How you think of your morning alarm makes all the difference.

What is your alarm clock to you?

Is it a warning?

A stop sign?

Is it a buzzer telling you that you are out of time?

Is it an annoyance?

A wet blanket? (gross)

Is it a buzzkill? (Or maybe just a Zzzzzkill?)

Is it a shot to the heart? And you’re to blame?

A necessary evil, heavy on the evil?

Is it like the lights flicking on at bar time telling you that you’re getting kicked out? (And revealing that the person in front of you is fugly with the lights on?)

Is it a call to tumble outta bed? And stumble to the kitchen. To pour yourself a cup of ambition. And yawn and stretch. And try to come to life.

The Alternative

Or is your morning alarm an invitation?

Is it the signal of the start of something great?

Is it like the lifeguard’s whistle, inviting you back into the water?

Is it like the opening bell at the stock exchange inviting you to make money and magic?

It is like a train whistle reminding you it’s time to move Engine Engine Number 9 down the New York Transit line?

It is like the national anthem, telling you to stand up straight and proud, reminding you of all you have to be thankful for, flooding you with the feels, and inspiring you to go write the next chapter of your story?

Key Takeaway

Your perspective is everything. Remember that every day is a new opportunity to grow, create, enjoy and improve. Make sure to fill your life with work, play, people, and places that are worth looking forward to each morning. And happily accept that invitation when it comes.

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

If you want to be happy, plan to be all you can be.

I am a huge fan of the thinking of Abraham Maslow. Not just because he was a University of Wisconsin psychology student like me. But because he did so much to help us all understand our pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness is amongst the 3 greatest pursuits in life. (Along with Trivial Pursuit and Roscoe P. Coltrane’s Hot Pursuit! from The Dukes of Hazzard.)

Here’s a new Maslow quote I heard recently. To be clear, it is new to me. Not something he said recently. He hasn’t produced any new material since June 8th of 1970.

“If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life.

-Abraham H. Maslow:

Key Takeaway

Plan to become all that you are capable of. The pursuit is more important than the achievement. Think big. Working to become a fully realized, best-possible version of yourself is the most rewarding life-long project. And it is the best way to finish with no regrets at the end of your days.

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

8 great ways to overcome your setbacks.

Long-term success is hard. Partially because short-term success isn’t that hard. It’s easy to string together a couple of quick improvements when you start anything new. Because you start everything new at your lowest level. Which means the first few steps often offer quick wins, confidence, and rewards. You just follow the yellow brick road, and all the little people cheer you on and give you new shoes.

Things Get Harder

But then you run into a non-improvement event. Or the unthinkable: Deprovement. Then you take a few steps back. This is especially common when you have really great success right out of the gate. Because you set the bar higher than you have the capacity to clear with your early skills and experience. #childactors

It Happens To The Best Of Us

But setbacks also occur when you have loads of experience. Because what used to drive better and better results stops working. Frustration sets in. Your confidence takes a kick in the tenders. And there you are at the crossroads of success.

This is your movie moment. This is when too many people quit or give up. Which is the only way to truly fail. When you face such challenges, and challenges will be faced, here’s a recipe to move beyond the swirly-whirly swamp of stalled progress, and fulfill your personal legend.

8 great ways to overcome your setbacks.

  1. Short-term goals. Set easily achieved short-term goals that get you moving in the right direction again. Make some of them laughably easy. That way you will both meet your goals and laugh. #winwin
  2. Long-term vision. Remember the big picture. Your long-term goals will not be achieved in one straight push. Keeping the long-term perspective reminds you that this is just a chapter in your story. And adversity helps make every story better.
  3. Focus on the most impactful area of improvement. Find your one thing to focus on that will have the greatest impact. There are almost always small actions that have huge consequences. Find those actions and take them.
  4. Forget your failures. Don’t dwell on your failures. Move past them as quickly as possible. Nike Founder and CEO Phil Knight said, “The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.”
  5. Identify with your successes. Remember that the successful you is the real you. The setbacks and stumbles are temporary and will soon be purged. Like Chris Gaines or Sasha Fierce.
  6. Take responsibility for your failures. Take complete ownership of your failures and shortcomings. By taking ownership of them, instead of blaming others or making excuses, you are taking full ownership of the solution too.
  7. Look at other areas of your life. Humans are complex machines. Often a disruption in one area of your life has an impact on other areas. Examine your sleep, your nutrition, your relationships, your other stresses, and your time commitments. Chances are that the challenges you are experiencing in one area of your life are having an impact on other areas of your life as well. Because the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone.
  8. Believe in yourself. Have faith in your ability to identify the problem and make the necessary adjustments. Lead your own fan club. Because the person who thinks they can and the person who thinks they can’t are both right.

