If you want to be an entrepreneur you have to be willing to eat the butt.

Yesterday I was making myself a sandwich for lunch. I have packed my own lunch for school or work nearly every day since I was 13 years old. The sandwich is always the star of the show, with pretzels and a banana typically playing Kramer and Costanza.

When I pulled out the bread to make my daily sandwich magic I realized I had come to the last 3 pieces of bread in the loaf. Two out of the 3 pieces were butts (meaning the end slices of the loaf). However, there was a fresh new loaf sitting on the counter right next to the sad bag of butts. (Which is what we called the math teachers at my high school.) Now I had to decide what kind of sandwich to make.

Would I…

A: Make a sandwich with 1 butt and 1 regular slice?

B: Open the new bag and make a sandwich with 2 regular slices?

C: Eat a 2 butt sandwich?

Moment of Profunditude

At that moment I realized that this wasn’t really about sandwiches. It was about life. It was about my choices, values, and philosophies. I could decide that life is too short to not eat great sandwiches. Or I could decide to suck it up and eat a 2-butt sandwich for lunch.

The Choice

The choice was clear and easy for me to make. Throughout my life, I have trained myself to do the harder things and take the harder path. It has helped me as an athlete. It has helped me as a parent. And I simply would not have succeeded as an entrepreneur if I wasn’t willing to take the more challenging path. Because as an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make the business succeed. Failure is simply not an option. At least not if you want to keep putting sandwiches on the table.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship is like eating a 2-butt sandwich. You have to take on whatever is in front of you. You use all of your resources. You don’t make excuses or avoid hard or unpleasant things. Train yourself to be comfortable with less than the ideal and success will come much easier. And it will be more enjoyable as a result.

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

The end of daylight saving is a great time to start your next big thing.

In 2005 I went to Iceland during the summer solstice to film a TV show. It was an incredible experience. On the flight from Minneapolis to Reykjavik, I watched what should have been the sunset through my airplane window. But instead of setting, the sun bounced off the horizon and went back up. And I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

The sun never set the entire week I was in Iceland. It never got dark. And we never got tired. It was fun and energizing, like being in Vegas. Except the buffets were mostly fish, lamb, and rhubarb.

The atmosphere created a natural high. It was as if we were binging life through the nonstop outdoor activity. However, I couldn’t help but wonder what the counterbalance to this experience was.

I asked our producer Sven (of course his name was Sven) what people did during the winter in Iceland when it was cold and dark for long stretches. He told me that winter was wonderful because people spent a lot of time on their projects. On creativity, reading, art, and making things. And keeping each other warm (wink wink).

Now is a great time to get comfortable and create. But don’t think too much about the weird bird statue in the corner.

The End Of Daylight Savings

Today marks the end of daylight saving time in the United States. Which means it will now be dark by the end of the typical workday. Plus temperatures are dropping and in many parts of the country, snow could arrive any day now. That is unless global warming gives Mother Nature Alzheimers and she forgets.

The Indoor Season

Today we all transition to our indoor season. Which should be just as exciting and interesting as the warm and sunshiney months. Because now is the perfect time to start new projects, or resume those important projects you couldn’t carry while wearing flips flops and bikinis or board shorts.

Create

Now is the time to focus on creating businesses, writing books, reimagining your home, painting, and drawing. Now is the time for making music and playing instruments, even if you’ve never done it before. Because you can learn anything online.

The indoor season is the perfect time to plan your next vacation, your next adventures, or the next chapter of your life. Enjoy the time to think, and to do all the things that thinking inspires you to do.

Key Takeaway

Reframe the way you see the darker and colder part of the year as the exciting indoor season. Embrace and enjoy all of the additive elements it offers. Tap into your creativity and make new things. Think, read, write, and learn. Challenge yourself to make progress towards larger life goals that demand the type of focus the indoor season affords. And let the sunshine of spring find an even better, happier more fulfilled version of you.

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

The Weaponry turns 5 years old!

