Yesterday I had lunch with people I hadn’t seen in over 20 years.

Social distancing is really odd. Suddenly we don’t see the people we are used to seeing every day. This includes co-workers, that dude or dudette at the coffee shop with the tattoos and the people at the gym, with the tattoos. (Okay, maybe I just miss tattoos right now, because my kids don’t have any. Yet.)

Right now we don’t see the people we regularly run into at school or practice or the movie theater. And we’re quietly hoping those people haven’t been voted off the island by the coronavirus.

Please enjoy this flashback while you miss the people in your neighborhood

My Lunch Bunch

Yesterday I found a replacement for the people that I regularly see in my neighborhood. In fact, yesterday I had lunch with 16 of my college track teammates from the University of Wisconsin. While it would have been great to gather at Mickies Dairy Bar, The Memorial Union Terrace, or State Street Brats, none of those places would have let us in yesterday because of the corona-cooties

Instead, we gathered over the lunch hour, via Zoom, from our home offices, kitchens and couches. We gathered from a hospital and from an Olympic Training Center.

And it was amazing.

We gathered from Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale, Green Bay, Omaha, Denver, San Diego, Houston and Phoenix. Some of these people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in over 20 years.

IMG_1409
This answers Aretha Franklin’s question, ‘Who’s Zooming Who?’

Badger Brothers

This group of guys has a very special relationship. We trained, suffered, traveled, competed, studied and partied together throughout our college experience in Madison. We learned how to succeed as a team. We won multiple Big Ten Championships as a team. And our head coach, Ed ‘Nutty’ Nuttycombe won more Big 10 championships than any coach in any sport in Big 10 history. Which makes us feel as if we are part of a legacy. Better yet, we all have funny Nutty stories to share. #tripletnieces

Nutty Said

Coach Nutty used to say, ‘It feels good to feel good.’ And yesterday if felt good to tap into the strong bond we still share during this challenging and isolating time. Our hour together reminded us that we are not alone. That we have brothers across the country to lean on, laugh with and learn from as we all go through this strange time together.

IMG_1406

Thank You

Thanks to Matt Downin, Louis Hinshaw, Tom Burger, Tony Simmons, Brian Veit, Jabari Pride, Bryan Jones, Matt Vander Zanden, David Sengstock, Jason Vanderhoof, Jeremy Fischer, Scott Brinen, Kevin Huntley, Scott Sullivan, and John Christensen for making the time to get together. I look forward to more. Because we are better together. Just like Coach Nutty, Coach Napes, and Coach Smith taught us. And we have the rings to prove it.

Key Takeaway

I encourage you to take advantage of this unique time to find and reconnect with your people. It only takes one person to get a video meetup started. So be that person. Channel your inner James Taylor, and let your people know that even in this time of social distancing and self-isolation, they’ve got a friend.

IMG_1399 2
My Badger Brothers.  Back before color photography.

Suddenly you appreciate the most basic things.

The best food I ever tasted in my life was a Wendy’s triple cheeseburger at an Oasis overpass in Chicago. I had gone 24 hours without eating anything due to travel craziness. And in my time of need, nothing Wolfgang Puck, David Chang or Jesus’s personal chef could have whipped up would have tasted better to me than Dave Thomas’s triple wonder did that day.

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone.

Deprivation changes everything. It changes priorities at work and at home. It makes the least valued most valued. But the truth is, the value is always there. We simply miss it. We factor in the basics as constants in our science, math and social equations.

Instead of the basics, we get to focus on the less important things. Sports, movies, concerts, Happy Hour, Kardashians. These are all luxuries. Abraham Maslow knew it. When he created his Hierarchy Of Needs he put all of our most basic needs at the bottom. Not because they are least important. But because they are most important. Without those basic needs met, nothing else matters. No prestige or feelings of belonging or accomplishment matter at all if you are hungry, tired, worried about lung inflammation, or wondering what you will wipe your bum with next. 

Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs

The 2 Week Lesson

Over the past 2 weeks everything has changed. We have flipped the Maslow’s hierarchy triangle upside down. Just like Suge Knight did to Vanilla Ice. What was last on our list is now first. We are now thankful for the safety of a simple shelter. We appreciate the security of isolation. We feel the value of the money we saved for a rainy day. Now we just hope we don’t get orders to round up 2 of every animal. Especially after seeing Tiger King on Netflix. #amIright

The Rise Of The Toilet Paper

Finally, we see the real value in toilet paper. Today, a carton of milk, a loaf of bread and a stick of butter are not food. They are peace of mind. Fresh fruits and vegetable are valued treats again. Like they were during most of human history.

For the first time in my lifetime, or at least since the movie Convoy, we as a nation are recognizing the critical importance of the truckers, transporters and delivery drivers.

The grocery store stockers and cashiers are our modern day militia. Without them we would all be scurvy pirates by now.

We suddenly see the value in the women and men who make our toothpaste, hand soap, disinfectant and medical masks. In fact, I am thanking them through my mask right now.

Timeout For A Reality Check

Today, we are reminded that we can carry on just fine without the athletic superstar we cared so much about 2 weeks ago. But without the farmer, nothing else matters. The janitors and cleaners who enter the building as you are leaving are no longer an afterthought. They are critical to the safety of us all.

When Forrest Gump, Mr. Rogers and Woody test positive for COVID-19 it is unfortunate. But the nurse who tests positive and cannot work is a threat to the safety net we are all counting on to catch us if we fall.

The Reset

This is an opportunity to reset. To realize how fortunate we are to spend so much time thinking well beyond our most important needs. It’s a time to recognize that unless you are Mr. Wipple, a roll of toilet paper is more important than most of the things you focused on 2 weeks ago.

Key Takeaway

If you let it, the scarcity and the scariness of these times can have a profoundly positive impact on the way you see and value the people and things around you. So let it. And emerge from this with a greater ability to appreciate what you have, what you need, and what you don’t. It will help you enjoy all areas of your life more. Just like Maslow said. 

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

How we took care of business during the first week of remote work.

Last week marked a major shift for our country. The mood changed. The rules changed. Which meant that many brands had to change their messages and tonality in order to sound in sync with the times. While other brands that had not been part of our collective conversation finally found their pick-up lines working like Joey Tribbiani’s best material.

This meant a McFlurry of activity at The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency. While other business were grinding to a halt, our services were sought after like a jumbo pack of toilet paper at Costco.

Did I mention that my entire team also moved to our spring offices this week?  Which is a fun way to say that we all worked from home. So did all of our clients. You probably did too.

Here are some of the highlights from our week.

Monday

  • We had our first client meeting at 9am on Monday morning.
  • In that meeting we planned significant messaging adjustments to respond to new social and economic conditions.
  • We spent the rest of the day ideating. It felt like we were in a movie about advertising. Complete with Glen Frey’s The Heat Is On playing in the background.
  • At 5pm we presented a new creative campaign for that same client we met with at 9am. Boom!

Tuesday

  • We added 2 news clients to our roster.
    • 1 in Columbus, Ohio.
    • 1 in Los Angeles
  • We had a kickoff meeting to get the L.A.-based client rolling. Because there was no time to waste.

Wednesday

  • I had a 2-hour video call with my CEO roundtable to talk with other business owners about what they are facing, and the challenging decisions that need to be made in response to the current uncertainty. Several of the member’s businesses were essentially stopped in their tracks by the current ban on gatherings. Which made me extremely thankful for the strong demand for our services.
  • I did an interview with Julia Fello from WTMJ-4 (NBC) in Milwaukee about working from home. You can see the interview here. Thanks to Monica Baer for connecting me and Julia.

