Constant State of Transition

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The past 4 years have seemed like a constant state of transition. I had just come through a fight with cancer and it had a profound impact on the things that truly mattered to me, especially as it related to my career. Making the big sale or closing a massive deal or continuing to climb the corporate ladder with bigger titles and paychecks just didn’t seem to satisfy me any longer. Instead, I valued time with the people that mattered most to me and pouring every ounce of my energy and attention into them. So, that’s what I did.  I had my own company and it did very well. it provided me with the flexibility to work when I wanted, if I wanted, and with whom I wanted. Very nice indeed.

But recently I received a call from an executive friend of mine. It was one of those “who do you know” calls where you know he’s talking about you. He is someone that I have a great deal of respect for, the company was a major global brand, and it was going to help round out some of the gaps in my professional resume and give me some solid experience that would be helpful in the long run. So I threw my name into consideration for the job. While the flexibility that I had been enjoying having my own company was great, the thought of a steady paycheck seemed to be a welcome change too. I went through the interview process quickly and was offered the job within a few days. I start on Monday.

It’s funny how life takes you on these unexpected journeys. I never expected cancer, but quite honestly, cancer was one of the best things that could have happened to me. It helped me to appreciate the people and the circumstances that surrounded me in a way that I seemed to be blind to previously. Starting my own business was great because it gave me room to work my way through these changing emotions, physical changes, and relational changes. And now I have a daughter a little over a year away from starting college and it’s time for yet another change to get me through this next stage in life. Some would call it chance or coincidence when these things happen, but I have a personal belief that God is in control and that He is guiding these occurrences in His perfect timing.

I’m excited to face some new challenges, to interact with people from around the world, and to help take an already well known brand to even loftier places through my work. I’m not excited for the daily commute, especially considering my commute the past few years has been walking from my bedroom and over to my home office a few rooms away. I think I will be challenged, and that’s always a good thing. What’s truly interesting to me though is the timing of all of this. A week from today, I will be cancer free for 3 years. Coincidence? Ehhh, not really.

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A Reflection on Cancer

Fight Cancer 2Tomorrow is a day of celebration for me…I was declared “cancer free” on May 1, 2012. My battle with cancer has had a profound impact on me personally and has changed me in many ways. Some in my behaviors, but mostly in my motivations and drivers.

To give you a brief history, I was diagnosed with Atypical Carcinoid Cancer. This is a pretty rare but fast growing cancer usually found in people much older than me. Altogether, I had 16 tumors removed from my small intestine over the course of two surgeries. I also had an emergency third surgery that repaired an issue from my second surgery that was slowly killing me. I lost 80 pounds – 50 of that in a single month. For several months, I had trouble moving from my bedroom to my living room. A full day’s worth of food for me was one cracker with some peanut butter on it. I was in pretty bad shape as cancer had beaten me down physically.

Notice that I said that it had beaten me down physically. Emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, I stayed pretty confident and strong. I tried to keep my sense of humor. No matter how I was feeling, I could always find someone who was worse than me, so I tried to reach out to them and be an encouragement to them. I am a man of faith as well, and surprisingly it never wavered. I think all of these things were keys to my defeat of this awful disease.

I mentioned that my battle changed me in many ways. As a result of facing this disease, I have a few deep desires that I find myself continually drawn to:

Desire 1: I work so that I can enjoy life. This wasn’t how I previously approached my career. I worked to get ahead and to gain more work. I worked for recognition and rewards. I worked for money and nice things. I worked because my work defined me. Now, in my approach to work, I still want to do a good job, be very good at what I do, and I want to be comfortable in my finances, but I do those things so that I can enjoy life in spontaneous and unique ways. Work doesn’t consume my every moment now. I can disengage and relax and separate myself from my work. My family matters to me greatly. My daughter is 16 and I know that my days are numbered where she will be at home and such a big part of my life. Eventually it will come back to just my wife and I, and I look forward to those days too.

Desire 2: Meaningful conversations are key. I believe that once you have felt like death is a real possibility for yourself, relationships matter much more. We live in a world of chatter and small talk. The whole premise of Twitter is that we express our thoughts, but not too deeply. We only get a few characters to do so. I find myself now desperately wanting others to talk to, to engage with, and to do so at a deeper level than what most people are accustomed to. I want to talk about things that matter. I want emotions in those conversations – and the more of them over the course of a single conversation, the better! I want people to know where they stand with me and how I feel about them. One thing that started while I was in the hospital, and unsure how things were going to play out, is that I told people around me what I appreciated most about them and that I loved them. For some, they just didn’t know how to take this and were caught off guard. I’ve continued with that to some degree. I hug. I compliment. I encourage. And I share how I feel with others. This isn’t always comfortable to do, but you never know if this might be the last conversation that you’ll have with that person.

Desire 3: No regrets. I think we all have things that run through our minds that we think would be really cool to do.  I know I always have those thoughts. But now, I find myself acting on them. I started my own company. I bought a convertible. I auditioned for The Voice and America’s Got Talent. I’ve run three 5K’s. I speak at events and on webcasts routinely. I started a basketball skills academy for my daughter and her teammates. Now, I don’t anticipate that I will ever have the desire to go jump out of a perfectly good plane, or to strap a bungee around my ankles and hurl myself off of a bridge. There are some things that I just have no desire to do and I won’t regret not trying them at all. But there are others that I am focused on and hope to do in the future.

There are so many negative things that come as a result of cancer, but good can come from any situation if you are seeking it. I certainly have daily reminders of my battle – the scars, the memories, the fears, and my body will never function “normally” again as a result. Few people know, but I am sick, on average, 20-25 times a day. With over 3 feet of my small intestine removed, it impacts the way that I respond to food and drinks. Now, I have become very good at hiding how I feel. I know how to overcome these challenges. Quite honestly, it wears me out sometimes. But even on the worst of my days, when I feel horrible, I am thankful for my life, for my family, for friends, and for the opportunity to experience more of life!

