When I was in 3rd grade my Mom, Jill Albrecht, attended my parent-teacher conference to hear how I was doing in class. Before the alliance began their conversation about my academic progress, or lack thereof, my teacher shared with my Mom that when filling out a form preparing for the conference I had listed my mother’s occupation as Zookeeper. With 4 kids under 10 years old, I thought that was an accurate description of my mother’s primary job as a Stay at Home Mom.
Her Real Job
However, today, as I reflect on my Mama’s career I have a different answer. My Mom has been my ultimate life mechanic. Whenever something went wrong in any area of my life she could fix it.
My Mama’s Life Mechanic Services
When I was hungry, she fed me.
When my clothes were dirty, she would clean them.
When my bed was was a mess she could remake it.
When I had trouble with my attitude she adjusted it.
When my wallet was broken she put a couple dollars in it to patch the holes.
When poison ivy blistered my skin she polished me pink with calamine lotion and stopped the itching and oozing.
When my confidence was cracked she welded it back together.
When my grades were broken she fixed them (before I could do anything else).
When my eyes leaked, she found the source and stopped the drips.
When my knee was broken my senior year in high school she organized the doctors to put it back together.
When my public speaking sputtered she fixed it. And fixed it... AND FIXED IT! (With a smile, a pause for impact, and eye contact.)
When she made chili and the muffler stopped working she… actually, she never could fix that one.
When my steering was off she aligned it.
When I ran too hot she added coolant.
When my headlights padiddled she always had a spare bulb.
To make sure my visibility was good she gave me fresh wipers, window washer fluid, and an ice scraper (because I grew up in Vermont).
My mom also taught me how to properly adjust the rearview mirror. Because some of the best views are behind you.
However, my Mom no longer needs to step in when things go wrong because she has taught me how to fix things myself. She has given me all of her tools. And today, there is no problem large or small that I can’t handle with the tools my Mama gave me.
When I was a kid my Mom was my public speaking coach. Not that I wanted one. But my Mom insisted that public speaking was an important life skill. And if she did one thing right in her parenting role, she was going to have kids who knew how to speak well in front of others. And if she did one thing wrong, it would be that those kids wouldn’t know how to stop talking.
Jill Albrecht knows a thing or two about public speaking. She is a funny, energetic and dynamic woman who comes alive on stage. When I was a young boy she was involved in the Jaycettes, which was the women’s version of the Jaycees, a leadership and development organization. And every year the Jaycettes held a public speaking competition.
I remember my mom entering the local competition, and to my surprise and delight, she won. She moved on to the Wisconsin state competition, and won that too. That win qualified her for the national competition in Cincinnati. I was excited to go, and hoped to see WKRP, and meet Loni Anderson (who went to high school with my Aunt Carol).
The national competition, which was held in a large auditorium in downtown Cincinnati, was the first time I had ever seen my Mom deliver her speech in public. And I couldn’t believe how good she was. She commanded the stage. Her pace, her pauses and her power were mesmerizing. The way she emphasized key words and phrases made you underline those important words in your head too. Her masterful use of hand gestures made her fun to watch. And her effective use of eye contact made it feel as if her message was intended specifically for me. Like when she shot me daggers in church.
Then, after all the speakers were finished, and the judges had a moment to confer, the top finishers were announced. And the last person announced, with the top score, and winner of the national speaking competition, was Jill Albrecht. My Mom! And in the back of the auditorium, I practically exploded with pride as my Mom took center stage to rousing applause to accept her award. My Mom was a baller!
Throughout my career in advertising, I have given thousands of presentations. In fact, I have already guest-lectured to two college classes this week, and it is only Wednesday morning. In other words, I use my Mom’s public speaking lessons practically every day.
But I also pass those speaking and performing lessons that my Mom taught me on to others. Over the course of my career, I have directed performances by well-known TV personalities like Rachael Ray. I have directed NASCAR drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kevin Harvick, and Danica Patrick. And I have even directed movie star Julia Roberts. And every time I provide guidance on how to deliver a line, I am channeling my Mom.
