It feels like only a few, maybe 4 or 5 months ago, that I wrote the Jan 2011 Useletter. Even my girls have commented on how time has flown this year... so it's not an age thing anymore!
Well, here we are, Christmas behind us and a new year ahead. Have you made any plans for 2012? Any real concrete goals? Remember, if you do what you have always done, you will still only get what you always had.
You may, or may not have seen on Facebook, on 6 Dec I had a heart attack. Luckily I was not on a plane or in a hotel, but at home and my wife , coming from a medical background, picked up what was coming and rushed me off the the 24hr emergency. To say that I made it to the hospital with minutes to spare, is an understatement, and I am grateful to be here today.
Why do I share this with you?
I feel that here is a message for the new year for each and every one of us. Funnily enough a few weeks earlier I had been talking to my wife, saying we had to sit down and seriously change a few things for 2012. And of course with the end of year rush and other issues taking priorities – we never got to this. Kinda the same as the year before. Sound familiar?
Now those of you who have heard me speak live, know my story of running aground on an expedition near the North Pole way back in 1997 where we all thought we may die. We said 'goodbye' to each other and really didn't believe we would make it out alive. The experience changed my life, and truly taught me the meaning of living life in the moment, trying to be non judgmental and trying to love everyone equally. The biggest challenge from this experience was that I had to learn to practice what I learnt!
Lying on the hospital bed with many wires attached to me, seeing my life flash in front of me with my wife and daughters standing wide eyed next to me... made me think seriously about what I have been preaching all these years. In fact it made me look at myself and question whether I had indeed learnt from that 1997 experience. I always say to a live audience that if ever I was faced with death again, I would never want to be in that same situation I was in back then where I had regrets. Back in '97, realising this could be the end, all I thought about was, 'What if?” What if I could have done this or that? What if I had only said this and not that? Etc. etc. Ask most people today what would go on in their minds if they had an hour left to live – I guarantee that the most would say the same – they would have regrets at the things they didn't do.
I have always boldly and publicly stated that I have learnt my lesson and that when I am ever faced with death again, I will have no regrets and will never again ask, “What if.” I have made a point of really tackling all my dreams and desires and truly living in the moment.
Well, 3 weeks ago I was given the chance to validate or nullify this philosophy of mine which I so love preaching to others. There I lay, not knowing when, or if another heart attack was going to hit. Would I survive, or wouldn't I?
Firstly I can 100% confirm that I was not scared of dying. I lay there content with my life and my accomplishments. I truly had no regrets with regard to following through on my dreams and the things I have achieved in life. I have also always said that if my time comes around again, I think my only regret would be, not seeing my daughters grow up and leaving my wife alone.
I always knew it would be tough, but never once could I have ever imagined how that thought would really make me feel! Right then and there on that bed, NOTHING else mattered, but my wife and daughters. What made it worse... they were standing right there next to me, even more afraid than I was, whether I was going to make it or not. I will never ever forget that distressed look on their faces and I hope to never see it again.
With everything I have shared and preached to everyone, I would never ever have thought that this experience would have such a huge impact on me and at this stage of my life. Right there and then I saw how much they cared for me. Yes of course I knew that, but no words could have expressed the love in their eyes I saw then. It was kinda like someone saying to me, “Yea you always talk about how much you love them, but you have no idea of how deeply they love you. It made me realise that too often I make it all about me, rather than about us.
I really try and spend time with my girls and believe that we are very close as a family. As a rule I will NOT work if they have a sporting event, school evening etc. My family always comes first. Yet, it still hit me hard – what if I had left them alone! The last 3 weeks my mind has worked overtime trying to figure this out. Why has it affected me so much? Surely I have done my bit and should feel no guilt? It just doesn't make sense!
Firstly, let me backtrack and put your mind at ease... I had an angiogram and two stents put in and feel like a new man right now. In fact that cardiologist said I should feel 15 years younger... I do! This had been coming a while and I had both front and back arteries to the heart blocked. Luckily there was no muscle damage and I am basically as 'good as new.' In fact... better... plus I have learnt another huge lesson.
A friend of mine visited me the other day and said, “But you don't look any different?” Huh! What did he expect? I definitely don't look any different on the outside, but believe me, certain things have changed on the inside … especially my way of thinking!
In fact I have decided that the 6 Dec is now my 2nd birthday to a new life and second chance in life. I spent about a week in hospital and when I got home, did I look at my family differently! I didn't just hug my girls, I really hugged them. I didn't just say I love you to them, but I looked them in their eyes, held their hands and really told them I loved them with my entire soul. For the first time I really opened myself up to them, and could now really see that same love in their eyes.
You see, life does go on, it is a rush and a constant stress on everyone. Especially the way the world is changing at present. And yes we all think (myself included) that we are spending that quality time with those we love... but are we really? Or is it all part of our daily conditioned routine? All too often we only think of our feelings towards others, and not realise just how much they care for us too. To kiss your wife goodbye every morning and think that you are a caring husband is one thing, but to really kiss her, to look into her eyes and into her heart and tell her how special she is to you – that's the little extra we tend to forget to do. To see her smile back at you and kiss you back with that same depth – that's what we tend to miss. My heart attack was a big reminder not to take things for granted, especially your family.
I also learnt that the same applies to friends. Just because someone hasn't spoken to you or seen you in a coupe of months doesn't necessarily mean that they don't care. Again I made the mistake of 'pre-judging' some people. Arriving back home and seeing the Facebook comments, having people visit me and just open up so intensely has made me cry more than I care to admit. If anything, it has made me realize that even though the world does at times appear to be filled only with greedy and selfish people, there are actually many more that are caring and loving, and I am honored to call many of them my friends.
Hence you are also getting your Jan 2012 Useletter a few days early, I am taking my family on a cruise and doing some serious catching up!
For 2012 I ask you to learn from my experience and at the every least, try and spend more time with those you love and learn to appreciate them, but also see how much they care for you too. Tell them how you feel daily. Care for those around you and don't be scared to express your feelings. Life is too short and can be taken away at any moment. Make 2012 the year of living 100% in the moment, telling everyone how you really feel.
I wish you a truly love filled 2012!