How to use video conferences to improve your appearance.

According to the Chinese calendar, 2020 was the year of the rat. No one is likely to argue that designation. But for most of us, 2020 was also the year of the video call. In 2020 I used Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Go To Meeting, Ring Central, Skype, and PantsOptional. (Ok, I may have made the last one up.)

Zoom and its various alternatives have provided a way for life to continue with some sense of normalcy since covid-19 burst on the scene and began stealing our toilet paper. Thanks to these platforms we can still have meetings and meetups. We can still conduct business. We can still educate our youth. And we can still answer No when asked if we drink alone on those pesky diagnostic questionnaires.

The Zoom Advantage

While it is easy to think of a Zoom meeting as inferior to in-person meetings, there is at least one major advantage Zoom offers over in-person get-togethers. And it’s not related to deodorant.

Watch Yourself!

Zoom offers you the unique opportunity to see yourself the way others see you in meetings. It is arguably the greatest gift of 2020. And it’s a gift you should take advantage of.

When you are on a video conference, and you select to view the meeting in gallery mode, meaning that you can see all participants, you also get to view yourself, in real-time.

This self-view is extremely valuable whether you are talking and presenting or simply listening to others.

7 things to look for when you see yourself on Zoom.

  1. How do you look? Check your attire and your grooming. Do you look professional and respectable? Are you well dressed? Are you properly groomed? Or do you look like you just stumbled in from a pajama party? Your clothing and your hair still matter on Zoom. Look the part.
  2. Are you smiling? Do you look friendly? Are you scowling? Do you have RBF? It makes a big difference. Especially when you are not in the room together. A pleasant smile is a good default.
  3. How is your posture? Are you upright and attentive? Or are you lounging like you are watching a late-night informercial? I am surprised at how many loungers I see on Zoom. Especially among the student population. Don’t be that kid.
  4. Do you appear engaged and interested in the conversation? Or do you look like you would rather be anywhere else? People take as much interest in you as you take in them. So engage.
  5. Do you come across as energetic or lethargic? When you bring energy to the screen others do too. When you lack energy you put people to sleep, like narcolepsy.
  6. Are you providing affirmations? On video conferences, simple head nods go a long way to convey that you agree and support the points being made. However, one long head nod means you have fallen asleep.
  7. How are people responding? You can easily tie your delivery to the response you see on screen form others. Are you connecting? Are you knocking it out of the park? Or have you lost the audience? Make adjustments to make sure you are getting the response you are looking for.

Additional Considerations

To make sure you are presenting yourself well check the following:

  1. How is the lighting? Are you bright enough? Are you too bright? Do you look like you are beaming in from Heaven? Adjust your lighting using lamps or windows until you look great.
  2. Does your background help your brand image or hurt it? Be aware of what is behind you. It has the ability to make you seem more interesting, or reveal that you are really a slob.
  3. Check the camera angle. Think about TV news anchors. The camera should be at eye level. It should not be looking up your nose. Use books or boxes to raise your computer camera if necessary.
  4. Are you looking at the camera? If you have a second monitor it can appear as if you are never looking at the camera. This happens to me sometimes. It is weird. Fix it if you can. It makes you appear distracted or disinterested.

Take The Fast Feedback

Zoom and other video conference platforms provide you with a mirror during meetings and meetup. They allow you to monitor, evaluate and adjust how you are presenting yourself to the world. This is a rare opportunity to see what you are offering the world in real-time. It is like watching game film. It enables you to see how you are being received. And it allows you to change up your style and delivery, on the fly, and see how your audience responds.

Key Takeaway

Take advantage of the opportunity video conferencing offers and tune in to see how others see you. Notice how others respond to you. And experiment with adjustments. Zoom will teach you how to become a better presenter and a better audience. All you have to do is pay attention.

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

How to think of 2021 in the story of your life.

That was quite a year we just had, huh? Which is why 2020 had more nicknames than Sean ‘P-Puffy-Diddy-Daddy’ Combs. 2020 was called Train Wreck, Dumpster Fire, Sh!t Show, The Worst Year Ever. And then, of course, there were the really bad names.

But none of those labels are helpful. So as we start 2021, consider reframing how you think of 2020, and the year ahead.

The Story Of Your Life.

Think of each year as a chapter of your life. Chapter 1 was your birth. Your Genisis (only without Phil Collins). The next few chapters covered your childhood. Several chapters later, you left home on your life’s journey. The following chapters were full of exciting rising action, as you found your path, gained momentum, and enjoyed success, happiness and stability.

Then Came 2020.

In the story of your life, 2020 was the plot twist. It was where your plans were disrupted. The path was blocked. The rules were changed. The villain showed up and started messing with your toilet paper. Maybe you lost all you had. Or lost someone close to you. Or lost an election.

