What happened after I had my This-Can’t-Be-My-Life moment.

The summer after I graduated from the University of Wisconsin I didn’t have a job. No full-time job. No part-time job. I was living in Madison, lightly looking for an entry-level position in advertising. But not looking in a way that gets the job done. In fact, I still hadn’t set foot in an ad agency.

The Ricki Lake Show

On a hot afternoon that July, when real grown-ups were at work, I found myself lying on my couch in the middle of the day watching The Ricki Lake Show. And suddenly the reality of my situation hit me like a Miley Cyrus wrecking ball. 

I was a good student. I went to a great school. I now had degrees in both Journalism and Psychology. I had ambition. And goals. And pride. And bills to pay. And here I was in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, plopped on my couch, watching a crappy talk show, because I had nothing more important to do with my time. I thought, WTF? (even though WTF hadn’t been invented yet), This can’t be my life.

In that moment, my life changed. I rose from the couch, an unemployed man on a mission. I bounded up the staircase to my bedroom. I grabbed a scrap of paper on my desk that my Profesor Roger Rathke had handed me weeks earlier. On the paper was written Paul Counsell and a phone number.

Paul Counsell was a college buddy of Profesor Rathke’s, and the CEO of Cramer Krasselt, one of America’s great advertising agencies. He was someone I was told I should call. But I hadn’t.

I plucked my corded 1990’s phone from the wall, punched in the phone number, and was introducing myself to Mr. Counsell less than a minute after dumping Ms. Lake. And things started changing.

From that phone call I got an informational interview. Then a job offer as a copywriter. Then I started my real job, with a salary and benefits, and opportunities for growth and travel. All doing what I always wanted to do. I met my wife Dawn at that job. And I met a client there who years later would call me out of the blue, just like I called Paul Counsell, and encourage me to start my own advertising agency. Which I did.

Today I am the Founder and CEO of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Over the past two decades I have worked with some of the best brands in the world. And the best people. My career has taken me to Argentina, Iceland and India. My wife Dawn and I will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our first date tomorrow with our 3 kids. This is my life. Because I got off the couch and made it happen.

Is this your life?

Are you living the life you imagined?  The life you thought you would have when you graduated from high school or college? Or did you fall behind, veer off course, or never get started? Have the recent health and economic crises spun you around and left you wondering what’s next for you?

If you are not living the life you imagined, I hope you have your own This can’t be my life moment. Because that moment can change everything. It can motivate you to take the actions needed to get you where you always wanted to go. There are on-ramps everywhere. So take one. Make that call. Or make a thousand. Change jobs. Change careers. Start your own business. Get back to work. Get away from toxic people. Get near sunshine people. And can-do people. And finally, do what you always knew you could.

Key Takeaway

This-Can’t-Be-My-Life moments are a gift. They are the push you need to get to the place you are supposed to be. The first half of 2020 was full of challenges and setbacks. But it also created opportunities. Take advantage of them. Get off the couch. And make your life happen.

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

Are you disappointed enough in yourself to do something about it?

I love being an entrepreneur. After spending the first 19 years of my career working for ad agencies owned by other people I decided to start my own. That was almost 4 years ago. It was also a leap year. Which is a good year to do anything because it gives you a 24 hour advantage. I tell this to presidential candidates and olympic hopefuls all the time.

The Reaction

Since I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, people often treat me like I am doing something impressive. Or daring. They are positive and supportive of my entrepreneurial adventure. I often hear from people who want to launch their own business. They tell me I was really brave to set out on my own. But when I analyze the driving force behind my leap into entrepreneurship it was not bravery. Not even close.

Ambition

I wanted to own my business since the beginning of my career. I envisioned myself as a business owner or business launcher-type-guy. Whatever that meant. In fact, in my head it was so clear that I would be an entrepreneur that after 15 years of working for other people I considered myself a failure for not actually being a real entrepreneur.

Disappointment for the win!

Eventually, it was the disappointment, and  sense of dissatisfaction in myself that finally moved things forward. Don’t get me wrong, I like myself. But I have a strong vision of my ideal self. And whenever I am not acting in accordance with that vision, or I am too far off the pace I set in my head, I really bothers me. And that disappointment and embarrassment is a powerful fuel. One we should guzzle regularly.

Disappointment (Is better den dat appointment)

Most people never become so disappointed in themselves that it propels them forward. But that is extremely valuable. An injury to your pride is one of the best things that can happen to you. You don’t have to become a prostitute or a heroin addict. Because there is a point of diminishing returns. You just need to be incongruent with your self perception. That feeling eventually pushes you forward like the other side of the magnet.

Key Takeaway.

Create a strong image of who you really are at your core. Write a glorious story about yourself in your head. Make it vivid and real. Think about it all the time. And eventually you will get so fed up with not being that version of yourself that you will take drastic measures. It’s in those drastic measures that the magic happens. And when you do you will feel remarkably alive. Like you are no longer coasting through life. I hope that happens to you. Here’s to you experiencing disappointment in motivating quantities in 2020.

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