One Thing Missing

 

I want you to write down 1 thing in your life, that if it was gone you would not miss it.

Got it? Good…now get rid of it.

Why hang onto something in your life it provides no value to you. Some grab things just to have things. We hoard stuff just to hoard stuff. When we have too much of that stuff, whether emotional, tangible, physical or whatever, we become smothered. We lose our focus. Then we look to hoard more stuff to figure out what we are missing.

Maybe we are missing…missing stuff. That could make sense. Bear with me for just a minute.

I heard a great quote that said, “Is the glass half empty or half full? Neither, the glass is too big for the life that you have.” Wow if that doesn’t hit you between the eyes. Are you choosing a glass that is too big and then work your tail off to fill it?

I went through an exercise years ago where I had to write down the 10 most important things in my life. The first few items on the list were written with ease. I added my kids, my health, financial security, my faith etc. As the list got closer to 10 I was having more difficulty determining if that item was really that important to me.

Once I had my list complete, the speaker asked me and the rest of the class to cross of 2 items. He stated, “life just threw you a curveball and wiped out 2 items on your list”. That wasn’t so tough. He continued asking us to cross stuff off until we only had a few items to choose from. Then, with only 3 items on my list he asked us to pick just one. At the time I thought that was really tough.

I had to choose between my kids, my health and my faith. I pondered each item carefully and selected my kids. I was making the conscience decision to forgo everything else in my life to make sure that my kids were cared for, safe, healthy, and happy. Seems like an easy decision until you look at the rest of the list.

Items on my list I had to cross off included: my home, my health, my mom, dad, brother and sister, my financial health, my pets, my career and a couple other not so important items.

Now when you look back at the one item that you are willing to give up, is it really that important? Can you live without it? Would your life better or worse if that item was missing?

Give it up, unclutter your life and see how much happier you become by making small changes.

Do I Matter?

 

Be honest with yourself, there are days you wonder why you push so hard? Why do you knock yourself out day after long, busy day. There must be some illustrious prize waiting for you, other than a paycheck.

So does what you do matter? Are you following the rhythm of your heart? At the end of the day do you feel like what you did made a difference to somebody else or to the world?

What does it mean to matter? Why is it important to matter? What if I didn’t matter? Would anybody notice?

These are not easy questions to answer. It is up to each one of us to look inside ourselves and understand what is important to us. For what makes me matter, might be different than what makes you matter.

I, just like a lot of us, struggle wondering if I’m doing what I am meant to do. I know what work drives my passion and makes me feel like I have purpose. What do I do to follow that dream and pursue that passion? How do I make my life have meaning and purpose?

Asking questions about who we are, where we are going and what makes our life important, are good questions to ask ourselves on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean that we don’t understand who we are and where we are going, what it does do is it helps to solidify our vision for who we are meant to be.

This past week has been a rough week on myself, my family and my extended family. We all learned that one of my aunt’s is near the end of her life. We also received the devastating news of a car accident that took the life of a young member of our extended family. These events create questions without answers many times. For me it gives me the opportunity to really analyze my purpose on this earth.

So when I asked the question do I matter, I’m wondering if what I do has a positive impact on the people that are in my life. I may never know the answer to that question. It also reminds me that I need to follow my purpose in life and not someone else’s purpose.

So when you sit back and ask yourself, do I matter? Take time to appreciate that you do matter and that what you do does have purpose and meaning to others. As you listen to that inner voice reminding you of who you are and what you are supposed to be doing, I want you to trust it . Trust that inner voice.

Now go out there and make a positive impact on those that are in your life.

He Saved My Life

 

In all honesty I never really thought much about it. As far as I knew he was well. And then I got an email from Dad letting me know he had passed on Christmas Day. The man that saved my life was gone.

I met him on July 2, 1987. It wasn’t my best day but I remember what he told me. He was very professional, compassionate and concerned.

He said “Dean you have 1 of 3 things that might be wrong with you.”

I was now more concerned that I thought I might be.

He went on to say; “One, you have something wrong with your spleen and we can take that out. You will be fine after a short recovery. Two, you have some rare blood disease that we have to do a lot more research on before we know what we are dealing with. Third, you have leukemia.”

