How to turn your setbacks into success.

Progress is not linear. It zigs and zags. It stalls. It reverses. In fact, progress moves like a good 1980s breakdancer. It often leaves you spinning on your head. And wondering why you are carrying around a large piece of cardboard, and a boombox.

But don’t fear the setback. Setbacks are a profit center. Because, like Alanis Morissette said, every time you lose, you learn. Which means that setbacks are full of education, growth and things you, you, you oughta know. They make you smarter and stronger if you let them.

Obstacles, challenges, and losses provide game film to study. They reveal weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and flaws. And they teach you how to strengthen your weaknesses so you can overcome challenges the next time you face them. Luckily, life supplies a Hong Kong Buffet of challenges to overcome. So you will always have more opportunities to put your loss-based learnings to good use.

Key Takeaway

Don’t lament the setback. Embrace it. Dissect it. It provides a very specific, high level course in personal or professional development. Enroll in that class. Take good notes. You’re sure to come out smarter and more prepared than you started.

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To experience far greater success adapt an experimentality.

If you are like most people, you have enjoyed some success in life. But if you are like almost everyone, you haven’t enjoyed as much as you would like. To enjoy greater performances, better results, and more success you have to experiment. And this requires an experimentality.

An experimentality is a growth mindset. It is willing to learn and try new approaches in order to get better results. It is believing that good is not good enough. And that there is always a better way, José.

Constants

There are 2 parts to your experimentality. First, there are the constants. These are the aspects of your approach that don’t change. Your constants are the parts of your plan that are proven to work. These become elements of your repeatable process. Not only should you have constants in your approach, you should be constantly increasing the number of constants, like Constance.

Variables

The other part of your experimentality is your variables. These are the things you change to test the possibility of driving even greater results. There is more risk in the variables. But you will never change the magnitude of your success without adjusting the variables.

Like a David Copperfield show, this is where the magic happens. Changing the variables is the only way to experience breakthroughs. You have to be willing to try new ways, or you will always get old results.

10,000 to 1.

Thomas Edison said he never failed in his lightbulb experiments. He simply discovered 10,000 approaches that didn’t work. But through experimentation, and changing the variables, he found 1 approach that not only worked, it changed the world.

Without Edison and his experimentality, the world wouldn’t have known the lightbulb, the phonograph or the electric grid. And without Edison, nothing would appear above your head when you have a good idea. Plus, we wouldn’t have, ‘How many (blanks) does it take to change a lightbulb’ jokes. Scary right?

Whether you are trying to change the world, or simply change your world, keep changing the variables. The new approaches, techniques, and inputs are certain to impact your outputs. Some of them will lead to significant, vast, or even epic improvements. It’s up to you to determine which inputs those are.

Key Takeaway

Adopt an experimentality. The only way to get different results is to try different approaches. Keep track of your experiments. Note the impact of each adjustment. Because each one will get you closer to your goals. And one of them is likely to blow things wide open. Keep pushing until you find it. Don’t stop until the lightbulb burns bright.

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Opportunities are like showers. They need time to warm up.

Action and patience are like the chocolate and peanut butter of success. You need both. First, you need to act in order to create conditions for growth and achievement. You need to put the ball in motion. You need to hit start. You need to raise your hand. You need to plant seeds.

But then comes the hard part. You need to be patient. Because the universe doesn’t run on your timeline. The big break you are looking for doesn’t care how much you want it to happen right now, Sammy Hagar.

Opportunities are like showers. They take time to warm up. Which means you need to plan ahead. You need to take action early, so you can create opportunities later. You can’t wait until the moment you need results to get started. Or you are sure to get the cold shoulder, along with a whole bunch of other cold body parts.

Why? It takes time for the warm water of your positive actions to reach you. Remember, each shower works on its own timeframe. It depends on how far the shower is from the hot water heater, the size of the pipe, and how long it has been since you showered last.

Reminder

Once you have met a new contact, prospect, potential customer, hottie or employer, remember that you need to wait on their timing to be right to create a mutually beneficial transaction. If you insist on moving quickly, expect a cold shower.

Key Takeaway

Take initial action. Then be patient. We are all dependent on others. Arriving at synchronization takes time. Let the water warm up before you jump in. The wait is well worth it.

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The most valuable construction material in the world arrives at midnight.

