February 18, 2024

I couldn’t outrun the gazelles…so I just outworked them.

-Martin “Marty” Edelston (February 14, 1929-October 2, 2013)

A novice says, “I’ve already heard that;” a master says, “Ah…thank you for the reminder.”

-Sean Stephenson (May 5, 1979-August 28, 2019)
Sean Stephenson #Sean365

Those of you who have been part of my online family for any length of time know how much I revere Valentine’s Day (which just passed).

This is the first time in a decade that my annual V-Day post is a week late.

And it was also the first V-Day in four decades where I was not home with my wife …which was tough.

I think our marriage will survive because I convinced her to feel sorry for me when I told her I needed to do some “work” in sunny, warm Costa Rica at a mastermind…and I know you now feel sorry for me too.

Lifetime learning is a bit*h. 🙂

Valentine’s Day is especially meaningful to me for two reasons…one is self-imposed, and one has been imposed on me by two friends, colleagues, and mentors:

1. The self-imposed meaning

    It gives me the opportunity to honor all the women in my family with cards and gifts.

    When I began this tradition (over 40 years ago) there were more women in the generation before me (e.g., my wife’s grandmother, my mom, my mother-in-law and a few aunts).

    Unfortunately, many of those matriarchs are no longer with us.

    I save on some postage…but that doesn’t take away the sadness. 🙁

    I lost my mom two years ago and I miss her call upon receiving my card with the same comment every year:

    “Did you write this especially for me? It’s perfect.”

    She must have thought I worked for Hallmark.

    She would also comment on the stamp…and if you want the backstory on that, you can read this.

    In Overdeliver, I talked about “Christmas cards in July” and that we don’t need a holiday to touch the people in our lives.

    But I break that rule with Valentine’s Day.

    I choose Valentine’s Day every year (in addition to random days throughout the year) to reach out to those I love…because it’s around the time on the calendar for a reset…when your gratitude declarations from Thanksgiving and your resolutions for the New Year to “keep in touch” with the most important people in your life might be gathering dust in your brain.

    I need another “holiday” to reach out to the men in my life.

    Read “I want it to matter that we met” for more about that.

    And the circle of life is real:

    The list of women has decreased…and increased.

    My two, two-year-old great nieces got their first V-Day card from “Uncle B” …I saw a video of one of them and a picture of the other opening their cards with wonder, skepticism (and a bit of fear) in their eyes seeing a piece of physical mail.

    Here’s the 15 second video from one.

    And here’s the “WTF?” photo from the other.

    I guess these reactions are similar to digital, online marketing folks receiving a piece of direct mail (which is “dead” as we all know).

    I also weirded out my daughter’s new sister-in-law and mother-in-law with their inaugural cards.

    I could hear them saying, “what kind of weirdo family did we marry into?”

    2. The meaning of V-Day that was imposed on me

      The first time I entered your inbox with this Sunday missive (some of you may recall that fateful day) was 10 years ago this week, in honor of Valentine’s Day 2014.

      At that time, it went out to a small group of family and friends (a VERY small group) …but as I talked about last week, size does not matter.

      It was small and mighty.

      It’s only gotten larger and mightier over time…and on February 14th every year, I remind myself where I’ve been…where I am…and where I’m going (with all of you in mind in my online family), men included.

      To do this, I share two special hearts who can never be bypassed on V-Day.

      Despite both having now passed, they left a massive body of wisdom—one of them would be celebrating his 95th birthday this February 14th and amassed his body of work over 75 years; while the other did it in approximately half that time —and both bodies (and hearts) are worth celebrating, especially on Valentine’s Day.

      Once again, I will celebrate the lives of Marty Edelston (V-Day was his birthday) and Sean Stephenson (V-Day represents how Sean lived and loved) …and that original 2014 post featured a quote from Sean which I will share again at the conclusion of this post.

      And some additional quotes as bonuses in the P.S. and P.P.S.

      There’s a lot to talk about when talking about these two magnificent hearts:

      Marty and Sean

      Marty is an entrepreneur, marketer, editor, and publisher with superior wisdom in many areas; Sean is a “coach for public speakers,” an author and therapist, also with superior wisdom in many areas.

      They are also both responsible, in different ways, for this weekly blog, and for much of what I do every day as a direct marketing educator, writer and speaker.

