31 Jul 7 Life-Changing Realizations Gained From Numerous Near-Death Experiences
In July of 2005, I was diagnosed with having a 5cm by 3.5cm tumor in the cerebellar part of my brain.
The diagnosis was a life-changing moment for me. After I got diagnosed, I left the hospital screaming with such anger, ‘That’s it God, you have to kill me but I’m not going to let this health condition be a disempowering moment in my life any longer. Right then I made a decision that regardless of what happened to me after the brain operation, I still choose life.
For me, being empowered was the confidence he needed to take his life head on. Before that, he ignored his health problems and life circumstances, never confronting them.
Diagnosed on a Tuesday sometime in July of 2005, I was urgently operated on a Thursday. Before the brain operation, I was freaking out.
“I’ve had appendix, eye operations, this and that, but a brain operation? You’re going to chop my head. You’re going to operate in my space. This is an invasion of my being. This is really personal.” I told my doctor.
The doctor noticed that I was freaking out. “He said ‘Look, you will be okay after the operation because it’s one area on the edge of the brain just underneath the skull. All we have to do is make a small incision, cut out a little bit of the brain and it should come out quite comfortably.’ Once the process was done, it was a smooth, clean operation.”
After the brain operation, I felt my own insignificance. My sense of self-importance disappeared when I realized that at the end of the day, even the most powerful people in the world died and the earth would not stop revolving just because they died. There I was on the doorstep of death, and looking outside my window for a brief moment, I saw birds flying and people walking past. I was there, dying, but life carries on. It was a real ego blow to the self.
After the brain operation, I realized he’d been given a second chance to life. If I don’t start living the life I want to live now, I may never get a chance to live it again. If I didn’t have any sense of urgency just to get on with it, I would’ve procrastinated in my decisions. I was living on borrowed time that was scarce and finite and I knew it now. It was now or never.
I didn’t have any more time to be upset or angry or sad or depressed. I just made no more time for that shit in my life anymore.
To survive the operation unscathed was a celebration. To know I had that tumor to address when it could’ve easily burst in my head was a real second chance again. I had all those realizations about taking on life to the fullest and living life on my terms. I just did a full 360-degree turnaround with my life. Those who have not had to confront their mortality are seriously saying ‘I’ll get to it tomorrow; I’ll do it someday.’ When you get confronted by your mortality and you know that this is your second chance to life, you are not blasé anymore with your time and you are no longer sold on the theory of ‘someday.’ It’s now or never.
Most people who have regret are those who delay their decisions. Because I don’t have any more time to waste, I never delay making any decisions and don’t ponder about it for years. I just go for it.
One of the most important decisions a person will make in his or her life is the decision to marry. It was especially difficult for me, as I had a hereditary condition that limited my lifespan to 30 years (at the time of my diagnosis in 1992 at age 19). Those with VHL have a 50/50 chance of passing it on to their children. This prevented me from considering the possibility of marriage or having a family of my own.
After the brain operation, I went on a life-changing trip around the world and it was during one of those trips that I met and fell in love with my future wife Rica. I realized that having Rica in my life was a good thing but there was so much in me that didn’t want to make the decision to marry because of my hereditary condition. But it was good to have love in my life regardless of how long I would live.
Marrying someone is a lifetime decision. So you have to make sure you’re the one who’s making the decision, not your family, friends or social expectations.
Although the decision was made relatively quickly, I only told my family and friends, who kept it a secret from Rica for a year. I paid particular attention to my inner voice the whole time. I made the decision to monitor my own inner conflicts and frictions and resistance to the idea of marrying Rica. After one year, I observed there wasn’t any friction and resistance in me.
Before the brain operation, I never knew what I wanted. I started this and that and never finishing anything. I was always dabbling in something and there was no shortage of reasons why I didn’t commit to doing something. Now, I don’t care. I’ve got nothing to lose. I wanted to be a businessman – I became a businessman. I wanted to be a millionaire – I made millions. I wanted to get married and have a family, and that happened. I wanted to travel and work from around the world. That happened too. Everything happened.
I realized that I’d spent so much time observing what I was afraid of instead of simply focusing on what I wanted. It was a shift of perspective for me, a very minute shift that nevertheless propelled me to achieve far more in my life than did any one of my other perspectives.
I realized that if I didn’t fully commit to what I wanted to do, I was feeding all my doubts, insecurities and excuses. I also noticed every time I did things half-heartedly in life, the first challenge or problem knocked me out of my game plan. This, mixed with not knowing what you want and not fully committing to life, was a bad recipe for life.
Barely a month into my recovery from the brain operation, I decided to join a marathon, shocking the nurses and medical staff looking after me. They all freaked out and said, ‘wait a second, recently operated brain tumor patient is going to run a marathon? And he just had a tumor removed in the part of the brain that controls movement mechanisms? Are you for real?’ And I said, why not? They didn’t want to say no, don’t do it, but they were all advising against it.
In 2003, two years before the brain operation, in good health and with all the reasons in the world to do well, I had joined a 14-kilometer Sydney, Australia fun run called City 2 Surf. I trained for it and made a target to finish in 60 minutes. I finished the run just over my target at 65 minutes.
After my brain operation, with no prior training and preparation, and still unable to turn my head properly, and with my target still set at 60 minutes, I ran the City 2 Surf marathon in August of 2005.
I remember running up to that 200-meter stretch to the finish line and almost deciding to just walk the rest of the way because I was so exhausted. But then I turned a corner and saw the big clock showing the time at 57 minutes. I almost had to rub my eyes. I couldn’t believe it. It was mind-blowing.
I finished the marathon in 58 minutes and 22 seconds, almost a full eight minutes faster than my previous run two years earlier, putting me in the top 1,000 out of the 50,000 runners who participated.
Shocked that I’d beat my target despite all my health challenges and with no prior training, I realized just how much I’d been entertaining all my excuses and self-doubts in life. How much do we limit ourselves before we’ve even begun anything?
What I realized after doing the marathon changed me forever. I no longer cut myself short. I back myself. I don’t underestimate myself any longer after doing that run.
Being blasé about life is not being respectful of your rarest commodity, which is your time on earth. While I’m here on earth, let me make my life matter in some way. Let me make my work matter in some way. Let me live my life even larger.
The brain operation changed everything for me. It was my wake up call to start living life to the fullest. Every time I was nearly killed, I was reminded of how much life is truly a gift and what we do with it is our gift back. When you hear all those stories about people who nearly died and feel like they have a second chance at life and have to be worthy of it in some way, there’s a part of that playing. Every time I’m confronted by my mortality, I feel there’s another reason I’m being kept here on earth. This is one of the reasons I’m writing the book as well, not just for my sons, for everyone.
You may have just read the article but may not yet fully understand the magnitude of these perspectives. At this point, I’d like to illustrate the impact of these realizations on my life.
As a result of these realizations, I went from renting a small studio that didn’t even have a kitchen, to living in a mansion worth over $5M. From never having work that I enjoyed to running a business and working on something I love to do everyday and which has employed more than eight thousand people in over ten years as a result. From never having enough time to travel to now traveling constantly around the world after deciding that my health condition will no longer be a disempowering moment in life. From being alone, angry and not believing in a future due to my health condition, to having two lovely boys, a wife I adore and a future I believe in as a result of focusing on my desires.
After gaining these 7 life-changing realizations, I went the complete opposite: from being noncommittal in life to becoming fully committed to life, and from always being broke to being a multimillionaire after realizing my massive sense of urgency with time.
The statement “what doesn’t kill makes you stronger” has certainly been true in my life.
I’d like to take you on a journey of discovering these realizations as I explore them in more detail in my book, coming out soon!