5 Motivational reads for the day after Labor Day.

The day after Labor Day is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s not because people stop wearing white pants. I love me some white jeans, and I usually break them out this week when everyone else’s white pants start smelling mothbally.

I love this day because it is the real start to the new year. When I first started school, Labor Day was the kickoff. The same was true for fall sports. Which makes now a natural time to start your own year.

Today, offices return to full strength after being down players throughout the summer. And from today until Thanksgiving, pumpkin spice joins the realm of gold, frankincense and myrrh the way Neil Young joined Crosby, Stills and Nash. (Side note: Did you know Neil Young is now married to Daryl Hannah? How weird is that?)

If you need a little motivation to kick off your best year ever here are a few timely reads I suggest checking out.

5 Motivational Post-Labor Day Reads

  1. Why September 3rd is the real New Year’s Day.
  2. Why September 6th is the most important day of the year.
  3. Right after Labor Day is the best time for all professionals to do this.
  4. Two questions to refocus your career every Labor Day.
  5. Why there has never been a better time to wear white.

Have a great day! Have a great year! And keep rocking those white pants.

How to use the power of unhappiness as motivational fuel.

The more of life that I experience the more I realize that my happiness is fueled in large part by my unhappiness. It feels dumb to write such a thing. But it is absolutely true.

Here’s how it works.

  1. I have a vision for who I am, and what my life is like.
  2. Everything that is already aligned with that makes me happy.
  3. All the areas where I fall short of my vision make me unhappy.

The unhappiness is a combination of unsatisfied, disappointed, frustrated, and embarrassed. However, that unhappiness is where my motivation comes from.

Family And Friends

In my head, I see myself as a great parent, husband, friend, and family member. But in reality, I am not always great at those roles. Certainly not as great as I want to be. I’m not as level-headed or as patient with my kids as I would like. I am not always as supportive or responsible as a husband-partner as I should be. I’m not always the kind of friend who walks in when the world walks out, or whatever the cross stitch about friendship in your grandma’s bathroom says. And I am unhappy about all of this.

Business

As an entrepreneur, I experience a lot of unhappiness. Because I have significant goals and expectations of my business. And I have high expectations of myself as the leader of the business. But if it all came to an end tomorrow I would be massively disappointed that me and my businesses didn’t accomplish more. Which is how the first kid tossed out at the National Spelling Bee must feel.

However, that unhappiness I experience, which stems from my personal and professional shortcomings, drives me to work, grow and improve. That drive is a huge source of happiness for me.

  • The work makes me happy.
  • Growth makes me happy.
  • Improvement makes me happy.
  • Hitting new milestones makes me happy.
  • Contributing the way I expect to in my relationships makes me happy.
  • Clapping along, and feeling like a room without a roof makes me happy.

Getting To It

Getting up at 6am to get back to work makes me happy. (It is currently 6:55am and I am about to finish writing my second blog post of the day.) Every step forward makes me happy. Executing the plan makes me happy. Laying the groundwork makes me happy. And watching Adam Sandler golf movies makes me happy. Especially when he fights Bob Barker. #ThePriceIsWrong

I recognize that I don’t have to be at the destination to be happy. Traveling there does the trick. Building, growing, and progressing are highly rewarding. As long as I am on the right path and moving in the right direction I get a little happier every day.

Key Takeaway

Your unhappiness is a great navigational tool to lead you to happiness. Determine the source of your unhappiness and you will know the direction to travel to find what you are after. Lose weight, get in shape, start that thang you always wanted to start. Do more. Strengthen your weaknesses. Become the person you always wanted to be. Those things can lead to a lot of happiness. Unhappiness is simply point A. Let it motivate you to get to point B.

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

Entrepreneurship taught me I can create my own friend groups.

When I was in high school I was part of a few natural groups. I played football and felt like part of the team. I participated in track & field and I felt like I was part of that team too. The track team was far bigger and was co-ed. Which was cool. Both teams offered me a great sense of belonging and contributed to my identity. Although I discovered neither was an acceptable form of identity for the TSA or for most college bars.

College

When I attended the University of Wisconsin I continued my track and field career. The track team gave me a sense of belonging to a special group. It hit that Goldilocks sweet spot of being bigger than I was alone, which is key, but much smaller than the full student population at UW Madison of 43,000. The track team gave me a social group, an identity, and a support system that prevented me from ever feeling lost in the sea of studentia.