But remember, the best part of the story always happens after the plot twist. The story gets really good after things go sideways, or downhill, or into the dumpster and set on fire.

As humans, we can’t wait to see what happens next. We are dying to know how the hero of the story responds. Do they splat or do they bounce? Do they give The Wicked Witch the ruby slippers, or do they moisturize her and steal her cleaning equipment? Enquiring minds want to know.

Welcome to 2021 everyone.

This year, and this chapter, represent the critical choice of your story. This is where you, the main character, responds to the plot twist. This is where you make the critical decisions that ultimately lead to the climax of your story.

So, we all want to know, what are you going to do now that it is 2021? How are you going to respond? What are you going to make happen next? How are you going to get your happy ending? (Robert Kraft wants to know.)

It’s up to you. You are both the author and the main character of your story. You are in control. You choose the adventure. You choose the tone and the pace. You choose your supporting characters. And your choices make all the difference.

Key Takeaway

2021 is a pivotal year in your story. Remember, you get to write what happens next. So write a really great chapter. You have 365 days to work with. Use them all.

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

30 Important questions to ask yourself at the end of the year.

We have finally come to the end of 2020. This year is certain to be a first-ballot inductee to the Year Hall of Fame. The unprecedented health, economic, political, racial, and social issues of 2020 have made this a year like no other.

Yet the adaptability, innovation, resilience and humanness revealed in 2020 have shown just how amazing humans really are. While cockroaches are known as the species that will survive anything, 2020 has proven that human survival skills are very well intact. Right Mr. Darwin?

Preparing For 2021

Now it’s time to prepare for a great 2021. Why prepare? Because great years, like great lives, don’t just happen. We make them happen.

A key element of living a great life is self-reflection. Asking yourself good questions is like conducting your own performance review. It’s a simple way to discover where you need to course correct, where your course is already correct, and where your corset could correct.

If you don’t know what questions to ask yourself, you’ve come to the right blog post. Here are 30 questions to ask yourself now to prepare to make 2021 your best year yet. For best results, write your answers down. In fact, I created a Google Doc that you can print or make a copy of right here.

30 Questions In A Particular Order.

1. Am I educating myself? Getting better starts with getting smarter. Continue to self-educate and your knowledge, abilities, and competitive advantages will grow like compound interest. 

TheONEThing_Book1-525x525

2. Am I exercising enough? Your body is your life vehicle. Regular exercise keeps it in top shape. Which will allow you to travel further, faster and over rougher terrain.

3. Am I giving enough to others? Shel Silverstein famously wrote about The Giving Tree. But there is also a magical Giving Boomerang (perhaps made of wood from the giving tree). Because when you give your time, talent and treasure to others, good things come back to you in even bigger and better ways.  

4. Am I disciplined enough? Discipline is what gets the job done. If you are not doing the things you’ve committed to, or if you are not avoiding the things you should avoid, check your discipline. Remember, you only need enough to create a habit. Then the habit takes over and discipline can be deployed towards something else.

5. Am I thinking big enough? The answer for 99% of us is no. Think Bigger. Think as big as you can. Think Elon Musk-y. Because bigger thoughts lead to bigger results. It costs the same amount to think big as it does to think small. But the return on your thinking investment is much different. You can always go bigger. #TWSS

woman draw a light bulb in white board
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

6. Am I taking the actions that matter most? Not all actions are created equal. Remember the 80/20 rule. Find the small actions with the biggest rewards. There are a lot of actions that generate very little results. Simply taking the right kinds of action (interacting with the right people for example) can change your life. For proof see Sliding Doors or Run Lola Run.

7. Am I empathetic enough? Are you putting yourself in other people’s shoes? (Like Dr. Scholl’s) Are you really thinking about issues from someone else’s perspective? Want to make and keep more friends? Or develop more sales? Develop your empathy.

8. Am I providing more value than I am costing? This is the key to becoming a highly valuable and sought after human. Always give more than you take and you will remain in control of your destiny. As soon as that ratio flips you are no longer in the drivers seat. Sorry Charlie.

9. Am I getting better or getting worse? Check your trajectory. You are either headed up or down on every possible measure. The good news is that with all but some physical aging issues you can always improve your own angle through focused effort, commitment and mindset. 

10. Am I strengthening my network? Most people think far too little about the strength of their network. But take it from the mobile carriers, it is all about the strength of your network. Continue to develop and maintain meaningful relationships. Make as many genuine friendships as you can. When you do, your social, professional and political capital will continue to grow. Which opens you to more opportunities. Remember, opportunities are human things. 

IMG_2149

11. Am I valuable to know? Do you add value to others? Are you kind, helpful, or inspiring? Do you offer access and connections? Are you are great listener? Really think about the value you offer others. The more value you offer, the more people will seek you out. And you want to be sought after. 

