesterday, on June 3rd, UW Credit Union reposted the George Floyd Board. Except this time they had it posted in one of the highest visibility locations in Madison, on the top of the Adams Outdoor building, beside the highly trafficked beltline. Because you know that a good billboard company always saves the best location for itself.

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The new home of the George Floyd Board. (Try saying George Floyd Board 10 times fast.)

Proud Partner

I am extremely proud to partner with UW Credit Union. It’s an organization fully committed to the communities it serves. I am proud of Anne Norman for making a courageous decision to repost this billboard, a billboard that no longer features the UW Credit Union logo, in support of George Floyd, the Black community and the Black Lives Matters movement.

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This is how Anne Norman shared the story in her own words. She uses the word ‘We’ a lot, as does everyone at UW Credit Union. But know that she was instrumental in making this happen. 

Key Takeaway

Do what you can to make a difference. Stand together. Work together. Support each other. Always do what you know is right. Like my friend Anne Norman and millions of others across America who are determined to leave this world better than they found it.

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

It’s time to talk less and listen more.

I am always trying to create a newer, better version of myself. Soon after I began my professional career I realized that there are a lot of smart, talented people on this planet. To catch up to the impressive people I admired most I was going to have to do my homework. So I began studying and learning, again. Not in a structured school program. But in a self-directed, movie montage kind of way.

Communications Skillz.

Like most people who are into self-improvement, I have focused heavily on communication skills: public speaking, presentation skills, selling skills. But the deeper I got into this game Prince called, Life, I realized that most people, including me, spend too much time on the wrong side of the equation.

The most effective and important communication skill is not speaking. It’s listening.

George Floyd

George Floyd told the police officers arresting him that they were killing him. When you saw the video you heard it right? Because you were listening. Now, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, we should all be listening more. We are all being called to create a better world. A world where police brutality stops. Where everyone has safety, freedom, and equal access to opportunities. But creating a better world starts with each of us becoming better versions of ourselves.

Listening

Listening is where all improvement starts. It is only through listening that we understand the problems that we need to solved. It is how we hear what isn’t said (don’t think about this too hard or it sounds really stupid).

Through listening, we learn about other people. We learn about their history, their values, their fears, their styles, and their quirks. Which allows for deeper, more meaningful, more valuable relationships.

Yet when was the last time you heard about someone going to a class on listening? So here is a free mini-class on listening that takes 2 minutes to complete. But it is sure to make you a better, bigger-eared version of yourself.

6 Keys To Improving Your Listening Skills.

1. Close your mouth.

We are often so compelled to talk that we stop listening. If you want to be a great listener you have to silence your own impulses. And focus on your role as a listener. This means you are not providing answers, or solutions or opinions. You are harvesting. Not planting. Know what season it is. Bring the right equipment to the field.

2. Listen Competitively.

Try to be really good at listening. You already know the little things you have to do to be a great listener. We learned them by playing Simon Says when we were kids. Look at the person talking. Give the person speaking your full attention. Do this as if your relationships, influence and earning potential depend on it. Because they do.

3. Keep your partner lubricated.

I don’t mean with alcohol or Vaseline. With affirmations. And demonstrated interest. Lean in. Show you care. You will keep others flowing with information. Yet without the backlash that comes with waterboarding.

4. Listen with your Spidey Sense.

Go beyond the words that are said. Note the tone. The emotion. Those things are like limps, signaling that something deeper is wrong. Or they could signal that someone is in a good mood that exceeds the norm for the current situation. Maybe they just got engaged. Or maybe they are on drugs. You should know the difference.

5.  Play back, Jack.

The curtain call of any good listening session is the summary of what you heard. The highlight, simplified conclusion, or takeaway that demonstrates that you really heard what was said.  Show that you know what was implied and what is important. Do this and you will always leave a conversation with more personal equity.

6. Lock up the valuables.

The most important listening skill is keeping the private stuff private. You have to know which things you heard were intended for you alone. And don’t talk about them. When people know that you are trustworthy they tell you more. You become an important confidante. An insider. It’s like being sponge-worthy.

Key Takeaway

Improve your listening and everything else will improve. Better relationships with your friends, family and co-workers. Better networking. And better solutions to problems. The Lord knows we need better solutions to our problems right now.

If you have more tips, tricks and techniques for better listening I would love to hear from you.

The skill the world needs from you now.

2020 has been a challenging year. It has served up more flavors of adversity than Baskin Robbins has ice cream. Like COVID-19 itself, no one is immune to the stress in our system right now.

We need to recognize the pressure the people on our planet are feeling. Because pressure makes humans make poor decisions.

Under stressful conditions, bad choices compound. The result is escalation. A simmer becomes a boil. Smoke becomes fire. Self-control evaporates. I’ve been there. I’ve felt it in myself. I’ve seen it in others. It’s intensely powerful. And destructive.

Escalation brings out the worst in us. Yet it comes naturally. We all have the ability to trump a bad action or a bad comment with an even worse response. It becomes a competition to see who can inflict more pain, create more damage and elicit more anger. But it’s a competition that no one wins.

Yet escalation happens in homes and schools. It happens in the workplace. It happens in hockey games. And in bars where people watch hockey games. Escalation happens when police officers lose touch with their humanity. And when angry protestors don’t feel like their point is being received.

What The World Needs Now

What is less natural, but far more valuable, is de-escalation. Removing the tension from a situation. Recognizing when a poor decision by someone else requires a good decision by you, and me.

Don’t respond to anger with more anger, but with empathy. We need to demonstrate that we are listening. That we understand. And we are willing to make things better. Because there are times when we all need someone else to step in and help us adjust our settings when we can’t self regulate.

Key Takeaway

Calmness and compassion are as contagious as anger and fear.

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