The Search

On Tuesday, September 22, 2020, I found the piece of music that accompanies — and that inspired — the video below. I created the video on Wednesday, September 23, and shared it with JoAnna. When I did, I said to her, “We’re either going to find ourselves in the midst of this shit [the coronavirus] or be pretty much lost for the long(er) haul.”

In the video, I took 503 words to express what was on my mind. After JoAnna watched it, and because she’s smarter than I am, she expressed precisely the same thing in just 21 words. She said this: “I think that’s what the mentally healthy folks are experiencing after ‘The Rona’. Accept and reflect … or project and deflect.”

And there you have it. One story. Two different tellings. And three questions about the ways in which we’ll respond to the imposed isolation of the coronavirus pandemic:

  1. What will you do?
  2. What will you find?
  3. What will you heed when you find it?

Accept and reflect? Project and deflect? JoAnna wants to know.

So, do I.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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  1. Mark, it’s really hard to type when there are tears in your eyes and your nose is running because the video you’ve just watched with Mark O’Brien’s poetic words has touched a part of my soul. Oh my gosh, this piece is inspiring and beautiful. Legit, I held my coffee in my hand and felt my eyes welling up more and more as I read your words – each one speaking to me, nudging me, resonating with me.

    I also love Joanna’s take on it. So true. You are both sunshine on a stormy day.

    Purpose is something I’ve thought much about over the past year, but especially these past few months. And no matter how hard I try I can’t escape the feeling – or rather the calling – that writing is an essential part of it. I also believe that our purpose can shift as our life does. Perhaps it has to do with age, or circumstance, or even happenstance. I’m not sure. However, this much I know. I get out of bed each morning and despite all the uncertainty, I put one foot in front of the other. Part of my prays that it will all work out, part of me hopes that it will, and part of me knows that it will. For whatever it is worth, it helps me navigate the day.

    Thank you for sharing this one, Mark. You are a gift.

    • As we’ve discussed before, Laura, this is what writers do for each other. We help each other find ourselves.

      Your comments bring three things to mind. The first is a quote from Thomas Edison: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

      The second is this, which I may have shared with you before:

      You already have the key to that one: “I get out of bed each morning and despite all the uncertainty, I put one foot in front of the other.” That’s it. Wherever you’re going, there’s no other way to get there. One day at a time. One step at a time. We just have to trust ourselves, read the signs that always appear on our paths, and keep moving.

      The third one is this quote from E.B. White: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” We can’t save the world every day. But by getting up, putting one foot in front of the other, and savoring what we encounter, we’ll likely improve the world a little at a time. And we’ll likely find ourselves in the bargain.

      I’m so grateful for your comments here. Stay your course. You improve the world for everyone who reads your work. I know. You’ve improved mine. That makes you a gift, too.

  2. Thanks, Mark.

    I suppose I’m a science nerd and a faith nerd as well. Both, for me, come from being comfortable with ignorance. If you have faith in science, you still are exercising faith, right?

    One of the best qualities of this group is our focus on exploration rather than on dogma, so not “This is the way,” but “This is an interesting way.” I’m moved primarily by curiosity, so I suppose if I had to answer “What’s your purpose?” for, like, a class assignment, I’d probably say, “Can I get back to you?”

    BTW, my dog Bree gets me out of bed. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Be well, all.

    • Mac, As Richard Feynman said, “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”

      As long as we’re still exploring and expressing, we’ll be fine. When we stop that ….

      Thank you for joining this conversation.

  3. Well done, Mark! Another message that makes me stop and think. I’ll agree with you on much of this, but I’ll respectfully push back on one point: While faith feels good, science is smarter. I’m not going to live my lie in fear, but I’m going to respect the scientists who know more than I do about how to get through this thing. We are not logical creatures; we are emotional creatures. It takes intention to look past the fear and listen to logic.

    • Melissa, I’m not sure how we got to an ostensible bone of contention over faith vs. science. Unless I’m missing something (ALWAYS a distinct possibility), I do believe in the science. I’d just like a consistent enough version of the scientific story to be able to invest a little faith in it. In the meantime, I’m following the advice of a dear man for whom I once worked in my Dark Corporate Days: “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope you always will.

  4. Interesting. Nicely done. What gets me out of bed? Purpose. The purpose may change from day to day, but I see purpose in everything. I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose lately, in relation to organizations and talent. As my clients begin to think about emerging from COVID, I find that they need a purpose – and defining it generates interest.

    • Thank you, Carol. Sometimes I think of COVID as a universal (or at least global) re-set: We did this from Point A to Point B. The only way to Point C is by doing that. Regardless of how we define “that”, we’re not getting to Point C by doing what got us to Point B. That may be as good a definition of purpose as we can find.

      I’m grateful for your comments.