The beginning of each year is full of hope. Hope that the next 365 days will be full of success, progress, fun, friendship and fulfillment. But as my friend Steve Swanson is fond of saying, hope is not a strategy. I learned long ago that if you want to have a great year you have to make your year great. You do this through both your actions and your mindset.
Now that all 365 slices of 2021 are toasted, buttered and eaten, I am taking a moment to reflect on the things that made my 2021 great. If you haven’t done this yet, today is the day to do it. Recognizing the good things in our lives humbles and happies us. So let’s get to it!
21 Things I am thankful for from 2021.
- This Blog: I love having a blog to share my thoughts and experiences. I love that I can write anything I want here. I can even make up words, and no one can tell me they are not real words. They are real as soon as you use them. Innovation comes from writing. Remember, all of our words were once made up. You don’t have to be Latin or Greek. You can just be dumb. Or be Will Ferrell playing George W. Bush.
2. The Hot Housing Market: This year the housing market has been as hot as it has ever been. Like Nashville Chicken hot. Or Death Valley hot. Or Pam and Tommy home video hot. Which is great if you have a house to sell. I started 2021 with 2 homes and sold them both. Which allowed me and my family to start a new chapter this year.
3. Our New House: My family found our long-term Wisconsin home this year. We had been looking for our next house for over 2 years. On June 17th we walked into our new house the day it went on the market. We made an offer that day because of the Pam & Tommy market conditions. The offer was accepted within 15 hours. We moved into our new home in September. It is our family’s nest. It is the main stage for our lives. And it is a source of pride. Now, we are trying to fill the home with great memories. And trying to figure out what all the light switches are for.` (If you are in Milwaukee and want a great, and patient Real Estate Pro, contact Jaime Lubner.)
4. Family. I couldn’t be more thankful for my family. My wife Dawn and kids Ava, Johann and Magnus are incredible, talented and funny people to do life with. I was able to see my parents, sisters, nieces, and nephews this year. Plus, my extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins extends farther than most. My mom is one of 9 kids and my Dad is one of 12. I role deep with family on both the Albrecht and Sprau branches of my family tree. Which gives me lots of options when I need to post bail.
5. The Weaponry Launching The Weaponry, the advertising and ideas agency that I started 5 years ago was one of the best moves of my life. (At least it was one of the best moves not made on a dancefloor. #amiright) It has taught me the importance of taking responsibility for everything in my life. It has filled my life with great people. And it has provided a project to continuously improve. A business is a great tool to do good in the world. And I feel like we are just getting started with all that we can do with this tool.
6. My Work Teammates. An organization is simply a collection of humans working towards a common goal. My fellow Weapons are amazingly talented and good people. We have been able to grow our team this year. And each new teammate helps expand and improve who we are as a collective. It’s amazing to experience the expansion of good in a way that doesn’t land you a starring role on My 600-Pound Life.
7. Old Friends I had a major high school reunion in 2021. And I was concerned that the reunion wouldn’t happen. Both because of Covid, and because nobody really wants to plan a high school reunion. But if you really want to have a reunion you have to be willing to make it happen. So I planned my Hanover High School class reunion in Hanover, New Hampshire from 1000 miles away in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And like they said in Field of Dreams, if you build it they will come. Classmates gathered from all over the country. Some whom I hadn’t seen since graduation. And while it takes someone to plan such a thing, it takes people showing up to make it real. I appreciate all of my classmates and their families for showing up and making our together time real.
8. Vaccines: Covid-19 really has thrown us a curveball over the past 2 years. I really appreciate the 3 companies that have developed the Covid vaccines. They enable us to experience life much closer to normal. My whole family has been vaccinated with Pfizer’s magic defender. My 11-year old son Magnus just got full-vax status before Thanksgiving. I got my booster yesterday. Get your vaccine if you are able. It’s not a conspiracy. I’ve seen a lot of wealthy, educated Waspy men doing it. And they are the ones to be suspicious of.