      Marty Edelston, Boardroom Inc.’s founder (and my most significant mentor) gives me the content for almost every post (in some way) based on our adventures in direct marketing over 34 years.

      And Sean gives me permission to “let my freak flag fly” while I share those adventures.

      Both are the gold standard as role models, one as an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur and one as a world-renowned speaker and phenomenal life and personal coach.

      Both were also dear friends and trusted consiglieres.

      Marty and Sean not only gave me the inspiration for that initial post on 2/14/14 (due to Marty’s B-Day and Sean’s quote) …but more importantly, they gave me the courage that I could do this “blog thing” on a weekly basis.

      And I have featured them every year on (or around) February 14th.

      Unfortunately, by the time I started my Sunday ramblings in 2014, Marty had passed away.

      But I have enough “inventory” from him to last a lifetime.

      And this is the fifth year I am sending my V-Day post without Sean in the world.

      We lost him tragically in August 2019.

      However, I receive new content from him every day (#Sean365) …once again, check out the P.S. and P.P.S.

      Both left holes in my life and in my heart forever…and in the lives and hearts of everyone they touched.

      And those holes need to be filled as often as possible, especially during this week.

      Thank goodness they left a vast paper, digital, and video trail so we never forget the immense contributions of both.

      “The Attaboy Folder”

      Marty’s prowess was established mostly pre-Internet (despite contributing a nice sampling of digital assets in the way of interviews in his later years) …and thankfully we have almost every piece of direct response and editorial copy he ever edited.

      I also saved a correspondence file—a priceless archive– with almost everything we shared with each other in writing over 3+ decades.

      All paper.

      Email wasn’t a thing when we started out together…and he never took to it.

      That file is simply labeled, “Attaboy.”

      Marty was about tough love…never too tough to give acknowledgment for work well done while delivering the harshest of criticism…with love never leaving the room.

      That “Attaboy Folder” is alive and well and it sits on a dedicated shelf in my office (because it doesn’t fit in a drawer or a file cabinet), with good news and bad, with every piece of paper being a lesson.

      Marty also discovered Photoshop in his later years, and I found the picture below he had “commissioned” but never got a chance to hang it in his office before he died.

      It now hangs in my office in a prominent location.

      The little guy is me. 🙂

      “Get Off Your But”

      Sean, on the other hand, left many more “digital assets” including his book, Get Off Your “But”).

      Yes, you can get a paper version too.

      He created a course or two, live events recorded for posterity, dozens (maybe hundreds) of keynote speeches, and a wealth of philosophical rants, teachings, and playful “stunts” on social media (including an occasional “dance party”–see below).

      As far as “Sean lessons” that I learned, I will give you some of those here.

      One of Marty’s favorite expressions is:

      “You only go through life once so you might as well be the world’s best”

      Sean lived that every day.

      He was the best at so many things despite his “disability” (open loop).

      After my stroke in April of 2019, he was the first person I called once I got home from the hospital because I knew if there was anyone who could help me work through the struggles and shock it would be Sean.

      He did just that.

      Because Sean had a shocker of his own at birth.

      He knew all about the struggle I was going through because his life was a struggle every day–well, at least in the eyes of everyone else.

      He never complained and he used that struggle to persevere in ways that are simply unimaginable…with wit, humor, and profound introspection.

      To everyone else he was handicapped; to Sean he was “just Sean.”

      Talking with him was the beginning of my recovery (which sounds awfully selfish).

      Why would he want to bother with my superficial problems (yes, a stroke was superficial in this context) when he had many more serious problems in his own life?

      And why would I seek counsel from someone for whom “recovery,” in a traditional sense, was never possible?

      Maybe there was nothing for him to recover from in the first place.

      Or for me either.

      He made me see that in no uncertain terms.

      That’s what made Sean a rare bird.

      As I said previously, Sean had a “disability” …but only in the eyes of everyone else…not to Sean.

      He often said he wouldn’t change his “container” for anyone else’s if given the choice.

      At birth, doctors didn’t know if Sean would even live—he had a rare bone disease and just sitting up could cause his bones to crack.

      He used a wheelchair but that never stopped him.

      In 2009 The Biography Channel produced a documentary film about his life called, The 3 Foot Giant.

      The title says it all. Click on the link for a 9-minute excerpt.