I always wanted to start my own business. Not because I was an unhappy employee or a free spirit who couldn’t stand to work for The Man. I just like a good challenge. And everything I ever heard about entrepreneurship made it seem like it was the career equivalent to bull riding. Or free solo climbing. Or streaking at the Super Bowl. I knew it was dangerous. The likelihood of failure was very high. But if you are successful, there are few endeavors as rewarding.

On the set of a recent TV shoot with Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts. I tried to steal his necklace, and he tried to defend it. It was all very subtle.

Some Fun Entrepreneurial Facts

  • There are 31 million businesses in the United States
  • 90% fail within the first 5 years
  • Only 4% ever make $1 million a year.
  • The average age of startup Founders is 42 years 
  • A first-time entrepreneur has an 18% chance of succeeding
  • 70% of entrepreneurs were married when they started their first business
  • 60% had at least one child
  • 44% had two or more children
  • 66% of start-up founders pay themselves less than $50,000
  • 69% of American entrepreneurs start their business at home
  • 80% of small businesses are non-employer businesses. 
  • 51% of small businesses make less than $100,000 in annual sales. 

Riding The Bull

With these facts in hand, I launched The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency, in 2016. I wholeheartedly believed that we would succeed. The statistics didn’t scare me. They motivated me to prove that I was one of the few, the proud, the elite non-failers. Although I am sure the failers also felt confident when they first started out. After all, you don’t jump out of an airplane unless you are highly confident your parachute will open. Unless maybe there were snakes on the plane.

A constant reminder in our offices to think.

Turning 5 Years Old

Today, I am thrilled and proud to say The Weaponry is 5 years old! We gave grown significantly each year. And despite the global pandemic, 2020 was our best year yet. Now 2021 is off to a strong start. We continue to add to our team. And we have added 2 new clients in the past 2 weeks.

From a trip to India in 2018 to work with our clients Fifth Third Bank and SLK Global Solutions. I didn’t get the White Shirt Memo.

Funner Entrepreneurial Facts

  • The Weaponry has offices in both Milwaukee and Columbus.
  • We have 24 clients
  • We have clients in all 4 US Time Zones.
  • We have clients in 3 countries: The United States, Canada and India.
  • We offer Health Insurance and Dental Insurance
  • We have a 401(k) plan with a 4% match
  • We have two red refrigerators
  • Both of our offices are in Suite #206 (Although the signs say Sweet #206. Because I thought that was funnier. Those are the kinds of dumb things you can do when you start your own business.)
This is where the magic happens.

What’s Next?

I feel as if we have only just begun, like Karen Carpenter. We have much more to accomplish. We expect us to grow and expand significantly. It is clear that we are having great success with happy clients who have hired The Weaponry 2 and 3 times as they have changed jobs. Which I think is the best compliment a client can give you.

Our 3 Pillars of Success.

Before we won our very first client (Global Rescue), I declared The Weaponry’s recipe for long-term success. And unlike that finger-licker Colonel Sanders, I am happy to share it with you.

  1. Great Creative Idea
  2. Excellent Customer Service
  3. A Fun Experience for Everyone Involved.
Me and Dan Richards, CEO of our first client, Global Rescue. We were trying to look tough while wearing polos.

What’s Next?

If we continue to deliver on these 3 points we will enjoy perpetual success. And while I am very thankful to have made it to 5 years, I believe the job of leadership is to keep a business in business forever. To do that we will have to continue to listen, learn, adapt and improve. I am fully committed to it. Just like a streaker.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. In fact, it offers one of life’s greatest challenges. But if you want to try it, I highly encourage you. It is extremely rewarding in more ways than I have room to share in a concluding paragraph. To dramatically improve your chances of success start a business doing something you know well. Choose work you love to do. And you will have the intellectual equipment and the magnetic pull to get you to 5 years and beyond.

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

Why 2021 might not be all you dreamed of.

As we approach the final two months of the year I have noticed a trend. People are TGIFing 2020. They are thankful that this year is almost over, and can’t wait to move on to the next 365 days.

But be careful. We have no idea what 2021 will hold. Yes, 2020 has been a year for the history books. We have had an assorted collection of challenging issues develop over the past 7 months. You may have noticed.

