Dear Mom

Mom,

I believe that it is incredibly rare in life to find someone that makes you want to be a better person. Someone that makes you want to laugh harder, smile bigger, love deeper, and try so hard it hurts. Luckily for me, I found that person 25 years ago. I have said it before and I will say it again, there is truly no one else like you. Your passion for service and empathy for others are qualities that make you an exceptional woman. You have always said that I have never met a stranger but the same can be said of you. I cannot recall anyone that can captivate an audience as well as you. When you speak, people listen. When you have an opinion, people want to hear it. I hope that you know how much your friends, colleagues, and family respect and admire you.

You are strong. You are committed. The word “quit” is not in your vocabulary. Because of you, I know that hard work pays off and that fighting for what you love is worth the battle scars that might come along the way. You have done an amazing job raising your daughter. Megan is confident, filled with purpose, passionate about her goals, and lives in the moment because you taught her how to be all of those things. The type of bond that you and Megan share can be summed up by her refusing to allow me to visit you at the beach two days earlier then planned because she wanted more “Mom time.”

Personally, words cannot merit what you mean to me, but I will try…As a matter of fact, I just spent the last five minutes trying to think of one time where you did not support me and I came up empty. Thank you for that. You have always known what to say and how to say it and because of that I believe that I can do anything. When I told you that I wanted to quit my full time job and pursue my dream of working for the Walt Disney Company your response was, “When are we moving you to Florida?” You are my biggest cheerleader and with you in my corner I have never felt like I am going into a fight alone.

I have had people ask me before, “What do you hope to accomplish in life?” That is a pretty generic question. I have had friends, employers, and classmates ask me that question and my answer never changed. I look the person in the eye and say, “As long as my Mom is proud of me, I’m good.” Yes, I want to be successful and accomplish all of the goals that I have set out for myself but that does not mean anything if you are not proud of me. The funny thing is I know you are reading this and thinking, “I am already proud of you” but nothing I could accomplish could possibly measure up to the pride I feel of being your son. You have, are, and always will be one the most influential people in my life. Thank you for your selflessness, understanding, encouragement, and undying optimism.

For you, Patricia Gold, everyday should be Mother’s Day. I love you.

Your son,

Michael

21 candles

My roommate Dan’s girlfriend, Brittany, just celebrated a milestone birthday, twenty-one. I knew that she had been looking forward to this day for some time and while talking with her about her plans I could not help but reflect about what I did for my own twenty-first birthday.

Honestly, the whole thing is a blur, and not for reasons you might think. I remember I had a big party with live karaoke (I am a sucker for a karaoke bar) and that is about it. I did not flirt with disaster that night, we did not serve alcohol because I was the first one of my group of friends to turn twenty-one. I kept on trying to recall who was at my party, what exactly happened, and how great it was but I kept coming up short.

Once I completed telling Brittany my tangled up story she informed me on her plans for her big day. In her eyes, the perfect day was spending time with a few close friends while drinking tea at the Grand Floridian. At first, I was confused. I thought that the perfect day for this particular occasion would be some type of event on a grand scale. You only turn twenty-one once, right? Why would you want to scale it back and do something that seemed normal?

After I thought more about Brittany’s plans I realized that she was without a doubt going to have the perfect day after all. What makes a moment in life exceptional? Do you remember the exact details of your twenty-first birthday or another significant milestone in your life? I would be willing to bet that the main parts you remember are the people that were celebrating with you. The gifts, the party, the food that was served, or the song you butchered in your desperate attempt at karaoke all seem trivial compared to the person that was sitting on your left and on your right.

The people that we love and want to spend time with are what make memorable moments in life worth remembering. Brittany knew that the people who were there that day were going to make the story of her twenty-first birthday worth telling five years from now.

We go through life thinking that bigger is better. We want the big house, the faster car, or the big screen television that will make you feel that you are actually at the game; however, is being at the game really that much fun if you are not surrounded by other fans? Brittany might be young, but she is wise beyond her years. I wish I knew the importance of scaling back and just simply enjoying the moment when I was her age. Maybe then I would have not screwed up my karaoke performance of TLC’s “No Scrubs.”

Next time you are celebrating, take the time to truly decide who will help you make the moment special. More often than not, the “who” will outweigh the “what.”

As a side note, happy belated birthday, “LM.” Thanks for teaching me to appreciate those around me more.

Oh no, disaster

We have an ongoing joke in the office where I work where if an unpleasant situation occurs one of says, “Oh no, disaster.” Now that may not sound funny to you or maybe it is just one of those “you have to be there” types of things but it helps our office from not sweating the small stuff.

Would you agree that too often in life we find ourselves worrying about situations that are outside of our control and more often than not what we find troublesome is not that significant in the grand scheme of things? We can’t shake it off like Ms. Swift when our favorite team loses a game, we freak out when our favorite character leaves a show, and we cannot begin to fathom why someone would say something awful about us. All of these examples are just a small taste of how easy it can be to derail someone’s day.

