Weekly inspirational thoughts from our founder and chief imagination officer, Mark Henson.

Throw Gratitude Out The Window This Year (And Do THIS Instead).

It’s time to take a deep breath. This week seems like the perfect time. It’s Thanksgiving in America after all. It’s a week where we typically pause for at least 30 seconds to be grateful before plowing face first into a gigantic plate of turkey and pumpkin pie.

Personally, I think we need to throw the idea of gratitude out the window this year.

Instead, let’s focus on GREATitude.

How will your life be different tomorrow (you know, post-election)?

Today we’ll elect the next President of The United States. It could be the man half the country hates. Could be the woman half the country hates. Either way, it does seem like tomorrow might feel like a very different America. So, what are you going to do differently tomorrow if your candidate wins today?

You’re Not Alone

Here’s what I have learned: Even when I feel most alone, I’m almost always surrounded by countless people who feel exactly the same way I do. The only way I’ll know for sure is to be brave enough — vulnerable enough — to share my thoughts and feelings with others.

Stop Trying To Be So Epic And Legendary

I pay a lot of attention to personal & professional development, leadership, entrepreneurship, marketing, and more. Everywhere I look — from books to blogs to podcasts to live events — someone is always encouraging me to “be legendary”, “live your legend”, or “do epic shit.” I’ll admit, I bought into that idea for awhile. But the more I pursued it, the more unhappy I became.

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Sometimes You’ve Gotta Follow It to the End

I wasn’t going to write you this week with the Labor Day holiday and all, but I had an experience that just deserved to be shared.

Why My Gratitude Took On New Meaning Today

Lately, I’ve been doing a daily gratitude activity where I list 3 things I’m grateful for. Every day the list changes. I often write things like “family”, “work that I enjoy”, or “my dumb dogs.”

Last night I wrote, “A comfy bed.”

This morning I woke up and looked at what I wrote, and my gratitude increased even more. You see, I had totally forgotten I was going to pass along our first Share The Spark feature this morning about The OSU Star House.

The OSU Star House serves central Ohio teens who don’t have a comfy bed. They don’t even have a home. It’s quite sobering to think that as I lay on my pillow top mattress with 600 thread count sheets, there are countless people suffering from homelessness. All homelessness is sad, but it is even more gut-wrenching when it applies to teens. We’re talking about KIDS living on the street.

About a month ago we committed to using the sparkspace platform — our resources, money, space, audience, etc. — to shine a spotlight on some of the unsung heroes that are doing everything they can to make Columbus an even better place to live.

So, I invite you to check out our first Share The Spark feature on The OSU Star House, written by sparkspace’s own Alisha Thomas. I especially invite you to read the end of the article where we list some ways you can help.

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6000 Miles And Only 10 Pictures? Yep.

I’m still pooped.

Rightfully so, I suppose, after driving 6000 miles in two weeks.

A few weeks ago my daughter and I decided — on a whim — to drive across the country. We traveled from Columbus to Chicago to southern California, loosely following the famous Route 66. Then we cruised up the California coast on Highway 1 to San Francisco where she hopped on a plane back to Columbus. Fortunately for me, my dad flew out to San Francisco and drove back across America with me.

We never knew how far we’d get or where we’d end up each day. We ate at local diners and booked hotels on the fly. If something caught our eye, we’d stop and check it out.

A partial – and I mean partial – list of sites we visited included Millennium Park in Chicago (with the famous chrome “bean” sculpture), the St. Louis Arch, at least two thousand miles of desert, the San Diego Zoo, the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, the Brady Bunch House (apparently only used for front exterior shots), Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Big Sur, an actual California wild fire (complete with dozens of fire trucks, bulldozers, etc.), The Golden Gate Bridge, a forest of Giant Redwoods, Yosemite National Park, and the Hallmark Cards worldwide headquarters in Lawrence, KS. That last one was a total fluke. We just happened to get off at that exit to look for a hotel and there it was.

When we got home, my wife asked me how many pictures I took.

“About 10.”

“You’re kidding, right?” 

“Nope. I really didn’t take very many pictures.”

“WHY NOT?” 

