Surround yourself with rockstars who have already done what you want to do.

In 2016, after having been an employee of three successful companies for 19 years, I became an entrepreneur. I left behind the predictable employment, the benefits, the 401(k) and the Free Lunch Fridays.

I pushed all my chips to the center of the table and bet on myself when I launched the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. (The chip reference was supposed to be a poker thing. Not a potato chip thing. #JustClarifying)

Me and a wall at The Weaponry.

But when I left my job as the Executive Vice President and Executive Creative Director of the largest advertising agency in Atlanta to start my own business it never seemed crazy to me. Because I knew a lot of other people who had started successful businesses. They seemed a lot like me. And they all looked like they were fed, sheltered and clothed. (Wait, yep, they were definitely clothed.)

My man Troy Allen started a design agency before starting the wildly successful Rise Brands.

I knew a bloggle of bloggers before I launched this blog.

I knew a stockyard of people who invested in stocks before I bought stocks.

I knew a neighborhood worth of people who owned rental property before I properly rented my property.

I knew dozens of authors before I wrote my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?

Writing my own book didn’t seem hard. Not even the hardcover.

Always Remember:

You Are Becoming More Like The People You Spend Your Time With.

Your peer group is your mirror group. To upgrade your likelihood of success upgrade your friends. Surround yourself with doers and diders. It creates positive peer pressure that pushes you to do better, more impressive things. The Joneses I know are badasses. And I want to keep up with all they are accomplishing. (Shout out to Bryan, Jill, Adam, Patti, Garrett, Kristen, Sharon, Courtney, Arnita and Rachel! Sorry you guys didn’t make it into that new truck commercial.)

My college teammate Bryan Jones is hard to keep up with, but I am trying.

Key Takeaway

Your friends are your on-ramp to success. Surround yourself with others who have already done the next big thing you want to do. It decreases the perceived degree of difficulty. It increases the odds of you successfully completing the same challenge. And the more successful your peers are the more insight they offer to all you can accomplish in your lifetime.

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

+ If this type of thinking resonates with you, you will also like my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Do you make money from your writing?

My son Johann saw me writing in my office early this morning, as I do at least 5 days per week. Today Johann stopped and asked me, ‘Dad, do you make money from your writing?’ I paused for a moment. Then, instead of answering his question, I said, ‘Come back and ask me your question again when I am done writing. And bring me the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of The West. NOW GET OUT…’ (Ok, so half of that is true.)

The answer is not cut and dry.

The simplest answer is no, I don’t get paid to write this blog. I am not making it rain up in this URL. I don’t have advertisers, sponsors, or paid subscribers. In that respect, my blog writing is not a job. It is a volunteer activity. An elective.

Your Electives

However, I have found that what separates us from each other are our electives. The things that we undertake that we don’t have to do. The things that not everyone does. Those are often the things that make you different, interesting, and valuable to others. But not so different and interesting that the circus wants to add you to their Tent of Freaks.

Adding Value

What I am trying to do when I write my blog is provide value to others. I am trying to share insights, experiences, ideas, techniques, inspiration, motivation, positivity, or humor. By sharing these things I am creating a value-adding resource.

Universal Math

I believe in a very simple math equation. The value of your income is equal to the value of your contribution.

Income = Contribution

So if I add more value to the world, eventually, somehow, the world will add more value to me.

But there is more to my writing than that.

  1. It keeps me top of mind.
  2. It demonstrates relevant capabilities.
  3. It means more people know me.
  4. It helps expand and strengthen my network.
  5. It keeps me engaged with my clients, customers, friends, and family.
  6. It allows me to share my expertise.
  7. It makes me a thought leader.
  8. It makes great people think about joining my team.
  9. It helps my team think they are on a pretty good team with a leader who thinks about and cares about their wellbeing and happiness.
  10. My writing, if funny enough, may someday cause someone to blow milk out of their nose. This is the superpower I have always wanted. As in, ‘You saved us, Snarf Man! We never would have escaped if you hadn’t made that bad man laugh and blow his beverage out of his nose!’ My catchphrase would be, ‘Can I buy you a drink…?’

The Greatest Reward

Perhaps most importantly, as I write, I am learning. I am sharpening my thoughts, perspectives, and techniques. All of which makes me better and more capable in other areas of my work and personal life. This enables me to do better work for others. Which ultimately helps me make money. Sorry for the long answer, Johann.

