Another birthday met means 11 new goals set.

Until yesterday it had been 366 days since I last had a cake under my candles. The 2019-2020 Adam Albrecht season saw many more wins than losses. I enjoyed serious adventures. I made new friends. I experienced my first global pandemic. Because local pandemics just aren’t pandemic-y enough for me. My pace of personal and professional growth for the year met my expectations. So I gave myself a passing grade.

Now I am excited to kickoff a great 2020-2021 Adam Albrecht season. Each year, on opening day, I like to establish new goals for the year. Here are the latest.

  1. Faith: Read The New Testament again.  I read a lot. But I haven’t dug into The Bible with purpose for a few seasons now.  So, I’m making this a New-Testy kind of year.
  2. Fitness: Drop My Covid Weight. Back in March, when we all boarded the CoronaCoaster, I felt healthy, fit and ready for spring break. Now I have 8 pounds worth of lockdown weight to burn off. I’m aiming to hit an even 210 pounds this summer. Which is less than I weighed when I graduated from both high school and college. Thankfully it’s finally warm enough in Wisconsin to get summer, summer, summertime fit, like Will Smith. Remember when he used to be a rapper?
  3. Marriage: 12 Dates Wih My Wife. If Dawn and I have a real date every month, all feels right with the world. Granted those dates may be curbside pick up at Culver’s. Or masked hikes through Costco. But I don’t care where we go. I don’t care what we do. I don’t care pretty baby. Just take me with you.
  4. Parenting: Meaningful Life Conversations With Each of My Children Every Week. My children are 14, Turning-13-This-Week, and 9. Which means they are in the thick of childhood changes, challenges and life lessons. I want to make sure that I am helpful during this time, and not just an annoying old guy who keeps telling them to hand over their electronics at night.
  5.  My Parents: Talk Every Week. My Mom used to call my Grammy every Saturday morning like clockwork. I want to develop a regular weekly check-in with my parents. Maybe during my commute. Assuming we will have commutes again.
  6. My Business: I want to add 3 great new people to The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency.  Great people are the heart of a great business.  Finding great people to add is both important and challenging. So that’s what we’re going to do. If you are one of those people, or know someone who is, let’s talk!
  7. Finances:  Increase My Net Worth By 25%. Tracking your net worth is an import habit to help you understand, maintain and improve your financial health. I want to improve mine by 25% over the next 12 months. Much of that will be related to how the financial markets recover. But it also means acting on new opportunities that are available due to the financial cliff that we all just lemmingied off. Or hadn’t you noticed?
  8. Volunteering: Give Blood. I have some. Other people need it. Let’s make this happen. 10-4 Good Bloody.
  9. Relationships: Expand The Breakfast Meet Up Club. Earlier this year I started a breakfast meetup of really badass guys who live on Milwaukee’s North Shore. It’s comprised of entrepreneuers and highly successful businessmen who are also husbands and fathers. We meet once a month to trade ideas on how to be great, and talk about the important things that guys don’t always have a chance to talk about with other guys. I want to add 3 more impressive cats to the group this year to bring us to an even 10.
  10.  Book: Publish My First Book. Thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown I am much further along on this project than I expected to be at this time. Now I’d like to put the hammer down, get my Johannes Gutenberg on, and get this thing to a printing press.
  11. Home: Make A Home Base Improvement Decision. Dawn and I have been exploring the idea of some remodeling, buying a new home or building for years. But you can explore forever and never arrive anywhere. I would like to arrive somewhere in the next 12 months.

Key Takeaway

Birthday’s offer a great time to reevaluate your life. Each year on your birthday check your trajectory, your happiness meter and your contribution to others. Push yourself to do more each year. Life is like a soap opera. Which mean we only get one life to live. Take advantage of it. And make sure that each season of You is worth watching.

When was the last time you saw your people?

On Monday morning I woke up in Orlando, Florida. Most people would be thrilled to be in Florida in February. But before the sun came up I was at the airport, leaving sunny  Florida to head back to Wisconsin. And I was thrilled. Because I had a very interesting afternoon planned.

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I landed at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport at 11:30am. I was eager to get off the plane. But the universe had other plans. In fact, I was kept on the plane for at least 30 minutes, at the gate, while police were summoned to deal with some human shenanigans that unfolded on the flight.

Deplane! Deplane!

Once I finally got off the plane I hurried to the parking garage and jumped in my car. I sped off towards the Illinois border, just 30 miles to the south. I had 3 meetings planned that afternoon. I hadn’t prepared at all. I did no research. No competitive analysis. No powerpoint presentation. Because on a random Monday afternoon in February, I simply made plans to see 3 old friends.

Hello Kenosha!

My interesting afternoon started with lunch at the Waterfront Warehouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin. If you are ever looking for a great place to meet someone for lunch midway between Milwaukee and Chicago, this is the place.

