The Weaponry Turns 6 today! Here are 6 things I’ve learned along the way.

On the eve of my 40th birthday, I sat down and wrote about the things I was most proud of from my first 4 decades on The Big Blue Marble. It was a fun process. I thought about my family and friends. I thought about my wins. My adventures. My career successes. I thought about that time I petted a hummingbird in the wild. (I have now done that twice!) And I thought about how I was creating a better person every day. (Not in a Mary Shelley kind of way)

Then I shifted my focus to my unfinished business. I asked myself this very simple question.

If you died tomorrow what would you most regret not doing?

-39.99 year-old Adam Albrecht

The first and most obvious answer was that I had not tried to start my own advertising agency. So I put that at the top of my list. And I got to work on a plan to avoid that regret. The more I thought about it the more real the plan became. I was like Joaquin Phoenix in the movie Her. Or maybe like the dudes in Weird Science bringing their project to life.

To start your own business you need the support of your family. A couple of mums and pumpkins don’t hurt.

Go Time!

When I was 42 years old, I did it. I launched the advertising and ideas agency The Weaponry.

That was 6 years ago today!

Simply trying to start my own agency would have eliminated the regret. Because I put a premium on simply trying. It was the not-trying that I knew would have bothered me most when things started heating up at the crematorium. It’s a major bonus that things have worked out and that The Weaponry is thriving 6 years later. Plus, most businesses don’t last past 5 years. And I never wanted to be like most people. Except maybe Johnny Most. (Bird Steals The Ball!)

Just keep swimming!

Earning and Learning

I have learned a lot from starting my own business. And fortunately, when I started planning the business I also created this blog to share what I was learning along the way. (Cue Dana Carvey’s Church Lady saying ‘Well isn’t that special!’)

6 Things I Have Learned About Business.

`1. Every year in business is a success in itself. Leadership’s primary responsibility is to keep the business in business forever. Each anniversary is proof that we are doing our jobs. Just like we should be thankful for each day on top of the topsoil, having your doors open is a success. Although today businesses don’t even need doors. Kinda like a Jeep Wranger in summer.

2. You have to keep looking for ways to improve. I am always thinking about the gap between the ideal version of The Weaponry and who we are today. So the mission becomes to continuously work on closing that gap. We meet every Friday to talk about ways to improve our processes and strengthen our weaknesses. You have to call that stuff out into the light in order to be able to address it, work on it and improve it. Fall in love with that process and you’ll fall in love with business. Kinda like Lee Majors in that TV show where he was the stuntman.

3. You need great people. Our team is amazing. We are loaded with nice people who like to collaborate to get great team results. We take a lot of pride in doing what we said we would do. Our team members love to solve problems for our clients. The team is quick and productive. They are great at accumulating knowledge and applying that knowledge to create more and more value for our clients. They are smart people who are really enjoyable to be around. Recruiting and working with a great team has been one of the greatest rewards of the past 6 years.

4. You have to keep adding new clients. Like Lucille in that Kenny Rogers song, a client could leave you at any time. The decision-makers could quit, get pushed out, die or simply change their minds at any moment. So you have to always be growing your business with new clients because you can’t protect yourself from all client attrition through hard work, great ideas and excellent customer service alone. Plus, you need to create a diverse portfolio of clients to protect against shifts in markets, dry spells, spending cuts, or making a client so wildly successful that they no longer need to do anything to help their business thrive.

5. You have to have fun. Fun comes in a lot of different forms. And I love to have fun in everything I do. Including business. Here are just some of the things I find fun at The Weaponry.

  • Learning new things.
  • Game Planning
  • Problem Solving
  • Meeting New People
  • Sending out job offers with a lot of funny non-traditional language.
  • Saying silly things in meetings.
  • Making clients smile and laugh
  • Storytelling
  • Travel
  • Typing funny comments into the chat during Zoom meetings
  • Creating new stuff
  • Getting new swag
  • Eating lunch together
  • Winning new business
  • Helping our clients grow
  • Wowing our clients
  • Putting on a show
  • Receiving compliments for a job well done.
  • Being told we are fun
  • Baking humor into our setup slides.
  • The humorous final slides of our presentation.
We love to laugh. Like that song in Mary Poppins.

