If you want to be an entrepreneur the great limiter is you.

I thought about becoming an entrepreneur for a long time before I summoned my inner David Lee Roth and actually jumped. In fact, I thought about starting a business for nearly 2 decades before I launched the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Which means that, unlike Geddy Lee, I didn’t rush into anything.

Once I had my entrepreneurial awakening in the summer of 2015 I began generating income within just a few months. I officially legalized The Weaponry as an LLC (yeah, you know me) in the spring of 2016. And while I have physically looked back since then, I have had no regrets.

Over the past 7 years, I have learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons about entrepreneurship. (Starting with how to spell the word itself.) But the most important thing to know about entrepreneurship is this:

The entrepreneur is the great limiter of the business.

10 Ways Entrepreneurs Limit Their Business

  1. You will be limited by your energy and ability to work hard.

2. You will be limited by your network and willingness to reach out and connect.

3. You will be limited by your ability to recruit and hire. (Think about it. There must be hire love.)

4. You will be limited by your willingness to create standardized processes.

5. You will be limited by your ability to give up control to others.

6. You will be limited by the size and scope of your vision.

7. You will be limited by your ability to control your greed and keep your hands off the cash flow, Gordon Gekko.

8. You will be limited by your ability to grow sales to scale your operation into a more effective and efficient machine.

9. You will be limited by your creativity and willingness to innovate

10. You will be limited by your risk tolerance. If you are not willing to walk the tightrope to the promised land you will never get there.

Perhaps most importantly, there is no one else to blame if you don’t become an entrepreneur at all. And if you are an entrepreneur, there is no one else that will prevent you from growing your business’s annual revenue to $100,0000, $1,000,000, $100,000,000, or $1,000,000,000 per year. That’s on you.

As the entrepreneur, you are both the gas pedal and the brake. Most people are afraid to take their foot off the brake, and as a result, never get going. Which means they never see where their journey could have taken them. Don’t let that be you.

Key Takeaway

Find your entrepreneurial gas pedal. Get going. Keep going. Then go faster. It will be your willingness to go, grow, create, and accelerate that will determine how far your journey takes you. We all have a limited amount of time. So go while you can. Realize that you are the determining factor. So be determined to be more.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

I keep finding success on the other side of the warning signs.

I drive a Ford Expedition Max. It’s one of the largest passenger vehicles on the road today. I love it for road-tripping with my family. I love it every time I pile large quantities of humans inside. I love how much stuff I can stuff inside it. I love it when I’m pulling trailers. (And I love the tush warmer on a chilly day.)

But there are trade-offs to driving a big vehicle. Like parking in underground parking garages. And I park in an underground parking garage every day at my office in downtown Milwaukee.

The Warning Signs

My parking adventure begins the moment before I pull into the parking garage. The top of my truck smacks the max height indicator dangling over the vehicle, warning me that the rig is too big for this place. This happens every single day. And when other people see me smack that thang, it freaks them out. #SmackItUpFlipIt

The adventure gets really interesting once I find a prospective parking space. As I begin to maneuver the Expedition into a slim parking stall, the driver assistance warning system blinks and beeps like a bomb on MacGyver. Or an advanced round of Simon, the digital memory game. Inevitably, the blinks and beeps grow more intense throughout the parking process, until I receive the maximum warning, begging me not to proceed.

But I proceed anyway.

The Systems

The systems built into the parking structure entrance and into my vehicle tell me that I don’t belong in this place. They warn me of dangers and limitations. They tell me to stop. Every day. But I don’t stop.

Because they don’t know what I know.

First, I talked with the parking garage staff. I learned where the height is and is not an issue for me. So I know where my real parking opportunities are.

Second, I don’t rely on the systematic warnings from my vehicle to tell me where I will and won’t fit. I look in my mirrors as I negotiate the space. I check my front and rear cameras for feedback. I rely on my own experience. And I believe in my ability to maneuver my own ride.

As a result, I have successfully found a parking space every day I have pulled into the garage for the past 6 months. Despite the daily Tom Petty warnings that say ‘Don’t come around here no more.’

Don’t Let Them Stop You

Throughout your life and career, you will encounter people, policies, and signs that are trying to stop you. Ignore the signs. Ignore the gatekeepers. Ignore the naysayers. Only you know what you are capable of. Believe in your abilities. Believe in your skills. Know that you have the will to achieve your goals. And if there is a real impediment to your progress, believe that you are intelligent enough to discover it for yourself.

Key Takeaway

Don’t worry about cutting it close. Or slow progress. Or barely passing through. The drama only adds to your story. Most people stop when they are warned to stop. Those who experience the greatest success keep going. They see yellow lights, not red. They discover what is really possible. They build and create. They pioneer and achieve. And they enjoy their success even more because they didn’t let anything stop them. Be that kind of person.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Why it is so important for your dreams to survive the pre-boil stage.

