A valuable Thanksgiving lesson from a lifetime of eating.

When I tell people that I was a discus and hammer thrower at a Big 10 university it often surprises them. I simply don’t look the part. I am often asked if I was bigger back then. I wasn’t. But I sure tried.

When I was in college I would always eat 3-to 5 plates of food at dinner. In fact, I remember my Grampy Sprau, who was a life-long farmer saying, ‘I have never in my life seen anyone who can eat more food than you can.’ I probably should have been concerned given the fact that this observation came from a man who fattened Angus beef cattle for a living.

Grampy was right. I was really good at eating large quantities. My friends frequently encouraged me to enter eating challenges where if you eat the entire Belly Blaster or Gastronormous Burger you get the whole meal, and diabetes, for free.

A couple of decades of hindsight have revealed that there was a major, long-term advantage to such eating. But it certainly wasn’t caloric.

The Insight

Because I ate so much in college, the people who I sat down with at the start of my meals were usually long gone after I finished plate #2. Which meant that new people would come to sit and eat with me. Or I would grab another plate and sit down with another table of people.

As a result, I would eat dinner every night with twice as many people as everyone else. This just seemed like fun at the time. We were simply hanging out, talking, eating, and stacking empty plates.

This picture of me and my teammate Bob Smith appeared in the Madison newspaper when I was in school. Bobby and I could really throw down some food back then. The paper mislabeled me as my teammate Alex ‘Big Drawz’ Mautz. My late, great, hilarious friend Manny Castro is in the background.

However, as I now look back at that time, after years of grabbing coffee, professional networking lunches, and business dinners, I recognize the real value. I was developing relationships and maintaining friendships with twice as many people as everyone else. I was doing what they would later call networking without even trying. It was a product of my need for food. And my naturally social nature.

As a result, I developed a lot of strong friendships in college. The value of those relationships has multiplied over time, just like any good investment.

Today, I realize that my strong and supportive network has been key to my entrepreneurial success. But more importantly, it has contributed significantly to my happiness and sense of belonging. Because at the end of the day, those are the things that matter most.

Key Takeaway

Enjoy the social benefits of eating with others this Thanksgiving. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to meet more people and strengthen your relationships. Engage in discussions during your meals. Ask questions. Share conversation starters. Be a facilitator. As a result, you can help create shared experiences around your table that will turn into memories that will be enjoyed for a lifetime.

*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.

Why you should keep a notebook with you at all times.

I have recognized an interesting habit among many of the most highly successful people I know. These high performers carry a notebook with them at all times. (Well, maybe not in the shower or scuba diving.) The notebook offers a place to capture great ideas whenever and wherever they are found.

There is a certain type of person who carries such a notebook. It is someone who recognizes that inspiration is everywhere. That you never know where ideas will hit you. And that a busy life has a way of making you forget your great thoughts moments after they arrive if you don’t write them down.

But there is another reality at work. You don’t have to be a genius, highly motivated, or accomplished to carry a notebook. There is no background check or grace period required either. In fact, you don’t even need to have an active project to pack a notebook.

The fascinating reality is that when you carry a notebook and a pen with you at all times, you are more likely to attract ideas and inspiration. You are more likely to notice interesting things around you. You are quicker to recognize the good ideas and the wows of the world.

You will constantly find things to add to your notebook. The ahas. The intelligent. The nearly undetected. The acorns. The inklings. The profound. The hilarious. And the motivational quotes. In fact, this entire post could have been written in a notebook. And maybe it was.

Key Takeaway

Carry a notebook and pen at all times. They are like dream catchers and lightbulb detectors. Convert the empty pages into collections of the valuable and inspiring. Fill your notebook with ideas. Then buy more. They push you to see the world through a notebook carrier’s eyes. Which is the best way to see life.

*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.

Help me pick a cover for my book from these 5 options.

This whole book-writing thing is getting realer every day. I am close to publishing my first book called What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? with Ripples Media. And I am learning a lot in the process. It turns out that you can’t just throw 200 pieces of paper on a shelf and call it a book. To be ‘official’ you have to put a cover on it and bind the pages together. Rules…

So rather than try to disrupt the entire book publishing industry with an innovative loose-leaf style book, I have decided to cave in and create a cover for my book. Boring, I know. But you have to pick your battles.

Here are 5 book covers I am considering. Now, I’d love to have your help. Take a look and respond in the comments section with the book cover you prefer. You could either describe your favorite option in great detail, or simply use the letter that goes with the cover design. Your choice.

The Options:

A

A

B

B

C

C

D

D

E

E

Here they are at a glance.

What do you like?

Please share your favorite in the comments section. If your favorite cover gets chosen there is a big high five coming your way the next time I see you.

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.