I was recently in a meeting where I had a difference of opinion with one of my clients. So after he was done sharing his view, I threw my challenge flag. Then I realized we were not in an NFL game. So I had to actually say the words, ‘I challenge that perspective.’ Afterwhich, I introduced my perspective.
Then, like an episode of Seinfeld, or Murder She Wrote, the plot thickened.
Someone else in the room announced that he challenged my challenge. Which left me in a challenging position.
I had 2 options.
I could explain myself further to ensure that everyone clearly understood my perspective.
I could seek understanding of my challenger’s perspective.
(Ironically, I drove a rented Dodge Challenger to the meeting, which may have kicked off all of the challenges.)
I chose door number 2.
When there is a difference of opinions, the win is not to make sure everyone else knows why you think what you think. The win is to learn, understand and gain greater insight from the perspective of others.
Rather than digging in and repeating your perspective try one of these magical comeback lines:
Why do you think that?
How did you come to that conclusion?
Tell me more.
Who’s zooming who?
Seeking understanding doesn’t mean you have to change your mind. It doesn’t mean that one of you is right and the other is wrong. It simply means that you are keeping your mind open to learning about how others think. You get to understand the facts that others have collected and how they have processed those facts into conclusions. This will help you make better decisions in the future. And it will help you gain the respect of others. Because when you show someone else that you respect them and their thinking process they will often do the same for you.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
Yesterday a window washer came into my office to wash my windows. I found the experience fascinating. Not because I had never seen someone wash office windows before. But because I have.
My summer job before my freshman and sophomore years in high school was working at the office complex where my dad worked in Vermont. I was on the grounds crew. Actually, I was the grounds crew. (It was just me and ol’ ground.) I also helped with construction as they built and remodeled buildings. I painted and did other odd jobs. The odder the better.
But on days when it rained, Frank Gilman, the owner of the office complex, sent me inside to wash windows.
I hated that job.
In fact, if we were sitting around a dinner table, bar or campfire and we started swapping stories about the worst jobs we have ever had, mine would be washing windows. And mind you, I have shoveled manure and picked rocks out of fields all day long.
The last time I was asked to wash windows I washed a couple and then said I wasn’t feeling well so that I could go home. I wasn’t exactly lying. Because I was really sick of washing windows.
But the man in my office washing windows clearly enjoyed his work. He was experiencing no pain from all those panes. I’m no doctor, but he didn’t look the least bit sick of washing all those windows.
Realizing that I could learn something from this man, I asked him how long he had been washin’ dem windows.
He proudly replied, ’30 years!’
30 frickin years!
What struck me about his response was that it contained the enthusiasm that I would offer if someone asked me how long I have worked in advertising.
Yet this man had made an entire career out of my least favorite job of all time.
But I didn’t tell him he was wrong. And that his job was horrible. Or that I would have rather spent the past 30 years in the Gulag than firing Windex and dragging squeegee.
Instead, I sought understanding. I asked him what he liked best about his job.
He smiled and replied, ‘The views.’
We are all wired differently. We see, experience and enjoy the world differently. Your views and opinions are your own. They are not universal. There are other humans with very different ideas and ideals than you. And there is far more value in learning from others whose experiences and choices are different than yours than in telling others how wrong they are for being different. Step back and see the big picture. It offers quite a view.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
April 15th is once again upon us. If you pay a lot in taxes it might feel like Uncle Sam is upon you too. This time of year people always complain about how much they owe the government in taxes. Clearly the complainers don’t know how easy it is to dramatically lower your tax burden.
Before I share my surefire tax lowering technique I should acknowledge that I am not a licensed tax professional. So anything I share here should be verified by your tax consultant, or by actually reading the IRS publications. But I am pretty sure this is not the same tax lowering strategies used by Wesley Snipes, Martha Stewart or Willie Nelson.
Tax Paying Experience
While I am not a certified tax professional, I own my own business and file taxes in 3 different states. I have been paying taxes since I was 14 years old. I have calculated my taxes on my own and I’ve used Turbo Tax. Today, I use a team of professional tax accountants. All 3 of these tax preparing approaches have confirmed my bulletproof tax reduction strategy.
My Tax Reduction Technique
My surefire technique for lowering your tax burden is so easy anyone can use it. Even better, it is legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
If you want to pay far less in taxes next year simply make far less income.
The Ultimate Tax Hack
If a lower tax bill is a high priority, simply throttle back your effort and contribution at work. Unless a family member owns the company, or you are really, really good-looking (#Zoolander), you will certainly feel an equal drop in both your compensation and your tax liability. It’s that easy to do. In fact, it is much easier to lower your taxes significantly than it is to raise them.
