Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

I am in New Orleans right now. I love this city. There is nothing else like it. Not even Old Orleans. The combination of architecture, music, history, food, geography, climate, and culture makes New Orleans both a truly unique city and a distinct brand.

Every time I am in NOLA I see the saying Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler. I’m not sure if it is the official or unofficial motto of the city. But it means Lazy The Bones Temporarily 12-inch Wooden Stick. No. Wait. That is what I told my kids it means.

The real translation of this French phrase (for those who have never dated anyone from New Orleans, France, Quebec, or Haiti) is Let The Good Times Roll.

I love this phrase. It is a great motto for a night out, a vacation, a celebration, or a life well-lived. It represents such a fun-loving, positive attitude that the saying and the mindset it creates helps manifest more good times. Like Jimmie Walker, which is dyn-o-mite!

Me and my muffuletta at Napoleon House, right before the guy in the tank top asked me to dance.

We as a planet now have a variety pack of COVID-19 vaccines to get the corona-cooties under control. So let’s all do our part. And put this pandemic behind us. Let’s get back to full business and full employment. Let’s all enjoy the prosperity available in the 21st century. Let’s enjoy our time together, our sense of freedom, and all the social pleasures we now realize we too often taken for granted. Let’s put down our little digital devices and enjoy being with other humans. Let’s eat, drink, play, create, explore and experience the best life has to offer. And like they say in New Orleans, Louisiana, let’s let the good times roll!

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How habits help you do things you don’t feel like doing.

Excuses are easy to find. They are everywhere. Like Subway sandwich shops. And they can get you out of doing just about anything if you let them. But like James Taylor said, don’t you let them.

For years now I have committed to writing and sharing 3 blog posts per week, every week, for however many weeks there are in a year. (Which is like, 76 right? Or is that how many trombones lead the big parade?)

But today is Easter. And it’s a Sunday. (It seems like Easter falls on a Sunday a lot. Like Chick-fil-A cravings.)

Plus, I am on vacation. And I have a hundred other things I could be doing.

But, here I am, writing anyway. And you’re reading my Easter morning post. (Thank you!) Because I’ve developed a habit.

Habits destroy excuses. Because habits make actions automatic. They help you build momentum. Because once you get the flywheel turning you don’t need willpower, or discipline. You just do it. Like Nike. Or like one of Pavlov’s drooling dogs.

Key Takeaway

Turn your most important actions into habits. Science shows that by the 60th repetition an action becomes a habit. After that it is easy to keep your commitment. So develop your habits. Keep showing up. Keep coming back. Keep working, or writing, or exercising, or chopping wood, or whatever you have committed to do.

And special thanks today to my man Jesus. I appreciate you Bro! I’ve been using the Forgiveness of Sins you gave me everyday too.

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

How to turn your setbacks into success.

Progress is not linear. It zigs and zags. It stalls. It reverses. In fact, progress moves like a good 1980s breakdancer. It often leaves you spinning on your head. And wondering why you are carrying around a large piece of cardboard, and a boombox.

But don’t fear the setback. Setbacks are a profit center. Because, like Alanis Morissette said, every time you lose, you learn. Which means that setbacks are full of education, growth and things you, you, you oughta know. They make you smarter and stronger if you let them.

Obstacles, challenges, and losses provide game film to study. They reveal weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and flaws. And they teach you how to strengthen your weaknesses so you can overcome challenges the next time you face them. Luckily, life supplies a Hong Kong Buffet of challenges to overcome. So you will always have more opportunities to put your loss-based learnings to good use.

Key Takeaway

Don’t lament the setback. Embrace it. Dissect it. It provides a very specific, high level course in personal or professional development. Enroll in that class. Take good notes. You’re sure to come out smarter and more prepared than you started.

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

Why it is so darn important to be patient with yourself.