Covid-19, the economic recession, the renewed spotlight on systemic racism, and our contentious political environment have made for quite a cocktail. It’s hard not to have bitter-beer face just thinking about these issues.

A lot has been broken and burned this year. Cities near me, including Kenosha and Madison, Wisconsin look nothing like they did on February 29th. In fact, so much has happened this year you probably forgot we had a February 29th. Poor, forgotten February 29th…

In 2020 we are also experiencing unprecedented weather issues, including an unprecedented wildfire season, and a double shot of hurricanes and tropical storms. We have also had the earliest heavy snowstorms to ever hit the midwest, and that windy thing that knocked over grain bins in Iowa.

But don’t fast forward to next year just yet. The calendar flip will not solve the issues we are facing.

The Future

I am not a pessimist, but I fully recognize that 2021 could be even more challenging than 2020. The weather is not likely to back off. The pandemic is showing all signs of intensifying before it recedes. And the economic implications are sure to mount as people are out of work, businesses close, and loans are unpaid. Plus, what’s up with coins? (Said in my best Jerry Seinfeld voice.)

Back to Today

Instead, look for the good in this year. And in every day. If you are healthy, and your family is healthy, you have much to appreciate. Be thankful for increased time with those closest to you. We can all be thankful for a renewed awareness of old issues, and the great possibility of us solving them together. Cue We Are The World

2020 has introduced innovation and adaptability that will move our entire planet forward. We are all now more prepared for all manner of challenge to come.

2020 has created an amazing opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurial-minded humans. If you can’t find a problem to solve right you are not thinking outside the box. Speaking of boxes, would someone please launch a business to fix the box problem? I am tired of breaking down and recycling cardboard boxes, only to have new boxes arrive at my doorstep the next day. #ReuseTheBoxes

2020 has redirected travel from crowded cities and manufactured tourist attractions to quieter countrysides. We have spent more time in local, state and national parks. Many of us have reconnected with the wonders of the natural world. We have recognized the value of a walk in the woods, the view of mountains and the magic of sunrise and sunset that we haven’t noticed since Fiddler On The Roof.

2020 has helped us recognize more value in the little things. We have slowed our rushing and hard-charging a notch. We are being more understanding of the challenges of working parents and single moms. We recognize that anyone can suddenly be out of work. Even great pilots, chefs, and professional athletes.

We have become thankful for our schools and all the teachers have done for us. That awareness of the challenges other humans are facing is a gift. And just as the Great Depression impacted the financial decisions of those who lived through it for the rest of their lives, I hope the lessons we have learned in 2020 will last us all a lifetime.

Key Takeaway

There will be more challenges ahead in 2021. So find the good in every day. And do your part to help solve the issues that won’t go away without our help.

If you need encouragement here it is.

If you want to do great things find your Encouragers. They are the people who will listen to your crazy dreams and tell you that you should. Not that you shouldn’t.

Spend time with those who believe in you. It will make you believe in yourself. Find people who have bet on themselves and won. That mindset is contagious. Like the coronavirus. Only it’s good for you.

Too often when we have dreams, especially big crazy dreams, others see the problems and not the possibilities. They know it will be hard. They focus on the downside, the drawbacks and the pitfalls. But focusing on the downside doesn’t make dreams come true. Just ask Hall & Oates.

Don’t spend time or give credit to those who discourage you. They are quite literally trying to rob you of your courage.

Courage and effort are all you need in order to do hard things. Courage helps you get going. Courage helps you keep going. Courage is the bridge between believing and knowing. And it is the only way to get where you want to go.

Courage is a super fuel. It’s more valuable than gold, diamonds or oil. Because it propels humans. Courage is one of the most valuable resources you have because it helps you power past bumps, barriers and boundaries. You know, The Killer Bs.

Courage is the fuel to try. To dare. To do. Courage creates movement. Courage is what makes people take the leap, take on an enemy, speak up, speak out. And it’s what makes you throw a bucket of water on a wicked witch.

Increasing another human’s courage is one of the most valuable things we can do on this planet. When I told people that I wanted to start my own advertising agency no one told me not to. In fact, the response was quite the opposite. Everyone I talked to about my plan encouraged me to make it happen. So I did.

