Drinking, Learning, & Hanging with a Z/Hero.

I drank a lot this week, folks. Like, a lot.

I spent the week in Orlando at the Eloqua Experience conference, where around 2,000 people convened to discuss what it means to be a “modern marketer”. Part of being a modern marketer is knowing how to party I guess.

Yet somewhere in between the Yeunglings, red wine and single barrel scotch, I learned some things. Like how drinking at sea level is no big deal when you regularly drink strong booze up in mountains. I’m high altitude trained for this now. Or how good I look in black. Thanks for the compliment, people who told me that.

In all seriousness, there are some really cool, really innovative things happening in marketing these days, and I learned it’s up to me to take the knowledge and resources gained at EE and do something meaningful & impactful with them.

I thought a lot about how I could do meaningful and impactful things in and out of work and where I would find the time and energy. Eventually, it started to come together.

After Eloqua Experience concluded, I spent a few extra days in town to catch up with friends who live nearby. As fate would have it, I was joined by another childhood friend named Thomas Zero. Thomas traveled to Orlando this weekend to run a half marathon. A life accomplishment for some (*cough*), just another day for Thomas.

Thomas excelled at most things growing up. I mean, it’s ridiculous how smart, motivated and generally talented he is. Everything I participated in - academics, sports, music - Thomas was there too and Thomas was really freaking good at what he did. Oh, and he was super genuinely nice and super humble.

It drove me crazy.

I competed with Thomas, pushed myself to keep pace with or exceed him. At some point though, competition turned to admiration. I learned to respect everything Thomas did and how he remained so likable throughout.

Early on in our freshman year of college, Thomas was diagnosed with leukemia. Not only did he keep his head up when diagnosed, he kicked leukemia right in the ass. Hard. Oh, and guess what, after all the pain and treatments, he looks as healthy as can be and is really freaking good at running. Like, regularly-finish-top-15-has-an-entire-room-in-his-house-dedicated-to-all-his-medals-and-trophies really freaking good.

Sonnufabitch.

I’m pretty sure Thomas is part of a secret superhero family because his three siblings and parents are also really freaking awesome people. It’s not…normal.

Thomas and I caught up a bit and I’m proud to report the guy is still amazing. We talked about running and about keeping our heads up and finding what we’re looking for in life, despite the twists and turns life may throw in. It made me proud of what I’ve already accomplished and the positive attitude I’ve taken in life this past year. I felt that pride because I realized I was on the road to maybe becoming someone as incredible as Thomas. Or, well, some version close to that. Which I’ll take. It inspired me to become that incredible person and help and inspire others along the way.

It made me realize we need to be challenged and we need to live up to those challenges.

It’s so easy to look at the lives other people get to lead and to say “What the hell? Why isn’t that my life?” It’s so hard to look at our lives and say “How much of this can I own?” Thomas owns his life. He owned his reaction to scary news. He owned his recovery from that scary news. He owns his running. And he owns a wicked trophy case, apparently. It wasn’t easy and it’s not easy, but Thomas takes another step, runs another mile. Every time. It’s what I’m trying to do and thankful I have other people to inspire me to own what I can improve what I don’t.

What challenges are you facing? What are owning right now? Where else could you push yourself? Who motivates you? Share below.

Also, if you see Thomas and his family flying overhead one day in spandex outfits with Zs on their chests destroying zombies with laser eyeball superpowers…I called it.