When I was a little boy I had a piece of needlepoint art hanging on my wall. It featured a simple image of a little cowboy and his broomstick horse. On the needlepoint were the words, Please be patient… God isn’t finished with me yet… It was a daily reminder to a growing boy that I was a work in progress.

My art looked a lot like this. Except it had a wooden frame. And both of my ellipses had 3 dots.

Today, most people would consider me a full-grown man. After all, I can grow a full beard and mustache. I am over 6 feet tall and can reach the highest shelves on my tippy toes. I am married with 3 children. I own my own business. I can legally drive a car, vote, and drink alcohol. Although I vote not to drink alcohol because my tastebuds stopped maturing when I was 13, right in the middle of my chocolate milk/ Fun Dip/ Pop Rocks phase.

Despite the fact that I have been wearing the same shoe, pant, and shirt size for multiple decades now, I can proudly say that I am still growing. I am still learning new things every day. I ask questions. I read books and magazines. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts when I drive. And I watch a lot of hilarious videos that teach me things, like how much human weight is too much for a porch swing.

Plus, I still make mistakes. A lot of mistakes. But I learn from them. In fact, I get better by making mistakes. Because my mistakes help me discover more things I didn’t know. Like the fact that dickssportinggoods.com is a better place to find running shoes than dicks.com.

I am willing to bet that you are still learning and growing and making mistakes too. I hope you are. It is how the human machine continuously improves itself. It is the hallmark of intelligent life. And it is how we can all end each day a little better than we were when we woke up.

Key Takeaway

Let’s all remember that we are all still works in progress. Let’s be patient with ourselves and with each other. Because as I was reminded daily when I was a boy, God isn’t finished with me yet. And he isn’t finished with you either.

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

20 things I learned from the most unique year of my life.

One year ago today, on Monday, March 16th, 2020, I began the strangest, most interesting year of my life. My team at The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency, abandoned our perfectly good offices in Milwaukee and Columbus and began working from home.

I had no idea what the future would hold. We were facing a mandatory government-enforced quarantine. In an unprecedented move, healthy people were being forced to quarantine at home in an attempt to prevent the relentless spread of a novel coronavirus called covid-19. Schools and businesses were closed. Everything imaginable was canceled. And hair began to grow wild and un-colored.

It was clear we were facing a historic global event. But I would have been shocked to know that one year later we would all be wearing masks in public and that we would be just beginning to crawl out of our year-long covid-induced hibernation.

The past 365 days have been fascinating. To mark the anniversary I sat down to reflect on what I have learned from this experience. Here’s what I came up with.

20 things I learned from the year of covid.

  1. Always have a rainy day fund. You can sleep easier at night knowing you are financially prepared for the unknown Whether it’s a rainy day fund or a virusy day fund, surprises can happen at any time. So have money on hand. (Well, not literally on your hand.) Because you never know when your income is going to stop coming in.

2. Crisis is full of opportunity. The past year presented an incredible opportunity for thinkers, inventors, problem solvers, and risk-takers. It has been a time for leaders to lead. It has been a golden era for innovation, upheaval, and for hand sanitizer salesmen. It has provided a great reminder to not stare at the problem. But instead, look at the new options available.

3. Good teammates are good teammates. Surround yourself with good people in good times, and you’ll appreciate them even more when things go bad like LL Cool J or Michael Jackson. #shamone. Even when my team was working from home they were accountable, responsible, dedicated and proud of the work they put out.

4. Adversity brings people closer. Despite the social distancing, we now have a tighter bond with our clients. It feels as if we went to war together and we were all fighting for our businesses. And for our right to party.

5. Marry someone you love spending time with. My wife and I got to spend more time together over the past year than ever before in our 20-year relationship. I loved all the extra time with her. Throw in my 3 kids and we had a great Quaranteam. There is a lot I will miss about our bonus time together.

6. Good advice is priceless. In tough times people need advice. Those who offer good counsel will always be sought after. Side note: Those who storm the Capitol will also be sought after. So don’t wear a distinct horned -helmet and face paint that draws additional attention.

