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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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Let There Be Light!

Every time I need to cry I call my mom.

I’m not sure exactly why, but it works like a charm.

Tears of Joy and Sorrow

Yesterday my parents and brother joined my family at Christmas service at Kensington Church. As I sat between my mom and my wife I could feel the tears begin to swell.

While holding my mom’s hand I could feel her healing touch and the bond that exits between a mother and son. Our bond is particularly special. In an instant I felt a download of emotions from every Christmas service we’ve attended together for nearly four decades.

As I held my wife’s hand, I could feel the love that exists between us as we try our best to hold down the fort with two toddlers at home. My hand laid upon hers as I felt the rings on her finger, reminding me of our wedding day and the birth of our children.

The hands of these two women created a connection that words cannot describe. Only through tears could I express how I felt.

There was so much to be thankful for in this moment, yet so much emotion in a room full of people just like you and I.

Reflecting In The Light

I turned to my mom as she wiped away tears from her check.

I just got done doing the same to mine.

My tears were those of appreciation for the life that God has provided me with.

Yet as of late, I’ve let the frustrations of life damper the light that shines within.

I’ve been insensitive to my wife (a lot).

Short-tempered with my children.

And been feeling rather downcast.

Maybe it’s seasonal depression?

Maybe it’s because I’m tired?

Or maybe it’s because those closest to me are going through difficult times of divorce, disease, and discouragement.

As an EMPATH (a personality type that over empathizes for others), I have the tendency to take on the weight of the world. Sometimes it fills me up and allows me to give to others and not just focus on myself. Other times, I get overwhelmed with emotions making it hard to sort through the feelings on my heart.

I was reminded today that it’s not on me to fix or heal other people’s situations. I can only shine the light that exists within me and hope this brings peace and healing.

Let There Be Light!

These four words hold so much.

They were the first words God spoke into the world.

Light was the first thing each of us experienced when entering into the world.

And light was even present at the exact moment each of us was conceived!

Seeing Life In A New Light

Scientist recently discovered that at the exact moment a sperm penetrates an egg, the egg release billions of zinc atoms that emit light.

This means that sparks literally fly at the moment of conception! How amazing is this?!? As you sit with this thought, it points to the significance that light has on our existence. It’s the source of so many things.

The Source of Vision

Without light, we can’t see a thing.
This holds true physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

As we sang together at the end of church I could literally see hundreds of candles lighting up the room.

It was giving light to the darkness in our hearts and allowing us to see the power that comes from a single light that spreads to others.

My Hope For You

Take time to be with the light that shines within you.

Reflect on the things that may be covering it up.

Grab a candle, put on some music, and light up the room that you are in. Even if you are by yourself.

And know that the greatest source of light is looking for a crack in the door of your heart to shine through!

“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Past Speaking Events:
Comcast — Year end leadership meeting
mParks — 2019 Annual Conference
AllState — Thrive Talks
ICLE — Health Law Institute Conference — 25th Anniversary

I’m currently reading the book Whisper: How To Hear The Voice of God, By Mark Batterson. Like all of Mark’s books, he has the ability to make the pages come to life and inspire you to dig into your spiritual health.

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Digital Wellness is on the Rise Mark Ostach

Over 200 people pledged to embrace a culture of digital wellbeing last week in Detroit. This was just one small step towards digital wellness within the workplace! Beyond Detroit, Digital Wellness is on the forefront of many peoples minds.

During the Apple Developers conference yesterday, they announced that the new iOS will have settings that focus on your digital health. This announcement comes in the wake of Google’s latest Android updates that focus on digital wellbeing. Beyond these two leaders, there are other organizations embracing a culture of digital wellness.

But you don’t have to wait for your company to implement a digital wellness program. You can start by making a few tiny shifts in your workday. Here are 5 simple ways to help you and encourage your team to embrace a culture of digital wellbeing.

