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A Night To Remember

Two months ago my father nearly died of congestive heart failure. Thankfully, he made a swift recovery and has a new lease on life. This new perspective has brought back an aspect of our friendship that was lost for the past 5 years. This was best expressed last week as we shared dinner and a concert featuring Kenny G at The Aretha Franklin Amphitheater in Detroit.

Why Kenny G?

Of all the artists performing at The Aretha this summer (including Snoop Dogg), I picked Kenny G — the best saxophone player alive today! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a mega fan but his music represents a sacred season in my life. A time from the late 80’s and early 90’s when I was but a young man, before I felt the responsibilities and pressure of adult life.

I’ve learned that music has the ability to cut through the scars of our past and recreate those sacred moments of our yesteryears. For me, I remember being in middle school when our weekends were packed full of sports, family dinners, and going to church on Sunday often incentivized by a stop at the local donut bar after service.

I specifically recall on Saturday’s my dad would clean the house like a crazy man. If I close my eyes I can still see the sun shining into our house while Kenny G’s latest album flooded the lower level of our home as the smell of Windex filled the air. It seems but a distant dream yet holds a special place in my heart.

A Dream Come True

I’ve learned that God speaks to me through mental images that come to my mind then continue to rehearse until the event or situation has manifested. This has taken me a few decades to realize but with some discernment, I find myself pursuing these promptings with more confidence. This held true for the Kenny G concert as I kept seeing my dad and I at the show together as soon as I heard he was coming into town. But what I didn’t imagine, was how God was orchestrating a night that would leave my father’s spirit turned inside out.

I called in a favor from a Skidmore client and new friend who runs the concert venue we recently rebranded. She assured me we would have good seats and VIP parking where the artists park. When we arrived, we walked into the back office where the green room was and to our surprise bumped into Kenny G himself right before the show started! After an exchange of pleasantries and a photo opp, my dad looked at me and said, “Did you plan this?” I look at him with a smile and said, “Nope”. He was on cloud 9!

The Best Seat In The House

We were riding high and ready to enter the venue. We got to the 10th row where our seats were located yet choose to sit in a pair of aisle seats that were open. They weren’t technically ours, but they allowed my dad to stretch his legs out and rest his walking cane.

Before too long, we were asked to move as the actual ticket holders of the seats arrived. We stood up feeling a touch disappointed yet we decided to test our luck one more time and sit a row behind us that kept us in the aisle. I share the details of our game of musical chairs because what proceeded next was nothing short of a divine.

The lights began to dim. The summer breeze swept in off the Detroit river and was moving through the 10,000 person amphitheater while the sun was setting. It was a perfect summer night. As the crowd began to grow in excitement for the opening performance, the the bass player from the band snuck off the stage and into the center isle carrying a square crate. He placed the crate right in the aisle way directly in front of my dad. He then looked at him and said, “You’ve got the best seat in the house”.

Before you knew it, the first note from Kenny G’s saxophone filled the entire place. Yet he wasn’t on stage!? We couldn’t quite tell where he was entering in from. Then the crowd erupted as we all turned around to see Kenny G coming down the center aisle from the back of the venue.

He continued to slowly stroll down the steps as he warmed up his lungs. I could feel my dad’s heart began to race as Kenny G came closer and closer eventually landing right in front of my dad!

He stepped up on the crate and began to play his opening set within an arm’s reach from my dad and I. We were speechless. We listened to every note pouring out of the saxophone while embracing each other with tears in our eyes and the same sense of freedom that existed in the space that filled our family room on a Saturday morning.

The Air In Your Lungs

Life is so damn precious.

Yet we find ourself overworked, over worried, and often filling our days with distractions and vices to cover up the pain that’s buried inside each of us. Yet a simple song, a single note from a saxophone, can transform our spirit and bring about new life in a single breath.

At one point Kenny G held a single note for over 2 minutes. It was unbelievable!

What’s even more unbelievable is the same air in Kenny G’s lungs is the same air that you and I breathe. The same air that keeps us alive during the most trying times of our life. How wonderful is that!?