Earlier today, I was presented with an obstacle where I could have easily been unhinged. I was leaving my house to attend an important meeting for work and suddenly the window to the front passenger door of my car randomly feel off. I was dumbfounded. For a solid minute I just stared at the area where my window used to be as if to say, “Um, that was rude.” After I processed what happened I was immediately rattled. I had two options…

1.Do I go ahead and attend the meeting and hope the weather holds up (I live in Florida so the weather is as unpredictable as the quality of a Tom Cruise movie).

2. Do I email my manager to let her know that I have a problem with my vehicle that needs immediate attention; therefore, I will not able to attend. I work with an amazing group of people so I knew that if I picked this option I would be excused.

After mulling my options over, I decided to pick the first one. However, I was still incredibly flustered. During my drive I kept thinking how much the repair was going to cost, how bad the weather looked, and how unfortunate the entire situation was.

When I arrived for the meeting one of my coworkers could see I upset. She was sweet enough to walk across a crowded room just to ask me what was wrong. As I explained my situation I kept finding myself getting more and more agitated. After I was finished telling her the story she paused for a moment and said with a grin, “Oh no, disaster!” I could not help but crack up. My worries vanished and were replaced with joy. Three simple words allowed me not to sweat the small stuff.

Like I previously mentioned, we too often go through life worrying about what we cannot control. I did nothing to cause my window to break but my reaction did not match that fact. In five minutes my mood went from being excited for what I knew would be a positive meeting to extreme irritation.

We all need to have some type of reminder not to sweat the small stuff. All of our lives would be more enjoyable if we could look at what we thought was a major problem, take the time to step back and say something along the lines of “Oh no, disaster.” Find a way to look at what seems to be an inevitably dreadful situation in a lighter manner. Life is filled with twists, turns, and unexpected obstacles and if your sweating the small stuff too much you will not be able to see the beautiful parts with clear eyes.

Home: Wear it proud

The Christmas season is a huge time of year for my family. For a solid two months it is all systems go in the Gold house. My Mom busts out her extensively adorable Santa Claus collection, my Dad has to find the perfect Christmas tree, and we have to make sure that the house is spotless for our extended family Christmas. As you could imagine, it can get chaotic, but I love it. I look forward to all of these things every year, but there is one underlining piece of the Gold family Christmas that I find myself looking forward to the most: what gift is my big sister, Megan, going to give me this year?

What you need to know about Megan more than anything else is that she does not go by the book. Megan has always been a “think outside of the box” type of person. She does not care what is on your Christmas list; she is going to get you what SHE thinks you would want, and I absolutely love that about her. This past year, Christmas 2014, she crushed it.

I currently live in Florida and my trips back home are rare. I count my blessings every day because I have a job that allows myself to positively influence others; however, I cannot begin to tell you how often I wish I could hop on a plane and visit my home state of Georgia. For me, home is not simply a place in which I was raised. Home is love and love is real. There are tiny aspects that make my home special that give the word itself a deeper meaning. For example: our local sandwich shop in downtown Canton, Georgia, R& M Sandwich Shop, where are you immediately greeted with a smile and the best hoagie that you will ever have in your life, Saturday afternoons spent in Sanford Stadium with 93,000 of your closest friends, and that feeling you get when the front door opens at 1030 Main Street and mom gives you a big hug and says in her most genuine voice “you have no idea how much I’ve missed you.” All of these things and more are what make up “home.”

Thanks to my sister, I have a unique way to carry my home with me now. The Home T is an exceptional product. On the outside, it looks simple, but the message it carries is powerful. Home is with you wherever you go. I love wearing this shirt. I love how it makes me remember why my home is special. I love how I can be living in Florida and all it takes is for me to slip on a piece of American made apparel and I feel like I am back in the peach state. I love that when other people see me wear it, their faces light up because it makes them think of their home state. Most of all, I love that my big sister is the one that gave it to me.

What makes you think of home? How are you still connected to the place that made you who you are today? Why is it special? Answer these questions. Never take home for granted and be thankful the people, places, and memories that make it apart of your heart.

 

 

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy

My roommate and I just moved into a new house with two other people. Both of us love our new home. The house is fantastic with plenty of space and centered in a warm neighborhood. Needless to say, it was the right move.

I wish I could say that moving into our new home was aneasy process; however, it was quite taxing. First of all, we had to pay a termination fee for our old apartment. We knew that this would be the case and we just looked at as if we were ripping of a Band-Aid. In addition, I had to hire movers for the large amount of furniture I own and our application for the new house was unclear and slightly complicated.

 

Doesn’t something like this always seem to happen when things are going well? We tend to think “Wow, this is so perfect, what could go wrong?” and then, BAM out of the blue, we are struck with an unexpected blow that leaves us thinking “Is this really worth it?”

 

That’s the question in times of crisis that we have to take the appropriate amount of time to answer with certainty….”Is it worth it?”

