8 questions on how I became an entrepreneur.

This week I had a fun interview on entrepreneurship. I wasn’t talking to Inc., How I Built This or Squawk Box. I was interviewed by Jayson Koel, a sophomore at Germantown High School in Germantown, Wisconsin with great hair. Jayson is taking an entrepreneurship class and is working on his own business, an apparel company called Midwest Running Club. Which I assume doesn’t sell Speedos to New Englanders.

Jayson (Y ask Y there’s a Y) had 8 good questions for me that I thought would be worth sharing with others who are considering entrepreneurship, or who simply wonder how someone gets started on their entrepreneurial journey.

This is Jayson Koel. Check out that flow! (And the t-shirt his Dad and I designed.)

8 Questions on Entrepreneurship with Jayson Koel

  1. When did you know you wanted to own your own business?

At the very beginning of my career. I immediately loved the idea of creating my own version of an advertising agency. I was always envious of entrepreneurs for being brave enough to do what everyone else dreams of doing. And I think envy is a great navigational tool. (Unless you are on a ship. Then you should use real navigational tools.) 3 years into my career a film director I was working with told me I had to start my own agency in order to secure my future. I took the advice. And I wrote about it here.

2. How did you prepare to get started?

I spent 19 years learning how advertising works, building relationships, creative skills, leadership skills, and nunchuck skillz. Because girls only like guys who have great skills. I had a subscription to Inc. magazine that whole time and continuously studied entrepreneurship. I surrounded myself with other entrepreneurs, and learned how they thought, and increased my courage and confidence through their examples. Then, in the last 6 months before I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, I bought The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber, which is a great how-to book on how to run a business the right way. Even for southpaws.

3. Who helped you start your business?

My cousin Brooks Albrecht and I launched The Weaponry together. Brooks was in Seattle working for Amazon, I was in Atlanta, working at Moxie, the largest ad agency in Atlanta. We collaborated and planned and made things happen from opposite corners of the country, with a 3-hour time difference between us. We used Zoom, Slack, Google G-Suite, and Dropbox while planning the business because we had to to bridge our distance. That created a perfect infrastructure for the business operations too. Brooks was like a rocket booster and stayed with us for the first year, then peeled off and rejoined Amazon full time. He is now a rockstar at Chewy.

4. What obstacles were incurred in starting the business and how were they overcome?

Our first and largest client in year one was only a 1-year client. Which meant that we had to figure out how to quickly grow and replace that revenue in year 2 and beyond. I had seen what happens to businesses that don’t continuously grow by attracting new clients. (They go out of business.) So from the beginning, I developed a mindset that all of our clients were going to disappear on New Year’s Eve each year, and we would have to start again with all new clients the next year. But at the same time, I wanted to treat our clients so well that they never wanted to leave. Those 2 approaches of continuous business development and excellent customer service have kept us going and growing.

5. What are your characteristics that have benefited you the most as an entrepreneur?

My relationship skills. Personal relationships have always been important to me. And I quickly realized once I started The Weaponry that the hardest part of entrepreneurship, which is relationship development and maintenance, was something I had been working at for the past 30 years. And that has made my entrepreneurial journey really enjoyable. My creative skills, strategic thinking, and careful financial approach have also benefited me significantly as an entrepreneur. My optimism and sense of humor help a lot too. Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride. Believing each down will be followed by an up keeps you from throwing up your cereal every morning.

6. Where do you see this business in 10 years?

Large and in charge like Large Marge. We will grow significantly, have offices across the country, and will be sought after by the very best brands. (I shared my actual goals with real numbers and specifics with Jayson to give him a sense of how big I am thinking. But talk is cheap. So I’d rather show the rest of the world what we have done than talk about what we hope to do.)

7. What are the rewards of owning your business?

There is great peace of mind when we go through difficult economic times like we have experienced over the past year. I am still in control of my own future, and won’t be ejected by a business that wants to save money by dropping me like a hot bowling ball. There is also a great sense of control over my life and my future. I sink, swim or fly based on my own actions. I love creating a team culture, working with people I enjoy. Your earning potential when you own your own business is unlimited. I also get to decide on the company t-shirts and hoodies. And I never have to regret not starting my own business.

8. What advice would you give to my classmates and me?

Start thinking about owning your own business right now, while you are still in high school. Keep your eyes open for entrepreneurial opportunities all along your journey. Learn a craft really well so that you are good enough at it that you can start your own business someday. Develop and maintain your relationships. And read Rich Dad. Poor Dad. by Robert Kiyosaki and The E-Myth.

Oh, and start a blog. Share what you know with people and make them laugh if you can. People love to laugh as they learn, except when they are drinking really hot coffee or peanut brittle and it shoots out their nose.

What to do when you find yourself in a blizzard.

