‘Tis the Season for Sharing Inspiration

Steve Schmieder | Dec 17, 2014

What Made Life Burn Brighter for You in 2014?

Author and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimension.” It’s a belief we at Blue Flame Thinking take to heart.

The catalyst for our agency’s creation was the quest to help clients resist the usual and demand something better. We think Holmes would agree that by always reaching for “better,” our minds continually expand, fresh insight is gained and wisdom is nurtured and grown.

From the outset, we knew the path to inspiration wasn’t one way, that igniting deeper and more meaningful collaboration with you and others would stoke our passion and raise our game. We thank all of you who have shared our journey and continue to inspire us to go above and beyond to achieve more.

Whether at work, at home or somewhere in between, the spark of inspiration has many sources and often takes us by surprise. To prove the point, we asked the members of our team to tell us what inspired them most in 2014. We’ve compiled their stories to share with you here. We hope you find them as inspiring as we did and invite you to add your own story in a comment on this page.

Our team looks forward to the coming year the way we began 2014—minds wide open, immersed in what’s powerful and new, filled with passion and laser-focused on helping you find your better.

All of us at Blue Flame Thinking wish you the very happiest of holidays and an awe-inspiring new year!

Steve and Lynne


Stories of Inspiration From 2014

Add your inspirational thoughts to ours with a comment below.

Gayle Ronan: Everyday moments—expected or not. Whether it’s an unexpected act of kindness or bravery or the funny things kids say to me when I’m out walking my dogs, I make every effort to gather it all in.

Matt Plichta: Nature. Me, people, our planet and our sun are all pieces in nature’s manifestations. When I need inspiration, I stop and observe nature moving.

Julie Ross: There is nothing as inspiring (or terrifying) as the pending arrival of a new baby. Your outlook on just about everything changes.

Dave Wilson: Kids. My kids, your kids, all kids. Kids are imagination engines; they’re creative machines, and they see other kids as people first (not race, creed, color, social status, etc.), another person to share their excitement with.

Jill Wolgemuth: Our team’s ability and determination to help our clients find their better. Jumping in whenever needed. Working late to get the job done.

Susan Bray: Our young son. Helping him move in and out of his comfort zone, challenge us in multiple ways and make his own decisions has been enlightening, given me new perspective and made me raise my overall game.

Danielle Altmin: Problems. When I am in the depths of the most confusing, messed-up problem and in the middle of all the madness, my mind makes a turn to clarity. It fuels my passion to figure out more and more.

Jaclyn Scott: The people of Ghana my younger sister encountered on her mission trip. Their unwavering faith in God and overwhelming gratitude for the simplest of blessings—food, water, shoes—humbled me and brought new perspective to my life.

Maria Halper: Doris. She is 93, still functional, still driving (yikes!!!) to do her shopping and errands and every day finds something awesome to discuss. I hope I can be as functional and still driving safely when I reach her age.

Ellen Anderson: My daughter Lily’s way of dealing with tough things. Within a short span this year, she lost two great-grandmas, a fish and two beloved kitties. When I asked her about the most recent cat, her response was, “Now Lucy’s perfect.”

Steve Schmieder: At every Gilda’s Club Chicago board meeting, we hear stories from every age, every ethnicity, every social status. My daily trials pale compared to what these individuals face. Despite their illness, they laugh, they share and they inspire each other to keep living a full life.

Kristen Lesondak: I was running (okay, walking) the last few miles of The Marine Corps Marathon. In front of me was a woman on crutches, flanked by soldiers. I couldn’t stop. I had to finish. And she did too. To be inspired, look around you; someone or something will cross your path and then watch out. Oorah!

Sandy Bailey: My daughter, Brandy, who has shown significant strength. I see many things in her that remind me of her father. We are best friends, and I am inspired by all the memories that we shared together and all the new memories we will make in the future.

Sean Perez: My oldest brother, Orlando, who passed away this January. He was a powerful and selfless figure who brought charisma into every room he entered. My brother’s memory inspired me to take leaps I never knew I could and to quite literally find my better.

Lisa Jastram: Chicago. Its architecture, hustle and bustle, and nature inspire me to tap into my creative outlet, which is photography.

Dave Niemi: Surgery for a recurring brain tumor has left my cousin unable to swallow for the last four years. Still, he continues to write, exercise and research potential treatments. I admire his perseverance.

Lynne Hartzell: People who will stop at nothing to make a positive difference in the lives of others. The same man punches my train ticket daily. He never misses the chance to give everyone a smile and a wish for a good day. He decided to make a difference, and he does!

Josh Stauffer: The creativity, energy and sheer ridiculousness of my three-year-old daughter. Anyone that can make others laugh at least once a day inspires me.

Carrie von Rosen: 2014 has been an Everestian endeavor. I could not have made it without those around me— cheering me as I learned to walk, dress and feed myself again; encouraging me to laugh through pain; helping me with things I can no longer do; and being understanding and supportive as I care for my mother.