That was it. Those were my options. I looked at the man who would give me the 2nd most devastating news in my life and said, “Doc, I think I have option 3, leukemia.”

Saying it out loud didn’t make me feel any better, it made me feel worse and even more scared. Here I was sitting across from a man, a doctor and a caring person that I was about to put all my trust in. My life really depended on his skill, knowledge and commitment to his practice.

Over the next few years I went through some really low points and then hope poked it’s head around the corner and smiled at me. I knew I would be ok.

Today as I think about the passing of this man, the man that poured himself into my care, giving me a chance to live, I feel a gaping hole. I have told him thank you in the past, but I don’t think I was ready for him to go. Even though his health was failing and his mind wasn’t as sharp, there was a sense of security knowing he was still around. I mean he did save my life.

As I think about the years since I was treated, I wonder, have I had this type of impact on others? Have I used the gift of life to make a difference? I’m not sure yet, but my life story hasn’t been finished. What I am thinking, is that it is time to step it up and make the impact on others that my doctor made on me.

Where in your life has someone given you a second chance? Have you used it to help others? Have you used to impact the world around you in a positive way?

Take 30 minutes this week and think about your life and the people that have influenced you. What will you do tomorrow to pay that influence forward and help someone else? Make it happen and make someone better because you are in their life.

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.

I Was Abused…

 

I knew my podcast this week would be a tough one for people to listen to. I understand that it is not comfortable to hear about someone being sexually abused. But the reality is that too many people go through it. It is especially tough for a man to admit that he was sexually abused when he was a child, especially when the abuser was a man. That is so taboo! It is tough for many of us to wrap our brains around what that kind of experience is like to live through.

Unfortunately, that is my world. I lived that experience a long time ago. I was 9 when it started. It ended when I was 10. I remember enough of the details to know that I don’t want to explain the details. My counselor has told me that the details aren’t important to relive. What is important is to start to understand the effects that it had and how to overcome those challenges.

Until I began speaking with a professional I had no idea the impact this had on my life. I thought I could bury all the raw emotion and never have to worry about it again. That is not possible. I have been warned that many people won’t understand what happened to me. Some might not believe it. Others might mock me or separate from me. Others will be supportive and caring. Some will have a lot of questions, that I won’t answer. Others just want me to get better.

Why post anything about this? If you had listened to my podcast you would have heard my story about a recent interaction with a teenager after one of my speeches. This student shared with me their experience of being sexually abused for 3 years. That student was 8 years old when it started. That student told me that they have considered suicide because of what they went through. I told the student I had similar thoughts at one time too.

I asked the student to promise me not to commit suicide. I promised the student that life will get better. It got better for me and I know it will get better for them if they keep trying. The student told me that they will not think about suicide anymore. I am hopeful that that is true. On my drive home I cried for that student. I cried for the loss of innocence. I could put myself in their shoes. I prayed to God that He watch over that student and let them know they will be ok.

I wish I had had the strength to do what that student did. They told someone in power that helped them. That student was courageous enough to talk to me and share with me their experience. We are in a rare club that no one wants to enter. We are not here by choice but we must stand together and protect each other!

Everything that happens to us in life is done for a reason. Some reasons we can’t understand. I think I am beginning to understand my life better now. Last week I was placed in a situation to share my story of abuse so I could provide a scared, young teenager hope that their tomorrow will be ok after enduring sexual abuse.

If you want more information on sexual abuse go to the following websites:
https://1in6.org (for men who were sexually abused)
https://nomore.org (campaign end domestic violence and sexual abuse)
https://www.rainn.org (has an online support service for abuse survivors)

I have visited all these sites looking for answers. I have even used the online support service at rainn.org.

I Am Dying…Someday!

I Am Dying

First let me say that a doctor has not told me that I’m dying soon. But I am dying. Just like you. We all will die at some point. Why does it take the words from a doctor, telling us we have months to live, to change our reality about life?

Would you live differently if you knew you had 6 to 12 months to live? What would you do differently?

I was reading a chapter in Matthew Kelly’s book titled Resisting Happiness. In this chapter, he shared a story about a meeting he had with hospice nurses. He asked them what people talked about during their final weeks and days.

He listed 24 things that dying people wished they had done differently. I was struck by the sincerity and regret that existed in some of the statements. They said things like:

“I wish I’d had the courage to just be myself.”

