Inspire Marketing

Impact or Reach: What Are You Seeking?

Water is a powerful force. Over time, a stream of water can carve a canyon through solid rock. A single drip from a leaky faucet can cost a homeowner hundreds of dollars in water bills.

Water will make an impact.

Words and Stories Can Impact

Whether you're a marketer, a social change agent, a rock band or a parent, you have a message you want to get in front of an audience.

Most of us want our audience to do something in response to the message.

We really want impact, more than reach.

In my own experience, though, most decision-makers start by focusing on reach.

They ask questions like what's the audience size, how many fans and followers on each social media channel, how many downloads… if the answers to those questions actually matter.

Few of us have both the reach AND impact of leaders like Richard Branson.

Anyone with enough money can buy reach.

Even in today's fractured media environment, if you have the financial resources you can buy reach in the form of traditional and “native” advertising. You can hire a major agency to develop and execute a promotional juggernaut to get media placements on television talk shows and cable news.

A savvy and well-financed promotional campaign can also help you conquer the blogosphere and social media channels. You can even buy social media followers.

But none of that chatter and noise has staying power.

Just because your message hits a channel with your large audience doesn't mean the audience hears it or pays attention. And that's not all…..

Even if your message momentarily resonates with the purchased audience, the effect will be ephemeral. When is the last time you intentionally set out to listen to a song by Nickleback or Creed?

We’re constantly bombarded with noise. We understand how hard it is to get attention.

In the marketing space, the communication objective is to find a way to get the attention of a desired audience. For most organizations, the objective is to get a message in front of the largest possible audience, as if the law of averages would somehow boost relevancy and attention.

I think that’s the wrong approach. I think the better way is to focus on impact and identify a small number of influencers who can help to share the message.

Floods begin with raindrops, avalanches start with snowflakes

That’s how Billy Ivey of BIG Communications made a splash through his #NapkinNotes. He shared humorous lunch bag notes to his kids that resonated with an audience of parents and soon-to-be-parents who then responded and shared with his own community.

Then Jon Acuff expanded the reach. Acuff is someone you might describe as an influencer among Christian parents with a sense of humor.

#NapkinNotes now has reach, but the initial focus was on impact. A dad writing notes to his kids.

I suspect Ivey’s kids will remember those notes long after Ivey’s career in marketing is history.

For brands, the lesson is clear:

Focus on impact and you’ll probably get the reach you desire.

Focus on reach and you’ll be chasing something that lies at the end of the ephemeral rainbow.

Impact, not reach.


Grow Professional

Coming Full Circle?

18 years ago—June 1997—I was in the midst of an internal struggle about what I should do next with my life.

On the outside, I was a successful lawyer. I was a shareholder in my law firm and, for the first time in my life, starting to make “real” money, by which I mean that I finally had enough to travel and invest after covering relatively modest living expenses and sizable student loans from law and tax school.

But despite the relative career security and stable financial situation, I was unfulfilled, both professionally and personally. I’d reached a place where I feared I was at the point of no return. Of course, that was probably not the reality of the immediate situation, but that’s what I felt at that point.

The Fork in the Road

I was 34 years old and it seemed like I was about to cross some threshold of life and professional standing that would close off opportunities.

If I stayed in my career as a lawyer, I would forgo the chance to make a significant change for years to come. Whether that was true or not, I don’t know. But that’s what I felt at that point.

I was at the proverbial fork in the road.

For several years I’d been grappling with whether I should be practicing law or doing something else, like writing which seemed to be at the core of my being. I would get up at 5 a.m. most days–sometimes 4–to do my “morning pages” in a journal and then write more professional stuff.

Throughout 1996 I sought the professional advice of others: Spiritual counseling through a pastoral counseling program in my community, professional career counseling, psychological counseling. I met with several professionals in fields I thought might be suitable to get guidance on careers in those fields.

I didn't have anyone in my family or circle of friends that I could call on for real, deep guidance. My brother was the most helpful, but even he could not offer anything more than support. A couple of the lawyers in my firm were as helpful as they could be when I shared things with them, but they could not define my happiness and my own future for me.

Confused & Uncertain

The whole process of counseling left me more confused and uncertain. I could not find a thread of consistency in any of the guidance I received from these others (all men, I recall in retrospect), other than impression that this was going to be something I had to figure out on my own.

I began to realize that the answers had to come from inside.

My heart-of-hearts felt that communication and creativity had to be the core of whatever I did, but I had not idea how to pursue that.

I’d been writing for several years, but had doubts about my ability to “make a living” as a writer. In those days, you still had to be picked by an editor, a publisher, a producer.

On a lark in Fall 1996 I enrolled in a graduate course in organizational communication and applied to take the GRE. I’d explored the possibility of moving from law into corporate communication, to focus on communications in crisis management.

I had been applying for executive-level positions in the PR and corporate communications field and to the extent I ever received feedback on my applications I was told that I was “overqualified” or “underqualified.”

Spiritual Discernment

My morning pages ritual included spiritual reading, writing and reflection and I was a frequent reader of Ecclesiastes. In 1997, as I approached the point of decision, I was deep into struggling with the words in the book of James.

