How to be successful, summed up in 4 words.

I have a 4-word philosophy for success. I lean on it every time I want to do something new. It applies to fitness goals, to business and career success. It applies to creative endeavors, and charitable giving.

It applies to all manner of self-improvement and behavior change.

It is not secretive or complex. And because it is only 4 words long it’s useful even if you have a really, really short attention span.

It is:

Start Small. Think Big.

Start Small.

The key to success is action. You have to get going to get results. Too often people make the mistake of starting big. When you focus on the fully formed, fully finished version, the vision itself becomes intimidating. Which prevents people from taking the first step.

By starting small you create an easy on-ramp.  By giving yourself permission to start small you create an invitation to action. And that action, as small as it may be, changes everything. Think about how small COVID-19 started. #amIright

Think Big

Once you’ve begun, go all in. Think about what is possible if you keep going and growing. Think about momentum. Think about compounding actions. Once you have begun the results are only limited by your thinking. So go as big as you can.

Mom’s Know This

Every Mom knows that this is exactly how you raise a successful child. You start small. You teach the most basic skills, rules, and manners. Then you think big. You think of the successful person you want your child to become. And you do all you can to empower your child to grow into the best version of themself.

Thank you Moms. Thank you for giving us a great start when we were small. And for thinking about all we would need to be successful when we became big. It has made all the difference. Sorry we can’t take you to brunch today to show our appreciation.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Are you too vanilla to be successful?

I recently got a phone call from a CEO. He told me that he was worried about his organization’s brand. The company had hired another advertising agency to jazz up their image. But he felt like what they came back to them with was very vanilla. I pondered the idea of very vanilla. As if there was mediocrity, and then there was extreme mediocrity.

He knew his business couldn’t win against formidable foes with vanilla. He knew he couldn’t motivate his considerable team with vanilla. And he knew he couldn’t recruit top talent with vanilla. Vanilla is flat. Undifferentiated. Forgettable.

person holding vanilla ice cream on cone
In business vanilla is the kiss of death. Or maybe it’s the lick of death.

I knew I could help him. I have spent my career helping brands find their flavor. And vanilla is simply not on the menu.

We spoke for an hour. I shared how my team at The Weaponry would approach their brand development needs. Which included developing differentiated processes, products and services so that they truly had something interesting and ownable to talk about. Even if it didn’t exist today.

I enjoyed our conversation. But I was curious how he found me. And why he thought I was the right person to call.

Then he shared the following.

‘Adam, I don’t know much about The Weaponry. Or the type of work you usually do. But I saw you speak several months ago. And I remember you not seeming very vanilla. And I figured you could help us seem not vanilla too.’

Key Takeaway

If you want to be remembered you can’t be vanilla. You have to differentiate yourself in positive and meaningful ways. You can differentiate your personal brand by doing things differently. By breaking rules. And adding extra-anything to your personal recipe. Like energy or thoughtfulness. Or excluding a common ingredient altogether. Like shaving, laziness, alcohol, or pants.

Your business can differentiate itself with personality, product or process. You can stand out because of your pricing or packaging. You can be remembered for your people or your promise. Or simply be doing unreasonable things on behalf of your customers. But whatever you do, don’t be vanilla. Vanilla is the flavor of the crowd.

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

What not to do with your extra time right now.

When I was in 6th grade I went to the Lake of The Ozarks in Missouri. It was long before Jason Bateman made it look both scary and binge-able. I lived in Columbia, Missouri at the time, and my friend Matt had a family lake house in the LOTO. Matt and his family invited me to come down to the lake for a summer weekend. Which at the time felt as big and exciting as going to Cancun. Except I could speak the language, and drink the water.

I remember 4 things from that weekend:

  1. ‘Glory Days’ by Bruce Springsteen was brand new and we listened to that song over and over all weekend long. I had a sneaking suspicion that the Boss Man was trying to tell me that my glory days as a 12-year old kid would soon pass me by.
  2. I saw a monster truck in the middle of the lake. The giant tires held so much air that the truck floated. It was tooling around the lake just like a boat. Except it was a monster truck. That was some real hillbilly shiznit.
  3. My friend’s sister Lisa and her friend Brooke asked me if I would jump in the lake and fetch the inner tube that was floating away from the dock. I gladly dove in, swam to the tube, and brought it back to the dock. When I climbed out of the water feeling 6th grade-heroic, they expressed their extreme gratitude. Then they added, ‘We didn’t want to go get it because we just saw a huge water moccasin swim under the dock.’

Number 4 On Cove 4

But it was the 4th memory from that trip that I have thought about most often over the past 3 decades.

One day me, Matt, Lisa, Brooke and several older kids went out on the family’s water ski boat. After all the older kids had skied, Matt’s cousin, who was in his early 20s, asked if I wanted to go waterskiing. I said no. I explained that I had never gone before and that I didn’t want to waste everyone else’s time.

