Why you should surround yourself with people who make you better.

The most exciting project you will ever undertake in life is you. You get one opportunity to make one human as amazing as possible. And you have complete control over that human. Except when you get the hiccups or your arm falls asleep.

An amazing life can be defined and measured in a hundred different ways. But you get to choose your own definition. And the unit of measure. Better yet, like The Urban Dictionary, you can change the definition as you go.

But no matter what your self-improvement journey looks like, there is one rule that will never fail.

The best way to become a better person is to surround yourself with better people.

The right people will inspire you. Encourage you. And set a great example for you to follow.

They will share what they have learned. They will push you to push yourself further. They will show you the way. And challenge you to keep up.

The right people will open doors you didn’t know existed. They will demonstrate new techniques. Illuminate new ideas. And show you what you’ve been missing.

Better people pull you up. They suggest others to follow and learn from. They provide better criteria. And set new standards.

Spend time with others who will raise your expectations. Sharpen your thinking. And broaden your view.

Surround yourself with people who maintain good habits. Who will embarrass you for your bad habits. Who will expose your ignorance. And offer you better alternatives.

Spend time with others who reveal your strengths. Who will fuel your confidence. Who will help you strengthen your foundation. And who introduce you to more great people who will exert even more positive peer pressure on you. That is simply the best way to become your best self.

Pro Tip:

Thanks to modern technology and the Gutenberg printing press, you can also surround yourself with great people through books, social media, podcasts, or blogs. The principle is the same. And it’s a great way to augment your social circle if you live in Alaska, have awkward social skills, or live in a concrete dorm with a lot of bars, and barbwire that makes it hard to grab coffee. #ThereIsAlwaysAWay

Key Takeaway

Great people are contagious. When you spend time with them their greatness spreads. It inspires you to do and be more. They provide both a model and a path to follow. And they introduce you to more great people. Which has a compounding effect on your own self-improvement.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have collected, check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How strong is your personal gravity?

Have you ever noticed that when apples break their stematic bonds with trees that they fall to the ground? Sir Isaac Newton noticed. And with this simple observation, he discovered gravity. Which we have come to know as the planetary pull. Gravity is the force that pulls us towards Earth. It also keeps the moon and all of the satellites in orbit. Including the Georgia Satellites. (So don’t give me no lines and keep your hands to yourself.)

But planets aren’t the only ones that create gravity. All heavenly bodies do. And you do too. Even if your body is no longer heavenly.

However, not all gravity is created equal. Which is why you feel like you weigh less on the moon than you do on the Earth. It’s why you feel heavier on Saturn or Jupiter. And it’s why you feel lazy when you are on your Uranus.

Your Gravitational Pull

Your personal gravitational pull is a result of the value you create for others and the energy you radiate. The more value you offer and the more energy you emit the more personal attraction you create.

There is an easy way to evaluate your own gravitational pull. Just look at the people you are attracting and ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What kind of people are you attracting? This indicates the quality of your gravity.
  2. Are you attracting many or are there few? This indicates the quantity of your gravity.
  3. Is their orbit growing closer to you or drifting farther away? This indicates your relative growth.

Key Takeaway

The great sign of growth and improvement as a human is to look at who is in your orbit. As you grow wiser and kinder you will attract more and better people. Positive energy attracts. Negative energy repels. Dedicate yourself to improving your personal gravity. It will not only improve your own life, but it will improve the lives of those around you. It will attract more great people to your orbit. And that, my friends, is heavenly.

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

+If you’re interested in more ideas on personal growth and self-improvement, check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

My 3 driving desires.

Life is an all-you-can-eat buffet. And I want to devour it all. My mouth is watering every morning when I wake up. My alarm clock is like Pavlov’s dog’s dinner bell. It has me rising each morning like Drooly Andrews to the sound of that music.

There are 3 areas of life’s buffet that interest me most. And none of them are Charlie Sheen-ian.

My 3 Driving Desires

  1. I want to know everyone.
  2. I want to read everything.
  3. I want to visit everywhere.

I know this trifecta is impossible to accomplish. Probably. I can’t actually go everywhere, read everything and meet everyone. After all, I am not the Pope. (The hat doesn’t work with my hairdo.) But even unfulfilled, these 3 desires are important drivers. Like Donald and Minnie.