“I wish I had been a better spouse.”

“I wish I had taken better care of myself.”

“I wish I had stayed in touch with old friends.”

“I wish I had pursued more of my dreams.”

And the list went on. The thoughts and regrets of dying people is a lesson that each of us can apply today before it is too late. I am picking up so many lessons as I read this book and this chapter really struck a positive nerve in me. It slapped reality in the face and reminds me that I have a purpose on this earth. Something that is bigger than me. A path that I must follow and action I must take.

When you look at yourself and your journey, how do you feel about it? Are you doing what you are meant to do? Do you have dreams and goals that you want to achieve? Are you acting on those dreams and goals? Are you putting action into your life that helps you to achieve them?

Remember it is never too late to act on your dreams. Do you like Kentucky Fried Chicken? Who doesn’t right? Well Colonel Sanders started the company at age 65. The man never gave up. So, when do you start living? After you’re told you don’t have much time? Or when you are alive, healthy, driven and knowing that you have dreams and goals to achieve.

Photo courtesy of www.pexel.com.

Dreams Gave Me HOPE!

Dreams Gave Me Hope - view of sky

Have you ever heard that phrase “you don’t know what you’re missing until its gone?” Well that is what I experienced through my treatments. I missed out on a lot of things. I barely went outside for weeks at a time. I think the longest stint I had of not having any outside fresh air was seven and a half weeks. Fifty-two days to be exact.

Another thing I missed was just being able to feel good. I felt like crap so often that I just got used to feeling like crap. Oh, here is a good one. How about just going out for a burger and fries? Yeah that was something I missed. Just being able to get some good American food in a greasy bar and grill. Kind of makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

I will admit, I even missed going to class, studying and taking tests. That would have been much more fun than sitting in that darn hospital room all the time, taking treatments, get poked and prodded, and being hooked about to a bunch of IVs. But it was what it was.

Something I never knew I was missing was my dreams. I’m not talking cliché here, I’m talking real dreams that you have when you sleep. When I would go to bed at night, who am I kidding I was lying in bed all day long anyway. What I meant to say was when I finally closed my eyes because it was night time, I just slept.

I slept in darkness with no dreams. Just black, cold, stark sleep that most times was probably a result of just being so damned tired from all the treatments. I tell you, chemo and radiation can really knock you down and make you feel like doing absolutely nothing.

But then it happened. I had a dream. I mean a real life, vivid dream that I could see in my mind and remember when I woke up. I was really excited about this. I was dreaming again. To me that was a sign that I was healing and on the road to recovery. That was my sign that said I will make it.

I know it sounds goofy, well maybe not, but that was what gave me a renewed hope in my future. People have asked about the dream and I honestly don’t remember anything about it. I just remember I had one.

That morning when I woke, I was excited about what had happened. Steve, my nurse, was in the room checking on me. Checking my vitals, all my IVs, my output from the night and all those other fun things he needed to do.

I looked at him and told him I had a dream. He just smirked and said good for you. I don’t think he realized how big a deal I found this to be. I had just had a dream and realized that I hadn’t had one since treatments started. It was early December and I had started treatments July 6th. So that was a long time not to dream. That to me was a huge deal.

I didn’t hold anything against Steve for his response. He probably thought I was something else altogether. Or that I had a weird dream or something. He made not have realized that I hadn’t had a dream in months. I didn’t share my revelation about why I was so excited so he just didn’t know.

Since that time, I have paid closer attention to my thoughts, dreams and messages from the world around me. There are so many lessons that exist in this world, we just need to be open to seeing them, hearing them or feeling them. Trust that little voice in your head or that feeling in your gut. It is trying to help you navigate this wonderful life we live. It is letting you know when something is right or if you are on the right path in life. Believe in yourself and follow your path, it will lead you to your destiny.

Photo courtesy of www.pexels.com.

10 Years Flew by in the Blink of an Eye

10 Years Flew By - kids playing on bridge

This past weekend my son played his last basketball game. I know this sounds dramatic, but it was the reality. Granted he is finishing up his 8th grade year but there was still a bittersweet finality to all of this.