Key Takeaway

Setbacks are a key part of any great story. They force you to improve. Which ultimately makes you stronger, smarter, and more capable to face the next challenge. So embrace your challenges. Then go write your next great chapter.

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

It’s my birthday! Time for my annual performance evaluation!

Today, May 25th, is my birthday. I have a handful of birthday traditions that I look forward to every year. None of them cost more than a dollar or two. And I can enjoy them even during a global pandemic. (And if you can’t pandemic globally why bother pandemic-ing at all?)

My Traditions

First, I always eat a whole can of black olives. I started doing this when I was a senior in high school. It seemed super-indulgent back then. It still does today. Only now I have to get a larger can because my kids get in on the act too. Which is something they don’t talk about at Planned Parenthood.

A second birthday tradition that I love is calling my older sister Heather. Heather and I share a birthday, although we are not twins. Which is super weird right? And awesome! (Side note: my 2 younger sisters Alison and Donielle also share a birthday (May 22nd) but aren’t twins either.) When I was young I thought that my birthday situation made me special and unique. I still do. Happy Birthday, Heather! (And good job enjoying your August vacations Mom and Dad!)

Third, I always try to fish, bike, canoe, hike, and go to the gym. These are some of my favorite activities. And birthdays should be full of your favorite things. Not just brown paper packages tied up with string.

A 4th birthday tradition is that I always give myself a performance evaluation. It’s kinda like my annual checkup, but there are no doctors involved, and I don’t have to show anyone my birthday suit.

During my annual evaluation, I review what I am doing well, what I want to do better, what I have accomplished so far, and what I still have left to do.

Here’s a peek at my 2021 self-evaluation.

Doing Well

  • I’m happy.
  • I smile a lot
  • I laugh a lot
  • I am a good friend (typically)
  • I help gather people
  • I keep in touch with people
  • I am a supportive and involved father
  • I am a devoted husband who is crazy about his wife
  • I didn’t get or give anyone COVID
  • I make time for adventures.
  • I write a blog regularly
  • I exercise regularly
  • I keep meeting more people
  • I am volunteering my time to benefit others
  • I guest speak to classes, teams and professional groups regularly
  • I read a lot
  • I see my dentist regularly
  • I’m not living in a van down by the river
  • I seek out a lot of knowledge and self-improvement
  • I still don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. (But I’m starting to understand why people do. #parenthood)
  • I believe in myself
  • I am hungry for more (and for pancakes)

Want To Do Better

  • Take on more family responsibility
  • Follow through on all the things I say I will do
  • Put more focus on my most important initiatives to move them forward faster
  • Get better at giving gifts
  • I want to drop below my snoring weight. (I’m about 5 pounds over my snore-free weight now.)
  • Get in better shape (But I still want to be human-shaped.)
  • I want to be slower to anger
  • Think bigger
  • Do bigger things
  • Get good sleep every night
  • Donate more money to great causes
  • Spend less time on or distracted by electronic devices
  • Be a better Christian
  • Get a physical every year

Things I have done.

