20 Things I am Thankful For In 2020.

Thankfully, we have made it to Thanksgiving 2020. But this year the holiday will feel much different. Unless, of course, you are a turkey. But then again, almost everything about this year has been different. By March it was clear that this year was going to be like a box of choc-o-lates. Because in 2020, you never know what you’re gonna get, Jen-ny.

While it is easy to write the year off as a total loss, we shouldn’t overlook the many positives we all have in our lives. That’s why I took the 2020 20/20 Challenge, and spent 20 minutes listing 20 things I am thankful for in 2020. I hope you do too. Because like milk, reflecting on the things you are thankful for does a body good.

Take 20 minutes after reading this to list your own 20 things.

20 things I am thankful for in 2020

  1. My Family When you are locked up at home for months on end, the quality of your experience is directly related to the quality of your cell mates. And I have thoroughly enjoyed the additional time with my family this year. My wife Dawn and children Ava, Johann and Magnus have made Albrecht Island a fun and funny place to be in 2020.
My Cell Mates

2. My Health Thankfully, I have been healthy this year. Healthier than most years in fact. Because I haven’t been close enough to anyone to catch their cooties. I have been masking up like the Lone Ranger. I have been hand sanitizing and 6-feet-apartizing. I have eaten a lot of doctor repellant, also known as apples. And I am thankful that it all seems to be helping.

3. My Bicycle My Cannondale was like my trusty steed this year. While my gym access was gone with the Schwinn, my bike provided both exercise and an escape into the beautiful and quiet Wisconsin countryside. I rode so much this summer I felt like Lance Armstrong. Only without the lying, cheating and testicular cancer.

Me and my biker gang.

4. Hilton Head Island After cancelling Spring Break and being locked at home for 3 months, in June my family and I road-tripped from Milwaukee to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. We stayed right on the beach, at our usual spot, as if 2020 was a usual year. The ocean, sun, and vibe of the island were a welcomed relief from our time at home. And somehow the jellyfish stings seemed to sting a little less this year. Even without urine. Thanks Covid-19!

I am thankful we still got to boogie in 2020.

5. Our Western Road Trip While our beach vacation was nice, our 2020 western road trip was epic. We put 4100 miles on our Family Truckster. We hit The Badlands, The Black Hills, Yellowstone, Idaho, Bozeman, Glacier National Park, Teddy Roosevelt National Park, and the bright lights of Fargo, North Dakota. That trip was so full of wow and wonder, like Billy Joel, it made us forget about life for a while.

Hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana was a high point of the year. Literally.

6. School Mostly In-Person While our kids were schooling at home like everyone else from March-June, this fall has been an in-school success. My kids have all been learning in-person this fall for all but a 2 week stretch, when their schools transitioned to at-home learning to cool the covid flare ups like Preparation H.

7. My Children’s Development I noticed something interesting in my children this year. And it wasn’t a long cotton swab up their nostrils. Something about the isolation of 2020 seemed to allow them to focus on themselves, their interests, their identities and their individual growth. Each of them grew more confident and self-assured through this forced experiment. #ParentalPandemicPositives

Feeling alive in Deadwood.

8. Entrepreneurship I began my entrepreneurial adventure in 2016. And while I have loved everything about it from the start, 2020 made the benefits abundantly clear. Not only have I felt in control of my own job, career and income, I have have been able to help provide a steady place to work for the rest of my team at The Weaponry. I once heard that Bill Gates insisted on keeping a year of salary on hand for every Microsoft employee to help weather storms. So I followed Bill’s lead, and it has provided a major sense of stability in an unstable time.

9. My Work Teammates Speaking of work, my teammates have been ah-may-zing. I couldn’t be more thankful for The Weapons at The Weaponry, and all they have done to deliver for our clients this year. We are having our best year ever because of their hard and smart work.