My seat had a great view of Lake Michigan. But what was really fun was having lunch with my friend Bryan Specht. Bryan lives in Chicago. I live in Milwaukee. So we decided to meet in the middle, like Maren Morris said.

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Bryan is a rockstar marketer. We first met when his former agency, Olson, was considering buying my former agency, Engauge. Bryan and I got to know each other through that process, and I really liked him. So we stayed in touch. But we hadn’t seen each other for 7 years.

As we ate we talked about life, and business. We talked about entrepreneurship, private equity firms, acquisitions, and earn-outs. We talked about the challenges of organizational integration. We talked about the people we knew in common. And Steve McQueen. And Monaco watches. (Bryan has the one I want.) We sounded like adult business people who have a lot of knowledge and experience. Which apparently we do.

Bryan and I are the same age. We were both college athletes. Our last names both end in ‘echt’. And he recently started his own marketing consultancy called Salient Group Ventures.  I started my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, 4 years ago. So it was great to spend time with someone I had do much in common with. We were both eager for more time together. So we’ve committed to making Kenosha Konversations a regular thing. (We didn’t actually kall them Kenosha Konversations.  That’s just a kute name I made up for this story).

Mark Dahms

After my lunch with Bryan I drove 15 miles north to a spot in Racine, Wisconsin called Route 20.  There, I met with my college track and field teammate at The University of Wisconsin, Mark Dahms.

Mark is wicked Smart. He was the valedictorian of his senior class at Waukesha Catholic Memorial High School. He was a great student at Wisconsin, and went on to get his MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. I always thought that was where you went to study cereal. But apparently it’s like, a good school, for smart people.

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Try to guess which one of us works in finance at SC Johnson, and which one works at an ad agency called The Weaponry. I’ll give you two guesses.

Mark has been with SC Johnson since he graduated from college. But don’t think Mark hasn’t gotten around. He worked for SCJ in England, where he met his wife, who was working for SCJ. #RaisedEyebrow  They also lived in Australia. And apparently, when you clean a mirror with Windex south of the equator, you should wipe it counter clockwise. (I may have just made that up.)

I had not seen Mark in 14  years. So we caught up on life, work and family. I learned that a traditional Polish Christmas celebration may involve keeping a carp in your bathtub. And I was reminded that if you were really tall in college, you are probably still going to be really tall 24 years after your graduate. Did I mention that Mark once made a bet that he could eat 6 giant fudge brownies for dessert at our college training table. That didn’t turn out well for anyone.

A Symphonic Ending

My 3rd meeting of the day was with my friend Camela Langendorf. Camela and I met our freshman year of college at the University of Wisconsin. We met in Symphony class. Which is way harder than it sounds. (I still got an A.)

Camela was always funny and smart and fun to be around. Today, she is a great photographer, and owns her own business called Varitay Studios. The company name comes from the fact that Cam is not just a little bit tay. Or even regular tay.

Before we got together on Monday, Camela and I had not seen each other since… 1995.  That’s right, it had been 25 years since we last saw each other in person! Yet it was like we had seen each other yesterday.

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We talked about life and family and careers. We talked about college and friends and the pursuit of happiness.

We also talked about photography and entrepreneurship. We dug into profitability and business development and the power of great employees. We talked about great books. And we talked about how we should get together again soon.

Why Do This?

So why did I schedule time on a Monday afternoon to see friends who I haven’t seen for 7, 14 and 25 years? Because life is short. And our human relations are extremely valuable. At the end of our days, the only thing that will really matter is the impact we have on each other. So I make staying in touch with my people a priority. It’s one of my best habits (along with smiling first thing when I open my eyes in the morning).

The Question

Who haven’t you seen lately that you should? A friend? A family member? A business associate?  Your waxer? This week I challenge you to make time to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in years. Maybe even decades. We have a limited amount of time on this planet. You never know when that time will run out. So make plans to see your people now.

Key Takeaway

See your people in real life.

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

Do you know your Social Value?

The true measure of your financial success is your net worth. I calculate my net worth regularly. I track it month over month. I set goals for growing it over the near, mid and long term. It’s a fun game to play. One that pays long term dividends. Literally.

However, your net worth, or financial assets, don’t represent your true value. Lately I have been thinking about another way to measure my worth that is even more meaningful. A way to not simply tally the money I have accumulated. But to measure the value I bring to other people. 

Social Value

Your Social Value is important for several reasons. At the end of your days the only thing that really matters is the impact you have had on other people. But offering a great deal of social value is also a leading indicator of your financial well-being. Because when you help others you are always helping yourself.  And if you are finding yourself poor and alone, chances are you are not offering much social value. And your situation is a result. 

To determine your social value ask yourself this simple question:

How valuable am I to the people I know?