7. We are all more adaptable than we thought. Things we thought we couldn’t do without we can do without. There is a huge difference between wants and needs. And we can all get used to new conditions quicker than any of us like to admit.

8. Toilet paper is super important Absence makes the heart grow fonder. But it makes the bum feel more bummed out. The toilet paper crisis of 2020 made us all reconsider the role these valuable rolls of squeezable softness play in our daily lives.

9. I am more productive without spectator sports. When all sports were halted I found a lot of other valuable things to do with my time. Remember to spend more time playing your own game. Because life is not a spectator sport. (But it is a board game from Milton Bradley. Batteries not included. Or necessary.)

10. A mask mandate is better than a mask suggestion. I was much happier wearing a mask when it became a requirement than I was when it was an elective. I appreciated us all looking dorky together. Thanks for making it non-negotiable, so I could negotiate other things.

11. Awards shows are not the same without the crowds. I have now watched parts of several different awards shows over the past couple of months. And they have all disappointed me. They are just not the same without playing to large crowds of famous people. Because I can see a small crowd of non-famous people in my own family room anytime.

12. We need to watch out for each other. I did a lot of Zoom socializing over the past year. I wanted to check in on my family and friends. I organized a lot of online events to make sure people knew they were not alone. We should keep doing that. Because technology will enable us to continue to stay connected to our friends who don’t live nearby. At least our non-Amish friends.

13. I miss almost everyone. Everyone I interact with is like a character in the play that is my life. When I don’t see you, my play feels less interesting. All of the characters together help make my life the rich story that it is. I can’t wait to see everyone regularly again.

14. I am happy to have a nice yard. When you are confined to just your home and your yard it is nice to have a nice yard. For a couple of months in the spring and early summer, it was like we were in prison. But if your prison yard is a full acre on a pond full of largemouth bass you feel like you are doing time like Martha Stewart. And it’s a good thing.

15. Isolation is great for accomplishing personal goals. When the initial lockdown was announced I began working on my first book. I now have a 50,000-word manuscript. I’m hoping to get it published without the need for more quarantining.

16. Rules are only rules under current conditions. All kinds of hard and fast rules changed during covid. Heck, even taxes weren’t due until mid-summer. I hope we remember this and remain more flexible moving forward.

17. Church from home offers larger communion portions. St. Albrechts Couchthedral serves up some tasty and abundant body of Christ that tastes remarkably like caramel rolls. And we have bottomless blood of Christ in whatever flavor you prefer. But nothing else about church from home is better. In-person church services are among the things I miss most.

18. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Over the past month, it is finally looking like we are closer to the end than the beginning. I can now imagine life returning to normal-ish by this summer.

19. We all have different tolerances. We all respond to crises in different ways. We all have different rules and risk tolerances. Don’t force people to conform to yours. We are all running our own race. Even if we are running it from the couch.

20. Humans are amazing. The fact that we whipped up these vaccines in less than a year and got them thumbed up by the approvers is incredible. Once again we have proven that the human mind is the most powerful weapon on Earth.

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

Welcome to the best day of the year!

There are a lot of great days in the year. In each 365-pack there are 52 Fridays, 52 Saturdays, and 52 Sundays to enjoy. Which means you have 156 golden days before you throw in banner days like Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and the days you get free stuff from stores.

Then there are your personal vacation days, which are diamond days that enable you to live your best life. Add blockbuster days like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and Taco Tuesday, and there is a lot to look forward to each year. (Note: substitute your favorite religious, national, and food holidays for any days mentioned above that mean nothing to you.)

Daylight Saving Day!

Today is among my very favorite days of the year. Because there is nothing quite like Daylight Saving Day. I think of today as the day that the house landed on The End-Of-Daylight-Saving Day. And now all the Sunchkins are dancing and singing and slathering on more SPF.

