The more of life that I experience the more I realize that my happiness is fueled in large part by my unhappiness. It feels dumb to write such a thing. But it is absolutely true.
Here’s how it works.
I have a vision for who I am, and what my life is like.
Everything that is already aligned with that makes me happy.
All the areas where I fall short of my vision make me unhappy.
The unhappiness is a combination of unsatisfied, disappointed, frustrated, and embarrassed. However, that unhappiness is where my motivation comes from.
Family And Friends
In my head, I see myself as a great parent, husband, friend, and family member. But in reality, I am not always great at those roles. Certainly not as great as I want to be. I’m not as level-headed or as patient with my kids as I would like. I am not always as supportive or responsible as a husband-partner as I should be. I’m not always the kind of friend who walks in when the world walks out, or whatever the cross stitch about friendship in your grandma’s bathroom says. And I am unhappy about all of this.
As an entrepreneur, I experience a lot of unhappiness. Because I have significant goals and expectations of my business. And I have high expectations of myself as the leader of the business. But if it all came to an end tomorrow I would be massively disappointed that me and my businesses didn’t accomplish more. Which is how the first kid tossed out at the National Spelling Bee must feel.
However, that unhappiness I experience, which stems from my personal and professional shortcomings, drives me to work, grow and improve. That drive is a huge source of happiness for me.
The work makes me happy.
Growth makes me happy.
Improvement makes me happy.
Hitting new milestones makes me happy.
Contributing the way I expect to in my relationships makes me happy.
Clapping along, and feeling like a room without a roof makes me happy.
Getting To It
Getting up at 6am to get back to work makes me happy. (It is currently 6:55am and I am about to finish writing my second blog post of the day.) Every step forward makes me happy. Executing the plan makes me happy. Laying the groundwork makes me happy. And watching Adam Sandler golf movies makes me happy. Especially when he fights Bob Barker. #ThePriceIsWrong
I recognize that I don’t have to be at the destination to be happy. Traveling there does the trick. Building, growing, and progressing are highly rewarding. As long as I am on the right path and moving in the right direction I get a little happier every day.
Your unhappiness is a great navigational tool to lead you to happiness. Determine the source of your unhappiness and you will know the direction to travel to find what you are after. Lose weight, get in shape, start that thang you always wanted to start. Do more. Strengthen your weaknesses. Become the person you always wanted to be. Those things can lead to a lot of happiness. Unhappiness is simply point A. Let it motivate you to get to point B.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
When you were young you had an exciting vision for your life. You knew that in the future your life would be amazing. You would have a career you loved, a family who spent a lot of quality time together, and a fun friend group. Perhaps you imagined travel and adventure. Or you contributed significant time, talent and money to important causes. You created art or music. You looked great for your age. And you imagined yourself reading a blog post that reminded you of your life’s vision.
There may be hundreds of details about your life that you pictured differently than they are right now. But remember, you have the power to change those details. You have the ability to continuously improve your life. In fact, your life will become more like the life you envisioned until you stop trying to make it so. Or until you die. Whichever comes first.
Don’t settle for less. Remember that things don’t just happen. They are made to happen. You are the author of your story. You are the architect and builder of your world. You are the head of quality control. You are the bouncer, deciding who gets in and who gets thrown out. You are the boss, determining what work needs to be done next. You are the Dean, setting the coursework you must study. And you are the timekeeper who announces when you have spent too long on something that is not working.
You can change your life to be more like the life you imagined at any time. Don’t settle. Don’t give up. Revisit the vision you have for your own life often. And live into it a little more every day.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
Every business starts off as an idea, dream, or vision. You probably have a great business idea lounging in your brain right now. Or maybe you have a conglomerate-worth of business ideas up in your noggin. What entrepreneurs know that others don’t is that businesses are just ideas that someone decided to make real by simply living into their dream.
