This Man Changed My Life And I Feel Gratitude

Sunset on the beach in California

I have been thinking about gratitude a lot lately. It helps me find balance with the daily stresses I face. Gratitude makes you feel better about a lot of things. Gratitude is humbling and it is inspiring.

Our industry is, in a word, amazing. The vast majority of people being self taught to the level of true expertise. Please don’t confuse this with the vast majority of people who claim to be experts actually BEING experts. We know that’s not the case.

Beyond all that self-taught knowledge is the sharing. And share we do. Maybe not in the free-love 60’s hippie kind of way, but in our own way, we share quite openly. And we did so before social media really became what it is today.

All that sharing inevitably lead to meeting new folks and the conferences lead to formalizing relationships in real life. With so much of life going digital, it’s nice to see people still very much making the analogue choice of attending conferences and getting face-to-face with people. And while not an easy or inexpensive step to take, getting to meet people in person is incredibly valuable.

I’m grateful to have met, and know, many people from our industry. Chris Sherman, Danny, Matt, Gary, Rae, Rand, Mike King, Marcus Tandler, Joost, William Sears, Jeffrey Preston, Jeffrey Eisenberg and his brother Bryan, Raj, Jim, my old teams at MSN & Bing (Mark, Sohier, Rajesh, Herri, Frank, Dan, Asif, Reiki, Tracey, Fabrice, Joshua, Irving, Stefan, Aya, Betsy, Andrew, Ted, Melissa, Karin, Adam, Nikhil, Jason, Ramya, and all the rest). Truly, this list could be endless as so many people have opened up to connect, share, teach and support over the years. Many in really impactful ways for me, too.

But… there’s this one guy. Isn’t there always? And he is the reason for my post. To express my gratitude for his influence on my life.

Now I’m not going to claim we are besties. But I will state that the relationship I have with him is one of the most honest I have with anyone. We only get face-to-face maybe once a year or so, two or three times if we’re lucky. This guy, however, has had, and continues to have, meaningful impact on my life. And in every example I can think of, his influence has been positive on my life.

It helps that he is a genuinely nice guy. Smart, fun, likable – the kind of guy you want at your table. A rich life full of experiences he’s willing to share. Of yes, he’s a smart businessman, a successful one who knows more than most about digital marketing. But he’s also well traveled, very knowledgeable about the micro and macro topics around not just running a business, but how to make a living online, too.

I’ve seen him endure heart ache, grow, enjoy success, fretted over his path at times, and have always remained impressed with his outcomes. In short, he has his ducks in a row.

How has he helped me?

Well, while times were tough in his own personal life, he shared with me some things he was learning and experiencing. I’ve been able to use that knowledge to improve my own relationships.

I was struggling at work once, the year I launched Webmaster Tools in fact. Literally overwhelmed with little support. I seriously considered throwing in the towel and moving to a different company. Instead I drove to Vancouver and had lunch with this guy. We sat for hours. I talked, he listened, then took a trademark step. One I see him do over and over again, and it really separates him from the run-of-the-mill contacts we all have in our lives.

He outlined a plan of action and gave it to me. A blueprint to help solve a major part of the problem I was facing. We worked it up on his laptop, he emailed it over and that was it. The rest was up to me to execute. What followed was a pivotal moment in my career. I launched the tools, there were a huge hit, the company was very pleased, I was promoted, given a fat bonus, more stocks and so on. This alone would be cause for gratitude.

More recently he’s opened my eyes to possibilities. I like to think that I “think big”. That Microsoft taught me that. Yes and no. Microsoft taught me scale. This guy reminds me to think big.

A few months ago, while we sat and chatted in a hotel lobby that oddly felt like an extension of home to me, he mentioned an app he uses and the subtle psychology employed by it. The app is called Way of Life. I have it on my iPhone, and I hope they are working on an Android version. I’m pretty sure there is no Windows Phone version…sigh…

Way Of Life Habit Forming APP for iPhone

I use it in the most simple way possible.

I have two items listed that I need to track progress against. Exercise and writing for my third book. You just create the task and each day it reminds you to record progress. Select the item, check the date and poof, a green box. The tricky bit is the desire you get to create a seamless green line each week. Missing a day breaks the cycle, you feel the failure and vow to get better. Admittedly, I used it for only the first 3 days after I installed it. The app then went into the background and I ignored it’s subtle jabs and reminders of my abject failure to fulfill my personal promises to myself. HEY! I was busy! …but I never uninstalled the app, largely because my friend said it was useful.

Fast forward to three weeks ago.

Vowing to wrestle the elliptical to the mat, I have actually enjoyed my daily exercise routine. More than the energy, sense of calm and personal progress I’ve seen from the activity however, tapping the box each day in that app and seeing the green string grow has been motivating. Even moreso than I thought as this notion was explained to me in the deep, comfy sofa in San Jose.

Zero progress on the book, but whatevs. My journey, my pace. I’ll get there. With a little help from my friends. 😉

This guy has helped my personal life, my relationships with others, my sense of self worth, influenced my career direction, helped me see things differently, shared wisdom and knowledge and had a positive impact on my health – both physically and emotionally. Thus my gratitude.

Truly I wish that everyone encounters someone like this in their lives. It’s enriching and you cannot help but feel grateful. From the bottom of my heart, I thank him.

So who is my guy?

Stephan Spencer

But the more important question is this:

Who is your guy or girl? Who has been this person in your own life?

…and while it’d be cool for us all to know, be sure to tell them, too.