This weeks episode is really awesome. Strength coach Brendon Rearick from Movement as Medicine took the time to tell me how his life philosophy has changed since being diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia a year ago.
Brendon Rearick is a guy who impacted my coaching career tremendously along with Kevin Carr from Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning. I was lucky enough to be around these guys every day, a few years ago. I got to see up close how they refined their craft on a daily basis. The lesson however is much bigger than coaching, it is life changing. I learned how to improve as a person and how I could be the best version of myself. There are some great take aways from Brendon’s interview, I hope you enjoy!
“How a Rare Blood Disease Saved My Life”
“We think you may have Leukemia.”Not something you expect to hear as a presumably healthy 26-year-old.
One year ago today I was admitted to the hospital with unexplainable bruising all over my body. I had shortness of breath walking up a simple flight of stairs. I was as pale as a corpse. Within five minutes of arriving, I was on my stomach with a drill in my hip bone. I then spent the next five days in the hospital awaiting a diagnosis.
It felt like being a patient on the TV show “House.” There was even a whiteboard where they crossed off everything it couldn’t be. Consensus? Aplastic Anemia. A rare autoimmune disease that attacks the bodies stem cells with very similar symptoms to leukemia and lymphoma.
Over the past two years, I’ve learned a couple of things I feel that are worth sharing. (June 2nd was also the day I found out I was going to be a father the year before… I wonder what will June 2nd bring me this year?)
Below are the top five lessons I thought may help someone on this little journey we call life:
In the hospital while scouring my news feed I came across a quote from my friend Dr. Alison Chen, ND… “Health is not about having a six-pack or eating paleo or living without disease. Health is living optimally given your circumstances, genetics, environment and financial state.”
I think quotes and books find their way into our lives at the exact time we need to hear or read them. I used to think health was a function of your ability to perform a physical task or skill without compensation or injury. I would now define health as finding out what you CAN do, then doing that thing to the best of your abilities. While at the same time figuring out what you’re not willing to work for and never complaining about it.
I was going to say “figuring out what you can’t do” but the word “can’t” is no longer part of my vocabulary. You’re either choosing not to pursue something, or you’re not willing to put in the effort. Everything has an opportunity cost. I also never wish anyone “good luck.” I believe luck is self made. Instead, I wish people success in whatever form that looks like for them. Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.
What’s your definition of “health”?
2. Put Your Pride Aside.
You never know the support system you have until you need it. It was a lot for me to put my pride aside and admit I needed help. When I finally opened myself up to that by sharing my story, not only did it help me heal, it helped others heal too. People want to help. The power we each possess to change someone else’s day, or even our own day, is deeply rooted in making the choice to do so; don’t expect some else to do it for you and don’t think that you don’t possess that power – because you do.
This statement segues itself nicely in Brené Brown’s work on Vulnerability. Her TED talk below is worth every second of your 18-minute coffee break. Vulnerability to me is telling your truths, even when you know it will hurt. The truth shall set you free they say, and I used to live a life where I would tell people what it was I thought they wanted to hear. Ugh. I didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news. This never served me well. If I wasn’t dealing with the problem then, I was dealing with it again weeks or months later.
When I got sick I told myself the truth; I needed help. Financially and mentally. I hired a therapist (two actually). I cried a lot. I was depressed at times. It was exactly what I needed. I spent a lot of time over the years building brick walls. Suppressing everything to be perceived as “manly.” I’d pretend whatever was bothering me, wasn’t happening. I was a slave to society judgments. There’s no crying in baseball! Don’t be soft. And whatever you do, do NOT share your feelings with anyone, that is a sign of weakness.
Now I’d argue that vulnerability is a sign of strength. A growth mindset. Male or female. A sign of intelligence. We learn from our emotions if we’re aware enough to recognize them. Being someone who can empathize, relate, and show compassion are qualities we look for in our deepest relationships.
3. What People Say to You is More for Them than it is For You.
This one took me a LONG time to understand and accept. People would say to me “I hope you get better!” and I would think “Well shit, I hope I do too!” Or they’d say, “Wow! You look great. You don’t look sick at all”. Well, I certainly don’t feel how I look.
I now realize that they were saying it for themselves, not for me. Because they didn’t know what else to say. And that’s OK! Because there is nothing you can say. There is nothing you can say at a funeral that will bring that person back even though that’s what you so desperately want for grieving family & friends. There is nothing you can say to someone that will take their cancer away.
So what DO you say?
I don’t think there is a right answer. It’s whatever comes from your heart. I’m incredibly awkward in these situations. I stammer. I don’t complete my sentences. I’m horrible about putting my feeling into words. Everyone’s needs are different. Sometimes it’s a hug they need. No words to be exchanged. Sometimes it’s pretending that nothing has changed thus giving them a feeling of normalcy. What I do know is that I stopped thinking that people were being assholes and reframed my mindset to I’m the asshole, and they are doing the best the can with responding to a difficult situation. Whatever someone said to me from there on out I thanked them for their courage to say something because I know how hard it is to find the words. I finally understood their sentiments were coming from a good place.
4. Take Care of Yourself First.
A list of my priorities in order will hopefully justify my reasoning for the above statement. I learned the hard way. You don’t have too.
a. Take care of ME.
This may sound selfish at first glance but hear me out…. There was a five-year stretch that my clients, my friends, and my family got 20% of my best. I spread myself thin making sure everyone else was happy. Some may think this is noble, but it came at a grave expense – my own health and happiness. I was my last priority, and everything suffered for it. Lesson learned. My relationships now benefit from the energy overflow created by scheduling myself as client number one.
b. Take care of my daughter.
Her development depends on what her mother and I provide. And I don’t just mean financially; guidance, love, presence, and example mean as much as food and shelter. She is also my star teacher and primary smile provider.
c. Connect with friends & family on a deep level.
I believe the reason we are here is to connect to ourselves, to nature, and to others. Life to me is about quality connections. It used to be about emptying my inbox and Facebook likes. Face palm. Life isn’t about what we have, but who we share it with.
d. Continually pursue my mission:
“To spread the positive byproducts of coaching and movement using strength and conditioning as my platform.” The picture (below) from last weekends CFSC course embodies this mission. A movie reel plays in my head of impacting 10 million coaches from a multiple of disciplines over my lifetime. If there’s someone crazy enough to do it, why not me.
e. Make enough money to cover my basic needs and support my first four priorities.
Talking money is taboo for many, but it’s all of our realities. No shame in making money to support you and your family. Money gives you options. Options are great, but so is time. Time is money and what we spend our time on shows us what truly matters. No one knows exactly how much time they have left… so as always “Collect moments, not things.”
5. There are No Securities in Life.
I’ve heard YOLO: “you only live once” more times than I care to count. Words to live by but that expression never really resonated with me until I went to bed wondering if there was enough oxygen in my blood to get me through the night. Maybe one needs to have a near death experience to understand presence? I’m not sure. Society has led us to believe we must search for security to obtain the American dream. We revolve our lives around owning a house, a car, a job, a wife or husband… all of which can be taken away in a second. One minute you have a job, the next minute you don’t. One minute you have a wife, the next you don’t. One minute you have your health? The next minute you’re in the hospital with a rare blood disease. We just don’t know. We own nothing except our ticket to eternal sleep. This fruition I believe is how we learn to be in the present moment; this to me is meditation. Happiness.
Thanks for reading!
I hope this in someway gets you to ponder your priorities and begs the question “why am I here?”. Whatever the answer are for you, TAKE ACTION on those answers.
Goals are nothing without action.
Collect Moments, Not Things. – Brendon