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Connecting In a Digital World feat. Mark Ostach: Ep 4

In an increasingly digital world that includes remote work, social media, and relentless notifications, connecting with others isn't always easy. Mark Ostach joins Heather to explore this challenge. Mark is a digital wellness keynote speaker helping people find the courage to connect - both online and offline, not just with their coworkers, but with themselves as well.


Mark Ostach is a digital wellness keynote speaker. He's The Metro Detroit ‘feelings guy’ whose immersive, vulnerability-focused style breathes life into the workplace and disconnected professionals.

Connect with Mark Ostach: Website | LinkedIn | Instagram

Connect with Heather Bodie: Website | LinkedIn | Instagram

Subscribe to 'For Anyone With A Job': Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts


Action Items

  • Prompts to spark vulnerability in connections online or offline.

  • Understanding the psychology of technology.

  • How the 3 core needs humans have (Security, Control, and Approval) impact us.

  • Knowing the imitation principal.


Episode Transcript

Heather: This is "For Anyone With A Job," a podcast on a mission to unravel the yuck, lift some of the weight and fear, and to arm you with the tools to talk about mental health at work. I'm your host, Heather Bodie, and today we are joined by Mark Ostach. Mark is a digital wellness keynote speaker, and he's helping people find the courage to connect both online and offline, and not just with their co-workers but with themselves as well. So, during this episode, we talk about how to create and maintain healthier relationships with our technology, which we all need, and how to deepen personal connections which I believe is absolutely the key to disarming the stigma around mental health. Jump right in, Mark.

Mark: Well, Heather, first of all, thank you so much for having me on your podcast.

Heather: Absolutely.

Mark: I'm a big fan, number one fan, long-time friend. But for those listeners that are tuning in, my name is Mark. I'm from Detroit, Michigan, and I've had the privilege over the last few years to really help people better connect with themselves. And I won't share the entire backstory other than to say that I had the privilege of being really interested as a kid with touch and human connection, and growing up in a very loving, what I call, functionally dysfunctional family, that led me to and allowed me to follow and pursue things that really were passionate to me. For instance, I remember dressing up like Boy George, playing and singing for my friends and family on my seventh birthday.

Heather: Nice.

Mark: Yes. Now, I don't know why I'm drawing that back from the recall memory bank this morning. It could be the Starbucks that you just poured me, but the point is that ever since I was young, I was always pursuing things that interested me, and entertainment, and connection and just being who I was allowed me to do what I did after college, which was graduate with a degree in psychology and then go directly to massage therapy school. And I did that because I was really interested in workplace wellness.

So, even though that path was kind of windy and I did eventually drop out of massage school, I went into technology and found myself working at a small tech startup in Detroit, kind of that fast, growing three 3 to 40 people in 5 years. And I was on the kind of non-engineer side doing operations and hiring. And I share that because my love for psychology and my experience in technology merged, and I became super obsessed with the psychology of technology or what we do in view online, how it shapes the way we feel, the way we think, our behaviors, our mindset.

And that eventually led to me helping people, including myself, have a better relationship with technology. So, it's not an anti-tech kind of mantra. It's none of that. Tech's only going to continue to increase, but it was to say how do the digital calories we consume on a daily basis make us feel.

Heather: Mm, oh, good. There's a MeowCat.

Mark: Hey, Pickles.

Heather: Hey, Pickle. I know we're not playing with you.

Mark: Pickles and Pockets in the studio this morning. Two cats that look pretty similar.

Heather: They're pretty identical.

Mark: Pretty identical.

Heather: I love what you just said about the calories like digital calories that we consume, because I have found myself thinking about my digital consumption in a similar way that I think about my food consumption. And I like to think I have an okay relationship with food. I mean, I think we all have our strangeness about food.

Mark: Mm-hmm.

Heather: It comes and goes throughout our lives as our bodies change, and shift, and grow, and age, but I found myself really coming from a place of deep shame and secrecy around digital consumption and reading things like, "Don't pick up your phone first thing in the morning. If you care about sleep health, don't have your phone open at night. The blue light, your eyes. Buy this pair of glasses. Put the timer on your phone so you know how many minutes you're on, what website, and for how long. What is your screen time like?" And I find myself understanding intellectually that screen time and digital consumption is likely not very good for me but then secretly I'm like hiding on the couch with the shades drawn.

Mark: Snuggling with Instagram.