He responded by saying, ‘Hey man, don’t worry about that. We’re just out here killing time.’ He said it as if killing time was a good thing. A necessary thing to do to get rid of all this pesky time we all have to deal with.

I understood what he meant. But I couldn’t get past what he actually said. Killing time seemed crazy to me, even then. Killing time sounded as rational as burning money. Or eating veal.

Time For Time

Today, during the global lockdown created by the COVID-19 crisis, you may find yourself with a surplus of time. And you could be tempted to just kill it. But don’t. Don’t waste it. And don’t pass it either.

Time Scarcity

Time is the scarcest of all resources. In fact, one of the most impactful things I’ve read over the past 2 months was So Much Quarantine. So Little Time. by my friend Drew Hawkins. He details how he and his wife are extremely time-challenged right now as they both work from home, while simultaneously caring for their 1 and 3-year old children. They are spinning plates like a carnival act. For Drew and Megan free time is harder to find than live sports. Almost all of their time is multi-tasking. And that time is working as hard as any time ever has in the history of time.

Key Takeaway

If you are lucky enough to have time right now, for Drew and Megan’s sake, don’t kill it. Cherish it. Use it. Employ it. Value it. Make the most of it. Time is a gift. It’s the most valuable thing you will ever have. Except for maybe toilet paper.

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

One of the best things you can do right now is plant radishes.

When I was a boy my family always planted a garden. Ok, that may be an understatement. We were the only family I knew that had fresh cow manure delivered by the truckload to be spread over our sprawling vegetable garden. Which meant that when spring was in the air it was really in the air at my house.

When I bought my first home I proudly continued my family’s gardening tradition. However, I buy my cow manure by the bag, not the big rig. It helps maintain more neighborly relations.

IMG_1715
My baby sister Donielle and one of our monster, manure-powered heads of broccoli. 

The Benefits

Vegetables you grow yourself taste better. Which alone would be enough reason to grow your own. But there is more. You can save yourself a lot of money growing your own fruits and vegetables. You feel safer eating your own harvest because you know how the plants were raised. And today, the garden feels like a safer place to go for produce than the local grocery store. Which looks like it has been taken over by masked suburban bandits, all trying their hardest to stay 6 feet away from each other.

Filling the Cornucopia

Each year my wife Dawn and I plant tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the backyard garden boxes we built ourselves. We plant carrots, peas, beans, lettuce, onions, pumpkins and squash.

The Radishes

But my favorite things to plant every spring are radishes. I love the taste of radishes. They are full of flavor. And these bright red spheres of spice add color and personality to both the garden and to our plates.

But that’s not what I love most about radishes.

close up photo of radishes
You look radishing…

Time Passages

After we plant most of our vegetables we have to wait months to harvest them. Typically that means 60, 70, 80 or even 110 days of tending to them before we get eat. 

But radishes are different.

Ready Already

Radishes are ready quickly. Usually in just 20 days. Which makes radishes like short term goals. They offer a quick sense of progress and a tasty reward far before the other vegetables are ready. Radishes keep us motivated and satisfied until the peas, beans and lettuce are ready to step up to the plate. (See what I did there?)

Life Lessons

Gardening is like life and business. You must sow seeds before you reap rewards. Gardening requires long term thinking. There is watering, weeding, and fertilizing required along the way. And you only get out of it what you put into it.

agriculture bowl close up cooking
Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries. It starts as a bowl of radishes.

Reward Season

To get us to our long term goals we all need short term goals along the way. We need to see quick progress. Especially now. We know that our world and our economy will bounce back eventually. But we could use some quick wins. Some short term progress. Something tasty and rewarding to sink our teeth into sooner than later. So make sure you are planting seeds in both your personal and professional life that you can harvest and enjoy quickly. Preferably something legal in all 50 states.

Key Takeaway

As humans we need quick, positive reinforcement. We need these wins now to remind us that we are making progress over the short term. Which gives us the fortitude we need for the long term. The tomatoes, peppers, and pumpkins will all come eventually. But right now the radishes will help get us through.

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

How to get really smart by playing dumb.

I am no longer a beginner. Far from it. I have now amassed 23 years of experience in advertising and marketing. I have worked for several great agencies. And in 2016 I launched my own agency called The Weaponry and gave myself a title that sounds way more important than I will ever be.

Experience

I have worked with hundreds of different brands, including Nike, Reddi-Wip, UPS, Hertz and Wells Fargo. And I have experience in more industries than I knew existed 20 years ago. Including nacho cheese dispensers and rubber chicken feather plucking fingers. #whattheflock

What I have learned.

But the greatest thing I have learned is that I don’t know nearly as much as I could. In fact, there is a never ending supply of new things to know. Because life is an all-you-can-learn buffet.

