Why 2021 might not be all you dreamed of.

As we approach the final two months of the year I have noticed a trend. People are TGIFing 2020. They are thankful that this year is almost over, and can’t wait to move on to the next 365 days.

But be careful. We have no idea what 2021 will hold. Yes, 2020 has been a year for the history books. We have had an assorted collection of challenging issues develop over the past 7 months. You may have noticed.

Covid-19, the economic recession, the renewed spotlight on systemic racism, and our contentious political environment have made for quite a cocktail. It’s hard not to have bitter-beer face just thinking about these issues.

A lot has been broken and burned this year. Cities near me, including Kenosha and Madison, Wisconsin look nothing like they did on February 29th. In fact, so much has happened this year you probably forgot we had a February 29th. Poor, forgotten February 29th…

In 2020 we are also experiencing unprecedented weather issues, including an unprecedented wildfire season, and a double shot of hurricanes and tropical storms. We have also had the earliest heavy snowstorms to ever hit the midwest, and that windy thing that knocked over grain bins in Iowa.

But don’t fast forward to next year just yet. The calendar flip will not solve the issues we are facing.

The Future

I am not a pessimist, but I fully recognize that 2021 could be even more challenging than 2020. The weather is not likely to back off. The pandemic is showing all signs of intensifying before it recedes. And the economic implications are sure to mount as people are out of work, businesses close, and loans are unpaid. Plus, what’s up with coins? (Said in my best Jerry Seinfeld voice.)

Back to Today

Instead, look for the good in this year. And in every day. If you are healthy, and your family is healthy, you have much to appreciate. Be thankful for increased time with those closest to you. We can all be thankful for a renewed awareness of old issues, and the great possibility of us solving them together. Cue We Are The World

2020 has introduced innovation and adaptability that will move our entire planet forward. We are all now more prepared for all manner of challenge to come.

2020 has created an amazing opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurial-minded humans. If you can’t find a problem to solve right you are not thinking outside the box. Speaking of boxes, would someone please launch a business to fix the box problem? I am tired of breaking down and recycling cardboard boxes, only to have new boxes arrive at my doorstep the next day. #ReuseTheBoxes

2020 has redirected travel from crowded cities and manufactured tourist attractions to quieter countrysides. We have spent more time in local, state and national parks. Many of us have reconnected with the wonders of the natural world. We have recognized the value of a walk in the woods, the view of mountains and the magic of sunrise and sunset that we haven’t noticed since Fiddler On The Roof.

2020 has helped us recognize more value in the little things. We have slowed our rushing and hard-charging a notch. We are being more understanding of the challenges of working parents and single moms. We recognize that anyone can suddenly be out of work. Even great pilots, chefs, and professional athletes.

We have become thankful for our schools and all the teachers have done for us. That awareness of the challenges other humans are facing is a gift. And just as the Great Depression impacted the financial decisions of those who lived through it for the rest of their lives, I hope the lessons we have learned in 2020 will last us all a lifetime.

Key Takeaway

There will be more challenges ahead in 2021. So find the good in every day. And do your part to help solve the issues that won’t go away without our help.

How to be a better leader during a crisis.

It’s 2020, and we are all taking a crash course on crisis management, whether we want to or not. This is a crazy time. But life is full of crazy times. And when the crazy times come they create opportunities for leaders to step up and lead their people through the experience. So as Prince once said, let’s go crazy.

The Crisis Question

The great question that we all have to ask ourselves when we face a crisis is: What role will I play?

There are always many roles available to us. We can be The Complainer, The Blamer, The Eye-Roller. The Conspiracy Theorist, Negative Nancy, Debbie Downer, or RBF. These are easy roles to take on. But they add no value to others.