I woke up this morning to one of the heaviest snowfalls I have seen in several years thanks to winter storm Orlena. The lake effect snow machine is in full effect here on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. On top of that, the winds are whipping like the Dazz Band. And I say let it whip.

I love this kind of weather. Unlike hurricanes, tornados, floods and wildfires that leave massive destruction in their wake, a blizzard leaves the world better and more beautiful. After Orlena transforms the midwest and northeast into a fresh powder playground, images of the snowfall will be trending on social media like Gamestop. Or Grumpy Bernie.

My Daughter Ava sent me this pic from her room this morning.

Life Is Full of Blizzards

It’s useful to think of the challenges in your life like blizzards. They can be frustrating and disorienting. But once they pass, they often leave you better than they found you.

The Startup Blizzard

When I was first launching my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, the swirling uncertainty of startup-ness surrounded us. And that can really mess with you. Here is something I wrote about the experience we were going through 4 years ago.

From June 10th, 2016

Today I had a long talk with a co-worker who was having a hard time at work. Which is understandable. Because startups are kinda hard. Launching a startup is like walking in a blizzard. Wind and snow are all up in your grill. It’s cold. Visibility goes into the toilet. It’s difficult to navigate in these conditions.

In the middle of a blizzard, your survival instincts tell you to seek shelter. It’s natural to want to escape the relentless wind, disorienting snow and mounting drifts. Sitting by a crackling fire, drinking hot chocolate is far more appealing to most people.

But I like walking in blizzards. I like being out when no one else is. I like doing things that build my character, my will and my personal legend. In the same way a callus rises as the result of repeated friction, strength grows from pushing against resistance.

If a blizzard confronts you on your journey you have to keep walking. You must have faith that you know where you are heading. You have to take steps forward, even when it is hard.

Blizzards of the wintry, professional and personal kind are temporary. Eventually, the snow will stop falling. The wind will chill the eff out. And the sun will come out again.

When that happens, where will you be? It’s a matter of what you did during the blizzard. If you keep pushing, you will find yourself far ahead of where you started, far ahead of those who sought shelter, and closer to your ultimate goal. You’ll find the ultimate rewards far outweigh the hot chocolate you sacrificed along the way.

Key Takeaway

Blizzards are a part of life. They will make life hard for a while. But keep going anyway. Everything is more beautiful on the other side.

Follow Up Note

The Weaponry will turn 5 years old in April. Today we have 23 clients. Because we didn’t stop walking when things were hard.

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How the fun UW Credit Union commercials with Jonathan Taylor happened.

Indianapolis Colts rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has been the talk of the sports world this week. He lit up the NFL on Sunday, rushing for a Colts record 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. He completed the regular season with 1169 rushing yards, 3rd best in the NFL in 2020. He also used his remarkable speed, agility and hand-washing skills to avoid covid all season long.

Taylor’s standout NFL season comes on the heels of a record-setting college career.

Jonathan Taylor highlights at the University of Wisconsin:

  • 1st running back in college football history to rush for 6,000 yards in 3 seasons.
  • 6th most rushing yards in college football history, despite only playing 3 seasons.
  • Winner of the Doak Walker Award as America’s best college running back in both 2018 and 2019.
  • 2 time unanimous 1st-team All-American in 2018 and 2019
JT talking about colts and cowboys.

Marketing Opportunities

In 2020, as Jonathan Taylor began his NFL career, he also began a partnership with UW Credit Union. Taylor first became a member of UW Credit Union his freshman year in Madison. It was the first bank account the Salem, New Jersey native ever had. In fact, it was Taylor who first approached UW Credit Union about a possible partnership, noting the strong connection he felt towards the brand.

The interview portion of the program.

Starting and Stopping

The first scheduled collaboration between Taylor and UW Credit Union was supposed to happen back in March of 2020, just before the NFL draft. JT was hosting a series of football camps for youth in Milwaukee and Madison that was sponsored by UW Credit Union. But the camps were scheduled for March 14 and 15th. Which was the weekend the coronavirus pulled the plug on all fun and games in America.

Not only were the camps canceled, the entire country went into lockdown-mode for the next 2 months. The only sports happening in America were toilet paper hunting, cleaning supply gathering, and an epic game of covid dodgeball.

JT demonstrating the no-look one-handed catch.

One Last Chance

By the middle of summer, we had all settled into the new normal. Anne Norman, the Chief Marketing Officer of UW Credit Union approached our team at The Weaponry about the JT partnership again. She asked us if we thought we should still try to create some new content with Jonathan if logistics would allow. We said absolutely. So we contacted Team Taylor and Everett Sports Marketing, JT’s marketing agents, to see what if anything was still possible.