  • Found a great wife (Yes, it is you, Dawn!)
  • Created and partially raised 3 pretty great kids
  • Had a respectable career
  • Started my own business (The Weaponry)
  • Created a blog that occasionally makes people giggle
  • I’ve visited 49 states (No Hawaii)
  • I have visited 12 Countries
  • I got stuck in a Murphy bed in Germany
  • I have pet a hummingbird in the wild twice
  • I have ridden a snowmobile 113 mph
  • I have worked really hard to achieve a lofty goal
  • I have bounced back from failure
  • I am still within 5 pounds of my high school graduation weight
  • I have volunteered for hard jobs when I knew I was the best person for the job
  • Donated blood (I did this for the first time 7 months ago)

Things I haven’t done yet that I really want to do.

  • Published a book
  • Owned enough rental properties to retire on
  • Hiked to Havasu Falls
  • Seen Tokyo, Hong Kong, Norway and Italy
  • Created a self-sustaining business that doesn’t need me anymore
  • Successfully launched a child into the real world
  • Gone hunting
  • Created my own highly successful brand (any category)
  • Become an official mentor for someone
  • Become embarrassingly rich
  • Gone skydiving (I’m waiting for that sweet spot when my dependents don’t depend on me anymore, but I’m still not wearing Depends.)

Key Takeaway

It’s important to check in with yourself regularly. You need to know what you are doing well, and celebrate that. You also need to know what is still undone, or not being done well. Knowing when to be proud of yourself and when to be disappointed in yourself is a valuable life skill. Those two forces fuel both my happiness and my hunger.

In the best-case scenario, I am nearly half way through my earthly adventure. In the worst-case scenario, I am almost done. That’s why I am living my life knowing that much sooner than I want this game will be over. So I can’t put the important stuff off. It is go-time! And there is a lot to do this year.

Special Birthday Request

If you would like to help make my birthday 38-Specialer, I would love to have you subscribe to this blog. I’ll work the next 364 days to make the blog worth reading. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support and your time!

Have a wonderful my-birthday! Thanks for joining me on my adventure.

Why you should think of time as material to make an amazing life.

Earlier this week I got a text from a friend who read my blog post Getting the vaccine = Getting together =Getting back to normal. The text said, ‘It looks like you had an eventful day.’ Indeed, my Wednesday was eventful. All by design. So I responded, ‘I did! I’m trying to create an eventful life!’

Making It Happen.

It is easy to want an eventful life. Or an adventurous life. Or a life worth turning into a book, movie, urban legend, or highway-side historical marker. But the only way to make that happen is to make it happen. Kinda like the only way to invent Facebook is to invent Facebook. #FrickenWinklevosses 

The Material

While fine artists work with materials like paint, pencil, metal, and clay, there is another more valuable material we can all use to create art every day. And it’s right there on your watch, on your calendar, and in the sands rushing through your hourglass. And if you are Mick Jagger, it is right there on your side. (Yes it is.)

Time

Time is the greatest artistic medium of all. You can use time to create memorable moments, minutes and hours. You can create a beautiful day, a wonderful week, or an amazing year. By using your time well you can create your own beautiful, memorable, adventurous, eventful life.

You can use time to build a career, create a community or have a positive impact on all of the nouns around you. #PeoplePlacesAndThings You can build a business, develop relationships, create memories, or write a book. Heck, you can even write a blog post reminding people that they can do all the things they ever wanted to do if they simply use the time they already have.

Key Takeaway

Time is the material beautiful lives are made of. Every day at midnight you get a fresh delivery of 1,440 minutes to work with. Don’t waste them. Instead, make a plan for them. Create all you can with them. Remember, time is the raw material from which all great things are born. What you do with your time is the greatest decision you will ever make. Choose wisely.

Thank you for spending some of your time with me.

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

The most valuable asset to leave school with is not a high GPA or SAT score.

The end of the school year is fast approaching. And what a school year it has been! At graduation time I often reflect on my own schooling. It’s interesting to see just how much detail I can remember from that time. I can still picture where I sat in each class, the grades I received, and the number of times I laughed until I sprayed milk out of my nose.