I was very hung up on the faith vs. doubt message of James 1:5-8. I remember asking my brother, an ordained minister, to help me understand that passage.

I wanted to make a wise choice because I knew (or at least felt at the time) that I would be closing a door by leaving my career as a lawyer. I knew I could always practice law again, but I would be leaving a position of relative security and even if I returned to law I would be starting anew, to some extent.

What Goes Around

Anyway, here I am today in 2015 at a very similar point in my life.

In August 2014 I tendered my notice to Samford that I would be leaving the tenure-track position I had and leaving the University in May 2015, when my contract expired. So that decision has been made and is final and I am very confident that was the correct decision.

A few weeks ago, the pastor of my church—Avondale United Methodist—embarked on a summer sermon focus on the New Testament book of James. I’ve been very excited about that because James remains one of my go-to books when I’m perplexed and seeking guidance. That said, I haven’t studied or pondered it, deeply, in a couple of years.

As I began to re-read the first chapter of James on my own over the past few days, I began to focus words and phrases that I had not previously underlined.

This new focus was not of my own intention. As I read, my eyes are automatically drawn to the underlined verses and phrases, which I struggled with in the past, but my perception is different.

Today, I’m seeing the underlined passages in the light of other words not previously emphasized. For example:

“Count yourself supremely HAPPY [emphasis mine, today] in the knowledge that such testing of your faith makes for strength to endure.”

James 1:2

“HAPPY [emphasis mine, today] is the man who stands up to trial! Having passed that test he will receive in reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:12.

“But he who looks into the perfect law, the law that makes us free, and does not turn away, remembers what he hears; he acts on it, and by so acting he will find HAPPINESS.” [emphasis mine, today]

James 1:25

“…By so acting he will find happiness.”

Discovering the Path to Happiness

In February 2013 I sat down to write something that I called the Happy Life Manifesto–my thesis on happiness and what it takes to achieve a happiness, based on the lessons I’d learned in my 50 years of life.

I’d embarked on period of self-reflection in the second-half of 2012, in anticipation of my 50th birthday in late November of that year and you might say the Happy Life Manifesto was the summation of what I'd learned from that process.

What I’d recognized is that I was happy, in spite of an ongoing time of trial and tribulation in my job, uncertainty about the future, and occasional family challenges that still surfaced from time to time.

So it’s interesting to come today to the place where I’m in the midst of a major change in my life and no human certainty as to how it will play out and yet I feel happy and at peace and back in the book of James.

I’m finally moving to turn the Happy Life Manifesto in the book that I envisioned in 2013, when I was about half-way through writing the first iteration. But the thing is this: I don’t think I was fully ready then. Some of the pieces to the puzzle weren’t yet in place.

Happiness Is….

The first thesis in the Happy Life Manifesto is this:

It starts with Love.

When I was writing the Happy Life Manifesto, I wasn’t thinking specifically of the fruits of the spirit, the first of which is love.

Love came from an internalized message that had been growing inside over the past few decades, particularly in the years between 2004 and 2013.

But it’s an even stronger feeling inside today. I don’t think I was fully cognizant in 2013 of what it means to say “it starts with Love.” And for that reason, the book has had to wait until now, when I'm better equipped to write it.

Faith, Hope & Love

I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in June 2015 and continuing to grow into the person and purpose I’m here for now.

I believe I’m in this place for a reason and a purpose.

I am moving in faith to take the actions each day that I discern to be the right ones to fulfill the purpose that I'm here for right now. I'm not perfect–I still get distracted and off-track, but I’m trying.

I’m trying to be the person I am–the person God designed and created.  And taking action in faith.

I have hope–I'm confident, not doubting (at least rarely having a flash of doubt).

And I'm trying, in faith, to BE love.

Love prevails.

[Writer's Note: This is something of a stream-of-consciousness first draft from my journal, edited slightly here for clarity. I write to think.]

Discover Grow Professional Portfolio

A Letter To My Younger Self

In early February, while looking for another document, I found this file saved on my computer….It's an unfinished letter to my younger self.

The file metadata says this was written December 21, 2013. After copying and pasting here on February 11, 2014, and then scanning through it for typos, I'm posting it verbatim.

It's clear that I didn't finish it….Maybe I'll write the ending one of these days.


Everything works out.

Your first grade teacher said you “have great potential.” Your third grade teacher pronounced you “gifted.” Junior high achievement testing scored your IQ at x [intentionally omitted]. All that potential. The bulk of your adult life has been directed toward somehow proving to someone that you were worthy of those labels.

You’ve only recently realized this and started to return to a life that applauds your unique gifts, rather than climbing ladders toward some measure of success that’s defined by someone else.

Your instincts have always served you well, Sheree. When you’ve followed your instincts you’ve made forward progress. When you’ve ignored your instincts or been a bit too timid to act on them you’ve had to learn the intended lesson the hard way.

Your adult life has turned out quite different than you would have predicted at age 15. And that’s good.

For a while, in your 20s, you were self-absorbed, motivated by the prospects of financial gain. Not to the level of Ebeneezer Scrooge, but you were a bit too focused on your own self-interest and less on helping others.

Fortunately, your regained your heart and set out on a new path.

