How to help others right now by treating them like bicycles.

Life is about as far from normal as most of us can imagine. The unprecedented global disruption caused by COVID-19 is impacting every one of us. Today, our physical, mental and financial health are all at risk. But like John, Paul, George and Ringo, we can all get by with a little help from our friends.

Help, I Need Somebody.

Most of us are not professionally trained on how to help others who are dealing with a crisis. But most of us know how to ride a bicycle. It turns out that bicycles and your friends actually need the same kind of assistance from you. And for simplicity’s sake, I am rolling the terms coworker, business associate, and family into the word friend. It will save us a lot of verbosity between here and the end of the post. 

A Please-Don’t-Crash-Course

Instead of heading off to years of clinical training here are some very basic tips you can use to help others by becoming more bike-minded.

forest bike bulls
A bike is a great thing. But it needs a person to make it work.

5 Ways To Help Your Friends By Treating Them Like Bicycles.

1. Prop them up. Recognize when a friend needs a kickstand to lean on. And be that kickstand.

2. Help them steer.  We don’t always know which way to go. This is a simple fact of life. We need help when we come to crossroads. We need help navigating around obstacles. So help your friends make those challenging decisions they will inevitably encounter along the way.

3. Help them balance. The world is throwing epic challenges at us. Knowing how to handle it all can be overwhelming. Notice when a friend is struggling to find their own balance. And help them stabilize. Lend a helping hand or prioritizing advice. Sometimes you just need someone else to show you how to shift your load so you’re not constantly fighting with it. 

4. Help them pedal faster. It is easy for people to fall off their personal pace. Apply constant, gentle pressure on your friends when you know they should be moving faster than they are.

5. Help them stop. We can often see that our friends are heading towards a cliff, a tree or a car before they notice. In those moments, help your friends pump the brakes. Or slam on the brakes. Or remind them that they have brakes. Helping your friends recognize and stop bad behavior is one of the most valuable things you can do for them.

Key Takeaway

Right now your friends, family, and coworkers need your help just as much as your bicycle does. Learn to recognize what inputs would be most beneficial. It could be encouragement, stability, direction or warnings. We’re all dealing with major challenges. And we all benefit from having someone else along for the ride.

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

Great advice for people who are soaring.

My life is great right now. Not Instagram great. But a solid, off-camera kind of great. Of course what actually constitutes a great life is totally subjective. So perhaps my life is just great in my own head. But at a minimum I have the right mindset. Because we see what we want to see, and feel what we want to feel.

The Facts

Today, my family and I are healthy. I feel as if I have friends. I am living in a place I enjoy. I am doing work that I am excited to do. Better yet, I am making significant progress towards my most important life goals. I’m having fun. I still think everything is funny. And perhaps best of all, I still don’t need adult diapers.

Getting Sunday Schooled

This past Sunday my family and I had a very busy day scheduled. Our morning got off to a slow start and my wife, Dawn and I had some tense moments about whether or not we could get to the 9am church service as we had planned. We knew we would be late, but we went anyway. Because even though we were running behind I imagined God would still high five me when I walked in the door.

We arrived 10 minutes late. The sanctuary was packed. The narthex, was packed as well. (Look at me using Jesusy words like narthex.) Luckily, after the children left for Sunday School we found just enough seats in the balcony and sat down.

Feeling Grateful

I am really happy we made it to church that morning. Because during the sermon Pastor Bill Knapp shared a really important message. The message felt tailor-made for me, as so many good messages do when you listen with receptive ears (and when you are a raging narcissist.)

The Message:

If you are soaring, use the view up there to see others who could use your help.  – Pastor Bill Knapp  

That’s Me!

I certainly feel like I am soaring. And it does provide a better view of the world.

Helping Others Soar

From my soaring position I am trying to share as much as I can about how I got up here. I share the lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn with my 3 kids. I share them with the students I guest lecture to several times a year. I share with my teammates at work. I share with friends and family who are at a crossroads in their careers and lives. I share what I am learning with other entrepreneurs. And with others who are trying to get their own businesses off the ground.