Good News

As it turns out, Anne’s call was well timed. JT needed to report to training camp with the Indianapolis Colts the next week. As luck would happen, he was going to be in Madison a day before that to pack up his apartment, move, and enjoy some Toppers Pizza. So we had one day to capture what we needed. However, we had less than a week to prepare.

This meant we had less than a week to figure out what we were going to do with JT, where we were going to do it, and who we were going to work with to film and photograph him. Under normal circumstances, this would be a very tight squeeze. But during the covid-era the opening was so small we didn’t know if even JT could run through it.

The Location

The location was difficult to find. The University of Wisconsin was in full lockdown mode, and wouldn’t allow anyone on campus, including the athletic facilities. Dane County put tight restrictions on gatherings of non-household-sharing humans. So we were in a tough spot.

Jonathan Taylor and Adam Albrecht in pre-game warmups.

Finally, we found a high school that would allow us to film on their football field. It is probably more accurate to say that they said, ‘We don’t want to know anything about this, but the gate might not be locked, and you might be able to get on the field if you are all masked and socially distant.’

The Crew

We found a Milwaukee-based film crew that had safety protocols in place and could run a safe covid-era shoot. We tapped our good friend and great photographer Lucian MacAfee for photography duties. Now we just needed scripts to film and ideas to photograph.

This was the first time in my career that my team had locked in a shoot location and both film and photo crews before we had any ideas about what we were going to create. But then again, this was also my first pandemic.

The socially distanced film set.

The Ideas

Our creative team of Kevin Kayse and Kristyn Lilley fired off a barrage of potential video scripts for JT to deliver for social media and the UW Credit Union website. But our timing was limited. And we didn’t know how JT would be on camera, or whether he could deliver humorous ideas. Plus, we couldn’t shoot other actors with JT. To their great credit, the UW Credit Union marketing team trusted that we would come up with something. And we did.

JT and his lucky Bucky Badger debit card.

The Shoot

Despite all of the twists and turns we had experienced since March, on the day of the shoot everything went according to plan. Everyone showed up at the right location at the right time. Everyone wore masks. We used long lenses that allowed JT to be a significant distance from the camera. And we rolled film.

JT was great. He was as good at working with the teleprompter as anyone I have ever worked with. He was extremely coachable and took direction well. We were pleasantly surprised that he was able to deftly deliver the light humor several of the videos required.

In fact, while we were planning on creating a series of online and social videos, we were so pleased with how they turned out that we decided to turn the videos into TV commercials as well. And the response to the spots has been great.

Here is the first commercial to air.

We had a little fun with this spot. Fun fact: It is my voice that talks to JT from off-camera.

Here is the second commercial to air, which focuses on UW Credit Union’s mobile app.

Wisconsin has 2 NFL rival teams. We played off of that in this commercial.

Thanks to UW Credit Union for the opportunity to create this work. Thanks to Anne Norman, Becky Hubing and Jill Rickert of UWCU for your help at the shoot. Thanks to Rachel Everett and ESM for all your help. Thanks to producer Mandi Nodorft for pulling things together. Thanks to Lucian McAfee for all the great photography. And thanks to Jonathan Taylor for being great to work with, and funny too.

JT with Rachel Everett of Everett Sports Marketing. ESM encourages all of its athletes to focus on the brands they have authentic, credible, significant relationships with. Which is a very good philosophy for brand partnerships. Which is why they have also attracted other top NFL players, including Nick Chubb, Tee Higgins and D’Andre Swift.

Why it is so valuable to wonder as you wander.

In 2005 I spent a week working in Iceland and never saw the sun go down. While in the land of the ice and snow (with the midnight sun where the hot springs flow), I enjoyed a few closeup experiences with icebergs. In fact, one day we filmed my friend Thor Kjartanson waterskiing among freshly-calved icebergs. Which made Thor the most badass Viking since Fran Tarkenton.

Icebergs are magical creations. They are beautiful. Like floating sculptures. Icebergs are always moving and always transforming. However, as magnificent as one of these floating masses of Titanic-sinking ice art is to look at, roughly 90 percent of an iceberg is below the surface, and thus goes unseen.

Below The Surface

I feel like an iceberg. On a typical day, 90% of my activity is below the surface and goes unseen. Because my mind is always going somewhere. I am always thinking, wondering, and building in my brain.

Mental Jogging

One of my favorite hobbies is mental jogging. I simply start to think about anything I am interested in. Then I quickly jump from topic to topic and idea to idea, noting the connective tissue between each. It’s an enjoyable and useful form of mental parkour. (If you don’t know what parkour is check out this video explanation and the hilarious twist on the sport from The Office.)

Valuable Thinking

I spend a large percentage of my time thinking. But I am not just thinking about things I need to do or remember. I am exploring, creating, ideating and wondering as I wander. Like Fred Savage.