All of the things you dreamed of as a child but seemed out of reach are possible in 2013 and beyond. One example……Storytelling through mass media–You can do that now. You’re no longer subject to the gatekeepers and technology limitations of the 1970s and 1980s.

By your mid-20s you’d realized that you didn’t have the stomach for politics and political machinations. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), the system was less messed up in those days than today. Nonetheless, your ambition to be the first woman president was put to rest before you turned 30.

And so ends the December 22, 2013 letter to my younger self…..


Now Be Do: Reflections on 2014

My 3 words for 2014 were Now, Be, Do.

These three words came to me, like a gift. No need for contemplation. Now, Be, Do just popped into my head immediately in December 2013 and I knew these words represented my mandate for 2014.

At the time, I perceived Now, Be, Do to be about taking purposeful action and focusing on now, rather than past or future. Over the course of the year, however, I came to realize these words were given to me with other intentions.

This post is about what I learned, generally, during 2014 about the meaning of Now, Be, Do.

The basic meaning and intention I ascribed to Now, Be, Do at the beginning of 2014:

  • Now: Stop putting things off into the future, don't dwell on the past.
  • Be: Be myself, live true to my purpose.
  • Do: Take action.

My intention was to use Now, Be, Do almost like a mantra to focus my efforts on action to move forward in some areas where I felt I had, to some degree, dawdled during 2013.

Was I successful? To some degree, yes.

I was definitely true to myself (for the most part) and I was a decision-and-action machine.

I made forward progress on various goals, although as the year progressed I did not progress in the direction that I really wanted to be going as fast as I'd intended at the beginning of the year.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Here's a quick look back at how my life evolved in 2014, using the words in slightly different order, because of how I came to understand the meaning of Now, Be, Do over the course of 2014.


In 2012 and 2013, I put a great deal of time and energy into really digging deep to rediscover who I am, what my values are. I knew that I'd be making some big life changes in 2014 or 2015 and I wanted to be sure I made the right changes, rather than simply changing for the sake of change.

Finding My Why

In other words, I'd spent two years exploring and rediscovering my “why” and identifying the things I think I'm supposed to be doing. Myy aim for 2014 was to really begin to BE that person, to make choices consistent with the “real” me.

Overall, I was successful at becoming a more true version of myself. I continued to “take off the mask” simple “be myself.”

A lot of the posts I've published over the past few months (about telling my story) relate the Be philosophy I've been following, so I won't restate all the details about who I am and what I'm about.

I also discovered that Be had a more philosophical meaning that is hard for me to express here. Rather than belabor (pun intended) that here, I'll cover the deeper meaning of Be in future posts.


I conceived the word “now” to be about a mindset tilted in the direction of action, rather than more planning, dreaming, visioning. Now was about the intention that it was time to move forward.

As we moved into February, March and April, I got side-tracked (more on that momentarily) and I became frustrated at myself for getting side-tracked.

That mindset of frustration and self-judgment sort of violated the philosophy of “now,” as I'd defined it. And “as I'd defined it” is a key qualifier.

I Misunderstood “Now”

As the year progressed, though, I came to realize that I'd misunderstood the meaning of “Now.”

Now wasn't about taking immediate action, Now was about living mindfully in the present moment. By November I was no longer in the place of self-judgment over my inability to accomplish everything on my goals list for the year. Instead, I was in a place of self-acceptance.

Reading Leads to Revelation

I'm a reader and I'm always reading several books at any give time. I choose from a variety of topics, always pursuing my curiosity. Over the course of 2014, I read more than a few books from a variety of philosophies and disciplines that can loosely be classified under the heading of spiritual growth and self-awareness.

As a result of my readings, I came to understand “Now” to be about living in the immediate moment, being present in each moment, rather than referring to taking action today.

I started to take 10 minutes to pause and breathe in quiet. This was my attempt at meditation (which I'd tried briefly back in my law practice days, unsuccessfully then).

It wasn't a daily practice, but on the days that I remembered to pause, set the timer on my phone to 10 minutes, and just watch my breath I noticed a huge difference in my outlook and my productivity.

This practice led me further into the practice of focusing on the present moment. Now is all we have. I simultaneously experienced the power that comes from now, as I practiced my breathing and continued to read.

This brief explanation of how my understanding about “the power of now” evolved in 2014 is pretty superficial. Suffice it to say, my growth in this regard has been profound, even if it's not visible yet on the outside.

As a result, as we begin 2015 I feel much more centered and prepared to move into the next phase of my life.

Although aspects of it seem to be taking shape, I do not have a well-defined understanding of what is coming next.

I just know that I have to stay present today, “do” whatever I must do for each moment I'm given. The outcomes, the results, are not within my control.


At the beginning of 2014, I perceived “Do” as the action-orientation to complement the philosophy of “Now.”

Rather than spend a great deal of time in early 2014 with efforts to plan where I was going, I more or less jumped in with both feet. I was very busy “doing,” pretty much all day every day, beginning January 1.

I committed myself to making decisions quickly and stop revisiting past choices and actions.

I was very proactive. Very action-oriented. I was definitely executing. In short, I was a DO-ing machine in 2014, although I didn't always seem to be doing ALL the things I wanted to do each day. Again, “I wanted” is a key qualifier.

