While I always make it a priority to stay up-to-date on the latest marketing trends, I'm not exactly the first to know about stories outside my industry. My wife would definitely not consider me the coolest cat out there, and sometimes it takes a while for me to hear about the viral content that everybody's talking about.

One of my goals in 2018 has been to pay more attention to those stories that social media accelerates and try to learn from them. In that spirit, here are three stories that stood out to me as I started the year and what they've taught me:

1. A letter about life from a dying 27-year-old woman

This last letter from an inspiring young woman recently got more than 150,000 shares and has been picked up by media outlets around the world, including an article I wrote for this publication. Both real and truly heartfelt, this viral story is a priceless reminder that we all can be more grateful and appreciative of life and the people around us. I intend to read this letter once a month throughout the year to make sure that I keep myself in check -- especially when stress threatens to overtake me -- and remind myself of what truly matters in life.

2. Hilariously bad Photoshop fails of a family portrait

When my wife showed me this viral story of a botched family photo shoot, I couldn't believe it. Honestly, I still kind of don't -- but if this professional photographer really did Photoshop these faces, then wow. Just wow.

Aside from giving me a good laugh, it was a reminder of the importance of trust, especially when it comes to hiring people. Fortunately, I've never had a problem with a vendor that resulted in weird faces being Photoshopped onto my pictures, but I owe that to a network of people I depend on for recommendations. Remember the value of a network you can trust to help you identify the right resources to solve your problems.

3. Sarah Silverman responding to a troll with kindness

This is probably the best of all the stories I've caught in the last couple of weeks. Everyone can learn from the story of how comedian Sarah Silverman responded to somebody trolling her on social media. Instead of blowing him off, getting defensive, or escalating the problem, Sarah helped this guy out and inspired tons of people.

Jay Baer, my friend and someone I work with, wrote a great book titled "Hug Your Haters," which talks about embracing troll-like figures. Sarah took that concept to a whole new level of compassion and did everything she could to help this person get to a better place. Her kind and compassionate response is an inspiration to all us to try to help people, even if it doesn't seem at first like they deserve it.

As long as digital media continues down the road it's going, stories like these will continue to surface, take off, and spread like wildfire. We have no idea what viral sensations the future holds, but I challenge everyone to pay attention to these stories when possible and see what lessons you can draw from them.