Two weeks ago I flew to San Francisco to film the CEO of one of The Weaponry’s great clients. This CEO is a rockstar. The company she co-founded is now a $10 billion company, and taking off like a rocket. As we worked together she soaked up direction like a moisture-wicking workout shirt. And on multiple occasions she stopped and asked me how I would say a line or a phrase, noting that she liked the way that I delivered the lines.
As I sat in the CEO’s downtown corner office, where pictures of her with President Obama hung on the wall (she has met him 3 times) I couldn’t help but recognize that it wasn’t my direction she liked. It was my Mom’s. It was the lessons on style, pace, and emphasis that she taught me as a young boy that I was simply passing along. Like a family recipe.
Today is my Mom’s 71st birthday. Today also marks the 24th anniversary of my career. I know this because I started my first job on my Mom’s birthday. And today I recognize how valuable her lessons on public speaking have been to my career. They helped me as I interviewed for jobs. They helped me as I presented ideas to clients. They helped me in new business pitches. They helped me as I gave speeches and lectures. And they helped me direct major celebrities and rockstar CEOs.
The lessons we teach others can benefit them for a lifetime. Keep teaching and sharing what you know. Empower others with your skills, knowledge and life lessons. You never know how many people you may positively impact in the process.
Thank you Mom. You have directed me well. Happy Birthday. Love, Adam
By all outward appearances Friday was a normal day. I woke up, went to work, came home, had dinner and watched a movie with my family. But Friday was one of the most important days of my life. What happened on Friday explains a lot about me. It doesn’t explain the glitch in my brain that alerts me of of every possible double entendre and innuendo. But it does explain a bunch of other more important stuff.
On Friday, December 27th, 2019, my parents, Robert and Jill Albrecht, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. These 2 kids from Minnesota, who got married in their barely 20’s, have now spent 50 of their 70-ish years of life married. To each other. Which has been incredibly valuable to me. My parents have played a critical role in my existence. In fact, I don’t think I would be writing this blog post, or much of anything else, if it weren’t for them.
What is craziest about my parents’ big anniversary is how totally normal it seems to me. I never doubted they would make it to 50 years of marriage. It was just a matter of time. Heck, I even predicted the day it would happen.
The Power Of Normal
President Warren Harding ran for president in 1921 on a simple campaign promise to return normalcy to the United States following World War I. Because normalcy what the nation needed most.
I greatly appreciate Harding’s campaign platform. Because I am a product of normalcy. Despite that fact that I had an adventurous childhood, and lived in 5 states by the time I started 7th grade, I was raised on a solid foundation of normalcy. My parents 50th anniversary helps quantify just how much normalcy I have enjoyed.
What does that mean?
I think of the normalcy my parents marriage has provided through the filter of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Simply put, all of my basic needs have always been met. I have always had food, chocolate milk and shelter. I have always felt safe and secure. Except for that time when I was 3 years old, and I threw nails at my dad after he told me not to throw any more nails or I would get a spanking, and he chased me as I ran all the way from our barn to our house, thinking this is how it ends.
On The Wings of Love
Thanks to my parents, my psychological needs for belongingness and love have always been met. Which has enabled me to focus on the higher order needs of esteem, prestige and accomplishment. And the highest needs of self-fulfillment, self-actualization and achieving my full potential. This has been key to my personal and career success. I know this is going deep, like the necklace the old woman dropped off the side of the boat in Titanic. But it is all true.
One way. Not the only way.
To be clear, there are lots of ways to provide your children with a solid, normal foundation. It can just as easily come from single parents, divorced parents, same sex parents, and perhaps even sexless parents (which is more pleasant to think about than sex-having parents). I am simply sharing that my situation has worked for me.