Embracing Change

Early in 2014 I made the decision to leave my job at Samford, although I left the exact date open to give me time to figure out what I wanted to do next.

I'd known since 2012 that I would be leaving Samford within a couple of years. That preliminary decision was what had, in part, sparked all my self-exploration and reflection that began in the Fall of 2012. I knew I would stay through 2014, since that would qualify me for particular employee benefit.

In January 2014, I met with the Samford Provost to identify the official deadlines I would need to meet and procedures to follow to formally implement my choice to leave, whether I decided to make that May 2014 or May 2015.

I also decided to attend the ABA TechShow as part of my exploration of idea that I might start a consulting practice focused on social media marketing for law firms and other professional services providers. Related to that, I did several big freelance writing projects for major clients and also worked with another client on a smaller scale.

Tar Sands Fight

In March, I got heavily involved in unpaid research and strategic communication work on the Alabama tar sands mining challenge.

Ultimately, as the summer turned into Fall I felt like I allowed my efforts to understand and fight the tar sands mining proposals distract me from my own paid consulting and farming activities between April and mid-July, and I started to beat myself up over that. But, at the end of 2014, I wasn't sure. I can't judge myself on that. I did what I felt needed to be done at the time, and I don't regret it.

But in light of where things stood in late July 2014, I decided the wisest and most responsible financial and professional choice would be to return to Samford for one last year.

I'll save the details on the Fall 2014 semester for a future post, because this one is already too long!

But…..and this is key…..I would not trade the 2014 delay for a different outcome.

A Look At Now, in 2015

Today in early 2015, I feel much more prepared to  move to the next stage of my life than I ever would have been if 2014 had turned out like I had intended or hoped one year ago.

 In other words, I had more to learn in 2014 that I needed to learn and experience before I could move forward. I also had some things I needed to let go of that I didn't realize I was still holding on to. 

Now, Be, Do.

I'm continuing to contemplate and use these words as I move forward in 2015. 

My three words for 2015 are: Sceptre, Beams and Orchard.  For these three words to have full effect, I had to experience and grow through Now, Be, Do.

And it all leads back to my vision reflected in Zoom, Vivace and Jazz. That vision is just beginning to come to fruition.

I am grateful for today and this moment and everything in my life. It's all just what I need at any given moment.

All the best to you for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2015.

Grow Inspire

My Three Words for 2015

My three words for 2015 are: Sceptre, Beams, Orchard

This year, I return to words that serve as metaphors. These three words are the windows to new opportunities and the windows that deliver illumination along the path that leads the way.

Sceptre is my window to authority and the power to speak.

Beams give strength, energy and direction.

Orchard is my window to commitment, design, patience and harvest.

Shout-out to Chris Brogan for inspiring me with the “my three words” practice, which I discovered back in 2010 or thereabouts.

[Tweet “Words are the windows that reveal how we see and shape our world. #3words”]


The sceptre is a symbol of authority and power. The person who holds the sceptre has the duty to act and the right to speak.

Sceptre is the word that came out of the blue to me and seemed to be unrelated to the other words on the short list I started working on a few weeks ago. I've never had a problem giving myself permission to take action, but I sometimes am reluctant to take charge or to speak “loudly.” Until I was around age 24, I wasn't reticent to take on leadership roles.

Something changed in my mid-20s, and I became more reserved, less willing to be “out front” in leadership roles, unwilling to tell my story. I didn't even want leadership roles anymore because I began to associate leadership with hubris and selling-out. I saw too many politicians and corporate-types seize power and then use it to destroy and/or pillage.

In the second half of 2014, I came to realize that I'd done a terrible job of telling my own story of successes, challenges, strengths. And that I'd done an even worse job of explaining how I've been helping others. I came to realize that by refusing to accept my strengths or use them in the public service of others, I had been, in effect, rejecting my calling.

The Sceptre serves as a reminder that I have accepted my mission, and that I have the duty, the power and the authority to speak and act in pursuit of the Shine vision that I've been given. The Shinecast (my focus in 2015) is a part of that mission, as is Shine Springs Farm.


Beams represent energy, strength, illumination and direction.

Energy is revealed through particles and waves that travel in beams.

We perceive light through waves of energy that is reflected off an object.

Navigational guidance comes through electromagnetic signals that are beamed to ships and planes.

Bars of heavy wood or metal serve as beams that support buildings. Without beams, a structure has no real foundation.

A beam also provides the balance to a scale. Think of the scales of justice. The beam is the cross-bar that enables balance.

I am both a recipient and transmitter of beams. I am a beam of light and energy to others.


The Orchard represents design, longevity, legacy.

An orchard requires planning, pruning, patience, and it lasts beyond one season. In the old days, when families lived off the land, orchards were investments for the future and a source (and sign) of wealth.

Orchards require attention to produce a meaningful harvest and the patience to allow nature to proceed at nature's pace.

A successful orchard is not, however, reflected in the industrial-style monoculture we see today in the giant orchards of corporate farms.

A flourishing orchard is filled with a diversity of life, provides habitat for an array of creatures, and delivers a bountiful harvest.