12. Am I stretching myself? Growth occurs by stretching beyond your previous abilities. By stretching you expand and strengthen. If you are not stretching you are prone to atrophy and shrinkage. Nobody wants shrinkage. Just ask George Costanza.

13. Am I surprising people? Are you simply doing the things others come to expect of you? Or are you surprising them with new abilities and ambitions? Have you become predictable? Or are you endlessly interesting? Keep the surprises coming. 

14. Am I keeping my word? Trustworthiness is the bedrock of relationships, and the gateway to opportunity. Check your trustworthiness more often than once a year. Keeping your word is required on a daily basis. Like flossing and changing your undies.

15. Am I living into my vision for myself? You have aspirations. But simply having aspirations is not enough. You have to get yourself to the destination. You have to become the person you imagined, dragon. Do the doing, not just the dreaming. 

beach woman sunrise silhouette
Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

16. Am I noticing those who need me? We all have people who need us. Family, friends, clients, employees, community members. Do you see them? Do you notice what they need from you?  Do you notice what you have to give?

17. Am I being present? Be now. This is all you ever have.

18. Am I taking care of my health? Have you seen your doctor and dentist lately? Do you have a doctor and dentist? How about a mental health specialist? A chiropractor? Take care of yourself. Because everybody needs a body.

19. Am I eating well? You are what you eat. Literally. Be mindful of your personal building materials. It makes a difference. Because you don’t want to look like a Cheeto in your Speedo. 

20. Do I have a healthy way to destress? The world is an all-you-can-eat stress buffet. You need to have ways to rid yourself of the stress. Sleep, exercise and church are my go-to’s. Find your ways to destress best.

img_2259

21. Do I have enough human interaction? It is easy to become isolated from others, especially during a global pandemic. Humans are social creatures. We need a minimum of human interaction. Positive human interaction is often exactly what we need for comfort, belonging and perspective. During times of isolation, use technology to get your daily allowance of humans. Don’t use Chat Roulette.

22. Am I spending enough time in nature? Spending time in nature is great for re-grounding yourself. A little quiet time with Mama Nature provides peace and perspective you can’t get anywhere else.

23. Am I getting enough sleep? Sleep is the great reset button. It enables you to regenerate your best self. Take advantage of it. Get as much as you need. 

24. Am I finding joy in my work? Work fills half of your waking hours. Finding joy in work is finding joy in life. If you are not finding joy it is time for a change. A new approach, a new job, or a new career should be on the table.   

Sprecher_SprecherSeason_1400x400_2

25. Does my boss value me? An unfair amount of your happiness is tied to your relationship with your boss. If you have a boss that values you and treats you well you have won half the battle. If not, make a change. Life is too short for bad bosses. 

26. Am I living a story worth reading? You only get one shot at life. Make it great. make it a story worth telling, worth hearing and worth reading.  

27. Am I positively impacting others? At the end of our days the only thing that really matters is the impact we have on others. Focus on making a positive impact and you will live a great life.

28. Am I laughing enough? This is the easiest way to measure happiness. Laughter is more valuable than money. Spend more time with the people who make you laugh. They will make you feel most alive. 

All Rights Reserved
All Rights Are Reserved. All Lefts Are Outgoing. 

29. Am I making others laugh? We are drawn to people who make us laugh. Are you able to see the humor in life and share it with others? A humorous perspective is always a valuable resource. Especially during difficult times.

30. Am I investing enough in my most important relationship? Think of the one relationship that means more to you than any other. A spouse or significant other. A parent, child or sibling. A friend, partner or neighbor. Are you investing in that person as much as you should? Always give the most important people the most. 

31. Am I giving more than people expect? When you offer up 30 questions do you actually give 31? It’s not that hard to do. Overdeliver. People remember.

Key Takeaway

Self improvement starts with asking yourself good questions. You are a work in progress. Knowing what you should work on is how you make the progress.

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

Here is the link to the Google Doc with the 31 questions.

Happy New Year! 2021 Is going to be great! No Question.

20 Things I am Thankful For In 2020.

Thankfully, we have made it to Thanksgiving 2020. But this year the holiday will feel much different. Unless, of course, you are a turkey. But then again, almost everything about this year has been different. By March it was clear that this year was going to be like a box of choc-o-lates. Because in 2020, you never know what you’re gonna get, Jen-ny.

While it is easy to write the year off as a total loss, we shouldn’t overlook the many positives we all have in our lives. That’s why I took the 2020 20/20 Challenge, and spent 20 minutes listing 20 things I am thankful for in 2020. I hope you do too. Because like milk, reflecting on the things you are thankful for does a body good.