However, there are also these roles:

  • The Optimist
  • The Cheerleader
  • The Rock (the Dwayne Johnson role)
  • The Person of Few Words.
  • The Sage
  • The Jester
  • The Father Figure (George Michael called dibs on this)
  • The Mother Figure.
  • The Big Brother or Sister (Not the CBS version)
  • The Listener
  • The Stabilizer
  • The Rebel (Billy Idol and James Dean role)

These can all be valuable leadership roles that help your organization, team or family through challenging times.

When to Choose Your Role

The best time is to decide which role you will take on is before a crisis occurs. It’s good to think about which of these roles work with your natural tendencies and personality. It’s also good to understand which roles your team, group or organization already have covered, and what is available to you. Just like in Dungeons & Dragons.

Consistency

Once you pick your role, never waiver. I have spent my career building brands for some of the world’s best companies. And the most important factor in developing a strong brand is consistency.

So as you develop your strong crisis leadership brand always be who your team needs you to be.  Don’t be the optimist some days and the complainer other days. That spoils everything.

De-escalation*

In a crisis, emotions naturally escalate. Which simply exacerbates the problem. That’s why there is tremendous value in those who can help decrease the pressure in a situation. Always focus on making things better. Not worse. Others will recognize that, and seek you out in challenging times.

*This is not the down escalator.

Conflict Resolution.

My wife and I recently celebrated our 18-year wedding anniversary. I attribute much of our successful marriage to the fact that we resolve our conflicts quickly. We recently both agreed that in the 20 years we have been together as a couple, including 2 years pre-ring-wearing) the longest we have been in conflict with each other is 24 hours. We swear by the following conflict resolution formula to help get through our sticking points. (I also swear when I am not by the following conflict resolution formula.)

The Sure-Fire Formula

  1. The first person speaks without interruption.
  2. The second person plays back what they heard.
  3. The second person speaks without interruption
  4. The first person plays back what they heard.

Why this works:

  1. You both get to say everything you want to say.
  2. You both feel heard.

Try this the next time you have a conflict with another person. If it doesn’t work I’ll refund the money you spent on this blog post.

Leadership Is Lonely.

As a leader and an entrepreneur, I can’t show indecision or weakness to my team. They have put their trust in me, and I can’t waiver in front of them. Instead, organizational leaders need to find their own support group. This consists of a person or people outside your organization, team or family who you can share your challenges with.

I am part of a CEO roundtable that meets once a month to discuss the challenges we are facing, support each other and offer advice and guidance. It has proven to be a highly effective way of supporting leaders who don’t have a natural support structure within their own organization. And research on roundtables groups has indicated that any shaped table will do.

I have also created a meetup group of men who live in my community. All of them are either successful entrepreneurs or top leadership within their businesses. They are all husbands and fathers. We talk about issues that dudes don’t typically talk about. In this environment we can discuss the real challenges we face, the uncertainty we feel and share thoughts on how to be better businessmen, family men and members of our community.

Taking Care Of Yourself In Crisis.

There are stresses, frustrations and losses that accumulate every day. We are drained by daily setbacks. And 2020 has taken things to 11. So we have to prevent the stress gunk from building up and fouling our systems. The key is to figure out how to reboot, regenerate, and respond positively. 

The following 3 activities provide a proven formula for positively dealing with stress.

  1. Sleep helps your body and mind refresh and recover.
  2. Exercise helps you burn the stress off.
  3. Worship helps you rebalance and offers big-picture perspective.

You need to get rid of the stress gunk that builds up like WD-40. These back-to-basics keys help you find your balance again when you start to weeble or wobble. Try them for yourself. They will make you feel like a better human.

Key Takeaway

  1. Crisis is unavoidable.
  2. Crisis creates opportunity (Remember, chaos is a ladder).
  3. Find your most valuable role and play it consistently.
  4. Learn to de-escalate.
  5. Use the 4-Step approach to conflict resolution.
  6. Leaders need to find their own support system.
  7. Decrease your stress through, exercise, sleep and your own spirituality.

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

When your opportunity comes you have to be prepared to jump.