Key Takeaway

The more you write and share your thoughts the more you will profit from it. The value may not come in direct cash payments. In fact, it probably won’t. It will come through the inevitable compensation you will receive for the value you created and shared with the world. It will come through your connections with others. Through your own learning and development. Through the awareness and positivity you generate. So keep writing. Or start writing. Be patient. But persistent. And good things will come your way.

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

Every day you can find an excuse not to do the work.

Entrepreneurship is no joke. I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry in 2016. The business requires a great deal of effort to maintain and grow. It’s not for the weak of heart, weak of mind or weak of alarm clock.

At the same time I started my business I also started writing this blog. I wanted to share my experience and learnings with others. Now I publish a new post 3 days per week. Every day except Saturday I get up at 6 am to write. On Saturdays I sleep in until 6:30 am. I’m like the ‘Time-To-Make-The-Donuts’ man. Except consuming a lot of what I’m making won’t give you diabetes.

However, almost every day I can find an excuse not to do the things I need to do to grow my business or write my blog. I can always, always find excuses not to get up and put in the work to improve our product, processes and people. I can find excuses not to write, polish, and publish the next post. But Like Forrest Gump kept on run-ning, I keep wor-king, and wri-ting.

Excuses are everywhere. And they can get you out of anything hard. In fact, excuses can make your life easier. Much easier.

Excuses are like A-holes, Taylor. Everybody’s got one.

-Sgt. O’Neill from Platoon

But every time you grab one of those excuses you are robbing yourself. You are robbing from all that you are capable of doing and becoming. You are robbing from your life’s work. You are robbing from your own personal legend. You are robbing money from your own pocket. You are robbing from your belief in yourself that you are accountable, reliable and resilient. That you are determined, focused and driven.

An excuse is like Superman’s Kryptonite. The excuse itself weakens you. It zaps you of your superpower. It makes you a very ordinary human. Which means you are Clark-Kenty. Not the super version of you that you really want to be.

Don’t touch the excuses. They only appear to be permission slips that let you sleep in, knock off early, put in half-effort, or not work at all. But they kill your momentum. They kill progress. And they sabotage your success. (Listen all y’all it’s a sabotage!)

At the end of your days, when your obituary is written and your eulogy is read, they won’t mention all the excuses you had for not doing more. They will only talk about what you did, who you were, what you accomplished and the impact you had on other people. Remember that the next time you consider grabbing an excuse.

Key Takeaway

Don’t accept the excuses life offers. Do what you are supposed to do to live into your vision for yourself. Let others take the excuses. And separate yourself from them. That alone is the difference maker. Both successful people and unsuccessful people know what they should do. The successful people actually do what they are supposed to do to make their dreams come true. Everyone else makes excuses.

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

Why adults should tap into the power of playing Pretend.

When I was a kid we didn’t have electronics. Check that, we had one television in our living room. It had no remote control, so you had to get up and go to the TV to change the channel and volume, or to fix the vertical hold. I didn’t have any video games. Our only phone was wired to the wall. And the only fun things you could do with the phone was prank call your friends, or dial 867-5309 and ask for Jenny.

The Pretender

As a result of my Amish-ish youth, I had to find other ways to fill my time. One of my go-to activities was playing Pretend. It worked like this: I pretended I was someone else with a more interesting life than my own. That’s pretty much it.

My pretending covered a wide range of roles. Sometimes I pretended to be a farmer, doctor, astronaut, or soldier. Other times I pretended to be a professional athlete or a cowboy. I used to pretend to run a chapel in my basement. And my older sister Heather and I even used to regularly play (wait for it…) Brother and Sister! We played together the way we saw brothers and sisters play on TV, or in the movies. Which meant that we got along better and did way more adventurous stuff.

Today I am full-grown-ish, yet I still play Pretend. Because I now recognize that if you play Pretend long enough, and really commit to the part, you can make things happen for real.

How it has worked for me.

College

In college at The University of Wisconsin, I pretended I was going to be an advertising creative. So I declared a major in journalism to learn about writing, strategic communications, and the other isms behind journals. I also declared a psychology major, because I wanted to know more about human thinking and motivation. I realized that declaring a major is simply a fancy name for playing Pretend. Just like kilt is a fancy name for man-skirt.