10. Foosball Over the first couple months of the lockdown my kids and I played foosball (or what my French Canadian friends call baby-foot) every single night. It was a fun cherry on top of our days. Not only did we have a lot of fun, we all got a lot better. #PutThatOnYourCollegeApplicationKids

11. Spring Hikes In the spring, when everything but the grocery store seemed to be closed, and toilet paper was more valuable than a vaccine, my family and I started hiking on the weekends. The 1200-mile Ice Age Trail winds across Wisconsin, and we would knock off several miles of the trail every weekend. It was a fun adventure at a time when there wasn’t much adventuring to be done.

We’re on the highway to trail.

12. My Clients In a year that went sideways for so many, my clients have been solid as a rock, like Ashford & Simpson. The trust they have put in us has been humbling. We have gained 8 new clients since March. And only one of those new clients joined us because their former agency went out of business during the pandemic.

13. This Blog Writing this blog has been a great way to share my thoughts on so much of what has happened this year, including covid, the economy, George Floyd, and the election. Starting my morning by writing has kept me thinking about the big picture, and not overwhelmed by the small things. Plus it allowed me to share things I thought were funny when I wasn’t seeing any humans outside my family. Thank you for reading my blog. I hope it has provided a laugh and a positive perspective in 2020.

14. Investment Opportunities The tanking of the stock market has provided great opportunities for long term investors. Oil stocks have been in the toilet, and I have been diving in after them, figuratively speaking of course. I have taught my children about the opportunities to invest this year. And my 2 junior investors have almost doubled their money, buying airlines, restaurants, banks and oil. #MoreRichDadThanPoorDad

15. Beautiful Summer Weather This summer in Wisconsin we enjoyed perhaps the most perfect summer weather of my life. It made everything else about 2020 better. Thanks Mother Nature and Mark Baden.

Biking around Lake Monona in Madison.

16. Zoom We have used Zoom at work to connect with teammates and collaborate with clients. But the best part of Zoom is connecting with friends and family. Last night I Zoomed with a group of my closest friends from high school for over 2 hours. I regularly Zoom with my college track teammates and with family members. It is the next best thing to being together. Because when you can’t be in the room, Zoom. (That one is free Zoom Marketing Department.)

Thanks for the call, Princer, Conan, Mr Robinson, Mucus, Acks, Slowsley, Birthday Boy, Coop, Zyck and Deacon.

17. Backyard Bass The pond in my backyard has some great largemouth bass. I spent many an evening this summer fishing for largemouth from my backyard. Which felt like winning at life.

Backyard Bass and Bibs

18. Canoes and Kayaks My family has 3 kayaks and a 17-foot canoe. We spent a lot of time paddling this year. Especially in the spring and early summer when we had a lot of rain and the rivers were ripping. My son Magnus and I got tangled in some windfall trees on a trip in June and Tipppedacanoe like Tyler too. It was one of the great thrills and stories of the year.

Canoeing and kayaking floats our boats.

19. Tackle Football My sons Johann and Magnus played tackle football this fall. They both had full seasons, were healthy and had no covid issues. It marked our true return to normalcy. Except for the fact that even the face masks on their helmets had face masks this year.

Me and Johann thankful for a full season.

20. Innovation There was more innovation created and implemented this year than any other year of my life. The way the people of Earth have stepped up and quickly found solutions to covid-related problems has been amazing. While we have advanced in major ways this year, the full impact of all we have learned will likely not be recognized for years to come. And we are going to be great at the next pandemic.

Bonus:

21. My Zyliss Sandwich Tool: I have a knifey-spready tool that is amazing for a regular sandwich maker like me. It is great for spreading mayonnaise, peanut butter, jelly and rumors. It is excellent for cutting the sandwich after you create it too. This thing is dreamy. In fact, I make sandwiches just to be able to use it. It will make a great Christmas gift for the sandwich maker on your list. (This has been an unpaid endorsement. But boy, do I endorse it.)

Spread the word about this sandwich knife-spready thing.

Key Takeaway

The way you experience life starts with your mindset. Even in 2020 there is much to be thankful for. Take a few minutes to reflect on the good in your life. And you will find even more good ahead. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. And thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate your time.

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

19 Things that worked for me in 2019.

Today is the last day of 2019. Which is always a good time to look back and learn what worked and what didn’t. But since Strength Finder’s told me that I am a raging Maximizer, I really only focus on what worked. So that’s what I will do here. Without further ado, here is:

What worked for me in 2019.