5 Ways to Create A Culture of Digital Wellbeing

  1. Establish communication preferences: In some organizations, there are over four generations working together under one roof. If you prefer that your new intern pick up the phone and call you and they prefer that you send them a Snapchat, then it’s on you to establish your communication preferences.
  2. Set email expectations: Find yourself catching up on email over the weekends? Be sure to let your team know that this doesn’t mean they have to respond. If you haven’t let them know this, there’s a good chance they are monitoring email on the weekends while they should be making memories with their friends and family!
  3. Start your meetings with something good: Positive energy attracts positive people. Start by sharing something positive or light hearted. It could be that you had a great workout yesterday, or you recently adopted a dog, or you reconnected with an old friend. It doesn’t matter what it is; just make sure it’s positive!
  4. Encourage mental breaks: There’s no shortage of research on the benefits of meditation. If you feel intimidated by the idea of meditating, start by taking a 5 minute break and close your eyes and practice some deep breathing. Be sure to put your phone on Do Not Disturb 😉 Have trouble closing your eyes at work? Grab a sheet of paper and write down things you are grateful for. Gratitude helps create a heart filled with Joy.
  5. Promote physical activity: Struggling to find time to exercise? Try squeezing in a quick workout over lunch. And if you plan ahead, you’ll pack your lunch and save money and avoid eating at your desk. Working out over lunch sound impossible? At least take a break and head outside for a lap around your office. Movement and fresh air may give you that burst of energy you need to finish the day strong!

Bonus Tip: Choose Grace over Guilt

Workplace guilt is a silent killer in promoting digital wellbeing in the workplace. If your job allows you to embrace any of the ideas above, then do it! And if you are feeling guilty about what someone may think, give yourself some grace and go talk to them. Let them know that you are choosing to work on your mental and physical health so that you can be healthier at work. There’s a high probability they’re also searching for ways to take a break from the screen. They’re just looking for someone to help get them motivated!

And remember, no setting on your phone can determine your overall health. The sheer will power inside of you will determine how you embrace a culture of digital wellbeing. You can do it!

p.s.

Be sure to check out the video of over 200 people pledging to create a culture of digital wellbeing!

Past Events

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Feeling Lonely?

Taking care of children may be the hardest job on earth.

I’ve had the chance to spend some solo dad time with our kids as my wife headed out for various photoshoots (she’s a gifted photographer). The day would start off with smiles and laughs (as shown above).

But as the morning went on, I found my sanity melting away as each hour that passed felt like an entire day!

Between nap schedules, making bottles, temper tantrums, soiled bed sheets, and amazon prime deliveries (which always come at nap time #doorbell #dogs-barking) I felt like I was going insane.

During any moments of downtime, I found myself turning to my phone to catch a glimpse into the outside world. It went beyond checking social media and email. I found myself checking Slack, Skidmore’s internal messaging system for project updates, lunchtime banter, and random gifs that made there way into the rhythm of the work day. Anything that gave me a sense of connection!

Facebook, Instagram, & The Obituaries?

Although a quick glance at Facebook or Instagram appears to fill the social void of adult interaction, it often leads to feelings of envy and increased loneliness.

I recently asked my mom for perspective on what she would do when feeling exhausted and overdue for some social connection while raising 4 kids in the 1980’s. Her response was telling.

She would reach for the newspaper and read the obituaries.

Yes. The obituaries!

She went on to say that it made her feel better because she knew that she was alive — even if she was juggling the needs of 3 toddlers and a baby!

At first I found this strange.

But then I quickly realized it’s really no different than what motivates us to check our phone.

We crave connection.

We seek attention.

We need human interaction.

We were designed for real relationships.

But it’s not just stay-at-home parents that can feel lonely.

The corporate workplace is also showing signs of loneliness.

So Why Are We So Lonely?

Sherry Turkle, Professor at MIT and author of Alone Together says it best:

“Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere. We begin to feel overwhelmed and depleted by the lives technology makes possible. We may be free to work from anywhere, but we are also prone to being lonely everywhere.”

Another great example of Turkel’s work can be seen in this video “The Innovation of Loneliness

Ways to Combat Loneliness

Although checking the obituaries seems like an odd way to combat loneliness, the act of picking up the paper and reading the the death notices probably takes a sum total of 5 minutes.

In today’s scrollable world, it’s easy to spend countless hours hoping to find meaningful connection in our day. And the more we scroll, the less likely we are to find time to be in relationship with those around us.

Deep down inside I know there is a way for us to truly find connection beyond our screens.