Entrepreneurship

In 2015, at the height of my employed career, I started pretending I was an entrepreneur, and that I owned my own advertising agency. So I started doing all the things I thought entrepreneurs do. I read books about launching and running businesses. I hung out with successful entrepreneurs. I wrote down all my plans. And I talked to people as if I was a real entrepreneur. Suddenly, real people started asking me if I could do work for them with my pretend business. When that happened, my pretend business instantly became a real business. Just like Pinocchio became a real boy. No lie. And no strings attached. Today that business is called The Weaponry.

Blogging

About the same time, I also pretended that I was a blogger. So I did what I thought real bloggers did. I went to a blogging website called WordPress.com, I created a pretend blog, and I started writing pretend posts. Then, after I had written 5 of those, I started publishing them. Within minutes people started reading them. You, my reader-friend, are proof that I am a real blogger. Because you are most certainly a real reader. (Maybe you could write ‘Real Reader’ in the comments to confirm my Real Reader hypothesis.) My blog has now been read in nearly 130 countries around the world. (Because there aren’t 130 countries crowded into one part of the world).

No ending to the pretending.

Today, I am playing Pretend more than ever. Over the past year, I have pretended to be a cartoonist, an author, a community organizer, a high school track coach, an investor, an employee of a tech start-up, a t-shirt maker, and the owner of a food business. All of these things that I have pretended to be are now in various stages of reality. Just like Kanye West.

What About You?

Are you pretending to be who you really want to be? Are you pretending to do the things you really want to do? It’s easier than you think. Just act like you did when you were a child. You knew what to do then. Simply do the same thing now. And if you pretend all the way, you will get all the way to what you were pretending to be. Just like Jackson Browne. Or Chrissie Hynde.

Key Takeaway

Never stop pretending. It is the first step to creating. It is how you activate your beliefs, manifest your dreams, and live into your vision. Because when you pretend hard enough everyone will take you seriously. Including yourself.

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

How to use fake deadlines to make your dreams come true.

You have dreams. I know you do. You have visions of a future that is better than today. In your dream state you have a better job, a more exciting career or your own thriving business. You have lost weight, gained fame, made a fortune and crossed off everything on your bucket list. You, my friend, are Forrest Gumping.

Want To Do’s vs Have To Do’s

The hard part about making your dreams come true is that dreams are electives. They are not required. Which means that unlike taxes, you can put dreams off forever without getting into any trouble. The downside is that when you die your dreams die too. And as you are carried off to your final resting place your unrealized dreams will be left behind, still in their wrappers. Like sad little veal dreams.

Making Your Dreams Come True

The key to bringing your dreams to life is simple. You have to create fake deadlines. How do you do this? You just make them up. It’s the same way we created Leprechauns, Unicorns and the Backstreet Boys. You simply create your own fake timeline to make your dreams a reality.  Then deadline your way forward.

pen calendar to do checklist
Give yourself deadlines to keep your dreams alive.

My Entrepreneurship Deadline

On the eve of my 40th birthday I set a series of goals and fake deadlines for myself. One of my goals was to start my own advertising agency. Less than 3 years later I formed The Weaponry. A fake deadline gave my entrepreneurial dream urgency. Which made it a priority. Which gave it attention. Which created the action it required to meet the fake deadline. #3Whiches

Traction Deadlines

Today The Weaponry sets quarterly rocks, or goals, that we must accomplish within 90 days. The 90-day deadline is completely made up. But it creates urgency and forces us into action. It gamifies our efforts and keeps us moving forward and improving as an organization.

My Blogging Deadlines

I publish 3 new posts to The Perfect Agency Project blog every week. I do this to share my experiences, insights and wisdom gained from building my own advertising agency. No one is making me write. No one else is telling me that a new post needs to go live every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. But that’s what my fake deadlines demand. So I deliver. As a result my readership steadily increases by 50% each year.

Key Takeaway

Fake deadlines make things happen. They are the true keys to progress. To accomplish something that is important to you start by setting a fake deadline to get started. Then set a fake deadline for completion. And set lots of fake deadlines to meet important and aggressive milestones along the way. Without fake deadlines dreams die. That’s just reality. But don’t let it happen to you. Instead, set your fake deadline today, by 10pm local time. Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

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