The Numbers

There were a lot of numbers in school. And not just in math class. Do you remember your high school GPA? Or your class rank? How about your College GPA? Or your ACT, SAT, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT scores? (If you had experience with BVDs, HPV or OPP you probably remember those too.)

Most of us have a pretty good memory for these scores. Because it is how we measured how successful we were in school. They represented the scorecard of academic success.

However, there is another number from our school days that is even more important to your long-term success and happiness. Very few people think about it. Almost no one has it memorized.

Perhaps the best indicator of long term happiness and success is the number of friends you make in school. While the overwhelming focus is on academic statistics, the great residual value of your schooling is measured in humans.

Me and some of my University of Wisconsin dorm mates. We had a pretty good time in Madison.

Chuck the Clique

It can seem cool to find your core group of friends and circle the wagons. Or to create an exclusive group. But that won’t serve you best over time. A much better approach is to become part of many different social circles. This vastly expands the total number of people you are exposed to. And if you volunteer to be a sketch or sculpture model for art classes you get exposed to even more people.

Me and some of my high school friends just before graduation. With t-shirts. And no masks. It was a simpler time.

Get Involved

There are a wide variety of high school and college opportunities that are ideal for developing long-lasting relationships.

  • Sports
  • Dance Team
  • Cheerleading
  • Band
  • Orchestra
  • Streaking The Quad
  • Clubs
  • Plays
  • Smoking In The Boys Room
  • Volunteer Programs
  • Yearbook
  • Food Fights
  • Homecoming Committee
  • Fraternities
  • Sororities
  • Epic Prank Planning
  • Class Trips
  • Outing or Adventure groups.
  • Special Interest Groups Of All Sorts
  • Breakfast Club
  • Detention
Me and my college track & field teammates. I am still in touch with many of these guys. We smile more now.

High School

In high school, make a point of knowing as many people as you can. Get involved in extracurricular activities. Introduce yourself to your classmates. Learn names. Meet the kids in grades above and below you. It is especially easy and beneficial as an upperclassperson to introduce yourself to younger students. Because younger students will highly value having older friends, who can drive a car, and grow a mustache like Pedro.

A high school graduation night party pic. We’re looking tough because we just slammed some Capri Suns.

College

In college, live in the dormitory for 2 years, or even become a Resident Hall Advisor (dorm leader). By doing this you are exposed to far more kids than you are living in off-campus housing by yourself or with a handful of roommates. Having hundreds or even thousands of other kids within your orbit on a daily basis vastly increases the total number of friends you are likely to make during that time.

Me and some of my college roommates revisited our off campus house several years after graduation. The wallpaper was still there. But they were out of paper towels.

Introduce Yourself

At parties and at bars introduce yourself to other people. Make a point of meeting someone new every time you go out. Then connect with them on social media too. Because social media is an easy and informal way of turning weak relationship into strong ones.

My college roommates at Dave and Angie Schatz’s wedding. (I have no idea if that is how you possess a plural word ending with Z.)

The Number That Really Matters

My GPA in high school and college was fine. My SAT scores were fine. But I know far more people than most people I know. And that has been one of my greatest advantages in life and business. And one of my greatest sources of happiness and fulfillment.

Me and my high school friends at our last class reunion. The guys with bad backs asked to be up front.

Key Takeaway

Make as many friends in school as you can. Because the benefit of having many friends lasts the rest of your life. And while there is little chance for you to Billy Madison your way to a higher GPA or class rank later in life, it’s not too late to make more friends. Make it a lifelong habit. Or hobby. Or both. Collect as many people as possible. Because at the end of our days the person who has made the most friends wins.

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

Why you should approach self improvement like a sport.

I first published this post a few years ago while reflecting on my track & field career. I recently shared the post with some track athletes and coaches who really appreciated the message, especially the Key Takeaway (so you could just jump to that). So I decided to repost it again during the heart of track season.

Pre-Note: Wednesday I was at a track meet and took the cover pic of our family friend Eva Brandenburg hurdling. Eva and my daughter Ava (confusing right?) have played basketball together since 5th grade, and are now having fast starts to their freshman track seasons. Keep an eye out for Eva. She is going to do special things!

