This article was last updated on September 5, 2017
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
― Ernest Hemingway
To say we live in challenging times is an understatement at the very least. Struggles in our daily life include politics, health, family, friends, economy, career, etc. I experienced cancer when my youngest son was just 6 months old. I had to work through the disease, due to my lack of sick leave. Leaving work would have meant financial troubles for my family. Six years on, I am stronger and hungrier than ever before. However, I wasn’t always this way; there were times I just wanted to curl up in bed and cry myself back to sleep. No matter how painful those 6 years were I can say I have achieved something most people have not – I beat cancer.
Here are 5 lessons I learned on how to reclaim my power when life was against me
1 . What can I learn from this situation?
Cancer was one of my hardest teachers, and its timing could not have been worse. I had a 6 month old son, my wife was doing great recovering from mild post-natal and I was enjoying my job, as I was the ‘go to guy’ for Engineering Drawing. In the months following I often posed the question ‘why me’. However, I soon realized I was thinking like a victim. I had to understand that there are no accidents in life and that everything, no matter how bad, was an inherent lesson.
What I learned about me through this battle with cancel was priceless. I learned that I am a stubborn, self driven, hard to kill ‘mofo’ who will do whatever it takes to survive and get the job done. Even death could not keep me away from the ones I love, and this is not the first time I have danced with Lady Death.
2 . Vulnerability
The training services faculty staff at HMAS Cerberus saw my struggles. They became very accommodating and made me feel cared for and safe. When I was around them I didn’t have to put on a ‘brave’ act’. I was allowed to be vulnerable and to have bad days. I felt calm knowing that I could rest and the work would still be done when I woke up. Vulnerability does not mean being weak, it means knowing your limits and capabilities, understanding your humanity, embracing it and accepting help from others. Vulnerability has made me a more loving and compassionate person. Its blessings are manifesting in the most wonderful ways because I have been able to open my heart to the goodness of life – regardless of the challenges.
3. Love and zest for life
Before cancer I was happy, but there was a void in my life. I was deeply situated in my comfort zone and life had become very mundane. Then suddenly cancer came and the though of not seeing my wife and sons again made me realize how precious life is. While we are alive we have choices and we can turn things around. We can do anything we set our minds to, accomplish great things, but more importantly, we can make a positive difference in other people’s lives.
No man is ever an island, we need others to help us make our dreams come true. Soon, I began to feel excited as I made progress in my recovery. I was not just lying on a bed, I could go for longer walks, play with my sons, spend time with my wife and start feeling like the old but better me. We started dreaming again about what was possible, and to this day I feel such warmth knowing life has my back.
4. Study and reinvent yourself
I started learning new skills and became particularly interested in design. I would log on the internet and learn more design related skills. This not only helped me keep me sane but it added more fuel and motivation to get better quicker. Eventually I learned User Experience, writing for the web and social media. All of these subjects will come in handy when I finish writing: ‘Journey Back To Soul – Spiritual Lessons From A Tough Teacher’. Having something to look forward to helped me snap out of the ‘pity party’ and into the real world. I could feel the book in my hand and this brought serenity and peace to my troubled mind.
5. Finding your purpose
As I write these words, tears are welling in my eyes. My purpose on this planet is not just to design beautiful and functional things, but to tell a story. I want to tell my story and help others who are going through a tough time. ‘You are a writer’ said a distant voice deep in my soul and I truly believe this is part of my destiny. I have always had a heart to help others in need, especially when they feel lost or abandoned. I have been a teacher, now I am a mentor. You must find your own purpose and make a date with destiny. However, you can only do that by embracing who you truly are, warts and all. The Almighty does not make mistakes, whether you are a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist, Gnostic, etc. matters not, it is what lies deep in your heart and soul that will propel you to greater heights. It is your your inspirational leadership, your ability to care for others, your humor, etc, that will help you learn how to reclaim your power.
Do not ever let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. If I had listened to how bad things were with me, maybe I would not be here sharing this article with you. This refusal to be ‘defined’ by others also applies to your career, finance, status, etc. YOU are the Captain of your own ship, no one will navigate it for you.