Thursday

  • We presented a new fully-integrated campaign for a new sponsorship that we created on behalf of one of our clients.  The campaign included TV, outdoor, long form video, print, in-store displays, event activation, barn painting, social media, digital display and vehicle wraps. That was about it. #ThingsBubbaSays
  • We presented 37 new logos designs for a long-existing brand as part of a major rebrand initiative. Our 4 clients were all on video-conference, from home, while under house arrest.
  • Thursday night at 11pm I received an email from one of our clients inquiring about availability to meet the next day. They wanted to discuss ideas for a new promotion to take advantage of the new normal. I responded minutes later with a meeting time on Friday to kickoff the project.

Friday

  • We presented a new content campaign featuring online videos, ranging from 15 seconds to 4 minutes long.
  • Late on Friday afternoon we received client approval on a re-edit and new voiceover language for a television commercial. I contacted the recording studio to book time with them to record and master 2 new spots. They asked if I wanted to book time on Monday. I said no, I wanted time today, or tomorrow, which of course was Saturday. Since it was late in the day on Friday, and most people had gone home for the day, we settled for first thing Saturday morning.

Saturday

  • My team, the audio engineer, voiceover talent, and editor gathered virtually to help speed new commercials to market to help our client respond to our current climate.
  • We sent brand new commercials to TV stations for immediate airing.
  • We took a deep breath, and were thankful for the ability to take deep breaths.

Key Takeaway

These are unique times. The rules, challenges and opportunities are different right now. Help your customers, clients neighbors, family and friends get through this and they will never forget what you did for them. Yes, the stage is different. Most of us are everything-ing from home. But what it takes to shine during these times is the same. So shine on you crazy diamonds.

Now, it’s just a matter of time.

Over the past weeks there has been a lot of talk about time. Government, school and business leaders have thrown out dates and durations to add definitiveness to the end of the coronavirus pandemic. But you don’t have to be a geologist to know that those dates are written in sand, not stone.

Why All The Time Passages?

People want answers, and certainty. Businesses want to count up all their cash, and divide it by the number of days of downtime to determine if they can make it to re-opening day. Parents want to know if this is a spring break thing, a summer break thing, or both. And God help us all if this is both. #ScreenTimeLobotomy Speaking of God, my church has cancelled all congregating until after Easter. Which is like 40 days and 40 nights.

The Truth

Right now, there is a very simple truth worth embracing: The timeline is unknowable. 

No one can predict how this will play out with certainty. Not Dr. Fauci, Dr. Oz, Dr. Seuss or Dr. Pepper. President Trump, Joe Biden and Weekend-At-My-Place Sanders don’t know. And as much as you, me and Bobby McGee want to know, we can’t.

I’m Good With That

I take great comfort in the fact that nobody knows the real timeline, for 2 reasons.

1. It is a reminder that much of this is up to us.

We, the people, are the great variable in the timeline. Our actions make all the difference right now. Our hand washing and our social distancing may seem trivial. But they are the grenades and the sniper rifles in the battle against COVID-19.

2. This could be much shorter than we are hearing. 

The timeline has become sensationalized. 9-months! 18-months! 2-years! Forever 21! (Wait, that last one is just a sign I saw at the mall.) Sure, these could be true. But remember, those who profit from fear and attention during a crisis are incentivized to make the situation even crisis-ier. #followthemoney

Have Faith

Have faith right now that this will get better sooner than later. Have faith in our medical professionals who are working hard to protect us all. Have faith in our scientists who are quickly learning, applying their knowledge, and blinding me with science.

Have faith in our political leaders who are learning from the good, the bad and the ugly around the world in order to create the recipe for success in your community. And have faith that God helps those who help themselves. Especially those who help themselves to generous amounts of hand soap and the sweet spot on the living room couch.

Key Takeaway

The duration of the Global Timeout is unknowable. Do your part, and this will be better faster. We’re all in this together. And we can get out of this sooner, together. A little patience and perspective go a long way right now. Take a deep breath. Take advantage of your time to think, and enjoy the quality time at home. Support those supporting the rest of us. And like Mickey said, we’ll see each other real soon.

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

A reminder of the business leader’s primary responsibility.