Here is the original post, now in an unoriginal post...

I love track and field. I first got involved in the sport as a freshman in high school, mostly because I was terrible at baseball. But also because it was co-ed. And, I thought the fact that it was a no-cut sport significantly improved my chances of actually making the team.

Trying Everything

I have competed in a wide variety of track and field events. My resume includes the 100 meters, 400 meters, 1600 meters, high jump, long jump, shot put, discus, javelin, hammer, 35-pound weight, 110-meter hurdles, 4×100 meter relay, 4×400 meter relay, and, yes, even the pole vault (which I approached more like the high jump with a stick).

I have enjoyed every event I have ever competed in (except the 1600 meter run). I love the energy and atmosphere at track meets. But you know when track and field becomes really fun?

The Second Meet.

The second meet is the most important and impactful event in a track athlete’s career. In your first meet, you are just setting a baseline. But once you get to your second meet you walk in with a time, distance, or height to beat. And most of the time, the results in the second meet are a rewarding step forward from the first meet.

In track and field, every result is measured in minutes and seconds, or feet and inches. Which means that your linear progression is clear and quantifiable. Your undeniable improvement in the second meet gets you thinking about the third meet. It makes you think about practicing more, training harder, lifting weights, warming up smarter and getting some better hype music. You start wondering just how much better you can get. The seeds of self-improvement are planted, fertilized and watered in that second meet.

The Broader Lesson

This is not just a track and field thing. This is a life thing. The same principle of self-improvement applies to our careers, our relationships, our responsibilities and our hobbies. Our first attempts simply set a baseline. The second time we do anything we start the improvement process. We recognize that as we pour more energy, time and focus into any activity we get better and better. This is true of presenting a closing argument in court, hiring good employees and folding fitted sheets (although my wife, Dawn is so good at the fitted sheet thing that I focus on the closing arguments in court instead).

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try something new because you think you will be bad at it. You will be bad at it. Or at least you will be the worst you will ever be. But that first attempt creates a starting point. The climb from there is both exciting and rewarding. As you improve, remember that first attempt. Recognize how far you have come since you first started. It is one of the most rewarding reflections in life.

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

Why it’s important to give yourself permission to be an amateur.

When I became an entrepreneur one of the greatest gifts I gave myself was permission to be an amateur. Entrepreneurs ultimately need to know everything there is to know about starting and running a business. Yet the vast majority of this knowledge comes from on-the-job training. Which is how you learned to ride a bike. It’s how the Wright Brothers learned to fly. It’s how MLK learned to give great speeches. And how we all learned to do the Electric Slide (boogie woogie woogie).

By allowing yourself to be an amateur you allow for mistakes and put a premium on learning, not knowing. Remember, you could never learn to juggle without making mistakes. The same is true with standup comedy. And parenting your children. (Don’t tell my kids I said that. Who am I kidding, they already know.)

In every area of life, we start out stupid. Being okay with that and adopting a trial-and-error-and-correction mindset is the smart approach.

As an entrepreneur, I do what I know to do until I discover a better way. The secret is to always be looking for and open to that better way. Once you find it, you add it to your personal weaponry and you take another step forward. Those who reach the highest level of achievement simply never stop taking steps forward. Neither should you.

Key Takeaway

Allow yourself to be a beginner. Allow for mistakes. When you accept your amateur status the journey from ignorance to intelligence is more enjoyable and rewarding. Learn and grow as you go. Recognize your improvements. And know that you can apply this technique to anything in life.

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

The great value of scheduling your Saturdays and Sundays solid.

For most of us, the weekends are our free time. But when you consider that time is your most precious and un-renewable resource, wasting your free time comes at a very high cost. That’s why I employ time investment strategies to help me get the most out of my days.

Yesterday, was a Saturday on my part of the planet. And I only really had one must-do obligation. But I scheduled my entire day on a calendar so that I could get the greatest return on my free time. Here’s what it looked like.

