Never be afraid to ask for what you want.

Last summer my family traveled to the Pacific Northwest for our summer vacation. There was so much we wanted to see that mapping out our route and scheduling our stops over 9 days was a major challenge. Especially because we wanted to visit British Columbia. Which I would have named Canadian Columbia, but what do I know?

Train Spotting

The thing my son Johann wanted to see most on the trip was the Oregon Rail Heritage Museum in Portland. However, the museum’s schedule was a problem. It was only open Thursday through Sunday. And when the logistics were set, we would be in Portland on a Tuesday. #bummer

However, the museum was across the street from another site we planned to hit: the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. So my wife, Dawn, told Johann that we would drive by the train museum and see whatever we could see from the outside.

On The Outside Looking In

As we approached the train museum we indeed saw a few trains and train cars outside. Which was nice. But the reason Johann was so interested in this museum is that it held one of his all-time favorite trains. The magnificent Daylight 4449. The only remaining train of its type. The Daylight was inside the museum, and could not be seen from the outside. #Boo

Come on Clark, It Will Be Fun.

Dawn suggested that we park the car at the closed museum parking lot anyway, and take a look at the closed facility. So we did. In the process we encountered several signs reminding us that the museum was closed that day. I felt a little silly getting out of the car there. Like Clark Griswold parking at an obviously-closed Wally World.

A Sign Of Life

We got out of the car and walked to the fence surrounding the museum grounds. Then Dawn spotted two people exiting the closed building. They clearly looked like they worked at the Museum. Dawn walked briskly along the fence to the gate they were headed for. I knew she was in Deion Sanders-mode, and was trying to intercept them.

I cringed at the idea of what Dawn was going to say to these people. She’s aggressive. A trait that seems more in sync with her years living in New York City and Chicago than her childhood years in Wausau, Wisconsin.

The Talk

I kept my distance as I watched Dawn intercept the man and woman at the gate. I could hear her sweetly explain that we had come all the way from Wisconsin, and that our son Johann would really, really love to see the Daylight 4449. I braced for the employees to remind her that the museum was closed. And that the sign out front should have told her that.

Instead, the man and woman both smiled at her story. Then, suddenly, the man unlocked the gate, and invited us in. Moments later we were standing inside the large museum staring at the grand prize. The Daylight 4449.

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Johann finally got to lay his eyes on the prize, thanks to his Mama.

However, since the museum was closed, we didn’t get the normal view of the train. Instead, the wonderful people of the museum gave us an all-access pass to every part of the train, with the engineer as our personal tour guide. Our entire family got to climb up in the cab, past the Please Keep Off signs, which was my favorite part.

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Breaking the law, breaking the law…

Johann got stories and insights that most people would have never heard. We felt like distinguished guests and VIPs at the train museum. It was a very special experience. And all for one simple reason: Dawn asked if we could come inside.

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Albrecht aboard!

The Lesson

That experience provided our family with an important life lesson. It taught us all that if you want something you have to put yourself in a position to get it. You have to be willing to ask for what you want, and not be afraid to get a ‘No‘. It taught us that a closed door will sometimes open for you if you ask. And it taught us that some of the best experiences are on the other side of a locked door.

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The Crew.

Key Takeaway

Often times a closed door will open when you show just how much you want to come inside. It pays to be earnest and honest about how much it means to you. Remember, someone holds the keys to unlock every locked door. Find that person, and ask to come in. The worst thing that can happen is you are told no. In which case you are no worse off than you were before. But if they say yes, it could open the doors to incredible new experiences and possibilities.

Today, there are many people facing real health and financial challenges. If you need help, or access, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s the quickest and most effective way to get what you want.

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

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Look at that happy kid…
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Thanks to everyone at the Oregon Rail Heritage Museum for such an incredible experience. 

How your spouse can be your greatest career coach.

There are many amazing people who have had a significant impact on my career. There have been CEOs I admire. Entrepreneurs that inspired me. Creative Directors who have guided me. And successful marketers of all sorts that have provided me with important lessons and insights.

My Wife

But there is one person who has had the greatest positive influence on my career, by far. My wife, Dawn Albrecht. Dawn and I have a special relationship. I fell in love with her at first sight. Then, just seconds later I realized that she was actually my new coworker. It was a little like the moment Kelly McGillis walked into Tom Cruise’s classroom in Top Gun. #SoYoureTheOne

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My wife Dawn serves up career magic.

The Downside

Initially the fact that we worked together was a negative. It made it awfully hard to ask her out. Because a failed office romance provides a constant reminder of your failed office romance until one of you quits or gets fired.

