You need one of these 3 things to maximize your carreer.

I have thought a lot about my professional career lately. Writing a book about the most important lessons you’ve learned in life will do that to you. And it’s far more enjoyable to reflect on your career because you are writing a book than because you are on your death bed, thinking about what you would have done differently. Although the death bed reflection involves far less proofreading.

Career Path

While writing, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say, I have examined my career path and the forces that have influenced it. The short story is that I started my career at the bottom of the advertising ladder, as a junior copywriter. (Although truth be told, I have never actually seen the professional ladder. Or the Emporer’s new clothes. Or a snipe.)

My professional titles progressed as follows:

  • Junior Copywriter
  • Copywriter/Producer
  • Senior Copywriter
  • Associate Creative Director
  • Creative Director
  • Executive Creative Director
  • Chief Creative Officer

Entrepreneurship

After I became a Chief Creative Officer I decided it was time to start my own advertising and ideas agency called The Weaponry. That was 5 years ago. Today, my title is Founder and CEO. Which is a lesson in itself. Because if you have the fortitude to start your own business you can give yourself any title you want. I just thought that Galactic Czar was a little too much.

But Wait. There’s More.

I have made the full professional progression from entry-level to C-suite to entrepreneur. But I’m not done yet. I am just days away from publishing my first book with independent publisher Ripples Media. And I have several other exciting and challenging chapters of my professional career ahead of me. Some of these chapters are already planned. And I am sure there are some surprises in store. There always are.

Your Career Guide

To make the type of forward progress I have made you need at least one of the following people in your life:

  • A Mentor
  • A Career Coach
  • A Spouse or Life Partner

These 3 roles all have the ability or responsibility to look after you throughout your career. They can all help you map out your entire journey, and offer feedback, guidance, encouragement, and direction based on your goals. But only the third one should ever see you naked.

The important commonality is that mentors, career coaches, and spouses are not concerned about your current employer’s needs. They are not trying to keep you happy today. They are focused on the big picture, which might not include your current employer.

Mentor

I have never had a real long-term mentor. I have had mentor-ish people help me at various times, with specific roles or challenges. But not someone with whom I had an official ongoing mentor-mentee relationship. I would be happy to have one. I simply haven’t. Maybe it’s not ment to be.

Career Coach

I have never worked with a professional career coach either. Again, I see great value in this role, and would certainly be open to adding a coach to my weaponry. Because I am smart enough to know that I still have a lot to learn and that I could use all the help I can get.

Spouse

My wife Dawn has been the primary career minder for me. She knows what my goals are and she knows the timeline I have set for myself. For over 20 years she has regularly helped me evaluate my professional development and career progress with 2 simple questions:

  1. Are you where you want to be?
  2. Where are you going next?

The answers to these 2 questions provide the regular reality check I need to make sure I arrive at each of my preset checkpoints, but that I don’t stay there too long if I want to complete the race I am in.

Key Takeaway

Find someone to help you map out, navigate, and complete your career journey. Someone who can be there for the entire journey. Who is unbiased towards any particular role or employer, but simply wants you to accomplish all that you set out for yourself. Don’t be afraid to request a mentor relationship. Don’t underestimate the value of a professional coach. And if you have a spouse or life partner that’s in it for the long run, let them help ensure you reach the finish line together.

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

Everything is a game. Here’s the best way to learn how to play.

Last night was game night at our house. We played a card game that my children had never played before. To begin, I read them the instructions on how to play the game, how the game is scored, and how to win. After reading the last of the instructions, I looked up to find my kids staring at me as if I had just read them the instructions in gibberish. Or Swahili. Or Swahili gibberish. Which is extra hard for native English speakers to understand.

I’ve seen that look before. In fact, it feels as if I’ve seen that WTF-ish look every time I’ve ever played a new game with anyone, ever.

The simple fact is that games are complicated. It’s very difficult to absorb the complexities of a new game as the rules of the game are read to you. And if you take a moment to step back, you quickly realize is that everything in life is a game. Not just sports, or things that Milton Bradley and those good-timing Parker Brothers dreamed up. EVERYTHING is a game. Including:

  • business
  • investing
  • real estate
  • relationship building
  • entrepreneurship
  • test taking
  • sales
  • technology
  • surfing
  • riding a bike
  • coaching
  • cooking
  • gardening
  • driving
  • flying
  • writing
  • art
  • mechanics
  • parenting
  • That thing couples do that turns them into parents

Learn By Playing

To learn a new game you simply have to play it. There is no way around it. You have to learn the rules as you go. You learn through the process of playing. Not by absorbing an overview of the rules of the game before you start.

Far too often we delay playing the most interesting games (entrepreneurship, investing, writing, pickleball) until we have studied it completely. But studying the games of life is largely procrastination. Learn 10% ahead of time, and then start. You’ll learn the rest on the chutes and ladders.

Key Takeaway

You don’t learn how to play the games of life by reading the instructions. You learn by actually playing the games. The details reveal themselves as you go. The games you will play are far too complicated to comprehend through simply reading. So start playing. Clarity will come quickly when you are rubbing against the rules rather than reading them.