Do you know what the most valuable construction material is? In case you are no Bob The Builder and haven’t partied at The Home Depot since before the pandemic, here’s a quick refresher on some of the more popular materials:

  • Lumber
  • Brick
  • Concrete
  • Steel
  • Glass (If your house is made of this don’t throw Mick Jagger)
  • Bamboo
  • Corn (Mitchell, South Dakota only)
  • Plastic
  • Aluminum
  • Adobe

But the most valuable construction material of all, is time. You can use time, like blocks, bricks and legos to create anything you can think of. We all get a delivery of 1,440 shiny new minutes every day. They arrive at your doorstep at midnight.

Each minute is perfectly sized for human use. They enable you to create great things. To build your dreams. To construct the life you want to live. To make memories and relationships.

Your daily delivery of minutes can be used to build businesses. They can be used to write a book, a movie or a blog post. They can create quality time with others. They can be used for self-improvement, to build intelligence and construct confidence. They can be used to build homes. And they can even be volunteered to good causes.

The most interesting thing about your daily delivery of minutes is that if you use them you get to keep them forever. But if you don’t use them, they disappear at midnight.

Key Takeaway

Use your minutes today.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message please share it with them. It will only take a minute.

You don’t need to have a passion to be happy and successful.

I have a passion. I love advertising. I love everything about the creativity and strategery involved. My friends I grew up with tell me I was born for my career in advertising. They also tell me that I was born with a glitch in my brain. They are probably right on both accounts. Advertising plays to my natural interests and talents. Which makes my work easier and more enjoyable. It also led to me launch my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry.

However, discovering your true passion is fairly rare. Like a 4-leaf clover. Or a civil political debate. Over the course of my career, I have had conversations with countless people (meaning none of them were Counts) who have no idea what their passion is. In fact, I have come to think of the search for personal passion like the search for Sasquatch, or The Fountain of Youth. While it is exciting to think that it is out there somewhere there is a great chance you will never find it.

Don’t Worry. Passion Is Overrated

Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t discovered your special purpose. You don’t need to have one specific passion to be wildly successful in life. There are many conduits to wealth and happiness. So instead of focusing on discovering your personal passion, utilize any of the following drivers to experience fulfillment, joy and success.

7 Substitutes For Passion

  1. Problem-Solving. If you like solving problems, you can be wildly successful. Because life, business and careers are full of problems. People who are good at solving problems are extremely valuable. That’s why they land in executive roles. Plus, problem-solving is inherently rewarding. Which is why Vanilla Ice was so into it, while the DJ revolved it.
  2. Competition: If you like playing games and competing you can apply that to your career. This is why former athletes are often great at things like pharmaceutical sales. It isn’t as if they have a natural passion for antidiarrheals and commercial- grade wart removers. They simply approach their work as if it is a competition. Which it is. In fact, business is the ultimate competitive sport. Because you are playing for money, honey.
  3. Goal Achievement: If you are goal-oriented, set lofty goals for your life and career. Because if you have audacious goals, like Goal D. Locks, you can use any business or career opportunities that come your way as tools to help you attain those goals.
  4. Enjoying Team Work: Work is more fun when done as part of a team. If you like working with others and achieving great things together, use that to drive your success. Again, don’t worry about what you are doing if you enjoy doing it with others (snickering).
  5. Enthusiasm: Some people are just naturally enthusiastic. It is a great quality to have. In fact, if you have enthusiasm, you don’t need to have one specific passion. Simply apply your positive energy towards whatever you do and you’ll experience positive results.
  6. Personal Growth: Do you like getting better and better at things? You can put that to use in anything you undertake. And you can experience rewards on a daily basis. Enjoying your daily progress and growth is a perfect recipe for long-term happiness and accomplishment.
  7. Love For Money: There is nothing wrong with loving money. Money is like a key that opens doors. It can help comfort and entertain us. It brings peace of mind. It can be used to experience real joy and adventure. If you enjoy having money and what it enables you to do, let that drive you. As Gordon Gekko said, greed is good. He also said that he was tired of being mistaken for the GEICO spokes animal.

Key Takeaway

Having a personal passion is nice. But is not a requirement for happiness and success. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what you were born to do. In fact, not having one defining passion means that you can take many different paths to an enjoyable and rewarding career. Use any or all of the 7 drivers above to power you along your path. You may even find that these drivers are your passion. Enjoy the journey. It is the key to enjoying your life.

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

What happened after I had my This-Can’t-Be-My-Life moment.

The summer after I graduated from the University of Wisconsin I didn’t have a job. No full-time job. No part-time job. I was living in Madison, lightly looking for an entry-level position in advertising. But not looking in a way that gets the job done. In fact, I still hadn’t set foot in an ad agency.

