20 Things I Am Glad I Did in 2020.

On New Year’s Eve, I sat down and reflected on the year gone by. The last day of the year is always a good time to look back and learn what worked and what didn’t. In 2020 I didn’t eat any bats. I didn’t break any windows that didn’t belong to me. And I didn’t act like a cranky baby during a nationally televised debate. I like to focus on the positive. So here are 20 things I am glad I did do last year.

Things I am glad I did in 2020.

1. I wore a mask a lot. It’s really easy to wear a mask. And it helps you and the people around you not get sick and die. That’s why Batman and The Lone Ranger both wore one. And they both saved a lot of people.

2. I saved for a rainy day. I have been fiscally conservative with my business, The Weaponry. Which means that I left money (my fiscals) in the business to make sure it could weather challenging times. So when the economy went sideways in March I didn’t panic. Not worrying whether we would be open to see 2021 allowed me to focus on opportunities instead. And opportunities kept coming.

3. I played foosball. During the March-May lockdown, my 3 kids and I played foosball together every night. It was something fun to look forward to each day. It was the only competitive sport we saw during that time. All 4 of us got much better at the game as we bonded and created foosy memories.

4. I went to the beach. In June my family and I went to Hilton Head Island for a week. While traveling and hoteling has some inherent risks, we were cautious, wore masks around others and socially distanced. But the change of scenery was valuable to our mental health. And the beach itself made us forget about life for a while (like in that Billy Joel song, with Davy, who is still in the Navy).

5. I bought lobster. While we were in Hilton Head my kids asked what lobster tasted like. As a New Englander, I have had a lot of lobstah. It was surprising to realize that my kids had never had it. So one night at dinner I allowed my kids to order the lobster, the most expensive thing on the menu. They loved it, and greatly appreciated the splurge. Remember, sometimes you’ve gotta splurge for the lobster.

6. I organized Zoom calls with friends. I probably had 1000 Zoom calls in 2020. After spending hours each day Zooming with clients and coworkers, I thought Zoom would be a great way to see my friends and family too. My sisters coordinated our family Zooms. But I organized calls with my college track teammates from The University of Wisconsin. I had calls with my high school football teammates. I had many calls with friends from New England, Georgia, California, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Florida and on and on. It was a lot like having friends over for beverages. It simply required someone to take the lead.

7. I kept exercising. During the lockdown, I relocated our home exercise equipment to a more prominent place in our basement and started exercising at home with my family. Now, as my daughter Ava and son Magnus play basketball, my son Johann and I go to the gym and lift weights together several times each week. As a result, I am stronger now than I was 30 years ago. And I am way stronger than I was 40 years ago. (This sounds good until you realize how young I was 40 years ago.)

8. I rode my bike a lot. Bike riding during the pandemic was like going to therapy. (It was also like a song by Queen.) Most nights during the summer I would ride for 30-90 minutes. Not only was it good exercise, it was freeing in a time that didn’t feel so free.

9. We took an epic road trip. At the end of July, my family and I went on one of the 3 greatest road trips of my life. We took 11 days and drove from Wisconsin to Idaho. We visited several national parks, including The Badlands, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Theodore Roosevelt. The trip was an educational and inspirational adventure. It was the highlight of 2020.

10. I sent an email saying we were ready to help. On March 16th, I sent all of our clients an email saying we were up and ready to work remotely. We were fully functional from home on day one of The Lockdown. Our clients were ready to roll with us. We just kept on crushing it throughout the lockdown and the rest of the year. Not only did we pick up more work from agencies that didn’t make it, we ended up having our best year ever by 25%.

11. I gave blood. Giving blood has been something I always wanted to do, but just never started. I come from a family of blood donors. My Dad has given so much blood that I expect he looks like dehydrated fruit on the inside. I finally donated blood this fall. And I will definitely do it again. It is not difficult to do. And I am very proud to have finally checked the box on this oddly elusive life goal.

12. I spoke to college students at 4 different schools. In 2020 I spoke to students at The University of Wisconsin, Marquette University, Concordia University of Wisconsin and Carroll University. Yet I never set foot on any of the campuses. I spoke about advertising, marketing, creativity, business, entrepreneurship and leadership. But I was also able to develop stronger relationships with the professors, lecturers and other school staff members. The academic and business world should be more closely linked. Because we need each other (not knead each other, or kneed each other).