1. Setting an alarm:  I don’t remember sleeping in once this year. I think I set an alarm every day except Christmas Day, when I knew my 9, 12 and 14 year old human alarms would wake me up early anyway. I set my alarm for 6:00am every weekday, and 6:30am on the weekends. I get up and either write or workout first thing. My alarm has helped me get the most out of each day. Including weekends, vacation days and holidays.

2. Hard Work: It pays off. Maybe you have heard that somewhere before. I attribute much of what went well for me in 2019 to hard work. There just isn’t an easy way to accomplish great things without it.

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 I spent a lot of time doing unglamorous stuff like this. And it really helped.  

3. Reading: I read a lot of books, magazines and graffiti in 2019. As a result, I am ending the year smarter, with many more ideas, and way more knowledge than I had at the beginning of the year. (Even if it doesn’t show.) Here are some of the books I read this year. 

4. Exercise: Exercise is a critical part of my personal program. It helps me with my physical health, mental health, injury prevention, and self image. If I don’t burn off some of my energy regularly it brings out the Chris Farley in me.

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Hiking with my son Johann in Washington, while singing songs from The Sound of Music.

5. Sleep: I have made a point of trying to get more sleep this year. When I do, it helps.  Going to bed early is like sleeping in for productive people. So I try to do this when I can.

6. Writing The Perfect Agency Project blog. This blog was read in 120 countries in 2019. Which is crazy in any language. It has helped me share my entrepreneurial experiences and my career and life lessons with people all over the big blue marble. It helps me stay connected with people. And it makes me look for the key takeaways from everything that happens to me. Plus it gives me a place to write down all the silly things I want to blurt out in important business meetings.

7. Asking for introductions. I have met some of the most interesting, enjoyable and influential new people by simply asking for introductions. I plan to be very purposeful about doing more of this in 2020. (OMG! How many times I am going to think of Barbara Walters and Hugh Downs this coming year?)

8. Public Speaking: Public speaking opportunities have helped me meet a lot of great new people. It has also created several new business opportunities. And I have gotten several free bottles of water out of it.

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Spinning an imaginary basketball on my finger.

9. Launching theweaponry.com: After 3 years in business without a real website where you could learn anything about my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, we finally launched a real website. Opportunities have markedly increased since then. Because websites help businesses. But now I also get to say that I built a multi-million dollar business without a website at my speaking engagements. #winwin

10. Opening our Columbus, Ohio office. The Weaponry has important Weapons and clients in Columbus, Ohio. So we decided to open an office there back in March. It has been great for our team and for business opportunities. It gives me another reason to spend time in this great city. Plus, it allows me to eat more Donatos pizza and get the Seriously Chocolate Milk from the UDF in C-Bus on the regular.

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The Columbus Office. 

11. Taking Phone Calls and Meetings with students and recent graduates: It is easy to ignore young people as they are just starting their professional journeys. But don’t. I always try to make time for the juniors who are interested in talking to me. And this year those conversations have turned into new employees and people we would love to have work on our team when we can find space.

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Our newest Weapon, Sarah ‘Ice’ Disanza.

12. Guest Lecturing: I really enjoy guest lecturing for college classes. It gives me an opportunity to share what I know, meet new people, and get exposed to new perspectives and new talent. I think it would be cool to teach for realsies when I retire. Except they probably don’t let real professors swear in front of the students the way I do. #ItAlwaysMakesThemGiggle

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Guest lecturing at Marquette, and perhaps preparing to sneeze.

13. Taking Vacations: Traveling is great for your mental health, creativity, world perspective, relationships and airline status. This year my whole family and I visited 11 states together. We came back with new stories, memories and Christmas ornaments. Take your vacation days. They are extremely important to your wellbeing and happiness.

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On Father’s Day we hiked on Mt. Rainier. It was totes epic. 

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14. Taking on projects with short turnaround times: We have done (and are currently doing) some crazy work on extremely short timelines. While rush projects are never ideal, getting things done that even our clients didn’t think could be done builds a lot of credit and camaraderie. It also taught me that there are two very different ways to spell comradery.