As much as I love gardening and growing things, I'm not using Orchard here in a literal sense, though. Orchard is not about a specific outcome. When the word “orchard” first popped in my head, I kept asking: “Why orchard? Why not garden?” The distinction is something I contemplated for hours, both actively and subconsciously.

For me in 2015, Orchard is about commitment, design, focused effort, pruning where necessary, patience and harvest. The Shine Vision is the orchard. The Shinecast Project and Shine Springs Farm are cornerstone species in the orchard.

What Are Your 3 Words for 2015?

So those are my three words for 2015: What are your three words?

Did you write a post about them? Leave a link below in the comments–I'd love to read your post and find out more about YOUR three words.

2015 is YOUR year to Shine.

[Tweet “2015 is my year to Shine.”]

My three words for 2013: Zoom, Vivace, Jazz

Zoom: Vision for a multi-media “empire” and related to my ability to zoom out to see the big-picture and zoom in to focus.

Vivace: An attitude and zest for life, happiness, health, fitness

Jazz: Improvisation within an ensemble. Great jazz is improvisational, but rarely do great jazz artists perform purely as a solo act.

Find out more about Zoom, Vivace & Jazz and the 2013 year in review here.

The original Zoom, Vivace & Jazz explanation via my post on The Ben Franklin Follies.

My three words for 2014: Now, Be, Do

Now: Focus on the now, live in the present moment.

Be: Be authentic, live true to myself, stop striving and simply “be” as my new mission unfolds.

Do: Take action, while letting go of the need to control results (see above).

Image Credits: Photo of the sceptre is from WikiCommons and in the public domain by creator Michal Maňas (Snek01).  Other Photos by Sheree Martin.

my #3words 2015 sceptre, beams, orchard and 3 words for past years are now, be, do and zoom vivace jazz, words in moleskine


Dynamo Genius?

As I've said repeatedly, I enjoy taking personality and strengths tests, even the ones that aren't quite as vetted or validated as something like the MBTI.

Last summer, one of the email  newsletters I receive included a link to Roger Hamilton's My Genius Test.

I don't know anything about Roger Hamilton, other than what's available on his website, but I took the free version, out of curiosity.

The Dynamo Genius

The overall results weren't surprising: Dynamo Genius, with references to Ideas, Einstein and entrepreneurship.

Sheree Martin Dynamo GeniusThe free version is, of course, designed to lure me in to purchase the entire system so that I can understand the sub-types and details.

According to the report that came with my free results, “each Genius has a different type of ‘vision.'” The vision type that corresponds to the Dynamo Genius is “Perspective.”

Perspective gives a deeper view of what is possible.

That reminds me of my Fascination Archetype, as well as results from StrengthsFinder 2.0, as well as the Perceiver aspect of my personality.

Anyway, it's interesting and I wouldn't mind exploring the subtypes, but that's something I'll consider another day. Just thought I'd throw these results into the mix, as I finish up this project in self-exploration.

Note to Dynamo Genius Self: I'm finishing the project, by considering all pieces of data, and not just leaving it hanging. I've actually been very good about finishing projects that I care about. Sometimes, it takes longer than I had planned, but I eventually finish.

In reality, I perceive one of my biggest challenges to be an UNwillingness to quit when I realize that I'm going down the wrong path rather. I tend to spend more time than I should pursuing an endeavor after I realize it's going to be a dead-end.


Grow Inspire

Do You Know Your Story?

Your story is about the defining experiences that shaped you, molded you, refined you.

Embrace your story, whatever it is. Your story reveals who you are, and your story reveals what makes you unique. From your story you find your strengths and talents that will enable you to make a contribution to this world that only you can make.

I've been writing a lot about myself lately, and that's mainly to help me think through my own story and find the threads that connect all the dots. It's my hope that by doing this exercise in public, I'll inspire others—like YOU— to dig deep to uncover and understand your own stories.

Bo Eason is all about using the defining moments in your life to tell your story.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and, over the past few months, Bo has turned up as a guest on a few of these.

Bo Eason is a former pro football player. For that reason, he's not the type of person I'd normally seek out as a source of inspiration. To be honest, I almost skipped the episode the first time he turned up because I didn't want to hear a former pro football player go on about his story of playing through injuries. But…..

Gaining New Perspectives

One strategy I use to make sure that I'm taking in new ideas is to listen to or watch interviews with people that are outside my realm of experience or direct interest. I like to expose myself to new ideas.

That's how I came to be listening to School of Greatness podcast to begin with. Lewis Howes happens to be a pro football player who talks about playing through injuries and has become a motivational speaker and “lifestyle entrepreneur.” His guests are kinda guy-oriented, but the insights are universal so I listen to most episodes from the School of Greatness. But when I heard Lewis introduce Bo Eason I almost hit “skip” because the idea of TWO former pro football players talking about playing through injuries just seemed like a bit much….

Whenever I feel a strong urge to avoid something harmless (like an interview with a former pro football player-turned-playwright and motivational speaker), I take it as a sign that I'll learn something from the experience.

So I didn't skip Lewis Howes' conversation with Bo Eason and, as is usually the case, I found some nuggets of wisdom that I could apply to my own life. In short, I learned about his approach to finding and telling your story through the defining moments in your life.

In some ways, it was that first podcast interview that sparked the “how do I tell my story better” exploration on this blog.