Today the sun sets an hour later than yesterday. This simple shift of an hour of sunlight makes everything better. Starting today, we have more light in our lives. Which means more useful, productive and enjoyable time. It means you will still have daylight to enjoy when you get home from work, school or jury duty.

Sunshine is a gift. It illuminates and provides hope. It energizes. It makes the world feel more positive. With an extra hour of sun gold, we are all able to do more. Live more. And see more.

Today is a day for us all to recalibrate too. Take a moment to enjoy and appreciate the extra light. There is much more good ahead. And there is a little less darkness every day.

Key Takeaway

Today is a great day to recognize the power of sunshine. Sunshine is gold. It energizes us. It provides hope. It makes everything better. But remember, you have the power to provide sunshine every day too. Share your energy and positivity with others. Never forget that you have the ability to make every day the best day of the year.

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

The great value of reading through your old notebooks today.

I love great books. I have several of them lately. So far in 2021, I have read The Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki (again), Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. by Ron Chernow, and The Magic of Thinking Big by Daniel Schwartz. I highly recommend all of them. Although Titan is 832 pages. So if you are low on time you may prefer to ready about someone poorer.

What I’m Digging Now

However, I have also been into another fascinating series recently. These books are not by a well-known author. They are not flying off the shelf. In fact, they have never even been published. Because the other great books I have been reading lately are my own notebooks. Like James Garner, but without the nursing home and the dementia.

I have a shelf of old notebooks. They are filled with notes, quotes, ideas and doodles. There is humor and profound thought. Lessons and charts. There are business ideas T-shirt designs. And there are inappropriate comments I had in meetings that I wrote down and nudged over to the person sitting next to me to read.

Pro Tip: Always sit next to me in boring meetings for the notebook nudge.

Each time I crack open an old notebook I feel like I am transported to a day of discovery and creation in my past. I find so much inspiration in these books that I regret not looking at them more frequently. I also appreciate the really boring meetings more in hindsight because they filled pages with doodles and funnies.

Plan A Revisit

Make sure to find time to read YOUR old notebooks. There is gold in them thar quills! And it is waiting to be cashed in by you.

Whether you keep notebooks, sketchpads, journals, diaries, or even notes on your phone, make sure to revisit them regularly. Because once you begin filling the blank pages, they are transformed into books you have written.

Your notebooks are full of inspiration, reminders, lessons, and quotes. They are sprinkled with great ideas you’ve had, or heard. The ideas captured in your notebooks are likely your most powerful, memorable, and important. They spring from your greatest moments of inspiration, and the depths of boredom. And either will do.

They may contain plans you’ve had, strategies you’ve considered, or challenges you faced. They may hold the schedules of days in the past, that you can look back on and see when important steps were taken that positively impacted your path. They may serve as your personal history books of dates, plans, tasks, priorities, meetings and obligations. With the gift of hindsight you can determine the value of your actions, and perhaps the cost of your inaction.

Notebooks from talks, presentations, seminars are particularly useful. Because at those time you were exposed to new people, ideas, lessons, methods, and insights. Often times the value we reaped in such situations goes unrealized until we revisit our notes again.

Only You Can Think That Thought

Your life experience and perspective create thoughts that only you could have. Which is why they are so valuable. But you are also so busy that a fleeting thought is often gone forever if not captured in your notebooks. Which means that your notebooks are often full of gems you never would have rediscovered any other way.

Key Takeaway

Some of the best ideas you have ever had are found in your old notebooks. Make sure to revisit them. Remind yourself of your best lessons, thoughts, and plans. They can serve as inspiration, comfort, or humor. Of all the books that you should reread, the books you’ve written yourself often hold the most value. Keep them close. Read them often. And profit from the rediscovery.

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

An inspiring reminder to never give up on your dreams.

A few years ago Andrew Young spoke at my office in Atlanta. I was thrilled by the opportunity to hear him speak. Young is a political rockstar. He was a U.S. Congressman, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and mayor of Atlanta. Before all that, Young was a key figure in the American civil rights movement. And he was the first person mentioned by the Village People in the song Y.M.C.A.