      He became the world’s best patient (and observer) at a very young age—then later, became a doctor himself (he earned a PhD in psychology)–defied the odds—and turned his handicap into opportunity…and incredibly powerful.

      His life’s mission:

      “To rid the world of insecurity.”

      One of Marty’s missions was not as clearly stated, but it is related:

      “To help consumers overcome their insecurities regarding the trappings of their everyday lives.”

      Marty did this through his publications and promotions, pointing out the flaws in common institutions, and being a “bloodhound” and “protector” for consumers.

      Sean worked on his mission from the perspective of his wheelchair.

      It’s too bad Sean didn’t have another 50 years to continue his mission–but he made his mark in the years he had.

      Sean’s childhood was difficult, but he remained observant of everything around him–and throughout his life he used all that difficulty, and the challenges he faced, in his speeches and coaching.

      That’s why I called him first when I left the hospital.

      He encouraged me to get over it by turning my stroke into an asset rather than feeling sorry for myself…with specific action items that I implemented.

      He was speaking from experience.

      Sean was a master at flipping these emotions around…and he was particularly adept at doing it on video for a much wider audience.

      He did “One Minute with Sean” Facebook posts–and this one on “Doubt” is very insightful (and it only will take a minute to watch it 🙂

      You’ll need to turn the volume on…and it will be worth it.

      Did you notice that he gave this advice to himself before he gave it to his audience?

      It doesn’t take a PhD to do that—just empathy and humility of the highest order.

      The PhD is just gravy.

      That’s the power of a great coach—someone who knows his or her frailties and can share them with others as an example—and then expands the discussion by telling you how he or she deals with them.

      Sean’s front stage was also his backstage—he was not embarrassed about his situation and in fact, he was proud to show it off.

      He also had a wicked sense of humor.

      I’m talking about belly laugh humor.

      It’s not surprising that Sean was playful in many of his videos–his dance parties are my favorites.

      Here was the first one from 2010 that got that party started (and I can’t believe it’s been almost 14 years):

      This was the first of many “Dance Party Videos”—and this maiden voyage has over 1.3 million views.

      He mentions in later videos that he had “haters” who didn’t get him or what he was doing—too bad for them–which just compelled him to dance even more.

      He covers in future dance party videos such things as taking ourselves too seriously; getting our groove on (for momentum); the simple step of acting a little silly (and the power of laughter); and about not being embarrassed about our bodies.

      In that last one, he instructs us to look in the mirror while dancing until we love ourselves.

      Once again, he used his “container” as a strength and not a weakness—he never felt sorry for himself—and when he said, “get off your But,” you got off your But…and your Butt. 🙂

      Sean loved himself and he loved everyone.

      Which brings me to the quote from Valentine’s Day 2014 (and every Valentine’s Day since):

      “I love everyone because as soon as I don’t love you, you own me”

      The lesson from this quote is simple:

      When we spend our energy not loving someone, we willingly hand over our power (and more than likely, our confidence) to them.

      But if we work on eliminating the things in ourselves that keep us from loving others, what’s left is just love…and power (to contribute fully) …with a big dose of gratitude.

      And of course, confidence–with no doubts–about who we are.

      Sean knew exactly who he was—thank goodness for all of us.

      I think he would love these “Sean socks” which were created as a tribute to him:

      I can hear and see his belly laugh right now.

      I wear them proudly in my regular rotation of socks to remember Sean.

      Just like I check my “Attaboy Folder” to remember Marty.

      Sean and Marty…strange bedfellows on the one hand…two peas in a pod on the other.

      Happy Sean Day.

      Happy Marty Day.

      Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day.



      P.S. Two more pieces of wisdom from Marty and Sean…

      From Marty:

      “I’m just an ordinary guy who has been able to do extraordinary things.”

      From Sean:

      “I’d rather do something and be mocked, than nothing and be invisible.“

      And if you are looking for more Marty and Sean gems…

      P.P.S. Some other favorite Sean-isms:

      “If you talked to your friends the way you talk to yourself, you might not have any friends.”

      “Humans brag most about doing the things they’re secretly neglecting. People doing big things don’t have the time or interest to brag.”

      And the one I received today (just to keep it current):

      “If I could speak to every man, I’d say, ‘Until you choose to grow up, you’ll be a slave to your balls, ego, and fears.”

      Keep preaching Sean. 🙂

      Sean Stephenson #Sean365

      About the author 

      Brian Kurtz

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