Blogging

I also share the lessons I am learning here on The Perfect Agency Project blog. What’s even better, is that my blog posts often lead to more significant conversations, both online and in person.  In a fun turn of events, people are also turning to me to understand how to start and maintain a blog. Two of my posts: What I have learned about blogging after 200 posts. and  12 things I’ve learned from writing 300 blog posts. have generated a lot of interest, thank you’s and positive feedback from bloggers and want-to-be bloggers around the world.

Soaring Higher

The funny thing about this is that the more I share with others the more I feel like I am learning, connecting, enjoying, and yes, soaring. Best of all, the higher I soar, the better the view to see more ways to help others.

Key Takeaway

If you are going places, help others get there too. Flying in a flock is more fun than flying alone. So teach others. Share what you know. You won’t realize how valuable your knowledge, perspective and experience is until you start to give it away. Plus, it feels great to share. And when you help others fly, they will never forget it. I know. Because I have received a lot of help myself.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. If you would like to learn more of what I am learning, consider subscribing to this blog.

Why you should share what you know for no good reason.

I grew up in Vermont. If you’ve ever met me you know I am very proud of this fact. Vermont was a wonderful place to be a kid. It was beautiful, safe and quiet. There were various career options available to Vermonters. We had a lot of maple syrup farmers, stone fence stackers, and a couple of world-class ice cream makers. But I didn’t know a single advertising professional.

house near road on forest
The maple syrup district in my hometown of Norwich, Vermont

I left Vermont for college and went to the University of Wisconsin. When I graduated and wanted to find a job as a copywriter for an advertising agency, I didn’t know anyone who could help me prepare for my job search.

A Friend of a Friend of a Friend.

However, I did have friends. My college friend Gina Wagner (now Gina Zanik of Salt Lake City) told me that a friend of her Mom’s might know someone who could help. A few calls were made, and through a friend-chain I was put in touch with a man named Paul Zukowski.

Paul Zukowski

Paul, a grown man with a real advertising career, then did something remarkable. He took time out of his day to meet with me, a total stranger, on a Saturday, to offer advice on how to best present my work, to maximize the chances of landing a job as an advertising creative.

Paul not only owed me nothing, he was likely to get nothing in return for helping this penniless, jobless, cotton headed ninny muggins. Yet Paul offered me some of his valuable time and gave me some really great, if not unconventional advice. Advice that ultimately helped me land my first job in advertising. And this blog post, written 23 years later, is all he got for his effort. (Although, upon his death he may receive eternal consciousness. Which is nice.)

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Union South at the University of Wisconsin, where Paul dropped knowledge like college.

Thinking of Paul

I haven’t seen Paul since the day we met at Union South in Madison, back in 1996, But I have thought of Paul often. In fact, I think of him every time a college student contacts me asking for an informational interview. I think of him every time someone wants advice on launching their own business. I think of him every time someone who is looking for a new job wants to grab coffee. I think of him when an aspiring blogger wants to buy me a chocolate milk and learn how to get started. (You can learn most of what I know here.)

The Impact

Paul Zukowski, a man I have seen once in my life, played an important role in my advertising career. When I was desperately trying to get my foot in the door, he showed me how to put my best foot forward. As a result I got a job as a copywriter. I then got promoted all the way to Chief Creative Officer, before launching my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry in 2016.

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Me at work, reflecting. Or at least posing as if I am reflecting.

Paying It Forward

Today, I pay it forward and continue the goodwill that Paul started by helping others. This week I drove from Milwaukee to The Weaponry’s new office in Columbus, Ohio. During my drive I spent more than 3 hours talking to people who reached out to me because:

  1. They were about to graduate from college.
  2. They recently moved and were looking for a job and a network in a new city.
  3. They had lost a job and needed to figure out their next chapter.

I don’t expect a thing from any of the people I try to help. Although I hope my willingness to help encourages them to help others down the road. Just like Paul helped me.

Key Takeaway

Sooner or later we all need a Paul Zukowski. We need someone who can help us chart a new course through a foreign land. While it’s great to find someone who will do that for you, it’s even better to be the Paul Zukowski. To be the one who offers help and guidance while expecting nothing in return. Because it sets off a chain reaction that can make a significant impact on a significant number of people for generations to come. Heck, it can even help a kid from rural Vermont (#redundant) start a career in advertising, launch a business, and launch a blog to share the story with the world.