What Are Your Defining Moments?

Quite honestly, once the semester kicked me into overdrive trying to get everything done at work, I forgot about Bo Eason. I was so busy that I was only blogging occasionally, when I could squeeze something in, and focusing on the Teach Social Business site because I could use my blogging there for course preps. I knew I wanted to explore my story, but I was concerned about blogging too much about myself, yada yada yada.

This weekend Bo Eason turned up again in my podcast feed. At first, I didn't remember his name so when one episode of Bulletproof Radio ended and segued into the next one I ended up hearing once again,  an intro to Bo Eason. I ALMOST skipped it once again.

But I'm so glad I listened to this episode of Bulletproof Radio to hear Bo Eason explain the importance of finding your defining moments and building your story around them.

Sometimes it takes repeat exposure for messages to sink in.

I'll be honest, some of my defining moments are still somewhat private and I'm not sure that I'm ready to publicly announce my take on those experiences. Others know about them, but I feel that talking about some of those defining moments in public would hurt other people and I don't care to do that. I don't think it's necessary to hurt others to succeed.

In any event, I think it's how we RESPOND to what we experience in life, rather than the experience itself. I like to think that I'm not defined BY my experiences, but rather how I've responded to both adversity and success.

[Tweet “It's our response to events in our life that define us, not the event itself.”]

Many of my defining experiences are easy to share. I've recognized them as defining moments for my entire life—so much so that I've never considered blogging in detail about most of them. But I will, soon. Here are a few highlights of defining experiences that happened before I was 6 years old.

The Lawnmower Accident

When I was 3-1/2 years old I was in a lawn mower accident.

My dad had me sitting in his lap on a riding lawnmower and it started to “rear up” on a slight incline in the yard. He tossed me off to the side, trying to get me out of harms way. But instead, the mower tilted over on top of me. The left side of my head was crushed.

My parents rushed me to the hospital. I can actually remember every detail about the accident AND the trip to the first hospital, my head on mom's bloodstained shirt and her stroking my hair saying “It will be OK.” Everything did turn out OK.

I call it my Harry Potter scar.

The Not-Dorothy-in-Oz Experience

A few weeks after that lawnmower accident, a freak tornado sent everyone scrambling for shelter. My dad literally got stuck in the mud as he ran across a freshly-plowed field toward the storm shelter with me in his arms and we fell face-forward into the mud. We survived, of course.

I didn't end up in Oz. Instead, my freshly-changed bandages were a muddy mess.

I learned about the power of storms and, for a while, I was afraid of them. But another defining moment changed that a few years later.

“I Have An Idea”

I started first grade when I was 5-years-old, having never been to kindergarden or pre-school. My parents didn't want me to wait another year and I'm glad they found a way to get me in school early.

Since I was so young, I was placed in the “can't read” group. By the end of the first week, I had progressed to the strongest reading group. I knew I could read.

I also appeared as Martha Washington that year in my school play and got to proclaim at the Constitutional Convention: “I have an idea.” Yes, I remember that vividly. I still have ideas.

“Mrs. Peel, We're Needed”

Sheree Martin Emma Peel 1967Around the same time, I discovered a TV show called The Avengers. Even though I was much too young to understand all the irony and nuance, Steed and Mrs. Peel became a role models. My mom would let me stay up and watch the show every week.

Scenes from one episode, in particular, always stayed with me. The defining moment of that episode: Mrs. Peel is on a conveyer belt, about to be sliced in half by a spinning saw blade. Instead of revealing fear, Mrs. Peel just displayed the unflappable, calm fortitude she's known for.

I began to emulate Mrs. Peel when I played. More importantly, the strengths of the Mrs. Peel character helped to define my own response to a whole host of situations.

I even dressed like Mrs. Peel.

Life, Then Death

Shortly after my first school year ended, I watched my beloved grandfather experience a fatal heart attack and die in front of me. He was only 46 years old. I learned about death and how it can come suddenly, but it didn't make me afraid.

Those are a few of the defining experiences from the first six years of my life. I'll be sharing more about these events and others in future posts. They're too complex to do justice here.

The key takeaway for me is not that the moments or experiences define us, rather it's how we RESPOND to the experience that defines us.

Honor Your True Self

Today, I know myself pretty well.

I lost myself for a while, in my 20s, as I floundered trying to be someone I really wasn't. I relinquished a lot of my creativity, energy and adventurous nature in an attempt to fit into the world of business law and estate planning. My intentions were good, but my soul and spirit were suffering.

What I've found is that when I honor my true self, by playing to my strengths, I get good outcomes. Trying to fit into someone else's definition of what's right for me is like wearing someone's else clothes—and that's under the best of circumstances. It usually doesn't turn out that well.

To get to this place in my life, where I know myself, I had to make some detours, wrong turns and experience some things that I didn't enjoy at the time. I never quit, never gave up. Those detours are part of my story.

You probably have some detours and wrong turns, too. Most people do, unless they never seek to grow.

Learn From Your Experiences

I am convinced that our experiences are meant to teach us something. If we keep having the same type of experience over and over, and getting the same outcome, repeatedly, we are not paying attention and not learning what we need to learn.