My Tax History
When I was in high school and college, I typically made between $3000 and $5000 working during the summer. As a result my taxes were tiny. In fact, I am pretty sure the government lost money on the time they spent reviewing my taxes.
In the first year after I graduated from college I made $21,000. My taxes were still really low. In fact, the government gave me almost all of the money I paid in taxes back to me. When I received my refund check from the IRS that year it was accompanied by a note that said, ‘Thanks for the laugh!’
My Taxes Today.
Now I make a lot more money. And I pay a lot more in taxes. In 2016 I started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Clearly I didn’t listen to those who told me that if my income goes up, my tax bill will too. In fact, this year I will pay more in taxes than I made in gross salary during the 7th year of my career. And I love it.
Reinterpreting Those Damn Taxes
Taxes are a sign of success. To pay a lot in taxes you have to make a lot of money. If you are paying a lot more now than you did a few years ago, congratulations! You must be making a lot more. If your total tax bill is obscene, even better! You must be making an obscene amount of money!
The Tax Reminder
Remember, taxes enable us to pay for things together. If it weren’t for taxes, you would have to build your own roads, your own schools, and your own parks. But thanks to the tax system, we all give a little and get a whole lot in return. Which means that taxes help us save money overall, and increase our quality of life. If you are not paying taxes it is like going to a pot luck dinner and not bringing any pot or any luck to share. That makes you a mooch. Or a free loader. Don’t be that kid.
To pay a lot in taxes you have to make a lot of money. Never lose that perspective. Be proud of that money you contribute to benefit us all. I hope you make a boatload of money next year. Then I hope you ship a life raft’s worth of tax payments to the IRS to help save us all. Be proud to pay a larger tax bill each year. It’s a sign of success. Sure, it’s easy to slash your tax bill by lowering your income. But after you’ve done that once you will realize it feels a lot better to pay a lot more.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share with them.
Last night the New England Patriots did it again. They won the Super Bowl, and were crowned as the best football team on the planet. It was Tom Brady’s 6th Championship in 18 years. Which means that every 3 years he lifts a Lombardi Trophy. And many Non-Patriotics hate him for it.
Why is the win still important?
In the middle of the Cray Cray Camera Crush at center field following the game, Tracy Wolfson of CBS asked Tom Brady why the win was so important to him.
He responded immediately with a 6-word answer:
We’ve been this far and lost. -Tom Brady
With those 6 words, we can all relate to one of the greatest champions in the history of sports. Because despite the six Super Bowl wins, he has also known loss on the biggest stage. Three times, in fact. Twice to the New York Giants, and just last year to the Philadelphia Eagles. He has lost a Super Bowl in a season when the Patriots went undefeated until the championship game. Ouch. #DavidTyree
This is a great reminder that there is tremendous value in our losses. They drive up the value of each subsequent win.
The loss of a game makes you value a win.
The loss of a job makes you value your employment.
The loss of a new business pitch makes you value winning a new client.
The loss of a loved one makes you value your loved ones.
The loss of time makes you value the time you still have.
The loss of revenue makes you value revenue.
The loss of a friend makes you value new friendships.
The loss of oxygen makes you value oxygen.
The loss of 50 degrees makes you value finding 50 degrees. #PolarVortex
The loss of Breaking Bad makes you value Game of Thrones.
The loss of your swimsuit makes you value your swimsuit.
Yesterday I watched the touching tributes to President George H.W. Bush during his presidential funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The highlight was George W. Bush’s eulogy, honoring his father, our 41st president, not as the Commander-In-Chief, but as a caring family man.
W’s thoughtful and tearful tribute brought back powerful memories of my grandfathers’ funerals. My Grampy Sprau, a Navy veteran, died in 2009 when he was 92. Three years earlier, in 2006, I lost my Grandpa Albrecht when he was 89. Both men left great human legacies. By that, I mean they left behind a lot of great humans as their legacies. In total, the two men had 21 children. Which means that they dutifully obeyed God’s command to go forth, be fruitful, and multiply.
The Honor of Honoring
Yet somehow, despite all those children, and nearly 50 grandchildren, when my Grandfathers each died I was given the honor of delivering their eulogy. In full disclosure, no one else wanted the job. It is very difficult to talk at a funeral. So I volunteered for the job. I was told that the only reservations my family had about me speaking was that once I had a microphone and a captive audience I might not stop.