Success always sounds easier than it really is. You set a goal. You work hard. And you accomplish it, right? It’s all so so logical, and linear.

But the logic overlooks the most overlooked stage of success. The pre-boil. You remember. It’s the lesson we learned in science class. And it’s a lesson we’re reminded of every time we watch a pot. Because that mofo never boils.

When you boil water there are 5 stages to the process:

  1. You fill a pot with water.
  2. You place the pot on the stove.
  3. You turn on the burner
  4. The burner heats the water.
  5. The water boils.

4 out of the 5 stages of the process last only a matter of seconds. Like an Instagram story. But one of the stages takes much longer.

Stage 4: The Pre-Boil.

The Pre-Boil is the part of the process when you put in the necessary work to get the result. But you are not yet getting the result you are after.

You have to go through the pre-boil phase:

  • When you exercise.
  • When you want to lose weight.
  • When you want to establish a successful career.
  • When you want to be an influencer.
  • When you start your own business.
  • When you are a student.
  • When you write a book.
  • When you want to make a tasty lobster dinner.
  • And when you want to build Rome. (Because everyone knows that is not a one-day job.)

The Most Common Cause Of Failure

Most attempts fail because they don’t survive the pre-boil. Because during this stage the effort you put in is far greater than the results you get out.

However, during the pre-boil, your effort, work, dedication, and sacrifice are accumulating. Just like the heat that is accumulating in that pot of water on the stove.

The pre-boil is the price of entry. It is the initiation to the club. It is the test to see if you really want what you think you want. If you really want that dream to come true you must keep marching through the pre-boil. It is the only way to get to your goal.

Key Takeaway

All great accomplishments require sustained effort. The energy you exert is added to your account. But you won’t see the results right away. Know that. Accept that. And keep going. Success is a test. The universe holds back the reward to sweeten it. Which makes it worth both the work and the wait.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

You made a great plan. Then life got in the way. What do you do now?

Humans are extremely intelligent animals. We have been able to transform the planet to better suit our needs. We envision a world that doesn’t exist and then we create plans to make it a reality. We are like the Walt Disney of the animal kingdom. (Meaning the real animal kingdom, not the Animal Kingdom that Disney created to illustrate this point.)

Humans are really good at knowing what actions we should take to get the result we want. In a perfect world, we would always get the results we wanted. Because we would always take the right steps. Like John Travolta.

But between deciding on the right actions to take and actually taking them a funny thing often happens. Not funny haha. Funny strange.

Every day, all over this big blue marble, the regular events of life get in the way of our plans.

Things change. New demands pop up. Curveballs get thrown. Wrenches get thrown. And eventually, the towel gets thrown in the ring.

But there is one simple solution that will prevent your plan from failing.

Remember that play that you were going to run to make your plans a reality? Before the noise and static?

Run the play anyway.

Do what you set out to do.

Modify your execution if you have to.

Take shorter actions.

Or change the time frame.

Adjust your process to work with the new conditions.

But don’t make excuses.

Change what needs to be changed.

But not the play.

You know that play will work.

Key Takeaway

Run the play anyway. You know it is right. You just need to run it.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Want to become a mid-career entrepreneur? Here are 20 actions to take now.

I always loved the idea of being an entrepreneur. But like most normal people, I started my career as an employee. I worked for my first employer for 10 years. I worked for my next employer for 9 years. I liked my jobs. But I always knew that in my dream scenario I wanted to own my own business. I bet your dream scenario has a similar entrepreneurial ending. And maybe a swim-up bar.

After years of semi-scientific research, I have concluded that there are 3 great times to start your own business. I have published my findings below for your evaluation.

The 3 Great Times To Start Your Own Business.

  1. When you are first out of school, and have nothing to lose.
  2. When you retire, have plenty of money and time, and have nothing to lose.
  3. When you are 40ish, have a lot of experience, skills, contacts, and confidence. And a lot to lose.

The first 2 paths are popular for obvious reasons. Like the-nothing-to-lose part. When you are right out of school, you aren’t giving up anything. And at the end of your regularly scheduled career, you get to choose an overtime period. Which is fun. And only threatens your shuffleboard time.

I am a mid-career entrepreneur. Jeff Hilimire started his entrepreneurial adventure while still in college. We’re both happy with our decisions.

Track Switching

But how in the world do you switch from the employee track to the entrepreneurial track mid-career? Even more challenging, how do you do it if you have a really successful career and are well compensated? How do you make the transition when you have a significant mortgage? And car payments? And kids? And a spouse you really want to keep? Plus, there is the insurance thing. And the annual company Christmas party with all the free alcohol! How do you walk away from all that gravy?