The point is that we all have life experiences that both shape and reveal who we are. We face a situation and we respond to it. We have to find those and look for opportunities to grow from them.

So look back at your life and consider your experiences. Find your defining moments. Find the “Groundhogs Day” moments when the same problems or issues keep cropping up.

Through those moments you can uncover the lessons you've learned, or still need to learn.

I hope this post will inspire you to find your own defining moments and enable you to tell your story with courage and dignity.

I'd love to hear from you!

Inspire Marketing

Who Is Telling Your Story?

I’ve never been one to “toot my own horn,” as the saying goes.

For most of my life I believed that my work would speak for itself and that self-promotion is, to be quite frank about it, a bit gauche.

But the reality is that hard work, effort, ethical behavior and successful results are not enough. Talent, effort, ethical behavior, and results are necessary, but not sufficient.

In today’s noisy world, your work doesn’t stand out on its own. Your work will not, by itself, rise above the din. Equally importantly, if you allow others to put their spin on your work first then you are always playing defense.

Politicians and their spin-doctors know this better than anyone.

You must be proactive in telling your story.

Silence leaves the door open for someone else to tell your story. In the realm of history, there’s an admonishment that history is written by the victorious.

That adage also applies to career and business success, where history is written not necessarily by the victor but by whomever chooses to tell the story. Nature abhors a vacuum and nowhere is that more evident than in the political gamesmanship on display in many work environments, especially in those organizations where change is feared.

In the business arena, customers are telling your story every day. If you want to stay in business, you must be a participant in shaping and telling the story of your brand. That’s why leading businesses who realize and accept the new reality are embracing brand journalism and adopting it as the foundation for their marketing efforts.

You Are Your Own Brand Journalist

As Tom Peters famously told us some years ago, you have a personal brand–The Brand Called You.

Reid Hoffman followed up more recently with his twist: The Start-up Of You.

Like it or not, you have a personal brand and, if you want to have any chance at success in the current economy, you must work to tell the story of your personal brand. You must be your personal brand journalist and advocate.

At work, your savvy colleagues and managers are telling their stories to other colleagues and to their supervisors. Like it or not, the stories told by your colleagues and managers stories include stories about you, whether explicit or implicit. Sometimes your contributions are simply left out of their stories.

Not everyone perceives events the same way. Perceptions matter and the inclusion or exclusion of facts certainly influence perceptions. The weight given to isolated incidences can also move a trivial matter from a minor, one-off aside to a defining moment.

If you aren’t actively telling your story you don't have a shot at influencing perceptions.

Let me repeat: You must be proactive (and truthful) in telling your own story.

[Tweet “Someone is telling your brand's story. It might as well be you. “]

Thinking About My Own Story

As a professional, the main theme of my professional life might be summed up as helping other people successfully tell their stories through:

  • Legal negotiations and legal strategies
  • Corporate copywriting
  • News reporting and feature writing (links coming)
  • Student success (links coming)

On a more personal level, in the realm of personal growth and charting my own path, my story features these themes:

  • Committed to excellence
  • Openness to change and growth
  • Desire and willingness to seek new opportunities where I can grow personally and professionally in ways where I can combine my talents, strengths and interests to make the world a better place.

I'm not interested in stagnation or being satisfied with the status quo. I refuse to settle for someone else's plans for me.

 See my Shine Values and Vision statement here.

But despite my success-oriented mindset and commitment to constant improvement, I never put much effort into publicly telling my own story.

I assumed my successes would speak for me, even as I was actively involved in creating and promoting the successes of other people. I knew better. But, like I said, self-promotion just left me feeling uncomfortable.

Interestingly enough,  I was a subscriber to  Fast Company when The Brand Called You appeared in the magazine. I read the article, and filed it away in my mind. I took action to create and enhance my personal brand, but I never made an effort to tell the story of my successes.

So, at this point, I’m determined to remedy my past quiescence and to tell my story and, I hope, demonstrate some of the ways I’ve used my strengths and talents to help others.

I'll be writing and sharing those on this blog over the next few weeks. I hope you'll read and share your thoughts on how my story comes across.

Are YOU Telling YOUR Own Story?

Yes or no? If no, why not?

I'd love to hear from you and learn more about YOUR story. Please leave a comment, share your experiences about personal branding, or just share one of your successes!

Grow Inspire

The Happy Life Manifesto: Theses 1-19

The Happy Life Manifesto has 95 theses, just like Martin Luther. Here are the first 19.

1. It starts with love.

2.  You must believe #1.

3. You are worthy of love and capable of receiving and giving love.

4. You must believe #3.

5. Each of us is here for a reason. We each have a purpose. I have a purpose. You have a purpose.

6. It takes effort.

7. You are either growing or not.

8. If you are not growing, you are shriveling.

9. Growth means something has changed.

10. Change is good. (See #9.)

11. Growth comes from doing something new or doing something in a different way.

12. Growth is a process not an outcome.

13.  Growth requires uncertainty.

14. Uncertainty is good. (See #13).

15.  Uncertainty triggers fear.

16. We fear the unknown.

17. Our brains respond to all fears as if they were life-threatening.

18. Very little uncertainty is life-threatening.

19. Security is an illusion.

I just remembered that I committed to publishing a new blog post every day this month. Today, I was dodging lemons again. So I decided to just publish the first 19 theses from the first draft of my Happy Life Manifesto, written in February 2013.