Know Your Social Value

I have been asking myself this question a lot lately. Because I am evaluating how much I contribute to those around me. It is easy to focus on what you are receiving, or what you are accumulating. But I have a sneaking suspicion that when I get to the Peary Gates the entrance criteria might not be financial. Unless Heaven is more like Disney World than we realized.

Evaluate Yourself

There are many ways to add value to others. Here are some of them. Evaluate yourself on the following 20 areas.

  • Give yourself 3 points for each element that you give generously.
  • Give yourself a 1 if you give it occasionally.
  • Give yourself a zero if it is simply not something you offer others.

Here we go.

1. Smiles Do you give away a lot of smiles every day? Could you give more?  This small investment pays big dividends for others who need a smile the most.

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2. Help  Do you offer others help? When people need it do they turn to you? Or do they write you off as a dead end when they are in need?

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3. Entertainment:  Are you entertaining to be around? Do you do and say things that other find interesting, amusing or amazing? Will people put down their mobile device around you because you are likely to serve up something more compelling than a cat in  sweater or a football-to-the-groin video?

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4. Education: Do you teach people what you know? Do you have knowledge to share? 

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5. Wisdom: Do you have valuable experience to share? Have you made mistakes, overcome obstacles and come out smarter, and with better perspective that you are willing to talk about?

6. Encouragement When people are down do you help pick them back up?  When others face great challenges do you become a cheerleader?

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7. Positive Peer Pressure We talk a lot about peer pressure as being negative. But peer pressure comes in 2 flavors. Do you exert positive peer pressure to keep people between the ditches? To help force people to make positive choices or overcome bad habits?

8. Role Model  We all could use a positive role model to serve as an example of what is possible. Are you doing that for others? Or are you more Charles Barkley-ish

9. Humor Laughter is the best medicine. Are you serving up large doses of it, like doctors serve up opioids?

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10. Listening  At the end of the day, most people just want to be heard. Are you known as a listener? As someone others can talk to, even without offering brilliant advice? Often others are not looking for you to solve their problems. They just need to talk to someone who will listen as they try to work out their own challenges. #justnod

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11. Connections Do you have strong connections? Do you know other people with high Social Value scores? The more you know and can tap into, the more value you offer.

12. Action: Are you a person of action? Do you do? Do you throw water on a fire or do you tell someone else there is a fire? Do you help when you see it is needed? Or do you leave it to others?

13. Remembering Names: Do you make a point of remembering names? We’re not real friends until we remember each others’ names. Because you can’t properly greet, contact or introduce another person unless you know their name. And nothing in life is sweeter than the sound of your own name being positively called. Except maybe sweet tea. That stuff is super sweet.

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14. Showing Up: Do you show up when people are in need? When there is an event, activity or funeral do you make a point of being there whenever you can? 

15. Promises: Do you keep yours? Is your word good? Are you trustworthy? Can people count on you to come through when they need you?

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16. Influence: Do you have influence on people, situations and decisions? People who have influence over decisions, other people, and outcomes are valuable to know. Just ask any politician, lobbyist or mobster.

17. Positivity: Do you bring a positive outlook with you? Do you help encourage positivity in others? Seeing things in a positive light and expecting positive results helps you shape the world positively. I am positive about this.

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18. Inclusive: Do you include others? Do you look for ways to bring more people into the fold? Do you make people feel like part of a group, activity or movement? #notbowelmovement 

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19. Introductory: Do you introduce people to each other? Do you help increase connections, create larger, more powerful social groups? Do you see that as part of your responsibility, or do you let others fend for themselves?

20. Initiating: Do you initiate social interactions? Do you call, email or text first? Do you organize events, coffees, beers, lunches, or hangouts? In all social interactions someone needs to make the first move. If you aren’t doing your fair share the relationship will start to feel one sided. Which is simply a less valuable relationship.

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Tally Your Score

  • If you got a 60 you are amazingly valuable to know.
  • If you got a 0 you are worthless to others, like a social Ebenezer Scrooge.
  • If you are closer to 60 than 0 you are doing pretty good.
  • If you are closer to 0 than 60 you have a lot of room for improvement. But you can do it. I know you can.

Key Takeaway

If you are interested in self improvement start with increasing your Social Value. It will have the greatest positive impact on others. And when you positively impact others it will lead to more positive outcomes for you. Offering strong Social Value means that people will be drawn to you, seek you out, and think of you when they are in need. Which means that your Social Value makes you more popular and move valuable than your net worth ever could.

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

Why I hate networking, and what I do instead.

Since I was in college I have heard career-minded folk talk about the importance of networking. Which begs the question, What the fruit is networking? Because before college I didn’t network, and I seem to have gotten along just fine.

But starting my freshman year in college, professors, advisors and guest speakers talked about networking as if it twas the key to success beyond college (twas is a word you can only use in December). Then I started my career in advertising and I heard the same thing. Business books and career coaches strongly encourage you to network. I have even attended a few functions called networking events. Oy. 