Dream it up and make it happen.

You can do it!

Well W-2 Nation, I did it. And it has been an amazing experience. When I turned 40, I realized that if I died then and there, on the dance floor, while doing the Electric Slide, my greatest regret would be that I never started my own advertising agency. So I resolved to start my own business within the next 2 years.

I launched The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency, 6 years ago. Today, we have 26 clients, 2 offices, health insurance, dental insurance, and a matching 401(k) plan. (Never forget the k, or all you have is an area code.) We are looking at a 50% year-over-year revenue growth rate. And most importantly, I got to create the dress code.

Make the move!

Now, I want to help you begin your mid-carer entrepreneurial adventure. What lies below the fold is the collection of tips, how-tos, and advice I wish I had 7 years ago. This isn’t how-to-build-a-unicorn stuff. I’m not talking about a Zuckerberg, Gates, or Jobs path, where you drop out of college and start a trillion-dollar business. I am talking about advice for regular people, with regular careers, who want to use their experience as a launchpad to entrepreneurial success.

That’s what I did. And you can too. Here’s how, brown cow.

20 Key Steps To Becoming A Mid-Career Entrepreneur.

  1. Surround Yourself With Entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a mindset more than anything. It helps to spend as much time as you can with other entrepreneurs. It helps rewire your brain to see opportunities and become a problem solver. It will help you develop your risk tolerance. Because once you are around entrepreneurs who are enjoying the rewards of their risk tolerance you will realize the nice homes, cars, vacations, and freedoms are well worth the wager. Ask your Mentorpreneurs all the questions you can think of. They will want to help. And by hanging with your Mentorpreneurs, you realize it is far riskier to leave the control over your income to someone else. Plus, you quickly realize that you can create anything you dream up. Like the word Mentorpreneur.

2. Become really great at what you do. When you are great at what you do you become sought after. And when people seek you out, it means you no longer need your employer to develop opportunities for you. Because you can create those opportunities for yourself. This is called career capital. The more you develop the easier it becomes to call your own shots (shots shots shots!) When your clients at your day job are more in love with you than the company you work for you have a green light to start your own business. And green means go, Mario!

3. Develop And Maintain Your Network. People work with people. And they love to work with people they like and trust. Continuously expand and strengthen your relationships. The more people who like and trust you the better. Those people will become customers, partners, connectors, and referrals. And those are the 4 most important people in an entrepreneur’s life. (After the supportive spouse and great coworkers.) If you’ve neglected this area of your career, it’s time to get to work. When I started The Weaponry I quickly realized I had done much of the hardest work of entrepreneurship decades earlier through my relationship-building.

4. Save Your Money. By having reserves in your bank account or investments you can tap into, you buy yourself running room to start your own business. Most people can’t consider starting their own business because they don’t have the luxury of not having a dependable paycheck for several months. Don’t be that kid. If you don’t have the money on hand yet, start your Run-My-Own Business Fund today. You might not need the money. Or not much of it. But simply having it available provides the confidence to jump, like David Lee Roth.

5. Live Below Your Means. As your income increases, don’t let your expenses rise at the same rate or you will always need your current level of income. That’s a problem. You’ve heard of the golden handcuffs of a high-paying job that keep people locked into their employer. But the most dangerous career situation is the one where you need your current income level to support your lifestyle. Because you will never be able to downshift into a lesser-paying situation, even temporarily. And the first move an entrepreneur needs to make is downshifting into a lesser-paying situation for an undefined length of time. That is the price of entry. That is the entrepreneurial initiation ritual, my friends. Tip #4 helps you bridge that gap. My dip only lasted about a year. But it really made me hustle. And hustling helps you make money. #dothehustle

6. Don’t Quit Your Day Job. To combat the money challenges outlined in the previous points, don’t do something rash, like quit your job. Hold onto your job as long as you can. It will be the primary source of funding for your startup. Use your current job to help pay for the expenses of your next job as long as you can. Work on your startup at night and on the weekends. Like Shania Twain said, no one needs to know right now. Not quitting your day job allows your startup to gain speed, momentum, and cash flow. Not quitting until you have to makes it much easier to jump from the Employee Train to the Entrepreneur Train. If we were swinging from ring to ring on a playground, think about not letting go of the ring you are holding until you have your hand firmly on the next one. And if you never have a firm grip on the next ring, then you never let go of the one you were already holding. No harm. No foul. You tried. You can be proud of that.

7. Read The Book The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. This book is the bible on how to start and run your business the right way. (Only there is no Jesus.) I followed all of the guidance in this book before launching The Weaponry. It helped me think about the whole process the right way, and avoid a lot of problems. When people tell me they are planning to start a business, or are floundering in their startup, I always recommend they read this. And everyone always thanks me. If I were you I would hit the link above and order the book right now. Tip #8 can wait.