We’re all experiencing some crazy right now. But if your biggest challenge is that your kids are home from school, demanding fruit snacks, and TikTok-ing around the clock, you are dealing with a great kind of crazy. Enjoy it.

Business Crazy

Unfortunately, many business owners and leaders are dealing with a more challenging kind of crazy right now. For many, everything has gone off script. And now they have to figure out what to do next. Kind of like the fake wrestler who gets hit in their real face, with a real medal folding chair, and it really hurts. But the show must go on.

Right now leadership is all improv, all the time. In many industries business and revenue have been shut off like a water faucet. In times like this, entrepreneurship feels a lot less sexy, and I know it.

Decision Making

If you own a business, or are part of an organization’s leadership team, you are likely facing some very challenging decisions in the immediate future, or as part of your early planning for worst case scenarios (not to be confused with wurst casing scenarios at the sausage factory).

In your war room you will weigh the pros and cons of various decisions. You will model and remodel. You will debate and disagree. And none of it will be easy.

But before you make any final decisions, remember this:

A business leader’s primary responsibility is to make sure the business survives forever.

Key Takeaway

Do what you have to do to keep the business going. The difficult decisions you make now will ensure that once the current climate changes you will once again be able to provide great opportunities for great people and great partners.

*If you know a business leader facing difficult decisions right now, please share this with them.

How to make the most of the global timeout.

Over the past month the world has been introduced to an interesting new term. Social distancing is what the doctors have ordered to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Social distancing means we all go to our own homes and stay there until we are told we have been there long enough.

The Timeout

For some people this is a strange concept. But parents will recognize this as a timeout. It’s a time when you tell your children that they have to stop what they’re doing (cuz they’re about to ruin, the image and the style that you’re used to). For decades we have been sending our kids to their bedroom, the stairs or a faraway corner to give them time to calm the eff down, and think about their actions.

woman wearing black dress sitting on the floor
This woman looks like she is calming the eff down. She also looks like she could use more furniture.

The social distancing ordered by governments, the Center For Disease Control and the World Health Organizations (led by Roger Daltrey, Pete Townsend and Keith Moon) is really a global timeout for citizens of the world. And it may just be the best thing to ever happen to us.

Time To Think

Just like timeouts for kids, this Global Timeout gives adults time to think about their choices, actions and repercussions. It reminds us that we shouldn’t take our liberties or our opportunities for granted. It reminds us that life is short. And that time is our most precious commodity.

alone buildings city cityscape
Taking the WHO’s advice seriously, Tommy is taking a break from playing pinball to think.

The Global Timeout, also known as Wuhan Soloing, is a perfect opportunity to reevaluate and adjust your goals and the action required to attain them. Now is the ideal time to think about your personal life, health, faith, family and friendship.

Career Evaluation

The Global Timeout offers the ideal time to think about your career. Are you on the path you want to be on? Are you making progress towards your goals? Are you as fulfilled as you want to be? And if you are a member of 2 Live Crew, are you as nasty as you wanna be?

monochrome photography of person on dark room
Think about it. There must be higher love.

Getting Down To Business

The Global Timeout is the perfect time for businesses to think about the future. To determine where you want to go, and what you want to become 3 to 5 years down the road. If your business has quieted substantially during this time, see this as an opportunity. The slowdown provides you with time to think. And big results are a result of big thinking. The type of thinking that is hard to do when you are busy with your day to day operations and responsibilities. Or on a ventilator. So remember to keep washing your hands.

Key Takeaway

Social Distancing is a gift. This forced timeout offers an opportunity to think and evaluate your life, your career and your business in a way that you may never have again. Don’t waste it. Make sure that when we reach the end of this period, in a matter of weeks or months, that you emerge from this better, smarter, more focused on your next chapter. Those who take advantage of this opportunity will win. Both at work and at life. Make sure you are one of those people.

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

What role will you play in the coronavirus story?

I love a good story. And right now I am in the early chapters of a really interesting new story. Only it is not a book, movie, or TV show. It’s real life. And you are in the story too.