Every opportunity has a time constraint. If you don’t jump, you miss out. You have to be ready and willing to act when the chance comes along. Which means that before the opportunity arrives you have to prepare yourself.

The Start-Up Opportunity

I had thought a lot about starting my own business over the course of my career. Then one day an opportunity came my way. A former client called me and encouraged me to start my own advertising agency so that we could work together again. Two hours later another former client called me with the same conversation.

After checking my office for candid cameras and Ashton Kutcher, I realized I wasn’t being punked. The opportunity to start my own business had arrived. I quickly arranged phone calls and meetups with other former-and-potential-future clients. I discovered there was great interest in what I was planning to do. And Morris Day told me this was the time.

So I jumped. I launched The Weaponry. I have been growing and improving it, and preparing for new opportunities ever since. The key was that I was ready to roll when the opportunity pulled up and asked if I wanted to get in.

The Opportunity Party

The COVID-19 crises and the economic fallout have created unprecedented opportunities. Great businesses in many categories have disappeared during these unusual times because they weren’t prepared for this storm. But the storm will pass.

For the vast majority of the businesses that have failed the issue was a short term demand issue. And those ready and willing to step in and fill the demand on the other side will find the opportunity of a lifetime. And I don’t mean television for women.

The health and economic crisis of 2020 has also created amazing new opportunities. Did you own a face mask before this year?  Have you ever seen so much plexiglass? Or hand sanitizer? Or stickers on the ground saying stand here?

There are new needs that are not being met yet (like perhaps the 2-Yard Stick). There are also new wants. Like the want to be connected to others. To socialize. To get away from home and still feel safe. To exercise in a non-frightening way. To laugh more. To watch sports with a community. Take on any of these opportunities now before someone else does.

Hot & Cold

Remember that hot coffee and hot chocolate are only hot for a short time. The same holds true for ice-cold beer and ice-cold lemonade. If you don’t drink them quickly the opportunity to enjoy their perfect state passes you by.

Key Takeaway

Prepare yourself to take action before opportunities come along. Read, train, learn, network, save, and build up your confidence so you are ready to take action when your time comes. Then don’t dilly or dally. Don’t miss your opportunity. Jump. Make things happened. Find your happiness, your money, your purpose, your calling. And do it quickly. Before the opportunity slips away.

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

If you want to start a successful business find your one thing.

Yesterday I talked to a good friend of mine about his entrepreneurial ambitions. He is a rockstar who has held impressive positions with 5 elite brands that everyone in America knows. Thanks to COVID-19 he is now starting the next chapter of his career. This is an exciting opportunity for him to do something new and self-directed. Like a Spike Lee joint.

As he told me about all the things he has in the works right now I was impressed. There were interesting partnerships, licensing opportunities, consulting requests, new product development ideas and brand building thoughts. It was like a Thanksgiving table full of opportunities. And everything looked delicious.

A blessing and a curse

Having many options in front of you is a gift. It is also a recipe for entrepreneurial failure. Because entrepreneurship doesn’t require dabbling and exploring and nibbling at a number of interesting things. It requires you to focus your attention on one thing completely. Like a hitman.

Dreaming Vs Doing

When you have many opportunities available to you, you are still in the dreaming phase. You are considering the possibilities. It is exciting. But it is still fantasy. And there is a big difference between dreaming, dabbling and doing. Which sounds like a Fred Flinstone-ism.

The Weaponry

When I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I was completely focused on my mission. I threw all other options aside. I put all my eggs in one basket and then focused on the basket as if nothing else mattered. Because it didn’t. That focus made all the difference.

Getting Obsessive

To be successful as an entrepreneur you have to become obsessive. You have to roll a rock up a hill to get started. Which is hard. And it can’t be done while texting. Or with one hand in your pocket. Unless maybe you are Alanis Morrisette.

If you are thinking about starting your own business, pick something you are really excited about and focus on that one thing completely. Think of it as your one nail to drive. Then hammer away at that one nail until the job is done. Don’t touch, tap or tickle another nail until the alpha nail is hammered home.