In the summer of 2015 my cousin Brooks Albrecht and I started talking about opening our own advertising agency. And the first step was really fun. Because all we had to do was dre-E-E-E-eam, dream, dream, dream. There are absolutely no constraints, no budget limitations, and no reality check at all in this phase. Just ideas and fantasies.
Brooks and I bought and devoured copies of The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. (It was delicious). Then we followed the book’s advice. We wrote down all the details we dreamed up about the business, its processes, procedures and culture. We thought about all the crazy things our business would have. Like Thinking Showers and Thinking Beds, because those are where people come up with many of their best ideas. And I wanted my imaginary HR director to have something real to worry about. #AmIRight
The whole thing was just a dream. And totally impractical. I lived in Atlanta and Brooks lived in Seattle. Yet we kept calling each other late at night to talk more about our fake little advertising agency. We were playing business, like kids play house. Which is to say we were grown(ish) men, imagining and pretending. But through all that pretending we seemed to have envisioned and imagined everything. And this ad agency we were pretending we owned seemed totally real to us. Like realer than Real Deal Holyfield.
We could have stopped right there. We could have told our friends, family and professional network that we had thought of a great agency idea. Like so many of my coworkers had done. And we would have wondered for the rest of our lives what would have happened to that idea had we brought it to life, like Pinocchio, Frankenstein, or that hot chick from Weird Science.
Don’t Stop, Get it, Get it.
But we didn’t stop at the dream, the vision, or even the janky police sketches we made of the business. We took the next step. And we told people what we were trying to do. And we talked to potential clients as if the business really existed. Because in our heads it totally did.
Then, one day, we decided to go online and register The Weaponry LLC as a legal business entity for $120. And the business got realer.
Then we sent for a federal tax ID number. And it got realer.
Then we opened a bank account and transferred $16,000 into it. And it got realer.
Then I took the day off of work, and flew to Boston to spend the day working with our first customer, Global Rescue. And shit got really real. Because Dan Richards, Global Rescue’s CEO and one of my best friends in the world, told me he needed what The Weaponry offered.
It’s Getting Realer!
Throughout the fall of 2015 and the spring of 2016 my favorite line to Brooks was, ‘It’s getting realer!’ Because that is exactly what was happening. The business I dreamed up was becoming realer every day. Because Brooks and I believed it into being. And this little figment of my imagination literally became a business because we pretended it was a business. And like visionaries and people suffering from serious mental illness, we could no longer separate reality from fantasy.
Soon, perfectly sane humans started referring to The Weaponry as if it was a real thing. Or even better than the real thing. #U2 In meetings people introduced me as ‘Adam Albrecht, from The Weaponry.’ And suddenly real business were working with The Weaponry. And it just got realer and realer and realer.
It has been 4 years since Brooks and I started dreaming about our advertising agency. And things keep getting realer. We have offices in Milwaukee and Columbus. We have 17 clients from coast-to-coast. Yesterday I saw advertisements The Weaponry created on TV, on billboards, on my mobile device, and on my computer. I saw packaging we created at the grocery store last night. I saw a trade show booth we designed. And I saw logos we designed for our clients on Facebook and Instagram. And the dream felt realer than ever.
Don’t just dream your dreams. Make them real. Envision your vision. Then live into it. Don’t quit your job. Just take one step forward. Taking that first step makes it realer. Then take another step. And another. And another.
Before you know it other people will call your made up idea by name. Fiction will become reality. Because a business is just a made up idea that someone began treating as if it was real. That’s all it takes. If you have a dream to create a business, organization, event, product or service, all you need to do is live into it. And it will get realer than you ever imagined it could.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
Do you ever think about your motivational fuel source? It’s valuable to understand what encourages, inspires and pushes you. Because once you know what fuels your personal fire, you can stockpile kegs of it. Then ignite it whenever you need another boost.
I have been a heavy consumer of motivation fuel my entire life. When I was young I guzzled it to help me perform my best in school and athletics. After college I started using motivational fuel to enhance my career, personal fitness and financial success.