The Great Lesson
delivering a eulogy is an incredible honor and responsibility. But writing my first tribute for my Grandpa Albrecht also taught me one of the most important lessons of my life. Because writing a eulogy forces you to look at an entire life from the very end. It is how you complete the story of an adventure on Earth. And as I looked at Grandpa Albrecht’s entire life, from the very end, it forced me to think about my entire life from the closing curtain.
The Eulogy View
This view-point, makes you think about your life as if it were a book, movie or play. It makes you think about the plot, the characters, the obstacles and setbacks. It makes you think about the achievements, the risks, the rewards and the adventures. It makes you think about your contributions and your relationships. Your responsibilities and your regrets. It makes you think about wasting time and making time and taking time and the scarcity of time.
As I wrote my Grandfather’s eulogy, I realized that sooner than I would like, I too will be done with my own story. And if I wanted to make a difference and create a great tale for someone else to tell, I had to do it now. I had to get busy doing the things I would regret not doing. I had to choose my own adventure. I had to live a story worth sharing.
Valuing Our Time
I began seeing more value in each day. I started taking more pictures and documenting my own journey. I began contacting friends and family more. I took on bigger challenges and big changes in my career. Within 6 months I moved to a new state. I advanced two positions along my career path, and nearly doubled my salary.
I planned more vacation time with my family, instead of letting vacation days vanish at the end of the year. Because I had learned that those vacation days represented the pages of my story.
Write Your Rough Draft
Following my Grandfather’s funeral I began writing down more plans and goals. In fact, I spent the last hour of my 39th year writing about all that I wanted to do in the decade ahead. I knew I would have major regrets if I never tried to start my own advertising agency. Because when I looked at my life from the end, that was part of my story.
Two years later I launched my own agency. I called it The Weaponry. At the same time I started sharing the things I have learned along my journey in this blog. I try to share my insights and observations whenever I think they may add value to others. But lately I have noticed that I am offering the same piece of advice to others over and over. That advice: Look at your story from the end. Because from the end we can clearly see what we could have done, and what we should have done.
By using the end-perspective in your early decisions, you can actually steer the course of your life to align with your personal legend (#TheAlchemist). That’s exactly what I am trying to do. It’s what I encourage you to do. In the end, the very end, this lesson was the greatest gift my Grandfather every gave me. And I wanted you to have it too.
In your career you will have the opportunity to work with a broad range of clients. Some will help you make a lot of money. Some will help you make a little money. Some will help you grow old friendships. Some will help you make new friendships. Some will be strictly business. And some will be a party. Some will enable you to do great work. Some will help you make a difference. Some will build your confidence. Some will test your limits. Some will cost you money. Some you will love. And some, you will wish you never met. But if you pay attention, they will all help you grow smarter, stronger and more capable. So on the toughest days with the toughest clients, and the best days with the best clients, don’t forget to learn.
My plane from Atlanta to Milwaukee just took off. My past three days have been packed full, like Oreo Double Stuff cookies.
Monday our team conducted an 8 hour branding workshop with one of our great new accounts in Georgia. There were 16 clients and 4 agency people collaborating intensely to forge a new path for the brand. Afterwards I drove 2.5 hours in 2 different rental cars while drinking 4 large sweet teas.
Tuesday between 7:20am and 9pm I had 8 in-person meetings and an hour-long client presentation
Today I had 5 more in-person meetings.
Then I refilled a hole in my concrete driveway in Atlanta, with help from a few neighbors (thanks Steve, Crain, and Chris! I feel like that really cemented our friendship. #DadJokes)* Then I had dinner with some of my great Atlanta neighbors, including all of the above plus Betty, Melinda and Grace. Then I bolted Adam Albrecht-Style to the airport. (I’ve written about that style before here.)
After I finish this post I need to get back to work for the rest of the flight.
I have a huge creative presentation to a brand new client.
I have another important kickoff to an exciting new client engagement.
I have a call with a major foundation based in New York City that we are supporting with a really rewarding initiative later this year.
And I have a new business pitch.
The Wee Hours Of The Morning
I will get home at 2am ET.I will sneak into my three children’s bedrooms, and give them each a kiss (my kids, not the bedrooms). I will tiptoe into my room and kiss my favorite person on the planet for the first time in 4 days. (I am referring to my wife Dawn, in case you were unsure). Then I will sleep as fast as I can.
As I reflect on the past 72 hours, and prepare for the next 24, I feel like I am the luckiest man 35,000 feet above the Earth.
*The hole stemmed from a pinhole leak in the main waterline to the home. It was detected by a higher-than-normal water bill. I hired a leak detection company to find the leak. Which they did. Unfortunately it was two feet under the center of the concrete driveway. Hence the hole. Life is an adventure.