This was the 1995 Big 10 Championship team. We won again in 1996. And yes, we did have color photography back then. Just not colored media guides.

Work Work Work Work Work Like Rihanna.

After college, I joined the workforce. I felt a sense of belonging at each of the advertising agencies that employed me. Those included Cramer Krasselt, Engauge, and Moxie. Interestingly, I also felt a sense of belonging within many of my clients’ organizations. I’m not sure if that was a result of my strong personal relationships or my delusional thinking.

Coworker friends from NYC, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

Entrepreneurship

When I started my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I felt an extreme sense of belonging. Because I created the agency itself, the organization was born with a place for me. But thanks to Thomas Edison, this created a lightbulb moment for me.

The Weaponry Friends.

What happened as a result of creating The Weaponry was that I realized that I had the power to create my own groups to be part of. So I started reforming social groups from my past that had disbanded because of the time and space continuum.

Getting The Band Back Together

I started with my original peer groups. I helped re-organize my high school football team. I helped pull together the guys from my class who played together. We now have a text group that chirps regularly with hilarity. We have Zoom calls to catch up. Thanks to our re-strengthened connections, we make real efforts to connect in person whenever we can. In fact, I have seen 6 of the guys in person this summer alone. (By alone I mean just during the summer. We weren’t alone. We were actually together.)

I helped my high school class get together via Zoom in February and in person in July.

Like adding water to orange juice concentrate, I also helped reconstitute my college track team. We now gather every couple of months on Zoom. Those relationships were a huge help in 2020 as we navigated health, financial, racial, and political craziness. Our team offered a trusted and safe space for a diverse family of brothers to discuss important but sensitive topics. We are also jonesing to gather again in person once our latest health crisis is behind us. (Oh, you didn’t know we had a health crisis?)

New Kids On The Block

However, I didn’t simply reform groups I had been part of in the past. I envisioned groups I wished existed. Then I started to create them too. Today, I regularly think about new and nuanced groups to create. Just as a chef considers recipes with new and novel combinations of ingredients, I think about how various people would form an interesting new social group. Then I make it happen. You can do it too. It’s easier and more rewarding than you think.

An original collection of former UW Badger varsity athletes.

Key Takeaway

Social groups are human creations. So create and maintain the groups you want to be part of. If you envision a great new group of humans, make it happen. If you want to recreate a group from the past, reform it. You will be surprised at how interested others are in being included in a social group, new or old. Most people simply don’t know they have the power to make it happen. Now you do.

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

Do you binge your favorite things or make them last?

What are your favorite shows of all time? Think about your favorite series from different eras of your life. The ones you enjoyed the most. The best stories. The most engaging characters. The funniest situation and language. The greatest plot twists and cliffhangers. It’s okay to claim The Dukes of Hazard or Saved By The Bell. #LoveIsLove.

A few classics come to mind:

  • Seinfeld
  • Friends
  • Mad Men
  • 30 Rock
  • The Simpsons
  • Breaking Bad
  • Game of Thrones
  • Yellowstone
  • Presidential Debates

When you reflect on your favorites don’t you wish you could watch them all again for the first time?

Today we can binge watch almost anything. And it is tempting. Because streaming services and on-demand programming make entertainment an all-you-can binge buffet. Or what my college teammate Jason ‘Hoss’ Casiano called a scarf-n-barf.

But don’t binge all you can. Take your time. Enjoy the best programs slowly. Not five in a sitting. Watch one episode per night, or a couple each week and make it last longer.

The same is true for food and beverages. Unless you are Joey Chestnut or Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas, binge eating and drinking rarely leaves you feeling like you are making good choices. Slow down. Take your time. Enjoy the best stuff slowly.

Key Takeaway

Things that are enjoyable should last. And while your curiosity wants to rush, remember, you will enjoy it all longer if you spread it out. Conserve your enjoyment. Anticipation is half the fun.

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

What story are you telling yourself?

On Sunday morning I was at our local high school for a track meet. While I spent a lot of time at the Homestead High School track in Mequon, Wisconsin this year as the throwing coach for the Highlander girl’s track team, Sunday morning was different.