It’s your turn.

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

How to make magic with just 10 minutes.

It’s remarkable what you can do with just 10 minutes. In fact, it only takes 10 minutes to kickstart your biggest, wildest ambitions. You can sketch out an initial plan for anything. And in doing so, you perform the most important work of the entire process.

Things You Can Do With Just 10 Minutes:

  • Outline a vision for that business you want to start.
  • Begin researching a career change.
  • Start writing a book, blog, or screenplay. (Or get crazy and write a screenless play.)
  • Book travel to that destination you’ve always dreamed of visiting.
  • Create your bucket list.
  • Hit Zillow to look for a new home.
  • Find a class you want to take to expand your skillz. (Remember what Napoleon Dynamite said about skillz.)
  • Start reading that book you’ve always meant to read.
  • Sign up to volunteer your time.
  • Introduce yourself to someone you want to meet.
  • Listen to 5 Minutes of Funk by Whodini, twice. (That’s my jam!)
  • Book tickets to an experience.
  • Start learning an instrument.
  • Complete 8 Minute Abs. Then watch a Chuck Woolery commercial break.

Key Takeaway

You can always find 10 minutes. And in those 10 minutes, you can do the most important work of all. You can begin. You can plan. You can sketch. You can outline the process. You can unfold the roadmap and detail the journey. And once you do, you’re sure to find 10 more minutes to take the next step.

*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.  

I have finally seen a digital copy of my book.

I am in the process of publishing my first book called, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? The book, which has been picked up by independent publisher Ripples Media, shares 80 important life lessons the universe is trying to share with you. Fortunately, the universe shared them with me first and asked me to share them in both hardcover and kindle form. (The universe can be very prescriptive.)

Today, I am far from the romantic notion of writing a book. The fun and fulfilling creative process, and storytelling part of book writing are done. Now I have plunged deep into the mechanics of publishing. We are kerning and leading and deligaturizing. It’s a real literary party up in here.

Learning

I am learning a lot. Including that I am not nearly as irritated by my proofreader as she thinks I have the right to be. I value her like a friend who tells you when you have spinach in your teeth. Or that your fly is open. Or that you have spinach in your fly.

The PDF

I met a fun milestone last weekend. I received a PDF of the fully typeset book on Saturday morning. It was incredible to see a digital copy of the book. It finally looks just like a book. Or at least a Flat Stanley version of a book.

What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? is about 50,000 words, which I was told is a good number to hit for a full-fledged book. (And I don’t want to write an empty-fledged book.) However, I was surprised to discover that the book is 280 pages long. That seems like a lot to write. Which I guess I did.    

On Sunday, I sent a PDF of the full book to some trusted friends to provide a review for the book jacket and for Amazon. It marks the first time anyone but me, my editor, and my proofreader has been able to read the entire book. I felt like a chef at a restaurant sending a new dish out to the dining room for the first time. I hoped the dishes wouldn’t be hurled back at the kitchen door by an angry mob of tastebud-abused patrons. 

The Feedback

I have started to receive their reviews and I am blown away by the things they are saying about the book. They are digging it. They are finding valuable takeaways. They find it to be a quick, and enjoyable read. And I am relieved to not be ducking e-books hurled at my e-head.    

Key Takeaway 

Create that thing you always wanted to create. Share it with the world. Find your proofreader and editor types to help you focus and sharpen your ideas. Your trusted inner circle will provide feedback to help you strengthen and propel your work. The world will be better with your contribution. And you will be better for having shared it.

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

How much turkey will you leave uneaten?

Life is like a whole roasted turkey. You know, like the one you ate yesterday for Thanksgiving. It’s up to you to decide how much meat you are willing to go after. And how much you are willing to leave. But make no mistake, there is far more available than most people are willing to extract.

We all start with the easy and obvious. The big hunks of opportunity and enjoyment that everyone focuses on. Those pieces are so easy to find that they can fool you into thinking that the big stuff is the only stuff. Like Oreo Double Stuf.

But then there is all the other less obvious meat that life offers us that is often even better than what typically steals the spotlight. It requires more work and exploration to find. It rewards the curious and open-minded. It rewards those willing to get messy. And it is well worth the effort. Just ask Andy Dufresne.

The act of exploring for more is rewarding in itself. Finding the hidden value is extremely satisfying. Adding it to your life creates endless advantages.

Key Takeaway

To get the most out of life dig deeper. Look closer. Find all that was served up for you to find. The return on the time you invest is well worth the energy. The greatest treasures are not sitting on the surface. They were saved to be enjoyed by the few willing to put in the work to seek them out.

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

If you want to be an entrepreneur you have to be willing to eat the butt.

Yesterday I was making myself a sandwich for lunch. I have packed my own lunch for school or work nearly every day since I was 13 years old. The sandwich is always the star of the show, with pretzels and a banana typically playing Kramer and Costanza.