But despite the millions of miles of mental jogging that I have logged, only recently have I ever thought that not everyone does this. Which I think is a form of thinking bias I didn’t think I had.

I can jump into full ideation and creation mode, anywhere, anytime. I have made a career out of it. Heck, I have created two businesses out of it, including my t-shirt business, Adam & Sleeve, and my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.

This person has magical feet that leave the footprints of many people.

Get Quiet And Get Thinking

I can think of new ideas, adventures, inventions and connections all day long. You can too. But do you? It simply requires a little quiet spot in your day. You can find time while you drive, or shower or lie in bed. Don’t fill your quiet moments with digital distractions. Allow yourself a little boredom, and let your thinking fill the void.

Thinking is the most valuable activity you can do.

Here are 14 Reasons Why:

  1. Thinking is what creates new ideas.
  2. Thinking is where winning strategies are born.
  3. Thinking leads to paradigm-shifting innovations.
  4. Thinking is where entertainment comes from.
  5. Thinking solves problems.
  6. Thinking creates opportunities.
  7. Thinking creates advantages and helps reveal them.
  8. Thinking changes perceptions and outlooks.
  9. Thinking inoculates you from a sense of helplessness
  10. Thinking provides freedom.
  11. Thinking creates adventure.
  12. Thinking turns the tables
  13. Thinking develops habits
  14. Thinking can give your courage, and heart, and a brain, and helps you find a lift back home.

Key Takeaway:

Thinking is the seed from which all great realities are born. To improve both your situation and your outlook, improve your thinking. Make a habit of thinking, and your thinking habit will make you.

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

How snowballs can help make your dreams come true.

Do you have big dreams? Do you have lofty goals and imagine yourself as a big success? Of course you do! You are full of ideas about the things you want to make and do. Which is a great start. But it is the same great start that everyone has.

There are amazing things happening in your head. But no one else can see them. Except maybe your radiologist, and that woman from Long Island Medium. To transform your dreams and ideas into reality you have to take action. You have to make, and do. You have to press your ideas into the world. Here’s how it works.

A Lesson In The Snow

A thought is like a field of freshly fallen snow. They are both full of potential. But to transform the field of snow into something of your own creation, you have to reach down and grab a handful of it. You have to pack it into a ball. By doing so you have begun to convert an idea into something tangible and real. Suddenly you have something of your own creation. You have built the initial unit. (snickering) This is the first visible product of your thoughts.

Step 2

From there, you decide the next step. You can grab another handful and pack a bigger ball. You can place the ball on the ground and create another one just like it. And another and another. You can create a small line of snowballs. Then start a second level. You can create a circle of snowballs like the foundation of your snow fort.

Or you can put that snowball on the ground and begin to roll it. You can watch it grow quickly with thick layers of compounding snow.

Keep Going. Keep Rolling. Keep Growing.

That snowball, gathered and rolled, will grow as long as you keep rolling it. Stop rolling and the progress stops too. #PleaseDontStopTheMusic

But if you keep pushing you will get to a point where you need more people to push it with you. (Like Salt N Peppa did.) Find yourself a hill and let the universe work its magic. Suddenly, growing bigger is easier. Before you know it you will have a giant snowball thanks to simple, steady effort multiplied over time.

Where It Started

Remember, it all began when you squeezed together that first small handful of snow. That was the step that mattered most. Without that, nothing else was possible. There was nothing to multiply. Nothing to add to.

My Snowballs

I dreamt of starting my own advertising agency. So I took on a project from a friend. Now The Weaponry is a multi-million dollar business with offices in 2 states.

I wish I had a blog. So I wrote one post in the fall of 2015. Now I have written over 530 posts. Today my blog has been read in 130 countries.

I always wanted a family. So I asked my co-worker to go see a movie. Now Dawn and I have been married for 18 years and have 3 crazy kids. (My youngest, Magnus, just popped his head into my office, and in his best narwhal voice said, ‘Bye Buddy. I hope you find your Dad.’

Key Takeaway

Make snowballs. They are the easiest thing to create. But they make all the difference.

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How to stand out in a crowd using your unique identifiers.

There are a lot of people to compete with on this planet. If you are looking for a job, a significant other, or a great opportunity, it helps to stand out from the herd. Or so I’ve heard.

Only You.

In advertising, we are always looking for that thing that only our brand can say. We were the first brand to do ________. We are the only brand to offer ________. We are the only brand that does __________ in Dallas, besides Debbie.

What we are doing is creating a clear and distinguishing image of our brand without an equal competitor. To do this, we create evaluation criteria that we naturally win.

Your Personal Brand

You can do the same thing for your personal brand. To do this, simply find something that makes you stand out. Use the following question as your guide.