The Ricki Lake Show

On a hot afternoon that July, when real grown-ups were at work, I found myself lying on my couch in the middle of the day watching The Ricki Lake Show. And suddenly the reality of my situation hit me like a Miley Cyrus wrecking ball. 

I was a good student. I went to a great school. I now had degrees in both Journalism and Psychology. I had ambition. And goals. And pride. And bills to pay. And here I was in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, plopped on my couch, watching a crappy talk show, because I had nothing more important to do with my time. I thought, WTF? (even though WTF hadn’t been invented yet), This can’t be my life.

In that moment, my life changed. I rose from the couch, an unemployed man on a mission. I bounded up the staircase to my bedroom. I grabbed a scrap of paper on my desk that my Profesor Roger Rathke had handed me weeks earlier. On the paper was written Paul Counsell and a phone number.

Paul Counsell was a college buddy of Profesor Rathke’s, and the CEO of Cramer Krasselt, one of America’s great advertising agencies. He was someone I was told I should call. But I hadn’t.

I plucked my corded 1990’s phone from the wall, punched in the phone number, and was introducing myself to Mr. Counsell less than a minute after dumping Ms. Lake. And things started changing.

From that phone call I got an informational interview. Then a job offer as a copywriter. Then I started my real job, with a salary and benefits, and opportunities for growth and travel. All doing what I always wanted to do. I met my wife Dawn at that job. And I met a client there who years later would call me out of the blue, just like I called Paul Counsell, and encourage me to start my own advertising agency. Which I did.

Today I am the Founder and CEO of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Over the past two decades I have worked with some of the best brands in the world. And the best people. My career has taken me to Argentina, Iceland and India. My wife Dawn and I will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our first date tomorrow with our 3 kids. This is my life. Because I got off the couch and made it happen.

Is this your life?

Are you living the life you imagined?  The life you thought you would have when you graduated from high school or college? Or did you fall behind, veer off course, or never get started? Have the recent health and economic crises spun you around and left you wondering what’s next for you?

If you are not living the life you imagined, I hope you have your own This can’t be my life moment. Because that moment can change everything. It can motivate you to take the actions needed to get you where you always wanted to go. There are on-ramps everywhere. So take one. Make that call. Or make a thousand. Change jobs. Change careers. Start your own business. Get back to work. Get away from toxic people. Get near sunshine people. And can-do people. And finally, do what you always knew you could.

Key Takeaway

This-Can’t-Be-My-Life moments are a gift. They are the push you need to get to the place you are supposed to be. The first half of 2020 was full of challenges and setbacks. But it also created opportunities. Take advantage of them. Get off the couch. And make your life happen.

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

Want to do great things? Follow someone who already has.

If you want to do something great, find someone who has already done it. Or is doing it now. And doing it well, like L.L. Tuck in behind them and learn as much as you can from them. Ask questions. Observe. And follow.

There is no reason to waste time reinventing the wheelie. Get the blueprints. And the Cliff Notes. Learn as much as you can from those who have already traveled the path. And you’ll experience the least resistance.

sport bike bicycle cyclist
This dude is tucked in and ready to draft.

You still have to put in the work. Like RuPaul. Your endpoint will be your own. But playing follow the leader will allow you to expend less energy in the early stages. Which will allow you to travel faster and farther and spend more time on course than off.

You will condense the journey to your initial success by squeezing out the mistakes and missteps. The types of mistakes and setbacks that are inevitable if you go alone. Going down the only road you’ve ever known.

Your success will also be the success of the person you are tucking behind. Because you are Them 2.0. You are them but smarter, sharper, and more efficient. You are them with experience, time traveling back to the beginning. Like Uncle Rico playing high school football again.

img_1274
I played follow the leader when I was a kid, and never stopped. 

You can follow a person you know. Or a person you want to know. But you can also follow someone who has done it, and written a book about it. Or created a podcast, newsletter blog or poem about it. You can even follow Robert Frost by not following Robert Frost. Think about that for a moment in the yellow woods.

I have been following too many people to count. They have all made my journey to this point easier. Becuase there is so much already figured out that I didn’t have to figure it out myself. And that has made all the difference

Key Takeaway

Dream a big dream. Then get going. But don’t go it alone. Find someone to break the wind for you. #snickering  Follow a proven recipe for success. Then add your own nuts and marshmallows. The world is full of great stories. Find one you like. Or mix several together to create your own formula. But find a guide. You’ll get there faster. Then just keep going.

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

Why you should set an alarm every day.

