I have a new and improved way to exchange names with new people.

There are roughly 8 billion people on the planet. You can categorize them in all kinds of ways. You can group them by their gender, smell, like or dislike of mushrooms, or their opinion on various TikTok dances.

But I find it most valuable to sort people into 2 simple groups:

  1. Those whose names I know.
  2. Those whose names I don’t know.

One of my most important goals here on Planet #3 is to shift as many people as possible from Group 2 to Group 1. Because real relationships don’t begin until you exchange names.

For most of my life, I have used a very simple introductory technique. During a conversation or in response to awkward proximity, I traditionally made the following statement:

My name is Adam.

While I have used this line thousands of times, I have not been very happy with the results. And if you are going to use a technique thousands of times, you should really like the results.

The 2 main problems with this approach

First, the other person doesn’t always know what to do next. I am always amazed when I share my name with another person and they don’t respond by sharing their name with me. It feels like I have whacked the front of their knee with a small rubber-headed mallet, and their foot did not kick forward. Which makes me think there is something wrong with their wiring.

The other problem with my introduction technique is that the name retention rate is fairly low. In other words, The other person doesn’t absorb or remember that my name is Adam nearly as often as you might expect. Especially given the fact that I just told them my name right to their face.

However, I read Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s book Extreme Ownership. So I find it useful to explore how I am at fault for the lower-than-expected retention rate. As a result, I have radically transformed my standard introductory technique. Today, when I want to get to know someone better, I use the following new line, that I wrote myself:

What is your name?

The results from this approach have been amazing. I have found that nearly everyone knows their own name and is willing to share it when prompted using this technique.

But wait, there’s more!

I have also found that far more people remember my name when I use this technique, as measured by a name-based goodbye at the end of our conversations, and first-name greetings on follow-up encounters.

Contributing Success Factors

When I ask you for your name, you know the answer and are prepared to share it. I am also fully prepared to receive your name because I just asked you for it.

However, the real magic of this technique comes in Phase 2 of Technique 2.

In Technique 1, the receiver is not always ready to absorb my name. While well-intentioned, my initial name share could come in hot, like a ball thrown at someone when they didn’t have their hands up and ready to protect their nose.

In Phase 2 of Technique 2, when the other person asks to know your name they are prepared to receive the answer. So when they hear your name they already have created a space for it to live in their brain. It might be on a shelf, hanging on a wall, or on a comfy bean bag chair, depending on how the other person has decorated the namespace in their brain. But because that space was prepared before you shared your name it is far more likely to be found later when the person needs or wants it.

Key Takeaway

For more successful name exchanges ask for the other person’s name first. This sequence enables both parties to be best prepared to remember the other’s name. Plus, it feels fun to have someone ask ‘what’s your name?’ Because in the movies, that’s the question the gatekeepers always ask right before they give the main character their big break.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Takeaway

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

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Breaking News! The world is much better than you think!

Things are good. And getting better.

That is the real headline for today. And every day. Consider yourself informed.

The news media is incentivized to bring you bad news. Never forget that. Because we are far less like to tune in to the good news than the bad and the ugly. As a result, the media aggregates all the bad, alarming, and attention-getting news they can scrounge.

Politicians, lobbyists, and documentary film directors serve up negatively distorted pictures because it serves their purposes. They are selling an angle. And it’s more likely to be obtuse or acute than right. #geometry

If you stopped taking in the news you would stop hearing about every bad thing that happened in far-flung places that will never impact you. Because things are generally good in your near-flung places.

There is a common belief that the world is falling apart. It is not. It is growing and improving year after year. Children are being educated and vaccinated. Life expectancy is going up all over the planet. Technology is making lives easier and better. Vehicles are safer. Quality of life standards are going up too.

Phones no longer have cords. They have cameras, calculators, calendars and Karma Chameleon anytime you want to hear it. Plus you have social apps that enable you to connect or reconnect with every friend you have ever had. That would have seemed unbelievable 20 years ago. But this much is true.