I was a volunteer official for the Wisconsin Senior Olympics track meet. Which means that I marked the discus for senior competitors who ranged in age from 50 up to 93. It was inspirational to see all of the athletes in the second half of their athletic careers.

It was clear they were having a lot of fun, and the community was very supportive. It was also clear that the brighter the spandex the better for the senior crowd. And there was a lot more talk about the medical procedures scheduled or recently performed than at your average high school meet.

However, after the men and women threw I noticed that many of them came out to pick up their discuses and made a point of telling me how poorly they were throwing. They were self-deprecating, and good-natured about it. But I noted how prevalent the today’s-not-my-day response was. I also figured that one of the challenges of being a senior competitor is comparing your 70-year old skills to when you were a 60-year old whippersnapper.

I responded with encouragement. I told them all to make the next one count. And that it only takes one good throw to have a good meet.

Today is my day!

However, there was one woman who stood out. She was the last and oldest woman discus thrower of the day. She was 77 year-old Susan Morris from Sheboygan. During her warmups she told me she was training to break the state age-group record. Which is impressive at an age when many of her contemporaries are just trying not to break a hip.

When Susan threw I was surprised how far the discus flew. Unlike many of the other competitors, she never served up any modesty, and never said the day wasn’t her day. I knew she had the right mindset when she came out to the field to retrieve her discus after her 3rd of 4 throws. I told her she was doing a great job. She took me by surprise when she announced, ‘I’m gonna throw the shit out of my last throw!

Susan and I are now Facebook friends, which is where I stole the shit out of this picture.

The 77-year old returned to the ring for her last throw and unleashed her best throw of the day. A personal record. Her best throw ever. Just 4 feet from the state record she’s hunting.

When I talked to Susan after the meet she said that she trains without a coach, and learns how to throw, the way most of the seniors do –by watching discus videos on YouTube.

She asked me if I thought I could help her add 5 more feet to her throw. And I said I expected I could help her add another 10 feet. She jumped up and down, pumped her fists, and eagerly asked how much I charge. I said it depends on how far you throw.

Attitude Is Everything

I know I could help Susan because anyone who says I am going to throw the shit out of my last throw has the right attitude to be successful at whatever she takes on.

We all write our own stories in our heads first. Then we bring that story to life. And if the story you tell is that today is not your day, I am 100% sure today is not your day. But if the story is about how much effort you will put in, and about the great outcome you will make happen, sooner or later, your story will end just the way you scripted it.

I also met Pat Hauser from Lake Mills, Wisconsin, who dominated the men’s competition as a 70-year old with a great attitude! We connected some dots and discovered that he was the high school track and basketball coach of my close friend and college teammate, James Dunkleberger. James was the 1997 NCAA Division I decathlon national champion. This morning I discovered that Pat and I also share a birthday!

Key Takeaway

Tell a great story about yourself. Then make it come true. Believe in your ability to work hard and perform at your highest level. And when you throw yourself into your work, throw the shit out of it. Just like Susan Morris of Sheboygan, the future Wisconsin state record holder in the discus.

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

Every day you can find an excuse not to do the work.

Entrepreneurship is no joke. I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry in 2016. The business requires a great deal of effort to maintain and grow. It’s not for the weak of heart, weak of mind or weak of alarm clock.

At the same time I started my business I also started writing this blog. I wanted to share my experience and learnings with others. Now I publish a new post 3 days per week. Every day except Saturday I get up at 6 am to write. On Saturdays I sleep in until 6:30 am. I’m like the ‘Time-To-Make-The-Donuts’ man. Except consuming a lot of what I’m making won’t give you diabetes.

However, almost every day I can find an excuse not to do the things I need to do to grow my business or write my blog. I can always, always find excuses not to get up and put in the work to improve our product, processes and people. I can find excuses not to write, polish, and publish the next post. But Like Forrest Gump kept on run-ning, I keep wor-king, and wri-ting.

Excuses are everywhere. And they can get you out of anything hard. In fact, excuses can make your life easier. Much easier.

Excuses are like A-holes, Taylor. Everybody’s got one.

-Sgt. O’Neill from Platoon

But every time you grab one of those excuses you are robbing yourself. You are robbing from all that you are capable of doing and becoming. You are robbing from your life’s work. You are robbing from your own personal legend. You are robbing money from your own pocket. You are robbing from your belief in yourself that you are accountable, reliable and resilient. That you are determined, focused and driven.

