How to make great choices when you have many options.

My wife Dawn and I have started scheduling our dental cleanings at the same time. It’s a cute couple quirk I have enjoyed. Yesterday was our big day for getting scraped, polished and flossed as a couple.

When we pulled into the dentist’s office there was one open parking spot. So I took it. It was the easiest decision I made all week. Because it was the only option available. It seems we have a very popular dentist. Or they have a very small parking lot.

But this morning I drove to the airport to catch a very early flight, and the parking structure was practically empty. Which reminded me of something Dawn said to me early in our relationship.

The hardest place to park is in an empty parking lot. 

-Dawn Albrecht

The statement sounds moronic. But it’s highly insightful. 

If every parking spot is open you have to think more than you do when there is only one spot. And you probably have not predetermined your empty parking lot decision-making process. Which means that when you arrive at an empty lot you have to make a decision on the spot.

That decision could involve simply taking the closest space to the entrance. But there are often 2 or more highly coveted close spaces. Plus, many times when you park you are not going to one specific entrance. Like when you park at a park. Which is totally meta.

There are a host of other factors to consider.

  • Is there shade I should consider on a hot and sunny day?
  • Will I be going in one door and out another?
  • Do I have multiple places to visit while in this parking lot?
  • Should I consider staying away from shopping carts?
  • What space makes it easiest to drive away? 
  • Where do I want to be when the parking lot fills up?
  • Does it look like Joni Mitchell or Counting Crows were here before they paved paradise?

These are the branches on the decision tree that suddenly sprout when you arrive at the naked parking lot.

But who cares?  It’s just a parking lot. There is no real way to get this decision wrong, Long Duk Dong.

However…

The parking lot is an analogy for your life.

When you only have one option in life you take what you are given. The decision is simple. Because it is a nondecision.

But when all of the options are available, how do you choose?

  • How do you decide where you will live when you could live anywhere?
  • How do you decide which career path to take when you could do anything?
  • How do you decide where to go to school when you could study anywhere?
  • How do you decide where to invest your money?
  • How do you decide what to eat?
  • How do you decide what clothes to wear?
  • How do you decide if you should add a silly final bullet to a list of serious bullets?

How Do You Decide?

You need to develop your own decision-making criteria. Your criteria should be based on your values, philosophies and beliefs. Developing your personal criteria for decisions large and small helps you make better decisions faster in every area of your life.

It is highly valuable to consider what influences your decisions. What are your core beliefs? What are your priorities? And which factors are simply non-factors to you?

Consider the following exercise related to the empty parking lot.

Rank the following factors when deciding where to park:

  1. Speed to my destination
  2. Exercise opportunity
  3. Ease of exit
  4. Isolation from dings
  5. Access to my car
  6. Most privacy for making out

Once you know which of these are most important you can make better choices faster, pussycat.

Your decision-making criteria apply to the parking lot and your bigger life decisions. Establishing and prioritizing your values before you encounter challenging choices related to drugs, sex and stealing help you make better decisions. Knowing your priorities related to your career, investing, family, relationships, health and religion will enable you to make big decisions faster too.

  1. What is the most important factor that will drive your decisions?
  2. What is the second most important?
  3. What is third?

When you take the time to consider these questions and answer them before you pull into the empty parking lot, or make a more important life decision, the answers become easy and obvious.

Key Takeaway

Know what is most important to you. Consider your decision-making hierarchy before you need it. It enables you to make great choices when you have all of the options. And remember, you always have options.

*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 new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

To create more opportunities first become great at what you do best.

Friday night my family and I had dinner in Las Vegas. It was the last night of our southwestern adventure, and we didn’t really plan our last meal. At least not the way Jesus did.

Through a strange confluence of forces, including a rare desert thunderstorm that created flash floods in Vegas, we ended up eating at Buddy V’s Ristorante. I realized once we reached the restaurant that it was named after Buddy Valastro.

Shortly after we sat down to eat I spotted Buddy V himself walking into the restaurant. A few minutes later Buddy stopped by our table to say hi, check on our experience, and thank us for coming to the restaurant that night. (I refrained from saying that I loved him in Elf.)

Buddy then greeted the table next to us. The family at that table asked if they could take a picture with Buddy. Which tipped off our kids that this guy was a celebrity. So they asked us why he was famous.