Now it’s your turn. Now is your time. And I’m happy to be your courage donor. I signed my card and everything.

Key Takeaway

If you have a dream you should follow it. If there is something you have always wanted to do, go do it. If you want to turn your passion into your profession don’t let anyone stop you. If you want to travel, volunteer or build something special you should make it happen. You can do it. And I encourage you to.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message I encourage you to 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.

Every day I write the blog. And more people read it.

It’s really easy to start your own blog. I should know. I have started at least 8 of them. But it’s really hard to keep them going. I should know. Because 7 of mine moved like glaciers, until global warming put them out of their misery.

I enjoyed writing the blogs. But I never created a habit that kept them going. It takes time to find your groove, your voice and your writing schedule. Even more challenging, it takes a lot to attract an audience that wants to read what you are writing.

Writing No Matter Whataburger

When I started this blog I made a commitment to myself to just keep at it, no matter what. I was committed to sharing my experience as I launched my own advertising agency from dust. I thought it would help others start their own businesses. Just as I had read other blogs that inspired my entrepreneurial adventure. If the business failed and no one read the blog, at least when it ended I would have the experience and learnings well documented for myself. Which is like seeing the light at the end of my carpal tunnel.

My Twins

In many ways The Perfect Agency Project blog and The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, are like twins. They were born at the same time. They have grown together. And they are inseparable. Like conjoined twins. Or regular twins who got into the Gorilla Glue.

Quiet Growth

The growth of The Weaponry has been a shared experience, as we have added team members and clients. But the growth of The Perfect Agency Project blog has been private and quiet.

Writing this blog is a solitary endeavor. It’s just me and my computer. I write down my thoughts, lessons, experiences, observations and insights that stem from working in and on my business. Then I hope that someone, somewhere will read the posts and find some value in them.

Sometimes the posts are well read. And sometimes they are not. It is hard to tell why some posts fly and some flop. Especially when what I consider to be the best, most important ideas gain very little traction.

Write Anyway

But whether a post was extremely popular or went mostly unnoticed, I write again the next day. I have been consistent and persistent. I just kept writing. And just kept posting.

Seeing Obvious Progress

I am proud to say that on September 17th, 2019, the total number of views and visitors to my blog for 2019 surpassed the total number of views and visitors the blog received in all of 2018.  Which means that it had the same number of visitors in 8.5 months in 2019 as it did in the 12 months of 2018. #FirstGradeMathYall

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This is the growth chart for my blog. It represents the views and visitors (dark and light shades) for each year since 2015. The pink at the top of 2019 is optimism.

Insistence on Persistence

The persistence is leading to progress. I still have 3.5 months of readership growth ahead this year. At the pace of 3 posts per week, that is 42 blog posts left to share in 2019. As a result, I expect a 50% growth in views and visitors for the year. Which for a blog I have been writing for 4 years feels pretty good.

Fun Fact: The Perfect Agency Project blog has been read in 113 countries around the world in 2019.

I attribute the growth to just keeping at it. Slow and steady. Each post, whether it is read by tens or thousands, contributes to that total. And that’s progress. Truly, every little bit helps.

Key Takeaway

Success doesn’t come overnight. It comes in small steps that seem insignificant on their own. But over time the cumulative effect of all those small steps is significant progress. So keep going. Commit to creating a habit of action, day after day. Then give yourself time. Time for the results to pile up and make a difference. If I can do it you can do it. Do a little every day. And just don’t stop.

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

It’s my birthday! Time for 5 new goals.

Today, May 25th, is my birthday. I consider my birthday the most important day of my life. Seriously. If it wasn’t for my birthday I doubt I’d have a wedding anniversary. Or kids. Or my birthday suit. Or a blog.

The Real New Year’s Day

I think of my birthday, not New Year’s Day, as the starting point of my year. And this year I am focused on some very important goals. Or as a Mexican soccer announcer would say, I have some ‘Muy Importante Gooooooooooals!’

My 5 Goals For The Next Year

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Me at work with my favorite saying.

