At age 17, Mark had hit rock bottom, when he woke up in a jail cell with no memory of why and how he had gotten there. He had been going down a path of drinking and drugs and ended up being arrested for DUI. Not only had he been beaten up pretty badly by the driver he rear-ended, but was so intoxicated that he should have been dead. It was his wake-up call to leave that life behind. He moved back in with his parents and started getting his life back on track. Even through the bad times, he had never lost his relationship with God, and this time, God was speaking to him, saying, “What are you going to do with the second chance at life I have given you?” From that point forward, he improved his physical being and pursued his college degree. He never felt that he was very ‘book smart’, but he was determined to outwork everyone else. He had a bigger mission to live a better life.
After receiving his Bachelor’s in Psychology, he moved to Ohio to work with his brother. Through a family friend, he had an opportunity to work with special needs adults in the Ohio ‘County Workshops’. He really enjoyed what he was doing but found the environment to be depressing and institutionalized. The adults in the program had 2 choices to fill their time all day-either color or work putting together machine parts. He took another opportunity teaching a new special education program for High School students with special needs, which eventually brought him back to the County Workshops when he would tour them with his students heading for graduation.
He realized just how fortunate most of us are that we do have options and these students had very, very few. He thought, ‘there has to be another way’, and God started showing him that he was that person that needed to bring the change. At only 26 years old, he started learning the Medicaid and Ohio rules for funding of these types of facilities. His used his brother’s campground as his campus and founded DreamShine with his sister.
Today, 9 years later, they have their own 2 ½ acre facility where residents can engage in a wealth of enriching activities and earn a paycheck that is higher than minimum wage. He’s expanded into leadership service, public speaking, hosting a podcast and has just written his first book, ‘The Story of You’.
Most Influential Mentor:
- As he’s stepped out of his comfort zone and grown in different areas, God has continually connected Mark with the right people during the right seasons of his life. He knows that the people he meets are never a coincidence.
- Among some of those people are another special needs facility program coordinator he met at the outset of his venture, Dave Ramsey, Dan Miller and Eric Thomas.
- And, sometimes, even a critic can be a mentor. By being negative, they will inadvertently help you by lighting that inner fire that makes you want to push.
Biggest Challenges and Lessons:
- After getting the certifications to start DreamShine, before he even had his first enrollee, he received a call from someone close to the Governor.
- She told him that he ‘shouldn’t do this’, and when he asked why, the response was, “We’ve been doing it this way for 40 years, that’s the way it’s done, and you’re going to have too hard a time”. She posed it as if she was doing him a ‘favor’.
- Instead of being intimidated, it pushed him even more, because he felt that he really had something special to offer if people were trying to stop him before he even started.
- Since starting DreamShine, there are more places in Ohio offering similar programs but Mark doesn’t look at it as competition.
- He’s happy that the people they serve will have more choice and that each time a new program opens, it raises the bar even more of what is possible.
- Mark realizes that there will always be more people in need of the service than he will have space for. He also knows that not every single program is right for every single individual.
- Mark and the other program directors cross-refer to each other to meet the needs of the participants. He believes that’s how it really should be if you truly care about the services you are offering and the people you are serving. .
‘The Story of You’:
- As they continue to do more with DreamShine, Mark has become more involved in leadership. When he first started, he’d not had experience in that area and he had a lot to learn.
- Over time, he realized that he really enjoyed unifying teams and creating good cultures. And, the more he spoke about it, the more he saw that there was really a need for better leadership across the board.
- Taking what he learned from others, what he learned in his own experience running DreamShine, and combining it with his personal story, is the inspiration behind the book.
- For the reader, he wanted it to be about them creating their own stories and understanding that you can overcome adversity and ‘limitations’.
Balancing Work and Family:
- Taking a cue from a close friend, Mark believes “instead of balance, you ‘embrace the tension”. You will always have tension in each area of your life and you should-if it’s perfectly balanced, it’s flat-lining.
- When times get really busy, he calls those his ‘seasons of sacrifice’. Those are the times when work is demanding but he also puts an ‘end time’ to those periods. He’s able to meet his work demands by staying in really good communication with his wife and fulfilling expectations for both of them.
- He also has a network of accountability partners through his Mastermind group.
His Bigger Vision:
- In addition to his podcast and book, he’s going to be doing several live events, speaking on different levels of leadership, sharing the message of his story and of following your dreams.
- As a child, he was labeled ADHD. Today, he considers that a gift from God, because that ability to multi-task is what allows him to focus on the many paths of writing, speaking, and leading, to reach as many people as possible.
Advice on Being ‘All-In’:
- It’s okay to not have a perfect plan or to not even know exactly what you’re going to do. Just start doing and learning along the way. Looking back he can see how the mistakes turned into wisdom.
- Start following your calling. Start taking action-one day and one step at a time.
- There is never going to be a perfect balance in every aspect of your life. It’s about knowing that you have to be intentional about the time spent in each area.