What is something you have done that you are fairly confident you are the ONLY person in the considered set to have done?

The considered set means you are the only person in the room, at the party, in the new business pitch, or being interviewed who could say this. When someone asks you to share a fun fact about yourself, this is what they mean. I always think this would be a really fun game to play in prison.

Your Unique Identifiers

This question offers you an opportunity to become unforgettable. It allows you to reach into your bag of uniqueness and pull out that crazy fact, that interesting experience, that crazy condition, that remarkable accomplishment, and hold it up for everyone to see. Like when Anthony Michael Hall holds up Molly Ringwald’s underwear in Sixteen Candles. When you do, you have created your own Unique Identifier.

Your Unique Identifier serves as a valuable story that dramatically increases your memorability. And if you want opportunities to come your way, it helps to stand out from the crowd.

Some Unique Identifiers I use:

  • I once pet a hummingbird in the wild.
  • I once got stuck in a Murphy bed in Germany.
  • My Mom is one of 9 kids and my Dad is one of 12.
  • I lived in 5 states by the time I was in 7th Grade.
  • Me and Danica Patrick once filled a Prevost motorhome with ping pong balls.
  • My older sister Heather and I have the same birthday 2 years apart. And my 2 younger sisters, Alison and Donielle, have the same birthday 2 years apart.
  • In high school, I broke the state record in the discus 8 months after having my ACL reconstructed.
  • I launched The Weaponry because I had two different clients call me the same day and encourage me to start my own advertising agency.

Key Takeaway

We all have Unique Identifiers. Think about yours. Write them down and keep them handy. Use them at parties, on dates, and in interviews. They give others something interesting and differentiating to remember you by. Just ask Mikhail Gorbachev.

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

It’s time to enjoy a taste of the holidays, with Sprecher.

Sprecher Root Beer is the best root beer in America. That’s not just my opinion. The New York Times said that. (And so did my kids, over and over.) Because Sprecher root beer is just that good. But like wassailing and dressing like an elf, Sprecher root beer is even more popular at Christmas time.

That’s why Sprecher Craft Soda approached The Weaponry about creating a new ad campaign to run throughout the 2020 holiday season. Now it’s the holiday season! So hoop-de-do and hickory dock. And don’t forget to hang up your sock so Santa can stuff it with Sprecher.

The Insight

Sprecher sodas taste great every day of the year. But research reveals that Sprecher lovers strongly link the great taste of Sprecher to the holidays. For anyone who grew up drinking Sprecher, there is a great sense of tradition, nostalgia and comfort in these brown bottles of deliciousness. When creating the new work, we tapped into that feeling like a keg of root beer.

One of the new ads, featuring the Family Truckster and a big ole bottle of Sprecher Root Beer.

Delish You A Merry Christmas!

If you have never had a Sprecher, Sprecher is to root beer what Krispy Kreme is to donuts and HoneyBaked is to ham. Once you’ve had one, it will spoil you for all other root beers. Which is why I believe Jesus wants me and my family to have Krispy Kreme, HoneyBaked and Sprecher on our table on Christmas Day. #WWJD

The More The Merrier!

Families have celebrated the holidays with Sprecher sodas for decades. But it’s not just the root beer. The Cream Soda is smooth, like a Barry White Christmas. The Orange Dream is, well, dreamy. And both the Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer leave your mouth ting-ting-ting-a-ling too. (Sorry, there is no Mary Ann Ale, Gilligan.)

The Secret Sauce

Why is Sprecher Craft Soda so darn good? First, it is made with honey. How cool is that!?! Then, they brew the soda, like beer. It’s the fire-brewed caramelization process that really adds the flavor like Flavor Flav! #YeahBoy!

I have to leave 2. Or 3.

The Backstory

We have Randy Sprecher to thank for these great flavors. Back in the late 1900s, Randy traveled to Germany and fell in love with the taste and craft of German beer brewing. Apparently the Germans have the beer thing figured out. Hence the giant steins and gemütlichkeit .

Randy came to Milwaukee and began brewing world-class beer under the Sprecher Brewing Company banner. But at home Randy applied the same brewing techniques to the special homemade root beer recipe he created for his young daughter Kecia. Once Sprecher began serving Randy’s root beer in the taproom, sales took off. Today the root beer sales even outpace the award-winning beer.

Yule love it. And so will Yul Brynner.

The Next Chapter

At the beginning of 2020 a team of investors, led by CEO Sharad Chadha, recognized the enormous untapped potential of Sprecher sodas, and decided to invest aggressively in growing Sprecher sodas on a national level. Their renewed focus on promoting the brand through strategic marketing and sales efforts is already on display this holiday season.

The Campaign

The holiday campaign features a combination of billboards and mobile display ads that are served up near retail locations through the end of the year. The ads tap into the strong connection the brand already has to holiday celebrations.