Take 20 minutes after reading this to list your own 20 things.

20 things I am thankful for in 2020

  1. My Family When you are locked up at home for months on end, the quality of your experience is directly related to the quality of your cell mates. And I have thoroughly enjoyed the additional time with my family this year. My wife Dawn and children Ava, Johann and Magnus have made Albrecht Island a fun and funny place to be in 2020.
My Cell Mates

2. My Health Thankfully, I have been healthy this year. Healthier than most years in fact. Because I haven’t been close enough to anyone to catch their cooties. I have been masking up like the Lone Ranger. I have been hand sanitizing and 6-feet-apartizing. I have eaten a lot of doctor repellant, also known as apples. And I am thankful that it all seems to be helping.

3. My Bicycle My Cannondale was like my trusty steed this year. While my gym access was gone with the Schwinn, my bike provided both exercise and an escape into the beautiful and quiet Wisconsin countryside. I rode so much this summer I felt like Lance Armstrong. Only without the lying, cheating and testicular cancer.

Me and my biker gang.

4. Hilton Head Island After cancelling Spring Break and being locked at home for 3 months, in June my family and I road-tripped from Milwaukee to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. We stayed right on the beach, at our usual spot, as if 2020 was a usual year. The ocean, sun, and vibe of the island were a welcomed relief from our time at home. And somehow the jellyfish stings seemed to sting a little less this year. Even without urine. Thanks Covid-19!

I am thankful we still got to boogie in 2020.

5. Our Western Road Trip While our beach vacation was nice, our 2020 western road trip was epic. We put 4100 miles on our Family Truckster. We hit The Badlands, The Black Hills, Yellowstone, Idaho, Bozeman, Glacier National Park, Teddy Roosevelt National Park, and the bright lights of Fargo, North Dakota. That trip was so full of wow and wonder, like Billy Joel, it made us forget about life for a while.

Hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana was a high point of the year. Literally.

6. School Mostly In-Person While our kids were schooling at home like everyone else from March-June, this fall has been an in-school success. My kids have all been learning in-person this fall for all but a 2 week stretch, when their schools transitioned to at-home learning to cool the covid flare ups like Preparation H.

7. My Children’s Development I noticed something interesting in my children this year. And it wasn’t a long cotton swab up their nostrils. Something about the isolation of 2020 seemed to allow them to focus on themselves, their interests, their identities and their individual growth. Each of them grew more confident and self-assured through this forced experiment. #ParentalPandemicPositives

Feeling alive in Deadwood.

8. Entrepreneurship I began my entrepreneurial adventure in 2016. And while I have loved everything about it from the start, 2020 made the benefits abundantly clear. Not only have I felt in control of my own job, career and income, I have have been able to help provide a steady place to work for the rest of my team at The Weaponry. I once heard that Bill Gates insisted on keeping a year of salary on hand for every Microsoft employee to help weather storms. So I followed Bill’s lead, and it has provided a major sense of stability in an unstable time.

9. My Work Teammates Speaking of work, my teammates have been ah-may-zing. I couldn’t be more thankful for The Weapons at The Weaponry, and all they have done to deliver for our clients this year. We are having our best year ever because of their hard and smart work.

10. Foosball Over the first couple months of the lockdown my kids and I played foosball (or what my French Canadian friends call baby-foot) every single night. It was a fun cherry on top of our days. Not only did we have a lot of fun, we all got a lot better. #PutThatOnYourCollegeApplicationKids

11. Spring Hikes In the spring, when everything but the grocery store seemed to be closed, and toilet paper was more valuable than a vaccine, my family and I started hiking on the weekends. The 1200-mile Ice Age Trail winds across Wisconsin, and we would knock off several miles of the trail every weekend. It was a fun adventure at a time when there wasn’t much adventuring to be done.

We’re on the highway to trail.

12. My Clients In a year that went sideways for so many, my clients have been solid as a rock, like Ashford & Simpson. The trust they have put in us has been humbling. We have gained 8 new clients since March. And only one of those new clients joined us because their former agency went out of business during the pandemic.

13. This Blog Writing this blog has been a great way to share my thoughts on so much of what has happened this year, including covid, the economy, George Floyd, and the election. Starting my morning by writing has kept me thinking about the big picture, and not overwhelmed by the small things. Plus it allowed me to share things I thought were funny when I wasn’t seeing any humans outside my family. Thank you for reading my blog. I hope it has provided a laugh and a positive perspective in 2020.

14. Investment Opportunities The tanking of the stock market has provided great opportunities for long term investors. Oil stocks have been in the toilet, and I have been diving in after them, figuratively speaking of course. I have taught my children about the opportunities to invest this year. And my 2 junior investors have almost doubled their money, buying airlines, restaurants, banks and oil. #MoreRichDadThanPoorDad

15. Beautiful Summer Weather This summer in Wisconsin we enjoyed perhaps the most perfect summer weather of my life. It made everything else about 2020 better. Thanks Mother Nature and Mark Baden.

