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Marc Ensign: “Live your life in a way that someone will want to read your story someday”

My book’s name is Be a Dick: How One Person Can Change the World in the Most Unexpected Way. The story takes place during a dark time in my life when I came to the conclusion that my life didn’t matter. While my friends were out building schools in third world countries or walking across […]

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My book’s name is Be a Dick: How One Person Can Change the World in the Most Unexpected Way. The story takes place during a dark time in my life when I came to the conclusion that my life didn’t matter. While my friends were out building schools in third world countries or walking across the United States to raise money for a good cause, I had nothing that I could point towards as having made a difference in anyone’s life.

When I met Dick, I had hit bottom. Over time he became my friend and mentor and taught me to be more kind, helpful, humble, compassionate, thoughtful, generous, authentic, present, forgiving, grateful, and vulnerable. And it was within these twelve principles that I realized what it took to make a difference. It was these small acts that change the world. Not all of that big stuff.

My goal with the book is to inspire people worldwide to be a Dick (with a capital D) and do good around the world. One small act at a time.


As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Ensign, a prolific storyteller, creative marketer, and accomplished musician. After spending more than ten years playing bass in the Broadway show Rent, Marc learned that he had a gift for marketing and a desire to leverage that gift to change the world. The result is LoudMouse. A branding and marketing agency that specializes in turning big ideas into worldwide movements. One of those big ideas is Marc’s new book entitled Be a Dick: How One Person Can Change the World in the Most Unexpected Way, which is shifting the way people see the impact they can make on others.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up with the idea that I was going to change the world somehow. I think it started back when I was about 5 or 6 years old. My mom would sew two snaps onto my pajamas’ shoulders so I could attach a custom made cape every night and fly off into the distance. And by that, I mean I would leap from the couch to the ottoman and back.

It was your typical superhero complex that most kids carry around, with one exception. I never outgrew it. Well into my adult life, I was convinced that I was going to do something with my life that would knock the earth off of its axis.

Fast forward a few decades and a midlife crisis or two, and I had a bunch of successes behind me as an adult. I played bass on Broadway in the Tony Award-Winning show Rent. I had written several books. I recorded with Grammy Award Winning artists. I had started a successful marketing company. And I had married the woman of my dreams and had two great kids.

I had a resume that any parent would be proud of. And yet, nothing that I could point towards as having changed the world. So, I convinced my family to sell everything and move 1,200 miles away from New Jersey to Tampa, Florida.

And that’s when everything changed.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

About ten years ago (I was younger then, so it counts), I read a book entitled A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. The book is centered around the idea of creating your life story in such a way that people would actually want to read it. Donald Miller had written a very successful book years earlier, and they wanted to make a movie about it. When they did, the screenwriters changed a lot of the story, and when asked why they told him that it was too dull. That book was about his life, which meant his life was too dull. So he set out to create a more exciting life.

The idea of that triggered me. I found that I had lived some exciting moments but didn’t share them. And when I did share them, I certainly didn’t share them in a way that would make anyone want to pay attention.

That was the moment I became a storyteller. I studied and practiced my craft of storytelling and fell in love with the ability to change the way somebody sees or does things by merely sharing a story from my life.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I was scheduled to speak at a big conference in Boston. I had spent months crafting my speech and was ready to blow the doors off the place. I got on the plane and squeezed my carry-on into the overhead about midway down the aisle on my way to my seat in the last row.

When the plane landed in Boston, I made my way up the aisle to be reunited with my bag, only to find it gone. In its place was another bag that looked just like mine, except there was a luggage tag with someone else’s name. I took a picture of the tag and ran through the airport yelling the guy’s name, hoping to catch him. I didn’t.

I tried calling the number, and instead of a person, I was greeted with the sounds of a fax machine. He had a fax machine. He also had an AOL email address. He must have been 200 years old. I emailed him and even found a place that could fax him. Nothing.

I filed a case with the airline, was told that there was nothing they could do about it, and then made my way to the hotel with the only thing I now owned — the clothing on my back.

The conference started that night, so I went to the big ballroom filled with about 10,000 people in it. While frustrated with the fact that I was about to speak in about 18 hours with nothing to wear, I tweeted the following:

A 75 year old man took my carryon thinking it was his. He left his bag so I know who he is. No cell phone. Just a landline, fax number and an AOL address. Safe to say I’m not getting my stuff back. I will be speaking naked tomorrow at 1PM in room 104. #NoLaughing #INBOUND18

That resulted in a bunch of people laughing, commenting, and then offering to help. All of the vendors told me to come by their book to pick up a shirt or socks, or a hat and other swag. By the time I went back up to my room, I had 23 t-shirts and a ton of other stuff.

I ended up staying up all night rewriting the speech I spent months creating because it was all built around a specific outfit I was supposed to wear that was who knows where.

At 2 AM my suitcase showed up at the hotel. That meant I would be able to give my speech as planned. Instead, I gave the new one. And every 3 minutes, I reached into a bag and put on another t-shirt I received the day before until I was wearing all 23 shirts at the same time.