The rock solid upbringing I experienced, thanks to my parents, has been a key factor in my entrepreneurial journey. Throughout my childhood I saw that things just seemed to work out. Which has influenced my perspective on life. I figured that if I tried to start my own business, and walk away from a nicely salaried and benefited situation, it would all work out. I was never really scared or worried.
I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016. And over the past 3.5 years, I have had more control over my life and my time. As a result, I have experienced more moments of self-actualization, flow, or rapture than some people experience in their entire lives.
But I know that it all began with a sold foundation provided by two young farm kids from southern Minnesota, who turned out to be great parents.
The truth is I am far more normal on the inside than I probably appear on the outside. As are my sisters Heather, Alison and Donielle. We all enjoy spending time together. Yet when we don’t spend holidays or birthdays together, no one gets mad. It’s all kinda normal. Which is one of the best gifts you can give your family.
Celebrating 50 Years
You know what we did to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary? We did nothing. I mean, I called them. And we laughed a lot. And we did some rudimentary mathematics on the whole thing. But we didn’t get together. My parents went out for breakfast together. And then they watched football. Normal stuff. I am sure we will celebrate together sometime in the 50th year.
The Rest Of The Story
However, a simple breakfast and a little football is not how Bob and Jill are really celebrating their 50th anniversary. My parents have put a lot of good into the world. And when you do that you get a lot of good back. On New Year’s Day my parents are flying to Hawaii for the first time. There they are going on a cruise, visiting the Hawaiian islands for a week with a group of 20 friends and family. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate 50 years of marriage. Clearly they are doing something right. And perhaps they are doing everything right.
My parents have made me the person I am today. They provided the genetics and the lessons that have shaped me. But they also provided a sense of stability for me to balance everything else upon. And like the road less traveled, that has made all the difference. Thank you Mom and Dad for all that you have done. Even when you didn’t realize you were doing anything at all.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
As I prepared for Mother’s Day this year I wrote not 1, but 2 different blog posts about my Mom. On Mother’s Day I decided to publish The most important gift my mother gave me. Which meant I had to figure out what to do with my bonus post.
This week is also special for my Mama. Somehow she managed to birth all 4 of her kids in the 4 days between May 22nd and May 25th. You can read about that little bit of Motherly Wizardry in the post: What makes these siblings freakishly unique. So to kick off my Mom’s Giving Birth Week, here is the Non-Mother’s Day Mother’s Day post.
Happy Mother’s Day! A great Mom is like a subscription to the Jelly Of The Month Club, because it is the gift that keeps on giving. I have an amazing Mom. Which is total luck. Because I simply inherited her. But my Mom, Jill Albrecht, has given me an unfair advantage in life.
Mom-ing Runs In The Family
My Mom started off life with an unfair advantage too, because she had a great Mom. My Grammy, Lillian (Anderson) Sprau was a saintly Norwegian American woman. She had 9 children and lived to be 100 years old. When you have 9 kids to practice on, you get to really hone your mothering skills. My Grammy taught my Mom those skills. My mom then taught her children, including me and my sisters Heather, Alison and Donielle.
My Mama taught us all the big stuff. The importance of a good education. How to advocate for ourselves and for others. To value time with family. And the value of humor.
My Mom taught us countless little lessons too. In fact, one of the lessons she taught me probably seemed so small to her that it wasn’t much of a lesson at all. But I still use it every day.
Make Your Own Lunch.
My my mom wisely delegated lunch making responsibilities to me and my sisters at an early age. After all, we had a vested interest in eating. By the time I was 12 years old I was packing my own lunch every day before school. It quickly became a habit.
I packed my own lunch every day in junior high and high school. After I moved out of the dorms in college I made my own lunch every day. When I started my first real job after college I made my own lunch too.
Fast forward 2 decades. I have had a successful career in advertising. I have had fancy pants sounding titles, including Executive Vice President, Chief Creative Officer and CEO. Today, I own my own business, an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Yet every day before I leave for the office I still make my own lunch.