13. I gave bonuses. Throughout the year I was very open with my team about our goals for the year, both before and after we knew anything about covid-19. My team worked very hard to not only keep our business going and growing, but to keep our clients thriving during a very unpredictable time. And when a company does well the team should benefit too. So I was extremely proud to hand out bonus checks on December 30th. Because when the whole team shares in the success you experience more success.

14. I wrote 151 blog posts. I maintained my 3-post-a-week habit throughout the year. I tried to share good news and an upbeat, positive perspective throughout 2020. I hope it helped provide a little light and a little levity in brevity during the unique challenges of the year.

15. I became even more adaptable. The great gift of 2020 was adaptability. It was not an option to reject the opportunity to learn to adapt. It was a requirement. As a result, I learned how to function with new rules, under new conditions, in new settings. I learned what I could live and work without. I became more inventive and open-minded. I saw my children take classes, music lessons, and even athletic practice via Zoom. As they say at Progressive Insurance, you have to be able to go with the flow.

16. I helped people who needed help. I tried to help people who needed the kind of help I could offer in 2020. Sometimes it was encouragement. Sometimes it was business, marketing and entrepreneurial advice. Sometimes it was a bit of work for those who were having a hard time finding work and making money. Because we all need a little help from time to time.

17. I wrote a book. In 2020 I wrote a book. My goal in 2021 is to get it published. In 2022 my goal will be to have someone who is not related to me actually buy the book. More on this in a later post.

All Rights Reserved

18. I read Rich Dad. Poor Dad. to my kids. I have now read the book to all 3 of my kids. The financial literacy the book teaches is simply not taught anywhere else. In fact, the first two kids I read the book to this spring both asked to buy stocks and have done extremely well with their investments. I highly recommend that you read this book if you haven’t. Read it to your kids if you have kids. And if you don’t have kids, don’t have kids! They are expensive. Especially if they like lobster.

19. I switched dentist. My former dentist was fine. The kind of fine that will lull you into accepting a lesser experience for a long time. But our delayed dental care of 2020 encouraged my wife Dawn and me to reconsider the dentist we have seen for the past 3 or 4 years. We love the new dental practice we found. In fact, I had a chipped crown replaced and I literally didn’t have a moment of discomfort. Don’t settle for fine. Seek outstanding. And get your teeth right.

20. I said yes a lot. I had many requests for my time and talent in 2020. I was asked to help, to get involved, to serve and to contribute in many different ways. Yes was my default. I felt like the world needed more yeses in 2020. Perhaps I did too. Yeses help you grow and make the world a better place. Yes, even if you are the owner of a lonely heart.

Key Takeaway

It is important to reflect on your year, your actions and your attitudes. Note what is working for you and what is not. Learn and grow as you go. Be deliberate in your actions. Embrace a life of continuous improvement. It’s the best path to the best you.

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

I am not sure I am a very good father.

If you are a dad, Father’s Day is a good day to give yourself a job review. And if recent events are any indicator, I am not doing a very good job.

On Friday, while running errands with my 14-year-old daughter Ava, I let the gas tank in my car get to 0 miles to empty before I went to a gas station. I thought that was fun and exciting. When we got home and Ava told my parenting partner what happened I was reminded that I was setting a bad example for our soon-to-be daughter driver. Oops.

Yesterday morning I woke all 3 of my kids up at 6am, on a Saturday, during the summer. Then I forced them to road-trip for 800 miles. Crossing through 7 different states. All while Covid-19 is still a real threat to real people.

I let them eat junk food, and drink Blue Mountain Dew that probably rotted their stomachs. I gave them unlimited access to their electronics, which probably rotted their brains.

I drove way too fast through winding mountain roads, causing my youngest to throw up on the side of the road at 10:30pm on Father’s Day Eve.

At 11:45 PM I got a call from the front desk of the hotel where we are staying. We had only been in our room for 30 minutes and already there had been a noise complaint. Despite a moderate amount of effort, I have not trained these kids how to be quiet when close to other humans.

Did I mention that I made all 5 of us stay in 1 hotel room with only 2 beds? Apparently that is less than the good fathering books say you need for 5 people.