Key Takeaway

These 3 food groups are essential to your growth, wisdom and creativity. These are the 3 great sources of knowledge. The person who devours the most will know the most. Because the more you know about people, places and things the more you know about life. And the more you know about life the more you know yourself.

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

+If you would also like to read everything you will dig my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

A valuable Thanksgiving lesson from a lifetime of eating.

When I tell people that I was a discus and hammer thrower at a Big 10 university it often surprises them. I simply don’t look the part. I am often asked if I was bigger back then. I wasn’t. But I sure tried.

When I was in college I would always eat 3-to 5 plates of food at dinner. In fact, I remember my Grampy Sprau, who was a life-long farmer saying, ‘I have never in my life seen anyone who can eat more food than you can.’ I probably should have been concerned given the fact that this observation came from a man who fattened Angus beef cattle for a living.

Grampy was right. I was really good at eating large quantities. My friends frequently encouraged me to enter eating challenges where if you eat the entire Belly Blaster or Gastronormous Burger you get the whole meal, and diabetes, for free.

A couple of decades of hindsight have revealed that there was a major, long-term advantage to such eating. But it certainly wasn’t caloric.

The Insight

Because I ate so much in college, the people who I sat down with at the start of my meals were usually long gone after I finished plate #2. Which meant that new people would come to sit and eat with me. Or I would grab another plate and sit down with another table of people.

As a result, I would eat dinner every night with twice as many people as everyone else. This just seemed like fun at the time. We were simply hanging out, talking, eating, and stacking empty plates.

This picture of me and my teammate Bob Smith appeared in the Madison newspaper when I was in school. Bobby and I could really throw down some food back then. The paper mislabeled me as my teammate Alex ‘Big Drawz’ Mautz. My late, great, hilarious friend Manny Castro is in the background.

However, as I now look back at that time, after years of grabbing coffee, professional networking lunches, and business dinners, I recognize the real value. I was developing relationships and maintaining friendships with twice as many people as everyone else. I was doing what they would later call networking without even trying. It was a product of my need for food. And my naturally social nature.

As a result, I developed a lot of strong friendships in college. The value of those relationships has multiplied over time, just like any good investment.

Today, I realize that my strong and supportive network has been key to my entrepreneurial success. But more importantly, it has contributed significantly to my happiness and sense of belonging. Because at the end of the day, those are the things that matter most.

Key Takeaway

Enjoy the social benefits of eating with others this Thanksgiving. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to meet more people and strengthen your relationships. Engage in discussions during your meals. Ask questions. Share conversation starters. Be a facilitator. As a result, you can help create shared experiences around your table that will turn into memories that will be enjoyed for a lifetime.

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

If you want something good to happen put a date on it.

There was a consistent theme in my week. I had several great interactions with friends, neighbors and business associates. Then, at the end of our call or in-person conversation, the other person said, ‘We really should…’

What followed the really should were things like:

  • Grab coffee.
  • Grab lunch.
  • Talk further.
  • Do this again.
  • Do this more often.
  • Have you over.
  • Plan a retreat.
  • Get together with our whole crew.
  • Not tell the police.

All of those comments were true. We should all do more things together. We should deepen our relationships with others. We should share more and learn and be inspired by each other more.

But in order to do that you can’t let the plans float. #NoFloaters You can’t simply lob a ‘We Should’ out there and think that anything will happen. As JFK said, things don’t just happen. They are made to happen.

Calendar It.

The next time someone floats a good plan your way, stick it on your calendar. Find a date as soon as you can and make it real. Find a time that works for you both that day. Or the next day at the latest.

Then the floating plan becomes a calendared plan. And calendared plans become real plans. It is the best way to make your shoulds, wishes and wants a reality.

Better yet, make your plans repeating events. This could mean you get together automatically every week, month, quarter, or year. Then enjoy the compounding effect of your interactions by making just one easy plan.

Me and my friend Troy Allen made a plan last week to get together in Columbus. And because it was on the calendar, we made it happen. (I know you were checking out Troy’s butt in the mirror.)

Key Takeaway

When a good plan is floated your way make it real by giving it a date. Put it on your calendar. Make it a scheduled event, not just a hypothetical occurrence. By turning your ‘we shoulds‘ into ‘we dids‘ you will live a fundamentally different and more rewarding life.

