Story Chicago 2013

October 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

“Dreams don’t fade away as we get older; we exchange them for standards of living.” Ben Arment

Ben’s words on the first full day of Story Chicago rang true with me.  We all have dreams and we need to see them through.  We just do.  The Story Conference reminded me of that fact and helped reset my course to do so.

The conference started with an amazing art display.  “Make sure you’re in before 7 because they’re closing the doors and you don’t want to miss it!” I was told.  And they were right.  The creative team presented a visual and aural masterpiece.  Essentially, it was a thunderstorm inside.  And as I type that, I am fully aware I cannot do it justice with words.  The cool thing, though, was that there was an actual storm raging outside, too!  It really was an event that had to be experienced to be appreciated.

Then we got to view Blood Brother, a fantastic documentary about a guy who ends-up finding his place at an AIDS orphanage in India.  At turns funny, then poignant, then heartbreaking…Blood Brother will change you.

I’m not sure I knew who any of the speakers were this year before they spoke, but they added their own flavor.  It’s just so cool to hear other peoples’ creative process!  From the Global Director of Creative Outreach and Senior Writer for Nike, to the founder of Charity:Water, to the Director of Arts programs at Kickstarter, to the Chief Product Officer at, to a “mouth artist,” to the creative director at Cirque du Soleil Media, to the Creative Director at Google Labs…seriously, we as an audience might not have known who they were, but they are all amazing people doing incredible things who we have a lot to learn from.

The bands were fantastic, too!  Nothing like starting your morning with a live performance from Paper Route!  Leagues performed Thursday night and Drew and Ellie Holcomb serenaded us on Friday.


Honestly, the highlight for me (and based on all the head-shaking I saw, for others as well) was getting to see Tom Thum perform.  I had no idea who this dude was before he took the stage, but I’ll never forget him after his performance!  Tom uses his mouth to make amazing things.  Sounds, to be exact.  Check this clip out:

WHAT?!  RIGHT?!  Tom shared how he discovered this talent and how he continues to improve.  It’s funny because, as he said, we tend to think people who can do things like this are “afflicted with this talent.”  And while he has unique abilities many of us don’t have, he still has to work hard and practice and discover new sounds.  I appreciated his transparency and the way he was able to make his unique gift something that could inspire me to cultivate mine.

Rather than tell you about each speaker, I’d like to share with you the main theme I personally took away from Story.  And honestly, this is something I’ve struggled with for years, but…it’s the idea of pressing into uncertainty.  Alex Chen from Google really drove this home for me.  He creates something, enjoys it, and then creates something new.  He tries things that have never been done before.  All the speakers mentioned “pushing the envelope” or “testing the boundaries,” things like that.  They shared about their failures; about things they tried that didn’t work.  I HATE the unknown . I want to KNOW that what I’m doing is going to work!  That I’m going to succeed!  I need to stop thinking that way, though.  Otherwise I’m going to be stuck maintaining mediocre creativity.  Yuck.

Another thing I love about going to conferences is meeting people in real life who I am friends with online.  I finally got to meet Matt Appling and Bethany Suckrow (and her hubsband), which was awesome.  I also got to see my friend Kyle and the Vesterfeldts and the Koteckis.  And I met new friends like Ryan and Lisa.  There’s just something about connecting in real life.

If Jason and I hadn't hung out in real life, this picture wouldn't exist.

If Jason and I hadn’t hung out in real life, this picture wouldn’t exist.

I had a great time at Story this year and can’t wait for 2014!


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I'm a husband, a father, an author, a speaker, a friend...all kinds of things, actually.

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