I knew Young’s talk would be inspiring. But like so many memorable moments in life, one of the greatest sources of inspiration from his talk came from an unexpected surprise he shared.

As Young recounted the excitement and profound significance of the civil rights movement, he talked about just how impressive Martin Luther King Jr. was. He said that the whole movement was full of leaders. But Martin, as Young called him, was the clear leader of leaders.

However, it was a quick and simple fact thrown in for humor that still sticks with me 5 years later. Young shared that when King was in college at Crozer Theological Seminary school he got a C in public speaking. And no, a C in Seminary school does not stand for Christ-like, or Crazy-good.

Drink this in for a moment. As a pastor, reverend, priest, or rabbi your number one job skill, other than knowing a hell of a lot about God, has to be public speaking, right? And King was struggling in that department.

Yet we all know how the story ends. Ultimately, King is best known for his public speaking. In fact, there may be no one in American history better known for their public speaking skills than MLK.

If you asked me to name the 3 most famous speeches in American history I would say Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Kings ‘I have a dream’ speech, and then I would probably throw in Billy Madison’s ‘The Puppy Who Lost His Way’ speech, because I can’t really think of any others.

The fact that King, who became one of the most inspiring speakers in history got a C in public speaking in college adds to his inspirational legacy. It reminds us that where we start is not where we end. It reminds us to unearth our hidden talents, develop our skills and think about where we are going. Not where we have been. It also reminds us that disappointment and dissatisfaction can be powerful motivators.

In other words, have a vision of your fully realized dream state, and work to make it your reality. Which is exactly what MLK Jr. did.

If you are willing to focus, practice and work there is no limit to how great you can become. Overcoming initial discouragement is critical. Recognizing where you are in your journey and visualizing how much more you are capable of is key.

Remember, the worse you start out the more you are capable of improving.

Key Takeaway

Where you start is not where you will end. Focus on the process of improvement. If you are willing to put in the work, effort, learning, and practice there is no telling how much you are capable of. In other words, if you have a dream, keep at it until it is real. It is really up to you.

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

Are you accepting your destiny or making it happen?

There are two ways to think about life. The first is to think that everything that is happening to you, or going to happen to you, is already predetermined. Your story was handed to you, fully written, and you are simply following the script. The second way to think about life is that nothing is written. You are the one doing all the writing. The world is waiting for you to figure out the next chapter.

Driver or Passenger?

The first approach assumes that nothing is up to you. The second approach assumes that everything is up to you. Your position on this issue leads you take on two very different roles. One allows you to be passive. The second requires you to steer. It says that nothing happens until you make it happen. Like Mariah Carey.

However, there is a third option. One of the most accomplished Americans of the 20th century, and one the most quoted philosophers, said this:

“I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happenin’ at the same time.”

-Forrest Gump

This Gumpism is useful in explaining the universe and our role in it. It says that there are multiple forces at play at all times. It says that there are things we get to decide and things that are out of our control. It acknowledges that we all come into this world with some predetermined conditions, whether the insurance companies like it or not.

The Dealing

We are dealt a hand of cards that we have to begin the game with. Some hands are more advantageous than others. But the game isn’t over when the dealing is done. The dealing is just the beginning.

The You Factor

Gumpian doctrine allows for our own choices and decisions. It provides room for our grit, determination, motivation and action. We have the ability to set our minds on our own course, with our own goals and our own strategic plan. We simply must recognize that we don’t get to march unimpeded towards our goals, like Michael Strahan’s phony sack of Brett Favre in 2002 (as seen in this 20 second video clip).

The Cross-Traffic

There are too many people on this planet, all with their own goals, hopes and dreams for us not to get caught up in cross-traffic and competition on the way to what we want. There are natural phenomena and acts of God (or maybe Morgan Freeman or George Burns) that become obstacles in our way. All of which make life more challenging, and more interesting.

