On Monday my friend and former coworker Jeff Hilimire and I released our new book, . The book shares 9 proven ways to create an undeniable culture. A great culture is the X-factor that both magnetizes and propels an organization. When you get it right, you create magic. When you get it wrong you create the Los Angeles Lakers.
The “Before the Book” podcast
One of the most enjoyable experiences in the process happened last week. Jeff and I sat down to record a podcast talking about our life and career experiences that have taught us the importance of culture.
This fun 30-minute-ish podcast covers:
Engauge: (How we found our momentum after highly disruptive mergers)
Weness: How it fuels culture. (So follow your weness.)
My Family’s 5 Most Things: One of them surprised and delighted Jeff.
Our families: I find it interesting that Jeff and I both have 3 sisters and no brothers.
Sports: We were both college athletes. (I talk about my college track experience and my high school football team.)
Bad bosses: (They teach us so much. Like the importance of finding a new job)
Everyone has a goal. If you are ambitious, young or greedy you probably have many. Your goals serve as the magnets on your internal navigational compass. (As opposed to your Jeep Compass). Goals are what feed your actions every day. Without goals you are in danger of drifting through life.With a goal you can paddle, set your sails, or fire up your 300 horsepower Evinrude outboard motor, and set a course across the stormy seas of life towards a meaningful destination.
Goals are very personal. They represent our desires, dreams and ambitions. If your goals are large, gaudy or outlandish, like a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), they can make you seem delusional. But it is impossible to accomplish improbable feats without improbable goals.
2 Schools of Thought
One of the great questions in goalology, the study of goals (okay, maybe I just made that up), is whether it is better to share your goals with other people, or keep them to yourself. There are two very different ways to think about this. My great friend Jeff Hilimire and I stand on different sides of the aisle. So we thought it would be worthwhile to share our opposing views.
Analyzing the Analyzers
Adam Albrecht and Jeff Hilimire have interesting similarities. They were both college athletes. Jeff played tennis at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and Adam was a discus and hammer thrower on the track and field team at the University of Wisconsin. Both of these cats are also entrepreneurs.Jeff’s businesses include digital agency, Spunlogic, mobile and digital agency, Dragon Army and the great web-building, good-slinging, non-profit 48in48. Adam’s businesses include the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry and t-shirt company Adam & Sleeve. Yet despite these similarities, they have very different takes on goal sharing.
Jeff’s Views on Goals:
I’m a big believer in not only creating focused, tight, and specific goals (both short- and long-term), but also that you should consider sharing those goals in order to create accountability – for yourself and through others.
Many people have goals, but very few spend the time to write them down. When you force yourself to write something down, you’re creating a new connection in your brain with that “thing”. There have been studies that show this, but I’m not going to share them here, mostly because you have Google*.
But I have found the real power of accountability comes when you share your goals with others. If you’re the only person holding yourself to your commitments, it becomes easy to slack off or move the goalposts. Even if it’s just with a buddy, asking him or her to check in on you periodically dramatically increases the chances of you holding yourself accountable.
Personally, I like to share my goals on my blog, which is as public as it gets. And it works! One of my goals is to read 53 books this year (one more than last year,) and people I know ask me when we get together, “So, how many books are you at so far this year?” At the very least it’s a reminder that I committed to something and need to stick with it.
Not everyone needs this kind of accountability, but I’d guess 99% of people do. Let’s be real, while everyone has goals, very few people actually accomplish them. Not because they don’t have the skills, but because they don’t keep at it. They don’t stay focused, they find excuses, and sometimes they even forget. Writing your goals down and sharing them with others is at least one way to give yourself a better chance of success.
* also because I only kinda think I’ve heard that, so I might have made it up.
Adam’s Views on Goals
I used to subscribe to the theory that it was good to share your goals with others. But not anymore. There is a very basic problem with goal sharing. If you tell people you are going to start a business, run a marathon or donate 10 gallons of blood, you start feeling like it is true. Afterall, it has been stated aloud, and those words have floated from your mouth, through the ether, into someone else’s ear hole. That makes it true, right?
Wrong. Talk is cheap. You could say talk is worthless. (Unless of course you host a talk show, or are a police negotiator. In which case talk is your most valuable asset.)
The problem is that talking about your goals makes you feel as if you are making progress towards your goals. And the more you talk about them with others, the more you feel like they are real and true. Even though there has been no real progress. It is that false sense of progress that undermines many a good, worthy goal.
Goal sharing can also cause you to lose confidence in your ability to achieve those goals. If you want to lose a lot of weight, earn a lot of money or find a really hot spouse, and you tell someone this, you are likely to get negativity, doubt or laughter in return. You don’t need that. You need to believe you can do what you set out to do. Like Gwen Stefani, you need to have no doubt. And big goals produce doubt in others.
To avoid that false sense of progress, and to avoid the doubters, I like to keep my goals to myself. I have many goals, hopes and dreams that never get shared. Because I tell myself that my talk does not achieve anything. I find great motivation in showing people what I have done, rather than talking about whatI will do.
Goals are personal. And we are all motivated in different ways.You need to find out which approach works better for you. So if keeping your goals a secret isn’t working, try sharing. And if talking about your goals isn’t helping, shut up and get moving.
Despite our differences, we both want to hear what you think. Leave a comment and tell us if you think it’s better to shout your goals to the world like a Mexican soccer announcer, or keep them quiet, like Marcel Marceau.