Dawn and I explained that Buddy V owned Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken, New Jersey. (Fun Fact: Dawn lived in Hoboken right after graduating from college as she worked at Lifetime, Television For Women, in New York City.)

We told our kids that Buddy was so good at making cakes that he got his own show on TLC called Cake Boss. He has now starred on 5 other TV shows. He owns 18 bakeries. And he is currently launching other restaurants.

After explaining this to our kids, I said that the real lesson from Buddy V was that if you want to create a lot of opportunities for yourself you should first become really great at something. And that something could be anything.

Buddy V was so good at making cakes that the world took notice and wanted to see and know more about him and his work. His personality made him interesting to a broad crowd and the opportunities just keep coming.

But it all started because he became great at his craft.

And maybe because he has a sweet accent.

Key Takeaway

Become really great at what you do. Expertise opens doors to new opportunities. It offers you career capital. Which leads to social capital. And financial capital. Keep practicing and improving your skills and you will become sought after. And when you are sought after everything changes.

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

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

A sign of things to come.

Last night I was walking after enjoying dinner with my family.

As I walked along a busy promenade packed with pedestrians I noticed a mural that said The Best Is Yet To Come.

The message grabbed my attention as if it had been painted there specifically for me. (Although I rank just low enough on the narcissism spectrum to realize it probably was not.)

The sign served as a reminder that there are even better days, opportunities, successes, and feelings ahead.

But it also reminded me that we see what we look for.

And perhaps most comforting, it reminded me that I can still read 2,3 and 4-letter words.

Key Takeaway

Look for good news. Look for optimism. Look for positivity. And you will surely find it.

How is your personal steering mechanism?

Last night I was mowing my lawn with my John Deere lawn tractor. When I was halfway through mowing my 1.6-acre lawn the steering failed. Which is not a great thing to happen when mowing a lawn. Because typically there is a lot of turning involved if you want to stay out of the ditch, the trees, the flower beds and the local newspaper.

A quick inspection revealed that the pinion gear at the south end of the steering stem was stripped. (No, I did not throw dollar bills at it.)

The gear was no longer engaging with the steering sector which translates the steering wheel’s inputs to the front tires.

I went online and ordered the replacement parts and watched a YouTube video on the replacement process. Because I attend YTTC (YouTube Technical College).

The parts will arrive tomorrow, and I expect to be back in the steering business shortly.

But when you lose the ability to steer a vehicle it makes you think about the universal importance of steering. It makes you think about your own direction and goals. It makes you think about your own ability to avoid ditches, trees and fire hydrants.

Question

How is your personal steering? Are you following the path of your choosing? Are you avoiding the things you know you should avoid? Are you heading towards your goals? Are you exercising your own power of self-control?

Your personal steering is critical to your:

  • Health
  • Fitness
  • Finances
  • Career
  • Relationships
  • Self Esteem
  • Mental Wellbeing
  • Time Management
  • Your ability to not eat a whole can of Pringles in one sitting.

Key Takeaway

Your personal steering mechanism is critical to achieving your life goals. It helps you avoid obstacles. It prevents you from driving off of cliffs. It brings you back on course when you drift. And it ensures that the power of your personal engine is directed where it is most useful. If your life feels off course, check your steering system. That includes your decision-making, discipline and willpower. They are crucial to making it to the finish line in one piece.

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

+For more of the best life lessons the universe has shared with me check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Why you should declare your lifespan today.

You are a lean, mean, scheduling machine.

When you have both a destination and an arrival time, you can easily figure out when you need to leave to get to the destination on time.

When you have work to do and a deadline to meet, you know how to complete the work on time.

It’s simple.

The amount of work to be done, and the time allotted, determine the pace. (But not the Picante sauce.)

Pace = Effort / Time

This is the basic computation we do every day to accomplish everything.

It determines how much time we allot to commute to work.

It determines how much time we need to run an errand. Or exercise. Or make whoopee.

When you know the task to complete and the time that task requires you know your start time and your pace.

Life Goals

But when you apply this innate ability to schedule and complete activities to your life goals there is a problem.

Because you don’t know the deadline.

So you don’t know how much time you have to complete the task.

Which means that you can’t determine your start time.