The campaign provides a simple reminder that while there are many traditions that simply aren’t available this year, we can still enjoy a Sprecher with our families. And it’s those little things that make the holidays feel, and taste, like the holidays.

These are Sprecher’s Gold, Frankincense and Root Beer.

If you can’t find Sprecher at a retailer near you, you can always order online at sprecherbrewery.com. And if you can’t find it there, it’s because I bought everything they brewed. Sorry.

Roll The Credits:

There is a great crew at Sprecher who have been supporting this effort including Sharad Chadha, Kecia Sprecher, Craig Burge, Jenny Nyquist, Tom Aslin, Doug Cullaz, Katya Alexeeva, Lauren Price and guest star Carl Cahill.

The Weaponry team behind the new work includes Kristyn ‘L-Lil’ Lilley, Joe Kayse, Simon Harper, Adam Albrecht and Cat Boland.

In The Wild

Santa knows, Sprecher Craft Sodas always make a great stocking stuffer.

20 Things I am Thankful For In 2020.

Thankfully, we have made it to Thanksgiving 2020. But this year the holiday will feel much different. Unless, of course, you are a turkey. But then again, almost everything about this year has been different. By March it was clear that this year was going to be like a box of choc-o-lates. Because in 2020, you never know what you’re gonna get, Jen-ny.

While it is easy to write the year off as a total loss, we shouldn’t overlook the many positives we all have in our lives. That’s why I took the 2020 20/20 Challenge, and spent 20 minutes listing 20 things I am thankful for in 2020. I hope you do too. Because like milk, reflecting on the things you are thankful for does a body good.

Take 20 minutes after reading this to list your own 20 things.

20 things I am thankful for in 2020

  1. My Family When you are locked up at home for months on end, the quality of your experience is directly related to the quality of your cell mates. And I have thoroughly enjoyed the additional time with my family this year. My wife Dawn and children Ava, Johann and Magnus have made Albrecht Island a fun and funny place to be in 2020.
My Cell Mates

2. My Health Thankfully, I have been healthy this year. Healthier than most years in fact. Because I haven’t been close enough to anyone to catch their cooties. I have been masking up like the Lone Ranger. I have been hand sanitizing and 6-feet-apartizing. I have eaten a lot of doctor repellant, also known as apples. And I am thankful that it all seems to be helping.

3. My Bicycle My Cannondale was like my trusty steed this year. While my gym access was gone with the Schwinn, my bike provided both exercise and an escape into the beautiful and quiet Wisconsin countryside. I rode so much this summer I felt like Lance Armstrong. Only without the lying, cheating and testicular cancer.

Me and my biker gang.

4. Hilton Head Island After cancelling Spring Break and being locked at home for 3 months, in June my family and I road-tripped from Milwaukee to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. We stayed right on the beach, at our usual spot, as if 2020 was a usual year. The ocean, sun, and vibe of the island were a welcomed relief from our time at home. And somehow the jellyfish stings seemed to sting a little less this year. Even without urine. Thanks Covid-19!

I am thankful we still got to boogie in 2020.

5. Our Western Road Trip While our beach vacation was nice, our 2020 western road trip was epic. We put 4100 miles on our Family Truckster. We hit The Badlands, The Black Hills, Yellowstone, Idaho, Bozeman, Glacier National Park, Teddy Roosevelt National Park, and the bright lights of Fargo, North Dakota. That trip was so full of wow and wonder, like Billy Joel, it made us forget about life for a while.

Hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana was a high point of the year. Literally.

6. School Mostly In-Person While our kids were schooling at home like everyone else from March-June, this fall has been an in-school success. My kids have all been learning in-person this fall for all but a 2 week stretch, when their schools transitioned to at-home learning to cool the covid flare ups like Preparation H.

7. My Children’s Development I noticed something interesting in my children this year. And it wasn’t a long cotton swab up their nostrils. Something about the isolation of 2020 seemed to allow them to focus on themselves, their interests, their identities and their individual growth. Each of them grew more confident and self-assured through this forced experiment. #ParentalPandemicPositives

Feeling alive in Deadwood.

8. Entrepreneurship I began my entrepreneurial adventure in 2016. And while I have loved everything about it from the start, 2020 made the benefits abundantly clear. Not only have I felt in control of my own job, career and income, I have have been able to help provide a steady place to work for the rest of my team at The Weaponry. I once heard that Bill Gates insisted on keeping a year of salary on hand for every Microsoft employee to help weather storms. So I followed Bill’s lead, and it has provided a major sense of stability in an unstable time.

9. My Work Teammates Speaking of work, my teammates have been ah-may-zing. I couldn’t be more thankful for The Weapons at The Weaponry, and all they have done to deliver for our clients this year. We are having our best year ever because of their hard and smart work.