Biking around Lake Monona in Madison.

16. Zoom We have used Zoom at work to connect with teammates and collaborate with clients. But the best part of Zoom is connecting with friends and family. Last night I Zoomed with a group of my closest friends from high school for over 2 hours. I regularly Zoom with my college track teammates and with family members. It is the next best thing to being together. Because when you can’t be in the room, Zoom. (That one is free Zoom Marketing Department.)

Thanks for the call, Princer, Conan, Mr Robinson, Mucus, Acks, Slowsley, Birthday Boy, Coop, Zyck and Deacon.

17. Backyard Bass The pond in my backyard has some great largemouth bass. I spent many an evening this summer fishing for largemouth from my backyard. Which felt like winning at life.

Backyard Bass and Bibs

18. Canoes and Kayaks My family has 3 kayaks and a 17-foot canoe. We spent a lot of time paddling this year. Especially in the spring and early summer when we had a lot of rain and the rivers were ripping. My son Magnus and I got tangled in some windfall trees on a trip in June and Tipppedacanoe like Tyler too. It was one of the great thrills and stories of the year.

Canoeing and kayaking floats our boats.

19. Tackle Football My sons Johann and Magnus played tackle football this fall. They both had full seasons, were healthy and had no covid issues. It marked our true return to normalcy. Except for the fact that even the face masks on their helmets had face masks this year.

Me and Johann thankful for a full season.

20. Innovation There was more innovation created and implemented this year than any other year of my life. The way the people of Earth have stepped up and quickly found solutions to covid-related problems has been amazing. While we have advanced in major ways this year, the full impact of all we have learned will likely not be recognized for years to come. And we are going to be great at the next pandemic.

Bonus:

21. My Zyliss Sandwich Tool: I have a knifey-spready tool that is amazing for a regular sandwich maker like me. It is great for spreading mayonnaise, peanut butter, jelly and rumors. It is excellent for cutting the sandwich after you create it too. This thing is dreamy. In fact, I make sandwiches just to be able to use it. It will make a great Christmas gift for the sandwich maker on your list. (This has been an unpaid endorsement. But boy, do I endorse it.)

Spread the word about this sandwich knife-spready thing.

Key Takeaway

The way you experience life starts with your mindset. Even in 2020 there is much to be thankful for. Take a few minutes to reflect on the good in your life. And you will find even more good ahead. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. And thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate your time.

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

This is a strange time for a thriving business.

2020 has been the most interesting year of my life. It is so yiny and yangy that it is nearly impossible to define. It is arguably the worst year ever. It is arguably the best year ever. It depends on which of your eyes you look with. And whether or not you enjoy spending time with humans.

Back in March, I was concerned about what the coronavirus would mean to businesses in general. And more specifically, I was concerned about what it meant to my business and my team at The Weaponry. But my immediate concern was short- lived. In fact, my team has been busier than ever before.

Most of our clients been cranking away during the pandemic. As a result we have experienced growth that feels less like a pandemic and more like pandemonium.

Since March 16th, we have added 8 new clients. But that doesn’t even tell the full story. Because we have also had 3 clients, who had been hibernating, roar awake with major initiatives. (Major Initiatives is also my favorite military figure.)

Plus, we have 5 very strong new business prospects on our doorsteps right now. We expect the majority of those embryonic clients will become full-fledged clients by the end of the year.

But these are still strange times, indeed. The U.S. just added 1 million new covid cases in 6 days. That’s crazy for Covid-Puffs. Which makes it a weird time to invest in your business.

However, The Weaponry needs to continue scaling to meet the ever-increasing demand. Which means we are shopping for more great creative talent.

We are looking for envy-inducing writers, art directors, designers, account types and more. I love finding people who have created great work that I am jealous of. It is how I know their talent will make The Weaponry better.

But the question I am continuously asking myself is when do we pull the trigger, Tonto? Do we do it now, and just go? Do we wait for a vaccine to change the long-term prospects? Do we wait to see if things get worse? These are odd times and those are odd options.

We have the same issue with our office space. We don’t actually need any office space today. But if our full team was in the office right now we wouldn’t have nearly enough space. Which is like getting fat at a nudist colony. It doesn’t matter while you are there. But you won’t have anything to wear when it’s time to go.

Remote work has been a blessing for us in this respect. But once we transition back to everyone in the office we will need a space about 3 times that of our current office space.

But when do you expand your space? It’s odd to do it when everyone is still at home working in their Snuggies. But what kind of delay will we experience once we can actually be in the office, that we could have absorbed when fewer people were coming in?