 

For me, it came down to one simple thought….”Will this bring me joy?” Not happiness, but joy. Do you remember that song we all used to sing in Sunday school? “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, WHERE? Down in my heart, WHERE? Down in my heart!” There is a reason why this song specifically mentions joy rather than happiness. Happiness is fleeting, it comes and it goes. Joy is sustaining. Therefore, I had to be sure that moving into a new house, even though there would be inevitable obstacles along the way, would end up resulting in a joyful experience.

 

I have had to closely analyze the difference between being happy and being joyful in multiple aspects of life: work, education, and relationships, just to name a few. What I always find myself asking in times of doubt is will (insert uncertain situation here) bring happiness or joy?

 

I encourage you to look at your life and consider what brings you joy. Be appreciative of the experiences, places, and most of all people that make your life joyful. Do not hesitate to genuinely thank these people or spend a little bit of extra time in a place that is meaningful to you. We may not be able to control the obstacles that come in life, but we can control the way our response to “Is it worth it?” and if you know that what you’re asking about will bring you joy, then the answer will always be yes.

Let it Shine

I am not bound to win, I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to the light that I have.

-Abraham Lincoln

The first time I heard this quote I could not help but remember the song we all once sang in Sunday school, “This Little Light of Mine.” The lyrics are easy to memorize, the melody is catchy, but the message is powerful.

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

At what point in our lives do we stop believing it? At what year in school, at what stage in our career, or at what slump in a relationship did we stop believing the words we once sang out so passionately?

We are so focused on winning. Our society is obsessed with it. We’ve all heard the phrase, “If you’re not first, you’re last” (thanks Ricky Bobby, for your countless words of wisdom). Our desire to win has the power to dilute us from truly living. The happiest I have ever seen my family, friends, and coworkers is not when they considered something in their life as a “win”; however, it was when they were undeniably shining their light. I can say the same for myself.

In a world that says, “Hide your light under a bushel.” We must have to courage to respond with, “No! I’m going to let it shine.”

The question remains, why do we hide our light? We are skeptical of letting our true selves shine because we afraid of getting burned. It takes courage to step out into the unknown darkness. At first, we may not be able to see. There may not be any guidance what so ever. We may even be stepping out alone. Nevertheless, if we live up to the light that we have, the light that makes us true, then we are bound to live purposefully.

After I graduated high school, a family member told me to “go grab life be the throat.” I never quite understood what she meant until recently. She was telling me to make the most of every moment, to live my life with purpose, and to be myself while doing so. In her own way, she was telling me to shine my light and not to be ashamed of it.

Shining our light has a purpose. It proves that we accept whom we are while encouraging others to do the same.

Do not allow anyone or anything to blow out your light. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Putting the “Mo” in Motivation

Motivation is tricky. One moment you are a cloud nine with a great idea, a goal you want to accomplish, and the perfect ending in mind. What could go wrong, right? We like to think that our dreams will come true without a hitch; that there will be no roadblocks on our path to destiny; however, that’s rarely the case.

One of my favorite motivation stories comes from a young entrepreneur, Moziah Bridges. Commonly referred to as simply “Mo”, Bridges started his own fashion business Mo’s Bows in 2011 when he was just nine years old. According to Mo, he could not find “fun and cool bow ties” and therefore used his grandmother’s scrap fabric to create his own. What’s great about this story is that Mo discovered his passion and pursued it without letting his age, lack of experience, or other obstacles get in the way.

If the company sounds similar it might be because you have seen Mo or heard of his appearance on the popular ABC program Sharktank. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, contestants present their product to a panel of experts known as the “sharks” in hopes of having one, or more, members of the panel invest in the company. Mo’s presentation was stellar; yet, he did not receive an official offer. Instead, Mo received a mentor, fashion mogul, Daymond John. It would have been easy for Mo to pack up his awesome looking bow tie box and accept that he did not receive an offer from the sharks but to understand how truly motivated one is in accomplishing their goal you mustfirst look at how they faced and handled adversity. For example, Mo took what other people might perceive as a rejection and instead started a life changing mentorship with Daymond. We must take what is given and use it further ourselves in a positive way, just like Mo did.

Mo’s Bows are now sold in nine different states and fourteen different high profiled stores. The online store is also flourishing as Mo’s popularity continues to rise.

You might be asking, how does Mo’s story relate to me own? Like Mo, I had a dream. I had a clear vision of working for the Walt Disney Company and I firmly believed everything was going to work out perfectly. Similar to Mo, my dream had obstacles. I was told “no” more than I was told “yes.” I am thankful now that the road to my dream job had detours, roadblocks, and potholes. As a coordinator for the Disney College Internship Program I get to serve others in a positive way every day. I could not be happier and I am thankful for the back seat drives that helped guide me to my destination.

Some people might say that a Mo’s Bow bowtie is just a piece of clothing or a trend. Those people are wrong. Mo is here to stay and I have full confidence that his company will continue to grow and that his story will inspire others like it has me. Yes, wearing a Mo’s Bow makes me feel cool and happy but more importantly than that, it makes me remember what true motivation means and for that Moziah Bridges I am forever grateful.

“Designing a colorful bow tie is just a part of my vision to make the world a fun and happier place.”

-Moziah