The last shirt I put on was the outfit that I was supposed to wear. Showing everyone that I could have given my prepared speech but decided not to because sometimes something terrible happens, and it ends up being better than what you initially hoped for.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

My book’s name is Be a Dick: How One Person Can Change the World in the Most Unexpected Way. The story takes place during a dark time in my life when I came to the conclusion that my life didn’t matter. While my friends were out building schools in third world countries or walking across the United States to raise money for a good cause, I had nothing that I could point towards as having made a difference in anyone’s life.

When I met Dick, I had hit bottom. Over time he became my friend and mentor and taught me to be more kind, helpful, humble, compassionate, thoughtful, generous, authentic, present, forgiving, grateful, and vulnerable. And it was within these twelve principles that I realized what it took to make a difference. It was these small acts that change the world. Not all of that big stuff.

My goal with the book is to inspire people worldwide to be a Dick (with a capital D) and do good around the world. One small act at a time.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

After living in Florida for about a month, my birthday had rolled around. Dick stopped by my house to wish me a happy birthday and handed me a gift. It was a baseball. When I looked a little closer, I noticed that it had a bunch of autographs on it.

Dick is a sports producer with about a dozen Emmys from 50 years in the industry. He found himself producing the Little League World Series the previous week and saw that my birthday was coming up. So, he grabbed a baseball and walked around the booth and the stadium to find as many retired Red Sox players as he could find to sign a baseball as a gift for me.

At that moment, I realized that this was the type of person I wanted to be because something so seemingly small to him was so seemingly big to me.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

I wrote a blog post after receiving the baseball. It was entitled From Now On I’m Going to Be a Dick To Everyone I meet Online (https://marcensign.com/dick). At the time, nobody read my blog, and I wasn’t expecting much from it. However, it grabbed the attention of actor Wil Wheaton who shared the post, which ended up going viral and racking up about 1 million hits as it shut my server down three times in 24 hours.

At that point, I knew I was onto something that people wanted and needed.

I started writing the book, but the timing wasn’t right. I later realized that the story wasn’t done being told yet, but I didn’t know that at the time. It wasn’t until Covid hit at the same time as the racial protests, and I felt there was such a need for people to be more kind, helpful, compassionate…in other words, be a Dick. So, I started writing the book, and it just flowed out of me, and a few months later, it was in my hands.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I have received a few hundred stories of people being a Dick or people sharing the Dick in their lives or their neighborhood. But there was none more impactful to me than my Dad.

My Dad is going through stage four bone cancer right now. It’s in his hip, so he has a hard time walking. I sent him a copy of the book, and he was reading it while waiting in the doctor’s office. He heard someone struggling and looked up to see an older woman struggling to get out of her chair. Without thinking, he got up and grabbed her walker, and brought it over to her as he helped her out of her chair and to the door.

That might not seem like much, but you have to know my Dad to get the impact. While he would give you the shirt off his back, you have to ask him for it, or you’ll never get it. It’s not that he doesn’t like helping people. He’s just not very observant when it comes to people needing help. If you need help, ask. If you don’t ask, you don’t need help. That’s just how he works.

When he sat back down and picked the book back up, it hit him that he was just a Dick. And that’s when he got it.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The whole idea behind this book is that we don’t have to run into a burning building or build a school in a third world country or walk across the United States to make a difference in the world. Sometimes it’s just the little things that make the biggest differences. If everyone did one small act every day, the world would never be the same again.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I define leadership as someone willing to make the first mistake so the rest of us can learn. It doesn’t always mean they are going to make a mistake. But it does mean they are willing to. In other words, they will take the first step with any attachment or need to be right or worry about whether they will look bad.

When I wrote Be a Dick, it contained a lot of difficult things to talk about. My mistakes. My failures. And all of the stuff that I was always taught to hide from the rest of the world. Being vulnerable and sharing those stories without concern over how it would make me look is what I consider leadership because it paved the way for others to let their guard down and be vulnerable back.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. When you look back, some of the best lessons in your life come from some of the worst times in your life. So, rather than being scared, angry, upset, or embarrassed, embrace them in the moment.
  2. Live your life in a way that someone will want to read your story someday.
  3. Most people are too busy to care too much about what it is you are doing, so don’t worry about what they think about you. Because they’re probably not thinking about you.
  4. Anything is possible if you want it bad enough and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to have it.
  5. Smart people don’t always know what they are talking about. My high school English teacher told me that I would probably never read another book after graduation. I’ve written several books since.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” by Anais Nin

That is one of the first quotes I include in the book. I spent so much of my life trying to be something I wasn’t for someone else. Whether it was to make them happy or because I wanted to be liked. Eventually, my life became so painful that I tore my family from our home and moved 1,200 miles away, where I allowed myself to just be. And if others didn’t like it or like me, it wasn’t my concern.

And that was the moment I truly blossomed.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

My first choice would be David Bowie. But he’s dead, so that would mean I would have to be dead too, or he would just really smell.

The next would have to be John Stewart. I think he’s probably one of the biggest Dick’s I know for what he did to help the 9–11 first responders. Others include Ellen Degeneres and Oprah Winfrey.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit my website https://marcensign.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


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