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.

Are you too vanilla to be successful?

I recently got a phone call from a CEO. He told me that he was worried about his organization’s brand. The company had hired another advertising agency to jazz up their image. But he felt like what they came back to them with was very vanilla. I pondered the idea of very vanilla. As if there was mediocrity, and then there was extreme mediocrity.

He knew his business couldn’t win against formidable foes with vanilla. He knew he couldn’t motivate his considerable team with vanilla. And he knew he couldn’t recruit top talent with vanilla. Vanilla is flat. Undifferentiated. Forgettable.

person holding vanilla ice cream on cone
In business vanilla is the kiss of death. Or maybe it’s the lick of death.

I knew I could help him. I have spent my career helping brands find their flavor. And vanilla is simply not on the menu.

We spoke for an hour. I shared how my team at The Weaponry would approach their brand development needs. Which included developing differentiated processes, products and services so that they truly had something interesting and ownable to talk about. Even if it didn’t exist today.

I enjoyed our conversation. But I was curious how he found me. And why he thought I was the right person to call.

Then he shared the following.

‘Adam, I don’t know much about The Weaponry. Or the type of work you usually do. But I saw you speak several months ago. And I remember you not seeming very vanilla. And I figured you could help us seem not vanilla too.’

Key Takeaway

If you want to be remembered you can’t be vanilla. You have to differentiate yourself in positive and meaningful ways. You can differentiate your personal brand by doing things differently. By breaking rules. And adding extra-anything to your personal recipe. Like energy or thoughtfulness. Or excluding a common ingredient altogether. Like shaving, laziness, alcohol, or pants.

Your business can differentiate itself with personality, product or process. You can stand out because of your pricing or packaging. You can be remembered for your people or your promise. Or simply be doing unreasonable things on behalf of your customers. But whatever you do, don’t be vanilla. Vanilla is the flavor of the crowd.

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

The most important thing to remember during difficult times.

In January of this year you probably set new goals for yourself. You thought about what you wanted to do personally and professionally. Businesses around the world introduced their 2020 goals to their teams. As we plunged into February the new year-smell was still in the air. Progress was being made. Then came March. COVID-19 forced us back into our caves. Suddenly it became much more difficult to make progress towards our goals. And even harder to choreograph new handshakes with friends.

My Goal

As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency,The Weaponry, my career goal is to create the perfect advertising agency. Simple right? Or maybe not. Because attaining perfection is hard. And elusive. And a Milton Bradley board game that makes you feel as if you are racing the timer on a bomb in your rec room. But creating the perfect agency is my goal because it’s hard. And because achieving it would help make everyone involved (including my clients, my teammates and our families) happy, sought after and prosperous.

Pass The Test

If you are undertaking something hard, and I hope you are, it will test you, repeatedly. Like a diabetic tests their glucose. Your mission is like a boxing match. You step between the ropes and square off with whatever or whoever is standing between you and your goals. And you start throwing all you have at each other. Only one of you will win. It will be the one who wants it more.

The Coronavirus

Today, as you confront your own COVI9-19-era challenges, I have a quote that I want you to put in your pocket. As you fight for your dreams, your goals and your right to party, pull this quote out between rounds and use it as your smelling salts to help shake off the cobwebs and the fatigue.

‘Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other thing.’ -Abraham Lincoln

My friends, Abe Lincoln knew what he was talking about. Though he faced immense opposition, his personal resolution lead to the single most important victory in American history, both for our nation and for us as humans. He also used his unwavering resolve to achieve his other lofty life goals of getting his face on the penny, creating a popular log-based toy brand, and building a car company with Matthew McConaughey.

Key Takeaway

These are challenging times. We are all being tested. We are all experiencing setbacks. Things are hard, and may get even harder. But keep doing the hard things. Keep fighting. Keep your eyes on the prize. Remain resolute. And keep Lincoln’s quote close at hand.

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

How close to the surface are your failures?

Tuesday night I guest lectured to an advertising campaigns class at Marquette University taught by Erin Napier. I talked about creative thinking and the creative process. I talked about my advertising career path, from college student to Copywriter to Creative Director to Chief Creative Officer. I talked about Entrepreneurship. I shared my experience as Founder & CEO of  The Weaponry. And I told them about the time me and Danica Patrick filled a Motorhome with 1.2 million ping pong balls.

Q & A

I showed samples of the creative work I have created, and then I asked if anyone had questions. This is one of the first questions I was asked:

‘What was you greatest career failure, and what did you learn from it?’

Now I am all about learning from your failures. And I am all about turning lemons into  lemonade, like Ralph Lemonader. But I didn’t have an answer for this question.

IMG_0916
This is the class I spoke to at Marquette University. And everyone is still awake. I consider that a win.

It’s not that I haven’t made mistakes in my career. I certainly have. But what I recognized when trying to access my colossal mistakes file, was that I don’t hold my failures close. They are not raw and ready to be examined. I am not dwelling on them, stewing over them of kicking myself because of them. I’m not like that super pale dude from The Da Vinci Code, who was torturing himself with his power slinky. I quickly learn my lesson and move on, better than before.

Maximizer

When I read Tom Rath’s Strength Finders, and took the test in the book (which I recommend you do), it told me that I am a raging Maximizer. Which means I have no interest in analyzing things that went wrong in the past. I simply focus on what we can do from here.

My Biggest Failure Answer

The best answer I could give that Marquette student was that I was pretty sure I don’t know what my biggest mistake was. It was likely something I didn’t do, rather than something I did do. It was probably some path I didn’t take, or some Monty Hall door I didn’t open. I’ll never know where that would have taken me. And I’m not losing any sleep over it. #Zzzzzzz

Learn & Move On

Our failures should be like touching a hot stove. We should do it once, recognize the mistake quickly, file the lesson away, and move on. No dwelling or hand wringing. We just learn our lessons, and get back to life. #BackToReality.

Key Takeaway

Learn from your failures and keep going. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t rank your greatest failures of all time. Instead, focus on your successes. Know what works for you. Remember what you did right. Repeat the positive actions. And pass that knowledge along for others to learn from too.

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

Sometimes the good times are hard.

This is a very good time for me and my business. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, is flush with opportunity. The demand for our work is high. The projects we are working on are exciting and rewarding. We met our revenue goal for the year on December 3rd. And we just issued our team new Fight With Your Brain t-shirts. It feels like we are rolling like Tina Turner. Or John Fogerty.

On The Other Hand

However, good times in business can be really hard. The demands are high. Timelines are short. Bandwidths are narrow. Margins for error are nonexistent. During really good times you aren’t just doing your job. You are also juggling, horse trading and plate spinning.

I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane.

Our December is full of airports, hotel rooms and film shoots. I will be working straight through the weekend. The demand for my team’s skillz, experience and thinking will pack all but the untouchable holidays this December.

It is exactly what I have always wanted.

But it is also hard.

Key Takeaway

It is not just the bad times that are challenging. When you are trying to do something difficult the success often hurts. Which is why so many entrepreneurs settle for more leisurely lifestyle businesses. Where they are not constantly pushing and confronting the pain of growth and greatness.

That Ain’t Me.

I want growth and greatness. And challenge. I want to evolve The Weaponry into a better, bigger, stronger, faster machine. I want to scale and improve as we go. So we can become the perfect agency for clients, employees and partners. I’ve never been afraid of pain or discomfort. So I charge into the day excited for whatever comes my way. I hope the day is ready for me.

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