“Why does Cancer/other major life events help to change the Conversation?” “How do we change the conversations in our lives?”
Health Update: I had a great week. Side effects have diminished, my energy is back up, I was able to do more things around the house, I rode my bike, worked, gained some weight, and enjoyed reading some books. In the third week before your next dose of Chemotherapy they say this is typical because your platelet count goes back up…and hence your internal systems function like normal. Per my last entry…when you are happy internally you are happy externally!
If you are wondering what it feels like to me to have my lung cancer on a day to day basis (everyone is different)…I think I would summarize it by saying - my chest is tight, my breathing is constrained, I cough a lot, my speech pattern is not normal, my throat is sore, curious what new side effect might pop up, my energy level is less than normal, talking too much is difficult (for me this is a tough one and maybe a big blessing for all of you!), and besides that life is great!...those internal things are minor and I would never would have told you those things if it wasn’t for this blog and people wondering…on the outside all looks good with my MadVember Beard!
I experimented this week when someone asked me how I was doing, I said, “I’m fine except that I have cancer,” and they just had no idea how to respond…I helped them out and smoothed over the awkward moment…it was fun! Sometimes we don’t expect to get the truth when we ask questions!
I go to UCSF on the 23rd for Infusion #2…so next post I will let you know how that goes!! My daughter Ella is going to go with me, so it will be interesting to be with her.
I have referred to it over the first 5 entries’…but something came more clear for me this week as I was talking to my friend who is an Oncologist Nurse in Santa Cruz. She said, “one of the reasons I love this work, is that the conversation changes when people have cancer…it is amazing to be a part of people’s life during this period.”
I have obviously felt this, tasted it, seen it in my own experience over the last several weeks and am captivated trying to understand why? When you change your internal frame of reference all of a sudden everything looks different.
She is right on…when you get Cancer it changes the conversation…clearly other things change the conversation as well...but in general something potentially life threatening, with lots of uncertainty and people having a mix of experience with different outcomes…the context is shifted enough to cause us to behave in a different way than how we behaved seconds before learning this information.
New thoughts - new choices - new actions/behaviors - new experience/results = new feelings that in turn inspires new thoughts and the cycle repeats…is the formula that cancer fits into…just by getting diagnosed it begins to create new thoughts & feelings that in turn feed the chain of events that create new actions from you and from others around you…and that in turn creates a different experience.
Our ability to change the results/experience in our lives is a very difficult process…over the years I have read, studied, pondered on habit changing, change and transition, human development, etc.…and the facts are pretty clear….most of us have a very difficult time changing from the “identify” that we have patterned for ourselves. For many that pattern is amazing…so maybe there is no reason to change…for others change could be a good thing. I always have thought that unless we are growing, learning, and evolving that we are potentially not continuing to develop as human beings, and that we must continually evolve as the world around us is changing.
If we score ourselves from 1-10 across various aspects of our lives, (spiritual, physical, emotional, financial, professional, relationships with the various people in our lives, etc.) and if there is room to get better or even to stay the same given the changing context then this conversation is relevant.
I am interested in the topic because as a teacher/coach/trainer/consultant over the years I have always tried to teach people the mindset/skills/tools to have a conversation that is meaningful and causes concerted action. This has taken the shape of doing organizational training work, outdoor adventuring, strategy work with executive teams, organizational change and development, figuring out how to drive sales growth and improve the sales conversation, problem solving and resolution of difficult issues with unique stakeholder groups, how to effectively give a presentation that promotes action, and lately lots of work around how to enhance Innovation within the walls of your company.
The fact is that changing the conversation with people is very, very difficult. Many people espouse a desire to shift but very few seem to actually be able to make it happen. So I hope you can see why getting cancer for me has been fascinating because I have seen the conversation shift before my eyes…and I am intrigued to explore what we can learn from this and how we can integrate some of the amazing aspects of this into each of our lives more fully without having to experience a seminal event.
The human condition is so tender, we are sensitive human beings that are easily impacted by words someone uses, the way someone looks at us, and the things people do. When we know that people genuinely and sincerely love us and want the best for us, our confidence, outlook, and ability to face uncertainty and challenges goes up. It changes our Thoughts-Options -Actions-Experience/Results - Feelings and then we are able to create new patterns of behavior that drive us towards wanting to get a 10 across the areas of our lives that we are interested in improving. I have been observing the current events of this week with the crisis in Paris and the horrific actions of ISIS…the conversation/situation has changed around the world. We can no longer go back to the way it was, the context is different and the impetus for action is real. In my work, we call this kind of situation a “state change”…meaning that it is impossible to go back to the way things were. Simple example…if you have a cup of hot water and put your chamomile tea bag into that water…the water changes to tasty tea and it is impossible to change that tea back to plain hot water…that is a state change.