8. Create Your Legal Entity: It’s easy to create a legal business entity. Start simply by applying for your FEIN. Which is your Federal Employer Identification Number. It’s like your business’s social security number. This ID number enables you to do everything the way the government and IRS want you to. With this in hand, you can file your legal business entity with your state as an LLC (Limited Liability Company), Corporation, Limited Partnership, General Partnership, or as a Sole Proprietor. I set up an LLC. (Yeah you know me.) It’s quick and easy. Then you can open your business bank accounts and get your company credit card. With these things in place, you have your financial and legal structures ready to roll. Which means you won’t need to ask your customers to pay you in cash. Or chickens.

9. Get Quickbooks. Quickbooks is the accounting software that makes it easy to track and manage your accounting. You connect all of your bank accounts and credit cards to this. It makes it easy to create and send invoices (bills) and to know what is due and when. It also provides reports (profit and loss, profitability, balance sheets, etc.) and dashboards that help you manage your business. Get this going as soon as you can afford to. It will become the backbone of your accounting system. And your scoreboard. Best of all, Quickbooks is not the book equivalent to quicksand.

10. Get A Good Bookkeeper. Bookkeepers are God’s gift to entrepreneurs. They are reasonably priced specialists who have a valuable skillset that you likely don’t have. They can help you stay on top of your accounting while enabling you to spend more time on the things only you can do. Like finding paying clients. And putting on your deodorant.

11. Collect Recognizable People And Logos: You can start your business by working with anyone. But the goal should be to collect recognizable names as customers. That could mean that you work with well-known brands or people that other people know. When you share the kinds of brands or people that you work with you are elevating and legitimizing your brand by using theirs. If you work with individuals, work with the most popular most trusted, and most respected people you can. Their decision to work with you will carry more weight than say, your grandma. Sorry, Grandma.

12. Get involved in your community. The more involved you are in your community the more you will be connected to others and the opportunities they can introduce you to. You could be involved as a volunteer, member, attendee, or sponsor. You are going to want strong ties to the people around you and this is one of the best ways to get to know as many people as possible. Even better, when you support your community you will find that your community supports you too. It’s a thing.

13. Grab Chocolate Milk. Entrepreneurs understand the power of spending time with other people. Getting together for chocolate milk, (my preference) or coffee (most of America’s preference) is not about the beverage. It’s about the sharing and comparing of experiences and ideas. Through the process is sitting down with another person and talking you discover new ideas and resources. It creates a great transfer of knowledge and experience. It is the best way to tap into another person’s perspective and network. You could also meet for breakfast, lunch or drinks. Or fricken caramels. It’s all ah-bu-trary. #namethatmovie

14. Start A Blog, Podcast, Or Regularly Published Knowledge Share. It is not about who you know. It really is about who knows you. The more people who know about you, what you know, and what you are doing, the better. I started a blog right when I launched The Weaponry. And it has been a great vehicle to share my thoughts, ideas, successes, and learnings with the world. By doing so, my business and I are both top of mind when people have relevant opportunities. Podcasts, newsletters, columns, and social media channels all work too. The key is to share information and value with the world broadly so that more people than you could reach through individual messages know about you, your skills, philosophy, and eventually your business offering.

Me and my crew.

15. Find a supportive spouse. In the middle of your career, you are likely to have a spouse or life partner who is tied to your success or failure. Their support and encouragement are critical to your success. My wife Dawn has been amazingly supportive. She never batted an eye or raised an eyebrow when I shared my entrepreneurial vision with her. I would share this post with your partner so that they have an idea of what you are trying to do. That way they can help and support you as much as possible. If they are not supportive you have an important decision to make. And that’s all I have to say about that.

16. Read Read as much as you can about business ideas, successful companies, leaders, and entrepreneurs. This is the greatest entrepreneurial hack there is. Learn all you can from others who you admire and want to emulate. Read about how other Founders did what they did. There is no end to what you can learn from others. Read books, online articles, and blogs. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks as you commute. Drink that knowledge in. Create your own curriculum. And give yourself your own, self-directed advanced degree. You can even walk across your own stage and hand yourself an official-looking piece of paper. That would be weird. But you could do it.

17. Grow Your LinkedIn Connections. LinkedIn offers the best measure of your network. Create a profile if you haven’t already. Become an active user. Add everyone you meet to your LinkedIn profile by sending a custom invitation reminding them of how you know them or why you want to connect. This will become ground zero for raising your profile and staying in touch with your broader network and the opportunities they bring. Like, comment, and share content from other people. Make people who don’t know you curious about who you are. Insider Tip: LinkedIn offers an audio icon next to your name that let’s you share how your name is pronounced. Click on mine to see how it works.

