Live a Great Story
A man and mission behind the mural.
Photography by Weston Carls
Where were you when you first saw those words? I remember exactly where I was. I was heading home from work in my car at the corner of Mopac and Lake Austin Boulevard, likely bemoaning the traffic and the fact that RunTex actually had become a pawn shop. Waiting for the light to turn green, I glanced ahead and saw those four words literally plastered on the side of a crosswalk post. LIVE A GREAT STORY. I’m pretty sure my initial reaction was, “I’d love to buddy, but right now I’m just trying to get through this intersection so I can get home and live a great evening!” That reminder stuck with me, though, and just like an old friend coincidentally calls out of the blue when you’ve just been thinking about them, those “Live a Great Story” signs mysteriously seemed to pop up all over town and, consequently, all over my Facebook feed as friends posed for selfies. Suddenly they were everywhere, but where in the world did they come from?
In 2012, then 22-year-old Austinite, Zach Horvath, took a solo trip to Europe. He was trying to find his footing as a young adult and, quite frankly, not much was sticking. During his travels and his preparations for them, Horvath’s understanding of human relationships transformed. “In real life, our personal agendas often get in the way from making deep connections with others. We put up so many barriers because we’re always so busy. When you travel, though, you connect more quickly and deeply since there are fewer distractions. The interactions you have are deep and authentic.” This vulnerability changed his life and, unbeknownst to him at the time, planted the seed for his future of making profound and intense connections with people from around the globe.
After his trip, Horvath moved to San Diego and assumed he would easily land a job in marketing or branding at an agency. He would work, learn from others, save money, and then travel again. “That was my goal,” he said, “but, it was way harder than I expected. I did not get a job that I wanted. I thought it would be easy, but it was a hard and difficult transition.” His “dream” job turned out to be working the door at a club at night and a coffee shop by day. Ultimately, this dissatisfaction and the death of his beloved grandfather led him home to Austin for yet another restart.
Personal inspiration often emerges during a dark period of personal struggle, and Horvath will be the first to admit he was at a low point in his own life when he crafted his first life-changing LIVE A GREAT STORY mural, more as a reminder to himself than anything else. He wanted to be back in the mindset of acceptance, non-judgment, and freedom he felt on his travels. He wanted to be unstuck. “I put up LIVE A GREAT STORY and two other quotes and the immediate response is what got the ball rolling. People would take pictures and share their deep reaction to seeing it. It was touching each person in their own personal way.” LIVE A GREAT STORY was his way of reminding himself and others that if you want to change, you have the choice to make it. Either keep doing what you’re doing, or start doing what you want to do. That message certainly caught the eye and heart of anyone who ran, walked, or drove by it in the many Austin spots that the quote started to appear.
Was he onto something? “In the beginning, I didn’t expect it to be a thing,” he recalls. “It was just an idea I had that started to spread quickly. I still wanted a job and I actually figured I could use this as a case study to show an agency what I had done. A friend is the one who actually suggested that I should keep going. After my grandfather passed away, I had a huge shift and, at that point, I was all in.”
Merchandise came next and people started buying and sharing hats, shirts, buttons, stickers and more—all with the simple, but powerful, reminder. He hesitates, though, when you call it a movement. LIVE A GREAT STORY is a tempo, he says. You have to feel it. “I don’t necessarily want people to associate me as a person who is telling them what to do,” he says. “The message, the idea, the concept speaks for itself and allows for self-interpretation within that. The magic is in the personal impact it has on each person.”
According to their website, “The LIVE brand is inspired by the idea we are all on a journey to live our own story. Regardless of the color of our skin, the language we speak, the part of of the world we came from, we’re all on a life long journey to live our best life…and in that we can inspire those around us to keep moving forward in their own journey.”
Building a community of inspiration is certainly the foundation of this media brand and, in addition to online media and merchandise, LIVE has also launched into events with the inception meet-ups and mini-conferences in major markets like Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego and, of course, Austin. Here, fans connect with entrepreneurs and local business owners to share stories of inspiration and connect in intimate settings. It all goes back to fulfilling his need for those deep connections Horvath made on his original travels to Europe.
Making deep connections and teaming up with major companies is also a big goal for Horvath and the LIVE brand. “I’d love the opportunity to put LIVE A GREAT STORY next to awesome companies like Whole Foods, for example. Let’s stack great ideas and great brands together to continue this positive ripple in the world.”
He might call it a ripple, but most would say that LIVE A GREAT STORY is more like a much-needed wave of positive energy. LIVE reminders have shown up in photos across the world including the Great Wall of China, Kilimanjaro, Berlin, the Grand Canyon, and so many other far-reaching destinations. It’s not the destination, however, as much as it’s the personal impact, according to Horvath. “You have a story and it’s how you perceive it that can make you turn it into whatever you want it to be.”
Whatever your story is, make it a great one. Share your own #liveagreatstory moment.