Heather: Yes, snuggling with Instagram. Sometimes doom scrolling, sometimes joy scrolling.

Mark: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Yeah, it goes back to every human has three needs: security, approval, and the desire to be known, right? I'm sorry. Security, control, and approval. The approval is the desire to be known. So, those core needs have been kind of since the beginning of time. So, when you think about those needs in a digital culture, right, security, control and approval, we're trying to securely control the perception of our lives while seeking approval. And you hear the like button and the hard button. And we won't get into that because that's kind of old news so to speak.

But what I'm really interested in is as loneliness increases, as insecurities are becoming more evident, right, as a culture of, kind of, depressed or not even just depressed but disconnected, right, this lack of purpose in the workplace, a lack of desire to pursue your passions and your career, these things that are disassociating or disconnecting you with the desires of your life, I believe, are partial because of the numbing effect that happens when your time isn't invested in the things you want to do or the relationships you want to form or forge.

But instead you're, kind of, just numb out with editing a lifestyle or just through sheer boredom just... You know, I mean, how many Instagram reels have I sent you in the last, like, three weeks, Heather? And it's just a couple clicks away, right?

Heather: Yeah.

Mark: So, again, it's not good or bad. I don't think the conversations is about good or bad with tech or digital calories. I think it's more about, if you as an individual can take inventory of your heart and determine, am I in a place where I can afford to check out doomscroll or Wordle or these things and be fine with it or am I already feeling lonely, mildly depressed, and hate my job and now I'm just going to, like, zone out?

Heather: And if, let's say, I am hating my job, mildly depressed, zoning out...

Mark: It sounds like a classified ad, by the way, of, like, half of the workforce right now.

Heather: I know, and maybe it's even more because we're not necessarily talking about just people who have sustained and stagnant feelings of depression and anxiety around work and complicated relationships with what it is to build a career, where they are in their career. That's also... Those "negative emotions or experiences" are just part of being human.

Mark: Totally.

Heather: Right? So, I may not have a sustained experience like that, but I may have it temporarily around a singular event, a singular instance at work where if I look at the grand scheme, 90% of the time I'm doing okay but there's 10% that can be really, really dark. So, I just want to make sure that what we're talking about is inclusive of not just people who are in this like "I have to make a change" space, really at the far end of the scale of, "It's time," but also folks who just have periodic experiences with that.

Mark: Yeah, that's really good. I like that. Just segueing from the topic of digital wellness and connection, so it was 2019. I've got a wife and two kids. I was home for a long weekend, and I told my wife... Her dad was sick, so he was in hospice, and I let her know I wanted to quit my job and pursue what I'm doing now full-time. Had been doing it on the side for 6, 7, 8 years, writing blogs, guest speaking, you know, at the local rotary clubs and any place that would basically say, "Hey, yeah, yeah, you can come share what you're interested in. Oh, digital wellness? Cool. Yeah, yeah, we can do that. We can jive with that."

Heather: Timing's not his thing, you know? Wait till dad's in the hospice to make the big announcement.

Mark: So, I go to my boss who happened to be a good friend. I was working at a brand strategy studio in Detroit. I was like, "Hey. I really want to do this full-time. I've exhausted all my vacation. I can just feel it inside of me as this career path I want to pursue. Not motivational speaking but encouraging people to pursue and to connect in a way that's meaningful to them." So, I said, "I'm going to do it." He said, "Great. Let's do, like, a 90-day rollout strategy so you can offload your clients, so we can hire your replacement, all the things." And we shook hands. We were probably buzzed up from our second cold brew and that was that. A couple days later, we lost our biggest account, so 6 of the 16 of us at this little small studio had to get let go and I was one of them. So, it was a little bit of like a, "Hey, I'm going to be vulnerable until you want to leave this stable job, but let's do it in, like, 90 days. That will give me enough time to mentally prepare."

So, again, three days later, father-in-law in hospice and I'm let go. So, I quietly go to my wife, "Hey, remember that, like, succession plan we talked about? It's going to be a little quicker." So, she was great. She looked at me, and I knew she was like checked out with her dad because that was just such a priority then. And she said, "Listen, I believe in you. I believe in you." And I said, "Thank you." And she goes, "But we have 45 days of money in the bank, so if you're going to do this, you better get out of the house now. Like, get your butt out and go, like, drum up some business." So, I'm like, "Challenge accepted." But it was definitely a pivotal bonding moment in saying like, "I'm connecting with what it is that I want to pursue," and it's comparable, Heather, to even where you're at right now as you expand and open yourself into this next chapter of impacting people with what you have on your heart. So, it's pretty cool.

