Why I take my mom to work with me every day.

When I was a kid my Mom was my public speaking coach. Not that I wanted one. But my Mom insisted that public speaking was an important life skill. And if she did one thing right in her parenting role, she was going to have kids who knew how to speak well in front of others. And if she did one thing wrong, it would be that those kids wouldn’t know how to stop talking.

Jill Albrecht knows a thing or two about public speaking. She is a funny, energetic and dynamic woman who comes alive on stage. When I was a young boy she was involved in the Jaycettes, which was the women’s version of the Jaycees, a leadership and development organization. And every year the Jaycettes held a public speaking competition.

I remember my mom entering the local competition, and to my surprise and delight, she won. She moved on to the Wisconsin state competition, and won that too. That win qualified her for the national competition in Cincinnati. I was excited to go, and hoped to see WKRP, and meet Loni Anderson (who went to high school with my Aunt Carol).

The national competition, which was held in a large auditorium in downtown Cincinnati, was the first time I had ever seen my Mom deliver her speech in public. And I couldn’t believe how good she was. She commanded the stage. Her pace, her pauses and her power were mesmerizing. The way she emphasized key words and phrases made you underline those important words in your head too. Her masterful use of hand gestures made her fun to watch. And her effective use of eye contact made it feel as if her message was intended specifically for me. Like when she shot me daggers in church.

Then, after all the speakers were finished, and the judges had a moment to confer, the top finishers were announced. And the last person announced, with the top score, and winner of the national speaking competition, was Jill Albrecht. My Mom! And in the back of the auditorium, I practically exploded with pride as my Mom took center stage to rousing applause to accept her award. My Mom was a baller!

My Career

Throughout my career in advertising, I have given thousands of presentations. In fact, I have already guest-lectured to two college classes this week, and it is only Wednesday morning. In other words, I use my Mom’s public speaking lessons practically every day.

But I also pass those speaking and performing lessons that my Mom taught me on to others. Over the course of my career, I have directed performances by well-known TV personalities like Rachael Ray. I have directed NASCAR drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kevin Harvick, and Danica Patrick. And I have even directed movie star Julia Roberts. And every time I provide guidance on how to deliver a line, I am channeling my Mom.

San Francisco

Two weeks ago I flew to San Francisco to film the CEO of one of The Weaponry’s great clients. This CEO is a rockstar. The company she co-founded is now a $10 billion company, and taking off like a rocket. As we worked together she soaked up direction like a moisture-wicking workout shirt. And on multiple occasions she stopped and asked me how I would say a line or a phrase, noting that she liked the way that I delivered the lines.

As I sat in the CEO’s downtown corner office, where pictures of her with President Obama hung on the wall (she has met him 3 times) I couldn’t help but recognize that it wasn’t my direction she liked. It was my Mom’s. It was the lessons on style, pace, and emphasis that she taught me as a young boy that I was simply passing along. Like a family recipe.

Happy Birthday

Today is my Mom’s 71st birthday. Today also marks the 24th anniversary of my career. I know this because I started my first job on my Mom’s birthday. And today I recognize how valuable her lessons on public speaking have been to my career. They helped me as I interviewed for jobs. They helped me as I presented ideas to clients. They helped me in new business pitches. They helped me as I gave speeches and lectures. And they helped me direct major celebrities and rockstar CEOs.

Key Takeaway

The lessons we teach others can benefit them for a lifetime. Keep teaching and sharing what you know. Empower others with your skills, knowledge and life lessons. You never know how many people you may positively impact in the process.

Thank you Mom. You have directed me well. Happy Birthday. Love, Adam

How close to the surface are your failures?

Tuesday night I guest lectured to an advertising campaigns class at Marquette University taught by Erin Napier. I talked about creative thinking and the creative process. I talked about my advertising career path, from college student to Copywriter to Creative Director to Chief Creative Officer. I talked about Entrepreneurship. I shared my experience as Founder & CEO of  The Weaponry. And I told them about the time me and Danica Patrick filled a Motorhome with 1.2 million ping pong balls.

Q & A

I showed samples of the creative work I have created, and then I asked if anyone had questions. This is one of the first questions I was asked:

‘What was you greatest career failure, and what did you learn from it?’

Now I am all about learning from your failures. And I am all about turning lemons into  lemonade, like Ralph Lemonader. But I didn’t have an answer for this question.

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This is the class I spoke to at Marquette University. And everyone is still awake. I consider that a win.

It’s not that I haven’t made mistakes in my career. I certainly have. But what I recognized when trying to access my colossal mistakes file, was that I don’t hold my failures close. They are not raw and ready to be examined. I am not dwelling on them, stewing over them of kicking myself because of them. I’m not like that super pale dude from The Da Vinci Code, who was torturing himself with his power slinky. I quickly learn my lesson and move on, better than before.