10. Foosball Over the first couple months of the lockdown my kids and I played foosball (or what my French Canadian friends call baby-foot) every single night. It was a fun cherry on top of our days. Not only did we have a lot of fun, we all got a lot better. #PutThatOnYourCollegeApplicationKids

11. Spring Hikes In the spring, when everything but the grocery store seemed to be closed, and toilet paper was more valuable than a vaccine, my family and I started hiking on the weekends. The 1200-mile Ice Age Trail winds across Wisconsin, and we would knock off several miles of the trail every weekend. It was a fun adventure at a time when there wasn’t much adventuring to be done.

We’re on the highway to trail.

12. My Clients In a year that went sideways for so many, my clients have been solid as a rock, like Ashford & Simpson. The trust they have put in us has been humbling. We have gained 8 new clients since March. And only one of those new clients joined us because their former agency went out of business during the pandemic.

13. This Blog Writing this blog has been a great way to share my thoughts on so much of what has happened this year, including covid, the economy, George Floyd, and the election. Starting my morning by writing has kept me thinking about the big picture, and not overwhelmed by the small things. Plus it allowed me to share things I thought were funny when I wasn’t seeing any humans outside my family. Thank you for reading my blog. I hope it has provided a laugh and a positive perspective in 2020.

14. Investment Opportunities The tanking of the stock market has provided great opportunities for long term investors. Oil stocks have been in the toilet, and I have been diving in after them, figuratively speaking of course. I have taught my children about the opportunities to invest this year. And my 2 junior investors have almost doubled their money, buying airlines, restaurants, banks and oil. #MoreRichDadThanPoorDad

15. Beautiful Summer Weather This summer in Wisconsin we enjoyed perhaps the most perfect summer weather of my life. It made everything else about 2020 better. Thanks Mother Nature and Mark Baden.

Biking around Lake Monona in Madison.

16. Zoom We have used Zoom at work to connect with teammates and collaborate with clients. But the best part of Zoom is connecting with friends and family. Last night I Zoomed with a group of my closest friends from high school for over 2 hours. I regularly Zoom with my college track teammates and with family members. It is the next best thing to being together. Because when you can’t be in the room, Zoom. (That one is free Zoom Marketing Department.)

Thanks for the call, Princer, Conan, Mr Robinson, Mucus, Acks, Slowsley, Birthday Boy, Coop, Zyck and Deacon.

17. Backyard Bass The pond in my backyard has some great largemouth bass. I spent many an evening this summer fishing for largemouth from my backyard. Which felt like winning at life.

Backyard Bass and Bibs

18. Canoes and Kayaks My family has 3 kayaks and a 17-foot canoe. We spent a lot of time paddling this year. Especially in the spring and early summer when we had a lot of rain and the rivers were ripping. My son Magnus and I got tangled in some windfall trees on a trip in June and Tipppedacanoe like Tyler too. It was one of the great thrills and stories of the year.

Canoeing and kayaking floats our boats.

19. Tackle Football My sons Johann and Magnus played tackle football this fall. They both had full seasons, were healthy and had no covid issues. It marked our true return to normalcy. Except for the fact that even the face masks on their helmets had face masks this year.

Me and Johann thankful for a full season.

20. Innovation There was more innovation created and implemented this year than any other year of my life. The way the people of Earth have stepped up and quickly found solutions to covid-related problems has been amazing. While we have advanced in major ways this year, the full impact of all we have learned will likely not be recognized for years to come. And we are going to be great at the next pandemic.

Bonus:

21. My Zyliss Sandwich Tool: I have a knifey-spready tool that is amazing for a regular sandwich maker like me. It is great for spreading mayonnaise, peanut butter, jelly and rumors. It is excellent for cutting the sandwich after you create it too. This thing is dreamy. In fact, I make sandwiches just to be able to use it. It will make a great Christmas gift for the sandwich maker on your list. (This has been an unpaid endorsement. But boy, do I endorse it.)

Spread the word about this sandwich knife-spready thing.

Key Takeaway

The way you experience life starts with your mindset. Even in 2020 there is much to be thankful for. Take a few minutes to reflect on the good in your life. And you will find even more good ahead. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. And thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate your time.

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

How to approach your career like a sport.

Business is the ultimate sport. Not only is it highly competitive, it is played for money. And the better you are at this game the more money you and your teammates make. And while many professional athletes are well paid, it is because someone else is making even more money in business by owning the team or the league the athletes play in.

Sports and Business

Will Jurgensen loves exploring the parallel between sports and business. In fact, he began a podcast called Sport Coats to profile the stories of athletes who applied their approach to athletics to successful business careers. I would have liked to have been in the room when Will realized how perfect the name Sport Coats was for his sports/business podcast. Because I bet that boy celebrated like Ickey Woods.

