February 13, 2021

The first time I entered your inbox with this Sunday missive (some of you may recall that fateful day!) was 7 years ago today, on Valentine’s Day 2014.  

At that time it went out to a small group of family and friends (a VERY small group)…but I maintain that it was small and mighty. 

If you are one of that small group who has been with me from the beginning, hit me with an email so I can acknowledge you. 

The “stars” of that first blog were two guys who were very important in my life then…as they are now…despite neither of them being with us anymore (at least in a physical sense). 

Fortunately they both left a massive body of wisdom—one of them took over 80 years to amass that body while the other did it in about half that time—and both bodies are worth celebrating, especially on Valentine’s Day. 

Why celebrate these two giants on Valentine’s Day? It is the birthday of one…and it represents a core belief of the other. 

Marty Edelston was born on February 14th…and Sean Stephenson is re-born, to me anyway, every February 14th

That 2014 post featured a quote from Sean, who is a miracle of a human being. 

At the time, I was thinking this weekly blog would simply be a “quote of the week” (which, depending on your attention span, might have been a better idea). ☺ 

However, my keyboard couldn’t be silenced with just a quote every week… these posts have become considerably longer…and I appreciate the time you spend reading and commenting on them. Feedback and insights are always welcome. I can always rely on you to keep me on my toes.  

Marty and Sean

Marty is an entrepreneur and publisher with superior wisdom in many areas; Sean is a “coach for public speakers,” 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 chief mentor) gives me the content for every post (in some way) based on our adventures in direct marketing over 34 years. 

Sean gives me the courage and permission to “let my freak flag fly” (nod to John Carlton) by setting the gold standard as a role model,  a world renowned speaker, and a phenomenal life and personal coach…and someone anyone can talk to anytime about anything. 

Both were also awesome friends and consiglieres. 

In addition, Sean not only gave me the “content” (i.e. “the quote”) for that initial post in 2014  but more importantly, he gave me the courage that I could do this “blog thing” on a weekly basis. 

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

Unfortunately, by the time I started my Sunday ramblings in 2014, Marty had passed away. But I had enough “inventory” from him to last a lifetime. 

And today, 2/14/21, is the second year I am sending my V-Day post without Sean in the world as well. We lost him tragically in August 2019. 

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

But thank goodness they also left a paper (and digital/video) trail so we never forget the immense contributions of either one of them. 

Marty’s prowess was established mostly pre-Internet (despite recording a lot with him “digitally”  in his later years)…and thankfully we have almost every piece of 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. 

That file is simply labeled, “Atta boy.” 

Marty was tough…but never too tough to give acknowledgments for work well done. 

That “Atta Boy 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, and lessons for a lifetime. 

Marty also discovered Photoshop in his later years and I found this picture 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: 

Sean, on the other hand, left many more “digital assets” (in addition to a wonderful book)—including a course or two, dozens of keynote speeches, and a wealth of philosophical “rants,” teachings and playful “stunts” on social media (including an occasional “dance party”–see below). 

My “greatest hits” with Marty are mostly documented in Overdeliver…and I encourage you to pick up a copy. 

You won’t be disappointed by the many “Marty lessons” I learned that are yours for the taking. 

Living them was a gift…sharing them is an additional gift to you. 

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

Sean Lessons (with “assists” from Marty)

One of Marty’s favorite expressions is:

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

Sean was up to that challenge. 

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 I was dealing with from the shock of it all it would be Sean. 

Of course 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 was confined to a wheelchair but that never stopped him. 

In 2009 the Biography Channel created a documentary film about his life called, The 3 Foot Giant. The title says it all. I highly recommend it. 

He became the world’s best patient (and observer) at a very young age—then later on, became a doctor himself (he earned a PhD in psychology)–defied the odds—and turned his handicap into something useful…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 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 through the perspective from 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. (As did Marty). 

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

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

When I told him I lost sight in my left eye from my stroke, and I was self-conscious about it, we discussed using it to my advantage rather than hiding it (e.g. wear an eye patch in public)—which I am still thinking about (but not when I umpire). ☺ 

He was trying to encourage me to get over it by turning it into an asset rather than feeling sorry for myself, making it a liability. 

He was speaking from experience. 

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

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 :): 

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 back stage—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 laughed more with him than anyone.

It’s not surprising that Sean was playful on all of his videos–his “dance parties” are some of my favorites.

Here was the first one from 2010 that got that party started:

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

He mentions in later videos that he had “haters” who didn’t get him or what he was really doing—too bad–which just inspired 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 (the title of his book) 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 for others…and power…and a big dose of gratefulness.

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 him laughing right now:

I wear them proudly in my regular rotation of socks.

Just like I check my “Atta Boy Folder” regularly.

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

Happy Sean Day.

Happy Marty Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day.



P.S. Sharing the love on Valentine’s Day…

In honor of Marty’s birthday and Sean’s loving personality (that lives on in all of us), I want to make a special offer here.

It’s a special discount (with free shipping) for BOTH of Gene Schwartz’s classic books, Breakthrough Advertising and The Brilliance Breakthrough.

It’s a savings of $30 (and up to $45).

This is an offer I made available for “National Inventors Month” last May…after all, Gene invented so much in these two masterpieces.

When I heard that February 11th is “National Inventors Day” (for Thomas Edison’s birthday), I figured why not make this a February/Valentine’s Day offer this year instead of waiting until May.

Gene was instrumental to Marty in growing Boardroom into an iconic direct marketer and publisher…and I know Sean was a fan, especially Breakthrough Advertising, from which he incorporated lots of Gene’s thinking into his own writing and speaking.

I will leave this offer open through Sunday February 21st.

Grab both books together today.

Click here to get a double dose of Gene Schwartz

Love you all!

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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