There are no perfect answers to these questions. (Unless you know something I don’t.) But this is the type of interesting challenge we face right now.

If you are really talented and want to be on our radar, this a great time to talk. Even if you just graduated or are about to graduate from college. We are always looking for great people. If you know someone we should know, please share this post with them. You (and they) can always contact us through theweaponry.com or by emailing us at info@theweaponry.com.

Why 2021 might not be all you dreamed of.

As we approach the final two months of the year I have noticed a trend. People are TGIFing 2020. They are thankful that this year is almost over, and can’t wait to move on to the next 365 days.

But be careful. We have no idea what 2021 will hold. Yes, 2020 has been a year for the history books. We have had an assorted collection of challenging issues develop over the past 7 months. You may have noticed.

Covid-19, the economic recession, the renewed spotlight on systemic racism, and our contentious political environment have made for quite a cocktail. It’s hard not to have bitter-beer face just thinking about these issues.

A lot has been broken and burned this year. Cities near me, including Kenosha and Madison, Wisconsin look nothing like they did on February 29th. In fact, so much has happened this year you probably forgot we had a February 29th. Poor, forgotten February 29th…

In 2020 we are also experiencing unprecedented weather issues, including an unprecedented wildfire season, and a double shot of hurricanes and tropical storms. We have also had the earliest heavy snowstorms to ever hit the midwest, and that windy thing that knocked over grain bins in Iowa.

But don’t fast forward to next year just yet. The calendar flip will not solve the issues we are facing.

The Future

I am not a pessimist, but I fully recognize that 2021 could be even more challenging than 2020. The weather is not likely to back off. The pandemic is showing all signs of intensifying before it recedes. And the economic implications are sure to mount as people are out of work, businesses close, and loans are unpaid. Plus, what’s up with coins? (Said in my best Jerry Seinfeld voice.)

Back to Today

Instead, look for the good in this year. And in every day. If you are healthy, and your family is healthy, you have much to appreciate. Be thankful for increased time with those closest to you. We can all be thankful for a renewed awareness of old issues, and the great possibility of us solving them together. Cue We Are The World

2020 has introduced innovation and adaptability that will move our entire planet forward. We are all now more prepared for all manner of challenge to come.

2020 has created an amazing opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurial-minded humans. If you can’t find a problem to solve right you are not thinking outside the box. Speaking of boxes, would someone please launch a business to fix the box problem? I am tired of breaking down and recycling cardboard boxes, only to have new boxes arrive at my doorstep the next day. #ReuseTheBoxes

2020 has redirected travel from crowded cities and manufactured tourist attractions to quieter countrysides. We have spent more time in local, state and national parks. Many of us have reconnected with the wonders of the natural world. We have recognized the value of a walk in the woods, the view of mountains and the magic of sunrise and sunset that we haven’t noticed since Fiddler On The Roof.

2020 has helped us recognize more value in the little things. We have slowed our rushing and hard-charging a notch. We are being more understanding of the challenges of working parents and single moms. We recognize that anyone can suddenly be out of work. Even great pilots, chefs, and professional athletes.

We have become thankful for our schools and all the teachers have done for us. That awareness of the challenges other humans are facing is a gift. And just as the Great Depression impacted the financial decisions of those who lived through it for the rest of their lives, I hope the lessons we have learned in 2020 will last us all a lifetime.

Key Takeaway

There will be more challenges ahead in 2021. So find the good in every day. And do your part to help solve the issues that won’t go away without our help.

Today I am extra thankful for my partner of 18 years.

Your network is your net worth. Because humans offer each other greater value than anything else in the universe. You can think of your network as a series of concentric circles. The people in the outer rings are the people with whom you have the lightest connection. They are the friends of your friends. The people in your innermost circle are your greatest human connections. This space is reserved for your family and your closest friends.

But if you are lucky, you get one person to stand next to you at the very center of your network. They are your co-pilot. Your partner. Your best friend. They are the Adrian to your Rocky. Or the Rocky to your Adrian. And they got gaps. And you got gaps. But between the two of you, you ain’t got no gaps.

Since this date in 2002, my wife Dawn has stood beside me at the very center of my network. Today, we celebrate 18 years of marriage. And we have been able to accomplish, create and enjoy more together than we ever could have done alone.

The past year 6 months have been unusual, to say the least. And I hear people complain about 2020 being the worst year ever. They say 2020 is the toothpaste-and- orange juice of years. But in many ways, this has been a wonderful year for me. Because if you are locked down with the person you would most like to spend your time with, quarantining can feel like the best of times.