As we slowly walked back to the car, my dad and I reflected on the night and the remarkable experience we shared together.

My hope for you is that you take time to reflect on a remarkable experience that you’ve shared with someone you love. And if you feel prompted to reach out to someone that’s been on your mind, then go do it! You may just end up in the front row creating a night to remember.

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”

– Confucius

p.s.

Here is a clip of Kenny G coming down the isle showcasing the emotion of my dad and I.

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Start Today

For the past 3 months my wife has suggested I read the book Girl Stop Apologizing, by Rachel Hollis. After much resistance (for obvious reasons) I finally decided to listen to the first chapter. I’m glad I did.

Hollis writes about creating a ‘shame-free’ plan to focus on your dreams and desires without worrying about what other people think. She encourages you to stop apologizing for what you are trying to accomplish and just go do it!

I’ve learned in life that this requires us to cut through the mounting resistance that blocks our mind from taking action on things we know we need to do. Although seemingly straightforward, this is no small feat.

The Power of Resistance

Resistance often tries to take up residence in my mind. But it’s not always my dreams that I’m resisting. It’s the work I need to do on myself that often slows me down the most. Here are a few examples:

  1. It took me 10 years of struggling with seasonal depression to finally reach out to a therapist. And it took me 3 therapists to find the right one. Which added to the already compounding resistance!
  2. Even though these monthly newsletters are often on my heart, it can be a struggle to get them down on paper. And then doubt creeps in (resistances best friend) and makes me wonder if people really even care about what I have to say?
  3. Getting up early in the morning when I’m overtired and don’t want to deal with the kids can trigger a tap of the snooze button on my alarm clock. This tendency eliminates my extra time to work towards my dreams.

I could share a dozen more ways resistance has delayed my aspirations and goals. Instead, I’ll share two simple words that can kick resistance out of your life: Start Today.

Start Today

A dear friend of ours gifted my wife and I each a journal that Rachel Hollis created to help promote gratitude and making your dreams happen. The journal is appropriately called, Start Today. It begins with a writing exercise to help you see your future self. Once this foundation is established, you write daily based on the simple but powerful template below.

I’ve been writing in it daily. It helps me realize that the only way I’m going to fight through the resistance that comes with each day is to just start! Start by taking action. Start by writing things down. Start today.

If Not Now, Then When?

I know what your thinking, “ Sounds like a good idea, Mark. I’m just gonna wait and get started on this once my <insert reason here> happens.”

The problem with this answer is that it fosters resistance. By starting today, you will strengthen the muscle in your mind that builds character and self-confidence. So I ask you, If Not Now, Then When?

My wife has this exact saying framed in our kitchen helping to remind us daily to take action.

Fight Through The Resistance

What is preventing you from taking action? What lie has resistance been speaking to you? Take a moment this morning to reflect on this. Then pick up a piece of paper and write down what you are feeling along with 5 things you are grateful for. It’s that simple. Don’t over complicate it. Start Today!

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” — Peter Senge

p.s.

I’m excited to share that I have completed my keynote speaker demo reel. This was a goal that resistance tried to rob for the past 2 years. Thankfully, my ‘StartToday’ mindset helped me accomplish this along with an amazing videographer named Anthony Marzilli. Feel free to share this with anyone you know planning events or conferences! 🙂

In The News

I had the chance to take part in a Digital Wellness collaboration wth 17 experts sharing tips on how to manage your digital life. I’m excited to share that this work was featured on Thrive Global last week!

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The Future of Digital Wellness Mark Ostach

Ever wonder what our digital life will look like in the year 2034? It includes a generation of young adults called “dippies” aka ‘digital hippies’ that don’t use smartphones. And for those that use smartphone, The Apple 27-Z uses biometrics to lock you out if you’re too stressed.

PREDICTIONS FROM THE PAST

The cover of TIME Magazine in 1965 featured predictions of how computers will impact the future of our economy and our way of life.

IBM Economist, Joseph Froomkin, went on record saying, “Automation will eventually bring about a 20-hour work week, perhaps within a century, thus creating a mass leisure class.” A 20-hour work week! That’s a far cry from where we are in 2019!

