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.

Getting the vaccine = Getting back together = Getting back to normal

Wednesday was a big day for me. I didn’t win the lottery. I wasn’t named a Most Beautiful Person. And I wasn’t asked to replace Alex Trebek on Jeopardy. Heck, I wasn’t even asked to replace Alex Trebek in the Colonial Penn commercials. It was a big day simply because it was one of the normalest days I have had outside my home in 15 months.

Vaccination Nation

I got my second vaccine shot 2 weeks ago (I’m Team Pfizer, not Hufflepuff or Slytherin). I now feel that I am as protected from the COVID-19 virus as I am going to be. Better yet, I feel as protected as I need to be. So I have started doing regular life stuff again. And I am reminded how much I love regular life stuff.

Wednesday, Normal Wednesday

Wednesday I traveled from Milwaukee to Madison (which is about a 90-minute drive for those of you who are Wisconsin-illiterate). I went to college at The University of Wisconsin in Madison, and I feel as at home in Madtown as I do anywhere on Earth. I was there to see people that I hadn’t seen since before the planet went cuckoo for Covid Puffs.

The Breakfast Club

I started my day at a breakfast meetup with a group of former University of Wisconsin Badger athletes. The last time I saw any of these W Club members in person was March 4th of 2020. The Crew included:

  • Charlie Wills: The Owner of the Charlie Wills Team -Real Estate Partners (basketball)
  • Scott Silvestri: VP and General Manager of Learfield’s Badger Sports Properties (swimming)
  • Derek Steinbach: Director of Development for Wisconsin Athletics (track & field)
  • Nicholas ‘Papa’ Pasquarello: Executive Director of the W Club and Strategic Partnerships – Wisconsin Athletics (soccer)
  • Andy Crooks: Managing Broker at T.R. McKenzie (football)
  • Adam Albrecht: Founder and CEO of The Weaponry and Dude Who Writes This Blog (track & field)
  • Kalvin Barrett: Dane County Sheriff (football (but he will tell you he was a swimmer))
Nick, Me, Derek, Sheriff Barrett, Charlie and Scott at the Original Pancake House in Madison. I’m always amazed at how many of those restaurants there are. Which makes me think most of them are lying.

It felt like a reunion. We were hugging and shaking hands and seeing each other’s naked faces. We were sharing stories, smiling, and laughing. And not once did anyone say, ‘You’re on mute.’

This was a group of ballers, that included All-Americans, Final Four participants, school record holders, Big 10 Champions, and Team Captains. But the rockstar of the group was Sheriff Barrett. Other people in the restaurant were asking to take pictures with him and to asked him to stop to talk. It was fun to see.

I asked Kalvin if he no longer likes the Bob Marley song, “I shot the sheriff.” He said that he loves that song and plays it in the office. Which reminded me of Shaq in the Grown Ups 2 clip below.

Brunch

After breakfast, I visited Dave Astrauskas, the rockstar throwing coach of the University of Wisconsin track and field team. Dave has coached 4 NCAA Champions, 1 NCAA Collegiate Record Holder, 41 NCAA Division I All-Americans, 4 Big Ten Records Holder, 11 Big Ten Champions and Olympic discus thrower Kelsey Card.

Coach Dave Astrauskas He can teach you how to throw anything but a hissy fit.

Dave has forgotten more about throwing than I will ever know. And of all the people I know Dave is the most likely to set off a spellcheck alarm. #astrauskas

I spent time with Dave for 3 reasons:

  1. Because he is a good human.
  2. To learn from someone who is at the top of their field.
  3. To foster a strong bond between the UW Track & Field program and alumni.

Spending time with Dave was enlightening. He offered me a number of new ways to think about throwing, human performance, coaching, problem solving, the Big Ten Conference, athletic facilities and competition. My time with Dave was a great reminder of how much we can all learn if we ask good questions of experts, listen, and maintain a beginner’s mind.

Lunch

My lunch meeting was pure joy. I met with my friend-client-superstar, Anne Norman, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer of UW Credit Union. Anne has been a favorite human of mine since we first met for lunch at Hi-Way Harry’s in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin in 2018. We have been working together weekly ever since. But we have only seen each other in-person once since February of 2020, at our TV commercial shoot with Jonathan Taylor, running back for the Indianapolis Colts.

The 3 greatest exports of Kenosha, Wisconsin are Orson Welles, my high school teacher Mr. Bill, and Anne Norman.

Anne is a burst of sunshine on any day. Even on the phone or on Zoom. Especially if she is wearing her banana costume. But to be with her in person provides a full week’s worth of Vitamin C in one sitting.

We talked business and branding and teams. We talked about upcoming marketing initiatives. But we could have talked about hang nails, paper cuts and the DMV and I would have enjoyed it. Because spending time with Anne is even more valuable to me now than it was in 2019.