Heather: It is very cool. I was reflecting on what you had asked at dinner last night about what I'm proud of recently and what is getting the way of me feeling proud of what I'm working on.

Mark: Side note as Heather adjusts her mic, I'm here in Chicago. Matt, Heather's better half is a childhood friend. We've known each other since kindergarten, so dinner last night was Matt, Heather and I enjoying a great night in the summer of Chicago.

Heather: And you do something incredibly unique. I don't think we have any other friends in our circle that function quite in the way that you do around conversation when we're in a group setting, especially if it's more than a one-on-one. I've found that you'll call it out like there are three of us. Those kinds of conversations are complicated to navigate. That is tenet to what I talk to people about, which is naming, claiming, stating the circumstance that we're in and the feelings that it might be drumming up so that we can all go, "Ah." You know, it's like when someone walks in the room and they're an anxious, I don't want to say, mess, but some of us... We're messy. We're messy sometimes. It's messy to be human. And the whole room can feel it. Everyone holds their breath while the person is fumbling around and dropping things and whatever.

And if that person just looks up, takes a deep breath and goes, "I'm an anxious mess. Thank you all for your patience," the whole room, you watch shoulders drop. People go, "Oh, okay." They know they're messy. They have themselves.

Mark: It's so good. I like to name that and claim that, because when you're walking and you have people feeling that space... So, last night, this is a total sidebar.

Heather: I know I already sidebarred.

Mark: It's tough, it's tough.

Heather: We're going to be a mess.

Mark: So, we were talking about "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and if Larry David was with us walking in the streets of Lincoln Park, he would have something to say about the difficulty of successfully having a conversation with three people on a sidewalk. It's hard. Look it up. Google it. Let us know what you figure out. But going back to where we were last night and bringing that back to this story of pursuing what I'm doing now, so 2019, I get three gigs on the calendar and I'm like, "Oh, yeah, 45 days plus these three gigs." That gets me, like, 52 days of runway to sustain life.

So, pandemic hits, world shuts down, all the events close. Father-in-law just passed. My wife's just, kind of, in a place and I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, what am I going to do?" I didn't want to go back into corporate America, but I did know that I just needed to do something. So, after a couple of months of just sitting there, Zoom became this thing that was secondary like Outlook or Gmail, and everybody started joining Zoom meetings and needing content and conversation to facilitate how do we connect in this remote culture, how do we find ourselves just navigating all the feelings of the pandemic.

So it was like, "Oh, hey, I've got something to say about that." So, my core content, love, passion, the way I was made, aligned with a pain point that the globe was experiencing and my business blew up. So, I did 200 events in two years, encouraging teams to have the courage to connect, which is the title of my first book,

So, the "Courage to Connect" basically says, your courage, as Brené Brown says, is your ability to share your story or to offer up yourself in front of somebody else in the way we connect, which was originally designed to be together in person like we are today. So, how do you share your story when you can't be in person? So, I was helping teams better connect online over Teams and Zooms, offline in the field or in the facilities that they still worked in, and then in line with themselves.

Heather: So, I spent my career listening to people tell their stories, courageous people bravely and honestly, candidly share their experiences managing their mental health. Then the pandemic hit very similarly, and people came to me like I was the expert on how to manage mental health during a pandemic. So, my question for you is this moment happens where we need to be in person to have those deepest connections. We can't be in person. We're on Zoom. You say, "I have something to say about that," but where, what, how I found myself in this strange discomfort with what I knew to be true about managing mental health and what was at our disposal due to the isolation of the pandemic, and I really managed some pretty hefty imposter syndrome during that time as people were like, "What do we do? How do we do it?" And I could barely manage my own mental health.

Mark: Yes.

Heather: So, where was the source of that wisdom around how to navigate connection through digital relationships?

Mark: Oh, my gosh. Such a good topic, by the way. Remind me to tell you about my next book about wisdom after this question. So, I got really fortunate because, as you mentioned yesterday at dinner, just wanting to have meaningful conversations requires a level of facilitation through simple prompts. So last night we talked about... These are great for the listeners who are trying to create more dialogue at the dinner table is last night we talked about what are you most proud of in the last 30 days and why and then what's holding you back from pursuing the next thing that you desire to make you feel proud because you know it's pursuing something.

