Sitting On A Gold Mine

I’ve been immersed in a few video projects throughout the summer, two that have weaved their stories and characters together in ways that I never imagined possible, changing my perceptions of how video production, art, story and community could impact others.

Yesterday, as I listened to the collective wisdom of marketers, social media experts, gurus, emergency managers, pastors, artists, realtors and writers, it struck me: I’m sitting on a wealth of information. In fact, I’m sitting on a gold mine of wisdom, knowledge and life-altering story. Now what?

There is a description for what I am immersed in, Qualitative Analysis, and it is simply mining the words, recollections and stories of others in order to tell a larger story. All of these stories are telling me something, but what could it possibly be?

Driving home this morning after taking my wife to work, I realized that the gold mine that I was sitting on was this: All of this analysis leads back to my friendship and mentorship of one person. My life is changing today because of a relationship I began ten years ago and have fostered over the decade.

A young man, eager to be a filmmaker, created epic stop-motion animated feature-length films. I admired his desire to learn, his dedication to story and cinematography. I have tried to help him over the years in any ways that I could, and to see him become an amazing filmmaker today makes me joyful. His story would continue intersecting with my own as he eventually married the daughter of a client. That client would occasionally receive building construction loans through the credit union that my mom works for. Weaving threads of lives, creating a rich tapestry of colors and lives.

But it continued, my friend was presented with an opportunity to make a promotional video for a church planting organization in Vancouver, WA, but seeing as he lives in Los Angeles, he suggested me instead (thank you by the way). The contract was written, the scope of the project envisioned, and I set out on what would become a life-altering journey of story and community told through the eyes of diverse characters and larger-than-life personalities.

I traveled to Puyallup, Salem, Sherwood, Downtown Portland, throughout Vancouver, and I witnessed life after life gripped in epic struggles of faith, love, failure, cancer, sickness, sin, healing, forgiveness. I saw people rise above it all for the sake of building something greater than their individual selves. They were building community, one day at a time.

Reflecting upon the first shoot, I could easily say that it was trivial and not important, but it is the foundation for how my life would be interrupted: Four pastors and a mentor discussing the diagnosis of cancer that one of them received. I saw a small band of people rally together to pray for him, and that was just the start.

Weeks later, I noticed that individual’s name on Facebook in the form of a fundraising event at Pop Culture. The community was rallying around him to support his family as he went through the expensive and soul-wrenching process of chemotherapy and radiation. Over 150 people gathered to celebrate and support him. Faith didn’t matter. It wasn’t about religion. It was about love. It was about community. Sacrifice. Celebration. Yet, this was still the story of the church planting organization, and it just got a lot bigger and expansive. How was I going to tell this story in 5-10 minutes?

On top of this, I found out who the person that organized the fundraiser and determined to tell her story for Innovators of Vancouver. This one project for a church planting organization morphed into two projects all about the same thing: the love and development of communities.

It is all about community.

Diverse, smelly, messy and loving community.

That is the gold mine I am sitting on.

So, now that I know what the gold mine is, I need to tell the story of community in each project, but more importantly, I need to tell the story of community in my own life.

What gold mine are you sitting on? What relationships do you have that are potentially life-changing? Are you going to let people in? Take the time to learn about them? Lower your defenses in order to share who you are deep down inside?

These are the questions I not only ask you, but myself as I tell the story of my life in the midst of community.


The Meaning Of Interactivity

I had a great chat with a fellow documentary filmmaker yesterday at Breken Kitchen (my new favorite place in NW Portland). We talked about many things, but the topic that really got me thinking was about the word: Interactive. What does it mean to be approaching and defining interactive experiences in a world that is addicted to providing interactivity, from cradle to the grave?

Simply defined as “a continuous two-way transfer of information between a user and the central point of a communication system, such as a computer or television,” interactivity has morphed from a passive system where there is one active participant getting information from a single system, to an active system where there are multiple users constantly receiving media-rich content from multiple systems, utilizing multiple devices on several networks, all simultaneously connected.

Today, interactive experiences are in abundance. We are heavily interactive because of social media and mobile technology, which provide instant access to more people and more information. But just because we have commoditized our access to others, our identities, and our information sources, does this change the underlying and philosophical nature of being interactive with other people or systems of information?

While listening to my friend talk about interactivity, I was thinking and processing everything above, remembering when interactive web design and multimedia production was the rage, when he threw the curve ball, striking me out: “Interaction is reaction to a story.”