“I guess I just wanted to BE on this trip, not live it through my camera.”

“But how will you remember everything?”

“Why do I need to?”

Honestly, I’m not sure I’d remember everything even if I had videotaped the trip from beginning to end. One thing I know I’ll never forget is stopping in the middle of Yosemite at 11pm, getting out of the car, and just staring at a sky full of more stars than you can imagine. It’s first time I’ve seen the Milky Way stretch from horizon to horizon. Most people have never even seen the Milky Way because the man-made light on much of this earth keeps it from being visible. But not in Yosemite. It was the visual definition of awe-inspiring.

Another memorable moment was when I hugged a Giant Redwood. I did it to be funny and make my daughter roll her eyes (it worked), but if I’m being completely honest, the hug itself felt surprisingly GOOD. I gave that ancient tree a little love and it gave me some back. I think my daughter Snapchatted the moment to show her friends what an idiot her dad is, but a picture couldn’t possibly capture the feeling that I exchanged with that tree.

And a picture could never come close to witnessing my daughter experiencing all of this for the first time. I guess in the end I just wanted to drink that in as much as I could with my own two eyes.

This trip reminded me of some basic things in life that I truly love more than anything, like exploring the real world, immersing myself in nature, hanging out with family, and being 100% present while I do it. For me, it’s hard — no, IMPOSSIBLE — to do that with a phone in my face.

I’ve decided I’m going to stay away from technology for now. Oh, I’ll still watch the Olympics, I’ll still use my laptop to finish publishing my book, and I’ll still use Google Maps to get me from point A to point B, but I’m going to hover here in “technology vacation mode” as long as I can. I’ve done this upon returning from vacation before and technology always eventually creeps back in. This time feels different, though. This time I sense more permanence to the shift and I’m excited about that. I’m ready to spend more time in “real life” and less time in cyberspace.

This trip was a perfect reminder that real life is where the most amazing stuff is.

And yes, I’d recommend a road trip across America at least once in your life. With or without a camera it is a truly unforgettable experience.

Just do YOUR thing and you’ll shine just fine.

I didn’t go to the fireworks last night, but they were some of the best fireworks I’ve seen yet.

In my suburb of Columbus, Ohio, we take 4th of July quite seriously. I mean Norman Rockwell kind of seriously. A giant parade, day-long parties in every other front yard, and a good ol’ fashioned fireworks show — the kind where they still fire off just one or two at a time, with plenty of time to oooh and ahhh in between.

We live two blocks from the park where they put on the show. For the past 10+ years we’ve carried our blankets and munchies to the park, picked out a spot, and joined the crowd. But last night, we decided to stay home, partly because our old dog gets completely freaked out by fireworks, and partly because we were all too pooped to drag our butts to the park.

We’ve always suspected we could see the fireworks from our house, and last night we confirmed our suspicions. In fact, if you stand right next to my front door you can see about 90% of the explosions just above the trees across the street.

And while that perfect, small town firework display was underway, I noticed a smaller, yet equally impressive show happening just a few feet away from where I was standing:

A lone lighting bug was flashing his little light.

I’m sure there were others out there, but I looked around and couldn’t see any. And here was this little guy, flashing away as if he was the only light show in town. He was probably flashing before the fireworks began and he was still flashing when the grand finale ended.

He didn’t care that there were bigger, brighter, noisier lights getting more attention. He just kept doing HIS thing, working toward HIS goal. He wasn’t trying to impress the masses, he was just hoping to grab the attention of one other lightning bug that he could connect with and make some magic happen.

He didn’t get caught up in the ooohs and ahhhs of the crowd. He didn’t need to make a gigantic flash to get the attention he needed. He never tried to be anybody but himself, doing his thing, his way, at his pace.

I don’t know about you, but I have often been guilty of  seeking the ooohs and ahhhs of the crowd. I’ve also made the mistake of trying to draw as much attention to myself to get what I want as quickly as possible. As a writer and a business owner, it sure is easy to fall into that trap. It’s also easy to fall into that trap as an employee, a student, a parent, and every other role I’ve ever held in my life.