I'm not sure if I have any family kinship to Martin Luther, but I like to imagine I do. In any event, Martin Luther was an Instigator.

The first draft of my intro to the Happy Life Manifesto.

Props to the following who probably influenced me. This is a partial list. I am tired.


Benjamin Franklin

Abraham Lincoln


Helen Keller

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Harper Lee, Atticus Finch & To Kill a Mockingbird

Mrs. Emma Peel See also: Martha Washington, Emma Peel & Ideas

Seth Godin

Kamal Ravikant

James Altucher

Srinivas Rao



Life Is Not A Spectator Sport

I used to be a hard-core college football fan. I would spend hours each week, reading detailed analyses of games, forecasts, recruiting. And then I spent the better part of one day each week watching games, sometimes in person, sometimes on TV.

I also enjoyed watching other sports. Winter snow skiing. Tennis. Figure Skating. Baseball. Sometimes I watched pro football—mainly the Packers, Patriots or Buffalo, if they were playing in the snow.

But college football was my big time-sink.

By 1994, I knew that writing and media content creation is a big part of who I am. I was getting up at 4 or 5 a.m. to work on a screenplay and starting to explore freelance writing, while continuing to practice law. But it was slow-going. I wanted faster progress. I felt like time was getting away from me.

One Sunday afternoon, after spending the entire day reading every article in two newspapers dissecting the previous day's college football games and watching recap shows on ESPN, I had a lightbulb moment.

I was not living life. I was reading about someone else's.

And so I stopped, cold-turkey.

I've never read another sports news story since then. Nothing. Nada. Even though my beloved Crimson Tide has experienced the best of times and and the worst of times in the nearly 20 years since then, I've never read about a game, a crisis, or a championship. I've seen the headlines and magazine cover photos, but I've never read the stories.

Around that same time I also stopped reading People, US Weekly and similar magazines.

The less media I consumed, the more I could create. And read. And do.

I finished my screenplay and sold a few freelance stories. I started a novel.

I ran every day. Went out to dinner with friends. Traveled more. Attended plays, in person, not mediated by a screen.

When the internet became a pervasive source for news and frivolity (as opposed to the static web pages of the mid 90s), I was tempted occasionally by the celebrity gossip stories that would appear with a title, a photo and a teaser. But I've mostly never clicked. Maybe 20 times in 10 years.

During those years, I spent time in forums, interacting with people and making new friends. I taught myself HTML and learned to build websites and published the content I created. I had a good run as a freelance writer, for a while.

For 3 years I had a cool website with a two main sections: One devoted to the Go-Go's and one devoted to The Avengers and Diana Rigg. You can see it via the Internet archive: Some of it was more curated and celebrity-focused than I would have liked, but I was creating, rather than consuming. I didn't call it a blog because that term was not as ubiquitous as today. But I updated it my site nearly every day with photos, quotes and news that I found or that friends shared with me. I used iMovie to create Quicktime videos which I posted on my website. This was before YouTube.

To economize in the mid-2000s, I went without cable TV for a year or so. That broke me from network sitcoms and dramas. When I got TV again, I just watched news, documentaries and stuff like Food Network.

Then I moved into a neighborhood where DirectTV wasn't an option and I couldn't get Comcast to show up for an appointment, so I just went without TV for another year. And I discovered that I was much less anxious about the state of the economy in than I had been when I was constantly watching cable news.

A few years ago, I moved again and returned to DirecTV. I discovered that I no longer cared much anymore about watching TV. I tried. Kept the service going for 2 years. But it mostly served as background noise.

I'd filled the years without TV by reading and writing and running and hiking and growing things and cooking.

And getting reacquainted with myself.

In the years without TV, my mental clarity started to return and I really honed in on where I wanted to go with my life. I found that mindless television, even in the background, was a way to escape from my life, not design and live it.

Before I gave up cable TV the second time, I'd already stopped watching televised sports. That happened as a result of the transition from college sports and college sports media as something reasonably related to athletics to an industry driven mainly by ratings hype and profit opportunities. Nothing wrong with quality and profit, but today televised college sports is more of a Disney World spectacle or reality TV sideshow. I love the game and the strategy.

I prefer reality, not reality TV.

[Tweet “Choose reality, not reality TV.”]

Just over a year ago, I canceled DirecTV again. I've never missed it. I'd barely watched any TV in the previous year. So-called “news” on cable TV had turned into reality-TV with a political spin.

In the past few years without regular cable TV, I've reignited my passion for writing. I've explored my life's vision and purpose and charted the common themes.

Media is one of those common themes and media has always been a huge part of my life, but as a creator and engager, not a consumer.

I still watch movies, documentaries, YouTube. But not passively. Not to escape or daydream.

 I consume with purpose: I watch to learn, to be inspired, to improve a skill, to laugh.

Jackie Robinson once said:

Life is not a spectator sport.

Are you in the game?

Or just watching?

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below. Let's start a conversation about rising about a mere consumer culture into action and doing.

[Tweet “Life is not a spectator sport.”]