Nothing to do with technology, everything to do with the message. Interaction is what we think about the stories that we are told. Interactivity is a method of processing and analyzing the information that we have mined in our digital networks. In many ways this reactionary definition of interaction and interactivity returns us to the simple definition with a twist: “The continuous two-way transfer of information between a user and a [story].”

We measure what we know to be true and false against the stories that we are told, thus shaping, morphing and evolving the way we think and feel about particular subjects. This is by no means a passive process, because the stronger the story, the bolder the message, the longer it takes to be in a continuous conversation with that story. We will be continually challenged to test our assumptions against the greater narrative and we will be immersed in an interactive process that shapes our individual worlds in ways that we didn’t know was possible.

An interesting view of interactivity and as I test what I know against this thought of interaction being a reaction to a story, it gets me excited about the power of a well-told story. Stories that endure the test of time can change the world. They can challenge assumptions, reveal prejudice and bias, and can show people new ways of thinking. But the hardest thing to do in life is to tell compelling stories that have depth, meaning and vision. That doesn’t mean that we don’t try.


It’s Time For Leaders To Mentor The Next Generation

I had a great conversation with my dad this morning over a cup of coffee at our friendly-neighborhood Starbucks. Among various topics, we got on the subject of how to fix the US economy, specifically looking at flat tax rates, job creation, and mentoring the next generation of business entrepreneurs. While there are many theories as to how we, as an American people, can get ourselves out of the mess we are in, I believe that the number one area of change has to do with attitude. Yes, attitude.

The Old Way: Figure It Out On Your Own

There is a certain attitude that successful people over the age of 50 have: a combination of entitlement and arrogance, mixed with a sense of arrival. They created a gigantic economy with their own blood, sweat, tears and brains, often at the expense of their families and friends. Now that they are ready to retire and live off the fruit of their labors, they sit on their wealth and knowledge continuing their mantra: “If you want it, figure it out on your own. Just like we did.”

While there is a certain amount of positive value to this mindset, it unfortunately perpetuates a very significant problem: How do you teach leadership when those that have the ability to mentor the next generation choose to sit upon and hoard the necessary knowledge that helps navigate the systems of business?

The New Way: I Will Help You Figure It Out

Instead of hoarding knowledge and charging thousands of dollars for leadership seminars and programs designed for the best and the brightest, it’s time for the leaders of the Baby Boomer Generation to create systems of sustainable leadership training for every level of business entrepreneur, ranging from the solo-preneur (like myself) to the small business that employs a few hundred people. They need to be mentoring young business owners, not only in how to develop positive cash flow, but how to be long-term visionaries. They need to start helping the next generation create a new future, instead of golfing all day long and cashing in their entitlements.

Mentor Everyone, You Might Be Surprised In What Is Found

It seems that a lot of leadership programs exist solely for those who will figure it out on their own anyway, thus creating a system that is inbred and preaching to the choir. Instead, everyone should have access to leadership development and mentorship programs, regardless of aptitude and attitude, gender and race.

By mentoring and leading a diverse group of individuals, not just the sons and daughters of the entitled, there is tremendous potential for developing leaders that otherwise would have not been created. By exposing more kids and young adults to the power and success of the established and proven, imagine what could be accomplished in this country. We could inspire people that want, and are able, to contribute to our economy.

It is time for leaders to mentor the next generation! As a solo-preneur for almost six years, I have yet to have a single successful business owner pull me aside and want to mentor me. For the most part, I have figured everything out on my own or with the help of my peers. I have sought after others, I have shown initiative, but there is a lack of reciprocity from the leaders that I admire. All that teaches me is that when I am successful, I need to make sure that I am approachable and that I seek those that are in need of leadership and mentoring.

Until then, I’m going to continue figuring it out on my own, because I can’t afford to play golf or the stock market. I’m going to get to work and focus on taking care of my family, encouraging and inspiring my fellow business owners, and continue looking in dismay at the amount of greed coming from the older generations, not in terms of economics, but in the areas of knowledge and wisdom.


The Path to Social Change: Listening to the Voice of Others

We live in a constant state of proving that we are experts. What we say, how we say it, to whom we speak—all collective marketing efforts that we use to broadcast to the world about how competent we are and why you should listen to us. But, what if social change is more than a constant state of marketing, proving, and validating our claims? What if the true power of change is found in the power of listening to others, specifically their stories? How do we get out of the way of our own egos, in order to learn from and be validated by the views, opinions, and foundations of knowledge that make up the stories of those that surround us on a daily basis?