The point is that, during the pandemic, to go back to your question, there was a prompt that I began asking leaders and teams that has become a core experience to any keynote facilitation conversation I have, which is the following. Are you ready?

Heather: I'm ready.

Mark: Super, super complex. Can you translate this into, like, seven different languages?

Heather: Yeah, I'll see what I can do.

Mark: Okay, here we go. This prompt is intended to spark vulnerability in connections online or offline, and it goes like this, "If you really knew me, you would know...." So, if you really knew me, you would know that I've got a younger brother with special needs who can drive and work manual labor but will always need to live with a guardian. And if you really knew me when my parents die, I am his guardian. If you really knew me, you'd know that I didn't sleep well last night because I'm psychologically allergic to cats. If you really knew me, you'd know that I'm really excited to have coffee and breakfast with you after this podcast. If you really knew me, you'd know that my dad has physical and mental health issues that, kind of, creep into my mental health. If you really knew me, you'd know that faith is really important to me. If you really knew me, you'd know that I'm a huge Kenny G fan like better than Eminem and Beyoncé combined. It's the sweet saxophone of Kenny G. And if you really knew me, you would know that I sometimes too get imposter syndrome.

So, this prompt, which by the way I'm going to turn back to you so the listeners can learn about you, became this simple tool or strategy or whatever business term you want to put on it, that was bringing the guard down of these people that were primarily remote, some of which had an influx in hiring. So, they had like 20%, 30% increase in new hires that were being onboarded remotely. So, how do you create a meaningful dialogue? And it just so happened that this prompt was something that was helping teams extract things outside of their job titles or the zip codes they lived in or the colleges they went to. They got to connect on common grounds of other things, of life experiences that if we really knew each other, what is it that we'd know?

Heather: And now you're looking for me to tell all of us...

Mark: So, as you think about it for the listeners, think about sharing something that's mild, medium, or spicy.

Heather: Ooh.

Mark: Okay? So, if you think of vulnerability as a spice, this prompt is intended for you to share mild, medium, or spicy things.

Heather: If you really knew me, you would know that these kinds of moments trigger a brain function that's in relationship to social anxiety where all answers fall out of my head. If you really knew me, you would know that I'm a deeply joyful person, but I also experienced extended periods of deep, deep sadness and depression. If you really knew me, you would know that I'm in a confident and healthy place with my relationship to my dad's untreated mental health issues and substance use disorder. If you really knew me, you would know that I secretly wish I was a bodybuilder but refuse to lift weights.

Mark: Oh, that's like reverse body...

Heather: Yeah, it is totally. And if you really knew me, you would know that first times are incredibly, almost cripplingly difficult for me, but second times are a joy-filled breeze.

Mark: That's awesome.

Heather: So, I push myself through first times on the brink of pure panic attack over and over again so that I can get to the second times.

Mark: Hey, let's give Heather some snapping claps here. So, Heather, how did that experience make you feel?

Heather: A little sweaty.

Mark: Okay. And do you feel more connected to me or less or the same?

Heather: More connected in the sense that there is, again, that pool of wisdom or that place to pull from when reactions, responses, behaviors to what we might be experiencing together out on the sidewalk or what we might be talking about, now I can better understand your responses and your relationship to whatever topic we're on now that I have these deeper pieces of information.

Mark: Awesome. So, that prompt has led to three years of really neat spaces and places primarily in a virtual environment, watching people share things that they'd never share, share emotions in a setting that they probably wouldn't even have fathomed. And it isn't to put anybody on the spot or embarrass people, but it feels like a little bit of a magical atmosphere that's created where people feel comfortable and safe to share if we really knew each other, what we know about each other. That has been, like, the thing, and I'm so grateful for that. And I think what I've learned in the two, three years of hearing from people is that not everybody likes to share, which is cool, but there's a huge ripple effect of those that just want to listen and learn about their peers in a new light.

So, I wanted to share a really mind-numbing stat that will help us in this next topic that I want to share with your listeners. So, we're talking about attention spans, and the comment that I heard recently was that we, the collective we, live in a superficial, shallow culture. Now at its face, that sounds like a little bit of like a condescending statement, right? Superficial, shallow culture. But let's look at attention spans over the last 70 years. Our parents' advertisers had 14 seconds to get their attention to sell them a good product or service. Advertisers had eight seconds for us, okay? Kids, these days, the youth of our culture, advertisers have one second to get their attention. Okay, now these are just stats coming from advertisement.