Here are a few suggestions to combat loneliness:

  • Seek involvement in community (join a small group, engage in mentorship, start volunteering)
  • Take a mental health day off work
  • Skip the email or text — Call a friend!
  • Find someone to talk too (a therapist, friend/family, co-worker, etc.)

Whichever ways you choose to combat loneliness, there’s a good chance it will have a positive impact on you and on someone else — which is a great way to start making a shift in the loneliness epidemic.

And for those parents out there, be present with your children and put down the phone — especially while changing diapers!

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An Extraordinary Man

There was nothing ordinary about Tim Smith.

He was often seen in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, wearing a flannel paired with nice dress shoes. He idolized Bill Murray (before anyone else did). He owned every Prince album ever produced and rode around town on a pink bicycle encouraging people to Dare Mighty Things!

One may find these things unusual for a 54 year old man. Personally, I find them remarkable. Tim’s most remarkable qualities were best reflected in Skidmore Studio’s core values (Be Creative, Challenge, Team, Communication, Integrity, Details and Enjoy).

Pictured below, you’ll find him standing proudly behind a pet project he crafted just a couple short months ago. Like a young man eager to show his parents something he’d built, Tim stood tall as he walked our team through the importance of each value and it’s meaning to him. At the end of his remarks, our core values came to life via a wooden block figure shown below.

An Emotional Leader

Tim wore his emotions on his sleeve and would often tear up at our team meetings. He cared so deeply about the people he worked with and the values we all shared.

Each time he got emotional, the same sequence of events would happen:

  1. His forehead would begin to sweat.
  2. His hands would have a subtle shake.
  3. And his glasses would come off (as demonstrated above).

Like a catcher behind home base, you knew when the fastball of tears was bound to come across the plate of Tim’s heartfelt message. This quality drew you to him. He was real. Vulnerable. And always sincere.

A Life Size Spirit

Earlier this month, Tim passed away suddenly from heart complications.

It’s been a shock to his family, the studio, and the entire Detroit community.

Tim was one of those people that made you feel better just by being around him. Beyond the fact he was my boss, he was a mentor, friend, and in a strange way somewhat of a father figure. I know many people that knew him had a similar connection.

Now more than ever, our team continues to live out these values as we move Tim’s vision to “Create the Extraordinary” into the future.

At Your Core

It’s hard to uncover the core of who you are and dig into what you stand for. After all, it’s already in you. Spending time inward to reflect on the values that are authentic to you is an important aspect to a meaningful life. Unfortunately, this isn’t a regular event on your already busy calendar.

My challenge to you is to find the time to reflect on your core values. Tap into what makes you tick. Let the real you bubble up. Spend time embracing what makes you, you. Only then, can you define and determine your core values.

If you find you need a little help and inspiration along the way, seek out the Tims in your life. They may or may not be riding a pink bike, but their glowing passion for life should be easy to spot.

But most of all, find time to be vulnerable and take off your glasses once in awhile.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

About Mark

Mark has been compulsively checking his phone for over a decade. He finally mustered up the courage to do something about it. A man of many interests and a wellspring of energy, Mark is on a mission to teach people healthy digital habits. A sought after speaker on the Psychology of Technology, Mark teaches you how to defeat distractions so you can connect with purpose. Visit markostach.com to learn more.

Director of Accounts at Skidmore Studio, Speaker at MarkOstach.com

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Too Busy For Your Goals?

Every year my wife and I spend an afternoon together writing down our goals and manifesting the future that we want for our family and ourself.

We’ve learned to reflect on the things we desire and take time to thoughtfully write them down. Words have power and when written down they can become your reality. However, your goals can fall apart if you are unable to defeat the distractions that prevent you from accomplishing them.

Don’t Repeat Last Years Distractions

Before you craft your 2018 goals, I suggest you reflect on the things that distracted you from accomplishing your 2017 goals. It will come to no surprise that social media and cell phone use top the list.

According to research aggregated by Medikix, below is the average time spent per day across the most popular social media sites in 2016:

Add these minutes over the course of the year and your jaw may drop! Below are the total hours per year the average user spends on each site.