We don’t have everything solved. But we are collecting the knowledge, tools and technology to address every challenge we face. Like Andy Grammer said, It’s good to be alive right about now.

Key Takeaway

2023 could be the best year the people on our planet have ever experienced. Yes, bad things will happen. But recognize all the good things that are happening at all levels, around the world. Do your part to continue the progress. Recognize when others have an agenda to share a negatively distorted view of the world. And turn off the news. 99% of that stuff doesn’t impact you. Life is good. Enjoy your day.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How taking action today can change your life forever.

Today you are going to do something good for yourself.

You will read. Or exercise. Or work on a big project. Or practice something you want to become great at. Maybe you will eat right. Or write. Or Orville Wright.

But one day is only one day. And if you stop there the progress and impact will be minimal.

Because one good day is just one good day, mate.

But if you can string 5 to 7 of them together you have a great week. (If you string 6 together I think you have a guitar.)

When you string 4 great weeks together you have a great month.

A few great months make a great season. Or a great year.

String together great years and you have a great career.

Or even better, you have a great life.

Great careers and great lives leave a legacy.

But it all starts with one good day of taking action.

Make that day today.

Key Takeaway

Do something good for yourself today. Then repeat it tomorrow. And the next day. Build good actions into habits. Your habits build momentum. And ultimately they create all of your successes, your life, and your legacy. It’s easier than you think. Just get started. And don’t stop.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

This year resolve to take important new actions.

This is an exciting week for people who own calendars. Because we have flipped to a whole new set of 365 days. The new year brings on new hopes and dreams. It is full of opportunities. Most of us come into the new year, like Wayne Gretzky, with a bunch of new goals.

But the most important thing to do in the new year to convert those goals into reality is to take action.

A goal to lose weight is only a dream until you take action with your diet and exercise. A goal to start a business is worthless until you start talking to potential customers. A goal to travel is only a dream until you buy your ticket to ride. And a goal to write a book, screenplay, or fortune cookie is meaningless until you start typing on your keyboard. (Oh lord, why don’t we?)

The familiar phrase New Year, New You is missing a key ingredient. The complete saying should be:

New Year. New Action. New You.

The action is the active ingredient. It is the change agent. It is the inflection point. Don’t forget the new action. Action is the yeast that will make this year rise above all the rest. So here’s hoping you get a lot of action in 2023.

Key Takeaway

Goals don’t change you. Actions do. As you make plans for the new year go beyond the goals to the actions they require. Write down your new actions. Put them on your calendar. As you take action you will make progress toward your goal. A journey of 1000 miles doesn’t begin with writing down your goal. It begins with that first step.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The first and most important lesson of the new year.

Happy 2023! The beginning of a new year is an exciting time. It’s full of hope, opportunity, and college football.

The exciting news is that today has the potential to be an inflection point in your life. Today could be the day when you stop doing something that was holding you back. Like smoking, overeating, or cheering for the Houston Texans. Or it could be the day you start doing something that will change you forever. Like exercising, working on a major life goal, or making better friends. (Or maybe you write a blog post that amazing people read, which makes them want to subscribe to that blog, and share it with other people…)

But there is a simple truth that you must understand about the promise of a new year:

The year doesn’t make you different. You make the year different.

A new year is not a change agent. It is simply a new blank sheet of paper on which you write your life story, morning glory. Yes, your story can and should get better, starting today. But you have to make that happen.

Here are 6 things you can do to make this year different.

  1. Adopt Your New identity. Decide that deep down in your innards you are the person you really want to be. It is the first and most effective step to becoming your ideal self. Don’t say that you want to be, or will someday be like your ideal. You are now! You are an exerciser, a reader, an entrepreneur, or a Liberace impersonator. And then prove it to yourself every day by living into that identity. #SweetCandleabra

2. Surround Yourself With Better People. The people you spend your time with have a powerful impact on you. They are either tow trucks that pull you forward or anchors that keep you in the same old spot. Find people who are already doing what you want to do. Spend as much time with them as you can. And soon you will take on their best traits, habits and actions. Like in Single White Female.