An excuse is like Superman’s Kryptonite. The excuse itself weakens you. It zaps you of your superpower. It makes you a very ordinary human. Which means you are Clark-Kenty. Not the super version of you that you really want to be.

Don’t touch the excuses. They only appear to be permission slips that let you sleep in, knock off early, put in half-effort, or not work at all. But they kill your momentum. They kill progress. And they sabotage your success. (Listen all y’all it’s a sabotage!)

At the end of your days, when your obituary is written and your eulogy is read, they won’t mention all the excuses you had for not doing more. They will only talk about what you did, who you were, what you accomplished and the impact you had on other people. Remember that the next time you consider grabbing an excuse.

Key Takeaway

Don’t accept the excuses life offers. Do what you are supposed to do to live into your vision for yourself. Let others take the excuses. And separate yourself from them. That alone is the difference maker. Both successful people and unsuccessful people know what they should do. The successful people actually do what they are supposed to do to make their dreams come true. Everyone else makes excuses.

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

When I smile at people one of two things always happens.

I smile a lot. As Buddy Elf said, smiling is my favorite. I smile first thing in the the morning when I open my eyes to start my day right. On a typical day I try to smile at everyone I encounter. Oh, who am I fooling? I don’t really try to smile at everyone. It just happens, even without trying. It’s just the way I am programmed.

Me and my friend Chris Winters smiling when we saw each other for the first time in 10 years.

When I greet others with a smile one of two things always happens.

1. The other person responds with a great smile.

I love it when people smile back. When this happens the world improves. When my smile generates a smile in another person I enjoy a huge return on my investment. It feels as if I have more friends and fewer foes. I see others in the best light. A shared smile means we are more likely to talk to each other. More likely to develop a significant relationship. And more likely to know if the other person has spinach in their teeth.

Me and Amy Meadows smiling in Carmel, Indiana. Because it is the happiest place in Indiana.

2. The other person does nothing.

A surprising percentage of the time when I smile at someone I get nothing in return. No smile. No smirk. No Mona Lisa impression. Nothing. When the non-response happens it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I always think it is funny. As if the person is facial expression illiterate.

Here my good friend Raghu demonstrates smile immunity.

The lack of a return smile is rarely if ever about me. It is about the other person, and what they are or are not prepared to give. I don’t feel shunned, rejected or ashamed. I simply think, that person either can’t smile right now or doesn’t know how. When this happens I move on and smile at the next person. And the person after that. And the person after that. Because you can’t let an unreturned smile impact the next person you see.

Smiling with my fellow Weapons Adam Emery and Kevin Kayse.

Key Takeaway

Share your smile with others. It is one of the most valuable gifts you can give another person. Don’t worry if they don’t know what to do with it. Most people do. Most people deeply appreciate it. Smile for them. And for yourself. Do what you know is right, and don’t worry about those who get it wrong or take it wrong. Some people don’t know how to play smile tennis. Just keep serving them aces.

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

You have the ability to create your own comeback stories.

I am a Milwaukee Bucks fan. This week the Bucks won the NBA championship for the first time since 1971. I wasn’t even alive the last time the Bucks won the NBA title. In fact, during the Bucks’ championship drought bellbottoms went in and out of style 3 times.

The 2021 title did not come easy. There were several times when a championship this season seemed out of the question. Like in the second round of the playoffs when the Bucks were down 2 games to 0 versus the Brooklyn Nets. (Not to be confused with the Moscow Nyets.) In the second game of that series, Milwaukee lost 125-86. In case you don’t know sports, that’s really bad.

Then, in game 7 of that series, it looked like the Bucks had been eliminated when the Nets’ Kevin Durant hit a last-second 3-pointer to seal the win. But it turned out the toe of his size 18 shoe was on the 3-point line, making the shot a 2-pointer, and sending the game to overtime, and a Bucks win.

In game 5 Against the Atlanta Hawks, the Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo went down with a nasty knee injury that looked as if it was sure to end his season, his ability to walk right, and the team’s championship hopes.

Then the Bucks opened the NBA Finals in Phoenix against the Suns. Despite the fact the Giannis miraculously was back and played great, the Bucks got rolled in back-to-back games. Things didn’t look good when the team was down 2 games to none.