15. Getting Involved: I have volunteered to co-chair the marketing committee of the W Letterwinner’s Club at The University of Wisconsin. It has introduced me to a many great new humans who were also varsity athletes for the Badgers. It has enabled me to contribute my knowledge and skillz to the club. I am not saying that any of it was accepted or useful to the club. But it was offered. And like they say at church, it is the offering that counts.

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The W Letterwinner’s Club Advisory Board

16. Dates with my wife. My wife Dawn and I went on dates in 2019. We did dinner dates, breakfast dates, lunch dates, movie dates and a weekend away date. I wish we could do even more. I really like her. And I really like getting her all to myself. While I don’t recommend you dating my wife, I highly recommend making time for dates with your significant other.

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My wife, Dawn. She takes grease out of my way, and looks good in a witch’s hat.

17. Coaching:  I volunteered to coach my son Magnus’s flag football team again this year. And I volunteered to be the throwing coach for my daughter Ava’s middle school track team. Both of them were extremely rewarding. It ensured that my kids had a fun and encouraging experience. And I got to share what I know. It also enabled me to develop relationships with other children in my kids’ grades. Now I have little kids yelling, ‘Hey Coach!’ at school events. It’s pretty fun. Although I always turn expecting to see Craig T. Nelson.

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The Furious Fighting Falcons.

18. Productive Commutes:  I try to make the most of my 25 to 40 minute commute to work and home. This year I packed that time full of audio books and podcasts. As a result I alway came home smarter than I left. I also used my commute to make a lot of phone calls to keep in touch with my people. It’s free time. Use it wisely.

19. Smiling: I smile a lot. Smiling is my favorite. People comment on the fact that I smile a lot a lot. (#notatypo) I attribute much of the positivity I get from the universe and its inhabitants to the fact that I smile a lot. It makes you seem approachable and interested. If you want to put just one thing that worked for me in 2019 to work for you in 2020, try smiling more.

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My college teammate Andy Bosley likes to smile too. Especially when he surprises me on the streets of Seattle. 

Key Takeaway

Take a moment to reflect on what worked for you in 2019. Do more of that in 2020. And consider some of the things that worked for me. Especially the smiling. It’s my version of Kurt Vonnegut’s sunscreen.

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

The one thing that helps me make each day great.

Every day starts full of potential. Your Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays are all born ready to be amazing. It’s what you do with each of them that sets them apart. I am a card carrying optimist. But I know that I will be dead long before I want to be. So making the most of each of the days I’m given is a top priorities.

There is a saying that goes through my head every morning that helps me make each day great.

“Get on top of your day before your day gets on top of you.”

I can’t remember who said that. It may have been Anonymous, or Unknown or one of those other prolific writers. But this statement pops in my ears each morning and prompts me to write down the list of things I want to accomplish each day. Then I start cranking. And crossing things off. And feeling accomplished.

However, my lists don’t help me get the urgent things done. They help me get to the important things that aren’t urgent. Between the major tasks of the day (that I couldn’t ignore if I tried) I am able to fit in things like writing a blog post, mapping out a new business idea, connecting with friends, family members or business contacts. It helps me prioritize exercise. And family time. If it’s on my list I will take a few minutes to work on a long term project that could otherwise slide forever. The list helps me find time to learn. And time to be quiet. Ok, I know those who know me don’t believe the last point. But one of my favorite activities is what I call ‘mental jogging’. And it only happens when I’m quiet.

Today I encourage you to get on top of your day. Picture the end of the day like an award show that recognizes you for your Daytime Achievement (It’s like a daily Lifetime Achievement award). What did they say you did that was so special? Include the big pillars of the day. But fill your list with the quick little wins that you never seem to get to. And then get to it. You’ll be amazed how five minutes can make the rest of your day so much more valuable. If you don’t read this until 4pm or 9pm, try writing a list anyway. I have saved many an afternoon and evening with a late list. Now, I would love to wrap this post up with a clever little statement. But I don’t have the time. There are too many other things on my list.