3. Create Better Habits Habits are everything. You are a product of your habits. If you are struggling with a habit there is something in your process that needs to be adjusted. Keep adjusting your process, cues, and timing until you find something that works for you. To become a master of creating your own great habits check out James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. The book is phenomenal. And it has nothing to do with tiny nuns.

4. Read More. Reading provides tools, ideas, tips, and tricks. Books are full of motivation, inspiration, and any kind of ation you are looking for. Through reading and learning, you’ll discover better ways to do everything. Reading enables us to suck the knowledge and experience out of the brains of rockstars who have already done what we want to do, only without being arrested.

5. Get Scared One of the greatest gifts we have is the scarcity of time. When you recognize how little time you have to accomplish all that you want to, it should scare the fecal matter out of you. Then 2 important things happen. First, you pick up the pace. You realize that you need to take action now, or soon it will be too late. Second, the scarcity of time inspires you to take care of your health. You recognize the value of exercise, weight control and healthy eating to maximize your time.

6. Set SMART Goals. Goals provide direction, inspiration and a scoreboard. Give yourself goals to help improve your life and happiness. Give yourself habit goals to improve your daily life. And declare achievement goals to help you accomplish those big things you always dreamed of doing. Make sure your goals are SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Based

Key Takeaway

You have 365 days to make this an amazing year. As JFK said, things do not happen. They are made to happen. Declare your ideal identity. Surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do. Constantly work on your habit creation and maintenance. Read great books and articles to acquire more tools and inspiration. Realize you are running out of time. And that this year is a gift. Act now to prevent regret later. Create clear goals related to your most important habits and achievements. Then work at them every day. And never stop. That’s how you make this year different.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

I don’t recommend getting signatures on the digital version.

Here are 22 pictures from my 2022.

I used to love writing our family’s Christmas card letter. The letter would sum up the highlights of our year and mix in some humor and reflection on life. But I realized that modern technology would allow me to create an even better look at our year. And since a picture is worth a 1000 words, I could write a million-word letter without any typing. Or Whiteout. #winning

So when my children were little I began creating a video of our year in photos. I have done it every year since. And my man Steve Jobs made it easy. The photos from Steve’s magical phone-cameras drop automatically into my computer that Steve built.

I then take the full year of photos and drop them into a digital album. I narrow those photos down to about 250-300 of the best images that tell the story of our year in chronological order. (Which is my favorite order of all time.)

I export the images as a slideshow to iMovie. Then I add a 3-song soundtrack and some title cards at the beginning and end of the movie. And voila! I have a 10-minute video of our year in review. Which means that when my kids graduate or get married I don’t have to make a video. I already have all the embarrassment collected. #DadHack

The Bigger Win

There are 3 great things that have happened as a result of this annual tradition:

  1. We have a fun and easy way to show our friends and family what our year was like.
  2. We have a highlight video of every year of our children’s lives.
  3. We have an ever-present reminder to make the most of each day.

Knowing that we will summarize our year in a video story inspires us to live a fun and adventurous life. Because if we don’t we won’t have anything to share in our annual video. This yearly reflection is a reminder that life is short, and to make the most of every day.

Our 2022 video will be finished and shared on New Year’s Day. But the process of assembling the photos and reliving the year through the images has been rewarding.

Here are 22 images I pulled from our year to share with you. I hope they inspire you to live an adventurous life, to make the most of your 2023, and to capture your life in photos so that you can relive the best moments over and over again.

We learned to surf in Santa Monica this summer. And not just on the sand.
We attended a 1920’s murder mystery party thrown by our friends Jessica and Josh Hunt. (That’s Jessica throwing the peace sign in the back.)