Youtube = 240 hours
Facebook = 213 hours
Snapchat = 152 hours
Instagram = 91 hours
Twitter = 6 hours

Even if you are only on Facebook, you spend upwards of 200+ hours per year! Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

Just imagine how far you could advance your goals by redirecting your time to something more productive. Here are a few examples to inspire you for 2018:

  • Read a 300 page book in 10 hours
  • Train for a half marathon in 28 hours
  • Learn Spanish in 480 hours
  • Become a basic guitar player in 120 hours

And these are just a few thought starters!

Digging Deeper

How long do you think it takes to repair a relationship with a loved one? How about the self care required to heal the emotional pain you’ve been holding onto for the past decade? Or breaking that habit you know isn’t good for you? All of these things require an intentionality that is best cultivated by spending time reflecting and writing — not scrolling and liking.

Your time is precious. There is no app, no post, and no amount of virtual attention that can replace the benefit of investing time towards goals that advance your emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

My Challenge To You!

Invest time in passions and people that matter most to you.
Travel beyond fake news and edited moments portrayed online.
Begin to thrive in an environment created first in your mind, then on paper, and eventually in the world around you.

Anything is possible in 2018.
Write your goals down!

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Need A Break From Your Phone?

When was the last time you went to the bathroom without your phone?

Can’t remember?

Either can I.

I have a love-hate relationship with my phone. It loves me because I touch it and give it attention all the time. And I hate it because I touch it and give it attention all the time.

I’ve been advocating for healthy digital habits for over 5 years. During this time, I’ve watched my own habits go up and down like cell phone reception in Northern Michigan.

I’ve heard some fascinating (and funny) behaviors expressed from audience members during my talks. Let’s see which of the habits you can relate to most.

10 SIGNS YOU NEED A BREAK

#1 — You hide in the bathroom to check your phone. Not sure if this one is just for parents of young children, but I find myself extending my own potty breaks in hopes to escape the temper tantrum and poopy diaper that awaits me. If you don’t have kids, consider this — when was the last time you went to the bathroom without your phone?

#2 — You’re too tired to be intimate but can lay in bed for hours on Instagram. Thankfully, I can’t relate to this one, but I have heard this from multiple audience members. A woman in her mid 20’s stated, “I just want to be left alone so I can go to bed and enjoy Instagraming by myself.”

#3 — You get honked at every time the light turns green. Looking down at your phone during a red light isn’t texting and driving, right? Wrong. Even though it doesn’t seem as bad, there is a good chance that if you’re scrolling at a red light, you’re scrolling going 80 mph down the highway.

#4 — You have aches and pains in places you didn’t know could hurt. You wonder why your neck always hurts. You’re convinced you have a bum thumb. Your eyes burn and your migraine is back. Rx = Take 3 days off your device and call me in the morning. xoxo, Dr. Obvious.

#5 — You can’t put down your phone. Just-one-more-text.You started the day with your phone, you’ve brought it to the bathroom, you’ve driven it to work, you’ve placed it next to your fork at dinnertime. Heck you’ve even set it on your butt for the better part of the day. You’re fighting exhaustion yet your phone is always with you.

#6 — Your doctor has the same last name as a search engine. Who needs a doctor when you have google? Aside from the fact that you’ve misdiagnosed yourself with the measles, bird flu, and other fatal illnesses all within the last 6 months.

#7 — Your 30-minute workout isn’t ‘working out’ so well. You spent the first 15 minutes trying to find that perfect Pandora channel to pump-you-up. The remaining time was spent doing reps of texting, checking email, and the occasional phone call.

#8 — You realize group texts aren’t the same as hanging with friends. It’s 11:00 pm at night and you’re climbing into bed. One of your friends sends a group text to a dozen people. You try your hardest to ignore it and even think about using the Do Not Disturb feature. You opt to head to bed instead and enjoy a broken nights sleep with annoying notifications drifting in your dreams.

#9 — You wish you had more time for hobbies. If only there were more time in the day. Oh wait, what about the 160 times that you checked your phone today? Add that time up over the course of the week and you may find a couple extra hours to dabble in that craft you’ve been longing to take up.

#10 — You’ve written a song about your phone. Okay, this one may just be for me. But while I’m on the topic, take a minute and check out this love ballad I wrote for my phone titled, “Disconnect Me”. #SpokenWord