Key Takeaway

Get vaccinated if you can. See your people in real life. Spending time with great humans is joy fuel. And it is even better now that we have had that ability taken away from us. Today, life isn’t just returning to normal. Life is about to be better than ever. Because we have a newfound appreciation for all of the little things. Like simply being together with other good people. Let us never take that for granted again.

Thank you Charlie, Derek, Scott, Nick, Andy, Dave and Anne for sharing some of your valuable 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.

The simple trick to make your dreams a reality.

For months I thought about making a t-shirt design I really wanted. But I didn’t do it. For many years I loved the idea of writing my own blog. But I didn’t write one. For nearly 2 decades I thought about starting my own advertising agency. But I continued to work for someone else. You probably have similar stories. Because as Maya Angelou said, ‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.’

It is easy to consider me a dreamer, not a doer.

However, today I am wearing the t-shirt design that I wanted to print for so long. I am writing my 596th blog post. And for over 5 years I have worked at The Weaponry, the advertising and ideas agency that I always dreamed of starting. And when I pinch myself it actually hurts.

So what changed? What happened that turned these want-to-dos into dids and doings? The answer is simple. Like an OBGYN, I gave myself a due date.

‘Goals are dreams with deadlines.’

Someone Smart (But we don’t seem to know who.)

Dreams and fantasies float in infinite time. Reality, progress and completion are time-bound. To convert a dream into a reality you have to set a due date. And deadlines are like horse jockeys. (You should choose the shortest one that can do the job effectively.)

Key Takeaway

We often have a hard time getting started on big projects and life changes. So remember this: A Due Date gives you a Do Date.  When you have a deadline, even a false deadline, you alchemize fantasy into reality. You prioritize. You do what needs to be done. You can then put all the steps of the process onto a timeline. And timelines are like trains that deliver final results. Choo Choo!

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

** This blog gets published 3 times per week, because I set those 3 deadlines.

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.

5 Reasons why I got vaccinated.

On March 16th, 2020 my family and I began playing an epic game of dodgeball with the COVID-19 virus. We played to win. And winning meant not getting the virus. Every day the virus didn’t hit our home felt like a win. Like we made it to the next round on Frogger.

Gamifying COVID avoidance made it a competition that my family and I could win. But we didn’t hibernate. Not even close. In 2020 we traveled to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and road tripped from Wisconsin to Idaho. But we were smart and precautitory. We wore masks, socially distanced, washed, sanitized, wore garlic necklaces, burned our stuffed animals as sacrifices, and drank the blood of albino newts. You know, the basic CDC stuff.

The Vaccine

I have been a big fan of a vaccine for Covid-19 since, well, since the first talk of developing one. Because it is the only way we as a planet can beat the virus and party like it’s 2019.

Just as polio, chickenpox, measles, and corded telephones feel like challenges of the past, I wanted Covid-19 to be retired to the lore of yesteryear. That’s why I was ready for the vaccine as soon as I could get it.

On Saturday I got my second round of the Pfizer vaccine. I had no side effects other than my arm looked band-aidy. I know that there are still a few days before I reach maximum resilience, but I feel like I have won the game of dodgeball. And I am taking great pride in defeating my opponent, thanks to an army of scientists who quickly whipped up a sweet vaccine like Tom Cruise whipped up sweet cocktails in that movie where he whips up cocktails. (I forgot the name of the movie.)

Reasons For Getting Vaccinated

I was never afraid of getting sick. I’m not high risk. I have a robust immune system from all the dirt I ate as a kid, and as an adult. But I have plenty of other reasons to get vaccinated. Here they are in a particular order.

5 Reasons I got vaccinated.

  1. Because my kids can’t. I didn’t want to bring COVID home and infect 3 kids who didn’t have an option to get vaccinated. I didn’t want to be the reason they missed school, sports, music programs, or the Dad Appreciation Parade (that I am organizing).
  2. I don’t want to get other people sick. Other friends, family, coworkers, and lovely elderly people would be vulnerable if I got infected. I don’t like the idea of doing avoidable harm to others.
  3. Flying In a non-COVID year I fly a lot. Flying is odd right now. And the empty middle seats are going away. To fly again regularly I will feel best if I am not immunally naked.
  4. I want to see people again. Getting together with other people who have been vaccinated is a no-brainer. Getting together with people who have not been vaccinated is still a brainer. I don’t want people to have reservations about seeing me. I just want people to have reservations with me.
  5. To get back to business. Yes, my team at The Weaponry has been fully functional throughout the pandemic, with one notable exception. We really haven’t spent time with our clients or prospective clients in person in well over a year. There has been very little in-person relationship building. That is one of the greatest joys of business. And my next 2 weeks are already filling up with plans to see clients and friends (and client-friends) for the first time in 15 months.