We tilted and whirled at one of the festivals we attended this year.
All-Pro Running Back of the Indianapolis Colts (and Badger) Jonathan Taylor came to Mequon to check out our couch. JT and I were working together on some UW Credit Union stuff I do at my day job at The Weaponry.
I got to guest host The Morning Blend, and throw my hands in the air.
Me and my fellow Homestead High School Girl’s track coaches, after winning the conference championship.
My kids checking out Las Vegas at night from our room.
Buddy V, The Cake Boss, stopped by our table at his restaurant in Vegas.
Taking in some big hair bands at Fenway Park.
The other team I coach. My son Magnus is #55. If you squint you can see my right knee next to his left knee.
Magnus getting back to nature.
Nut crack’n in Chicago.
Me and my wife Dawn were on thin ice for a while in the Windy City.
The fairest of the Wisconsin State Fair.
Hiking The Narrows at Zion National Park after some rare summer rain that turned the river into chocolate milk.
My Crew at Bryce Canyon. Which sounds to me like ‘Buy us crayons!’
Meeting up with our guy Joe Brunner after his first football game at the University of Wisconsin. He hardly seems big enough, right?
Me and my daughter Ava after she had the farthest discus throw at our conference relay meet as a sophomore.
Taking in some Zac Brown Band in the ATL
Us enjoying a sandbar in the Atlantic Ocean several miles off of South Carolina. It was a fun experience, despite the fact that the bar didn’t serve drinks.
Mini golfing. Because we don’t Mickey golf.
Playing Red Rover on the beach on Hilton Head Island.

Key Takeaway

Make each day count. Make your life an adventure. Take pictures to remember. Reflect often. And make 2023 your best year yet.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

What a canceled flight can teach you about your New Year’s goals.

I have several friends who have had their flights delayed or canceled over the past few days. It’s a total bummer to land a starring role in The Airline That Stole Christmas. Brought to you by Southwest Airlines, the airline that won’t let you get away.

When your flight gets canceled you are forced to answer a very simple question:

Now, what do I do?

Goals vs Strategy

When you have travel plans, the destination is your goal. The flight you book is the strategy you choose to arrive at your goal. If your flight gets canceled it affects your strategy, not your goal. The key is to choose a new strategy.

You can book a different flight. You can drive. You can take a train, plane or automobile. You can ride in the back of a rental truck with a polka band from Kenosha. You can ride across the country on a scooter with a friend who is even dumber than you.

Plan B

This week, when my friends Stephanie and Taylor’s flights were canceled, they chose to drive instead. Sure, driving took longer than flying. But it got them to their destinations. Plus, when you drive you get unlimited peanuts, bigger drinks and nobody is trying to gerrymander your armrest.

Your Goals for 2023

As you prepare for a great new year in 2023 you should set exciting new goals to make this your best year yet. You should write the goals down. And you should create a strategy for achieving them.

However, if you are struggling to achieve your goals in 2023, remember the canceled flights. Let them serve as reminders to change your strategy, not your goal.

Key Takeaway

Your goal is your chosen destination. Your strategy is how you plan to get to your goal. When you struggle to make progress, adjust your strategy, not your goal. And remember, you can change your strategy as often as you need to until you find a plan that works.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The first and most important goal to set for the new year.

We are 360 days into 2022. Which means the end of the year is near. For those who get the number of days in a year confused with the number of degrees in a circle, you may be thinking that tonight is New Year’s Eve. It is not.

However, within the next 5 days, we will ring in 2023. Which is exciting. It’s even more exciting to bust into the new year with a new set of annual goals. In fact, there is almost nothing more exciting than a new list of goals. Because those goals represent a new and better you. A you who is fitter, richer, happier, and maybe more sober or less cigarettey than the current you.

I am a huge fan of setting goals to become a better human. Setting goals has helped me Rumpelstiltskin my ambitions into accomplishments.