Over the past 6 months, Dawn and I have had unprecedented time together. I have had only one business trip. But Dawn and I have been able to load up the family truckster, and our 3 little Griswolds, and see the country together. We have traveled as far south as Savannah, Georgia, as far north as Fargo, North Dakota, And as far west as Idaho and Montana.

Johann, Dawn, Magnus, Ava and me hiking in The Badlands in July. But it wasn’t bad at all.

As my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, transitioned to remote work in March, Dawn led our family’s migration to homeschooling. She turned our house into a well-oiled education center that would have had a line around the block waiting to get in had it been open to open enrollment. And that’s the non-social-distancing distance.

Dawn secured the vital supplies necessary for our family in the new-normal, including masks, sanitizers, toilet paper and backups to everything in case things got worse. She attended to our family’s physical, psychological and emotional needs. It felt like war time, and I got to partner up with General Patton, only he was beautiful, a great cook, and knew we needed a deep freezer in the garage.

In 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic fallout, the isolation, the renewed focus on racial inequities, and toxic political climate have made the stability, comfort and enjoyment of our own homes more important than ever. And I couldn’t ask for a better home environment, roommate or teammate than the one I have enjoyed for the past 18 years.

Key Takeaway

If you want to enjoy a good life surround yourself with good people. But if you want an amazing life, partner with someone who amazes you every day. Someone who makes your world better in good times and bad. In 2019 and 2020. At the end of our days the only thing that will matter is the impact we had on others. And Dawn’s impact on me could never be overstated. Thank you for this wonderful adventure Dawn Albrecht. You are my certainty in uncertain times.

This was my all-time favorite moment as an American.

I am proud to be an American. I always have been. Always will be. I love that our nation is constructed with checks and balances to be able to correct itself at any time. We have the freedom of speech that protects our right to speak out when we see wrongs. And we have the freedom of the press to report the wrongs, and draw attention to them. Of course, we also enjoy the Freedom of George Michael. And the Freedom Overspill of Steve Winwood. But those are less popular freedoms. Maybe because those guys are non-Americans.

Holidays

There are holidays that make me proud to be an American. President’s Day, MLK Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving.  These are all great days, to reflect on our country and our Americanism.

But my favorite American moment didn’t fall on any of those red, white and blue holidays. It didn’t happen while slurping cranberry sauce, or during a President’s Day car sale. So, as Betsy Ross used to ask, when the flag was it?

Some Of My Favorite American Moments

I have had thousands of proud moments as an American. While I don’t have them all ranked, here are some worthy of mention.

  • Watching veterans march down Main Street during a 4th of July Parade
  • Watching the Miracle On Ice on TV at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.
  • Watching everything at the 1984 Olympics (Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Mary Lou Retton, Joan Benoit)
  • Standing at the base of the Statue of Liberty
  • Listening to America, Ef-Yeah, during the movie Team America. World Police.
  • Standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon
  • My first voting experience when I turned 18
  • Watching Lee Greenwood’s God Bless The USA music video

September 11, 2001

September 11th, 2001 was a dark day for America. It knocked us down as a nation is a way that I had never thought America could be knocked down. It was like when Mike Tyson got knocked out by Buster Douglas, and Iron Mike was so out of it he couldn’t even operate his own mouthguard.

In the days following the attack, everything in America stopped. It was a very strange time. Like 2020. Then, like now, sporting events were canceled or postponed. The world seemed to be off its axis.

Back to Live Sports

On Saturday, September 29, 2001, I attended a University of Wisconsin football game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. It was the first home game for the Badgers since the attacks of September 11. And it was the first time Badger fans had gathered en masse post 9/11.

My All-Time Favorite Moment As An American

Before the game started the crowd stood for the national anthem. I have been to hundreds of sporting events. And I have heard the national anthem sung thousands of times. But this time was different.

The moment the national anthem began there was an explosion in the stadium. It wasn’t a bomb or a fireworks display. It was the crowd itself. Singing the national anthem. Everyone in the stadium was belting out the song as if it was our school fight song. It was loud and proud and like nothing I had ever heard before.

We were all all-in that day. It was the kind of experience that gives you chills and makes you want to cry in the best way possible. I think of that experience every time the national anthem is sung at a public event.

2020

The past 6 months have been difficult for Americans. The Covid-19 health crisis, the ensuing economic crisis and isolation have been unimaginable. Then, on May 25th, my birthday, George Floyd was killed publicly, and senselessly. Which has inspired demands for change, justice and equality. It has sparked protests, demonstrations, riots and long-overdue conversation. Cities like Chicago, Kenosha, Minneapolis and Portland have been deeply scarred and charred as a result.

Moving Forward

Today, on the 19-year anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, my hope is that when we gather again for sporting events, graduation ceremonies, and American celebrations that we once again sing the National Anthem, the way it should be sung. Loud. Proud. Together.