Key Takeaway

Getting vaccinated feels like a win. It is how we defeat the threat of COVID-19. It is how we protect each other, especially those who can’t or shouldn’t get the vaccine right now. It is how we get back to life as we want it to be. And it is how we get back to developing culture within our organizations, and relationships within our communities. I am thrilled to be fully vaccinated, and I hope to see you in person soon!

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

The job title my Mother didn’t know she had.

When I was in 3rd grade my Mom, Jill Albrecht, attended my parent-teacher conference to hear how I was doing in class. Before the alliance began their conversation about my academic progress, or lack thereof, my teacher shared with my Mom that when filling out a form preparing for the conference I had listed my mother’s occupation as Zookeeper. With 4 kids under 10 years old, I thought that was an accurate description of my mother’s primary job as a Stay at Home Mom.

Her Real Job

However, today, as I reflect on my Mama’s career I have a different answer. My Mom has been my ultimate life mechanic. Whenever something went wrong in any area of my life she could fix it.

My Mama’s Life Mechanic Services

When I was hungry, she fed me.

When my clothes were dirty, she would clean them.

When my bed was was a mess she could remake it.

When I had trouble with my attitude she adjusted it.

When my wallet was broken she put a couple dollars in it to patch the holes.

When poison ivy blistered my skin she polished me pink with calamine lotion and stopped the itching and oozing.

When my confidence was cracked she welded it back together.

When my grades were broken she fixed them (before I could do anything else).

When my eyes leaked, she found the source and stopped the drips.

When my knee was broken my senior year in high school she organized the doctors to put it back together.

When my public speaking sputtered she fixed it. And fixed it... AND FIXED IT! (With a smile, a pause for impact, and eye contact.)

When she made chili and the muffler stopped working she… actually, she never could fix that one.

When my steering was off she aligned it.

When I ran too hot she added coolant.

When my headlights padiddled she always had a spare bulb.

To make sure my visibility was good she gave me fresh wipers, window washer fluid, and an ice scraper (because I grew up in Vermont).

My mom also taught me how to properly adjust the rearview mirror. Because some of the best views are behind you.

However, my Mom no longer needs to step in when things go wrong because she has taught me how to fix things myself. She has given me all of her tools. And today, there is no problem large or small that I can’t handle with the tools my Mama gave me.

Thank You Mama!

Happy Mother’s Day.

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.

Why I have so much confidence in the power of confidence.

When I was a kid there was a famous commercial where a group of idealists sang, ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke.’ The commercial made me believe that together we could solve world-thirst. But despite how much I enjoy an occasional ice-cold Coca-Cola, if I could give the world anything at all, it would be more confidence.

The Dictionary Definition

Merriam Webster, a woman who knew a lot of words, defines confidence in the following way:

Confidence: 

a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers

b: faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way

c: the quality or state of being certain 

Becoming A Confidence Donor

Many years ago I made a conscious decision to contribute to individual confidence whenever I could. I began handing out compliments liberally. I complimented people on strong performances. I noted how much potential or ability I saw in others. I highlighted skills and talents that people were really good at.

I let my positive inner dialog about others become an outer dialog, where I tell people the good things I am thinking about them. Kinda like Jim Carey in Liar Liar. I comment on quick math skills, strong customer service, a smart suggestion, good hair, a great attitude, a fun clothing choice, or the refusal to stop drinking Tab just because the rest of the world did.

I don’t feel awkward about offering others such positive comments either. Because I know it is like making a valuable deposit in their confidence piggy bank. And the fuller the piggy bank the more valuable it is when you need to butcher the pig.

Just as we can pay each other with money, we can also pay others in confidence. In fact, some of the compliments, encouragement, feedback, and support that I have received throughout my life have been more valuable than money. Because they have forced me to see myself as better, stronger, smarter or more capable than I recognized. Which in turn encouraged me to take bigger bets on myself.

The bets I’ve made on myself include raising my hand for challenging assignments, speaking up when I thought someone needed to, and stepping out of my comfort zone to develop new abilities. In fact, when I decided to start my own business it was my confidence in both myself and my team and our ability to make the business successful that made all the difference.

I string together my own successes like popcorn on a old-timey Christmas tree. Or Cheerios on a preschool necklace. That string of successes helps me believe that my next attempt will be successful too. Of course this is not guaranteed. And I have plenty of failures, missteps and mistakes. But I don’t string them together to tell a story about myself. Neither should you. Because it simply doesn’t help.

Key Takeaway:

Confidence is one of the planet’s most valuable forces. It fuels a can-do, will-do mindset. It provides courage to take on new challenges. It is like armor that helps you survive the attacks of life. Help build confidence in others through genuine compliments, support, and encouragement. It will prove amongst the greatest investments you will ever make.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message (because they are amazing) please share it with them.