Think about critical thinking through reflection, introspection, and just pondering, which is a universal skill that has led to internal healing, internal growth, these things that are just core components to the human experience. So, where I feel kind of being pulled and having some energy is... And this is like a huge announcement, big announcement, drum roll.

Heather: Drum roll. Drum roll, please. [vocalization]

Mark: So, God has given me a vision to help teach wisdom to our current culture. So, I guess you could call it the title or the concept of where my energy wants to go next is in the spirit of the superficial, shallow culture and the stats we just shared. But imagine if you saw a book at Barnes & Noble and it said, "Get Wisdum" but wisdom was spelled W-I-S-D-U-M like dumb, and then the subtitle is "Putting the O Back in Wisdom." And the O really is your circle of people that help you learn the ways of life, and everyone has a circle. So, in your circle, you could have a teacher, a coach, a mentor, a parent, a grandparent, a neighbor, a stranger, right? These, like, collection of people that I believe is the antidote to loneliness, that you need your circle, your tribe to help gain wisdom from their life experiences that will help you peel yourself out of the shallow, superficial maybe numbed culture that you are experiencing because you desire more. You have passion inside that you don't know what to do with, or you're just navigating life and the world in a harder time when it is to experience wisdom. So, that's where I'm heading next.

Heather: It's a fascinating moment, and I find myself sometimes bringing up the card catalog at the library. When I was a kid, we went to the library, we pulled open the drawers, and we thumbed through the index cards under a topic area-ish.

Mark: Where's Waldo?

Heather: Yes, it was, where's Waldo? Maybe you found a book but even then, how would you open it up and know inside was exactly what you needed? I was the kid who would stack books from my knees to my chin and wobble to the front desk to check out my books because I couldn't figure out how to discern which ones had the content in them that I wanted or needed.

Mark: So good, so good.

Heather: And now we have the answer to, I'm going to say, everything at our literal fingertips through the computers that we carry around as our calling, texting, communication, and information-seeking devices. So, I can see why we maybe, as a culture, the younger generation has not cultivated this circle of wisdom of having these people, these mentors in your lives, because the access to whatever information you might want or need at a given moment is right there at your fingertips. And it can feel like that's all you need. When I think what you're talking about is that connection between, I'm going to use the same word again, connection and relationship and information where it's about the people and the experiences those people have had and the perspective that they have on that circumstance that really is the wisdom. It's not the information itself.

Mark: Correct.

Heather: It's the vehicle in which you receive the information and through people. It is therefore wisdom rather than just facts.

Mark: Yes. And before Google, every tribe and tongue that had ever walked life, whether it was farming or fixing, was passed down from the elders to the next generation. So, that model that existed for a long, long time on humanity has been circumvented by fingertips to all the information in the world in a moment's notice. So, as I'm thinking about... And, again, loneliness is kind of a tough topic to tackle. Say that three times fast.

Heather: Tough topic to tackle. Tough topic to tackle. Tough topic to tackle.

Mark: We should do a podcast together. But loneliness, which I think like you can feel lonely for five minutes in the morning, then have a cup of coffee and be like, "I'm not lonely, I was just tired," but I think that my theory that I'm going to go to my grave with is that human connection creates a sense of purpose, creates a sense of meaning, and we need more of that. And this tribe or this circle around you is just another way to ensure that people are pursuing community. And I think when you have community, you're more able to walk through the different seasons of life.

I'll share one last little tidbit of wisdom, pun intended, but you know that song by The Byrds from the 1960s, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"? It was on the Forest Gump soundtrack.

Heather: Turn, turn, turn. There is a season turn, turn, turn.

Mark: There is a season, turn, turn. A time to plant, a time to grow, a time for war, a time for peace, a time for life, a time for death, and so on, and so on, and so on. That song verbatim was lifted from the Old Testament from a king named Solomon. Now, King Solomon was given all of the wisdom of the world. And on his deathbed, he basically said, "It's all meaningless. Everything is meaningless. I've had all the riches, I've had all the wealth. I've had all the women. I've had all of the things. But after having all of those things, it's all meaningless." And he didn't say meaningless, "Ugh, I'm giving up in life." What he was saying is enjoy the plot that you've been handed, the lot that you've been given, the cards that you've been dealt. Enjoy those things. Drink and be merry. And those were his parting words.

