AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s a 2013 summer night in Austin, and an unsuspecting 23-year-old walks under the MoPac bridge over Lady Bird Lake, reaching for his can of red spray paint. He carefully spells out four simple words, Live A Great Story, and little did he know the easy, straightforward graffiti art would influence a movement all over the world.
The man behind it, along with the buttons, stickers, shirts and flags carrying the same message, calls them little reminders to make you think about your journey.
“It’s really our duty to take ownership of our story and to not give that ownership to someone else and say no, this is my story,” Zach Horvath said. “And that’s kind of the first step of the hero’s journey, it’s crossing over that threshold into owning your story.”
The power of sharing your story
Zach believes that your life’s challenges — whether it’s mental health, addiction, finances, relationships, etc. — are your superpowers. You start seeing its strength play out when you share your story and connect with others.
“I just got off a phone call with someone who has just not realized the power of sharing your story. He was talking about his rough upbringing, and he was worried about the drugs and you know, suicide and all these things, how that might affect his business and his persona. I’m like, dude, that’s your superpower. Share your journey, because that inspires other people.”
The origins of ‘Live A Great Story‘
Zach was eager to share his life experiences after taking a seven month self-discovery trip across Europe in 2012 where he made new friends, couch-surfed, stayed in hostels and embraced new cultures. When he came back he took the can of red spray paint and wrote on the wall. This was around the time when smartphone makers started to improve their camera features. Zach said people started to take pictures of his message and post them on social media. By this time, Zach spread his message to other parts of the country with the current circular logo. This time it wasn’t graffiti, it was a large sticker pressed on walls, billboards, and dumpsters.
About a year later, his grandfather died, and it was during the funeral when Zach felt his calling.
“That kind of overwhelmed me, like I could feel this transition of energy, and just this like, need and duty to really step into my story. And for me that was Live A Great Story,” the young entrepreneur recalls. “And there was just this clarity that this was my route and that I was onto something and that I really needed to pursue that and live up to my family lineage.”
But that was just the first of two signs of clarity. Zach didn’t know that during the funeral, and in another city, an award-winning actress was in New Orleans and about to give him the boost he needed.
“Reese Witherspoon ended up taking a picture next to Live A Great Story. And that was like the cement of like, okay, I made this commitment to pursue this route. And like, that was it like keep going, she posted it was like this divine sign like, ‘You’re onto something, keep going.’ And ever since then, I’ve just been like trying to go at this full speed and, and building this into like the biggest possible opportunity to make the biggest impact possible.”
The impact can be felt from Austin to Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, Mt. Everest, and many places around the world where people share their stories and post pictures with their Live A Great Story flag, button or sticker.
But it’s more than just photos. The mural under the MoPac bridge helped intercept a suicide attempt. It’s a moment Zach still remembers.
“He was outside of town, under 20 (years of age) and he shared on Instagram how seeing that, Live A Great Story on the bridge, gave him hope,” Zach said. “There’s been a lot of very impactful stories that have come from Live A Great Story, but that’s for sure, one of the most impactful ones about just the simplicity and how it can be interpreted in people’s lives, and really the impact that it can make.”
You can find a long list of gratitude posts from fans on the Live A Great Story Instagram account. Among the posts, an Army veteran and retired police officer who suffers from PTSD, he writes, “I love everything about what y’all do,” and goes on to say, “Getting outdoors and trying to live a great story has become my mantra, thank you!”
People believe in the message so much that they make their own reminders by getting a tattoo with the same circle surrounding the same simple four words.
Why has Live A Great Story spread so far and wide? Zach says it comes down to three things: What is living? How do you define great? And the basis of stories.
It’s up to you how inspired you are to be the hero of your story, and when you activate your superpowers, take the bold step to share your story, it could end up helping someone else.
“Be the hero of your story. That’s how you’re going to make the biggest impact possible. Be who you want to be because the world needs you to be you,” said Zach with the biggest grin.
Jose Torres is a morning news producer with KXAN. His blog will bring stories of hope and determination from others who have fought through their own health struggles and life challenges. He looks forward to sharing those conversations in future blogs. Do you know someone with a great story that could help inspire others? Share it with me at Jose.Torres@kxan.com