The Coronavirus

The new reality caused by COVID-19 is turning into one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. And we are just getting warmed up. What began as a health problem in Wuhan, China is now impacting all manner of life on my side of the planet in ways that would have been unimaginable a week ago. Unless, of course, I was watching what was happening in Italy a week ago. But I wasn’t. Because sports were still on TV.

War of The World

Remember hearing the story of Orson Wells’ War of The World radio broadcast when we were younger? This feels a lot like that. Only the Aliens are viruses. And what was a fake newscast is really happening.

Shut’n Er Down

Sports of all sorts are cancelled. Schools are closed. Amusement parks, museums and zoos are shut down. Travel is greatly restricted, and will likely restrict even further. And I am not just talking about the economy class seating.

The Upside

Yet within these unprecedented times are amazing opportunities. Opportunities to connect with those closest to you. To slow down. To go for walks, hikes and bike rides. To play games at home. To cook more. To read more. To create more. And in 9 months, I expect to see a global wave of tiny little coronavirus-inspired Earthlings.

Do Good

Today, there are new opportunities to volunteer and contribute. Support the organizations that support those who are most impacted by this pandemic and the economic repercussions.

Build

There are new business opportunities all around us. The new reality means new unmet needs. And unmet needs are the seeds from which businesses grow.

Lead

There will be opportunities to lead. To take actions that help your community. Both in the prevention of the spread of the virus in your community, and in the recovery and return to normalcy after the threat passes.

Key Takeaway

A significant chapter of global, national and personal history is being written right now. Be thoughtful about the role you will play in the story. Keep washing your hands. And be patient. This too shall pass. And we will all have an interesting story to share.

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

You have perfected the old way. Now what?

I have spent the last few days speaking to smart people at a giant trade show in Las Vegas. Just as the World Health Organization recommended that we should all hole up in our closets for 2 weeks, I decided to hangout with 100,000 trade show attendees in Sin City. #RollingTheDice

CONEXPO

CONEXPO, the mammoth construction industry show, is the largest trade show in the history of my personal trade show experience. It is like the construction industry’s Super Bowl. Only without the extravagant halftime show. Or football.

Why Are You Here?

My advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry works with CONEXPO in a super secret capacity that I can not disclose. Yet. But as part of our work, yesterday I talked to people about why they come to the show. One particular attendee I talked to had a very simple way of summarizing why he comes. He said:

‘We have the old way of doing things down. We need to find the new way.’ -CONEXPO Attendee

I love this idea.

Out with the old.

It is really easy to master a way of doing things, and think that you can simply repeat that process, technique or approach for the rest of your days. But if you do, you will stop growing. You will stop improving. You will stop learning. And you will forfeit your competitive advantage to those who continue looking for the new way. The better way. The faster, easier and more profitable way.

Grow, Grow, Grow Your Boat.

Always be growing. Technology and innovation are continuously improving. The fact that we can instantly exchange information and cat videos across the globe means that we have unprecedented access to new information and ideas to help you improve virtually everything you can think of. Including your thinking.

New And Improved!

I worked in the advertising industry for 19 years before I started my own agency. But from day one, the technology and applications we implemented at The Weaponry were completely different than those I had previously used. Because we did our homework, and found new, smarter ways to perform our work. And to collaborate with our teammates and partners.

Today, as we close in our 4th birthday, we are challenging assumptions. We are open minded, and ready to advance as soon as the advancements are ready to be taken advantage of. And you should be too.

Key Takeaway

Once you have mastered the old way, start looking for the new way. Always be learning, growing and improving. Embrace change. Put innovation and advancements to work for you. They provide a competitive advantage. And if you don’t utilize them, your competition will.

Oh, and if you see me at CONEXPO, or out enjoying Las Vegas tonight, please stop by and say hi. Or bump my elbow with yours. Or point and smile. Just don’t shake hands. That’s the old way. Before the coronavirus inspired, new, smarter, safer techniques.

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