1. Get More Aggressive.  Recently I’ve done more leaping and less looking. I’ve taken several premature steps forward on initiatives rather than taking the time to properly prepare, and consider all of the possible outcomes. The results have been impressive. By simply moving forward when I get an inkling I am creating more progress than I do when I carefully consider my options. So in the year ahead, less thinking. More doing. Or as Toby Keith said, a little less talk and a lot more action.

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 I remember being excited to hit 200 blog posts. That was almost 100 posts ago. Art credit goes to Intern Ava.

2. Write more.  I already write like I am Orville and Wilbur’s third brother. But in the year ahead I have goals to crank my typewriter up to 11. In addition to this blog that I post to 3 times per week, I now have 3 book ideas started. I also met with a couple of magazine publishers yesterday about writing a regular piece for their pub. (That’s slang for publication. I am not writing for an Irish bar.) How did this opportunity come about?  I got aggressive and contacted them on an impulse, before I really thought it through. (See Goal #1)

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I launched my first business with my cousin Brooks Albrecht. Now we’re discussing other ideas.

3. Create Another Business. There is something about entrepreneurship that is like Pringles. Because once you pop, you can’t stop. I have 3 leading business ideas I am currently working through. One involves cheese. (#WhenInWisconsin…) One is a franchise opportunity (not to be confused with a french fry opportunity). And the other involves fo real estate. (#forealdo). Of course I have other ideas that get added to the list daily. So I want to bring at least one of the ideas to life in the next year. But no matter which one wins, I want to eat more cheese.

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The stud in the middle is my man Enrique Perez-Guerra, my college athletic trainer. We reconnected recently after 20 years. My teammate Scott Brinen and I now video conference with each other once a month.

4. Become A Greater Connector. I am a dot connector. It is how I process the world. I love creating, maintaining and facilitating connections. This is my most meaningful contribution to the people in my circles. Because at the end of our days the only thing that really matters is the impact we have on each other’s lives. Wait, did that just get real serious, real fast? #crickets

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My family on the Riverwalk in San Antonio during Fiesta.

5. More Quality Time With Family. I put my family at the top of the list of people I want to connect with. Like the meatball on top of spaghetti. My family includes my wife, Dawn and children Ava, Johann and Magnus. But it also includes my parents, sisters and their families. As well as my very large extended family. Especially now that I am about to make my first lap around the sun without any grandparents. Which means my generation needs to prioritize and facilitate our gatherings now that my 4 grandparents are sitting together at the great card table in the sky.

Key Takeaway

Birthdays are important. They serve as an annual reminder of the scarcity of time. To make the most of each year, reevaluate what is most important to you on your birthday. Set new and higher goals and expectations. Then charge forward to meet them. It’s how we create a life worth writing about. Which, if I’m lucky, would be book number 4.

My Birthday Wish

If you want to do me a special free favor on my birthday, please subscribe to get this blog gift wrapped and delivered to your inbox. It would really mean a lot to me. The subscribe button is on the home page.

*Also, Happy Birthday to my sister Heather. Yes we share a birthday. No we’re not twins. #howweirdisthat

The best way to pay lower taxes next year.

April 15th is once again upon us. If you pay a lot in taxes it might feel like Uncle Sam is upon you too. This time of year people always complain about how much they owe the government in taxes. Clearly the complainers don’t know how easy it is to dramatically lower your tax burden.

Disclaimer

Before I share my surefire tax lowering technique I should acknowledge that I am not a licensed tax professional. So anything I share here should be verified by your tax consultant, or by actually reading the IRS publications. But I am pretty sure this is not the same tax lowering strategies used by Wesley Snipes, Martha Stewart or Willie Nelson.

Tax Paying Experience

While I am not a certified tax professional, I own my own business and file taxes in 3 different states. I have been paying taxes since I was 14 years old. I have calculated my taxes on my own and I’ve used Turbo Tax. Today, I use a team of professional tax accountants. All 3 of these tax preparing approaches have confirmed my bulletproof tax reduction strategy.