Once you have the business humming it will afford you new opportunities to do more. You can pour all that you learned bringing the first business to life into the next. A successful first business will also provide additional funds to deploy towards your next venture. You can repeat the process over and over, and make many great things happen. But start with one. Just like Brian McKnight.

Key Takeaway

If you are thinking of starting your own business, think singular, not plural. One business opportunity should step forward and take all of your attention. Find the one idea among the many that you are most excited about and feed it. Fuel it. Fixate on it. And force it to happen.

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

This is a great time if you are great.

I know that right now the COVID-19 crisis feels terrible. It certainly feels bad If you lost your job. It feels bad if you are worried that your business may run out of money before the shutdown runs out of days. It feels bad if your life and career have been disrupted. And it feels bad if you were a high school or college senior during the Lost Spring of 2020.

Great Things Ahead

However, in the next phase things are going to be very interesting and exciting for great people. People like you, Gatsby and Tony The Tiger. There has been so much disruption and so much change that things won’t simply go back to the way they were before. For great people, things will become much better.

The job losses have surged past 30 million people. That’s not good. But it means millions of roles will need to be filled when the giant economic machine turns on again. Which is great, if you are great.

It’s Showtime For Rockstars

There are rockstars who felt stuck in their jobs who have suddenly been lodged free. You may be one of them. Your best chapter is still ahead. And this just freed you up to prepare for it.

man in blue suit
If you are a rockstar it’s time to take the stage.

The Replacements

This is going to be exciting. Companies that weren’t well-positioned to survive the COVID-19 crisis will be replaced by better companies who are smarter, more innovative, and more prepared. Many of these next-gen companies will be owned by the same people who owned the last-gen companies that failed. Except the great leaders will come back better for what they have learned.

Falling Into Favor

Entire industries will be disrupted. New opportunities will spring like, well, spring. And skills, locations and employee-types who had fallen out of favor, like Suzy Favor, will be favored once again. Companies will make big bets on on-shoring before they take on the risks of off-shoring or Pauly Shoring again. This means more opportunity for you, buddy…

There will be millions of people who have nothing to lose by starting their own businesses. Many of them will become wildly successful. This may be you, Wild Thang.

woman in yellow shirt sitting on brown wooden floor
If you are great, the future is so bright, you’ve gotta wear shades. And yellow.

The Dickinsonian Twist

Great stories will emerge about how this great disruption, which looked like the bleakest of times, turned out to be a blessing to so many. This could be your story. This should be your story.

Restacking The Deck

We are about to enter the great reshuffling. Prepare now. Because those great people who position themselves well during this timeout will be the winners. You simply have to be willing to make a move. Take a chance. Start something new. Or simply make a few phone calls. As JFK once said, ‘Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.’ And now is the time to make things happen, captain!

When we begin hearing the success stories that come out of the COVID-19 crisis, many people will kick themselves, or smack themselves, V-8 style, and think, I should have thought of that. Or,  I should have done that. Or worse, I thought of that, but didn’t do that. And now I see what I missed out on. Please, don’t be that kid.

Key Takeaway

Position yourself well for the opportunities to come. They will be transformative for those prepared to catch the wave. Greatness will be rewarded. Boldness will be rewarded. So will open-mindedness, creativity and innovation. So raise your hand now. And make sure the greatest opportunity of your lifetime doesn’t pass you by.

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

Are you on your heels or toes right now?

It is easy to feel unbalanced right now. COVID-19 has infected every area of our lives. It’s not just our health. Work, school, worship, restaurants and bro-hugs have all been impacted. As the coronavirus blows across the country, and creates a new abnormal normal, it is time to check your stance.

Today’s question is:

Are you on your heels or toes right now?

Heels

If you are on your heels, you are letting the current situation get the best of you. You are not well balanced. You are simply reacting. And you can easily be knocked over by the next challenge that comes your way.