The problem is that in order to get that kind of attention, we often attempt to become a different person. We adopt someone else’s techniques or style or personality in order to generate a flashier appearance or a more attractive display.

When we see what someone else has achieved, we often do what they do in hopes of getting what they have. And then we lose ourselves in the process. We abandon what makes us unique and special and we become a cheap imitation of someone else.

There’s nothing wrong with adopting best practices or learning how to better relate to your audience/boss/friends/etc. Unfortunately, it’s really easy to cross the line into inauthentic mimicry.

I know this already (you do, too), but it’s one of those things that I need a periodic reminder of:

 

Just do YOUR thing and you’ll shine just fine.

 

Needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t walk down to the park to watch the fireworks last night. I got a much better show — and a much needed lesson — from my little, authentic, lightning bug buddy.

 

 

Here’s What I Do When Life Sucks

I’ve been writing weekly posts for well over a decade. From the outside, it would appear as if I’ve been in the groove for a very long time. I have rarely, and I mean RARELY missed a week (and we’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of weeks). When I do miss a week it’s usually because I’m on vacation or a virus is boxing my brain around.

So you might be surprised at how many weeks I don’t feel like writing, ESPECIALLY something helpful or inspirational or encouraging. In spite of the frequency of my posts, I don’t always feel like I’m in the groove.

Know why?

Because life sucks sometimes.

Bad stuff frequently happens to me and people I care about. And it takes many forms, from major bad stuff like a death in the family to less major bad stuff like a night of insomnia. Bad stuff gangs up on me once in awhile, too, as if the Universe is playing some twisted game of “kill the quarterback”.

Sometimes it’s hard to get up in the morning knowing the bad stuff is waiting for me. Sometimes it’s hard to be nice to others while I’m carrying a big pile of bad stuff around with me all day. Some days it seems like the bad stuff is all there is.

But that’s not true, is it?

Yeah, life is full of bad stuff — not just for me — for EVERYBODY. But it’s also full of good stuff. If I asked you to make a list of all the good stuff and all the bad stuff in your life right now you could find a few things to put in the good column…EVEN ON YOUR WORST DAY. Don’t argue with me. You know I’m right.

But, this isn’t a post to tell you to “focus on the positives” or “just fill your heart with gratitude” for what you do have. Those ideas may seem like great advice to the one giving it. However, in my experience, when I’m in the middle of some bad stuff and someone tells me to “Look on the bright side…”, I have to resist the urge to punch them in the throat.

Instead, here are a few strategies I employ when life sucks:

1. I remind myself that my current bad stuff is temporary. There IS good stuff in life, I’m just not experiencing it right now. That’s not the same as focusing on the good stuff — it’s acknowledging both the good and the bad. It’s more like a healthy reality check.

2. I try to remember that other people are experiencing good stuff right now, even while I’m experiencing bad stuff. This reminds me to try to not rain on someone else’s parade.

3. I allow life to suck (if needed). Sometimes I can quickly change my situation and sweep away the bad stuff, but sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I have absolutely no control over the situation, I just have to live through it and let it suck until it’s done sucking. I won’t lie, this one is hard.

4. I tell someone — sometimes I tell everyone — that my life sucks right now. Hey, there’s no sense in hiding it. THEY KNOW. I try not to make it the main topic of everyday conversation (see #2 above), but I find that when I’m going through bad stuff, hiding it from everyone in my life only makes it worse. Plus, “faking it” takes a lot of energy, which is already depleted when I’m dealing with bad stuff.

5. I write, even when I don’t feel like it. For me, writing helps me think, process my feelings, and express myself. In fact I often joke that most of the time my blog posts are just letters to myself that I share with the whole world. I also find that having something consistent to create helps me feel a tiny sense of control when my world is out of whack.

I didn’t write this to tell you that my life sucks right now. I wrote it to tell you that if you feel like life sucks sometimes, you’re absolutely right. And you’re not the only one who feels that way. We all have our ways of dealing with it and I’d love to hear yours as well.

And if I’m being completely honest, the strategies I mentioned above never completely pull me out of a funk, but they almost always lessen the intensity of life-suckiness that I may be feeling in the moment.