6. You have to be paranoid that the business will collapse. I am never comfortable with our success. I am afraid that if we are not careful everything we have been doing and building will go away. You can’t ignore the opportunities to get better. You can’t let things slide. Just like you should try to win over your spouse again every day, you have to be concerned that things could go bad with your clients if you take your eye off the ballpoint. And if you worry enough, and do something about it, the bad things will never happen.

Key Takeaway

A great business is simply a collection of great people running great processes, contributing great value to customers, having fun, and worrying that it will all end if they are not careful. I am extremely thankful for all of our Weapons, our great clients, and our partners who work as a trusted extension of our team. Here’s to 6 fun years. Let’s keep this thing going forever.

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

+ To see more of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my career check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Surround yourself with rockstars who have already done what you want to do.

In 2016, after having been an employee of three successful companies for 19 years, I became an entrepreneur. I left behind the predictable employment, the benefits, the 401(k) and the Free Lunch Fridays.

I pushed all my chips to the center of the table and bet on myself when I launched the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. (The chip reference was supposed to be a poker thing. Not a potato chip thing. #JustClarifying)

Me and a wall at The Weaponry.

But when I left my job as the Executive Vice President and Executive Creative Director of the largest advertising agency in Atlanta to start my own business it never seemed crazy to me. Because I knew a lot of other people who had started successful businesses. They seemed a lot like me. And they all looked like they were fed, sheltered and clothed. (Wait, yep, they were definitely clothed.)

My man Troy Allen started a design agency before starting the wildly successful Rise Brands.

I knew a bloggle of bloggers before I launched this blog.

I knew a stockyard of people who invested in stocks before I bought stocks.

I knew a neighborhood worth of people who owned rental property before I properly rented my property.

I knew dozens of authors before I wrote my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?

Writing my own book didn’t seem hard. Not even the hardcover.

Always Remember:

You Are Becoming More Like The People You Spend Your Time With.

Your peer group is your mirror group. To upgrade your likelihood of success upgrade your friends. Surround yourself with doers and diders. It creates positive peer pressure that pushes you to do better, more impressive things. The Joneses I know are badasses. And I want to keep up with all they are accomplishing. (Shout out to Bryan, Jill, Adam, Patti, Garrett, Kristen, Sharon, Courtney, Arnita and Rachel! Sorry you guys didn’t make it into that new truck commercial.)

My college teammate Bryan Jones is hard to keep up with, but I am trying.

Key Takeaway

Your friends are your on-ramp to success. Surround yourself with others who have already done the next big thing you want to do. It decreases the perceived degree of difficulty. It increases the odds of you successfully completing the same challenge. And the more successful your peers are the more insight they offer to all you can accomplish in your lifetime.

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

+ If this type of thinking resonates with you, you will also like my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

It’s not too late to be who you wanted to be.

At the end of a gym workout recently my son Magnus asked if we could go sit in the hot tub. I said yes, and we made our way to the pool area. When we got to the hot tub there was one other guy already in it. After we settled into the water I greeted the guy, who was staring out the window, and we began to speak. (Which is also how the song The Gambler starts.)

As the conversation proceeded I asked him where he was from and what he does for work. He shared that he grew up near Mequon, Wisconsin, the town north of Milwaukee where we both live. And when he is not hot tubbing, he works at a nice job for a good company.

Then he asked me where I was from (Vermont), where I went to school (The University of Wisconsin), and what I do for work. I told him I owned my own business. I started my own advertising and ideas agency called The Weaponry.

My pruney new hot tub friend told me The Weaponry was a cool name for an ad agency. Then he revealed to me with great resignation, ‘I always wanted to start my own business. But now I am too old.’

I asked, ‘How old are you?’

He answered, ‘I am 37.’

I shot back, ‘F**k you. I was 42 when I started The Weaponry. This is a great time to start a business. And a great time to stop making excuses.’

(I should also mention that my son Magnus was cooling off in the swimming pool at that time. So he didn’t get hit with f-shrapnel when I dropped my f-bomb.)