I am a reflector. I reflect on what went right and what went wrong nearly every day. In the last days of 2019 I reflected on what I did right that year in hopes of doing more of what worked in 2020. Little did I know that a tiny virus was about to create the greatest global disruption in human history. And much of what worked in 2019 would be taboo just months later.

Following my blog post 19 Things That Worked For Me In 2019 I got a lot of positive feedback. People told me they picked up new ideas, were motivated or inspired by some of the activities I wrote about.

However, there was one point that I shared that generated a strong thanks-but-no-thanks response from a large number of readers. Interestingly, it was the #1 thing on my list. It was the action that set up all the other actions.

Set An Alarm.

I set my alarm for 6:00am every weekday, and no later than 6:30am on the weekends. I get up and write, read or workout right away. The alarm helps me get the most out of every day. And I mean every day. Weekends, vacation days, holidays, beach days, leg days and Hollandaise.

When I started this alarming habit several years ago I started gaining traction on my dreams. I started accomplishing more. I felt like I was pulling ahead in life. Because the most valuable time I could find to invest in my goals and dreams was early in the morning.

Buzzer Beater

I am keenly aware of the fact that I will be dead long before I want to be. So I try to do all the things I want to do while I still have the time. And my alarm clock has helped me add hours to my days. Which puts more life in my life. Like Mikey’s cereal.

The Wake-Up Call

If 2020 is the year you are going to make great progress on your lifelong dreams you are going to need some help from your alarm clock. Like Rodney Dangerfield, that little noisemaker doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Because it doesn’t just squawk in your earhole. It can help make your entire life more fulfilling.

When It All Starts.

The idea of a long lazy morning in bed has no appeal to me. The opportunity cost is too high. I started my business early in the morning. I think early. I write my blog early. I work out early.

Early in the morning no one bothers you. You have energy and focus and hope. Take advantage of that. Block your time. And milk it for all it’s worth. #wholemilk

Go to bed early when you can. Get as much sleep as you can. But don’t get to the end of your days with regrets that you didn’t do all that you wanted to do when you had the time to do it.

Key Takeaway

Don’t sleep in on the weekends. Or holidays. Or ever. Set an alarm. Get up. Get things done. Read something. Learn something. Do something. Get more out of your time. And if you don’t have a great reason to get up early on the weekends and on vacation, find one. Your life will be more enjoyable once you do.

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

Do you have a bias towards yes or no?

Every situation provides you with reasons to act. And reasons not to act. You can rationalize every decision you make. And you would be right. Just point at the reasons.

Whether you are looking for reasons to get into action or reasons to opt out of action, you will find what you are looking for. (Unlike Bono) Those reasons will provide the rationale that will govern your commitment, participation, and effort.

Because it is not the conditions that determine what you do. It is your predisposition. It is your default approach to life, work, and opportunities that determine what you will do in every situation.

Develop a bias towards action. Towards Yes. Towards attendance. And involvement. This bias will lead to an expanding life. This mindset will lead you to the experiences, successes, and learnings that will make your life interesting, enviable and valuable to others.

Look for reasons to do. To act. To try. Life is a yellow traffic signal. It is up to you to decide to stop or go.

 

How to be successful, summed up in 4 words.

I have a 4-word philosophy for success. I lean on it every time I want to do something new. It applies to fitness goals, to business and career success. It applies to creative endeavors, and charitable giving.

It applies to all manner of self-improvement and behavior change.

It is not secretive or complex. And because it is only 4 words long it’s useful even if you have a really, really short attention span.

It is:

Start Small. Think Big.

Start Small.

The key to success is action. You have to get going to get results. Too often people make the mistake of starting big. When you focus on the fully formed, fully finished version, the vision itself becomes intimidating. Which prevents people from taking the first step.

By starting small you create an easy on-ramp.  By giving yourself permission to start small you create an invitation to action. And that action, as small as it may be, changes everything. Think about how small COVID-19 started. #amIright

Think Big

Once you’ve begun, go all in. Think about what is possible if you keep going and growing. Think about momentum. Think about compounding actions. Once you have begun the results are only limited by your thinking. So go as big as you can.

Mom’s Know This

Every Mom knows that this is exactly how you raise a successful child. You start small. You teach the most basic skills, rules, and manners. Then you think big. You think of the successful person you want your child to become. And you do all you can to empower your child to grow into the best version of themself.

Thank you Moms. Thank you for giving us a great start when we were small. And for thinking about all we would need to be successful when we became big. It has made all the difference. Sorry we can’t take you to brunch today to show our appreciation.

Happy Mother’s Day.