The National Anthem is a symbol of our unity, our hope, and our belief that no matter what we face, we will make it through, together. The banner will still wave. It is an inspiring sight to see. It stands as the greatest symbol of this nation of ours that is still a work in progress. But capable of getting better all the time.

Cue Lee Greenwood.

The best thing you can do for yourself right now is nothing.

Welcome to Labor Day Weekend 2020. You made it! We are now two/thirds of the way through the most unusual year in the history of years. The covid crises, economic crises, and ongoing racial crises mean that 2020 has officially met its quota on crises-es. And I’m guessing you have too.

Labor Day Weekend couldn’t have come at a better time. We have all been pushing through the new challenges, changes, oddities and frustrations for a full 6 months. Which means that the very best thing you can do for the next 2 days, is nothing.

This hammock should be your spirit animal this weekend.

I know you have a long list of to-dos, could-dos and should-dos. There is always work to do be done, both at work and at home. But I suggest you just don’t it. Instead, take the rest of this long weekend to do what Labor Day Weekend was intended for. Resting. Relaxing. And most importantly, recharging.

Becoming a stronger human requires a regular cycle of stress and rest. Because the growth comes on the days you rest and recover. Rest is an essential element of high performance. So to maximize your performance in the third act of 2020, get your rest in now.

You have 2 more days to be lazy. Or playzy. You have 2 more days to kick your feet up and rest. To give your computer a rest. And to not check email, slack, or texts. Seek out some sun, or some shade, depending on which solar party you belong to. Find a comfy couch, a swaying hammock, and think more Corona beer, and less corona virus.

Grab a book, a magazine or a sudoku. Grab some analog playing cards, or dominoes or board games. Unplug. Unwind. And drink some 7-Up, the Uncola. In fact, do all you can to do as little productive work as you can. It will help you relax and recharge your batteries. It will help you do a hard reset on your personal operating system. And it will help you remove your accumulated stress gunk, which I wrote more about here.

Get outside. It will help you inside. Enjoy the sights of summer. The fresh air has a way of freshening up your attitude and your outlook. And I’m not talking about your email.

The best part of all will come on Tuesday morning. Because if you spend the next 2 days chillin like a Godzillin villain swillin penicillin, you will be eager to get back to work. Which is the whole point.

Key Takeaway

Let’s finish this year strong. Let’s make up for the time we have spent dazed and confused. And let’s remember 2020 for all the good we were able to accomplish in the final 4 months of the year. To prepare yourself for a strong final push, get your rest now. Get yourself mentally, and physically ready for all of the good work to come. So kick your feet up this weekend. And you’ll be ready to hit the ground running on Tuesday morning.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them. Or just share a pina colada with them. It will have the same effect.

This is making us all more interesting.

2020 has been a year like no other.

  • A global pandemic
  • National lockdowns
  • Virtual schooling
  • Unbelievable injustices caught on video
  • Protests
  • Riots
  • Historic levels of unemployment
  • Sports seasons canceled
  • Sports played in bubbles
  • Businesses evaporating
  • Businesses booming
  • Entire airlines and cruise lines halted
  • Elections altered
  • Movie theaters empty
  • Churches closed
  • Masks everywhere
  • Toilet paper nowhere
  • Hand sanitizer flowing like wine
  • Tom Brady and Gronk reunited in Tampa Bay

This is a crazy time. It’s like the new era of Prohibition. Except what has been prohibited is humans gathering with other humans. Like segregation for everyone. Which makes many people want to party like it’s 1999.

But 2020 is the most interesting and unique year we have ever experienced. And it is making us all more interesting and unique as a result.

We are now more experienced, more capable and more prepared for future challenges than those who have come before us. Future generations will look back at this time and want to know how we got through it, and what we learned. They will want to hear our stories, read our books, watch our movies and study our experiences. They will note how we used to laugh at the crazy Preppers, before we realized the crazy Preppers were right.

We are becoming a case study in how to evolve. Adversity is making us stronger and more capable. We are witnessing and experiencing unimaginable alterations to our daily lives. To our weekly routines. To our annual traditions. And we are simply marching forward. Because humans are amazing. And there is no other choice.

We are becoming the most adaptable people in history. We have developed modes, tools and techniques that others simply haven’t had. We have developed infrastructure, processes and technology that enables us to operate in new remote modes. Like Earthstronauts.

Key Takeaway

The current conditions can feel stressful and frustrating. But they are temporary. And they are pushing us to become more highly evolved humans. We are more interesting people. With better stories to tell. With lessons to teach. With pep talks to give. Yes, the process is challenging. But the end product will be the more valuable and more fascinating than you can imagine. Hang in there. And think about which child actor you want to play you in the movie version of 2020.