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

** If you think we should make a plan together let’s get it on a calendar.

Who would you offer an open invitation to your time?

John D. Rockefeller was a super busy human. The oil tycoon and one-time richest rock on the block could not have been more in-demand. Yet, after meeting William Rainey Harper, Rockefeller so enjoyed their conversation, and was so inspired by Harper’s thinking that he offered him an open invitation to come talk to Rockefeller anytime he wanted.

To be granted Rockefeller’s All-Access pass Harper must have been quite a special guy. Indeed, Doogie Harper entered college at the age of 10, graduated at 14 and earned his PhD from Yale at 19. But you have to imagine that a person of Rockefeller’s wealth and experience met many smart and interesting cats.

This Begs 2 Questions:

  1. Do you have a person that you would offer an open invitation to come talk to you?

Or perhaps more importantly:

2. Who would you have to be to receive such an invitation?

Like one of those cooking shows where they prepared the final dish ahead of time, I have already spent some time thinking about the question. So here is my freshly baked answer:

To earn an open invitation to my time you need to meet the following criteria:

  1. Be kind. Friendliness is the ultimate ness.
  2. Offer wisdom. Having the wisdom of experience makes you a valuable resource. If you’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt and hat, then you bring great value to me.
  3. Be a problem solver. Can you help me think through the problems, shortcomings and challenges I face? And can you check out the hook while my DJ revolves it?
  4. Be super funny? Humor draws me to others. If you are super funny I may give you a pass on all the rest.
  5. Offer motivation. If you make me want to charge windmills I’ll make time for you.
  6. Be inspirational. We can never have too much.
  7. Intelligence. Show me a great way of thinking and you will improve my own.
  8. Be brave. Courage is contagious. But you don’t have to wear a mask or get a vaccine because of it.
  9. Be a gifted storyteller. A great storyteller is an entertainer. Like watching a TV show, movie or play, a storyteller helps fill your life with interesting and memorable tales.
  10. Be a great listener. Sometimes we just want someone to listen to us.
  11. Have a great perspective. A person that can help you see life, people, and challenges through an interesting lens, that is different than your own, offers additive value.
  12. Smell really good. I like people who smell good.

Key Takeaway

Think about the type of person that you would offer an open invitation to spend time with you. Then work hard to become that person. Not only will others enjoy your company, you will enjoy your own. Which is the most important measure of all.

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

Entrepreneurship taught me I can create my own friend groups.

When I was in high school I was part of a few natural groups. I played football and felt like part of the team. I participated in track & field and I felt like I was part of that team too. The track team was far bigger and was co-ed. Which was cool. Both teams offered me a great sense of belonging and contributed to my identity. Although I discovered neither was an acceptable form of identity for the TSA or for most college bars.

College

When I attended the University of Wisconsin I continued my track and field career. The track team gave me a sense of belonging to a special group. It hit that Goldilocks sweet spot of being bigger than I was alone, which is key, but much smaller than the full student population at UW Madison of 43,000. The track team gave me a social group, an identity, and a support system that prevented me from ever feeling lost in the sea of studentia.

This was the 1995 Big 10 Championship team. We won again in 1996. And yes, we did have color photography back then. Just not colored media guides.

Work Work Work Work Work Like Rihanna.

After college, I joined the workforce. I felt a sense of belonging at each of the advertising agencies that employed me. Those included Cramer Krasselt, Engauge, and Moxie. Interestingly, I also felt a sense of belonging within many of my clients’ organizations. I’m not sure if that was a result of my strong personal relationships or my delusional thinking.

Coworker friends from NYC, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

Entrepreneurship

When I started my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I felt an extreme sense of belonging. Because I created the agency itself, the organization was born with a place for me. But thanks to Thomas Edison, this created a lightbulb moment for me.

The Weaponry Friends.

What happened as a result of creating The Weaponry was that I realized that I had the power to create my own groups to be part of. So I started reforming social groups from my past that had disbanded because of the time and space continuum.

Getting The Band Back Together

I started with my original peer groups. I helped re-organize my high school football team. I helped pull together the guys from my class who played together. We now have a text group that chirps regularly with hilarity. We have Zoom calls to catch up. Thanks to our re-strengthened connections, we make real efforts to connect in person whenever we can. In fact, I have seen 6 of the guys in person this summer alone. (By alone I mean just during the summer. We weren’t alone. We were actually together.)