And you can’t determine your pace.

As a result, there is no sense of urgency.

Even to your biggest, most important goals.

The Fix

But there is a simple fix.

Declare your lifespan.

Determine the age that you will die, or no longer be capable of performing the task or achieving your goals.

This exercise helps you live more effectively.

Determine if you will have 100 years or 80 or 60 or 40 or 25.

A declared lifespan provides the proper motivation.

Equally important, it provides the math your brain needs to figure out how to get from point A to point B on time.

It makes your life-goals urgent. Like Foreigner.

Then you can get to work. And achieve your goals within the time you have left.

The deadline is the only way to make the required pace tangible. (Which I always think sounds like the ability to turn into a tangerine.)

It’s Go Time

Set your own death timer and you will find yourself moving faster.

My assumed death provided the timeline I needed to launch my own business.

My assumed death motivated me to write and publish a book.

My assumed death is driving my financial savings, investing and spending.

My assumed death is driving my travel plans.

My false deadlines are making life manageable, goals achievable and days productive. Which makes false deadlines far more attractive than false eyelashes. (What’s up with those thangs?)

Key Takeaway

Declare how much time you have left. It will provide the missing data you need in order to schedule and pace the rest of your life. It will motivate you. And it will enable you to achieve your dreams. It is one of the greatest gifts you will ever give yourself. Because the best way to spend your time is knowing that you are quickly running out of it.

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

+For more of the best life lessons the universe has shared with me, check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

I met a man who loves my all-time least favorite job.

Yesterday a window washer came into my office to wash my windows. I found the experience fascinating. Not because I had never seen someone wash office windows before. But because I have.

My summer job before my freshman and sophomore years in high school was working at the office complex where my dad worked in Vermont. I was on the grounds crew. Actually, I was the grounds crew. (It was just me and ol’ ground.) I also helped with construction as they built and remodeled buildings. I painted and did other odd jobs. The odder the better.

But on days when it rained, Frank Gilman, the owner of the office complex, sent me inside to wash windows.

I hated that job.

In fact, if we were sitting around a dinner table, bar or campfire and we started swapping stories about the worst jobs we have ever had, mine would be washing windows. And mind you, I have shoveled manure and picked rocks out of fields all day long.

The last time I was asked to wash windows I washed a couple and then said I wasn’t feeling well so that I could go home. I wasn’t exactly lying. Because I was really sick of washing windows.

But the man in my office washing windows clearly enjoyed his work. He was experiencing no pain from all those panes. I’m no doctor, but he didn’t look the least bit sick of washing all those windows.

Realizing that I could learn something from this man, I asked him how long he had been washin’ dem windows.

He proudly replied, ’30 years!’

Wow!

30 frickin years!

What struck me about his response was that it contained the enthusiasm that I would offer if someone asked me how long I have worked in advertising.

Yet this man had made an entire career out of my least favorite job of all time.

But I didn’t tell him he was wrong. And that his job was horrible. Or that I would have rather spent the past 30 years in the Gulag than firing Windex and dragging squeegee.

Instead, I sought understanding. I asked him what he liked best about his job.

He smiled and replied, ‘The views.’

Key Takeaway

We are all wired differently. We see, experience and enjoy the world differently. Your views and opinions are your own. They are not universal. There are other humans with very different ideas and ideals than you. And there is far more value in learning from others whose experiences and choices are different than yours than in telling others how wrong they are for being different. Step back and see the big picture. It offers quite a view.

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

+For more of the best life lessons the universe has taught me, check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The greatest adapter in the world is already in your home.

Humans continuously innovate. We are always looking for better, faster smarter ways to do everything. And we keep finding it. (Which makes it odd that Bono still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.)

As a result of progress and innovation, our technology and infrastructure systems keep evolving. And to make our old stuff work with the new stuff we need adapters. In fact, there is a huge market for adapters.

But humans are the ultimate adapters. We are equipped with both hardware and software that enables us to adapt to our constantly changing environment. Darwin, Jesus, and David Bowie all knew it.

As your conditions change, always remember that you were built to adapt. You can handle whatever comes next. It is true at work, at school, at home and everywhere else you plug in. Just look at what happened as a result of the pandemic. We didn’t fall apart. We simply adapted to the new set of rules. It’s what we do.

