I was once asked by a great friend of mine what I considered success to look like for my life. That question caused me a great deal of thought, and much of that involved money in some shape or form. The answer he gave me was ‘happiness.’ Of course it is, but why did that not come to my mind? That conversation happened many years ago and before I got cancer. It has played a massive role in how I have lived my life since!
Being happy when I am doing something that I choose is the real deal breaker. Not the money, size of the audience or stature of the event, but will I enjoy myself? Now I have got to this stage in my life, my time is wasted if I’m not having fun. I don’t have to do anything that I don’t enjoy, how many people can say that? Cancer has empowered me to be stronger with my choices and saying no very clearly. Assuming our health is reasonable, time is our most valuable asset. Which is depreciating everyday!
Of course, when we are working, things can be different. Hopefully you have a job where you can be happy most of the time. I absolutely loved my career, and I guess working for myself was the big bonus. Of course if I had the choice I would still be doing that, but I don’t and I can’t! It was all taken very quickly from me by cancer in 2007. My life went from talking about my next exotic holiday to trying to keep myself alive. All in the space of just a few months. Retirement has never appealed to me and still doesn’t. I have very few hobbies/interests, and work best when tackling business challenges.
So over a long period of time I went from helplessness to a place of calm. This has taken an incredible amount of ‘brain training’ and psychological help. Something I don’t think I could have achieved without my incredible wife and family and some extremely patient clinicians. Yes I still have incurable cancer, and no I don’t have a job. But I am still alive and loving helping people by using my own experiences to try and improve the future for others.
With absolutely no plan at all life has shown me a path. I followed it because it felt right, and it has led me to where I am today. Probably the happiest that I have ever been in my life! Grateful for everything, mostly my three grandchildren that I would never have seen. Everyday having fun, and dealing with all the normal things that life throws at me.
But of course life is not all sweetness and light. My body is toiling now with the late effects of treatment and the onset of old age. Taking tablets just to help me get through the day and night. Unable to hold my grandchildren for long or play on the floor with them due to skeletal problems created by treatment. Things could certainly be better, but also a lot worse. I can’t change the cards I have been dealt, but just have to play them as best I can. So this place where I am now feels like success. Other than my cancer I have had no health issues at all. My vital organs are frequently tested and are holding up well. At the age of 63 most of us will have something to complain about and mine is only cancer related!
Having learned how fragile life is, and how quickly it can be taken, has helped me with advising my own children. Urging them to make the most of their opportunities and enjoy travelling whilst they are young and healthy enough to be able to do it. Also talking with other people affected by cancer, helping them to make sense of their lives. No longer do I see obstacles but opportunities. It’s not about me but how I can help others.
Obviously success is a matter of perspective, meaning something different to us all. Of course we need money so that always has to be a part of the equation. But it seems that the things that make us happiest cannot be bought. We all like to to have shiny new things in our life but normally these are just a temporary fix.
I would like to share another major lesson I have learned. It is almost impossible to have health, wealth and time, together. If you ever get to that stage in your life I would say that is SUCCESS!! Please feel free to share your own version of what success looks like. Are you happy with how your life is going?