Early in Bill Moyers’ political career in the Johnson administration, he is given a pearl of wisdom from Lady Bird Johnson regarding how he should compose himself in the presence of powerful politicians:  “Don’t worry. If you are unsure of what to say, just ask questions, and I promise you that when they leave, they will think you were the smartest one in the room, just for listening to them.” Does this advice run counter-culture today, when we are taught that the loudest expressed opinion should be taken as the gospel, regardless of whether it is true or not? It takes a person secure in their views of self to be quiet and listen to others. However, I argue that it takes an even stronger person to be willing to ask questions that go beyond surface level, seeking to draw out glimpses of the truth that are buried deep in the tough soil of the soul.

If you are interested in finding a way to impart positive social change in your life and in the lives of others, adopt a listening ear. Don’t seek to qualify the views of others through your own filter of understanding; although, that is my biggest struggle when listening, I want to validate others through my own experience, which only speaks to my arrogance thinking that I have the authority to do such. Perhaps it is allowing uninterrupted time and unfiltered space to freely express oneself that enables understanding.

The stories of people throughout the world need to be heard; nothing holds more power than a well-told story. But as long as we need to be right, directing the story of others through a spoken word and not a listening ear, we will never personally or socially change. Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From, speaks beautifully about where being right will lead:  “Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces you to explore.”

I am tired of being in the same place, it’s time for me to listen deeper to others, allowing their stories to guide and direct my life through a desire to explore new ideas. If that means I need to be wrong, or risk not being right, then so be it, because isn’t perfection in the eye of the beholder anyway?


Is It Getting Stale?

I was perusing Facebook this morning and I came across my dad’s latest comment from Ireland: “My Uncle told me my blog was getting stale, so here is a new one.” This got me thinking about how often I ask myself:  Is this getting stale? Am I forcing the writing? Am I enjoying what I write about? Or is it just pointless pontifications of nothingness? Like the advice that I gave my dad and will reproduce further down, asking questions is great, but providing a path to obtaining answers is even better.

To answer my question that I start with, no, it’s not stale, to me anyway. But there are moments where I fight the feeling, “I just don’t have it today.” That is when I write anyway, or send a rough draft to a friend for honest feedback. I also do a quite a few other things in order to challenge my status quo of staleness.

Status Quo Challenge #1: Question My Assumptions

I make assumptions about a lot of things, particularly about subjects and topics that have become second-nature. In order to grow in writing and the pursuit of knowledge, I need to question my assumptions by examining not only at what has changed since I originally acquired information regarding a subject or topic, but also at what I can learn if I set my assumptions aside.

Status Quo Challenge #2: Ask Questions

I have never had a problem asking questions, but are they the right questions? That is the question.

Status Quo Challenge #3: Give Answers

I struggle with giving answers to questions I ask. I fear answers because I don’t want to be wrong or arrogant. But there is a difference between giving answers arrogantly, unshakeable in your response, and giving an initial thought about what could be, allowing discussion and discourse to shape an answer to a question.

Status Quo Challenge #4: Know Your Audience

Do you know who you write for? I write this blog as a means to inspire and motivate myself. A little narcissistic—okay, a lot of narcissism there—but it’s more affordable than weekly therapy sessions, plus there are times when my readers get something out of my thoughts. This post is written for my dad and for others that want to fight the staleness of daily blog writing.

Status Quo Challenge #5: Forget Your Audience

Now that you know your audience, forget about them, because then you will want your writing to be liked. Wanting to be liked or approved of changes the way you write, what you say, and how you communicate your thoughts. Be wary of writing for your audience because of this very reason.

Status Quo Challenge #6: Be Entertaining And Educating

Don’t need to say much to this challenge other than if you are striving to be educational, do it with dramatic flair. If you are attempting to be funny, try to be serious or even academic. Writing with an opposing style or viewpoint than you normally do will help you to come at a topic in a unique way.

Status Quo Challenge #7: Have An Opinion…It’s A Blog After All!

Don’t hold back out of a desire to be academic or objective. Save that for academic journals, newspapers, and magazine articles. If I’m reading your blog, I want your opinion. I want your solutions. I want your questions and your answers. After all, I’m your audience, you’re writing for me.

