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.

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!