My Current Focus
In 2016 I made a strategic decision to push both my career and financial success to the next level. As a result I launched my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. When I was in the planning stages of my entrepreneurial adventure I started this blog to document what I learned along the way. One of my key learnings is that you need to keep a steady stream of motivational fuel flowing into your system at all times.
Finding Your Fuel
Take some time to analyze what motivation fuel sources power your inner drive. Then acquire as much of it as you can. I find that I am inspired by many things. Which means that I have a lot of options when it comes to motivation propellents.
My 15 Sources Of Motivation Fuel
1. My Vision.
This is a major source, if not my primary source of motivation. I have a clear vision of the fully-formed Me. Unfortunately, it’s a lot better than the current Me. But I am already better than I used to be. Closing the Me vs Ideal Me gap is an always available fuel source.
2. Impressive And Successful People.
I love to see others have great success. When I see my friends crushing it, I want to crush it too. This is true in my career and in my personal life. I fancy myself successful, so I want to keep up with others I think are like me. It’s the most positive way to keep up with the Jones. Keep pace with their successes, not their expenditures.
Reading supplies me with steady, slow-burning motivation. I like to read biographies about successful people. I read How-To and Self-Helpy type stuff all the time. Book fuel is really a cocktail of numbers 1, 2, 3, 10, and 12.
Examples: See images above.
6. Motivational Speakers
If motivational speakers don’t fuel you up nothing will. Seek them out in person, or online. YouTube and Social Media platforms are thick with them.
Examples: Tony Robbins, Gary Vee, Zig Ziglar, my college coach Ed Nuttycombe’s spaghetti speech.
When I see others in poverty it propels me forward like the other side of a magnet.
Examples: Driving through a depressed part of town. India.
8. Unhealthy People
People who are obviously unhealthy are a constant reminder that I need to keep moving and eating right. I am thankful for them. And they are everywhere. Except the gym.
9. My family
Taking care of my wife, daughter and 2 sons is a major motivating factor. They are a constant source of motivation. But so are my parents, my 3 sisters and their families. Even broader, I am very proud to be a member of the Albrecht Family and The Sprau Family. (My Mom’s maiden name is Sprau. It’s fun to think of your Mom as a maiden.) I am always trying to be an asset to the family and enhance our brand reputation.
10. Financial Freedom
I am driven to acquire enough money to be able to choose how I spend my time. I want to be in control of my life. This is the way to maintain as much control as possible.
Examples: Hundred dollar bills. Fifty dollar bills. Twenty dollar bills
My goals provide constant motivation. They have big gaudy numbers on them. And they provide a constant measure of what I have left to accomplish in order to live up to my own standards. I really like raw, quantifiable number goals.
Examples of how I measure progress towards my goals: On my bathroom scale, In Quickbooks, Through my WordPress Blog Stats, the amount of weight I lift.
I think pride is the ultimate motivator. I look for it in employees. Because someone who values pride won’t let you down because they don’t want to let themselves down.
Examples: People who work at The Weaponry.
I never want to let others down. When I competed in athletics I never wanted to let my teammates down. As a business owner I am motivated to take care of my team and their families.
I like to compete. So when I see others do well, I want to do well. Your competitors are one of the best motivators you have. Use them.
Life and work can be hard. Motivation isn’t automatic. You need to seek it out. Stockpile it. Refine it. And consume it when you need a boost. Like the variety of foods in a well balanced diet, it’s best to keep a wide variety of fuel sources handy so you can quickly tap into the kind of motivation you need at any given moment. By understanding your motivational fuel sources you can ensure you will always have an abundant supply. And if you have an endless supply of motivational fuel your possibilities are endless too.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share it with them.
Last Saturday morning I went to Starbucks. A typical Starbucks run is not exactly newsworthy. Or Blogworthy. Or spongeworthy, But this Starbucks trip provided an expresso shot of inspiration for me. Because this wasn’t just any Starbucks. It was the original Starbucks at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
I should mention that I don’t drink coffee. My standard meet-up/networking drink of choice is chocolate milk. I’ll do a venti hot chocolate when my go-to chocolate milk is not on the menu. You know, when I’m slumming it.
