Web Toolbar by Wibiya Brian D. Shelton
Create Moments That Matter

It’s hard to avoid the reality that evil does exist in this world. Whether you turn on the news regularly or not, you are likely confronted with tragedy, wrongdoing, social injustice or other human plight in the course of your daily routine.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that many of us - including myself at times - are beginning to see the world through a tainted lens, one that’s hell-bent on filtering out beauty, goodness, hope, and love.

It’s so easy, after seeing and experiencing so much negativity day after day, to begin to only see the negative, to become jaded.

However, if we become aware of this tendency, and make a conscious effort to overcome it, we can not only begin to see the positive, but can do our part to help others to do the same.

We can start by intentionally creating moments that matter.

I recently saw a TEDx presentation by Drew Dudley that sparked my thinking and led to my writing this post. Rather than relying only on my summary of his presentation, here is a link. You won’t regret watching it, I promise.

The premise of Drew’s presentation is that, often, the moments in which we have the greatest impact on another human being, are moments that we, ourselves, do not even remember.

Most of us fail to realize the power that lies within each of us to lead, to impact and improve the lives of those we encounter. And the truth is, unless someone tells us about these moments, we are cheated out of knowing that we not only have the power to positively impact and fundamentally change the course of another person’s life for the better, but the realization that we have done exactly that.

I have been on both sides of the equation - receiving acknowledgment for how I changed someone’s life (definitely worthy of a follow-up post) and acknowledging someone who impacted my life in a profound way. Both situations were moments that mattered.

I was reminded of this again this week.

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An 18-year-old Australian graphic design student, Marchelle Anne, who attended a Jason Mraz concert in late March shared on her blog her chance encounter with the 2-time Grammy winner. The singer’s official YouTube channel has since posted a recap video from the Australian leg of the tour, which contained a clip of Marchelle’s experience.

The scene: After the concert, Marchelle and her friend were standing outside the venue gates hoping to catch Mraz’s attention. It worked. Mraz came over to the gate to say, “Hello.”

When he asked for and learned the girl’s name, he immediately responded, “Marchelle… You sent me a letter!” In that moment, the life of the 18-year-old student fundamentally shifted - and for no other reason than another person (ignore the fact that the person is by all accounts a “world-famous” musician) acknowledged her with sincerity and appreciation. Sometimes that’s all the validation we need.

Moments that matter don’t have to be big. In most cases, they’re not.

So, take the time to tell those who have had an impact on your life that they have done so. There’s a good chance that they don’t know it, and an even greater chance that it will mean the world to them to hear it.

We all matter. Isn’t it time we start telling each other?

Connections

Now that Connections 2012 is behind us, the Orange Levels in Indianapolis have returned to normal, and the best and brightest marketers in the world are back at their desks - inspired by last week’s events – reflection seems appropriate.

Sure, many have crafted excellent posts about the “lessons” or “takeaways” from Connections 2012 (including Jay Baer, Jim Cota and Andre Bourque), particularly as they relate to Michael J. Fox’s remarkable keynote. In fact, please take a few minutes to read them. They’re worth it.

But this is the post you haven’t seen, and likely one you won’t see anywhere else.

That’s because this story has nothing to do with keynote addresses, marketing case studies, software innovation & product announcements, breakout sessions, concerts, or parties – all of which were amazing, by the way.

This story runs deeper than all those things and is central to what makes ExactTarget’s annual conference potentially unforgettable and life-changing for those who choose to make it so.

To quickly set the stage, the theme for Connections 2012 was “Inspire the Future” and was highlighted by a moving keynote address from Michael J. Fox, notably of “Back to the Future” trilogy fame.

Perhaps the most consistent buzz and attention at Connections, however, centered around the hand-crafted 1982 DeLorean Time Machine featured in the 1985 blockbuster film (and subsequent sequels) located in the first-floor Partner Hub. 

The vehicle is impressive and came complete with a 1.21 gigawatt flux capacitor, operational time circuits (dashboard) and a Mattel Hoverboard positioned on the front seat. No detail was left untended. It was a magnet for photo opportunities and excited curiosity.