My Dad

But yesterday I did take my kids to see a really great father. We saw my parents for the first time since November of 2019. My Dad made us a really good homemade lunch. It had fruits, vegetables, grains and meat. You know, the foods kids are supposed to eat.

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Dad, you have always been like a father to me.

He baked a strawberry-rhubarb crisp for dessert. We ate around a real dining room table. We talked and laughed and used napkins. We got a tour of his gardens and his yard projects. That guy is a doer. He makes me feel like a don’t-er by comparison.

Thanks Dad

Thanks Dad for being such a great Father. And even though I may not have turned out so well, you did a great job with my 3 sisters. And 3 out of 4 ain’t bad. Sorry. I meant isn’t bad.

How to get smarter every time you get in a car.

If you are like most people, you are on a long intellectual decline. Sure, you absorbed a lot of knowledge in school. But once you left high school or college or became a beauty school dropout, you stopped learning. Ok, ok, so you still ‘learn something new everyday.’ Maybe you pick up a little trivia under a Snapple cap. You learn that the very first touch tone phones didn’t have pound or star symbols. Or you learn that Americans invented Mexican, Italian and Chinese food.  But that’s not exactly growth learning.

True growth learning is extremely important to me. Because I learned at an early age that the stock version of Adam Albrecht was pretty ordinary. I have a vision of myself as a much better, smarter, stronger, funnier, nicer, braver, more capable human than I am today. Therefore I’m always trying to close the gap between the me in my head and the me on my couch.

One of the best habits I have developed to create a better me is listening to audio books while I drive. I stumbled onto my audiobook interest accidentally.  In 2009-ish I attended the Hachette Book Group’s annual book sale, just north of Indianapolis.  For one weekend in June everything is on sale for a dollar. So I bet a dollar on Ted Turner’s ‘Call me Ted’ audiobook. I loved the book. But more importantly, I learned from it.

  1. I learned how a kid who didn’t apply himself well in school could become among the wealthiest people on the planet by applying himself at life.
  2. I learned that to make wild leaps in your accomplishments you sometimes need to take wild risks.
  3. I learned that meeting room antics can make you highly memorable.
  4. I learned that pursuing your passionate interests can change the world.
  5. I learned that through mergers and acquisitions you can get tossed out of your own company.
  6. I learned the immense impact of philanthropy.
  7. I learned the value of keeping your eye on the future.
  8. I learned that the first Ted’s Montana Grill was in my former hometown of Columbus, Ohio. (ok, so this is a little more Snapple cap-esque)
  9. I learned how the right people and processes can turn losers like the Atlanta Braves into World Series Champions.
  10. I learned that Jane Fonda is a pretty great lady to have on your arm when you walk into a party.

So I sought out more audiobooks. I listened to biographies and self-help books. I listened to history books and books about the future. Now I pick up nuggets of knowledge and pearls of wisdom every day when I drive. I will often stop the audiobook and ask Siri to take a note for me, repeating a quote I heard, or paraphrasing a lesson so that I can review later.  It’s my way of highlighting the key passages as I listen. Just as I did in college.

Soon, the audiobooks made me feel like I was winning at life. Because I realized that by listening and learning on my commute I would arrive at work smarter than when I left home. Later that day I would arrive home smarter than I was when I left work.

Since I left the University of Wisconsin, no other activity has so clearly added layers of depth to my thinking, new lenses through which to view the world, or examples of how to choose my own adventures like my audiobook lessons. Today, The Perfect Agency Project owns a library of audiobook titles that our team can checkout anytime they want. Which is the easiest way I know to grow a stronger and smarter team without adding new people.

Many of you will be flying or road tripping over the next few days for the Thanksgiving holiday. I encourage you to stop by your local library to check out the audiobook section before you hit the highways or flyways. I bet you’ll be surprised  by the range of titles and topics. And it’s all free (unless you count the taxes you already paid that bought the books). Of course, there are also plenty of digital resources, like Audible and Amazon. When you find something you like, shoot me a message. I am always looking for great new reads, or listens, or learns, or whatever we should call them. If you’re interested, I’m happy post a list of my recommendations too.

Happy Thanksgiving. Safe travels. And I hope your thinking expands as much as your waistline.