18. Learn As Much As You Can About The Business You Are In Now. While you are still employed by someone else, take advantage of the experts in the organization. Learn from the finance or accounting teams. Talk to HR about how benefits, recruiting, and reviews work. Talk to sales about how they generate leads and close deals. Talk to operations about what makes them such smooth operators. Talk to IT about, well, IT. You can learn about all of the things you are going to need to know as an entrepreneur while in your current job. Think of it like studying. Your coworkers will love your interest in their work. And they will be flattered when you start your own business and credit them as your sliver mentor in their specialty. You’ll also know who would be a good resource to hire after your non-compete clause expires.

19. Write down your plans. It’s one thing to think about starting a business. It’s another to write down a plan to make it happen. Once you have a vision for your dream business, write it down. The more details the better. That written plan becomes your blueprint to build it for real. I followed the written plan approach from The E-Myth, and it gave me great structure and clarity around what I was creating. Do this too. Also carry notebooks. Not only are they great for capturing spontaneous ideas, but if you get shot in the notebook, it just may save your life.

My great client-friend Nicole Hallada was one of the first people I told about The Weaponry.

20. Talk To Former Clients About Your Plans. Your best prospective future clients are your past clients. When I launched The Weaponry I discussed my plans with several former clients. Within the first week of discussions I had 5 clients tell me that if I created a business they would send work our way. That confidence, interest, and demand in my offering made it much easier to jump. 4 out of those 5 former clients became future clients. The other one is living with constant regret. Right Chad?

Key Takeaway

Starting your own business in the middle of your career can sound intimidating. But the more you know, the easier it is. You can do it. Utilize the knowledge of those who have gone before you. Most of it is easier than it seems. With the tips above (that I wish I knew when I was starting out) you will be able to start taking steps today. Then simply never stop. If you need a Mentorpreneur, just reach out to me through Linkedin. Tell me I sent you.

*If you know someone who wants to start their own business and could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How the most difficult decision in my career is still paying off today.

Our careers are full of choices. Some are small and arbitrary. Some feel ginormous. The tough thing about tough choices is that the right answer is never clear at the moment we need to make them. And we may not know whether we made the right call for years. Or decades.

Tough Call

Recently I was asked to think about one of the toughest business decisions I had to make in my career. Several decisions popped into my head. Including big ones like whether or not I should quit my job and launch my own business. And whether I should risk asking a coworker to go on a date. (I have now been married to that coworker for 20 years.) But there is one particularly challenging situation I faced that not even Robert Frost could help me through. I call it The Roanoke Decision. Here’s the story.

Roanoke

In the summer of 2008, I had a business trip to Roanoke, Virginia. I worked at an advertising agency called Engauge. And I was to fly to Roanoke from Columbus, Ohio with a client for a night of focus groups. I was excited about the trip because I love the knowledge and insights gained from a focus group of my client’s customers. I had never been to Roanoke. And visiting new places is one of my favorite things. Along with brown paper packages tied up with string.

A New Challenge

But a funny thing happened on my way to Roanoke. A new client of our advertising agency, Nationwide Insurance, scheduled a TV commercial shoot on the same day in Charlotte, North Carolina. #RutRo

To this point in the project, all of the work I had done was behind the scenes. My boss, the Chief Creative Officer, had been meeting with the client and presenting the work. The client had proved to be challenging, and after each meeting, there was a new story about the over-the-top client and how difficult they had been to please.

Could You, Would You, On A Plane?

Eventually, we landed on a TV commercial script to produce. And because of other scheduling conflicts, I was asked to attend the Nationwide TV shoot. We determined that I would be able to travel to Charlotte the day before the shoot for location scouting and the important pre-production meeting. Then I could attend the first half of the TV shoot, and leave for the airport at lunch to catch my flight to Roanoke. At that point, the 2 experienced Associate Creative Directors on the account would manage the rest of the shoot. Easy Peasy.

The Best Laid Plans

Things did not go as planned. While attending the preproduction meeting I met two clients from Nationwide Insurance. One was Steven Schreibman, who was as over-the-top as advertised. He wanted the spot to be Spectacular! The other was Jennifer Hanley, who I was ice cold in the meeting. She had clearly done this sort of thing before, knew exactly what she wanted, and wasn’t about to suffer any fools who didn’t know how to deliver. This was going to be interesting.

The Commercial

The commercial was a simple idea. It was called ‘Burnout’ (think NASCAR victory, not Jeff Spicoli). The spot opens on a shot of a cul de sac in a quiet suburban neighborhood. Suddenly, a sports car speeds into the cul de sac and begins doing donuts. We cut inside the car to a shot of the driver, NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick, who tells the camera that he just saved a bunch of money by switching to Nationwide Insurance. Hence the celebratory burnout.

