You don’t need a passion to have a fulfilling career.

I used to think that in order to be really happy in your career you had to find something you were passionate about. Then you just make that your life’s pursuit. But I no longer believe that is true. And neither should you.

Passions are: 

  1. Difficult to find
  2. Difficult to define
  3. Difficult to turn into a lucrative career.
  4. Likely to make you cut off your ear and mail it to someone you admire. #WayToVanGogh

The problem is that most people’s passions are things like music, art, yoga, puppies, food, sleep, alcohol, video games, and sexual activities. These are all good passions. And it’s easy to express how much you love these things with bumper stickers. It’s much harder to turn them into lucrative careers.

To become really happy with your career you don’t need to start out with a passion. 

You simply have to find an interesting challenge. 

If you are into problem-solving or skill development, almost anything can be considered an interesting challenge.

Next, focus on getting really good at that interesting challenge. As you get better and better at it, people will notice. They will turn to you first as a trusted resource. Then people will turn to you as an expert in that area. And that feels great. (Unless you are a hired assassin. In which case you probably have mixed feelings.)

Through the process of becoming really good at your chosen work, you are highly likely to develop a passion for your area of expertise. Consider that most people aren’t born with a passion for supply chain management, textile manufacturing, or currency trading. But a surprising number of people die with those passions.

Which means that when you dive into an interesting challenge, the challenge itself can ignite your passion. We develop passion in areas that make us feel strong, skilled and admired. We become passionate when we understand nuances and develop extreme intelligence in specific areas. Because what we are really becoming passionate about is self-improvement, mastery, and excellence.

Key Takeaway

Passions develop over time. Don’t make finding your passion your goal. Instead, recognize that the world offers an endless supply of interesting challenges and problems to solve. Grab one of them. Any of them. Then dive in. The challenge itself will be interesting. Your professional development will be fun and rewarding. Your expanding knowledge, skills and perspective will increase your value to others. Which is highly rewarding. And somewhere along the way, your interesting challenge alchemizes into your passion. When it does your work no longer feels like work. It feels like passion. And it will make others wonder how to discover their own passion so that they love their work as much as you do.

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

+ For more life lessons the universe is trying to share with you check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

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.

Did you know your lane is ending?

Yesterday I was driving and saw a sign that told me that the lane I was driving in was ending soon. It was a valuable sign. It warned me that I was going to have to make plans for a future that didn’t involve that lane. And soon.

I quickly began making plans to exit my current lane. I had to. It offered no long term prospects. I soon found a perfectly good lane next to the one I was in. I turned on my left blinker, checked for cars, and finding none I merged onto the adjacent lane. And all was good again.

The thing about lanes.

All lanes end eventually. Just ask the leadership team at Blockbuster, or Chuck E Cheese’s. Or Lemmings. The key is knowing when it is time to find a new option.

We don’t always get a clear sign that our lane is coming to an end.  But tastes and technologies change. Jobs end. School ends. And bad habits run out of runway at some point. When they do you are forced to choose something new.     

Lanes offer us a path for now. But not forever. Throughout your life and career, you will have to make choices and changes. You can plan, and make changes proactively. Or you can wait until the lane is gone, you are stopped on the shoulder, and the 18-wheelers won’t move over to let you in.

COVID-19 brought lanes to an end.

The racism lane is coming to an end.

Drugs and alcohol abuse lanes are bumpy and popular. But short.

Key Takeaway

Change is constant. Get used to it. Prepare for it. Get good at it. And you’ll find that new and better lanes are easier to find.

Lucky 21!

Do you remember the very first day of your career? You probably remember what the day was like. (You didn’t know anyone. You had to ask where the bathroom was. Lunch options were a mystery. And you didn’t know when it was acceptable to go home.) But do you remember the date? I do. I started my career in adverting 21 years ago today, on October 7th. I’ve always remembered that because it is also my Mom’s birthday. It must have been a pretty great birthday present for her, knowing that her son wouldn’t be living in her cellar (I’m from Vermont. We didn’t have basements).

Feeling Lucky.

Today I am feeling lucky that 21 years later I am just as excited about my career as I was on Day 1. Maybe even more excited.

On that first day, 21 years ago, I became an advertising copywriter. I think. I never actually saw my title written anywhere in that first year. Today, I am lucky to be the Founder and CEO of my own advertising agency called The Weaponry.  I’ve been able to take everything that I have learned about creativity, strategy, customer service, business development and having fun, and turn it into The Weaponry Way.