Key Takeaway

Change is constant. Progress is inevitable. With each new wave of change there will be a new you, ready for whatever comes your way. You are not just built to survive, but to thrive. As a human, you are the greatest adapter the planet has ever known. So no matter what tomorrow brings, you will be ready to buh-ring it too.

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

For more of the best life lessons the universe is trying got share with you, check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Yesterday I knocked off a very important long term goal.

Today people talk a lot about wellness. About taking care of ourselves. And about preventative care. But many of us are terrible at this game. And by some of us, I mean dudes. While women often have regular health checks of some sort (or multiple sorts), guys often go completely undoctored. Which can have serious consequences.

Health Slacker

Since college, when I still had regular health supervision through the athletic department at The University of Wisconsin, I have had very little interaction with doctors other than Dr. Pepper, Dr. Suess, and Dr. Dre.

Back in the Saddle

But yesterday morning I established care with a new primary physician. (The staff kept telling me that I was establishing care, or I wouldn’t have known that was what it was called.)

Part of the reason I hadn’t seen a doctor was that I have been healthy. But that’s not a great excuse.

The other reason I hadn’t seen a doctor was that I didn’t know who to see. So I finally asked my good friend and fellow Badger, Dr. Michael Brin, an Emergency Room doc in Milwaukee, for a reco. He gave me a recommendation. I called to make an appointment. And they told me that doctor was not accepting any new patients. So I instantly knew he was lazy. And an elitist. And I didn’t want to see him anyway.

Plan B

Then the woman I was talking to recommended another physician from the same office. This doctor was a woman. I politely declined, because I prefer a dude doctor. I have a policy against getting all naked on a papered table with a lady in the room other than my wife.

The woman then offered a 3rd option, who was a dude doctor, who was seeing new patients and was not fresh out of medical school. I said yes to the dress and booked the appointment.

Then, after I got off the phone I looked up the doctor online to see how he was rated. People seemed to love this guy. So I kept the appointment.

The Big Day

Yesterday was the day. And it was easy.

I scheduled the first appointment of the day to minimize waiting room time. I saw the doctor’s assistant very quickly and got to make a bunch of health jokes. When I was asked if I vaped or smoked I responded that I wanted to, but no one had invited me yet.

I got measured.

I was thrilled to still officially be 6 feet tall, and within single digits of my weight when I graduated from high school.

They found my pulse. Which is a really good sign.

My blood pressure was in the zone, like AutoZone.

I still had no reflexes in my knees. (Throughout my life I have had no response when physicians whack me on my knees with the tiny Dorito-shaped hammers.

The Big Question

When the doctor saw me he asked me a bunch of questions. But the most interesting one was, ‘Why are you here?’

I said, ‘Because I want to live a long time.’

He then probed further, ‘But what was the trigger event that made you want to come in and see a doctor now?’

I thought about his question more deeply. Then I shared, ‘On my birthday I set goals for the year. I had goals related to all the significant areas of my life. Including marriage, family, career, relationship, financial, and travel goals. My health goal was to finally see a doctor and establish a baseline for my long-term health, and to have a resource for the future.’

My new doctor (which sounds like nude doctor) said he thought that was good thinking.

We continued the rest of the exam. He asked me about my health, who lives with me, and about my parents’ ages and health. He asked about siblings. And I was happy to have no major issues to report about them.

The experience was enjoyable. I was able to honestly say that I don’t have any real health issues or concerns.

I didn’t have to have my prostate checked the old fashion way, because apparently there is a blood screening for prostate cancer. I had eaten breakfast that morning, so I had to schedule my follow-up labwork (bloodsucking) for next week.

At the end of our visit, my new doctor thanked me for coming in. When I apologized for being so boring, he said that boring is very good. He said it was a real pleasure to have a pleasant talk with someone enjoying good health and not dealing with any major challenges.

As he was leaving the room he turned back to me, smiled, and added, ‘Tell your wife you did a good thing today.’

Conclusion

I am really happy I finally saw a doctor. Now I have an answer to ‘Who is your primary physician?’ I have peace of mind that my blood pressure is right, that my moles are still the right kind, and that I still have both a height and a weight. Within a week or so I will know if there are any other invisible things I should be concerned about. But even if there are, chances are that we caught them before they were major problems. I am happy to know that I now have a literal health plan to detect new issues early. And someone I can call and say “What’s up doc?’ whenever I have a question.