Tyler Nall: To me, inspiration is evident when wonder leads to action. It’s that moment when something incredible makes you believe you, too, can impact the world. It could be a work of art to amazing scenery, a simple act of kindness or people who use their talents to give back to the community.

Jon Czeranna: Early this past spring, I had the pleasure of driving in a golf cart with Santa Claus somewhere outside of Cleveland, Ohio, touring the North Pole and listening to his mission to bring Christmas to terminally ill children who won’t make it to the next December.

Steve Van Wyk: The digital team. Everybody pulled the overtime hours, jumped in and helped to get the job done on time, going over and above what was asked for.

Sherry Kas: The creative summit that brought our creative team together from both offices. It was a time of collaboration, inspiration and working together as a team.

Mike Meyers: John, a homeless person who asks for money near the train station in Chicago. I’ve been writing different messages for his cardboard signs and learning which ones work the best. He’s the most appreciative “client” I’ve ever paid to work for.

Devon Carlson: My visit to the Pantheon. The space’s absolutely perfect geometry and unbroken connection to 2,000 years of humanity affected me unexpectedly.

Emily Horton: My community and, more specifically, the neighborhood I live in. For years, we advocated for a large concrete parking lot to be transformed into a local park. It took long hours and much red tape, but the result is a beautiful green space inside our city neighborhood.

Bob Northway: My mom, Susanna, who just turned 90 years old and still greets each day with a smile and a “to-do” list that puts mine to shame.

Adam Rice: The little t-ball team I coached this summer. Teaching baseball to five- and six-year-olds is fun, challenging and rewarding. I’m also inspired by any BFTers who continue to push and push to make the work better.

Nicole Peters: Elizabeth, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 10. Two years later she has beat the disease, but it was a long, up-road battle of hundreds of treatments, tests and tears. Despite her struggle, she remained positive and focused on the future, eager to get back to what she really loves—cooking and becoming a chef!

Tyler Wayner: My parents’ life in Ghana. They gave up the comfort and stability of a job, house and seeing their friends and family to go help people who not only don’t have these things but many of whom have literally nothing.

Ruth Rich: My family, particularly my two girls. I love the people they are becoming, and they have made me a better person. And the people I work with, who joined in donating and walking in a pediatric brain cancer fundraiser in the name of my friend’s daughter, Meera.

Andrew Swanson: My parents, who taught me more about perseverance, passion, dedication and commitment than ever before: my mother by her loving and relentless care of her parents, and my father by his desire to teach and support while also becoming a distance runner for the first time in his life.

Rob Christensen: The birth of my son, Cole. He makes me try to be the best I can be while showing me how to approach each experience as if it was your first time. During pregnancy, my wife, Alison, showed me true strength and sacrifice as a caring and nurturing mother.

Scott Pretzer: The young men on my son’s college basketball team, who graduate, leave the team and enter the real world. To see how they mature during their college careers, their love for their teammates and coaches and how emotional they become, knowing they will soon have to leave their brothers.

Chris Beaudoin: Watching my sister’s incredible dedication as she took care of my dad and made sure the health care system was doing its job. She made sure his life was better in every way possible. What an amazing, ferocious love.

Morgan Hartzell: When my family walked for pediatric cancer earlier this year. Ruth Rich had a friend whose daughter was dying from a rare type of cancer. They made shirts that quoted the little girl saying, “I love the world.” Many people pulled together to raise the most money to date for this particular cancer.

Molly Carey: My dad. He is truly one of the hardest workers I have ever met, and every day I strive to make him proud. At 69 years old, he is still working his butt off six days a week running his law office and is still playing hockey in a men’s league twice a week!

Brittany Penwell: Improv. I worked up the courage to take classes and be part of a group in Chicago. Shortly after I started classes, my mother passed away and improv really taught me to live in the moment. It has taught me that sometimes when you fail, something better comes out of that moment.

Tim Todish: The way the team pulled together during the launch of a client’s time-sensitive new website. We put in some long nights, but we all came together to help each other out and get a beautiful new site out the door.

Meg Collins: My friend Angie. Last year, she left her career to go to law school. She studied, got in, got a scholarship, quit her full-time job and even 4-pointed her first semester! Her driving force is her passion to abolish slavery and be an advocate for those who are enslaved in the world.

Natalie Suttorp: An elderly couple at the grocery store deciding which kind of nuts they should buy. It made me stop and smile and hope that I might have the patience, dedication and other qualities it takes to make it through a lifetime as a team and still like each other enough to go grocery shopping together!

Julie Helgesen: The move to our new location in Chicago. From the open and creative workspaces to the vibrant new neighborhood, it has been a real creative shot in the arm! The space really proved its flexibility and functionality when we hosted the agency creative summit!

What inspired you in 2014? Please share your experiences by adding a comment.

Steve Schmieder - CEO and Founder

Steve continually calls upon his 30 years of marketing expertise to help clients and their brands get to a better place.

Lynne Hartzell - President

Lynne has been on the cutting edge of marketing for over 25 years, first as a Fortune 500 Brand Strategist and, now, as an agency leader.

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