So what the funk does it means to network? 

Oh looky here! I found a definition.

Network (verb): interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.

Ahh. When you put it that way, I understand what you mean. And it kinda makes me want to barf.  ‘Interacting with people‘, ‘exchanging information’ and ‘developing contacts’ is something that can be done by a machine. Or a criminal.

What I do.

While other people network, I am still doing what I did before college. Before I was told that networking was the key to advancing my career. Before I was told networking was crucial to successful entrepreneurship.

No. I don’t network.

I befriend.

What does that mean?  Well, I just happen to have the definition for you right here:

Befriend (verb): act as a friend to someone by offering help or support.
This is what I do. I learned how to do this when I was in pre-school and it has served me well my entire life.  Notice the keys to befriending? You act as a friend. You offer help and support. This is the good stuff. This is what other people really want.  This is how you improve life on the big blue marble.

When you dive into the synonyms of befriending you develop an even richer picture:
  • make friends with
  • make a friend of
  • look after
  • keep an eye on
  • be of service to
  • lend a helping hand to
  • help
  • protect
  • side with
  • stand by
  • encourage

The Take Away

The world would be a better place if we stopped trying to network, and we just tried to make friends. So I encourage you to develop real relationships. Because when you make people the most important thing in your life, everything else magically falls into place.  Our relationships, and the positive impact we have on one another, are the only things that really matter. It is true at home. It is true in pre-school. It is true in college. And it is true in business. So if you really want to be a great success, be a great friend. If there is any way I can help, please let me know.

The simple way to make anyone feel like an insider.

I want you to try an experiment. Over the next 24 hours note how many people you encounter that you don’t know. I warn you, it may freak you out. Most of us live anonymously in a sea of strangers. They are everywhere. Like minivans. Yet we have become immune to these strangers that surround us. It’s as if they disappear when we ignore them. Like reality TV stars.

I was reminded of my own anonimity recently at my gym. After I scanned my membership card, the guy who routinely works at the reception desk said, “Have a good day, man”. A normal person would have just done what they were told, and had a nice day. But instead, I had a flashback to college…

It was my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. I was on the track team, and was lifting weights in the weight room (research indicates that’s the best place for such activities). One of the football players who I saw regularly walked through the room. When he passed by he said, “Hey! What’s up man?”  I replied with something like, “Hey, Man. What’s up?’ I thought nothing of it.

But then he stopped and asked, ‘What your name?’

I said, ‘Adam’ (that’s my go-to answer).

We shook hands.

He said “My name’s Aaron. Enough of this bullshit, saying, “Hey man.” or “What’s up bro?” F-that! I see you in here every day.  We should know each other’s names!’

Aaron ‘Scrappy’ Norvell was right. It was bullshit that we would repeatedly see each other, even greet each other, and not know each other’s names. After this introduction he was no longer a guy I saw. He was a guy I knew. The difference is profound.

I expect I wasn’t the only person Scrappy made an effort to get to know by name (he currently has 4,912 friends on Facebook).  He is  funny, outgoing and entertaining. We would see a lot of each other over the next few years in Madison. Today, he is an actor in Hollywood.  If you ever need to cast a police officer, Obama look-a-like, former college linebacker, or someone who can deliver the line, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’ he is your guy.

Now, back to the story…

With this random flashback playing in my head, I asked the guy working the counter at Elite Sports Club, “What’s your name?’  He replied, ‘Andrew’. I said, ‘My name is Adam’ (that’s my go to).  We shook hands. Now, every time I walk into the gym we greet each other by name. We have real conversations. Instead of an awkward, “Hey-Man” relationship.

Insiders vs Outsiders

Everyone we encounter in business, at social gatherings and at the grocery store are either Insiders or Outsiders.  The difference is whether or not we know each other by name.  That sense of familiarity and friendship that can only develop once you know a person’s name makes an enormous difference on this planet, where we are so often surrounded by John and Jane Does (that was supposed to be Doe-plural. But it looks like does, doesn’t it?).

I think about names at work. At the advertising agency, The Weaponry, we encounter people when we visit our clients that we don’t have to know by name. The receptionists. The people who sit next to the conference rooms where we make too much noise.  The IT person who inevitably saves every presentation. But I want to meet them too. So I make a habit of introducing myself, by name. Suddenly we are not just people who see each other regularly. We become people who know each other, by name.

I encourage you to convert more of those people you see or say hello to regularly into people you really know by name. It’s easy. Introduce yourself, by name and ask for their name in return. Write the names down. Start a list with a description of who they are on your phone or in a notebook. Refer back to the list as neccesary. The rewards are profound.  Just ask Andrew from Elite. Or Norm from Cheers.