I helped my high school class get together via Zoom in February and in person in July.

Like adding water to orange juice concentrate, I also helped reconstitute my college track team. We now gather every couple of months on Zoom. Those relationships were a huge help in 2020 as we navigated health, financial, racial, and political craziness. Our team offered a trusted and safe space for a diverse family of brothers to discuss important but sensitive topics. We are also jonesing to gather again in person once our latest health crisis is behind us. (Oh, you didn’t know we had a health crisis?)

New Kids On The Block

However, I didn’t simply reform groups I had been part of in the past. I envisioned groups I wished existed. Then I started to create them too. Today, I regularly think about new and nuanced groups to create. Just as a chef considers recipes with new and novel combinations of ingredients, I think about how various people would form an interesting new social group. Then I make it happen. You can do it too. It’s easier and more rewarding than you think.

An original collection of former UW Badger varsity athletes.

Key Takeaway

Social groups are human creations. So create and maintain the groups you want to be part of. If you envision a great new group of humans, make it happen. If you want to recreate a group from the past, reform it. You will be surprised at how interested others are in being included in a social group, new or old. Most people simply don’t know they have the power to make it happen. Now you do.

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

Why you should share your circle with more people.

When you first meet someone new, you have nothing in common. At least not that you know of. You are just two individual circles in a Venn Diagram, separate and distinct, with no shared areas. Like the lenses of John Lennon’s glasses. (Imagine that for a moment. It’s easy if you try.)

However, the more time you spend together the more the circles in your Venn Diagram will overlap, like the Mastercard logo. (Which is priceless.) This Venning happens for 3 reasons:

  1. Conversation reveals how much you have in common.
  2. You share everything new that you experience together.
  3. Through discussion, idea sharing, and learning you begin to incorporate their knowledge and thinking into your own.
Venn Diagrams show venn you have things in common and venn you don’t.

This phenomenon of Venning is extremely valuable. It is key to friendship and courtship. It is how people with diverse backgrounds and experiences profit from each other. This sharing leads to understanding, acceptance, and ultimately to peace and goodwill.

Venning is the reason to network. By meeting others and learning what they know and who they know you not only grow the number of people you have in common with others, but you also incorporate their body of knowledge into your own.

This process can have a powerful influence on your career. By spending time with those who have more experience than you, you pick up their knowledge and techniques. It is key to apprenticeships, internships, mentorships, and probably building ships. You can quickly accelerate past the natural pace of learning and mistaking on your own through the guidance you receive from others.

Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones  said, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” This is because both the books and the people will add to your knowledge, your way of thinking, and your ability to connect to others. And evidently, the more people you know the more likely you are to pick up a tremendous nickname.

Key Takeaway.

Meet as many people as you can. Learn who and what they know. Absorb as much knowledge, experience and perspective as possible. Tap into their networks, and bring as many of their people into your own sphere as you can.

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

If I could do it all again I would make more friends.

I always laugh when someone says ‘If I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything different.’ I appreciate the conviction of such a statement. But it shows that they have not learned and grown much during this dress rehearsal. So they obviously wouldn’t profit much from a life mulligan anyway.

My Re-do

I can find a seemingly endless supply of things I would do differently on my life do-over. I would have slowed down that night when I lost control of my car and flew it into a pasture full of cows Duke’s of Hazard-style. I would have skipped that Wednesday football practice when I tore my ACL my senior year. I would NOT have bought that cheap home printer that constantly jammed and guzzled ink like a drunken donkey. And I would NOT have taken work from that client who was like a real-life Mikey, and really did hate everything. Even Life cereal.

I have been thinking a lot lately about things I would change If I could do it all again. And there is one clear answer that rings out every time I ponder this question. It’s not a regret that haunts me. It’s not a mistake I would fix. And it’s not a detour I would take to avoid pain or punishment. It is something I wish I had more of.

More, More, More

If I could go back and do it all over I would make more friends. There is no greater asset on Earth. There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet. But when I think about the tiny percentage of those people I actually know it gives me a major case of FOMO.

When I was younger I remember people saying that the person who dies with the most toys wins. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It is the person who collects the most friends, who develops and maintains the most and best human relationships that really wins this game. And if those friends have lots of toys, even better.