The 100-Degree Wrinkle

However, it was supposed to hit 100 degrees that day in Charlotte. So everyone involved was worried about how the heat would affect our shoot, the talent, and the car.

My team, including talented ACDs Jason Thomas and Oscar Reza, got to the set early. And it was already hot as balls. When the two clients arrived we met them and gave them the plan for the morning. We enjoyed a nice on-set breakfast together as the crew readied for the shoot and the sun began to broil the blacktop.

The Thaw

As the day warmed, so did my relationship with Hanley and Schreibman. The iciness and the craziness of the initial meeting didn’t come to the set that morning. Instead, they were both very pleasant. They were excited about the shoot and excited to work with Harvick for the first time. But they were also greatly concerned about the heat. (And not Dwyane Wade’s former basketball team).

Secretly Sweating

I too was concerned about the heat. I was worried it would drench Harvick in sweat as he delivered his lines to the camera. I was worried about the impact the heat would have on the Corvette, which would be repeatedly pushed to its max as we spun it in high-speed circles. I was worried about the young stuntman who was going to be performing the donuts that afternoon. And I was worried about making a graceful exit in the middle of all of this to head to Roanoke.

What To Expect When You Are Expecting

The day went exactly as I expected. Meaning that I was quickly bonding with the new client, and the heat was causing real logistical problems for Kevin Harvick. He was a great sport, but would quickly sweat through his Nationwide polo and we would need to repeatedly break to freshen Kevin and his wardrobe. Which was slowing things down, and generating tension on the set.

Tick Tock Tick Tock

As the heat was burning up our time, I was making regular phone calls back to my office in Columbus. I was updating the account supervisor who lead the other account that was conducting the important focus groups in Roanoke. I was originally supposed to leave for the airport at 11am. But with the delays and tension on the set in Charlotte, I felt like I couldn’t leave at that hour.

What to do?

We decided to rebook my flight for another flight 2 hours later. I would have a car service pick me up at 1pm and speed me to the airport. I would then OJ Simpson through the airport, and make the flight just before they closed the boarding door. (Remember when we used to Associate OJ with running through airports?)

Bond. Personal Bond.

It was a good plan. But I still hadn’t told the Nationwide clients that I would be leaving the shoot. As so often happens in difficult situations, we were bonding. There was both stress and gallows humor as the clock raced faster than our progress. I worked with the producer, director and client to create a workable scenario and adjustments that would enable us to get all of the shots we needed. We decided that during some air-conditioned cool-off breaks we could record some voiceover work for the commercial and radio spots to save precious time.

Here it comes!!!

But 1pm was coming faster than Kevin Harvick in an 800hp stock car. And like The Clash, I had to decide, do I stay or do I go now? I knew that if I stayed there would be trouble. But if I go, it may be double. What to do?

The Walk

I walked off by myself for a moment, and carefully evaluated the situation. Not just the logistics. But the intangibles. The relationships. The commitments. The business development potential. And both clients’ needs. There was a lot to process in a little time.

The Call

Then I called Peter Zenobi, the account supervisor, and reluctantly told him that I would not be flying to Roanoke as planned.

The Decision

I decided that I had to be on Nationwide’s side. The degree of difficulty we were dealing with in the heat with the stunts and the celebrity talent was too high to walk away from. I recognized that I was quickly developing a strong rapport with both Jennifer Hanley and Steven Shreibman. And the focus group, while it was my original commitment, and I really, really hated to back away from it, would be recorded. And there would be a detailed report produced.

Ahead Of The Curve

While I didn’t technically go to Harvard Business School, I did read a book about it. In Ahead of the Curve, author Philip Delves Broughton writes about his experience as an MBA student at Harvard Business School. He reveals that the 2 greatest things gained in this prestigious program are 1. A remarkable network. 2. Confidence to make difficult decisions when you don’t have all the information you would like. And The Roanoke Decision was a clear case of having to make a tough decision without all that information.

Was it the right decision?

The heat-related challenges continued the rest of the afternoon. But we worked through it all. We got the footage we needed of the Corvette doing burnouts. But barely.

The young stunt driver needed a lot of time to get his driving dialed in. Which, in the 100-degree heat, took a toll on the car. In fact, the brand new Corvette, borrowed from a local dealership, overheated and shut down completely. So by late afternoon the car literally shut itself down, and could not be started again for 6 hours.

But we had what we needed. No one got hurt. And the Nationwide clients and I headed to the airport, together.

That night, on the flight home to Columbus, Jennifer Hanley and I sat together and talked the whole way. We developed a fast friendship. And before we landed, Jennifer said that she had a lot more work that she wanted to send to our agency.

