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Dreaming bigger: Mark Lindquist takes career to next level

Mark Lindquist, artist and motivational speaker, performs the national anthem at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Photo by Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald.

Talking to Mark Lindquist is a little like trying to take a sip from a firehose.

The energetic, 37-year-old is passionate about inspiring others to "dream big and take a chance" in life, he said.

That passion "has led to a career speaking to the largest crowds in America," he said.

Lindquist, of Fargo, is a motivational speaker and professional singer, familiar in Grand Forks for his work at UND sports events.

He hopes those who hear his talks "walk out of the room and step up their game," he said. "I want them to gain motivation or hope.

"We all have some 'next level' we want to get to. What's holding you back? Only lack of belief, belief that we can."

This message, which he presents "with high energy, jokes and laughter," provides the grist for his talks at 80 corporate events a year, he said. "Everything from the Girls Scouts to the biggest of Fortune 500 keynotes."

For most corporate engagements, he's asked to ramp up enthusiasm at the start of a conference or give attendees an uplifting take-away message at the end, he said.

Dream big

Lindquist has also written three books which encourage readers to "aim higher—at work, at home, in community efforts, or in their personal lives," he said.

About 80 percent of his work is dedicated to motivational speaking and the remainder to professional singing, he said.

Lindquist is well-known for singing the national anthem at UND's home hockey games, a job he calls "the best gig in America."

"On a Friday or Saturday night at The Ralph, there's nothing like it," he said. "UND students are so kind to me as a singer."

When he performs for the UND crowds "you can hear a pin drop in the Ralph."

Lindquist is not a UND alumnus, although many assume so, he said.

The '99 graduate of Ortonville, Minn., High School said he attended college classes while serving in the U.S. Air Force but doesn't hold a college degree.

"I found my way as an entrepreneur," he said.

He is pleased that "the UND community has embraced me; they make me feel like part of the family even though I didn't attend there."

Recognized potential

In nearly five years as a motivational speaker, Lindquist has earned $1 million, he said.

He traces the roots of his burgeoning career to experiences in North Dakota, starting with a speech for middle school students at a Concordia College youth camp in July 2013.

At the back of the room, an accomplished motivational speaker listened and, after Lindquist's talk, approached him and said, "I think you should do what we do," Lindquist remembered.

"He saw me for 10 minutes and planted a seed in me," he said.

"I discovered I love this whole speech-giving stuff—writing speeches, delivering speeches."

That prompted him to give a TedX talks in Minot and Grand Forks not long after.

"You need people to come up alongside you and believe in you," he said.

His professional singing career has blossomed too.

Last fall, he sang at the Cleveland Indians' Sept. 11 game, which was dedicated to firefighters who responded after the terrorist attack Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City.

He was also selected by the Cleveland Indians to sing during a World Series game if the team made it to the series. The team did not, but Lindquist said he was honored to be selected.

He has sung for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Minnesota Vikings and Twins, and for NFL games in Chicago, Cleveland and Miami.

This fall he'll sing for the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers, he said.

Deeply grateful

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Lindquist was adopted in March 1982, at age 8 months.

"My parents picked me out of catalog," he said.

He joined the family of Gordon and Diane Lindquist in Ortonville, Minn., he said, "and I've been a Midwesterner ever since."

His background fuels his message, as a motivational speaker, "that it doesn't matter where you came from. You can be a small-town kid and dream big and achieve big things," he said.

He's recognizes his good fortune.

"In Korea, 85 percent of orphans in the early '80s were not adopted," he said.

It's a statistic that fills him "with gratitude for every opportunity I'm afforded."

His adoptive parents "have given me an unbelievable life," he said. "Diane Lindquist is my best friend."

And about his dad, he said, "The best things I have to give the world I got from him."

Lindquist suspects that he is an example of "nurture over nature," he said. "People who know me and my parents say I am exactly like them."

"If I would have stayed in Korea, I seriously doubt that I would be working as a motivational speaker today," he said.

Lindquist plans to relocate to Denver this fall. The move will fulfill a long-time wish on his "bucket list," he said, but it may complicate his singing gig at UND.

It's all about finding purpose.

"The core message of my career, and who I am in the world, may be to help people realize they have more to give," he said. "I feel like, as a performer, a singer or speaker, if I can do it so can you. (I was) an orphan with no particular advantage in life—many would see that as a crutch or something to hold you back.

"Whatever I do, I just hope somebody says, 'By golly, I need to take a step toward my dream,' " he said.

"We could all dream a little bigger."