But I wasn’t viewing this Starbucks as a meet-up joint. Or a beverage joint. Or even as a tourist attraction. Although clearly it was. I saw the original Starbucks through the eyes of Adam Albrecht, the Founder of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. I evaluated the original Starbucks through the lens of a guy who started a small business and has large ambitions.
The first Starbucks serves as a reminder that we all start small. Because even the biggest brands, companies and cultural pillars begin as a vision. That vision, combined with action, soon becomes a small store, office, shop or stand. And if you just keep taking more steps and more action there is no telling how big your vision can become.
Even the biggest, most influential businesses start small. The key is having a vision and taking action. We can all do this. There is no magic formula. All you need is a venti vision with a double shot of action, topped with some stick-to-it-ness. That’s how Howard Schultz started Starbucks. And it is how you will start your next big thing.
I am an idealist. Early in my advertising career I had a vision of what the perfect advertising agency looked like. The vision was so clear that on the eve of my 40th birthday I made a commitment to myself to start my own agency, and bring that vision to life. By the spring of 2016 I left my job, established The Weaponry as a legal entity, and I was on a vision quest, like Matthew Modine.
As I stared the business I also began writing The Perfect Agency Project blog. My goal was to chronicle the entire experience here. I wanted to share the challenges, learnings and progress along the way.
My hope was that readers could follow my story and gain insights, information and encouragement to start their own business, personal adventure, blog or Ponzi Scheme.
Sharing The Vision
Today, I re-share my vision for The Weaponry in a team meeting every Friday afternoon. We call it our Rocks Meeting. It is part of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) that we use to run our business. The system is introduced in the book Traction by Gino Wickman. If your organization needs help gaining traction towards its goals, I highly recommend both the book and the system. I also recommend progress in general. Progress is good. It’s my favorite type of gress.
At the beginning of each of our Friday Rocks meetings I restate my vision of the fully- formed version of The Weaponry. This includes annual revenue, number of employees, number of offices, the type of work we do and the type of clients we work with. I then say that we are meeting today to help close the gap between the ideal, fully-formed version of The Weaponry and where we are today. I do this each week because I want our team to know exactly what we are trying to create together.
I Once Was Lost
I have been part of Whitesnake businesses, where I didn’t know where we were going (but I sure know where we’ve been). There was no shared vision. We didn’t go on a mission. We just went to work. Which meant that when new programs and policies were introduced, they didn’t feel like they were part of a larger purpose. Therefore, the team did not embrace them as if they were mission critical.
Last Friday something interesting happened as I restated the long term vision for The Weaponry. I was listing the numbers we were after, and I noticed one of the women on our team stating them right along with me. Like the way you mouth the words to a song that you know by heart. You can’t help but sing along because you know all the lyrics so well. #OhMickeyYoureSoFine
I knew in that moment that the vision of what we are working to create is being clearly shared, being heard and being internalized.
Using The Vision
When making a decision about a new hire, a policy update or an expense, I always look to the future. I ask myself WWTFFWD? Which of course means What Would The Fully Formed Weaponry Do? I encourage my team to bring challenges and requests viewed through the WWTFFWD lens. Whenever financially possible, we try to make decisions in line with our future state, rather than our current state. Because the best way to bring your vision to life is to act like you are already there.
If you want to start breaking records you have to sound like a broken record. Share your vision of the future early and often. Because when others can envision your ideal they can also help you create it. This is true of organizations, products, services and relationships. Others will help you get where you already know you are going. And you are sure to get there faster with a little help from your friends.
If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
I love MLK Jr. Day. It is a holiday that makes me think. It makes me appreciate being an American. Like the 4th of July, MLK Jr. Day is a reminder of the American Dream. Which is dreaming of your ideal world. Then overcoming the forces that have prevented that ideal from becoming your reality. Finally, you have a great movie made about you that garners critical acclaim, even if you don’t win the big awards you deserve.