Toes

Right now you need to be on your toes. It means you are actively managing your situation. You are ready for whatever comes next. You are prepared to take on the next challenge. You are in a position to help others. And you are thinking ahead.

The Opportunity Stance

If you are on your toes it means you are seeing opportunities emerge. Today there are chances to help put your time and talent where it can be most impactful. There are opportunities for learning, growth, and skill development right now. In fact, this may be the best opportunity for self improvement you have ever had. Unless you have been to rehab.

Innovation

If you are on your toes you have the ability to innovate. You see the business opportunities and investments opportunities that are here today, or coming tomorrow. Which is only a day away. There will be a great demand for new ideas to better prepare us for our next great challenges. They have to come from somewhere. Why not you?

The Right Way

If your are on your toes you can help others get right, do right and be alright, alright, alright when the virus clears and we are back to full speed. It means that you will be the first to move when the red light turns green. And when the light changes, we will enter one of the most exciting eras we have ever known.

Key Takeaway

Even in this unusual and challenging time there is so much good around us. And so much more good ahead. Don’t miss out on any of it. Every great story needs a challenging plot twist in the middle to make the ending better. So make sure you are on your toes right now. Be ready when opportunity calls on you. And let’s make the rest of the story the best part of all.

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

 

Now is the time to be bold.

This has been an interesting 2 weeks for our planet. Like the movie Parasite, the coronavirus has come out of nowhere, and messed up plans from Wuhan to Hollywood. As a result, the financial markets have gone totally Tom Petty. From Learning to Fly Into The Great Wide Open, to Free Falling.

In the midst of one of the strongest sustained period of economic growth in American history, suddenly we are dealing with travel restrictions, cancelled national and international events, medical supply shortages and panic at the disco.

The Stock Market

Today, the stock markets are in the toilet. And I couldn’t be more pleased.

Because if you are looking for an amazing financial opportunity, this is it. In bad times, when people are panicking, the table is set for you to dig in and take advantage. If you need a refresher course on this lesson, rent the movie The Big Short or Trading Places tonight.

Be Bold Like Barbecue Sauce

If you have a little money to work with, it is time to be bold. You have to find your chance, and take it, like Steve Winwood. Which means picking up an asset that others have dropped like a bad habit in January. It means doing your homework. Taking action. And having faith, like Tim McGraw. Because nothing is guaranteed. And you could go bust. But there is a very good chance that you will go boom boom pow.

The Mortgage Crisis

During the subprime mortgage crisis from 2007 to 2010, American banks were in major trouble. There were fears that some banks would not survive. And some didn’t. But there was an opportunity with those that did. To take advantage of the opportunity you had to buy into those stocks during the darkest days of uncertainty.

During that time I went dumpster diving, and bought stock in 4 different banks that were in the trash. I bought those stocks for as low as $2 per share. And I learned a valuable lesson from that experience. I swore that if I was ever in such a position again, I would buy far more next time. Because those banks stocks have proven to be the smartest financial investment I ever made. Aside from my decision to start my own advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.

Key Takeaway

I am not telling you to buy stocks. Or to start your own business. I am simply reminding you that fortune favors the bold. And this is a prime time for the bold. So be bold. Make bold choices. And see what happens next.

Right now there is a great parking spot with your name on it.

What do you do when you arrive at a crowded parking lot? Do you mutter to yourself about the crowd? Do you turn around, like Bonnie Tyler, and leave? Do you look for a spot in the back, farthest from the building, because it is most likely to be available?

When I come to a crowded parking lot, even when it looks like there are no spots available, I head straight to the front row. #BobUeckerStyle. I assume that even in a seemingly full parking lot, there is a great space waiting for me. And a funny thing often happens when I do this. I frequently find a cherry parking spot, open and waiting for me.

I don’t know why that spot is so often available. Maybe someone recently left. Or maybe most people simply figured there were no great spots left, so they didn’t bother to look. Either way, one of the most coveted spots was left unoccupied and waiting for me to claim it.