My Tax Reduction Technique

My surefire technique for lowering your tax burden is so easy anyone can use it. Even better, it is legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

If you want to pay far less in taxes next year simply make far less income.

The Ultimate Tax Hack

If a lower tax bill is a high priority, simply throttle back your effort and contribution at work. Unless a family member owns the company, or you are really, really good-looking (#Zoolander), you will certainly feel an equal drop in both your compensation and your tax liability. It’s that easy to do. In fact, it is much easier to lower your taxes significantly than it is to raise them.

top view of man holding android smartphone near macbook and newspaper
This is not me. It’s a stock photo created to represent someone doing business or taxes. Or perhaps it’s a photo of a magician about to make that phone disappear by drawing your attention to the succulent in the upper left hand corner, then slipping the phone up his sleeve. Any hoo, the image is here to add visual interest to the story. I hope it helped.

My Tax History

When I was in high school and college, I typically made between $3000 and $5000 working during the summer. As a result my taxes were tiny. In fact, I am pretty sure the government lost money on the time they spent reviewing my taxes.

In the first year after I graduated from college I made $21,000. My taxes were still really low. In fact, the government gave me almost all of the money I paid in taxes back to me. When I received my refund check from the IRS that year it was accompanied by a note that said, ‘Thanks for the laugh!’

My Taxes Today.

Now I make a lot more money. And I pay a lot more in taxes. In 2016 I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Clearly I didn’t listen to those who told me that if my income goes up, my tax bill will too. In fact, this year I will pay more in taxes than I made in gross salary during the 7th year of my career. And I love it.

photo of a woman holding an ipad

Reinterpreting Those Damn Taxes

Taxes are a sign of success. To pay a lot in taxes you have to make a lot of money. If you are paying a lot more now than you did a few years ago, congratulations! You must be making a lot more. If your total tax bill is obscene, even better! You must be making an obscene amount of money!

The Tax Reminder

Remember, taxes enable us to pay for things together. If it weren’t for taxes, you would have to build your own roads, your own schools, and your own parks. But thanks to the tax system, we all give a little and get a whole lot in return. Which means that taxes help us save money overall, and increase our quality of life. If you are not paying taxes it is like going to a pot luck dinner and not bringing any pot or any luck to share. That makes you a mooch. Or a free loader. Don’t be that kid.

Key Takeaway

To pay a lot in taxes you have to make a lot of money. Never lose that perspective. Be proud of that money you contribute to benefit us all. I hope you make a boatload of money next year. Then I hope you ship a life raft’s worth of tax payments to the IRS to help save us all. Be proud to pay a larger tax bill each year. It’s a sign of success. Sure, it’s easy to slash your tax bill by lowering your income. But after you’ve done that once you will realize it feels a lot better to pay a lot more.

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

Yesterday I had an amazing chance to complete a life goal!

I spent the last hours of my 39th year reflecting on my life. I wrote down a long list of things I was proud I had accomplished so far. It was good to take a 40-year view of life. In fact, I consider this moment one of the pivotal moments in my adventure on Earth. It helped put my journey and path in perspective. After I took inventory of all the good things I had accomplished and experienced I turned my attention to the future.

I asked myself a simple question:

If life ended right here, what things would I regret not doing?

This was an exciting question. Because it would form my to-do list for the next chapter of life. At that point I felt like I was living up to most of my expectations. My personal life was great. I had a wonderful wife (Dawn), a daughter (Ava) and two sons (Johann and Magnus). My parents, sisters and their families were all doing well. I have a huge and wonderful extended family and great friends around the world.

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My family.

My career was going very well. I was the Chief Creative Officer of a 275-person advertising agency called Engauge, and we were about to finalize a deal to sell the agency to Publicis, the giant advertising agency holding company out of Paris.

The 4 Things

With my personal and professional life on track, what were the things that I would regret not doing if died the next day? There were 4 things that quickly rose to the top.

  1. More international travel. I had visited 11 foreign countries at that time. But that left about 200 that I hadn’t seen.
  2. Starting an advertising agency.
  3. Starting a real estate business.
  4. Donating blood.

This became my checklist of things to accomplish in the decade ahead.

