About 10 years ago I was lying under a bench press in the basement gym of my parent’s home when I felt a lump about the size of a golf ball. I was not the least bit alarmed – lumps are normal when living a very active lifestyle. It wasn’t until about six months later when I was in Houston, Texas having a completely unrelated surgery that I found out that little lump was in fact a tumor and I had a very advanced level of stage three Non-Hodgkin’s Disease Lymphoma. My life changed forever with that diagnosis, as did my approach to marketing, relationships and sales. Below are a few lessons I’ve learned by joining the 10-year survivor club.
When given the opportunity, laugh: Many of the worst business decisions that I have witnessed being made came at juncture where someone could have taken a moment, a breath, and laughed at the situation and tried to regain composure. Often times, business people take themselves and the situations they are involved with too seriously and forget about the reason they went into business. Suddenly the bills pile up, health insurance costs rise, and your best-selling product goes off the market. There is nothing funny about any of that. But, there is something funny about life and no matter how tough it gets – if you’re reading this – you’re still breathing. There is someone who loves you and there is something to laugh about. Take a moment to walk outside breathe in deep and be thankful for the minutes you have been blessed with. Don’t let the little things throw off your game, find the humor in that spilled cup of coffee, power outage or employee fiasco. A little laughter can lighten the mood and re-energize your situation.
Live in a world of mutual admiration: I have a close friend named Dr. Bruce. He is one of the most fascinating and inspiring people I have ever met. He has traveled the globe; discovered insects that no one ever knew existed, and worked with my childhood hero – Jane Goodall. One day Dr. Bruce and I were talking and I told him how much I appreciate his friendship and how much I respect his work. He responded by complimenting me on a few traits that I carry and then said, “David, I think you and I live in a world of mutual admiration.” His statement was very true and it’s a world that I have found quite beneficial to live in. In fact, I consider it a lifestyle choice where I choose to find the best qualities in people, expect the best from them, and do not expect to get hurt by them. It has resulted in countless relationships that I hold close to my heart and yes, a few heartbreaks. People often tell me that I need to prepare for the worst, or if a business deal goes bad that I should have been more realistic. I choose to ignore that advice and instead believe that most people are great, faithful and caring. Very seldom am I let down. When I apply this lifestyle choice to business decisions and marketing I have found that my business relationships become deeper longer lasting, and my connections more amicable to introducing me to other folks I may need to network with. I try to tell people what I appreciate about them and I have yet to have offering a compliment come back to haunt me.
Be nice, and honest, tomorrow may not come: I was almost 20 when the first needle that was delivering a toxic dose of chemo pierced the bulging vein on my left hand. It stung and felt like that first treatment would never end – but, eventually it did. The following week my oncologist informed me that that first dose was working well and he suspected I would survive. Until that point I really did not know. My parents only knew that their youngest son was full of cancer and his and their lives were about to change forever. It was underneath that bag of chemicals that I had time to think about and decide how this experience would affect my life. The decision I made was that I would do my best to always offer value to any relationship I entered into (business or personal) and that since tomorrow may not come, I better work my hardest to make sure that today is memorable. I apply those lessons today to my work life and personal life. Always be honest and always be nice, tomorrow might not come and you never know who the person knows that you’re about to lie to.
Cancer was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. At 19 years old, I was able to learn lessons that nothing else in life could have taught me. Lucky for me I survived and am still surviving and just hope that the three lessons above help you with your next business pursuit.