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Modern (Training) Love: My One True Love

Sometimes, when we least expect it, love can find us. And sometimes it comes in the form of a handheld office supply.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

In the spirit of today, I’m sharing a personal essay about the way I developed a relationship with my one true (training) love.

feeling lost

I wasn’t looking for love. It really was the furthest thing from my mind. I had just had a job offer with the FBI rescinded. That was my childhood dream and now it was gone, and I wasn’t in a good place. But that’s just how these things go sometimes, I guess. As cliche as it may sound, in a moment when I least expected it, love ended up finding me. I was in the new job, not the FBI, and my coworkers, Abby and Jackie, told me I should at least give him a chance.

Honestly, I was just tired of the routine. I knew the type. Sure, a shiny new object could be fun at first. After all, the grass is always greener. But what happened when things started to get real? Would he last very long? Would we stay on the same page? Or would he just start making a mess of things?

“You seem a little too serious about these kinds of things,” Jackie suggested to me.

“Brian, just take him in your hand and have some fun,” Abby added,

I must admit, I’m glad I gave in. Heck, years later when I would write my first book, I would devote a significant portion of a chapter gushing about him, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I can’t say it was love at first sight. He looked normal, but he smelled like green apple, which reminded me of Blow Pops and Jolly Ranchers. And for some reason, a few years ago Skittles changed the flavor of the green ones from lime (which I really liked) to green apple (which I really didn’t like). Needless to say, I was skeptical about how much time I wanted to spend with him.


I did give him a few more chances. The next time he smelled like cherries. The next time, grapes. It was getting better, but could I get past his silly name? Mr. Sketch. What kind of name is that? At least Sharpie has the word “sharp” in it. And Crayola, well that conjures cherished childhood memories. But Mr. Sketch? Well, he usually smelled good. Why not see where this could lead?

It turned out that lots of other people seemed to like him, too. He was so natural at breaking the ice. People would just walk into a room, take off his top, give him a sniff, and they’d smile. They’d pass him around. They’d compare their favorite versions of him.

He was a man of few words. But complete strangers would walk into the room, and any time Mr. Sketch was there, it was like he offered an immediate opportunity to bond. Maybe I shouldn’t care what other people think, but I confess that early on, I was a little anxious about a certain quality that other people could get very upset about. A lot of people – from hotel facility staff to office managers responsible for conference rooms – they would insist that if I was going to bring Mr. Sketch along with me, that we stay on the same page. They’d seen too many others like him just bleed through whatever was being worked on. And as much as I was growing to like him, if Mr. Sketch and I couldn’t stay on the same page, there probably wasn’t going to be much of a future for us.

Looking back, I don’t know why I doubted him. It was almost like magic. Mr. Sketch allowed me – he allowed anyone – to make big, sometimes important, sometimes even dark messages, and he’d keep it all on the same page. No leaking, no bleeding through.

in love

For years, Mr. Sketch and I forged an important partnership. I’d bring him with me every time I changed jobs. In fact, I’d insist he accompany me anytime someone else hired me to deliver training programs. He usually didn’t cause any trouble, except for that one time that he got me pulled aside by TSA agents at the airport security. But even that was the kind of thing that you look back on fondly and laugh about.

If this all sounds too good to be true, well, that’s how I felt.

Until the betrayal.

I guess it started like so many other things can start. It was an attempt at humor, maybe a joke that, while well-intentioned, went way too far. It seemed like he had just changed overnight. I went to take his top off, like I had done so many times before just to smell that sweet aroma of artificial blue raspberry.

That day was different.


I had no idea what happened to him, but I instinctively threw him to the floor. It wasn’t the same Mr. Sketch I had grown to know and love all these years. Yes, he looked like the same – as if he hadn’t aged a day in all those years. But that smell.

It was…blue cheese.

I get it. We all need growth to continue making our way through this world, and movie scents can be a fun idea. But why he chose to associate the smell of blue cheese with movie scents was beyond me. After that, it felt like we began to drift apart. I wanted my old Mr. Sketch back, and I could see him trying. He even went through a holiday scent phase, which was much better than the blue cheese incident. But where’s my fruit punch? Where’s my orange? I didn’t know if I could do this anymore.

I think I hit rock bottom the day I tried switching to a store brand of dry erase markers to write on flipchart. That day, it almost felt like I was looking at myself from outside my body, and I had no idea what had become of me. The markers stunk. Literally, they had a bad odor. They dried out almost as soon as I began writing on paper. That’s when my mom stepped in. I think parents can sometimes do things or make gestures that they don’t even know that they’re doing. I think they might just sense their children could use a touch of that parental magic. It came in the form of a little care package in the mail with a little card that read, “I know things have been hard lately. Maybe this can help get you back on the same page.”


When I opened the wrapping paper on the gift that was enclosed in the care package, my heart skipped a beat. My beloved 12-pack of original Mr. Sketch Markers was smiling up at me and I swore I’d accept his flaws – the licorice scent, the cinnamon scent, even the watermelon scent. After all, he had so many positive traits – blueberry, grape, he wouldn’t bleed through, and some days, when there was so much to write and draw, it seemed like he could last forever.

Mr. Sketch, how do I love thee? Let me count the scents.

The Modern (Training) Love podcast is a Train Like You Listen production. I’m Brian Washburn, CEO of Endurance Learning. If you’d like us to bring creativity and storytelling into your next training program, drop me a line at Be sure to subscribe to Train Like You Listen so you don’t miss an episode. And give us a review – it might only take you a minute, but it would mean a lot to us. I hope you enjoyed this bit of training industry entertainment, and I hope you have an amazing Valentine’s Day. Until next time, happy training everyone.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox. Sign up today for a free demo below.

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