A few examples:

  • Goal setting is how I broke my high school, conference and state records in the discus.
  • Goal setting is how I became an entrepreneur and launched the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. (Goal setting also helped my team launch our new agency website by the end of 2022. We haven’t announced it yet, but if you click the hyperlink above you will be the very first people to see it live.)
  • Goal setting is how I publish a new blog post at least 3 times every week.
  • Goal setting is how I wrote my first book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? And my second book The Culture Turnaround, with Jeff Hilimire.
  • Goal setting is why today my weight is within 1 pound of what I weighed when I graduated from high school.
  • Goal setting has enabled me to steadily increase my net worth.
  • Goal setting drives me to read a whole mess of new books every year.
  • Goal setting has kept me off the pole. (That and a lack of requests to actually see me on a pole.)

Goal #1

All of my successful goal setting has taught me that there is one goal that you should set first. A goal that will make it easier to achieve all of your other goals. Here it is:

Surround yourself with people who are already doing what you want to do.

There is nothing more valuable to achieving your goals than to spend time with others who have already achieved that goal, or who are fully committed to doing it now.

The gravitational pull of humans on other humans is very strong. And like a Peleton in a bike race, the group will pull the individual along. (Which also means that if everyone else is wearing spandex and doping, you are highly likely to too. Right Lance?)

  • The best chance to keep your fitness goals is to surround yourself with fit and health-committed friends.
  • The best way to write a book is to surround yourself with published authors. (And pens.)
  • The best way to get rich is to spend time with rich people.
  • The best way to become more positive is to hang out with other positive people.
  • The best way to become a better spouse and parent is to spend time with great spouses and parents.
  • The best way to get rid of tan lines is to hang out at a nudist colony.

Key Takeaway

Peer groups are like trains. You are highly likely to go where those around you are going. So when you set your goals, make sure you get on the right train. Surround yourself with the right people. People who are committed to going where you want to go. It is the most important step on your journey. And it is the key to arriving at your chosen destination on time.

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

A simple reminder to share your light with the world.

One of my favorite events of the year happened on Saturday night. (And yes, it was live.) My family and I attended the Christmas Eve service at our church. The highlight of the service happened at the end when we sang Holy Night. But the magic of the moment was sparked before we sang. Literally.

The best part of the service began when the lights in the sanctuary were turned off and the only light in the church came from the candles on the altar.

The pastor then picked up a candle and lit it with the flame from the center candle of the advent wreath. Then, the ushers lit their candles with the flame from the pastor’s candle.

Once the ushers’ candles were lit, (and I heard Usher singing ‘Let it burn…‘ in my head) they proceeded down the center aisle of the church. As the ushers passed through the church, the people closest to the aisle in each pew lit their candles with the passing flame. The light was then passed down each aisle, person to person, until everyone in the congregation was holding a lit candle.

Silent Night

Then we sang the soft and sweet carol Silent Night, by candlelight. The final verse was sung without the organ, acapella style. (Or is that the term they use to describe the Galapagos Islands? I always forget.) The result is a powerful and touching experience that is the pinnacle of my Christmas celebration.

The Reminder

The great reminder in this tradition goes beyond the birth of Jesus and the no-crying he made. It goes beyond the fact that the cattle were lowing. Which I assume means they were having a limbo contest. Which is a rude thing to do with a sleeping baby around.

The great reminder during the candlelight service is to share your light with others.

You have gifts that make the world better. It is in your kindness, your positivity, and your energy. Your light is the goodness you share with those around you. It shines in your smile, your laugh, your attitude, your determination, your resilience and your creativity. By sharing, your gifts become gifts to those around you. They inspire and comfort. They remind us of the powerful positive impact we can have on each other. And at the end of our days, that’s the only thing that matters.

Key Takeaway

Share your light with as many people as you can. Just as a flame passed from candle to candle can light up a room, when you pass your gifts you can transform the world around you. Your light has the power to positively impact your family, friends, coworkers, teammates and neighbors. But your light can also be passed down from generation to generation, far into the future, influencing people you will never meet. You don’t have to be rich or famous. You just need to pass your light along to one person at a time. Just like we do on Christmas Eve.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.