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In March 2008, my eyes were opened to a new perspective and life took on a whole new meaning. In that month, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Lung Cancer. Once the reality of this news settled in, my first emotion was to cry. Then I woke up from my first reaction of fear to begin an entirely new and uncharted journey.
To set the record straight, the subsequent book I wrote is not about cancer or the ramifications of being afflicted with it. Plenty of good books have already been written on that subject; however, it is important to note that cancer is an important undercurrent in these pages because without its appearance on the scene, this book never would have been written.
You will probably be surprised when I make this next statement. Early on, I decided to choose cancer, rather than to let it choose me. I chose to live with it as opposed to dying from it. Wait, you say—you just told me this book isn’t about cancer, but then you highlighted the subject on several fronts. Correct, I have. But again, I must stress that this book is NOT about cancer. It’s about living an extraordinary life without waiting for something like cancer to open your door to living that life. As such, I’m highlighting cancer as the instigator. It took cancer for me to realize just how short life is, how important really living is, and then how to find the ability to share how life is extraordinary with the clarity that having this disease provides.
For me, this book is far more important than chronicling the challenges of my cancer. It’s about your life journey and awakening your call to live your life and make it extraordinary in the process. In the more than fifty years I have lived, I have witnessed over and over that making life extraordinary is more the exception than the rule for most people. In fact, I strongly believe that while having an extraordinary life could be almost ordinary, most people choose to let it remain a rarity.
Yes, I realize too well that we all have to make a living. But that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on living in the process. Therefore, this book is designed from start to finish to assist you, the reader, in living your dream and not someone else’s. There is a big difference.
By sharing my experiences to the best of my ability, my aim is to ensure the reader learns from my mistakes (as well as my wins). In each and every chapter, I present a series of stories that provide more than one perspective.
My idea to write this book initially began when I asked my son and daughter what they would most like me to leave them if an unforeseen situation arrived and I wasn’t on hand to give them my advice.
My daughter Emily immediately replied, “Dad, tell me everything you know about running a business. I know in my heart that someday I will run my own, so I need to know what you know since yours was successful.” Okay, I thought, that will comprise about ten pages. But you’re on—I’ll do my best to share my experiences, good, bad, and in-between that moved me through my business life.
My son, on the surface the more sensitive of the two, asked, “What happened, Dad? Did you get bad news from the doctor today?” “No,” I replied. “This is important and regardless of what’s happening to me, I feel every parent (everyone for that matter) should take the time to write his or her story for posterity’s sake and have it down for the world to witness.” Rather than buy that explanation, he shut down so I had to wait and rephrase my approach for another day.
The next time I asked him, “Riley, what is it about me that you like most and if for some reason I wasn’t around when you needed that one thing, what would it be?” This time he stopped, thought a moment, and responded with, “Dad, I love your stories about your life. You always have the best stories. If you could share some with me in your book, that’s what I’d like to have.”
So there you have it. A book about how to run a business combined with life stories. In the process, I’ll attempt to sprinkle in living your dream in lieu of someone else’s. That’s the content of this book because like my children, I feel those are the most important ingredients I have to leave for future generations.
I’ve collaborated with my close and trusted friend, June Grushka-Rosen. She is a “how to live an extraordinary life” visionary in and of herself, and without her assistance, this book would only be half full. Her extractions and observations on the subsequent chapters are immeasurable. She brings the pure essence of the message into light and purpose for every topic. I am eternally grateful for her gifts of creativity and foresight, for I wouldn’t have known where to begin without them.
About a year or so ago, this book began simply as a blog for me to chronicle my thoughts, subsequent cancer treatment, and progression. If you find yourself in a “less than good news situation,” I cannot stress enough the usefulness of a personal blog site. It provides a convenient venue to document your situation as a resource for everyone so you don’t have to explain yourself over and over. When one comes home from a long day of chemotherapy treatments, about the last thing you’ll want to do is handle a series of calls to multiple listeners and relay the day’s events…thus, blog. I also find it provides hope and support to others looking online who might be in similar situations. Sometimes I hear from strangers who read my blog—not a few end up becoming my friends.
About a year following diagnosis, I made a blog entry titled, “Live Your Life as Though You Have Cancer.” It became Chapter One of this book because it is a cornerstone admission and an underlying thesis. My emphasis here is on attitude. I believe strongly that my positive attitude toward the disease has kept me alive longer than the doctors expected.
So what does all this mean to you, the reader, and what should you expect to garner from investing your time in reading and trying to understand what I have to share? I hope I will encourage you to think about your own life when you’ve run into obstacles or been jammed by adversity. How did you move through it? Are you overlooking the multitude of blessings in your life? How can you be more aware of them on a moment-by-moment basis? How do you live each and every day as if you only have that day to live?
These are questions I will help you to answer as a guide and mentor hoping to assist you to create a clearer window to your soul so you can make your life truly extraordinary. Throughout the book, June has prepared what we call “Mastery questions” and other mini-exercises to correlate with my stories and examples; we hope you will take the time to answer these questions for yourself to help guide you toward living your extraordinary life. We all possess the opportunity to live an extraordinary life. We only have one life to live, so it’s important to live it to its fullest and make it extraordinary. Not for tomorrow, not next week, or next year, but today. You will come to know that the phrase, “Yesterday is history, today a gift, tomorrow a promise” is not just a saying, but a way to live your life. All we have is right now, and that’s where this book will take you—to the present, and to the opportunity to show up and not miss it.