All Things Considered

Acknowledging that there are both pre-determined and self-determined forces at play is both a comfort and a frustration. It allows you to go after what you want. But it also means you may not find it, or that it will take longer, or be different than it was in your head. Because there are nearly 8 billion bees in this hive we all share. And some of them will occasionally get in your way. When they do, you may have to yield, but you never have to stop.

Key Takeaway

We all deal with a combination of destiny and autonomy. So set your own goals, chart your own course, believe in the greatest you that you can possibly imagine. But know that you are going to experience resistance and disappointment. Perseverance is king. You may need to try again, or take a detour to get where you want to go. Don’t be easily deterred. You may simply need to wait until it is your turn to complete your mission. That is half the fun.

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

If I could do it all again I would make more friends.

I always laugh when someone says ‘If I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything different.’ I appreciate the conviction of such a statement. But it shows that they have not learned and grown much during this dress rehearsal. So they obviously wouldn’t profit much from a life mulligan anyway.

My Re-do

I can find a seemingly endless supply of things I would do differently on my life do-over. I would have slowed down that night when I lost control of my car and flew it into a pasture full of cows Duke’s of Hazard-style. I would have skipped that Wednesday football practice when I tore my ACL my senior year. I would NOT have bought that cheap home printer that constantly jammed and guzzled ink like a drunken donkey. And I would NOT have taken work from that client who was like a real-life Mikey, and really did hate everything. Even Life cereal.

I have been thinking a lot lately about things I would change If I could do it all again. And there is one clear answer that rings out every time I ponder this question. It’s not a regret that haunts me. It’s not a mistake I would fix. And it’s not a detour I would take to avoid pain or punishment. It is something I wish I had more of.

More, More, More

If I could go back and do it all over I would make more friends. There is no greater asset on Earth. There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet. But when I think about the tiny percentage of those people I actually know it gives me a major case of FOMO.

When I was younger I remember people saying that the person who dies with the most toys wins. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It is the person who collects the most friends, who develops and maintains the most and best human relationships that really wins this game. And if those friends have lots of toys, even better.

Friends With Benefits

Friends deliver on our most basic needs. They offer a sense of home and belonging. They offer support, encouragement and inspiration. They make us smile and laugh and sometimes blow things out of our noses involuntarily. And as I have gotten older I have found you can never have too many people in your friend column.

Collecting Friends

I still maintain friendships from pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school and college. I am still in touch with friends from all 9 cities I have lived in. I have friends I have met on airplanes, while on vacation, and while playing at the park with my kids. But I can’t help but think of all of the amazing friends I haven’t met. Especially the ones who have kidneys just like mine.

Work Friends

Friends have been the most important ingredient of my career success. My coworker-friends, client-friends and partner-friends have not only contributed immensely to my workplace wins, they have made me feel as if I am hanging out with friends all day long. In fact, I met my all-time best friend Dawn at work. And we have now been married for 18 years. #CompanyPicnicsAreTheBest

Entrepreneurship

When I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, it was my friends who became my first clients, coworkers and champions. Today, the business and all of the peripheral activities that come with it are a great source of new and growing friendships. In fact, I think of the ability to develop and maintain strong relationships as the greatest input to entrepreneurial success and the greatest fringe benefit of entrepreneurship.

The Greatest ROI

I have friends in every state in America and in dozens of countries around the world. They offer the greatest return of any investment I have ever made. But like the dollars I have squirreled away in my 401(k) plan, I wish had invested even more. Alas, if wishes were fishes we would all have a fry. So the best we can do is make more in the days and years ahead.

Key Takeaway

Keep growing your tribe. Make as many friends as you can in as many places as you can. Connect your friends to each other. Invest in your relationships. Make them deep and wide. At the end of our days, the only thing that matters is the impact we have made on each other. So create more impactful relationships, and enjoy the positive impact they have on you.

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