Adam Albrecht’s Yesterday

6:30am Wake Up (I set my alarm for no later than 6:30am every Saturday, Sunday, Holiday and Vacation Day.)

6:45am Read Principles by Ray Dalio (It’s not about Victoria’s family or leaders of high schools)

7:45am Take Ava to driving lessons (I dropped my little girl off to drive around in a car for 2 hours with a dude I had never met. She said the strangest part was that he was listening to sports talk radio. And commercials about erectile disfunction came on at least 3 times during her drive. #awkward )

8:10am: Eat Breakfast (3 eggs)

8:30am: Finish Planning My Day (This is when I finished out my calendar)

9:15am: Clean Bedroom/Bathroom and Laundry (Every Saturday morning I make sure to clean up the stuff I didn’t put away properly during the week. Don’t give me too much credit for the laundry. That’s mostly to-and-from laundry room stuff. Dawn doesn’t trust me to do much more.)

9:50am: Pick up Ava and run to the library. (Ava was alive. And her arms were tired from all the 10-and-2ing. We dropped off Chronicles of Narnia books and picked up 3 science project kits for the kids. Yep, we are those parents.)

10:15am: Yardwork (The kids picked up sticks and I mowed the lawn for the first time this spring. It felt good to get back in the saddle of my John Deere lawn tractor. #shethinksmytractorssexy)

12:00pm: Magnus’ Lacrosse game (First game ever. Only 4 practices to prepare. They won 6-1.)

2:00pm: Eat lunch

2:30pm Nap (I scheduled this)

3:00pm Work on T-shirt Business (I love making t-shirts. And I have bigger plans in the works. Which I worked on at 3pm yesterday.)

3:30pm Organize next steps on my book (I have written a manuscript for my first book. And I needed to focus on what needs to happen next.)

4:00pm Plan next steps for Tucker Hill Properties (The property investment business Dawn and I started has some serious work in the works right now.)

4:30pm Go to the gym with Ava and Johann (My kids and I lift weights together 4 times per week.)

6:15pm Dinner (I eat. It helps me stay alive)

7:00pm Walk with Dawn (We take a regular 1.5 to 5-mile walk-and-talk. It’s good for marriage.)

8:00pm Family Game Night (Mexican Dominoes)

9:00pm Reading (This is the only thing on the calendar that didn’t happen. Because game night went until after 10pm. Then I worked on a puzzle for 20 minutes instead. Because I am a party animal.)

The Result

By scheduling my Saturday full and putting it into my Google calendar I made the most of my day. I prioritized my activities, which were a combination of work, play, togetherness, exercise, and responsibility. And aside from my evening reading, my day went exactly as planned. The time felt well invested and purposeful. And I moved a lot of my important trains forward.

Key Takeaway

Schedule your free time. By making a specific plan for your evenings, weekends, and vacations you will make the most of your ever-dwindling time. It is a great way to feel productive. Yet it lets you bake in your perfect combination of work and play. Plus, by utilizing a time-blocking calendar you face the reality of how much can actually be accomplished in a day. No overestimating. No underestimating. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish this up. I have a lot of other things to do today.

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

Why you should embrace the bumps and the resistance.

Humans are full of potential. We are loaded with more energy and ability than you can possibly imagine. Unless maybe you are John Lennon.

Thomas Edison said, “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” It was that type of enlightened thinking that enabled Edison to invent both the modern light bulb and the ‘How many does it take to screw in a light bulb?’ jokes.

As you work to become all that you can be, like the United States Army, you will encounter bumps and resistance along your journey. It is important to recognize the full value they provide. Because humans are like matchsticks. #RobThomas We are meant to be set on fire. It is the bumps and the friction we encounter that create the sparks and the heat that ignite us. It is the adversity and struggle that strengthen us and bring out our best. Like Budweiser in 1984.

Key Takeaway

Embrace the struggle. Value the resistance. Don’t avoid it. Go through it. It helps reveal all that you are capable of.

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

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***If you think 3 asterisks are too many, you are probably right.