If you take my advice and challenge the status quo of staleness, I’ll still be reading and sharing, because that is the whole point of daily blog writing: communicating thoughts and ideas with other people. Once the Publish button is pressed, everything you typed joins the digital cacophony of what other people think, swirling and pressing together into a collective of ideas that have the power to change the world.


To Be Welcomed Is To Be Known

Sunday was a very welcoming day for me. I visited a church plant in Puyallup, WA to video the service for a project, and I went to a birthday party at a friend’s house. Both were a strong and clear example of what it means to welcome people, allowing the opportunity to be known.

Ironically, churches can be very unwelcoming. I have experienced my fair share of “closed” communities in the past, mainly from some of the bigger names around town, but Renovo Church in Puyallup took the prize for “Most Welcoming Church.”

Like a lot of church plants in the northwest, Renovo meets in a school gym, which has the potential for allowing awkwardness and the nomad-mentality to overshadow the welcoming spirit of the Gospel of Christ. However, the minute I walked through the front doors, I was welcomed, received eye-contact, smiles, handshakes, and was asked where I was from.

I originally thought the welcoming spirit was due to the fact that I was carrying a video camera-mounted tripod with me, but time would prove me wrong, as more and more continued to interrupt my work in order to welcome me and say hello. During communion, as I wandered the sidelines getting footage, I was even remembered and served communion. That meant a lot to me.

Throughout the morning, some even began to tell me their stories. I heard of one man’s journey from a prison camp in World War II to the laboratories of NASA and the impact that had on his faith. I heard of a student’s pursuit of video production in a local community college and what he loves about video. I heard stories of faith, but most importantly, those stories were about life. As I was welcomed, I started to understand that to be welcomed is to be invited into the pursuit of knowing one another.

Fast-forward down I-5 to my friend’s backyard. When he saw that I had arrived, he shouted, “Chris! Everyone, this is THE Chris Martin.” The room of roughly 15-20 people responded: “Hi Chris!” People that I knew welcomed me, people that I didn’t know said hello. I felt welcomed.

Again, the reality of being welcomed led to several conversations regarding my blog, as well as my video series Innovators of Vancouver. As my friend welcomed me graciously, people were able to make a connection, and let me know that I was known to them, and vice versa.

One of our deepest desires as human beings is to be known by others, that is why it is so important to be welcoming when people enter your homes and communities. As I smile thinking of the conversations I had yesterday, I feel known, which in turn, leads me to a feeling of love, and a desire to make sure that I am as welcoming as the examples of the people of Renovo Church and my friend.


Enraptured by the Joy of Others

I can’t help but be enraptured when others express their joy and delight in the things that they do. My heart fills with such delight that my only response is to laugh and giggle, like a little boy. The inner child in me fighting its way to the surface.

So, why this obsession with the joy of others? Three things come to mind that have recently filled me with joy and delight to the point of giggling.

Dream Theater Drummer Auditions

When long-time Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy left the band earlier this year, I was deeply saddened and worried about the future of the band. I have been an avid and loyal Dream Theater fan for roughly 20 years, so like the majority of the fans, I was shocked.

Last night, I watched episodes 1 and 2 of Dream Theater’s documentary series, “The Spirit Carries On.” Seven drummers were chosen to audition for the band and watching each drummer play Dream Theater songs, jam and improvise along with the band was amazing. Two drummers in particular were so energetic and full of joy and delight, that I instantly started jumping up and down in my soul, allowing the laughter to erupt.

Mike Mangini’s facial expressions and technical virtuosity was unbelievable. I didn’t think it couldn’t get any better until Marco Minnemann hit the kit and had a look of pure enjoyment and joy on his face as he played some of the most technically advanced music I can think of.

You can check out the documentary series on Roadrunner Records YouTube page or watch episode 2 below.

The Matrix Trilogy Philosopher’s Commentary

One of the benefits of being a DVD junkie is that I love buying collector edition box sets. One of my favorite collection of DVDs is The Matrix Trilogy. Hours upon hours of special features combined with a very unique commentary track available on all three Matrix films, the philosopher’s commentary with Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber.

Not only is the discussion of the philosophy amazing, but at key moments, the pure joy and spectacle of the imagery breaks through the intellectual discourse and reduces two highly intelligent men to laughter, silence and even giggles.

I can’t deny the power of joy and for me there is one more expression of joy that I hear in my head constantly as the benchmark of joy.