Let me add that 2 weeks prior my daughter played her last basketball game. She is graduating from high school and will be heading off to college next year. Both of these events made me reflect on the past 10 years.

I looked backed at the memories that I had from those past 10 years and all those basketball games. I just smiled. I remember all the hot dogs eaten, all the cheering in the stands, all the excitement of winning a close game and all the medals and smiles that were won each time they played.

What a proud dad moment for me as I thought about the growth of my 2 kids. They went from little shavers that could barely get the ball to the rim on a layup to solid players in their own right. My son so proud that he can just about touch the rim and my daughter proud of the friendships she made with her teammates.

You know what thoughts didn’t enter my mind? Work thoughts. I didn’t think about the meetings I had or the hours I put in or the big sale I got. Those thoughts didn’t enter my mind.

Work life balance is so important, work is just a vehicle that allows me to care for and reward my family with a nice house, vacations, fun activities, quality time together, good health and some niceties that make our life easier. It is not my focus.

What are the memories of your past 10 years? When you drift back into the memories, what makes you smile, what makes your heart beat with pride, what made those past 10 years so special? Now look forward and start planning ways to make the next 10 years memorable in the most positive way you can.

Work life balance is important, but in 10 years what I will remember is the life part of my work life balance. What will you remember?

Photo courtesy of www.pexels.com.

Can you be too Focused?

Can you be too Focused?

I heard this story recently and it reminded me of a personal experience that I had that scared the crap out of me. Let me first tell you the story that brought back this bad memory. I will share my personal story in a later article. If you would like to hear about my personal story now, you can listen to my podcast titled Focused. Search for Raasch Thoughts on iTunes or iHeartRadio.

I was having a conversation with a friend about awareness and focus. I was making the point that focus can be a good thing and a bad thing. Think about that for a second. Imagine how focus can be both good and bad.

Imagine you are a professional golfer and have a 4 foot putt that you need to make. Now let’s add some pressure to that moment. It is the 4th round of the Masters golf tournament and sinking this putt guarantees your win. There are millions of people watching you on TV and thousands of people holding their breath as you line this putt up. You mentally focus everything you have on this moment. Blocking out all the distractions, all the noise, all the pressure. To you it feels like you are back in high school playing a round a golf with your buddies. Focused, but having fun.

You step back take one more look at the putt. Confirm your read with your caddie. He offers words of encouragement, letting you know that you’ve got this. Just breath, relax and focus. You step up to the putt and with purpose, focus and poise you sink it. Winning your first professional golf tournament. That putt made you and extra $300,000. Talk about focus.

That is a good example and one that many of us would love a chance at experiencing. Unfortunately many of us will never have that kind of monumental experience in our life-time.

So my friend shares with me the following story with a different twist to it. She told me about a research exercise that involved students in a seminary. These are young men that have made a commitment to serving God and helping others to strengthen their faith so that we make a better world for everyone.

Here is the scenario that was put in front of them. Each of them had a major presentation to give that had an impact on the studies. This was a very important presentation and it meant a great deal to their faith journey to become a priest. The first group of students were told that they need to complete some final preparations at a different building across campus. As they were finishing their prep work, they were notified that they had to hurry up and get to the presentation location quickly. They might be late so they must hurry.

They quickly ran across campus to their destination. They were focused on their presentation and also focused on not being late. They arrived on time and gave a great presentation.

The next group was given the same instructions with one small difference. They were told that they had plenty of time to get to the presentation location. They suggested they leave early so they had plenty of time to reflect on what was about to happen. As that group crossed campus they noticed a person in medical distress. They stopped to help that individual, made sure they got the help they needed and then continued on towards their presentation.

So what was the difference? The first group of students that went to present were rushed and focused on their presentation and missed the person in distress. They made the commitment to help their fellow man, but in this moment with the pressure and the focus, they failed to maintain awareness of their surroundings. Sometimes we get so focused that we fail to maintain awareness.

In that moment of extreme focus we need to step back and look around. What are we missing? What could we be doing different, what opportunity is staring us in the face, but our focus is not allowing us to see it. We put blinders on horses to keep them focused in a forward direction. Do you want to live and work in such a one directionally focused manner? What are you missing?

It is time to balance your focus with your awareness and make big changes in the world we live in.

Photo courtesy of www.pexels.com.