Frail looking and in high spirits, I walked into the doctor’s office for the dreaded colonoscopy, thinking, they’d find something to fix my situation. I had shrunk down from an athletic 167 pounds to a measly 127 at last count; shorts half falling off my skinny frame. You see, for the months that preceded, I’d hoped for the best sought out a few medical opinions but had gotten no real resolution other than a couple of guesses that I had bowel issues or an infection of some sort. “A little medicine and time and we’re all good” I thought. I walked across the cold floor, laid myself up on the table for what I imagined to a display for all to see shortly.
“Wake up, Steve. We have to go to the hospital.” Groggy and still thinking I was or maybe hoping I was dreaming. “They found a tumor” were the next words out of my wife’s mouth. I wasn’t quite with it. I did finally awaken from my drugged stupor and by that time, I was sitting in the waiting room at St Francis Medical Center. As it turns out, the “bug” I had been fighting for past few months was a tumor, a pretty nasty, softball-sized messenger of chaos.
“You’re losing ground to this thing every day”, the surgeon told me. By week’s end, I was in for surgery to remove this new-found tumor that had been playing havoc on my system. Little did I know, this would really only be the beginning of a trying 8-month battle with Burkitt’s lymphoma. A lymphoma “rarely” seen in people of my age (so they said) but “we caught it early” so, “you’re lucky.” “Lucky my ass” I thought in the moment.
I immediately went into problem solving mode, “I have cancer”, “how do we treat it?….ok, when do we get started.” It was only in the painful hours of recovery that followed my initial surgery that I realized, “holy shit, this might be it.” This may actually be the end to my ‘fairy tale’ life. I am thankful for everything this life has given to me. I’ve accomplished a lot of good things in the eyes of most; I have a beautiful and loving wife, two amazing kids, a good job and really want for nothing. 30 years in, my life story wasn’t bad. A lower-middle class kid that worked his way through Chemical Engineering school eventually getting an MBA. I was lucky to marry my high-school sweetheart… have a boy, a girl, 2 dogs, and a roof over our heads… But, is that really it? Was there more I could’ve done…more I should’ve been? “If only I had more time,” I thought. “There’s so much more I would have done.” I can’t say that I have any regrets about the path my life had taken. I’m happy in the choices I’ve made along the way. But, maybe there are some missed opportunities, some what-ifs that never were explored.
I became determined to beat cancer and after that, “I’d make my mark”. I approached the next 8 months like it was a job, trudging through the treatment cycles; 1 week in hospital, 1-week home confinement, 1 week living like a normal human (sort of) and repeat. I logged 56 days in the hospital, 8 spinal taps, gallons medicine, blood and platelets pumped into my body and wham, it was over. My scans were clean. It was over, now what?
6 years later, here I sit. What became of that promise to “make my mark” after I beat cancer? Cancer had opened my eyes and given me perspective into what was really important in life but, that perspective came with a surprising downside. It is now painfully evident how many individuals are out in the world just going through the motions. And, I was one of them. Waking up, taking a shower, going to work, coming home, eating dinner, going to sleep and repeating day after day. Each day like the previous on and on and on. Even with all my “what’s important in life perspective”, I was no different. I had, in effect, hit the snooze button on God’s wake up call. In fairness to myself, I’ve done a lot in the past 6 years to change things for the better. I’ve changed jobs to build flexibility into life and spend more time with my family. I’ve been more focused on being a good father to my children and tried (sometimes unsuccessfully) to be a more loving and supportive husband. That’s good stuff, right? But, that’s just the point - it is Good. It’s incremental improvement. But, I don’t want good, incrementally improving life. I want an extraordinary life. I want to leave a monster legacy.
I think, on some level all human beings want a great life. They want their brief time on this Earth to be remembered. They want people to show up to their funerals and rave of all that they meant to the world. If you want the same, keep reading.
I am embarking, finally, on my life’s work, to build and help others build extraordinary lives and leave behind unique legacy they would be proud of. As of this moment, there are 5 Fundamental Beliefs that guide my work and form the basis for my interactions as a coach and leader.
#1 Every Human Being on Earth deserves an extraordinary life
#2 Every Human Possesses Greatness within them
#3 The decision to change is yours and yours alone
#4 Extraordinary lives are not had, they are built
#5 Happiness is in the journey
Read more detail in the extended post 36 Days to an Extraordinary Life