The Partnership

Nationwide and Engauge quickly developed a very strong partnership. Soon we had an annual retainer with Nationwide of over $5 million. We handled the advertising for Nationwide’s sports sponsorships, including their high-profile NASCAR and  PGA sponsorships, and work with NCAA basketball and the NHL. We refreshed their pet insurance brand, VPI. We rebranded Titan Insurance and created a very high-profile disaster response commercial, featuring Julia Roberts as the narrator.

My relationship with Jennifer continued to strengthen. And I developed strong relationships with many other great friends at Nationwide. In fact, my Nationwide relationships are among the strongest personal relationships I have developed in my career. (I considered listing all the great friends I made through Nationwide Insurance here, but it would double the length of the story.)

7 years after The Roanoke decision, when I made another difficult career decision to start my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, those Nationwide relationships benefited me once again. In fact, they have led directly to our work with Hertz and Thrifty rental cars, Fifth Third Bank, and American Family Insurance. (Thank you Matt Jauchius, Dennis Giglio, Nick Ferrugia, Tiffanie Hiibner, Susan Jacobs, and Dawn Pepin.)

Steven

Starting that hot summer day in Charlotte I developed a very special relationship with Steven Schreibman. And when Steven passed away in May of 2018, the tribute I wrote about him on this blog became the most popular post of all time. And just last month, over 4 years after Steven’s passing his Mom, E.J. Bloom called to thank me for writing the story about Steven, and how she reads it often to enjoy wonderful memories of her wonderful son. We talked for an hour, like new old friends. Last week I received a package in the mail from E.J. that contained a copy of Steven’s book, Blood in My Hairspray.  You can find the blog post here: Our time here is short. Make the most of it, like Steven did.  

14 Years Later

Did I make the right choice on that blazing hot day in August of 2008, in the subdivision in Charlotte? When Roanoke was calling, and Charlotte wouldn’t let go? With more than a decade of great friendships, partnerships, and funny memories now in the bank, it would certainly appear I did.

Key Takeaway

When making difficult decisions, trust your instincts. There may not be a right or wrong choice. You may not have all the facts you want. But be confident in your decisions anyway. When you walk confidently in the direction of your decisions the universe rewards you. Know that you have the privilege of choosing your own adventure. Take advantage of that. Take control of your career and your life. Things will work out. Someday I expect to visit Roanoke. And I will thank the city for all it gave me in that trade years ago.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

When your mind and body wrestle who wins?

The human is the most fascinating of all machines. It is a walking, talking, taco-eating miracle made of 2 distinct parts.

First, there is the physical part. The body. It’s the part of the human that we can see and touch. (With consent.) It is the most obvious part. But it is also the least interesting.

The second part of the human is the mind. This is where the thinking takes place. This is where humans are most interesting and differentiated. If you think people look different on the outside, you would be shocked by how different people’s minds operate. For proof, see the new Netflix series Dahmer. (Or just take my word for it and you will sleep better tonight.)

For better or worse, your mind and body are married for life. Like Thunder and Lightening, Brooks and Dunn, or Mike & Ikes. Your life is a result of how well your mind and body work together.

The key to the mind-body collaboration is who is in control. Because both highly successful people and highly unsuccessful people know what they should do. The difference is that successful people do what they know they should and unsuccessful people don’t.

The Question

Who is in control, your mind or your body?

Who determines if you get out of bed or hit the snooze button?

Who determines if you thumb through your phone or work on that important project?

Who determined whether you exercise?

Or eat the way you know you should?

Or take any action at all?

If your mind is not telling your body what to do, your body is in control.

Mind Your Mind.

Your mind knows your goals and vision. It knows what needs to happen to get there. Your body doesn’t have goals beyond rest, food, pleasure, and safety. So if your mind has goals that expand beyond those 4 areas, it has to be in charge, or you will never achieve your goals. Unless your goal is to be featured on My 600-Pound Life.

When you experience moments of weakness or laziness, recognize that you are experiencing a battle for control between your mind and body. If your body wins, you lose. But if your mind is in control, and can make your body do what it needs to do, there is no limit to what you can achieve.

Key Takeaway

The key to long-term success, accomplishment and happiness is that your mind must be in control. Your thinking, planning and visioning must lead to the right actions. It is not enough to think and know. Accomplishment and progress come through doing. So provide your body with the fuel and sleep it needs. Then let your mind take over to accomplish the rest.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The best first step to take to be highly successful.

Last week I was a guest on the ContenderCast Podcast with host Justin Honaman, Justin interviewed me about entrepreneurship, and the things I have learned by launching and running the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. We discussed lessons from my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? And we talked about his transition from Diet Coke to Coke Zero. (This paragraph has been brought to you by Coke Zero.)