I believe rockstar parking spots are usually available. And I believe that I deserve one of those spots. I also believe that this is how life works. The same rules of availability that govern parking lots also apply to business, the arts, friendship, entrepreneurship, courtship, and all of the other desirable ships of life.

Key Takeaway

Great spaces are open and available to you in all areas of life. Believe you deserve yours. And go take it before someone else does.

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

How your opportunities are like popcorn.

Opportunities are like popcorn.

They both start as small unassuming kernels.

And if you leave them alone they will stay that way forever. Just small kernels of potential. Unrealized. And Inedible.

orange corn kernels
Look at all that opportunity!

There are millions of un-popped kernels around you. They are in jars. In stores and in cupboards. Just waiting to be popped.

But unless you live in Hades, those kernels won’t pop in the store. They won’t pop in the jar. And they won’t pop on the shelf in your cupboard.

You have to pop them yourself. The way your grandparents and Orville Redenbacher did.

The Recipe For Popcorn

  1. Pour kernels into a pan.
  2. Bathe them in oil.
  3. Crank up the heat.
  4. Start shaking the pan. Then keep shaking and shaking until all the kernels pop.

Key Takeaway

Opportunities surround you. But they won’t pop on their own. You need to apply heat and action. But when you do, the results just keep piling up. So crank up the heat to high and start shaking. Then keep heating and shaking until you have a bowl full of delicious, salted, buttered popcorn in front of you.

Today is the best day to declare your independence.

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. Even when it falls awkwardly on a Wednesday. Today I will hit two parades, watch fireworks, have a cookout, and tune in to watch a professional scarf down enough hot dogs to feed all the Pilgrims on the Mayflower for a week. #Murica

 

IMG_9031
Me and my family getting our 4th of July parade on. Notice the sign my daughter chalked in front of us.

The thing I love most.

As much as I love celebrating the 4th of July, I love what it symbolizes even more. Independence. It’s the not-so-secret ingredient that makes our country a powerful global magnet. Independence is what attracts those looking for a better life of their own making. I love that our country is powered by a population that left their native lands with the courage to say, ‘We think we can do this better on our own.’ That is so badass! Of course, Australia is built on a population of criminals. That’s pretty badass too, mate.

Career Independence

As we celebrate America’s independence I am also celebrating all the Founders who have declared their independence by taking charge of their careers. I admire the entrepreneurs who have the courage and confidence to do what our nation’s founding mothers and fathers did in establishing this country.

I am thankful for the inspirational stories and examples I’ve heard and read from Founders across the country. I love the consultants, freelancers and solopreneurs who have decided to bet on their own skills and abilities. It is the safest bet there is.

IMG_1647
Is it time for you to fly your own flag?

My Independence.

I declared my independence when I started by own advertising and ideas agency, The Weaponry, two years ago. I always felt I had the ability to attract great clients and extremely talented creative thinkers and doers. I was willing to bet my financial wellbeing on that belief. Today, The Weaponry is thriving. Which makes every day feel like Independence Day (no, not the creepy alien movie).

Embrace your independence.

But you don’t have to start your own company to declare your independence. Because independence is a mindset. You must believe that you are a rock star at what you do, and that you could do it wherever you want. Just as Lebron James decided to take his talent to South Beach, then back to North Beach, and now to West Beach, you need to know that whether you are a business executive, a salesperson, teacher, professional creative, or burger flipper, you have the freedom to take your set of skillz anywhere that makes you happy. Even Cleveland.

Key Takeaway

Our foremothers and forefathers founded this country with the belief that they could design a better life for themselves and for all of their cute little red, white and blue-wearing offspring to come. By doing so, they have empowered you to design your own life in a way that makes you happiest. Never forget that. Recognize and take advantage of the great opportunities that come your way. Or create your own opportunities. You always have the freedom to choose what is best for you. Nothing is more American than that.

IMG_9095
Happy Independence Day!