The physical machine fascinated attendees, but as is my nature, I was more curious about the story behind it.

I struck up a conversation with Oliver and Terry Holler, the couple responsible for dreaming up and assembling the stainless steel beauty.

Our conversation started innocently enough. I asked what made them decide to build it. Terry told me, “We both have a theatrical background.” That was a logical answer, so we moved on. As I learned later, they operated an interactive history attraction “Ghosts and Legends” in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for many years. Creativity and craftsmanship are their passion.

We continued talking about their involvement with the Michael J. Fox Foundation and then about Michael’s keynote address.

It was during that exchange that I asked Terry, somewhat rhetorically, “Why is it that most of us require some kind of incredible adversity before we decide to tap into our true potential, to explore our ability to do something amazing with our lives?”

That’s when Oliver, who had been quietly monitoring our conversation, chimed in, “It’s human nature.” Then he added, “But, when someone gives you six months to live, it changes things.”

That’s when our conversation shifted to a higher plane.

A few years ago, as it turns out, Oliver and Terry were delivered a wake-up call; Oliver was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given six months to live.

Faced with the possibility of an “expiration date,” Oliver made a decision. “This news inspired me to accelerate my ‘bucket list’.”

At the top of the list: Build my dream car, a DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future.

With Terry’s support and a “crazy obsession,” the couple hand built their dream car.

What’s remarkable is that there were no blueprints, no renderings, no diagrams of the famous time machine.

As Terry explained to me, “We popped in the video tape and paused it… a lot!”

Every detail of the vehicle was created by tediously capturing frame-by-frame snapshots from the movie. To see the DeLorean in person, and to consider the process the Hollers used to arrive at such an unbelievably accurate masterpiece, makes the feat that much more inspiring.

The car has served a therapeutic purpose for Oliver and Terry, both through the focused dedication required to build it, but also through the joy created from the success of the project and the joy shared by all those who see the vehicle.

The Hollers joined forces with Team Fox, a branch of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research after hearing that the actor was diagnosed with the disease.

Oliver and Terry have traveled to 48 of 50 states (Hawaii and Alaska are on the agenda for 2013), Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Easter Island! Domestically, the couple drives the DeLorean to every appearance with the expressed mission of raising as much money as they can for Parkinson’s research. To date, they have raised over $100,000 for Team Fox.

Fortunately, the doctor’s timeline was wrong. Oliver is still going strong, still experiencing and sharing joy, still living a life with purpose and making an impact.

The Connections conference is incredible for many reasons, but the true power of the conference comes from the opportunities to “connect” with others – at a deeply personal level. But, you must be intentional about seeking out those connections, about creating life-changing experiences for yourself. You must actively pursue them.

But, your intention should not be limited to a conference, a moment. Seek connection every day.

Why are you waiting for incredible adversity before you will choose to tap into our true potential, to explore your ability to do something amazing with your life?

Love is…

My daughter brought the following “metaphor poem” home to show my wife and I what she’s been working on at school. I think it’s worth sharing. I hope you agree.

Love is…

Love is lava. You never know when it will erupt. Sometimes it burns. Sometimes it warms the heart. It can smile or it can make you upset.

Love is a candle. It gives you warmth and comfort. It burns slowly and steadily. But it can go out in a blink of an eye.

Love is music. Sometimes it will be an upbeat happy song and other times it is a solemn and sad song. You never know if it will make you cry or make you smile. But it will always make you feel something.

Love is a pencil writing its story as it goes along. Love’s story could take you back two years ago or only two days ago. It could make you feel solemnly or giggly. But it never makes you only feel one way.

Samantha Shelton

(Samantha is a nine-year-old fourth grader and founder of Headbands for Hope.)

Steve Jobs: The Untold Legacy

With what is sure to be millions of posts about the death and legacy of Steve Jobs (1955-2011), I contemplated whether I should even write on the topic. But, when I awoke this morning, it was clear to me what I felt I should share.