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

― George Eliot

Key Takeaway

If there is something you’ve always wanted to do, then do it. Do the things the kid version or young adult version of you wanted to do. You are not too old. It’s not too late. It’s time to get going. Now you have 2 weeks to plan the great thing you are going to start doing with your life in 2022.

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

The best way to grow your own business, or a giant pumpkin.

The world is full of possibilities. There is no shortage of problems to solve and great new things to introduce. If you have an entrepreneurial mind you will find a never-ending parade of opportunities to convert into businesses.

This is a problem.

The infinite opportunities you see distract you from the one business you should start. Or should continue building.

Ideally, you should look for opportunities until you find one great one that fits you. Then you should wear blinders and block out all other possibilities. The same way you should scout for a mate until you find one. Then you should NOT scout for a mate anymore.

If you want to grow a gigantic pumpkin you start with a gigantic seed. Then, when the plant starts to grow, you snip off all the blossoms but one. That way all of the energy, nutrients and focus of the plant go into growing one huge fruit. Although if you can find seeds to grow just the pumpkin spice, do that. Pumpkin spice is where the real money is.

When I started The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, I became obsessed with it. I put all my energy into it. Which forced the business to grow. I have had a million other business ideas since then. I detail the ideas in my notebooks. But my focus remains on the one business I am committed to growing.

You need to do the same thing.

Find your giant seed. Plant it in good soil. Fertilize it with your energy. Water it with enough cash to keep it hydrated. Shine your light on it. And make sure to snip off all but one blossom to maximize your focus and growth.

Key Takeaway

To maximize your chances of creating a wildly successful business, find one opportunity and go all in on it. Don’t dabble. Don’t sample. Don’t put 1% into 100 things. Put 100% into one thing. Until it soars. Then you can sell it, or have someone else run it for you. At that point, go find another opportunity to make fly.

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

The important thing to remember about desserts, and life.

Early this week I had dinner with an entrepreneur in Saint Paul. He’s a real go-getter. He fills his time with major initiatives that over time will lead to remarkable results. He is hyper-ambitious, hyper-hardworking, hyper-productive. Which makes me feel like I am not trying very hard at life.

My guy has been working on a new startup. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, has been helping him with marketing, packaging, design, and all the other things a startup needs to look like a well-established business. #theygrowupsofast

The Dessert

The product is an interesting and novel dessert. (Remember, 2 S’s means a sweet treat, not a dry sandy place.) I asked him how things were going. He shared that almost everything was going well. Suppliers, facilities, equipment, funding, prospects, and strategy were all in place. There was just one challenge. The product was just ok.

To be clear, he started with a great product. But they have been experimenting to find the perfect combination of price, shelf-life, and manufacturing process. It’s the type of stuff that makes a viable business product less fun than the ideal product you would make for yourself.

Other people who were with us who had tried the latest version of the product were supportive and said that they liked it, and shared that other people had liked it too. My guy shook off the support and noted that they had recently performed taste-test research, and the results were just ok. Because like Shakira’s hips, tastebuds don’t lie.

Not Good Enough

The great problem is that when you are creating desserts, okay doesn’t cut it. Desserts have to be worth the splurge. The taste has to be worth the cost. And the experience has to be worth the calories.

A just-okay dessert is a failure. Like 38 Special, it won’t get a second chance. It has to rate as good at a minimum. Ratings of great, amazing, indulgent, to-die-for, and better-than-sex mean you have a winner.

Key Takeaway

Unless you are trying to be the low-price option, evaluate your products and services as if they were desserts. Good is the starting point. Don’t expect any repeat business or happy customers until you get to great or better. Make your offering worth the money. It’s the only way to make the work you put in worth it.

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

To achieve great things don’t let preparing turn into procrastinating.

We all have big things we want to do. Goals, dreams, and aspirations are easy to find. Just ask any waiter in Hollywood. What is harder to find is goals met, dreams realized and aspirations achieved.

You can spend a lot of time thinking about the great things you want to do. You can talk about your plans. You can write them down and sketch them out. You can listen to podcasts and read newsletters and books. You can go to seminars, workshops, and meet-ups. And all of those things will feel like progress

But Oklahoma sooner than later, planning and preparing simply turn into procrastination. Because there are only ever 3 things that matter in the achievement process.

