A valuable Thanksgiving lesson from a lifetime of eating.

When I tell people that I was a discus and hammer thrower at a Big 10 university it often surprises them. I simply don’t look the part. I am often asked if I was bigger back then. I wasn’t. But I sure tried.

When I was in college I would always eat 3-to 5 plates of food at dinner. In fact, I remember my Grampy Sprau, who was a life-long farmer saying, ‘I have never in my life seen anyone who can eat more food than you can.’ I probably should have been concerned given the fact that this observation came from a man who fattened Angus beef cattle for a living.

Grampy was right. I was really good at eating large quantities. My friends frequently encouraged me to enter eating challenges where if you eat the entire Belly Blaster or Gastronormous Burger you get the whole meal, and diabetes, for free.

A couple of decades of hindsight have revealed that there was a major, long-term advantage to such eating. But it certainly wasn’t caloric.

The Insight

Because I ate so much in college, the people who I sat down with at the start of my meals were usually long gone after I finished plate #2. Which meant that new people would come to sit and eat with me. Or I would grab another plate and sit down with another table of people.

As a result, I would eat dinner every night with twice as many people as everyone else. This just seemed like fun at the time. We were simply hanging out, talking, eating, and stacking empty plates.

This picture of me and my teammate Bob Smith appeared in the Madison newspaper when I was in school. Bobby and I could really throw down some food back then. The paper mislabeled me as my teammate Alex ‘Big Drawz’ Mautz. My late, great, hilarious friend Manny Castro is in the background.

However, as I now look back at that time, after years of grabbing coffee, professional networking lunches, and business dinners, I recognize the real value. I was developing relationships and maintaining friendships with twice as many people as everyone else. I was doing what they would later call networking without even trying. It was a product of my need for food. And my naturally social nature.

As a result, I developed a lot of strong friendships in college. The value of those relationships has multiplied over time, just like any good investment.

Today, I realize that my strong and supportive network has been key to my entrepreneurial success. But more importantly, it has contributed significantly to my happiness and sense of belonging. Because at the end of the day, those are the things that matter most.

Key Takeaway

Enjoy the social benefits of eating with others this Thanksgiving. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to meet more people and strengthen your relationships. Engage in discussions during your meals. Ask questions. Share conversation starters. Be a facilitator. As a result, you can help create shared experiences around your table that will turn into memories that will be enjoyed for a lifetime.

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

A lesson from the most exciting game I ever played.

When I was in 4th grade I was in a tense floor hockey game in gym class. Yes, we’re talking about floor hockey. In gym class. (Cue the Allen Iverson incredulous stink face.)

In the last game of the 4th-grade gym class floor hockey season, my team was down by 2 goals with under 2-minutes remaining on the clock.

With 1 minute and 45 seconds to go in the game, I scored a goal on a slap shot from 30 feet out. Suddenly, my team was down by just 1 point. And in my head, I started singing ‘Bring out your best, Budweiser Light…’ which was a popular ad campaign jingle from my youth. (Good job appealing to the 10-year olds Budweiser!)

Then, with just 30 seconds left in the game, I assisted on a goal to tie the game up.

We then rotated positions and I played goalie for the final 30 seconds. Suddenly, the DJ in my head faded down the Budweiser jingle and pushed play on Eye Of The Tiger.

With under 10 seconds left in the game, I stopped a shot on goal from one of the 5 Ryans in my class. With a MacGyver-like awareness of the ticking clock, I instantly gathered the puck and shot it from my own goal, across the entire gym floor, past all the defenders, and into the opposing goal to win the game. And I lost my little 4th-grade mind.

Over the next 13 years of my athletic career, I participated in 2 high school state final four football games, 4 high school state track meets, 2 New England high school track championships, 3 Big 10 Conference track and field championships and several track meets with 30,000 to 40,000 spectators. But to this day, that floor hockey game, with that ending, and my role in it, remains one of my favorite and most confidence-inspiring memories of my entire life.

Key Takeaway

It is never too late. There is always a chance. Keep believing. Keep going. Keep trying. Find the soundtrack in your head that ignites you. And believe in miracles. I do. Because I feel like I have helped make them happen. And you can too.

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

The end of daylight saving is a great time to start your next big thing.

In 2005 I went to Iceland during the summer solstice to film a TV show. It was an incredible experience. On the flight from Minneapolis to Reykjavik, I watched what should have been the sunset through my airplane window. But instead of setting, the sun bounced off the horizon and went back up. And I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

The sun never set the entire week I was in Iceland. It never got dark. And we never got tired. It was fun and energizing, like being in Vegas. Except the buffets were mostly fish, lamb, and rhubarb.

The atmosphere created a natural high. It was as if we were binging life through the nonstop outdoor activity. However, I couldn’t help but wonder what the counterbalance to this experience was.

I asked our producer Sven (of course his name was Sven) what people did during the winter in Iceland when it was cold and dark for long stretches. He told me that winter was wonderful because people spent a lot of time on their projects. On creativity, reading, art, and making things. And keeping each other warm (wink wink).