To continue to grow, learn and improve think of yourself as a glass-half full. Focus on what you don’t know or don’t understand. Focus on the tools you haven’t learned to use yet. Set your sights on the techniques you don’t know or haven’t mastered.

portrait of a man in corporate attire

The Apprentice Mindset

Rather than build a veteran’s false fortress of credibility and experience adopt the expandable mindset of the apprentice. The apprentice mindset is the secret to growth in  entrepreneurship and business. It is they key to improvement in marriage, parenthood and teaching. The apprentice mindset leads to growth in the kitchen and in other rooms in the home too… #brownchickenbrowncow

I have published 440 blog posts. But I feel as if I know very little about blogging compared to what I don’t know. I marvel at others who create posts faster than me. Who have developed massive audiences. Who blog for a living. That’s crazy to me. I am like a kindergartener among graduate students. But the sky is the limit. As long as I stay open minded.

Key Takeaway

Adopting, maintaining or reverting to an apprentice mindset keeps you seeking and learning. It’s the only way to become outstanding. Don’t place a premium on what you already know. Place a premium on the rate at which you accumulate new techniques, approaches, tricks and perspectives. Because the most valuable way to become a valuable expert at anything is knowing that you’re not there yet.

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

Now is the perfect time to pay people in confidence.

A few months ago COVID-19 and The Global Lockdown may have sounded like a cool band name. But today they represent the two dominating forces on the planet. Right now they are locked in an epic standoff, like the FBI and The Branch Davidians. Physical and economic health is under attack. And we need Chip and Joanna Gaines to show up and save Waco with some shiplap.

Every day the news reports the latest health and economic casualties. But there is another human concern that is much harder to quantify.

Confidence, self assurance and motivation are waning. But you can make a difference. Even if money is in short supply.

Right now one of the most valuable things you can do is pay compliments. They can be the most valuable thing you ever give another person. Because they offer confidence, strength and resolve.

black and white laptop
Be this sign for others.

Compliments are the antidote against quitting, and, as a result, failure. Knowing that someone else believes in us is often all we need to believe a little more in ourselves.

I have had people pay me outrageous sums in compliments. Those compliments have expanded my self perception. And those comments helped propel me in ways that those who shared them could not have imagined.

Compliments always seem to land at the right time. When your trajectory is wrong, they help change the angle. When your trajectory is right on target a compliment helps you accelerate.

Too often we avoid or disclaim a compliment because we are afraid it will give the recipient a big head, or feed their ego. But like flour needs yeast to rise, amazing talent often needs positive feedback to rise to the demands necessary to turn great talent into skill, and ultimately results.

If you are wondering what you can do right now to make a difference, send an earnest compliment or 2. Or 200. Or 2000. Deliver it any way you like. You’re likely to make someone’s day. Like a sweet treat in the middle of a no carb diet.

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

How to help others right now by treating them like bicycles.

Life is about as far from normal as most of us can imagine. The unprecedented global disruption caused by COVID-19 is impacting every one of us. Today, our physical, mental and financial health are all at risk. But like John, Paul, George and Ringo, we can all get by with a little help from our friends.

Help, I Need Somebody.

Most of us are not professionally trained on how to help others who are dealing with a crisis. But most of us know how to ride a bicycle. It turns out that bicycles and your friends actually need the same kind of assistance from you. And for simplicity’s sake, I am rolling the terms coworker, business associate, and family into the word friend. It will save us a lot of verbosity between here and the end of the post. 

A Please-Don’t-Crash-Course

Instead of heading off to years of clinical training here are some very basic tips you can use to help others by becoming more bike-minded.

forest bike bulls
A bike is a great thing. But it needs a person to make it work.

5 Ways To Help Your Friends By Treating Them Like Bicycles.

1. Prop them up. Recognize when a friend needs a kickstand to lean on. And be that kickstand.

2. Help them steer.  We don’t always know which way to go. This is a simple fact of life. We need help when we come to crossroads. We need help navigating around obstacles. So help your friends make those challenging decisions they will inevitably encounter along the way.

3. Help them balance. The world is throwing epic challenges at us. Knowing how to handle it all can be overwhelming. Notice when a friend is struggling to find their own balance. And help them stabilize. Lend a helping hand or prioritizing advice. Sometimes you just need someone else to show you how to shift your load so you’re not constantly fighting with it. 

4. Help them pedal faster. It is easy for people to fall off their personal pace. Apply constant, gentle pressure on your friends when you know they should be moving faster than they are.

5. Help them stop. We can often see that our friends are heading towards a cliff, a tree or a car before they notice. In those moments, help your friends pump the brakes. Or slam on the brakes. Or remind them that they have brakes. Helping your friends recognize and stop bad behavior is one of the most valuable things you can do for them.

Key Takeaway

Right now your friends, family, and coworkers need your help just as much as your bicycle does. Learn to recognize what inputs would be most beneficial. It could be encouragement, stability, direction or warnings. We’re all dealing with major challenges. And we all benefit from having someone else along for the ride.

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