The 3-Step Achievement Process

  1. Where you are now.
  2. Where you want to finish.
  3. What you need to do next.

You already know where you are. (You do know where you are, right?) So once you know where you want to finish you have to quickly move your focus to what you need to next. That is the entire planning process.

The rest is doing.

  • If you want to start your own business, you should be working on your product or service, or finding customers.
  • If you want to write a book, movie, or play, sit down and start writing. (Unless you have a standing desk.)
  • If you want to become an investor in real estate or business, freaking buy something.
  • If you want to be an entertainer, start entertaining people.
  • If you want to travel the world, go somewhere you haven’t been.
  • If you want to be a nude model, lose the turtleneck sweater.

Key Takeaway

The difference between dreamers and doers is action. Once you know what you want to accomplish find the next step forward and take it. Once you start moving the next step always reveals itself. Gobble up those next actions like Pac-Man eats dots. Then keep going until you have cleared the board and you are ready for the next level. That’s what achievers do. And you will achieve by taking action.

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

I had a lot of help becoming an entrepreneur. Here are 16 names.

19 years into my advertising career I did something cray-cray. Despite the fact that there were already a bazillion ad agencies I could have worked at I decided to start my own. That agency, The Weaponry, just turned 5-years old. Which is kind of a big deal because so many businesses bite the dust before they hit the 5-candle cake.

Reflecting

Our recent milestone has prompted me to reflect on my entrepreneurial journey. What I have discovered is that entrepreneurship is like an epic game of connect the dots. Most of those dots are people. And in my case, none of them are actually named Dot.

I have been thinking of many of the people who have played an important dot in my experience. And I quickly go back to the very beginning. Which is a very good place to start. Because the hardest part of entrepreneurship is simply getting started. Here are some of the people that inspired me to get started and the role they played in my adventure.

16-ish People Who Have Played An Important Role In My Entrepreneurial Adventure.

  1. Bob and Jill Albrecht My parents gave me the confidence to think I could do anything I set my mind to. Except maybe play baseball. Or win at The Quiet Game.
My parents, during one of my speeches.

2. Dawn Albrecht My wife fully supported me trading in a well-paid career as an employee to chase the elusive success of entrepreneurship. And she had the most to lose. Like food, shelter, and wi-fi.

Me and Dawn: The Early Years. A good life partner makes all the difference.

3. My Uncles I have 18 uncles, most of whom are either farmers or other forms of entrepreneurs, or both. Seeing that kind of self-reliance all around you makes you believe in yourself. My Aunts (rhymes with wants) were also important partners in the team’s success. Which provided a template for Dawn and me to follow. And some shared genetics.

4. Roger Rathke My college journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin was a copywriter who eventually owned his own agency and made plenty of money in the process. He provided a model and a path I wanted to follow. Plus he had a fancy sports car. Which is not something most professors have. He also introduced me to an agency CEO named Paul Counsell, which was the first domino. We all need a first domino.

My college professor Roger Rathke really got my career rolling.

5. Paul Counsell Paul was the CEO of Cramer Krasselt, and hired me for my first job in advertising. He provided another great agency leader model for me. He had also started his own agency. And when I asked what he would have done differently in his entrepreneurial journey he said he would have gone after bigger clients sooner. I never forgot that and followed his advice when I started The Weaponry. He also once told me I had no diplomacy. He was right. I fixed that.

Roger, Paul, and me at an awards banquet. I was voted most likely not to wear a sport coat.

6. Neil Casey My first boss. At a lunch 2 years into my career, he told me I had the skills to lead the whole agency. I was 25. That made a major impression on me.

Neil Casey, without the sunshine band.

7. Ashley Lazarus Ashley is a world-class director, who in 1999 told me I had to start my own agency to stay in control of my own career. I believed him. Our discussion was a key driver in my career. I wrote about it here.

Ashley was the first person who told me I had to start my own agency to protect my career. He also made cranberries look delicious. Not like the little balls of face-contortion that they really are.