My dream is to be ridiculously happy. I’m a happy person naturally. I consider it fortunate wiring. But I want Maximum Happiness. To help chart my path to MaxHap I did what MLK Jr. did. I envisioned something better than anything I have seen. I wrote down my plan. I painted a picture of the dream in vivid detail. Then I began to bring it to life. To spare you all the details, the rest of this post will focus on my happiness derived from work.
My dream was born in the last hours of my 39th year. I contemplated what I wanted the next chapter of my career to look like. Then I started scripting a plan to make it happen.
We spend so much of our time at work that you have to get the work life right to get your whole life right.
It was clear to me that no one else was trying to create my ideal workplace. It was my responsibility. But after 20 years in the advertising industry I knew that if I could create the perfect agency I could help a lot of other people achieve their own happiness in the process.
The Perfect Agency Project
So I started The Perfect Agency project. It was just a project at first. Then, as it gained shape I decided to create a blog about it. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you are reading it right now. Maybe there is no way that you are not reading it right now.
Then I named the agency The Weaponry and began to bring it to life in 2016.
I started by scripting philosophies and processes. I have written down everything. I have written a list of clients I want to work with (you may be on that list). I have created a list of teammates I want to work with (you may be on that list). I have detailed services, team sizes and office locations. I have a list of features for our physical space that will make others ask, “Why don’t we have that?’ I have created such a clear image in my head that the rest of the project is simply bringing the blueprint to life (as if that were a simple task).
Here are a few of the important points that will make The Weaponry my ideal place to work, contribtuing to my MaxHap.
Our 3 Pillars Of Success.
Excellent creative ideas.
Amazing customer service.
A fun experience for everyone involved.
We will call our people team members, not employees. They work with us. Not for us.
We must remain eternally optimistic. There is a beautiful solution to every problem. It is our job to find it.
We must be collaborative. We have to enable and create great ideas. But we also must recognize when the client (and, yes, even the client’s spouse) has a great idea that we should bring to life. Too may agencies think they have a monopoly on good ideas. But there are two parts to the idea business that you have to master. 1. Coming up with great ideas. 2. Recognizing great ideas on arrival. Even if they didn’t hatch in your incubator.
The Perfect Agency is a place that values the experience and know-how of professionals who have been crushing it and accumulating knowledge for decades. But it also embraces the college student and even high schoolers who bring unbridled energy and fresh thinking to the table. Mixing the two together gives the ideal agency energy, stability and control.
The Perfect Agency uses feedback productively. As an organization we are still in our infancy. We have unlimited potential. But we need to take in feedback from others to learn and grow. Which includes feedback from staff, clients, advisors and partners. The kind of feedback you get when your walk in front of a speaker with a live microphone is not necessary to our success.
Playing Well With Others
The Perfect Agency plays well with our clients’ other agencies, vendors and consultants. We want to be the best partners we can be. That means that we don’t drop the ball. But just as importantly, we don’t try to steal the ball from others. If we do what our clients want we will earn more work. We don’t need to punch, kick and stab others to get ahead. This isn’t prison.
The Perfect Agency allows you to live where you want and is flexible with your time. Happy people are better teammates. We want people who are living their ideal lives. Ideas come faster, and service is better from happy people. That means being open-minded to remote and part-time work.
Working On Your Terms
The Perfect agency doesn’t force clients to sign a long-term commitment. We are not trying to marry our clients after the first date. We want our clients to be the ones who propose marriage because they love us so much and can’t stand the idea of us ever being with another client in their field of expertise. Romantic, I know.
The Perfect Agency doesn’t have A-holes. We baked that right into our logo. See the A in the The Weaponry? No A-hole.
I could go on and on. But my dream blog post never hits 1000 words. If you would like to find out more about The Weaponry and how it could contribute to your long-term happiness give us a shout. My email is in my bio link. If you can’t find that try firstname.lastname@example.org.