Key Takeaway

If you haven’t found a primary care doctor, do it now. Ask your friends who they see. Call that doctor. If they are a lazy elitist, ask for another available recommendation. It’s easier and more important than you think. The key to good health and to preventing small things from becoming big things is early intervention. Your family and friends want you to be around to enjoy life together for a long, long time. So if not for you, do it for them.

Note: If you are in the Milwaukee area and need a good doctor, I am happy to share my guy with you.

*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 new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The most important declaration you can make on this day of independence.

Happy Independence Day! On the 4th Of July in 1776 America declared its independence from, well, everyone who was not American. You may remember the Dear John letter the guys in Philly wrote, signed, and sent to the world. In essence, it said, It’s not you, it’s me.

In reality, it said:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

– The U.S. Declaration of Independence

Boom! I imagine the 4th of July fireworks are like the sound made when they dropped the mic after signing that bad boy. (Although the mic was actually a quill pen.)

Freedom

On the 4th of July, there is much talk about our freedom. Which is perhaps the greatest nepotistic gift our forefathers could have hooked us up with.

Today, we listen to great songs about freedom by Francis Scott Key, everyone who sings country music, and Wham.

We think about and thank those who fought and died for our freedom.

Happiness

But Thomas Jefferson saved the best part of that epic sentence for the end. Because the greatest adventure in life is pursuing your own happiness. And the most important declaration you can make is that you have found it.

The Pursuit

It is not enough to be free. Use your freedom to pursue your happiness.

Find your happy places.

Spend time with happy people.

Find work that makes you happy.

Work with other happy people who enjoy what they do.

Find hobbies and play that make you happy.

Perform volunteer activities that contribute to your happiness.

Eliminate addictions that make you unhappy.

Eliminate people that make you unhappy. #buhbye

Listen to music that makes you happy. #PharellWilliams #BobbyMcFerrin #MoreCowbell

Personal Note

My wife and kids thought that a dog would add to our family’s happiness. And I admit they were right. So maybe get a dog. Unless you are allergic to dogs. (Or to picking up their poop.)

Mini-golf, flip-flops and family time all contribute to my happiness.

Key Takeaway

Let the 4th of July be a reminder to relentlessly pursue your own happiness. Discover, embrace and collect all the things that contribute to your happiness. Eliminate the things that make you unhappy. If you are unhappy with your current situation remember that you can change your whole life in one day. Our forefathers taught us that on July 4th, 1776.

God Bless America.

Have A Happy America’s Birth Day!


*Please share this message with anyone you think would benefit from this reminder.

+For other ways to discover your own happiness check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

A good sign that you are doing things the right way.


One of my great goals in life is to provide great value to others. To become a trusted and valued resource for others. Like a human Google, Wikipedia, or Oprah.

A simple indicator I use to measure my value to others is the number of Non-Disclosure agreements I am asked to sign. The NDA is a legal document that says I will keep all the secrets I am told a secret. It’s the legally binding equivalent of the pinky promise. It contains adult language that essentially says that I will zip it, lock it and put it in my pocket. Or that I cross my heart, hope to die, and stick a needle in my eye.

I sign a lot of these NDAs. Because people and companies regularly approach me and my team at The Weaponry about secret new projects, products and plans. They are looking for insights, guidance and collaboration to help a big new idea become a big success.

I love being invited into the inner circle early. And you should too. It’s a great honor and indicator of trust.

Important Questions To Consider

Are people sharing inside information with you?

Do they bring you in early?

Do they want your input?

Do you get brought in to help plan, pressure test, and introduce?

Are you asked to problem-solve?

Do you find out about opportunities first?

Do you have a secret bat phone?

Key Takeaway

The inner circle is where you want to be. It is true in your career and in your social circles. It is a sign of trustworthiness. It means others value your opinions, ideas, and experience. It means you have problem-solving skills. Or turbo-charging skills. And it’s a sign that others enjoy spending time with you. When you get invited into the inner circle it means you are providing great value to others. Which is the greatest measure of all.

+If you found value in this post you will probably also find value in my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.