The Terry Gilliam Giggle

Watching “Lost in La Mancha,” a documentary of Terry Gilliam’s disastrous attempt at a movie based on Don Quixote, one not only gets a glimpse of madness and chaos, but in crucial moments, joy.

Three large men, giants, come crashing towards the camera, and all Terry Gilliam can do is giggle like a child. Even in the grip of failure, the joy of filmmaking is enough to propel him towards the creation of joy-enriched frames, expressed by an infectious giggle.

Without Joy?

These three examples of the expression of joy remind me that the work I do and the life I live needs to be full of joy and meaning. When others see the emotions I express, they are going to be filled with a response. What better response than the giggle of joy.


The Importance of Sharing

In our presentation, Social Business Strategies, Bruce Elgort and I talk about the importance of sharing, that we were taught that it was a good thing, and somewhere along our journey, we forgot how to share or even why sharing is so critical in the establishment of quality, healthy relationships (business and personal).

We go on to say that sharing is three things:

  1. Speaking
  2. Listening
  3. Collaborating

While we often don’t have time to go much deeper than those three aspects of sharing, there are a multitude of things that can be included.

What are you sharing?

When you talking with others, what are you sharing?  Is there meaning and purpose in what you are saying?  Do you believe in what you feel compelled to share?  Or are you just rehashing what you have read in a book, saw on TV, or from 140 characters in someone else’s Twitter stream?

Perhaps you even go as far as only sharing what you perceive others want from you instead of what it is they are asking of you.

Are you open to receiving what others share?

Do you listen to other people’s heart and soul?  Their ideas?  Their thoughts?  Or are you just listening so that you can add your input or twist, morph and manipulate the shared content into your own image?  Sharing can have selfish tendencies.  We share just enough or in direct proportion to what others are sharing with us.

Are you willing to give to someone in need?

Sharing is a willingness to give what we have to another person that needs the exact things we have to offer.  This can be in the form of tangible objects, known as our stuff, or in the intangible, our ideas, creativity, talents and time.  When we are open to sharing without receiving anything in return, then we truly have an opportunity to forge healthy, strong relationships with other people that are built on trust and faith in the other person.

It is critical to share your hopes and dreams with others.  It is equally important to receive what others share with you.  There must be a proper balance in order to impact your life and the lives of others.

As I open myself to sharing with and receiving from others, I find a tremendous amount of joy and fulfillment of purpose.  As long as I don’t expect anything to be reciprocated.


Embracing Silence

My world is noisy.  From the movies and television that I enjoy, to the music and media that I consume, there is an over-abundance of stimulation that leaves me feeling overwhelmed.  In all definitions of the word addict, I am addicted to the noise of life, the drug of culture.

Recently, I have been spending a lot of time in silence.  Whether driving in the car to and from meetings and appointments, working in silence, or simply spending some quiet time reading in silence, I have found that I went through a period of withdrawal.  I needed to know what was going on, I needed to be stimulated.  I was filled with anxiety and loneliness.  At first.

As I continued to embrace silence, the anxiety and loneliness was slowly replaced with an internal calmness and meditative awareness of peace.  Miraculously, my ability to focus returned.  The cares and concerns of my highly connective, technological world was brought into perspective and I became aware of what was truly important to me.  I also realized how easy it was to forget my core values and be just another human being living life as a rat in a race.

With that, here is an idea for you.  Ask yourself a few simple questions and really meditate on how you would answer them.

  • How much silence is in your life?
  • Are you making your life increasingly noisy in order to drown out pain?
  • What is the noisiest part of your day and how can you turn down the volume?

Life’s Mission Statement

When starting a business, one of the first things you do is define the mission of your business in the form of, you guessed it, a mission statement.  This is generally a paragraph or manifesto that defines the scope and vision and of what your business is all about so that over time a document exists that can guide and direct you through the ups and downs that come with running a business.

But when it comes to life, how often do we write a mission statement?  Why don’t we create a document that can guide us to the mountain tops and direct us through the valleys?

For me, I am in the process of re-writing my business mission statement and for the first time write my life’s mission statement.  In some ways, they are synonymous with each other, but in many ways there is beginning to be a clear delineation between Chris Martin and Chris Martin Studios.  I for one begin to feel healthy as I separate and distinguish between the two.

As I write my plan, I will share it with the people that care to know, and in the meantime I leave you with a vision that I have for my life.  To boldly tell the stories of people that are doing amazing and miraculous work.  By doing this, I tell my story.