5 Powerful Words


Did you ever sit back and think about the lessons you have learned in your life?

The other night while I was attempting to fall asleep I started thinking about the lessons of my life. I wanted to create some sort of fancy smancy (is that a word? Who cares it sounds cool!) acronym that would just roll of the tongue. As I put together the lessons I found myself having too many consonants and not enough vowels. Actually, the first few times I had no vowels. So not a very good acronym.

The acronym wasn’t coming to me, but what was coming to me were the lessons that I had learned. I speak about 4 significant events that shaped my life. Now there are some other big ones in there too, but these 4 had a profound impact on my life prior to becoming a fully vested and responsible adult.

I sat with my counselor a while back and she commented how remarkable it was that I was able to become successful despite the variety of traumas that I experienced at such a young age. Yes I do have a counselor. I never thought I would get one, admit that I needed help from one or tell people that I have one, but she has been a great help to me.

Understand that I never looked at those events as being traumatic. I thought of them as “normal life”. When you have nothing else to compare your life to, you assume what happens is normal. Not nice, but normal. As I continue to develop my speaking career I thought I needed to define the lessons and create this goofy acronym that people can use in their own life. That just isn’t coming to me the way I thought it would.

What I did find in my thoughts were a list of power words that I gravitated towards because of the events of my life. I am going to take my time flushing out the thoughts and writing articles to explain each one in more detail over the coming weeks. The 5 words I have identified, I tie to the events of my life and how those words have become significant to me. Some of this I am still working on figuring out within my own mind and heart.

So here it goes, a little preview of what is to come. The words and the event it connects to are:

1. Death = Determination
2. Alcoholism = Attitude
3. Sexual Abuse = Strength
4. Leukemia = Living on Purpose (I know it is more than 1 word, but this is my life story!)
5. Failure = Faith

Now I need to be honest with you. I am sitting at a McDonald’s in Green Bay writing this and listening to some good old country music, specifically In Color by Jamey Johnson is playing in my headphones right now. I am having trouble controlling my emotions as I think of the weight, impact and control that some of those events had on my life.

Sometimes I get so upset I want to fight anything or anyone that walks near me. Just to show to myself that I am strong and willing to finally defend myself. I know that is wrong. Other times I just want to curl up in a ball and cry. Just hoping that someday someone would find me and care for me the way I have always craved. Other times I just want to disappear because I think no one would ever understand what my life has been like.

Then I stop myself and think about the wonderful, supportive wife that I have and how much she loves me and pushes me to work on myself. Then I think about those that have come up to me after a speech and shared their stories with me. Sometimes they just thank me, other times they have tears in their eyes or are crying because they connected with something in their own life and other times they reveal their life stories that make my heart break. And then I am reminded that I have a purpose in my own trauma.

Those 5 powerful words are why I exist and why I am on a mission to let everyone know how important they are to this world. I want all of you that read this to know that you have value. That you are important and that your gifts and talents are needed in this world. Keep Living your Life on Purpose!!

Life and Death Decisions



This past weekend my wife and I were watching another episode of Bates Motel. Now I know that some of you might not be familiar with the series or you might not be interested in watching the story about Norman Bates. I will say the series is good and a bizarre all at the same time.

Now the life and death decision I am speaking about has nothing to do with whether you should stay at the Bates Motel or find a better option. Although you might have some interesting stories after staying at the Bates Motel, if you survived.

There is a character in the show named Emma and she has cystic fibrosis. A very scary, life-threatening disease. She has been on the waiting list for a lung transplant for years. Dillon, Norman Bates half-brother, asks Emma when she will get a lung transplant. She said she may never get one because she might not live long enough to get to the top of the waiting list.

Dillon, a good guy with an illegal way of making money, decides to help by raising a lot of money really quickly. By doing this he is hoping to move Emma up the wait list, A LOT! It worked and Emma got the call that she is going to get new lungs. Time to celebrate, right? Not if you are the patient.

I was watching that episode with my wife and started to get extremely anxious. It brought back all the emotions of having to make that same decision decades ago. I had decided, using the best information available, to have a bone marrow transplant. It was a life and death decision. Without the transplant, I was going to die in the next 5 years. With the transplant, I could live a long time. But that was a huge unknown. Additionally, the process of the transplant could end my life within 100 days after starting the process.

The transplant process was extremely difficult and took the life of nearly 75% of the patients in the first 2 years. At that time the majority of patients passed away within 100 days of starting the process. The decision to have a transplant had huge risk attached to it. That episode of Bates Motel brought back all those emotions.

I remember the day the call came in. A bed was now available for me. That meant that someone either moved up to a step-up room or someone passed away from the process. Either way I was “next patient up”. And now the nerves kicked in. Would I survive long enough to see my 20th birthday? That was less than 2 months away. Would I survive to see Christmas one more time? That was 2 ½ months away. Would I see another New Year? There was no way of telling.

Once the process started there was no turning back. You can’t stop it or change course. Once it starts you have to see it all the way through to the end, which means unknown life existence or death. For me it worked. For many other patients it didn’t work. I think about those that didn’t survive all the time.

When I think about big decisions that I have to make today, they just don’t seem that big. Of course they have a big impact on my life, but nothing like the decision I made to have a bone marrow transplant. If I make a mistake today I can always make changes to get myself back on track.

When you are considering a big decision in your life remember that you have options. If the path you are on isn’t working then look for another way, another path, another direction that better matches up with who you are and where you want to go in life. Once you are on the right path…you will be living your destined life.