8. Chris Dawson Chris and I first met 21 years ago when he was a marketing hotshot at Ski-Doo, leading their advertising agency review. Me and my team pitched and won the account. Chris is hyper-smart and we became good friends and excellent collaborators. In the summer of 2015, Chris called me and encouraged me to start my own agency. While the idea of entrepreneurship had been simmering for years, that call and that encouragement was the tipping point. Chris has now helped hire The Weaponry 3 different times for 3 different companies.

Chris Dawson, before he grew his ZZ Top beard.

9. Chad Thompson Chad was a former client of mine at Nationwide Insurance. He called me 2 hours after I talked to Chris Dawson and also told me he was interested in working together again but didn’t think my current agency was right for his needs. I told him that was good news because I was going to start my own agency. This second call of the afternoon felt like the universe hitting me over the head, telling me it was time to get going.

Chad Thompson, inducing hair envy with a smile.

10. Mark O’Brien I had a 4-hour dinner with Mark, a close friend, and former client a few days later at Marlow’s in Alpharetta, Georgia. #SweetTeaBender I told him that I was thinking of starting my own agency. He said, ‘You HAVE to do this!’ Not you should, or could. He made it clear that success was certain, and the world needed what I was planning to build. That was a huge endorsement. A few months later he hired The Weaponry to work on Mizuno.

Mark made me wear this Clay Matthews jersey for a presentation. I have no idea why.

11. Nicole Hallada My friend Nicole and I had a phone call shortly after my dinner with Mark. When she asked me what I was up to I told her I was planning on starting my own agency. She told me that if I did she had work for me. She has now been a very important client for 5 years.

The first freelance project I did for Nicole in 2006 was paid for with a sandwich, and a bag of chips.

12. Christien Louviere Christien is a friend and entrepreneur in Atlanta. But most importantly as it relates to me, he is also a content creator. His blog post Top 10 Things You Don’t Need to Do To Start Your Own Business had a major impact on me. Because in the post he enlightened me to the fact that I should start my business before quitting my day job. He said let your day job fund your startup as long as you can. That key unlocked the gate for me. It took the pressure off of the need for immediate success. In fact, that advice was so important to me that I have now published nearly 600 blog posts since then in hopes that I help unlock something important for someone else by sharing what I know.

Don’t stare at Christien too long or his handsomeness will hypnotize you.

13. Jeff Hilimire Jeff is a serial entrepreneur and was the President of Engauge when I was the Chief Creative Officer. After Engauge was acquired by Publicis, Jeff started Dragon Army and was fully immersed in his new agency when I was ready to start The Weaponry. He was and has been a great advisor and supporter throughout my journey. I remember sitting on the deck at Dragon Army with Jeff in Atlanta when he asked me, ‘What is the percent chance you will actually start your own agency?‘ I told him ‘100%. I will fail at this before I do anything else.’ Which illustrated how committed I was to entrepreneurship. I wrote about it here.

Jeff and I and a meaty backdrop.

14. Dan Richards Dan and I grew up together in Norwich, Vermont. We played football and were on the track team together at Hanover High School. He is one of my closest friends. He is also an amazing entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of Global Rescue. Dan hired an embryonic version of The Weaponry to do its very first project on October 31st of 2015 in Boston. Over the following 12 months not only was Global Rescue our biggest client, Dan was a great mentor, sharing everything I wanted to know about running a business. Every aspiring entrepreneur should have a Dan Richards.

Just a couple of Green Mountain Boys. Never meaning no harm.

15. Troy Allen Troy and I both lived in Dublin, Ohio. We were both advertising guys. But when I met him he had already started his own agency called Elevate. Then he started another amazing business called Rise Brands, which creates amazing brands, including the wildly successful 16-Bit Arcade, Pins Mechanical, and No Soliciting. Troy was extremely helpful in sharing his experience and providing insights into pricing and offering revenue numbers to benchmark against. Having someone to talk real numbers with you is huge for new entrepreneurs.

Troy and I representing the bookends of the hair spectrum.

16. Brooks Albrecht My cousin Brooks was in Seattle working for Amazon in 2015. But we talked often. We have a lot in common. Including a good chunk of our DNA and our last name. Brooks played football and baseball at The University of Minnesota. I was on the track team at the University of Wisconsin. We both were on Big 10 Championship teams. And we were both looking for our next career challenge. So we teamed up to launch The Weaponry together. We planned and prepped and researched together. Brooks solidified our operations and was part of The Weaponry for the first year. He was a huge help, and really fun to work with. We still talk frequently and are always looking for our next collaboration.