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The last picture of us before we became BF &GF.

The Upside

But once we became an actual couple, not just a couple in my imagination system, the fact that we worked together became a major advantage. Dawn fully understood my job, my industry and my career path. She understood the workplace dynamics I faced. She saw my untapped potential. And she knew just how to push me forward.

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Dawn always coordinates her shirt with seasonal gourds. #nextlevel

You know I thought I had it so good.

When we first met I was just 4 years into my career. I thought I had a great title. And I was very proud of my salary. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Dawn, on the other hand, had spent 7 years working for great companies in New York City and Chicago, including the Lifetime Channel (television for women), Times Mirror Publications, Discovery Networks and Cars.com.

Simply put, Dawn knew more than me. She recognized my growth potential and she pushed me to realize it.

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Our wedding day. (You knew it was either that or Halloween, right?)

Here We Go

Over the course of the next 10 years Dawn went from my coworker, to my wife and best friend, to the mother of my 3 children. But she also became my career coach. And my personal motivator. She made me think about whether I was stretching and growing. She made me think about my professional skills and abilities. She taught me about the true value I brought to my clients and employers. And she called me out when she thought I had grown too comfortable. And she was always right.

An Endorsement For Coaching

Dawn taught me the value of having a strong career coach. And over the first 10 years of our relationship my title grew from Senior Writer at Cramer Krasselt to Chief Creative Officer at Engauge, an agency with 4 office locations and 275 people in Atlanta, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Orlando.

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The Agency Takes Off

13 years after Dawn and I met, Halyard Capital, the private investment firm that owned Engauge, decided the agency was on the right trajectory to sell. I was part of the 4-person leadership team that represented Engauge as we met with 15 potential buyers. In August of 2013 the agency was bought by Publicis, the world renowned ad agency holding company in Paris. And I was ready for my next chapter.

Entrepreneurship

I always wanted to start my own business. And just 2 years later I began plans to launch my own advertising agency. Despite the fact that I would be trading in a nice salary, and comfortable benefits, Dawn was 100% behind the plan. She never questioned or doubted that an agency I created would be successful. Her total confidence in me added to my healthy confidence in myself.

The Weaponry

I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, when I was 42 years old. Today, I am frequently asked what the scariest moment of my entrepreneurial experience has been. But I really haven’t been scared at all. I credit much of that to Dawn. Because she has had full confidence that this would work out exactly as planned. And if Mama’s not worried, nobody’s worried.

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Our tribe at The Weaponry.

Birthday Girl!

Today is Dawn’s birthday (at least it is if you are reading this on October 29th). I will take the day off, just like I do every year. We will spend the day together. And I’ll reflect on how I wouldn’t have made it this far down my path this fast if it wasn’t for her. She has encouraged me, inspired me and challenged me. She has put her complete faith in me (and maybe my life insurance policy).

She has fully supported the decision to walk away from a comfortable life in search of an adventurous and even more rewarding experience. Dawn is like the Jelly of The Month Club. Because she’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year. In friendship. In family. And yes, even in business.

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Key Takeaway

If you want to be do great things, find someone great to go with you. Someone who believes in you. Someone fun and funny. Someone who won’t let you get comfortable. Someone who challenges you to grow and become all that you were supposed to be. If you find someone like that never let them go. Never take them for granted. And if you can take their birthday off every year and spend it with them, do it. You’ll never regret it.

If you liked this I also wrote about the first time ever I saw Dawn’s face in the post It was an ordinary day until I got on that elevator.

It was an ordinary day until I got on that elevator.

It was June 6th, 2000.  A rainy day. That morning I woke up, ate breakfast, packed my lunch and walked 10 minutes through downtown Milwaukee to my office. Just like every week day.

I entered the building at 733 N. Van Buren Street, and made my way to the elevators. I caught the far elevator, just before the doors closed. I squeezed into the packed elevator, like the last clown in the car.

I was facing the back of the elevator. Everyone else was facing me. I felt like the quarterback facing the rest of his teammates in a huddle. Many in the huddle were my co-workers. So I began to joke and entertain my captive audience from my awkward but enjoyable all-eyes-on-me position. Did I mention I love a captive audience?

That’s when I saw her. To my right, in the back corner of the elevator was a beautiful young woman I had never seen before. I would have remembered. She was smiling at my improv routine. And I was smiling at her smiling… (I’m not smiling, you’re smiling!)

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In my head I went into my own version of Garth’s ‘Foxy Lady’ routine from Wayne’s World the movie. I was totally taken by this young business lady stranger.