Now is a great time to get comfortable and create. But don’t think too much about the weird bird statue in the corner.

The End Of Daylight Savings

Today marks the end of daylight saving time in the United States. Which means it will now be dark by the end of the typical workday. Plus temperatures are dropping and in many parts of the country, snow could arrive any day now. That is unless global warming gives Mother Nature Alzheimers and she forgets.

The Indoor Season

Today we all transition to our indoor season. Which should be just as exciting and interesting as the warm and sunshiney months. Because now is the perfect time to start new projects, or resume those important projects you couldn’t carry while wearing flips flops and bikinis or board shorts.

Create

Now is the time to focus on creating businesses, writing books, reimagining your home, painting, and drawing. Now is the time for making music and playing instruments, even if you’ve never done it before. Because you can learn anything online.

The indoor season is the perfect time to plan your next vacation, your next adventures, or the next chapter of your life. Enjoy the time to think, and to do all the things that thinking inspires you to do.

Key Takeaway

Reframe the way you see the darker and colder part of the year as the exciting indoor season. Embrace and enjoy all of the additive elements it offers. Tap into your creativity and make new things. Think, read, write, and learn. Challenge yourself to make progress towards larger life goals that demand the type of focus the indoor season affords. And let the sunshine of spring find an even better, happier more fulfilled version of you.

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

Warning: Someone will take your positive message negatively.

I am a naturally positive person. I like to share my positivity with the world. If you opened up my battery compartment you would probably find a Double-A battery that has a + sign on both ends. (And we’ll ignore for the moment that the laws of chemistry and electricity would dictate that such a battery would produce no juice.)

I believe we are all capable of more. So I share ideas about self-improvement regularly. I share what is working for me in my career and my personal life. I pass along positive quotes I find motivating and inspiring. I encourage people to adopt a growth mindset and discover new ways to learn and expand their abilities.

I see the silver lining, the half-full glass, the bright side, and the upside in every situation. So I try to share that perspective with the world the way people shared Coke’s on hilltops in the 1970s.

However, a funny thing often happens when I share positive messages about growth and improvement. Someone doesn’t like it. Someone finds a reason that what you say is wrong, shallow, superficial or self-absorbed.

But don’t stop sharing positive encouragement because people didn’t like it. Some people are wired to dislike, disprove, or disrespect. They have minus signs at both ends of their batteries. That is not about you. It’s about them. Don’t let them change your tune or stop singing just because they live in garbage cans on Sesame Street.

Key Takeaway

No matter how positive your message is, there will always be people who react negatively. Let them. Ignore them. The overwhelming majority of humans appreciate positive messages. Share for them. Calibrate for them. The small majority are venting. Because they were about to blow before you came along. Be good. Share good. Do good. You’ll help make the world a gooder place.

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

Do you make money from your writing?

My son Johann saw me writing in my office early this morning, as I do at least 5 days per week. Today Johann stopped and asked me, ‘Dad, do you make money from your writing?’ I paused for a moment. Then, instead of answering his question, I said, ‘Come back and ask me your question again when I am done writing. And bring me the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of The West. NOW GET OUT…’ (Ok, so half of that is true.)

The answer is not cut and dry.

The simplest answer is no, I don’t get paid to write this blog. I am not making it rain up in this URL. I don’t have advertisers, sponsors, or paid subscribers. In that respect, my blog writing is not a job. It is a volunteer activity. An elective.

Your Electives

However, I have found that what separates us from each other are our electives. The things that we undertake that we don’t have to do. The things that not everyone does. Those are often the things that make you different, interesting, and valuable to others. But not so different and interesting that the circus wants to add you to their Tent of Freaks.

Adding Value

What I am trying to do when I write my blog is provide value to others. I am trying to share insights, experiences, ideas, techniques, inspiration, motivation, positivity, or humor. By sharing these things I am creating a value-adding resource.

Universal Math

I believe in a very simple math equation. The value of your income is equal to the value of your contribution.

Income = Contribution

So if I add more value to the world, eventually, somehow, the world will add more value to me.

But there is more to my writing than that.

  1. It keeps me top of mind.
  2. It demonstrates relevant capabilities.
  3. It means more people know me.
  4. It helps expand and strengthen my network.
  5. It keeps me engaged with my clients, customers, friends, and family.
  6. It allows me to share my expertise.
  7. It makes me a thought leader.
  8. It makes great people think about joining my team.
  9. It helps my team think they are on a pretty good team with a leader who thinks about and cares about their wellbeing and happiness.
  10. My writing, if funny enough, may someday cause someone to blow milk out of their nose. This is the superpower I have always wanted. As in, ‘You saved us, Snarf Man! We never would have escaped if you hadn’t made that bad man laugh and blow his beverage out of his nose!’ My catchphrase would be, ‘Can I buy you a drink…?’

The Greatest Reward

Perhaps most importantly, as I write, I am learning. I am sharpening my thoughts, perspectives, and techniques. All of which makes me better and more capable in other areas of my work and personal life. This enables me to do better work for others. Which ultimately helps me make money. Sorry for the long answer, Johann.