On a side note, he wrote the Book of Proverbs, which is a book of wisdom for life's leading to living. So, I feel influence from, like, both The Byrds, which by the way, our duet album's coming out in March of 2028.

Heather: Yeah, that's pretty good. We didn't even rehearse that, folks.

Mark: It's amazing but I guess I'm just, like, drawing to this idea of, "Hey, at 41 and 38, if community and connection is an obvious need but yet when you look at some of these other, like, statistics or disengagement or loneliness, it's not obvious to everyone." So, I believe wisdom not in like a, "Hey, let me tell you with my corn cob pipe and my professor glasses why you should get wisdom."

Heather: I thought you were going to say button nose like you were Frosty the Snowman. Okay, keep going.

Mark: It did kind of sound like I was going there.

Heather: I was like, "Corn cob pipe? You have two eyes made out of coal?"

Mark: I just meant to say a pipe. The professor pipe look, you know where I was going. But anyways, there's just an interest in helping to push against the superficial, shallow culture aka the boredom, the disengagement, the quiet quitting, the Gallup poll that talks about lack of purpose of, like, 70% of our workforce. You know, these things aren't just, like, made-up stats. There's a deeper desire that's not being fulfilled, and I believe the answer is community.

Heather: What's one additional tactic to increase connection?

Mark: All right, so it's a game called Rose, Bud, Thorn, and it's great because you can play it with a diversity of age and background, and it goes like this. You might know it as Highs and Lows, but Rose, Bud, Thorn gives everybody a chance to share their rose, what they're grateful for, their bud, what they're looking forward to, what's blooming soon, and their thorn, what's making them sad or frustrated. We play this at the dinner table almost every night, and my daughter who is just... She's a very adorable soul. When we first started playing this when she was like 4, she said, "Dad, my rose is my birthday, my bud is my birthday, and my thorn is I don't have a thorn." And I thought, "You cute little..."

Heather: Oh, come on. That's the cutest thing I ever heard.

Mark: But you can say, "Hey, my rose is being in Chicago doing this podcast live with Heather. My bud is looking forward to doing breakfast at a place that you're going to take us that I know is going to be awesome. And my thorn is I actually don't have a thorn in this moment."

Heather: Ooh. So, I'm going to spice up your little trick and say there is some healthy psychology to flipping the order in which you name those things. So, I would go, thorn, rose, bud.

Mark: Hmm.

Heather: I would say here's something that's sticking in my side right now. Here's something that's really, really wonderful. Here's something I'm looking forward to.

Mark: I love it.

Heather: And letting the psychology, the moment end on a psychological hopeful or forward-seeking space.

Mark: It's so good, Heather. So good.

Heather: I think that while the concepts you're talking about pertaining to connection are simple, they are not easy. And there is a difference saying, "If you really knew me..." is a simple concept, but to actually fill in after that ellipsis was something that is vulnerable and deeply true about you and something that not very many people know, that's not an easy task. Simple but not easy.

Mark: Same with thorn, rose, bud, or whichever order you want to speak it in. Just taking the time to reflect each day of what is really lifting me up right now, what is really jabbing at me, what am I hopeful and looking forward to, that takes some bravery to decide and to reflect on what those things are in your life. And sometimes when I have conversations with people around that and they're in a darker space, it's really hard to find that rose or that bud.

Mark: Yeah, it's interesting because I think, like, oftentimes even as practitioners in the mental health field, you know, it's easy to just use words like depression and anxiety and loneliness. But I feel like the umbrella feeling or the elephant in the room is actually the word overwhelmed. So, most of my work in the last three years... So, I pull the people I work with and ask them five questions related to their emotional and digital health before every event. And the first question I ask them is, "If you could describe how you've felt in the last week, what's one word you'd use to describe?" They can pick any word from blah, to sad, to joy, to content, to happy, to excited, to overwhelmed, to anxious, and survey after survey year after year, the top word is overwhelmed.

So, when you think about somebody that might not be touchy-feely, they're high functioning, they don't need to say I'm depressed or anxious, but if you really ask them, "Hey, are you underwhelmed or overwhelmed or even-keeled?" there's a high probability they're going to say they're overwhelmed. So, I want to share this and maybe begin to conclude our time with this, because you can't connect with others if you're overwhelmed or it's much harder to sincerely connect when you're overwhelmed. So, that's why you need to take inventory of the things that are overwhelming you and see if you can create some healthy boundaries with those things.

