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 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!


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.

A Living Legacy

Exactly one year ago, a dear friend & mentor of mine passed away suddenly. As I shared in a post last year, Tim Smith was nothing shy of an extraordinary man. And yesterday I had the privilege of sharing a meal with his youngest son, Harrison.

As I walked into the restaurant, I immediately had chills down my spine as I saw Harrison sitting at the same table his dad and I used to sit at.

As we sipped coffee, we talked about life, relationships, faith, philosophy and of course, his dad. Somewhere along the line, the topic of nationality came up.

I asked Harrison what nationality he was and without skipping a beat he said proudly, “I’m a Detroiter.” I smiled ear-to-ear thinking, ‘this is exactly what his dad would of said!’

As we ordered our food, I prompted him to go first.

He looked over the menu and with an eager voice said to the waitress, “I’ll have the caboose.”

I thought to myself, ‘what the heck is the caboose?’

A quick glance down the menu and boom. There it was. The perfect blend of corn beef, hash browns, eggs and toast (as shown below).

As I ordered my two eggs scrambled with a side of avocado, I noticed Harrison looking at me the same way his dad would have in the past when we had shared a meal.

It was the look of “what a lame choice for a greasy spoon diner.” Prompted by his body language, I threw in a side of cinnamon raisin bread to toughen up my order. 🙂

My Plate & Heart Were Full

During our meal I felt an array of feelings flowing through my heart, with the primary one being Joy.

In a strange way, part of me felt like I was sharing one more meal with his dad. Between his mannerisms, smile and big round glasses, it was obvious why I felt this way. However, the other part of me felt thankful to begin a new friendship with Harrison.

As much as Harrison reminded me of Tim, he is also clearly his own person — one who is coming off a really tough year and ready to make small shifts towards a New Year filled with new adventures. It was inspiring to be with him.

There was no doubt in my mind that the legacy Tim left was alive through Harrison. And it was also shining back at Skidmore Studio, the creative company that Tim previously owned.

I learned so much from Tim as did countless people that knew him. As we celebrated his life we toasted over whisky and a few tears back at the studio.

We reflected on many memories and talked about things like:

  • His ability to make you feel like part of his family
  • His unshakeable devotion & love for his wife, Colleen
  • His love & pride for his boys, Harrison & Hayden
  • His big heart full of big ideas
  • His struggle to follow through on his big ideas 🙂
  • His love for baseball
  • The incredible book he wrote the year before he passed (Dare Mighty Things)
  • The core values he knitted into the fabric of the studio
  • His love and passion for the City of Detroit
  • The Dr. Seuss book that guided his career (Oh, The Places You Will Go)
  • And so much more…

In between stories, there was a common feeling people expressed of how they felt his spirit through various signs and serendipitous happenings.

Drew Patrick, our new owner and longtime friend & business partner of Tim’s, put it perfectly. With confidence in his voice and tears in his eyes he said, “I know Tim’s looking down on us smiling. I can feel that he’s happy. I can feel that he’s proud of us.”

You don’t have to own a company. You don’t need to have children. And you don’t have to write a book or be from Detroit either.

You just need to be you.

Make memories with those you love most and embrace all of the ways that make you, you.

Try each day to enjoy your life and the gifts you’ve been given. And try your best to do good, for that’s ultimately the only thing you can control.

If you approach each day with this mindset, chances are you will create a living legacy like Tim’s that gives back for generations to come.

“Expect Nothing. Experience All”
Ksenija Savic Ostach — my wife 🙂

Past Speaking Events.
ZF — Quarterly Planning Meeting
Mort Crim Communications — Lunch & Learn
TEDx Salon — Oakland University
mParks — 2019 Annual Conference
AllState — Thrive Talks
ICLE — Health Law Institute Conference — 25th Anniversary

Loren Siffring, my spiritual advisor, mentor and dear friend has written a discussion guide for men called, The Spiral of Life. It’s a great resource to grow through mentorship & encourage one another. More on Loren can be found here.

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 to learn more.

Director of Accounts at Skidmore Studio, Speaker at