The Advertising Agency

Within 2 years I began plans to launch my own advertising agency. And within 3 years I had actually left my job, started the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, and had clients in Atlanta, Boston, Quebec, Milwaukee and San Francisco.

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Me and my cousin Brooks at The Weaponry.

The Real Estate Business

By the end of that 3rd year, Dawn and I had bought a new house and converted our home in Atlanta into a rental property, complete with tenants and rental income. Which meant that we had birthed our real estate business.

The International Travel

Last year I had a really exciting opportunity to travel to India to film a video for a great client, Fifth Third bank. My experience there was incredible. In fact I summarized it in this popular blog post, 20 interesting things you notice when you travel to India. Now America is the only country that reads my blog more than India.

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I am excited to be making good progress on these 3 areas. Which are the toughest 3 on my list to accomplish. Which leaves just one of my goals for the decade unaddressed.

Until yesterday.

Donating Blood

Yesterday morning when I got on the elevator to go to my office I saw a flyer posted above the keypad. There was a blood drive, from 10am to 2pm in the office space directly above The Weaponry. I was thrilled. This was the sign I needed. And today was the day!

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The Flyer

My Dad

A quick bit of background. My Dad, Robert Albrecht donates blood like it is his job. He is the equivalent of a Million Mile Flyer for giving blood. But I had never given blood myself, and have always felt bad about this. When I was on the track team at the University of Wisconsin our coaches discouraged us from giving for training and performance reasons. After graduation I simply never found the on-ramp to giving. I have no fear of blood or needles or ‘I gave’ stickers. I just hadn’t done it.

At 11am I left my office and made my way to suite 307. I was more excited than most people to donate blood. But then again, most people don’t have donating blood on their bucket list. I walked in the room and was greeted by a blue scrubbed technician. I said, ‘If you have any time slots still available I am full of blood, and willing to give some to you.’ She laughed and told me there was an open slot at 11:50am.

I was thrilled. And at 11:50am I was back and got the process started. I signed in on a clipboard and was taken to a semi-private cubicle for my pre-screening. They took my driver’s license and entered a bunch of information about me into a computer. Then they had me scan a binder previewing the questionnaire I was about to take.

The Questionnaire

Then I took the questionnaire. It was crazy. It asked if I was, or ever had been pregnant. It asked if I took any drugs, received a blood transfusion, had AIDS or Cancer. It asked if I had ever had man on man sex, or sex with a prostitute. #thingsIhadn’texpectedtoreadthatday.

When I was finished with the 45 question survey I only said Yes to one question. The technician then reviewed my answers and said, ‘It looks like we have just one question to review.’ It says that you have traveled outside of the US or Canada in the past year. I proudly said, ‘Yes!’

The technician asked where I had traveled. I told her I had been to India. She then asked me what area I visited. I replied that I had been to Bangalore, in southern India.

She then pulled out a binder to check on any restrictions that may apply, based on my travel. Once she found what she was looking for she turned the binder around towards me. She put her finger next to the word India. She then slid her finger to show me that travelers to India were prohibited from donating blood for one year, due to the threat of Malaria.

I was denied.

She told me to come back at the end of September and they would happily take my blood. She then handing me my parting gift. It was a ticket that provided free admission for four people to Mt. Olympus Water Park in Wisconsin Dells. While I love a good water park, this was little consolation for not being able to check off one my major life goals.

Reflecting

But I couldn’t help but smile, reflecting on the last few hours of my 39th year. That night I declared I would launch my own business. Which lead to exciting international travel. Which prevented me from donating blood. In other words, I still have unfinished business.

Key Takeaway

Take inventory of your life. Give gratitude for all you have and all you’ve done, both personally and professionally. And think about the things you will regret not doing next. Write them down. Prioritize them. And give yourself a deadline to accomplish them. Then take action. Even long lives fly by. If you don’t recognize, declare and take action towards the things you want most, they will never happen.

I am excited to have made such good progress on 3 out of 4 Decade Goals. In September I expect to knock off another. Unless, of course, I have more exciting international travel before then. Which is always a possibility. Afterall, it is on my to-do list.

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