My cousin Brooks and I demonstrating the 2 basic ways to wear a hat.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship may appear to be an individual sport, but it is far from that. It is full of supporters, encouragers, and role models. Finding those people is key to your success. Surround yourself with great people. It increases the likelihood of you doing great things too.

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

The Weaponry turns 5 years old!

I always wanted to start my own business. Not because I was an unhappy employee or a free spirit who couldn’t stand to work for The Man. I just like a good challenge. And everything I ever heard about entrepreneurship made it seem like it was the career equivalent to bull riding. Or free solo climbing. Or streaking at the Super Bowl. I knew it was dangerous. The likelihood of failure was very high. But if you are successful, there are few endeavors as rewarding.

On the set of a recent TV shoot with Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts. I tried to steal his necklace, and he tried to defend it. It was all very subtle.

Some Fun Entrepreneurial Facts

  • There are 31 million businesses in the United States
  • 90% fail within the first 5 years
  • Only 4% ever make $1 million a year.
  • The average age of startup Founders is 42 years 
  • A first-time entrepreneur has an 18% chance of succeeding
  • 70% of entrepreneurs were married when they started their first business
  • 60% had at least one child
  • 44% had two or more children
  • 66% of start-up founders pay themselves less than $50,000
  • 69% of American entrepreneurs start their business at home
  • 80% of small businesses are non-employer businesses. 
  • 51% of small businesses make less than $100,000 in annual sales. 

Riding The Bull

With these facts in hand, I launched The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency, in 2016. I wholeheartedly believed that we would succeed. The statistics didn’t scare me. They motivated me to prove that I was one of the few, the proud, the elite non-failers. Although I am sure the failers also felt confident when they first started out. After all, you don’t jump out of an airplane unless you are highly confident your parachute will open. Unless maybe there were snakes on the plane.

A constant reminder in our offices to think.

Turning 5 Years Old

Today, I am thrilled and proud to say The Weaponry is 5 years old! We gave grown significantly each year. And despite the global pandemic, 2020 was our best year yet. Now 2021 is off to a strong start. We continue to add to our team. And we have added 2 new clients in the past 2 weeks.

From a trip to India in 2018 to work with our clients Fifth Third Bank and SLK Global Solutions. I didn’t get the White Shirt Memo.

Funner Entrepreneurial Facts

  • The Weaponry has offices in both Milwaukee and Columbus.
  • We have 24 clients
  • We have clients in all 4 US Time Zones.
  • We have clients in 3 countries: The United States, Canada and India.
  • We offer Health Insurance and Dental Insurance
  • We have a 401(k) plan with a 4% match
  • We have two red refrigerators
  • Both of our offices are in Suite #206 (Although the signs say Sweet #206. Because I thought that was funnier. Those are the kinds of dumb things you can do when you start your own business.)
This is where the magic happens.

What’s Next?

I feel as if we have only just begun, like Karen Carpenter. We have much more to accomplish. We expect us to grow and expand significantly. It is clear that we are having great success with happy clients who have hired The Weaponry 2 and 3 times as they have changed jobs. Which I think is the best compliment a client can give you.

Our 3 Pillars of Success.

Before we won our very first client (Global Rescue), I declared The Weaponry’s recipe for long-term success. And unlike that finger-licker Colonel Sanders, I am happy to share it with you.

  1. Great Creative Idea
  2. Excellent Customer Service
  3. A Fun Experience for Everyone Involved.
Me and Dan Richards, CEO of our first client, Global Rescue. We were trying to look tough while wearing polos.

What’s Next?

If we continue to deliver on these 3 points we will enjoy perpetual success. And while I am very thankful to have made it to 5 years, I believe the job of leadership is to keep a business in business forever. To do that we will have to continue to listen, learn, adapt and improve. I am fully committed to it. Just like a streaker.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. In fact, it offers one of life’s greatest challenges. But if you want to try it, I highly encourage you. It is extremely rewarding in more ways than I have room to share in a concluding paragraph. To dramatically improve your chances of success start a business doing something you know well. Choose work you love to do. And you will have the intellectual equipment and the magnetic pull to get you to 5 years and beyond.