I can’t wait for the podcast episode to drop. I expect it will change my life the way Sara Blakely’s life changed when she went on the Oprah Winfrey show. So don’t be surprised if the world starts wearing my undergarments too.

Advice

One of the great questions Justin asked me was, ‘What advice do you have for other people who want to start their own businesses?’

My answer was clear and instant:

Spend time with people who have already done it.

But that advice is not specifically for want-to-be entrepreneurs. Or wantrepreneurs.

It is the best advice I can share about any type of success and achievement.

The best way to achieve a massive goal is to spend time with people who have already done what you want to do.

When you spend time with superstars their mindset rubs off on you. Unlike tickets on the Polar Express, their mindset is transferrable.

Spending time with high achievers is like going to a Success Optometrist. They help you see success in much greater detail. You see the actions they take, the mindset they have adopted, and the relationships they develop and maintain.

When you see those things up close you realize that you can do all of those things too. Suddenly, your belief in what is possible expands. Your risk tolerance increases. Your view of money transforms. And your excuses fade away.

There is an intelligence that increases with increasing levels of success. It can appear mysterious or unattainable from a distance. But once you have a front-row seat to higher levels of success, it demystifies the process. It’s like seeing how magic tricks are actually performed. You quickly realize there is no magic. There are simply skills developed, practiced, and perfected until it looks like magic.

Key Takeaway

Seek out successful people. Step into their orbit and let their positive peer pressure propel you. Notice the way they act, read, and think. Modify their approaches to your needs and style. Soak up the education and inspiration. It will change your life like nothing else can. Because when you are close to those who model the behavior you want to see in yourself you can’t help but replicate it. It’s like a language immersion program. Only the language is success. Soon you’ll notice others who want to get close to you and learn how you do what you do. That’s when you know it works.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Why I love my gaps and you should too.

I’m willing to bet that you are not as great as you want to be. If you are, you can stop reading here.

(I see you are still reading. Which means that either I was right, or the brakes on your eyeballs don’t work.)

You may not be as fit, rich, successful, kind, patient or brave as you wish you were.

In fact, you probably fall short of your ideal on a lengthy list of skills, states, and attributes.

That’s a gift.

The gap between where you are now and your ideal provides the motivation to act. It provides the motivation to improve. It creates the silent force that propels you. It fuels your hunger, drive, and growth.

And ultimately, your gap helps close your gap.*

*If The Gap at your local mall has recently closed it’s not your fault. Unless you were the manager.

The 2 things that can help anyone become happy, fulfilled, and successful.

Everyone has the potential to be highly successful. Everyone. Regardless of your background or socio-economic factors. Regardless of the opportunities you thought were or were not available to you. Even if you don’t currently maintain a minimum standard of personal hygiene.

The 2 Things

There are 2 things you need to achieve greatness, happiness and any other type of ness you are after.

  1. A Model

You need a model of success to follow.

Ask yourself some simple questions. Who do you want to become? What do you want to be like? This could be anything. A great parent. An influential teacher. A successful business person. An accomplished athlete. A great stay-at-home Dad.

Then look for your model. The person who has done what you want to do. A model that can show you what you could create or become.

Best of all, you don’t need to know what you want to do to find a great model. Simply start looking for people who are happy and fulfilled. When you find a person you admire or envy and want to emulate, you have found a model. But you still get to choose which model to choose as your North Star.

2. A Path

Once you have a model, you need a path. Your path is like your personal Yellow Brick Road. It is the course you must travel to achieve the model. And depending on your path it may or may not contain lions, scarecrows and trees that throw apples at you.

In short: The model is your destination. The path is how you get there.

The path provides the instructions and the coursework. The path includes the dos and don’ts. The path shows you the roads to travel, complete with onramps and interchanges.

The path includes books, schools, and teachers. It includes habits, practices and processes. And it may include other models to study.  And in my experience studying models doesn’t even feel like studying.

Mapping The Path

Once you find the model you want to follow you need to discover their path. Mapping their path becomes your research project.

Potential Questions To Ask Your Model

  • What did they do?
  • How did they do it?
  • When did they do what?
  • And where?
  • Why did they make the decisions they made?
  • Who helped them?
  • What would they do differently now that they know what they know?

Don’t guess. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t spin your wheels either. The answers are there for you to discover. If your model is someone famous, or dead, research their story. You will find many of the answers you need through a little digging. (To be clear, I mean you can dig into their story, not dig up their dead body.)

Key Takeaway

Begin looking for your model today. And when you find that person, discover their path. The path is where the transformational magic happens.

If you have become a model, share your path. Share what you know. Inspire others. Bring others along. If you have found joy, happiness, success, and fulfillment in your life consider showing others how you did it. It may be the most valuable work you ever do.

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

+For more of the best lessons I have learned check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.