Pride Comes Before the Fall

lancearmstrong575The work that it takes to become “the best” at something is sometimes infathomable. And sometimes it’s even more difficult to get others to recognize you as “the best.” There is no doubt that over the past several years, Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Roger Clemens were all widely considered to be “the best” in their field. But another commonality between them is their personal failures and fall from their iconic pedastals.

What is it about fame, fortune, and power that leads people to think that the rules no longer apply to them? Or, is it exactly the same for those “average Joe’s” out there with no fame, no fortune, and no power – but we just don’t hear about their choices because it’s not newsworthy? Maybe they make the same decisions and are saved from the public humiliation that follows celebrities.

I admit that I have had times when I felt like I was so good, such a strong performer, that the rules would certainly be bent for me because of what I bring to an organization. And who am I? Most people have no idea who Doug Douglas is. Rarely would someone randomly just decide to Google my name. Nonetheless, I felt like I should be above the rules. So I can identify with these celebrities who are constantly adored, showered with praise, and mobbed everywhere they go and their belief that they are different than everyone else, therefore deserving unique and more relaxed rules.

When it comes down to it, I would never be considered “good” at my profession without the help, support, and wisdom of others who have invested in me and helped me along the way. I’m sure there are lots of folks out there who have a similar track record of success as me. I know others are recognized by their bosses and clients as being top performers. I don’t deserve special rules or accommodations made on my behalf.

Humans are flawed. We all mess up. We all make mistakes. Some just get called out on a world wide stage when they make theirs. I respect the accomplishments of those professionals and the hard work and dedication that they had to their “jobs.” Eventually though, pride tripped them up and they fell for a lie that said they weren’t good enough and could be better by doing something else. Whether it was drugs, affairs, cheating, etc. – they liked the feeling of being told how great they were and they wanted to continue to hear it in the future, so they caved in. Am I condoning their mistakes and excusing them for their failures – absolutely not! But who am I to cast the first stone when I have made mistakes as well? If I were a perfect human being, I could stand in judgment, but I’m far from perfect. And thankfully I’m not recognized as “the best” so I don’t have to be disgraced in front of the entire world.

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The Bucket Carrying My List is Lighter

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I hear lots of people talk about their bucket list. This would be a list of things that the person would like to do before it’s too late. I suppose I had such a list when I was a kid or a teenager, but I really haven’t given it much thought throughout my adult years. I had career goals, family goals, etc., but not a personal list of events that I would like to do before my life is over. That is, until a little over a year ago.

I woke up one morning with a sharp pain in my stomach that was terrible. I couldn’t stand up straight and couldn’t tolerate it. My wife took me to the emergency room. For the next 5 hours, they poked me, scanned me, and injected me. They never could find the source of this pain. But in the process, they found a small mass that thy wanted me to have a checked out. The next day I met with a surgeon and we decided to remove it.

A week later, I went into surgery for what I thought would be a very minor and routine surgery, but when I woke up I was told that I had just come through major surgery where I had 15 tumors removed, along with a foot and a half of my small intestine, and told that it was most likely cancer. As the pathology reports came back, it was verified – I had cancer. AND, they missed a tumor, so I needed to do the same surgery again. So 2 weeks later, I went through the same surgery and had a 16th tumor removed.

The recovery was not good. I felt horrible and knew that something was wrong. After 9 days of not eating or drinking, not being able to move, and spending all of my time in a bed, they did another CT Scan and realized that my small intestine was leaking and had never sealed from the previous surgery. I was septic. If this goes on long enough, it’s possible to die. So I was rushed back into an emergency 3rd surgery to fix this leak.

In the months to come, many things changed for me. My personality. My weight (dropped 80 pounds). My priorities. Faith, family, and friends were highly valued more than before. When people are discussing you and you hear the words “cancer” and “die,” it has a way of getting your attention and causing reflection.

I guess this is when my bucket list began to take shape again:

  • Beat cancer. I was declared cancer-free in May 2012.
  • Build family memories. Vacations to San Diego and to Gulf Shores in the next few months with the family.
  • Run a 5K by the end of 2012. I ran my first 5K the week before Christmas.
  • Give music a try. I’m auditioning for America’s Got Talent this coming Saturday.

Music has always been a big part of my life. I first hit the stage when I was 2 yrs old. I took 13 years of vocal training. I have sung in big arenas to 20,000 people. I’ve recorded, been on TV and radio. And I went to college on a vocal scholarship where I was a double music major. But as I was growing up, they didn’t have American Idol, X Factor, The Voice, or America’s Got Talent. Now that I’m past the usual demographic that wins most of these shows, I wanted to just go try it one time and see how I do.

Do I expect to win? No. Do I expect to be on a couple of episodes? I really hope so. You may wonder why I would even try if I don’t think I’ll win. Good question. What matters most to me are two things:

1) The experience of doing it and letting my daughter see that I’m fearless in trying something new.

2) I want people to hear my story. I always saw cancer as a platform for me. It has given me the opportunity to speak with people about the more serious issues of life and death. I want people to know that my faith was strengthened by cancer – not weakened. I want people to cherish the moments and the opportunities that come their way each day. I want others to realize that just as I didn’t know when I might take my last breath – neither do they. Make the most of whatever your circumstance.

My sister-in-law passed away last week from colon cancer. From the time she was diagnosed to the time she passed away was only a couple of months. Life is but a vapor – here today and gone tomorrow. What will you do with the time that you have?

I still have other things to do on my bucket list, but the bucket is getting lighter. Maybe I should consider adding a few more things to it!