9. My Book: In 2020, during the Covid Lockdown, I started writing my first book called What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? I finished the first draft by Memorial Day 2020. I finished the second draft by the end of 2020. I have spent 2021 working on the publishing process. The book was picked up by independent publisher Ripples Media. I received the first copy I ordered from Amazon on December 19th, 2021. The reviews have been amazing. I am so thankful for everyone who has taken a flyer on buying this new book from a first-time author. I was committed to writing something that would help readers learn a little, laugh a little and lift a little. I can’t wait to see where we go from here. In case it goes really well I am studying how to be an intriguing recluse. #JDSalinger
10. Coaching Track & Field: My daughter Ava was a freshman track athlete at Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin this past spring. To ensure that she had a coach that could help her with the shot put and discus I offered to coach her and her throwing teammates. Although I never imagined myself as a high school coach, it was an extremely rewarding experience. Ava had a strong freshman season. She became the second-best freshman discus thrower in school history. She made it to the Division 1 state meet, where she was the top freshman finisher. I really enjoyed coaching all of the girls on the team, not just Ava. It was incredibly rewarding to see the progress the ladies made throughout the season. And I was especially thankful to be able to work with my 2 seniors, Sammi and Bella during the spring of their senior year. It was rewarding to add a fun final chapter to their Covid-Era high school experience. In the process, l learned as much as they did.
11. Coaching Youth Football: In the fall of 2022, I helped coach my son Magnus’ 5th-grade tackle football team. It was an amazing experience that brought back memories from my own football experience. While I helped coach positions, plays, techniques and drills, I considered myself the Hype Coach. And these kids got hyped! It was fun to be a part of. And I look forward to more. If you have a chance to coach youth sports you should absolutely do it. Unless you are terrible with kids.
12. A Home Full of Music: My 3 kids all play instruments. Ava plays violin and guitar. Johann plays piano, saxophone and violin. Not to mention harmonica and melodica. (Although I did just mention them.) Magnus plays cello and piano. My house is often full of wonderful live music. It gets better every year. And I already know I will miss it when it’s gone.
13. Podcasts: I have accelerated my consumption of podcasts this year, Kobayashi-style. Specifically when driving or mowing the lawn. I have learned a great deal from these audio interviews and lessons. The podcasts I listen to are like mini-courses. So I get a little smarter every time I drive to or from work or cruise around my lawn on my John Deere.
14. Seaside, Florida: Our family spent spring break in Seaside a year after we originally intended to because Covid tries to ruin everything. Our experience was excellent. We ran into 3 different friends and their families while we were there. It was definitely a highlight of our year. And our kids loved it because it was like a family-friendly Panama City for teenagers with bicycles.
15. Friends All Over I continue to be thankful for my friends and family all over the world. As I traveled in 2021 I saw my people in real life in California, Texas, Minnesota, Atlanta, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Boston, Vermont, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. It makes me feel at home everywhere. I want more of that in 2022.
16. The Gym I was thankful to get back to the gym regularly in 2021. After a funky Covid situation in 2020 and early 2021 that forced me to exercise at home, I got back to working out at the sports club where we are members. The gym offers good mental and physical therapy for me. I would feel a lot more like an angry David Banner without regular trips to the gym. (Although as of this week I am pausing that again because of Covid. Fortunately, we have weights at home. You wouldn’t like to see me without weights at home. #namethatshow)
17. Cheese Curds I increased my cheese curd consumption in 2021. And I am happier because of it.
18. Great Clients I am extremely lucky to have really wonderful clients at The Weaponry. I appreciate all of the work they have entrusted us with this past year. But it’s the personal relationships that I enjoy the most. We work with great people. That makes all the difference. (That, and taking the road less traveled by.)
19. Great Collaborators We also work with some really great collaborators at The Weaponry. There are production companies, editors, photographers, freelancers, developers, influencers, agents, accountants and more. They make the work we do better and more fun. Here’s to much more in 2022.
20. Being Able to Buy New Cars My wife and I both came into 2021 with cars that were 10 or more years old. We have been able to buy new cars. Not have new cars. Dawn’s car had to be ordered and won’t be here until February or March. (Notice that the global supply chain is not on my list of favorite things of 2021.)
21. A New Driver In The Family: My daughter Ava turned 16 in September. I am thankful and excited for her new adventures, and thankful that I am not the only option to run to the store when we need a loaf of bread, a carton of milk, and a stick of butter.
22. Live Concerts: My family and I all went to see The Zac Brown Band in concert at Summerfest in Milwaukee this year. It was great to get back to live music again. Although ZBB had to cancel concert dates the week after we saw them because of Covid. So we’re not totally out of The Woods. Which is also a ZBB song.
Happiness is the great win in life. Recognize what makes you happy. Study it. Do more of it. And thank you for reading my writings and for contributing to my happiness. Let’s all have a great, safe and healthy 2022. #BeMoreYouIn2022
*If you’ve read this far and would like to read more good stuff to kick off 2022, consider my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media. There’s a fortune cookie in it for you.