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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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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.