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

An inspiring reminder to never give up on your dreams.

A few years ago Andrew Young spoke at my office in Atlanta. I was thrilled by the opportunity to hear him speak. Young is a political rockstar. He was a U.S. Congressman, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and mayor of Atlanta. Before all that, Young was a key figure in the American civil rights movement. And he was the first person mentioned by the Village People in the song Y.M.C.A.

I knew Young’s talk would be inspiring. But like so many memorable moments in life, one of the greatest sources of inspiration from his talk came from an unexpected surprise he shared.

As Young recounted the excitement and profound significance of the civil rights movement, he talked about just how impressive Martin Luther King Jr. was. He said that the whole movement was full of leaders. But Martin, as Young called him, was the clear leader of leaders.

However, it was a quick and simple fact thrown in for humor that still sticks with me 5 years later. Young shared that when King was in college at Crozer Theological Seminary school he got a C in public speaking. And no, a C in Seminary school does not stand for Christ-like, or Crazy-good.

Drink this in for a moment. As a pastor, reverend, priest, or rabbi your number one job skill, other than knowing a hell of a lot about God, has to be public speaking, right? And King was struggling in that department.

Yet we all know how the story ends. Ultimately, King is best known for his public speaking. In fact, there may be no one in American history better known for their public speaking skills than MLK.

If you asked me to name the 3 most famous speeches in American history I would say Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Kings ‘I have a dream’ speech, and then I would probably throw in Billy Madison’s ‘The Puppy Who Lost His Way’ speech, because I can’t really think of any others.

The fact that King, who became one of the most inspiring speakers in history got a C in public speaking in college adds to his inspirational legacy. It reminds us that where we start is not where we end. It reminds us to unearth our hidden talents, develop our skills and think about where we are going. Not where we have been. It also reminds us that disappointment and dissatisfaction can be powerful motivators.

In other words, have a vision of your fully realized dream state, and work to make it your reality. Which is exactly what MLK Jr. did.

If you are willing to focus, practice and work there is no limit to how great you can become. Overcoming initial discouragement is critical. Recognizing where you are in your journey and visualizing how much more you are capable of is key.

Remember, the worse you start out the more you are capable of improving.

Key Takeaway

Where you start is not where you will end. Focus on the process of improvement. If you are willing to put in the work, effort, learning, and practice there is no telling how much you are capable of. In other words, if you have a dream, keep at it until it is real. It is really up to you.

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

Find people who ask you questions you didn’t know to ask.

I have a new startup business idea in the embryonic stage. I know what I want it to look like fully-formed, but I don’t know some of the most basic details that will help me get there. Or at least I didn’t until yesterday (when all my trouble seemed so far away).

Good Call

Yesterday morning I had a call with an expert that I would need to partner with to make this idea a reality. He asked me many important questions about my plan that I simply had no answers to. There were a lot of TBDs. But with each of the TBDs, I became more D to find the answers.

One Giant Leap For Startupkind

That conversation was a huge leap forward for me. Because now I have my homework assignments. I know the answers I need to find. I know the boxes I need to chickity check. I know what I don’t know, you know. And like Robert Frost said, that makes all the difference.

Move Forward.

Entrepreneurship, and growth of all kinds, are adventures into the unknown. The most important thing is to start moving forward. Take a step and the next step will reveal itself. Kinda like a striptease.

Don’t be afraid to be asked questions you don’t know the answers to. Those questions are gifts. They tell you what you are looking for next, where you need to go next, what you need to do next. Because growth is all about what’s next.

Grow vs. Wade

Get in over your head. It is the fastest way to discover the next step. Getting into a conversation that makes you feel dumb is the best way to get smart. Stepping out of your comfort zone is simply the first step to expanding your comfort zone. That is how you grow.

Key Takeaway

When you step into the unknown growth is inevitable. It helps you collect questions. In the beginning, the questions themselves are the answers you are looking for. Learn the questions. Find the answers. Then find yourself where you always envisioned you would be.

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