The easiest, most simplest thing that I encourage people to do to start their day with sacred space. Now you can interpret that however you want to interpret that, but just picture your brain as a sponge. You wake up. Whatever you are dipping your brain into is what you're going to wring out for the rest of the moment.

Heather: I love that visual.

Mark: It's so good. It's called the Imitation Principle, which your inputs are your output. What you receive is what you reflect. So, for instance, there's days where my wife and I, I'll check email and flag email and start thinking anxious thoughts about how I need to get the day rolling. And she'll check Instagram and feel less than because somebody else is doing something better, and we haven't even peed or brushed our teeth, right? It's like, "Hey, good morning. Good morning. How are you doing? Ah, it's just thoughts. What about you?"

Heather: Eh, not so good.

Mark: "I feel like I'm worthless. Okay, let's go make breakfast." So, sacred space, and it's my favorite time of the day. I wake up. I walk is my like, "I got to move my body and kind of get my mind going." So, I walk the dogs, come back, have my delicious, perfectly hot coffee that's made with whatever that little apparatus is called over there.

Heather: That's an an electric kettle.

Mark: An electric kettle.

Heather: An electric kettle.

Mark: An electric kettle.

Heather: Mm-hmm. Don't put it on the stove, folks.

Mark: Don't put it on the stove. So, I read one of the proverbs from King Solomon. So, each day there's 30 of them, so it's convenient. So, today's August 2nd, I'll read the second proverb for the day. So, I root myself in that wisdom, and then I'll write some gratitude thoughts, and then I write my 10 truths for the morning. And my 10 truths are... It's been a new exercise I've done for about a year and sparing you the details is I write statements that I want to believe about my future self. So, for instance, today I will take the next best step. Today, I will take the next best step. Here's another couple. Everything old must go. Everything old or heavy or not serving me, it must go today. A third one, today I will savor the little things. Working from home with kids or cats or dogs can be highly distracting, but oftentimes it's those little things that you need to savor so you can get back to your other things. Today, I will encourage my wife with my words, actions, and eyes because there's days where she said, "You should see how you're looking at me." And I know what she's saying without having to explain it. Today I will break down prison doors with praise. I've been in bondage, and I bet you some of you are right now. So for me, a heart of thanks and praise is the best antidote to bondage or strongholds. And then lastly, today I will not drink 10 cups of coffee. That's not really...

Heather: Only nine today.

Mark: Only nine. But you get the point. They're statements that I rehearse that I desire in my sacred space to plant in this fertile moment of the day that's going to get overwhelmed and busy like everyone else, that I'm choosing intentionally to say, "I'm going to do whatever it takes to protect this space." And if you do it at night, great, but it's hard to do it for me at any other time than the first thing in the morning because then everything else is just 90 miles an hour. So, if you're overwhelmed, take 5 to 25 minutes and start a sacred space routine that works for you.

Heather: And start small.

Mark: Let the dog out. Let the cat out. Put yourself in your bare feet outside for two minutes and then...

Heather: Just feel the grass.

Mark: ...grab your phone. Do something.

Heather: And then tomorrow's three minutes. The day after, four minutes. That's beautiful.

Mark: Yeah.

Heather: That's beautiful. Mark, thank you so much for joining us.

Mark: Oh, my gosh, Heather, this was so nice. I'm so glad we're able to do this here in your beautiful home.

Heather: Oh, I'm so glad you were here able to come to travel from Detroit to Chicago and sit with me.

Mark: It's so good.

Heather: I feel like in-person makes all the difference and how very on topic of us.

Mark: Yes, it's so good. Heather, thanks so much for having me out. And if you really knew me, you'd know that I'm thrilled to be eating breakfast with you in about 14 minutes.

Heather: It's about an 8-minute walk. So, hopefully, we'll be eating between, like, 16 to 20 minutes from now.

Mark: Devil's in the details.

Heather: Devil's in the details.

If you want to connect with Mark, head to his website That's It has links to his books, all of his social media accounts, and tons of information about his work. So, go check it out.

Mark and I spent the whole morning together, but it doesn't take hours of dedicated time to connect. Spending just a few minutes a day, talking about, thinking about, and putting words to what it is that you're experiencing will change your relationships, your job, and maybe even your life. So, visit where you can stay connected, sign up for our newsletter, you can get access to show notes, bonus content, all kinds of stuff. And remember you don't have to be an expert to talk about mental health at work. I'll see you next time.

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