There is a fun debate about what it really takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Some think the key is having a great idea. Others think it is all about your network. While still others think the key is not running out of cash. I would argue that running out of cash is an awfully bad thing for a business. In the same way that running out of blood is bad for the human body. But that’s kind of like saying the key to solving global warming is not letting the Earth get warmer. It may be accurate. But it will make you look like an idiot when you suggest that at your next Mensa meetup.
Jeff Hilimire’s Recipe
Recently, my friend, and entrepreneur, Jeff Hilimire shared his secret recipe for whipping up a successful entrepreneur on LinkedIn.
‘50% amount of runway + 40% hard work/execution + 10% initial idea. I might have overshot the importance of the initial idea.’ -Jeff Hilimire. CEO of Dragon Army and Founder of 48in48
As a good facilitator of engagement should do, Jeff then asked the LinkedIn collective brain if we agreed or disagreed. Which provoked a healthy sharing of opinions. All of which had merit. None of which matched my own.
My Recipe for Entrepreneurial Success
My recipe is simpler than Jeff’s. In fact, I believe there is only one ingredient that matters at all. The absolute essential, non-negotiable, Holy Grail of ingredients, is action. Without action you are guaranteed not to succeed. But with action, continuous action, all things are possible.
The idea is not at all important to entrepreneurial success. Because absolutely everyone has an idea. You have had an idea for a product, service or business that could have worked. I know you have. The only reason that idea hasn’t become a successful business is that you haven’t taken enough action. Yet.
Time, time for some time for some action. (#obscurelyricreference)
Your runway, which is your brine of time and money, is continuously increased by taking more action. Action makes opportunity. Action spins straw into gold. Action is what builds and maintains your network. Action is what makes luck. And action is what makes for a really great date. #amiright
In the past 2.5 years since I took action and launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I have had hundreds of discussions with people about the business ideas they wanted to pursuit. Every one of those ideas could have been successful. And every one of those people could have become a successful entrepreneur if it wasn’t for one missing ingredient. You guessed it: Action, Jackson!
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur the verb is the word. You have to take action. Absolutely nothing happens without it. The best of ideas, the best networked humans, the deepest pockets and the best of intentions are powerless without action. Talk is cheap. Potential is nothing. Ideas are everywhere. So as Nike once so famously and succinctly commanded, if you want to be successful entrepreneur, just do it.
In the late summer of 2015 I got together with my friend Jeff Hilimire for a little update on our lives and careers. Jeff and I had worked closely together for several years as part of the leadership team at Engauge, an advertising agency with offices in Atlanta, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Orlando.
Engauge was a pretty awesome agency, if I do type so myself. Publicis bought the business in the summer of 2013. Jeff left the company the next day to start his next business (his first startup, Spunlogic, was acquired as one of the three initial pillars of Engauge).
Jeff gave me a tour of his new mobile agency, Dragon Army. I met his team. Then Jeff and I sat outside on the company’s deck, and he gave me exciting updates on his business and his life.
Sharing My Plan
Then Jeff asked how things were in my world. I had stayed on with the company we worked at after Publics acquired it two years earlier. I’m sure Jeff was expecting to hear how things were going at work. He was clearly surprised when I told him,
I am planning to start my own ad agency.
At the time I didn’t have a client. I didn’t have an employee. I didn’t have a name. I didn’t even have this blog. I didn’t have anything to make my claim credible, except my vision and a commitment to myself to make it come true.
Talk is Cheap
I am sure Jeff, who has started multiple successful businesses, has heard a lot of big talk from nontrepreneurs like I was. It is really easy to talk about your plans. Everyone does it. It is so much harder to live into them.
Part way through the conversation Jeff checked my entrepreneurial seriousness. Not in a disbelieving way, exactly. Jeff is a very positive person who loves entrepreneurship (it’s one of his favorite ships). He would help anyone who was truly committed to starting their own business. But he seemed to want to know if this was for realsies, or if he should just smile and nod, but not invest any real time, energy or advice.
Jeff cut through the conversation with this simple question:
What is the percent chance you will actually start your own agency? Because the greatest tragedy would be that the next time we meet we have this same conversation. You’d be talking about wanting to start your own agency, but still hadn’t.
It was a great question. My answer could forever be used against me in The District Court of Hot Air and Blown Smoke. But I was glad he asked.
Jeff looked pleasantly surprised by my answer, but double checked like Aaron Rodgers, asking, “Really?”
I responded definitively, ‘Yes! I will fail at this before I do anything else!’
My mind was set. I had already burned my employment ships. I was going to allow myself no chance of retreat. The only way ahead was through my own business.
I recently talked to Jeff about this conversation. I wanted to know what was going through his head on the other side of the table that day two years ago. It was a fun question to ask because The Weaponry is now a very real business, with real clients, real employees and a real office of our own, despite what you might read on our website.
This is what Jeff said:
I talk to literally hundreds of people that want to start companies and never do. So on the one hand I thought there was a slim chance you’d actually do it. But on the other hand, I know you’re a competitor. And I was trying to tap into your sense of competitiveness. But when you said ‘100%!’ I thought, Heck Yeah*! That’s what I want to hear! Now go do it!
*he didn’t actually say ‘heck’.
If you really want to accomplish anything you have to be 100% committed. Don’t give yourself another alternative. Burn your ships. Talk is cheap. There are thousands of people who are buried every day with their dreams still inside them. Don’t let that happen to you.