THE DIGITAL INVASION

One of my favorite TED talks was by Adam Alter that discussed why our screen time makes us less happy. Over the past 10 years, Alter demonstrates how our personal space (defined as the time spent beyond working, sleeping, & eating) has been invaded by our screens and social media as depicted in the red area below. The yellow time indicates our endangered ‘personal time’.

Our personal time is what defines our sense of self. Our hobbies, interests, and times of reflection are invaded by social media and smartphones. But this is old news and something I’ve talked about for the past decade. What I’m interested in now is turning the corner to begin sharing what the future of digital wellness looks like.

THE FUTURE OF DIGITAL WELLNESS

I recently shared my predictions on the future of digital wellness at Oakland University as I give my 2nd TED talk. I can feel a shift rising against the digital invasion we’ve been swallowed into over the past 15 years. I’m confident that digital wellness is on the rise.

In the past year alone Google, Apple, and Facebook have begun to establish their views on digital wellness and ways their future products and platforms will be more human centered.

Thought leaders throughout the world have begun discussing digital citizenship and the ethical arguments that will shape policy around the Internet and our device usage. So how does this groundswell in digital wellness shape our future?

MY PREDICTIONS

Imagine yourself 15 years from now. The year is 2034. Apple just released the iPhone 27-Z (with new charging adaptors of course!). Here is what digital wellness looks like in America…

My children and half of their friends don’t have smartphones in College. Referred to as ‘dippies’ (aka digital hippies), this group of young adults find more purpose in nature and relationships then they do in breaking news and taking selfies. After witnessing epidemic levels of depression, anxiety, and suicide among their parents, they realized that it’s not worth it to be connected all the time.

The government is beginning to pilot communication policies within certain industries. These pilot policies include:

  • Sending a maximum of 5 emails a day per employee. Going over your quota can be considered ‘email abuse’, a violation your organization can write you up for.
  • The workday ends at 4:00 p.m and all devices stay at the office. This was influenced by a study from Harvard that showed healthy family structure is the #1 indicator to economic development and low crime rates. People leave work and go home to their families, friends, and hobbies.

Google has developed a smartphone that locks you out of it if your too stressed. Fueled by astronomical levels of exhaustion and burnout, Google responded by creating a camera system that uses biometrics to measure stress and anxiety in the user. It’s helped smartphone addicts curb their addiction by 50%.

Facebook and LinkedIn have merged platforms as a response to the increase in remote workforce and purpose economy demanding a more human centered work-life experience. (ps. 90% of Facebook users are 50 years and older).

SMOKING, SEAT BELTS, AND RECYCLING

Here are three reasons why my predictions may be heading in the right direction:

  1. Smoking was at an all time high in the 1940’s. It’s been said that Generation Alpha (after Gen Z) will end smoking all together.
  2. Seat Belts weren’t required in cars until 1964. There were 50 years of driving since the Model-T was launched that didn’t include seat belts!
  3. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. This was a campaign launched in the early 90’s when I was in middle school. I had to train my parents on why recycling was vital to the future of our environment. Now it’s second nature to recycle.

YOUR DIGITAL WELLNESS

Do my predictions sounds as foolish as a 20-hour work week? Maybe? Maybe not!

As we continue to press into the future of digital wellness, I encourage you to raise your awareness on how the content you view each day shapes your thought life and overall health.

Doing so can breakthrough the ways in which content shapes our reality, and allows us to look inward for our sense of purpose and worth. This my friends, is the most sacred part of being a warm blooded creature, not a cold blooded device. Here’s to the future of Digital Wellness!

IN THE NEWS

I had the chance of being interviewed on the ‘Rise of Digital Wellness in The Workplace’. Check out the brief segment below or here.

“The purpose of thinking about the future is not to predict it but to raise people’s hopes.” — Freeman Dyson

I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

I’m looking to gather stories of people who have had an impact from the work I’ve been doing around digital wellness. If you have any feedback, experiences, or a shift in your digital habits, I want to hear from you! Please reach out to me here.