The elevator door opened up on the 4th floor, my floor, and I had to get off. To my surprise n’ delight, she got off too. And walked right past the reception desk and disappeared down hallway. So I disappeared down the steps, to my office, where I fired up my Mac (cause I’m a Mac & Cheese guy).

I then pulled up the staff database to find out who the elevator babe was. My name, Adam Albrecht, was the very first name to show up on the alphabetized list. Then I clicked through the profiles, one-by-one, but didn’t find her. I had almost given up hope. Until I got to the very last of 120 profiles. And that’s where I saw her. Ooh, I saw her. She walked in through the out door, out door.

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Her name was Dawn Zabel. She was in the media department. She had just started. And best of all, the Spouse field was blank. She was the one I had been looking for. Not just on the database. In life. I knew it. And we hadn’t even spoken yet.

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Today, Dawn and I are celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary. I am just as crazy about her today as I was the moment I first spotted her on that elevator 19 years ago. She is my wife, my best friend, my business partner, my coach and my biggest cheerleader. And I am her biggest fan.

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Key Takeaway

Keep your eyes open. You never know when the opportunity of a lifetime will appear right in front of your eyes.

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The most important gift my mother gave me.

There are conversations that stay with you forever.  Today I am reflecting on a conversation that I had two decades ago. I was at the house of my high school track coach, Jude Dutille, in New Hampshire. Jude’s wife, Val made a comment that I will never forget. It was about my Mom.

Val observed that there was something unique about the kids in my family. It wasn’t that she thought me and my sisters Heather, Alison and Donielle were smart, funny, or kind.  It wasn’t that we were hard working, well mannered or good looking. It wasn’t even the crazy thing I wrote about it the post, What makes these siblings freakishly unique. (Which is worth the read.)  There was one noteworthy trait that Val recognized in me and my sisters. And she gave my Mom all the credit for it. It was our confidence.

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My parents and sisters.

Confidence

Val wondered what my Mom, Jill Albrecht had done to create such confidence in her children. I am not sure I had the answer in that moment 20 years ago. But today I do.

We felt confident because we knew were loved unconditionally. We felt confident because we trusted our Mom and our Dad. We always felt supported. Our Mom always made sure we were prepared. Because preparation is a major ingredient in the confidence recipe.

My Mom designed her home to feel safe. I had lived in 5 states by the time I started 7th grade. And despite the changes, or perhaps because of them, I always felt the stability of home, no matter what state, city or time zone we were in.

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My Mom and Dad at The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency.

My Personal Success

Today I recognize the confidence my Mom developed in me as a key factor in my personal success. I have always believed in myself. Even when the odds were long and the path was uncertain. My confidence has played a major role in my career success. And it was my confidence that things would turn out well that allowed me to launch my own business 3 years ago, when there was really no proof that I could pull it off.

My Wife

Today, my wife Dawn provides our 3 children with the same type of support, security and preparation that I enjoyed as a child. While you can’t give someone else confidence, you can create the perfect environment for confidence to flourish. That’s exactly what  Dawn is doing.

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Dawn and her mom, Cynthia Zabel.

Dawn continues to bolster my confidence too. When I told her I wanted to leave my job and start my own advertising agency, she was 100% behind it. Her unwavering belief in me made me believe in myself. Launching a startup can be extremely scary. But the truth is I wasn’t scared at all. A major reason was that Dawn, who had the most to lose, never doubted that the business would be successful. And she was right.

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Dawn teaches our children to aim high.

The Power Of Self Worth

Lately, I have been studying the lessons of vulnerability expert Brene Brown. Brown, a famed vulnerability and shame researcher at the University of Houston, says there is one key indicator that helps people stick their neck out and feel comfortable with vulnerability. That key factor is worthiness. That’s exactly what my Mom always made me feel. I felt worthy of good things. I felt worthy of love, friendship, of career success, and high achievement. And that self worth has fueled my confidence, motivation and posture my entire adult life.

Key Takeaway

The greatest gift we can give each other are the building blocks of confidence and the self worth that comes as a result. My mother made confidence development a priority. My wife is building it into our children. Confidence is the fuel and the foundation for success. There is no greater source of confidence than our mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom, Dawn, my mother in law, Cynthia Zabel, and to Val Dutille. Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s who have worked hard to build confidence and self worth in their children. Your job is the most important of all jobs on the planet. The results of your work will not only last a lifetime, it will be passed along for generations to come.

*If you know a mother who deserves to hear this message, please share it with her.