Deciding that any major life challenge will no longer be a disempowering moment, as a result Chris has gained a new sense of resilience in life
In July of 2005, Chris was diagnosed with having a 5cm by 3.5cm tumor
in the cerebellar part of his brain.
The diagnosis was a life-changing moment for Chris. “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 Chris, being empowered and gaining a new sense of resilience was the confidence he needed to take his life head on. Before that, he ignored his health problems and life circumstances, never confronting them.
2005 Brain Tumor
How insignificant he was
Diagnosed on a Tuesday sometime in July of 2005, Chris was urgently operated on a Thursday. Before the brain operation, he 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.”
The doctor noticed that Chris was freaking out. “The doctor 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, Chris felt his own insignificance. His sense of self-importance disappeared when he 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.”
A massive sense of urgency with time
After the brain operation, Chris 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,” he says. “If I didn’t have any sense of urgency just to get on with it, I would’ve procrastinated in my decisions.” He was living on borrowed time that was scarce and finite and he 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,” Chris says.
“To know I have gained a new sense of resilience in life, to survive the operation unscathed was a real 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 blase anymore with your time and you are no longer sold on the theory of ‘someday.’ It’s now or never,” says Chris.
Bringing forward all decisions
“Most people who have regret are those who delay their decisions,” notes Chris. “Because I don’t have any more time to waste, I never delay making any decisions and don’t ponder about if for years. When you recognize the value of every day that your alive, you just want to go for it and make the most of each day like never before”.
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 Chris, who had a hereditary condition that limited his lifespan to 30 years (at the time of his diagnosis in 1992 at age 19). Those with the VHL condition have a 50/50% chance of passing it on to his children. This prevented him from considering the possibility of marriage or having a family of his own.
After the brain operation, Chris went on a life-changing trip around the world and it was during one of those trips that he met and fell in love with his 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.”
Chris stresses the importance of owning your decision. “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, he only told his family and friends, who kept it a secret from Rica for a year. Chris paid particular attention to his 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. Except for her height, she’s of typical Filipino height,” Chris laughs.
No time to focus on what he didn’t want and was purely focused on his desires
“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”. 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.”
Chris realized that he’d spent so much time observing what he was afraid of instead of simply focusing on what he wanted. It was a shift of perspective for Chris, a very minute shift that nevertheless propelled him to achieve far more resilience in his life than did any one of his other perspectives.
Chris realized that if he didn’t fully commit to what he wanted to do, he was feeding all his doubts, insecurities and excuses. Chris also noticed every time he did things half-heartedly in life, the first challenge or problem knocked him out of his game plan. This, mixed with not knowing what you want and not fully committing to life, was a bad recipe for life.
Discovering just how much we limit ourselves before we even get started
Barely a month into his recovery from the brain operation, Chris decided to join a marathon, shocking the nurses and medical staff looking after him.
“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,”shares Chris.
In 2003, two years before the brain operation, in good health and with all the reasons in the world to do well, he had joined a 14-kilometer Sydney, Australia fun run called City 2 Surf. He trained for it and made a target to finish in 60 minutes. He finished the run just over his target at 65 minutes.
After his brain operation, with no prior training and preparation, and still unable to turn his head properly, and with his target still set at 60 minutes, Chris ran the City 2 Surf marathon in August of 2005.
Chris running a half marathon
“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.”
Chris finished the marathon in 58 minutes and 22 seconds, almost a full eight minutes faster than his previous run two years earlier, how is that for resilience? That run put him in the top 1,000 out of the 50,000 runners who participated.
Shocked that he’d beat his target despite all his health challenges, Chris realized just how much he’d been entertaining all his excuses and self-doubts in life. “How much do we limit ourselves before we’ve even begun anything?”
What he realized after doing the marathon changed Chris forever. “I no longer cut myself short. I back myself. I don’t underestimate myself any longer after doing that run.”
Being alive everyday is such a gift, and what we do with life is our gift back to life
“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 life count. Let me make my work matter in some way. Let me live my life even larger.” says Chris.
Resilience is an important factor for his well being. Resilience can be a scary word for many who have just overcame such tragic adversities in their health. Moving forward, from these tougher situations that often cause so much suffering can be an exhilarating feeling especially when it seems impossible to function normal again. But resilience is something that we will experience as time moves on. As you heal, your life will go through a deeper sense of meaning and you will experience transformation in all parts of your life.
This is how 7 life-changing realizations
changed Chris’s life forever
You may have just read the article but may not yet fully understand the magnitude of Chris’s perspectives. At this point, we’d like to illustrate the impact of these realizations on Chris’s life.
As a result of these realizations, Chris gained far more resilience in life. He 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 he enjoyed to running a business and working on something he loves to do everyday and which has employed over seven thousand people in over nine years as a result of his career realizations. From never having enough time to travel to now traveling constantly around the world after deciding that his health condition will no longer be a disempowering moment in life. From being alone, angry and not believing in a future due to his health condition, to having two lovely boys, a wife he adores and a future he believes in as a result of focusing on his desires.
After gaining these 7 life-changing realizations, Chris 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 his massive sense of urgency with time.
The statement “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is certainly true in Chris’s life.
If you like to find out more about Chris’s other businesses, click here.