In recent memory, there is no single individual I can think of who has impacted “our way of life” the way Jobs has. His innovation and leadership at Apple have changed the way we listen to and buy music, the way we communicate. The technology and devices he invented are woven into the fabric of our culture.

No doubt, countless articles will be written about his technological contributions - Macintosh computers & GUI design, iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, etc. More still will point to his inspirational life story - a child of adoption, turned college drop-out, turned inventor, innovator and entrepreneur, turned CEO, turned unemployed, turned entrepreneur, turned resurgent leader, turned business juggernaut…

But, to me, the part of Jobs legacy that doesn’t seem to get much attention is the ripple effect he has had OUTSIDE of Apple.

No one questions the direct impact that Jobs’/Apple’s innovations have had. What often gets overlooked is the amount of innovation that has occurred as a direct result of other companies attempting to keep pace, to compete with what was coming out of Apple.

Jobs’ ability to think outside the box was second to none, and what that did was provide others the inspiration - and permission - to do the same; it’s akin to the story of Roger Bannister, the first person to run the mile in under 4 minutes.

Bannister eclipsed the 4-minute mark (3 min 59.4 sec.) on May 6, 1954. It took only 46 days for Australian John Landy to break his record (3 min 57.9 sec.). Bannister simply demonstrated what was possible, opening the door for others to share in that vision of possibility. That is exactly what Steve Jobs has done for technological innovation.

Additionally, his mere presence on the scene made competition inevitable. He was the Michael Jordan of the tech world - most considered him “the best,” which motivated everyone else to “improve their game” in an attempt to compete with and potentially score a victory over him. The competition he inspired has driven innovation across the board.

What’s more, Jobs understood the importance of people in every aspect of the innovative process. People are the source of inspiration and ideas, the target of the end-product, the key resource needed to turn dreams into reality. He was all about culture - in design, in execution, in daily interactions. Ultimately, that focus - I believe - is what made Jobs truly great.

Don’t believe me? Then explain why there is a segment of the population who readily identify themselves as “Mac people.” That’s not an accident - it’s a cultural phenomenon. It demonstrates Jobs’ success in bringing culture into the “core” (pun intended) of everything he ever did.

In his commencement address to Stanford graduates in 2005, Jobs offered these sage words:

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Jobs was an amazing individual who has left a legacy far greater than any product, any company. He inspired others. He inspired innovation. He inspired greatness. He inspired people.

Rest in peace, Steve Jobs. And, thank you for your contributions to making the world a better place.

Trying to Escape

I admit it, I am a “talent show junkie” - American Idol, America’s Got Talent, X-Factor, you name it.

NY Fire Escape

Last week, I was watching X-Factor and caught the audition of 16-year-old Jazzlyn Little. While the audition was inspiring, there is still part of me that hurts for this young girl.

Here’s why.

When you watch the lead-in to her audition, you see a girl who is riddled with nerves and insecurity. You can hear her talking to herself, reminding herself, “Relax. Relax. Relax.” She asks herself (audibly), “What if I mess up?”

You then see her talking to her mother, saying, “I don’t want to let you guys down.”

She continues, “There’s so much stress in real life. Peer pressure. Having to fit in. Being judged… singing’s an escape from reality. I can be anyone I want to be.”

Then the sentence that has been stuck in my head for almost a week…

"I don’t have to be me."

She takes to the stage almost unable to speak because of her nerves.

Simon Cowell begins to question Jazzlyn and asks if she has posted any videos on YouTube. She says she uploaded one video, but admits that only about 500 people have watched it. Simon, wanting to know why so few people watched the video, asks her, “Do you think it was you or the song?” 

She responded, “Me. I think.”

Then, she sings.

Jazzlyn received a standing ovation for her performance and incredible words of encouragement from the judges.

Yet, as she leaves the stage, she confides, “For the first time in my life, being on that stage and having everyone clap for me, I really did feel truly accepted.”

I hope truly hope Jazzlyn finds herself and her confidence through the process of the show, that she accepts herself above all else.

How about you? Are you constantly seeking the approval of others for validation? Do you fully embrace who you are? Which gifts are you withholding from the world because of fear?