Key Takeaway

The more you write and share your thoughts the more you will profit from it. The value may not come in direct cash payments. In fact, it probably won’t. It will come through the inevitable compensation you will receive for the value you created and shared with the world. It will come through your connections with others. Through your own learning and development. Through the awareness and positivity you generate. So keep writing. Or start writing. Be patient. But persistent. And good things will come your way.

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

To increase your value surround yourself with better people.

In real estate, it is valuable to be the smallest home in the nicest neighborhood. It is not just for the smaller utility bills, and because there are fewer places to lose your keys. It is because the rest of the bigger, nicer homes will drive your value up by association. #HomeOwnersAssociation

Humans

The same holds true for humans. There is tremendous value in associating with humans that are better than you. Think of better as further developed than you in areas that you want to improve. (Because rockstar, there ain’t nobody better than you are going to be!)

But what does it mean to be a better human? It could mean the people you are spending your time with are:

  • Smarter
  • Braver
  • Kinder
  • Funnier
  • More adventurous
  • More driven
  • More generous
  • Healthier
  • Fitter
  • Wiser
  • Sexier (not a chance)
  • Wealthier
  • More patient
  • More thoughtful
  • More educated
  • More confident
  • More openminded
  • More Benjamin Moore

The Positive Pull

When you associate with people who are better at the things you want to be great at they will pull you along with them. They serve as a constant source of inspiration. They provide a better model for you to use as a measuring stick. And they can show you the path to get where you want to go. Like Glinda showed Dorothy.

Key Takeaway

To increase your personal value spend more time with people who are better than you. They will motivate you to grow, learn and act. They provide a gravitational pull towards better. And they will enhance your personal brand through association. Because good people who spend time with great people are destined for greatness themselves.

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

Imagine you are Oprah. Now find your Dr. Phil.

Over the weekend I listened to a podcast with Dr. Phil. It was full of great advice, insights and guidance. Which was not surprising. Since Dr. Phil McGraw has made a career of offering great advice, insights, and guidance. That, and world-class mustaching.

The part of the podcast I found most interesting was when he talked about Oprah Winfrey. Dr. Phil and Oprah first met when his consulting business helped Oprah with a Mad Cow disease court case she was involved with, involving some mad humans in Texas.

Oprah later invited Dr. Phil to be a guest on her talk show. He was a great guest, and soon he was invited back once a week to do his own segment. A segment on the most popular tv show in daytime history.

What can you do?

This story inspired me to think about how we can all use our platforms, access, careers, businesses, and relationships to be a transformative influence on another person’s life.

Things To Consider

Think about who you can help through your social, business, networking, or technological assets.

  • Who’s life can you potentially transform?
  • Who can you fast track?
  • Who can you set up for life long success?
  • Who can you hand a microphone?
  • Who can you give airtime?
  • Who can you set the stage for?
  • Who can you polish and guide?
  • Who do you love like George Thorogood?

The Great Multiplier

When you set someone else up for success, it will inevitably be paid forward. Over time your efforts will likely multiply many times over. Potentially for generations. It can have a transformative effect on a life, a family, a community or even the world. Yet it’s easy to do. You simply have to share what you already have.

Key Takeaway

Recognize when good people could benefit from your resources. Then set them up for success. Offer your assets to help others build their own momentum. Jumpstart or fast-track their success. It’s easy to do, yet extremely rewarding. And there is no limit to how far your help will ultimately go.

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

Why you should bring an entrepreneurial spirit to your social life.

At some point we all experience dissatisfaction. You may find yourself disappointed by your career path, your opportunities, your social interactions, or this game Prince called, Life. But don’t go crazy. Because if the elevator tries to bring you down there is always something you can do.

Entrepreneurship

Remember that you have the power to start your own business, be your own Bruce Springsteen, and control your own career. It changes everything. Entrepreneurship is the big excuse eraser. Because you no longer are at the mercy of the decisions of other people.

Beyond Business

But regardless of whether you decide to start your own business, you can take an entrepreneurial approach to everything else in your life. Instead of starting your own business, you can start your own social group. Made up of people you want to spend time with. That’s what Mark Zuckerberg did. (And besides the congressional hearings and the Winklevoss twins, it’s going pretty well for him.)

A group of some of my oldest friends at a gathering I organized this summer.

Social Creation

By starting your own group you are creating new connections and ultimately, a new community. That community may have a greater impact on your life than simply starting your own business. In fact, the community may create new opportunities for you to grow and expand your career in ways you had never considered before.

Create your own social circle. Then put a camera on the floor and take a selfie.

Key Takeaway

If you love the idea of being an entrepreneur, but don’t have the risk tolerance to give up your job and strike out on your own, start a social group. Find great people. Organize them. Activate them. Foster and strengthen the connections between them. You will have created your own organization that could offer far greater profits than a business alone would provide.

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

Fun Fact: This pic is me and my cousins after our Grandma Albrecht’s funeral.

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.