Friends With Benefits

Friends deliver on our most basic needs. They offer a sense of home and belonging. They offer support, encouragement and inspiration. They make us smile and laugh and sometimes blow things out of our noses involuntarily. And as I have gotten older I have found you can never have too many people in your friend column.

Collecting Friends

I still maintain friendships from pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school and college. I am still in touch with friends from all 9 cities I have lived in. I have friends I have met on airplanes, while on vacation, and while playing at the park with my kids. But I can’t help but think of all of the amazing friends I haven’t met. Especially the ones who have kidneys just like mine.

Work Friends

Friends have been the most important ingredient of my career success. My coworker-friends, client-friends and partner-friends have not only contributed immensely to my workplace wins, they have made me feel as if I am hanging out with friends all day long. In fact, I met my all-time best friend Dawn at work. And we have now been married for 18 years. #CompanyPicnicsAreTheBest

Entrepreneurship

When I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, it was my friends who became my first clients, coworkers and champions. Today, the business and all of the peripheral activities that come with it are a great source of new and growing friendships. In fact, I think of the ability to develop and maintain strong relationships as the greatest input to entrepreneurial success and the greatest fringe benefit of entrepreneurship.

The Greatest ROI

I have friends in every state in America and in dozens of countries around the world. They offer the greatest return of any investment I have ever made. But like the dollars I have squirreled away in my 401(k) plan, I wish had invested even more. Alas, if wishes were fishes we would all have a fry. So the best we can do is make more in the days and years ahead.

Key Takeaway

Keep growing your tribe. Make as many friends as you can in as many places as you can. Connect your friends to each other. Invest in your relationships. Make them deep and wide. At the end of our days, the only thing that matters is the impact we have made on each other. So create more impactful relationships, and enjoy the positive impact they have on you.

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

To build a successful business make more friends first.

I recently was introduced to the CEO of a really fun business in Milwaukee. A mutual friend introduced us via email. And in the quick hellos and thanks-for-the-introduction exchange that followed the CEO invited me to his office for a pow-wow.

When we met in person a week later we talked and developed a quick friendship. Despite the fact that we had just met it was clear that we were on the same wavelength. Our mutual friend, who I will call Erin, because that is her name, must have detected that too.

The two of us began talking about his business. I loved the conversation. I am a big fan of his company. Like one of those Big Ass Fans you see in a warehouse. I noted the remarkable quality of the product his team creates. I shared my enthusiasm for his brand and the great potential for growth, expansion and domination.

Then something interesting and unexpected happened. The CEO paused and said, ‘Adam, every agency in town has come to me wanting my business. They all talk about what they can do for us. And they share their vision for our brand. But you are the only one who has shared MY vision for the brand.’

At that point the conversation changed from 2 guys getting to know each other to two business leaders collaborating and working through problems and opportunities together. Which is what I love most about business.

I didn’t think of our conversation as a sales call. I didn’t think I was pitching him on working with me and my business. I was just excited to meet a new friend. I’m like a puppy in that way. And in the process of developing a friendship we talked about his business, the same way we talked about his family, the places he has lived and what he likes to do in his free time.

Make Friends. Not Sales.

But sales is not what most people think it is. So much of business development is simply developing friendships and rapport. It is showing a genuine interest in getting to know others. It is about helping and providing value. It is not about asking for business.

I always focus on friendship first. I was genuinely interested in this baller of a CEO first. I was not about to ask for a shot at his business. Perhaps that was part of the appeal.

As the sales expert Jeffry Gitomer says, people hate to be sold, but they love to buy. That is why I always let people buy into me instead of asking for the sale.

Does it work? Well, I now have a meeting scheduled with my new friend and his leadership team next week.

6 Key Takeaways From This Experience

  1. A good introduction from a trusted mutual friend creates a great start to a new relationship.
  2. Make friends. Not sales calls.
  3. Add value first, last, and always.
  4. Think bigger.
  5. Paint a picture others want to buy into.
  6. Let your enthusiasm, energy and passion show.

Follow Up:

Between the time I first wrote this post and published it a lot has happened. We had a great meeting with the executive leadership team. We were asked for a proposal. The proposal was signed last Friday afternoon. We kicked off our official relationship with a 3-hour meeting (Gilligan’s Island-Style) on Monday afternoon. We will present ideas next week. And we will have new ads live for the holidays.

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