It saves me a lot of money.
I have portion control.
I can eat wherever I am.
I can eat whenever I get hungry.
Nobody can spit in my lunch.
It creates a predictable routine.
I don’t have to think about where to go for lunch.
It teaches my children a good habit.
Our mothers create good habits and values that last a lifetime. In fact, you may be surprised how many of your daily habits, your brand preferences and your techniques were created by your Mom. After all, before you met your Mom you were pretty clueless.
Thanks Mom for all the big things you gave me. But today, I am also thankful for the little things. The things I do automatically because you taught me to. They benefit me at home, at work, with friends and amongst strangers. You did a wonderful job teaching me to do things your way. I don’t know what happened with my sisters. They must be Dad’s fault.
There are conversations that stay with you forever. Today I am reflecting on a conversation that I had two decades ago. I was at the house of my high school track coach, Jude Dutille, in New Hampshire. Jude’s wife, Val made a comment that I will never forget. It was about my Mom.
Val observed that there was something unique about the kids in my family. It wasn’t that she thought me and my sisters Heather, Alison and Donielle were smart, funny, or kind. It wasn’t that we were hard working, well mannered or good looking. It wasn’t even the crazy thing I wrote about it the post, What makes these siblings freakishly unique. (Which is worth the read.) There was one noteworthy trait that Val recognized in me and my sisters. And she gave my Mom all the credit for it. It was our confidence.
Val wondered what my Mom, Jill Albrecht had done to create such confidence in her children. I am not sure I had the answer in that moment 20 years ago. But today I do.
We felt confident because we knew were loved unconditionally. We felt confident because we trusted our Mom and our Dad. We always felt supported. Our Mom always made sure we were prepared. Because preparation is a major ingredient in the confidence recipe.
My Mom designed her home to feel safe. I had lived in 5 states by the time I started 7th grade. And despite the changes, or perhaps because of them, I always felt the stability of home, no matter what state, city or time zone we were in.
My Personal Success
Today I recognize the confidence my Mom developed in me as a key factor in my personal success. I have always believed in myself. Even when the odds were long and the path was uncertain. My confidence has played a major role in my career success. And it was my confidence that things would turn out well that allowed me to launch my own business 3 years ago, when there was really no proof that I could pull it off.
Today, my wife Dawn provides our 3 children with the same type of support, security and preparation that I enjoyed as a child. While you can’t give someone else confidence, you can create the perfect environment for confidence to flourish. That’s exactly what Dawn is doing.
Dawn continues to bolster my confidence too. When I told her I wanted to leave my job and start my own advertising agency, she was 100% behind it. Her unwavering belief in me made me believe in myself. Launching a startup can be extremely scary. But the truth is I wasn’t scared at all. A major reason was that Dawn, who had the most to lose, never doubted that the business would be successful. And she was right.
The Power Of Self Worth
Lately, I have been studying the lessons of vulnerability expert Brene Brown. Brown, a famed vulnerability and shame researcher at the University of Houston, says there is one key indicator that helps people stick their neck out and feel comfortable with vulnerability. That key factor is worthiness. That’s exactly what my Mom always made me feel. I felt worthy of good things. I felt worthy of love, friendship, of career success, and high achievement. And that self worth has fueled my confidence, motivation and posture my entire adult life.
The greatest gift we can give each other are the building blocks of confidence and the self worth that comes as a result. My mother made confidence development a priority. My wife is building it into our children. Confidence is the fuel and the foundation for success. There is no greater source of confidence than our mothers.
Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom, Dawn, my mother in law, Cynthia Zabel, and to Val Dutille. Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s who have worked hard to build confidence and self worth in their children. Your job is the most important of all jobs on the planet. The results of your work will not only last a lifetime, it will be passed along for generations to come.
*If you know a mother who deserves to hear this message, please share it with her.