I’ve always considered myself a contemplative person, and with good reason. In high school, I wanted nothing more on Friday nights than to drive to the Barnes & Noble in downtown Evanston—the home of Northwestern University—to drink cappuccinos and read poetry. Meanwhile, my friends were at parties.
I immersed myself in the readings of Henry David Thoreau and Robert Frost: “Morning is when I am awake, and there is a dawn in me” and “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference,” respectively.
When my friends wanted to yin, I tried to yang. When my friends rolled their jeans, I cut and frayed the bottom of mine. When my friends were listening to Metallica, I was listening to Sarah McLachlan. Which, to this day, is brilliant personal branding.
I guess it’s safe to say that I never wanted my life to be the status quo. I sought every opportunity I could to do things differently. But as I have learned over the years, it wasn’t an act. It wasn’t me trying to be someone I wasn’t. Instead, it was me trying to be someone I was.
I love what Sally Hogshead, world-class branding expert, says:
“Different is better than better. Being the best isn’t enough if nobody notices or cares. So stop trying to be THE best. Start being YOUR best.”
Sally’s quote has been a foundational message for me. It defines the way I want to run my life, and I hope it’s something that inspires you as well. Because as she says:
“In any oversaturated environment, it doesn’t matter how wonderful you are and how much you have to offer. If your message fails to fascinate, you’ve failed.”
And nobody wants to fail.
Oh Captain, My Captain
To this day, one of my favorite movies is Dead Poets Society. Set in 1959 at the fictional elite conservative Vermont boarding school Welton Academy, Dead Poets tells the story of an English teacher (RIP, Robin Williams) who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry.
A particular scene sets the movie’s tone and has sometimes set the tone in my life. You can see it here: Mr. Keating’s First Class (carpe diem lecture).
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.”
— Robert Herrick, To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
As Keating points out, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. The Latin term for that sentiment is carpe diem.” He asks, “Now, who knows what that means?” Meeks raises his hand proudly and says, “Carpe diem, that’s ‘seize the day.'”
According to Wikipedia, the term “seize the day” is idiomatic and defined:
- To enjoy the present, not worry about the future, and live for the moment.
- To make the most of today by achieving fulfillment in a philosophical or spiritual sense.
- To attack the day’s efforts with vigor and purpose.
“Carpe diem” is often seen as cliché and ubiquitously spoken, but for me, it represents what has defined me for years: Live with purpose.
I wanted to do that, so I created No Sidebar under the following premise:
“Every day, more stuff comes into our lives: stuff in our houses, stuff on our calendars, stuff on our minds. All that stuff gets in the way of where we want to go and who we want to be. So it’s time to make a change.”
I believe that we receive opportunities every day to seize the day.
Whether it’s in our personal lives or situations that occur while we are at work, we come across moments where we have the chance to, as Thoreau says, suck the marrow out of life:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life.”
A few nights ago, I was surfing YouTube. Yes, that’s a thing in my life, and as a creative, I can assure you mindless activity is necessary after spending hours in deep thought mode.
As fate would have it, I saw an unbelievably epic video of a guy who seized the day back in 2018 while attending a Foo Fighters concert in Austin. Forever inked as “Kiss Guy,” Yayo Sanchez was asked to join his idol, Dave Grohl, on stage.
Just watch the video right now. (I’ll wait patiently while you do.)
Brian Clark’s response said it best: “That made me exceptionally happy.”
When you grab the bull by the horns and seize the day, you make people happy. Exceptionally happy. You motivate people. You inspire people. You make people—who otherwise consider themselves ordinary—feel like they can do the extraordinary.
Yayo Sanchez did the extraordinary. He “left music fans everywhere gobsmacked” and “blagged his way onstage with one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.”
When asked how he got Dave Grohl’s attention, here’s what Yayo said:
“Well, thanks to my awesome mom, I got a GA ticket for my birthday a few days before. I showed up to the concert early and found a good spot in the audience, and as most know by now, I painted my face and wrote ‘Let Me Play Monkey Wrench’ on a big piece of yellow poster board. I held it up at the beginning of the show for a little bit until someone behind me screamed, ‘Put the f***ing sign down!’
I put the sign down for the rest of the set until Dave and Chris started talking to me from the stage a few songs later. Dave looked at me with his face scrunched as if trying to focus and said, ‘Dude, is that paint or a mask?’ I replied, ‘Paint!’ Then Grohl said something like, ‘Hell yeah, dude, I can f*** with you, Kiss Guy!’
Somewhere in all that, Chris mentioned how he preferred Ace Frehley! So the entire time the two of them talked to me, my voice in my head was like, ‘Show them the sign! Show them the sign!’ And bam, I said ‘f*** it’ at the very last second and flashed up my sign.
A few songs later, Dave goes, ‘Hey, Kiss Guy…’ And you know the rest.”
Big Yellow Signs
So you are a creative entrepreneur and may already have a successful business. Or perhaps you don’t. Nevertheless, you will likely have plenty of opportunities to do this “carpe diem” thing. Some of them might be obvious, while others might not.
Either way, you are—much like I am—inundated with chances to seize the day.
Maybe you need to channel your inner Todd Anderson from Dead Poets Society, stand on your desk, and let out a barbaric “Yawp!”
Perhaps you need to take a leap of faith, put in your resignation, and start that freelance business you’ve always dreamed of having.
Or, maybe you need to hold up your big yellow sign that says “Let Me Play Monkey Wrench” and jam alongside a music legend.
I encourage each and every one of you to seize the day, and be your version of “Kiss Guy.”