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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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I Needed A Sign

My friend Shawn is extraordinarily creative. His imagination allows him to create just about anything you can think of. Recently, we built a chalkboard sign to hang on my kids wooden playhouse.

Proud To Share

I came home from Shawn’s excited to show my wife the sign we built and my vision for it. I eagerly took it outside to find the best place to mount it on the playhouse. However, I quickly learned that no matter where I placed the sign, it was going to disrupt the way our kids run around the house. I feared my daughter would hit her face on it as she often was being chased by her older brother. I needed a new plan on how to use the sign.

Plan B

I had another idea on where to mount it. This idea was more for my wife and I then it was for the kids. Let me explain…

We have this incredible 60 year old tree that anchors our backyard. Every morning I go in the yard with our two dogs and walk barefoot over to this giant tree and greet it with a morning stretch. I often wonder what this wise old tree is saying back to me. As I thought about the idea of a talking tree, I realized that this tree would be a great place to mount the sign! Especially since we look directly at it when standing in our kitchen.

My thought was to write verses on it to memorize & inspire us. I explained this idea to my wife, which she loved, but I could tell she was eager to evolve my thinking.

“ONE WORD!” She said out loud.

“One word a week to ignite a fire in our bellies & inspire our day.”

I smiled at her and thought, one word it is 🙂

Our First Word

I still needed to paint the sign and get some long screws to mount it to the tree. My building adventure continued as I ran to the hardware store to finish the job. When I returned, I began to sense that I was spending a little too much time on this project. I hurried up and painted the sign to complete the task at hand.

As I walked inside the house, I could see the kids were losing steam for the day, dinner wasn’t ready, and the excitement of the sign project was fading fast into the sunset.

My wife and I began to bicker about something petty and it led to one of those arguments when you can’t even recall what you are arguing over. I think we were both just feeling tired & ‘hangry’!

As we found our way into bed, we said our prayers and drifted off to sleep as I knew tomorrow would bring about an apology and a fresh start.

The next morning, I woke up to let the dogs out and walked over to the tree. With an extra pep in my step, I proudly stretched up and saw the sign.

And there it was!

The first word.

CHOICE.

Choice I thought?

What the heck does this mean? This doesn’t feel overly inspiring. Heck, it kinda upsets me!

I smiled thinking about our argument and reflected on the first word my wife had chose to write. I’m pretty sure she was reminding me that I have a ‘choice’ on how I speak to her 🙂

I spent a lot of time that week reflecting on this simple, yet powerful word.

We All Have Choices

Choices on the words we use.

Choices on how we spend our time.

Choices on who we choose to pour our energy into.

It’s amazing how a single word can have such an impact on how we feel & act. It can lift us, inspire us, deflate us, and even change our world.

As you begin your day, take some time to reflect on the words you speak and the signs all around you. They are often lessons to be used for guidance and growth. And if you are feeling stuck or down on your luck, then you can always just build one!

p.s.

Here are a few more of the words that have spoken to us this month. May they speak power into you!

“Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when your riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!” — Bob Marley

Recent Speaking Events

Fifth Third Bank — Leadership Offsite

Best & Brightest in Wellness — Wellness Awards Conference

Leadership Detroit — Camp Tamarack Kickoff

MISD — Back to School Symposium

BASF — Leadership Offsite

I’d love to speak at your next event. Connect with me here.

About Mark

A man of many interests and a wellspring of energy, Skidmore Studio’s Mark Ostach is on a mission to motivate people to become the best possible version of themselves. Mark holds degrees in economics, psychology, technology, and even had a short stint at massage therapy school. He is determined to remind the world that human connection is the most powerful connection we have.

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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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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!