So cancer is a state change, I cannot go back to the way things were and my life view is a little different as a result. I hope this kind of interaction and human connection will not go away…but the human condition is such that we all have very busy and complex lives and must focus on what is critical at the time. I know that the energy will subside and my hope is that each of us can figure out how to keep this human connection alive with those we associate with. For me, this is a state change that I want to make permanent as best as possible and I’m thankful for this experience, it is a gift in my life.
I believe the benefits for us and for others is quite lovely and piercing to the soul. I think it was what we all agreed to before we came to earth. We said we would help each other down here, in fact I believe we are all connected as brothers and sisters and hence it only makes sense that this human quality of love towards your brother or sister would come out during a difficult time. Somehow I think we tap into “The Ties That Bind” (Bruce Springsteen documentary about his 1980 album “The River” premiered last Saturday in NYC…the documentary will air on HBO Nov 27th. Worth a watch!) us all together regardless of our differences, and we feel this amazingness that is called love in a real way. This gives us confidence to move forward in the midst of the trials and challenges that are sure to come our way.
For some reason there are many people that do not want us to be successful…as strange as that sounds…we must help people to fight against this tide of negative energy and insecurity from others. We must rejoice in the success of others, not see it as a threat to us, but learn and grow from it! I remember many years ago, one of my friends that was a professional athlete said, “it is just amazing the number of people that do not want me to be successful.” This was shocking to me but I realized it was true.
So what do we do?
It takes time to create connection and common experiences that bind us together. It is hard to jump straight to this connection; there needs to be some type of exchange of human interaction to begin to create the bonds, hence that is why service is such a key element in the equation. Doing something for someone for no reason is what often begins the cycle of developing a connection. At work and at home we create this by the effort we put in, the acts of service we perform, the commitments we make and keep, and the way we go about accomplishing our tasks. This is how social capital is built. We cannot expect it to just happen, it requires energy and work.
Along the way it is important to express your appreciation…don’t wait…never wait! Appreciation might not get a second chance and something always seems to change with time. Don’t let those moments pass to make someone feel good about themselves. There is no greater gift than to build and enhance the self-confidence and skills of a fellow human being. This in turn builds their internal fortitude to press forward and is expressed in their outward behavior.
A few off the cuff thoughts about how cancer has shifted my internal thoughts:
I would say I am more conscious of every moment
More open in telling people how I feel
More desirous to help those in need
No need or value in fighting or getting upset over anything
The social capital you build up is gold
Slow down…don’t need to move so fast
Appreciation for those with life altering illnesses or diseases - mental or physical
Increased desire to see my kids progress in their lives and be a part of it
Glad for the life I have lived, the time I have spent with kids, wife, & friends
Deeper appreciation for parents who have lost a child or have serious challenges
Greater awareness of the amazing friends I have
How amazing people are and how connected I believe we are as a big family
I started this entry with the question “How do we change the conversations is our lives?”
I’m not sure what the total answer is to this question, and it will be different for each person. Start pondering with me…I guarantee we will get inspired as to what the course of action is for each of us if we are sincere in our inquiry.
Maybe it is to express appreciation to your significant other daily, let your kids know how much you love them. Maybe it is go to church and get involved, do more service, say more prayers, take time to meditate, read, get up earlier, workout, eat better, lose weight, be thankful for your health and clear mind, let go of your past, maybe your last relationship did not work out…learn from it and move on….don’t hold onto the past. Maybe you want to be a better worker, better parent, better provider, neighbor, friend…whatever it is…start thinking about what actions you can take to create new thoughts that will create new choices and new feelings and actions and hence change your life experience.
My diagnosis of cancer only potentially means that it is more certain that my life could end earlier than yours. Both our lives might end tonight when we drive on the freeway or when we are walking across the street or when we ride our bikes down the road….it is when things are more known that we are somehow able to shift our behaviors. Let’s change this.
Thanks for reading my ramblings. I know it can be scary to jump into someone’s thought pattern…but this is the stuff I think about…so welcome to my world!
Have an amazing Thanksgiving week…this is my favorite holiday for many reasons…the waves are always good, snow riding begins, no pressure to give presents, just hanging out with family/friends, great food, and the weather in CA is always beautiful!