When I pulled out the bread to make my daily sandwich magic I realized I had come to the last 3 pieces of bread in the loaf. Two out of the 3 pieces were butts (meaning the end slices of the loaf). However, there was a fresh new loaf sitting on the counter right next to the sad bag of butts. (Which is what we called the math teachers at my high school.) Now I had to decide what kind of sandwich to make.

Would I…

A: Make a sandwich with 1 butt and 1 regular slice?

B: Open the new bag and make a sandwich with 2 regular slices?

C: Eat a 2 butt sandwich?

Moment of Profunditude

At that moment I realized that this wasn’t really about sandwiches. It was about life. It was about my choices, values, and philosophies. I could decide that life is too short to not eat great sandwiches. Or I could decide to suck it up and eat a 2-butt sandwich for lunch.

The Choice

The choice was clear and easy for me to make. Throughout my life, I have trained myself to do the harder things and take the harder path. It has helped me as an athlete. It has helped me as a parent. And I simply would not have succeeded as an entrepreneur if I wasn’t willing to take the more challenging path. Because as an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make the business succeed. Failure is simply not an option. At least not if you want to keep putting sandwiches on the table.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship is like eating a 2-butt sandwich. You have to take on whatever is in front of you. You use all of your resources. You don’t make excuses or avoid hard or unpleasant things. Train yourself to be comfortable with less than the ideal and success will come much easier. And it will be more enjoyable as a result.

*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.

What would the author’s bio in your book say?

I am in the final strokes of writing a book called What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? Today I have to write my author’s biography. It’s what people who only have time for 2 syllables call a bio. It’s a 150-200 word summation of why you should give a hoot about what this owl has to say.

It’s harder than it sounds.

This task didn’t sound that challenging to me until I sat down to write it. Sure I know who I am. I have been there for all of my major life events. I tell the short story of me frequently when I meet new people. And sometimes when I meet used people.

However, I am not often trying to convince strangers that I am an expert on self-improvement. What would I say? That I used to be a lot worse? That they should have seen how bad I started out? That in the very beginning I couldn’t even walk, talk, feed myself, or hold my bladder?

My Wife’s Formula

What credentializes me to share my self-improvement and personal growth tips? When I asked my wife Dawn this question she replied quickly with the following succinct summary:

Your Positive Attitude. + Perpetual Self-Education + Life Experience + Professional Success + Athletic Success + Degree in Psychology + Story Telling Skills = Credibility

I thought that was a pretty good summation. I also thought maybe she is the one that should be writing the book. Or at least my bio.

Positive Attitude

It is challenging to summarize my positive attitude, despite the fact that my personal buoyancy is likely one of my greatest and most distinguishing assets.

Perpetual Self-Education

This is also hard to summarize. There are no degrees, certifications, or student loan debt for self-education. Yet my self-education far exceeds my formal education in breadth, depth, and applicability.

Life Experience

This is super important. Yet impossible to summarize within a 200-word bio.

Professional Success

This is easier. I started my advertising career as a junior copywriter. I worked my way up the creative ranks until I became the Chief Creative Officer of a 275-person ad agency. I helped lead the sale of that agency to the giant advertising agency holding company, Publicis. Then I became the lead creative of the largest ad agency in Atlanta.

I have worked on iconic brands including Reddi-Wip, GNC, Nike, Coca Cola, Dasani, Nationwide Insurance, Wells Fargo, UPS, Hertz, Safelite, Mizuno, Bob Evans, Chick-fil-a, Universal Studios, AMC Theaters, Volvo, SeaDoo and Ski-Doo.

I became an entrepreneur in 2016 when I took a big bet on myself (and my amazing future teammates) by launching the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Today we have more than 25 clients across the United States, as well as in Canada and India.

Athletic Success

I was a 2-time New England high school track and field champion in the discus. The second time I won was just 8 months after having anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery. I also broke the New Hampshire State record in that meet. I went on to throw the discus and the hammer at The University of Wisconsin, where I started as a walk-on and finished as a captain of a Big Ten Conference Champion team. I ended my career at UW as the #4 discus thrower in school history and #1 in the hammer. In fact, everything I know about self-improvement, goal achievement, and overcoming setbacks can be summarized in this section. 

Degree in Psychology

I have a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin. I learned a lot about the power of attitude, resilience, growth and happiness. In fact, Abraham Maslow, whose hierarchy of needs is foundational to modern psychology was also a product of the UW Madison Psychology program.

Storytelling Skills

I like to share stories. But I don’t know how to tell a story about telling stories. I am hoping the book will do this for me.

Key Takeaway

It’s valuable to think about what makes you worthy to write a book. Why should others turn to you as an authority? What makes you a trusted source? Perhaps we should all spend more time considering our credentials before we offer our advice and opinions. And maybe it’s not quite so simple. Because the world is full of wise souls who lack the proper credentials but are rich with the proper perspective. And maybe you are one of those people. So write and share anyway.

*If you have any good ideas on things I should include in my bio, please let me know. If your thoughts are simply intended to make me laugh, all the better.