Maximizer

When I read Tom Rath’s Strength Finders, and took the test in the book (which I recommend you do), it told me that I am a raging Maximizer. Which means I have no interest in analyzing things that went wrong in the past. I simply focus on what we can do from here.

My Biggest Failure Answer

The best answer I could give that Marquette student was that I was pretty sure I don’t know what my biggest mistake was. It was likely something I didn’t do, rather than something I did do. It was probably some path I didn’t take, or some Monty Hall door I didn’t open. I’ll never know where that would have taken me. And I’m not losing any sleep over it. #Zzzzzzz

Learn & Move On

Our failures should be like touching a hot stove. We should do it once, recognize the mistake quickly, file the lesson away, and move on. No dwelling or hand wringing. We just learn our lessons, and get back to life. #BackToReality.

Key Takeaway

Learn from your failures and keep going. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t rank your greatest failures of all time. Instead, focus on your successes. Know what works for you. Remember what you did right. Repeat the positive actions. And pass that knowledge along for others to learn from too.

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

Do you love your work as much as Jim Cantore loves thundersnow?

During the spring of my senior year of college I was approached by a major pharmaceutical company about an entry level sales position. They recruited college athletes, because they wanted competitive go-getters to go sell, sell, sell for them.

Wearing a suit I borrowed from my Wisconsin track teammate, Greg Gill, I did 2 rounds of interviews. The pay, bonus structure and the benefits all sounded amazing for a kid right out of school. But I had no passion for pharmaceutical sales. Or for wearing business suits. So I passed.

Advertising!

Instead, I looked for opportunities as a copywriter with an advertising agency. I got informational interviews at 2 agencies. I was then offered jobs by both companies. The pay was half what the pharmaceutical sales job would have paid. But the work excited me. So I jumped at the chance to join Cramer Krasselt, one of the country’s best advertising agencies, for $21,000 a year.

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Me and my man Lucian McAfee on a shoot at the Atlanta Braves’ spring training facility in Florida.

Just An Excitable Boy

I loved my low paying job, and it showed. I got my first raise 3 months later. I got another raise 6 months after that. And another raise 6 months after that. Then I got a promotion, and another raise. It was clear I was doing the work I was supposed to do.

 

Love Will Keep Us Together

The quick success and pay increases happened because I loved my work. I was all in on the work. Working hard as an advertising creative was extremely fulfilling. Many advertising creatives will say they didn’t choose the work, the work chose them. That’s exactly how I felt. Somehow the work didn’t feel like work. It felt like playing. And it still does today.

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Me and my fellow Weapon, Adam Emery are the bread in a Blake Pieroni sandwich. Blake is an Olympic Gold Medalist. Guess which sport…

Jim Cantore

I once saw a clip of Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel capturing the super-rare phenomenon of thundersnow on camera. According to a Royal Meteorological Society study (I read all of their stuff), this phenomenon occurs in only 0.07 percent of snowstorms in the United States. And only 6 occurrences are reported each year. In the video, Jim is about as excited about thundersnow as anyone could be about anything, ever.  Here is the clip:

Straight Outta The Upper Connecticut River Valley

Jim Cantore and I grew up in neighboring towns in Vermont. I am from Norwich. Jim grew up 5 miles south in White River Junction. I am super proud of the passion of my  fellow Green Mountain Boy. I wish everyone loved their work as much as Jim loves his.

Passion Powered

I recognize the excitement that Jim showed. Because I feel like that all the time. My enthusiasm for my work has made my entire career feel like, well, not work. My clients and coworkers can feel how much I enjoy the work I do. I think my enthusiasm makes me more enjoyable to work around. Granted, there may be a point of diminishing returns.

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That time me and Danica Patrick filled a Prevost motorhome with ping pong balls for work.

Entrepreneurship

When I first launched my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I knew it would be successful. Because I loved the work, and was willing to do all of the hard work necessary to make the business fly. As it turns out the work has been just as fun as I thought it would be. Solving problems is fun. Developing ideas is to help my clients thrive is extremely fun. And I never tire of the demands of business ownership.

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Gung-ho in gingham, with Jon Mathews.

Key Takeaway

If you haven’t found work you are passionate about yet, keep looking. Find that thing that makes you lose your mind, like Jim Cantore in thundersnow. Find something that make you pound the table like I pound the table when we have found another great idea that will help our clients win. Don’t settle for good pay, nice benefits and a safe existence. Energize yourself by doing something you really love every day.

Note: I first witnessed thundersnow while snowmobiling with my great friends Greg Gill and George Mort in Saint Germain, Wisconsin. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It’s like seeing lightning in a snow globe. It’s my favorite weather phenomenon.