Everyday Ickey Woods is shuffling.

I recently sat down with Will to talk about my experience as a track and field athlete at The University of Wisconsin. But more importantly, we talked about how I have applied my approach to athletics to my career in advertising. And we talked about how my athletic career prepared me to become an entrepreneur when I launched The Weaponry.

Sound bites from the podcast:

On Focus:

‘I remember early in my career, getting hyper-focused on concepts for a campaign or ideas for a new business pitch. It felt the same as those times when I was in the weight room focusing hard on getting those last few reps. It’s the same thing, it’s the exact same feeling.’

On Transitioning: (Not like Caitlyn Jenner)

‘When you are done with your athletics, a lot of athletes say, “I was lost, I felt like it wasn’t me without sports.” I would say I never felt that at all. As soon as I graduated, I just turned my attention to my career and took the exact same focus and drive, and willingness to put in the energy to be great that I did for my athletics. I put that into my career and it surprises me how few athletes do this, because it is the exact same blueprint for athletic success that drives the rest of the success in your career.’

On Self Improvement:

‘Track and field is a little different than a traditional team sport because it is all you, and it’s so cut and dry. I would put a tape measure out or use a stopwatch to figure out if I was improving and if I was better than other people who have tried this. From that standpoint, I found the challenge of self-improvement to be intoxicating.’

On Training:

“The structure, the discipline, the focus, the background work that you have to do as an athlete, you know, all the little drills that you do over and over to perfect a piece of what you do, when you do that in your career you become highly specialized. And you become world-class at the smallest things. You add extreme value to organizations that make money off of that kind of work.’

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Ye Can Hear It Here.

You can listen to my interview here at The Sport Coats Podcast. You can also read more of the transcript if you prefer the voice in your head over mine. I listened to the podcast on the podcast app on my iPhone.

I think you will enjoy it, even if you aren’t into sports. It feels like a motivational talk. Will is a great host. And after listening to the episode I understood why people think I am excited about life.

Key Takeaway

Business is the ultimate competitive sport. It requires discipline, teamwork and strategy. Everything you know about athletic competition, hard work, focus and determination translates directly to business. It is an inherently fun game to play with others. And it is even more fun to win. The money is a bonus. But what a bonus that is.

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

If you want to do amazing things, find an amazing partner.

When I first started my entrepreneurial adventure I did it with a partner. My cousin Brooks Albrecht and I teamed up to put our complementary skillsets together to create The Weaponry out of dust. We were like Wonder Twins. Except we were cousins. And our superpowers went beyond transforming ourselves into water-forms and monkeys.

Brooks and I didn’t just divide and conquer responsibilities. We filled in our respective weaknesses with the other person’s strengths. Between the two of us, there was nothing that we weren’t excited to do. Which meant we made quick progress on all fronts. Or should I say, Albrecht fronts? (I shouldn’t.)

5 Benefits To Partnering

1. We motivated each other. The progress made by one of us inspired the other to make the next great leap forward. We were like foragers showing up each day to present the mushrooms, berries and the Wilson volleyball we had gathered. It made the other person want to do more of the same to show value.

2. It made the whole process fun. The work didn’t feel like work. It felt like a really fun elective project I took on with a teammate. Which is exactly what it was.

3. When you have a partner you feel a sense of responsibility for getting your work done. You can’t take a day off, or say, I’ll think about doing this later. The accountability you feel to each other helps keep you moving forward, like a black hole. Only without that uncomfortable crushing feeling at the end.

4. You feel like you have a strategic sounding board for every decision. Entrepreneurship, like so much of life, can be very isolating. Having a partner to evaluate your strategy, structure, investments, and hires improves your confidence that you are making the right decisions before you set them in stone. Like Sharon.

5. You have someone to take the lead when you need a moment to rest or slow down. Like running or biking on a windy day, creating a new business, or other organization, feels like you are always running against the wind, Bob Seger-style. There is a constant resistance from the unknown and unstructured. It is nice to be able to duck behind someone else occasionally and get a brief reprieve from the wind. Quack.

Key Takeaway

If you can find a partner to take on a major initiative with, do it. There is nothing quite like the team-feel to fuel your progress. Partners push, inspire, excite and balance you. They neutralize your weaknesses. They enable you to focus on your strengths. And they can afford you a moment of rest when you really need it. Plus, you have someone else to laugh with along the way. Which, in my experience, is the best part of all.

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

Footnote: A year after we got business up and running Amazon stole Brooks from us (with my full support). Then Target stole Brooks from Amazon. Then Chewy stole Brooks from Target. Because Brooks is a rockstar. And The Weaponry is full of rockstars.