But the Bucks never gave up. They never waved the white flag. They stole Phoenix’s schtick and kept rising to the occasion.

They won game 7 in overtime against the Nets.

They rallied after it looked like they lost their best player against the Hawks and won the final 2 games without him.

Then, when they came back to Milwaukee down 2-0 against the Suns in the finals, the crowd cheered the now famous ‘Bucks In Six! Bucks In Six! Bucks In Six!’ Which meant the team would win the next 4 games in a row. And that is exactly what happened.

Key Takeaway

  • Just because you are losing doesn’t mean you have lost.
  • It isn’t over until it is over.
  • Bad breaks don’t mean a bad outcome.
  • What has happened doesn’t indicate what will happen.
  • Humans can cause their own momentum shifts.

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

How I create each day for maximum success.

We all have daily drivers. They are the influencing forces that determine how we spend our time each day. They can be internal or external. Productive or not. (And if we are getting technical, the drivers could also be Donald, Minnie or a 1-wood.)

Your drivers, whatever they are, become your operating system, your scheduler and the determining factor of how you budget your most valuable resource — your time.

What drives your day?

  • A to-do list.
  • Your email inbox.
  • People who call and stop by to talk.
  • Phone notifications.
  • Your success list.
  • Addiction to cat videos and bargain yarn sites 
  • Requests of family and coworkers.
  • There is no driver. Days are just giant improvisations.

To create each day for maximum success, my morning routine involves getting on top of my day before my day gets on top of me. To do this I start with a daily success list.

My Daily Success List

  1. At the top of the page I write the major areas of my life (like my business The Weaponry, my health, my family, my writing etc.) and the related initiatives I am prioritizing. 
  2. Then I write a few motivating cues and phrases about making things happen at the top of the page. Like:
    1. ‘Move all trains forward’
    2. ‘Focus!’
    3. ‘Things do not happen. They are made to happen.’
    4. ‘Get sh!t done!’
    5. ‘More & Better!’
    6. Or dollar values related to goals. (Like Dr. Evil’s $100 BILLION Dollars….)
  3. I list my prioritized actions for the day.
  4. I find time for each of the actions on my calendar.
  5. Then I start attacking the list.   

(Note: WordPress served up a number-on-number outline above, versus numbers-to-letters-to-Roman numerals, which would be clearer. I would try harder to fix it, but I have other things to do today if I want today to be a success.) 

Key Takeaway

Know your goals and long-term priorities and let them drive your days. Start your morning thinking about them. Script action items that help you make progress towards them each day. Find time in your schedule for those actions to make sure you have time to get them done. And protect that time. It is the only way to assure you will make progress each day.

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

It’s time for you to enjoy quality time with others again.

One of my favorite things to do is spend time with other humans. I am naturally curious, like George. I love hearing other people’s stories, experiences and perspectives. While I always regret wasting time consuming nutrition-less digital nonsense, live, human interactions almost never disappoint. (Except when I interact with Debbie Downer, Andy Angry or Michael Myers.)

Covid-19 and the cancelation of up-close and personal interactions was super odd. But I adapted. I really enjoyed my focused time with my wife and 3 kids. But the experience dragged on so long that I almost forgot what I was missing with other non-nuclear family interactions. Until recently.

I was pfully vaccinated in early May, and I am now a Pfizer pfan pfor life. With so many others in my circles now vaccinated, life feels more and more normal (or moremal) all the time.

But over the past few weeks things have grown insanely normal. I have enjoyed in-person meetings with clients, in-person chocolate milk meetings, (because I don’t drink coffee), breakfasts, lunches and dinners. I have invited people to drop by my office. And I am visiting people in their offices, homes, and vans down by the river.

Art and Laurie Mazor, my former next door neighbors in Atlanta, are great people who I have had a great mask-less time with recently.

It all feels like a social springtime. Conversations are blooming. Interesting topics are popping up. New collaborations are unfurling. But it’s nothing to sneeze at. Because when humans come together they create the future through ideas, visions, collective action, motivation and inspiration.

Key Takeaway

Get vaccinated. And get back together. The best part of life is our togetherness. Inspire and encourage others to do great, fun, interesting, meaningful and important activities together. Help each other. Share talents, connections and energy. Grow personally and professionally through positive shared in-person experiences. They are available to you again. Take advantage of it. Because great relationships are your secret advantage in life.

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