I’ve been lucky to develop a lot of really great personal relationships over the first 21 years. And I’m enjoying those relationships more now than ever. My latest chapter is a product of the trust my clients have in me and my team. As well as the faith that my colleagues have in my ability to help keep them fed and sheltered.

I feel lucky that my Weapons and I will soon move into our new office space (hopefully we will get our keys this week).

I am lucky to be working with so many great brands and great clients. There are even more great clients joining us over the next few months. Which is likely to make this year the most exciting year of my career yet.

I am lucky to still be learning.  But now I am also in a position to share all that I have learned.

As many of my friends consider career changes I am still intensely passionate about my work. I still get to wear t-shirts and flip-flops most days. I still get to play loud music in the office. And I still find nothing more exciting than a smart new idea.

On the first day of my career, 21 years ago today, I sat next to a young art director named Vince Demarinis. On Thursday I am traveling to Miami to meet with a potential new client. Thursday night I will be staying with Vince. We have remained good friends despite the fact that we haven’t worked together for 17 years. And despite the fact that he has way better hair than me.

IMG_7660
That’s Vince (art director)  on the left.  I’m in the middle. The third amigo is Dan Koel (art director) on the right. I am sporting the very informal costume I wore to the formal company Christmas party at Cramer Krasselt.  It’s not that I didn’t get the memo. I just decided to ignore it. Oh, and I would never wear that hat under normal circumstances. Go Sox!

Today I’m thankful for my supportive wife Dawn, whom I met at that first job. I am blessed to have three great, healthy kids who get to see a father who really loves his work. And I feel lucky to have friends, family and others willing to read a blog post about my career anniversary. Thank you for your time and your continued support. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

5 things I’m thankful for at work.

Like my fellow Americans, today I’m reflecting on my blessings. I enjoy a very full and well rounded life (although I expect to be even fuller and rounder in a few hours).  I have so much to be thankful for I can’t possibly mention it all. So here is a quick overview of 5 things I’m thankful for this year at work.

1. I don’t have to wear a collared shirt with my company’s logo on it. 

logo shirts

The relaxed advertising agency dress code is one of the top reasons I chose this profession. I was reminded of this yesterday as I had lunch next to four guys who work at the local John Deere dealership. I know this because they each wore a shirt with the name of the dealership embroidered on it. I expect the shirts make them feel as if they are part of a team. But I’m thankful to be on a team that promotes individual self expression. (Plus, I know that logo shirts are ad units which warrant compensation in exchange for prime placement.)

2. Our Coke Freestyle Machine.

When I was a kid I remember going to my Dad’s office and thinking it was so cool that they had a vending machine that sold Cokes in glass bottles. My office now has a Coke Freestyle machine that lets you create over 125 different drinks whenever you want. The drinks are all free with employment at Moxie. Which makes my kids think I have the coolest job ever. Even thought we have grown used to it I certainly don’t take this boyhood-dream-come-true for granted.

3. Video Chats

video-chat

 

For the past 8 years I have managed a team spread across multiple offices. Many managers and teams struggle with the distance. One of the most valuable tools I use to bridge the space between our offices is video chat. I use it almost everyday, often multiple times a day.  It offers valuable, face to face communication that allows me to recognize nuances in communication that you just can’t detect through email, IM, text, phone calls or smoke signals. Note: I also get a lot of strange looks from coworkers when they pop into my office and find me telling stories to my laptop.

4. Frequent Flyer Miles.

IMG_6420

I have a lot of frequent flyer miles from work travel. This fall my Mother In Law was diagnosed with cancer. Those miles made it easy for my wife to fly home to Wisconsin to see her mom and be there as she went through surgery and treatments. The miles are a nice bit of compensation for all the time I’m away from home. And they made it easy to support our family members when they needed it most.

5. Moleskine Notebooks

2015 was an unprecedented year in my accumulation of these amazing notebooks. I had numerous meetings and conferences this year where these books were part of the swag. I have a hard time turning off my thinker. These notebooks are the perfect receptical for me to store the thoughts and ideas that pop in my head before they disappear into the ether. Sure, I use Notes on my phone and Evernote and other digital tools. But nothing gives me the satisfaction of holding a hard covered book full of my own words, sketches and ideas.  I have a vision of my offspring making a fortune off of the ideas they find in my notebooks after I die. Or at a minimum they could set up a cart selling corny t-shirts and bumper stickers to pay for their therapy.

I hope you all enjoy your time off and recognize all you have to be thankful for at work. Even if somedays it feels like you’re surrounded by turkeys like me.