Don’t wait until something tragic occurs to make these changes in your own life. Do them now!

Transformation of Priorities

_DSC0042Have you ever been through a situation that just radically changed who you are, how you think, and what you value most? In May of this year, I will celebrate my 2 year mark of being declared “cancer free.” It’s been quite a journey, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. What I’ve come to learn is that people don’t know how to take me at times because of the filter that I look through now, especially those people who knew me before cancer and haven’t been around me much after cancer.

One of the very cool aspects of my career is that I get to speak to crowds of people, mostly about recruiting or HR related issues. I do this through a variety of ways – keynote speaker at conferences, webcasts, blogging, writing articles for other sites, etc.  Prior to entering the corporate world, I was a minister for almost 20 years. So, speaking to large numbers of people is something that I am accustomed to, and quite honestly, love to do. Because of the platform that I have, one topic that I’m about to add is far more personal than the others. I am going to speak about the professional side of life and where it fits into the grand scheme of things. A work/life balance type issue.

Prior to cancer, I was a very driven employee looking to rise to the top and make all that I could along the way. I was intense, hard-core, and some would say “mean” at times. I wanted to be the most successful and the most respected person in the company. While I was having success and getting some “wins” on my resume, I’m not sure that any respect that I was getting was the kind of respect that I was seeking. There’s the kind of respect that says, “Wow! What a great guy!” and then there’s the kind of respect that says, “Wow! Be careful around that guy!” Unfortunately, I think to the casual observer of me, I was the latter. Then cancer came.

I was blindsided by my diagnosis. I had what was supposed to be a small, routine, in and out type procedure, and it turned into 3 surgeries in 6 weeks to remove 16 tumors. The third surgery was unplanned and had to be done to save my life in an emergency manner. When you hear the words, “It’s cancer.”, hmm. My response was that of determination and resolve to defeat it. I didn’t get emotional often because I didn’t want others around me to worry. I tried to stay upbeat, fun, and relieve those who came into contact with me, but on the inside thoughts of my wife, my daughter, and wanting to be there for those big moments of life. No longer did my title at work matter much. No longer did the things that I own amount to anything. No longer was the number of successful searches filled of great importance to me. In just an instant, my priorities shifted to faith, family, friendship, and meaningful conversations.

The battle with cancer was extremely tough. The battle scars still remain in multiple ways. But I am thankful for what I went through and how it has reshaped me and the way that I approach life. I believe I have a story worth telling that can inspire and motivate others. Many times a crisis is what it takes to get our attention and to take inventory of our own lives…and tragically, not everyone has the type of ending that I’ve had. I’m looking for places to share this story. If you, or someone you know, might have an interest – please reach out to me.

You Don’t Have It Bad…Be Thankful

DX2 - ThanksgivingWhat a presumptuous title, huh? Speaking from personal experience and observation, I have found that no matter what circumstance you find yourself in currently, if you look around you, you can almost always find someone else who is going through an even more difficult circumstance.

Two Thanksgivings ago, I was not in a good place. I had just been diagnosed with cancer and had 3 major surgeries (the last being an emergency life-saving surgery) to remove 16 tumors, all within a 6 week period. That Thanksgiving, I was home, but I couldn’t walk from my bedroom to my living room because I was so weak. I had lost 50 lbs in a month’s time. I would eat 1 peanut butter cracker as my only food for an entire day. If anyone could feel down about their current circumstances, and be excused in most people’s minds, it would have been me. But one of the things that I felt was important was to focus on the needs of others during that time. It kept things in perspective for me. I wasn’t unique. I didn’t have the corner on illness or sickness. The world didn’t revolve around me and my situation.

It was frustrating because I would ask those who came to visit me about things in their life or how a mutual acquaintance of ours was doing, and more often than not, people would reply with, “Oh, well I can’t complain. I mean compared to you, my situation is nothing.” Those statements would break my heart. I wanted to help. I wanted to support others and encourage others, and by making that statement, they were robbing me of that opportunity.  Just because I had something going on my life didn’t mean that I stopped caring for others around me and the things that were important in theirs.

I would walk into my oncologist’s office and I would see the people in the treatment room…it was breathtaking the first time I saw that. You could see some receiving their chemo treatments that were old and frail and just looked completely defeated as they sat in their recliner with the IV pumping into them. You’d also see kids, so innocent with their whole life ahead of them, sitting there too and going through things that none of us as parents could ever imagine happening to someone so young. You’d see some with full heads of hair that you knew were just starting down this road, and others who looked like they have been on a very journey. Then I would look at myself in the mirror and I knew that I had nothing to complain about compared to what others were enduring.

This Thanksgiving, I am cancer free. Long gone are the days of eating 1 peanut butter cracker as my only source of food for a day. I will stuff myself until I feel like I will pop with all of the food that will be available to me. I’ll have no trouble walking from one room to another, I run 5K’s now. Life is good for me, but I’ll share the table with others who are hurting, in despair, and lonely. My path will cross with people who are going through secret circumstances that I could never imagine. I am blessed. And so are you.

If you are going through a tough situation currently, let me encourage you to stay positive and focus on others during this time. It’s amazing what serving others can do for your heart, and your circumstances.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

This is Nothing…I Beat Cancer!

ScaredHave you ever been in the position where you are facing something really big? Not necessarily life-threatening, or maybe it is, but something that gets the juices flowing inside of you? At that moment, you have a decision to make. You can either withdraw and go into preservation mode, or you can rise up and prepare to stand your ground no matter what it costs you. I’ve had a few of those moments in my life, one of which was a cancer diagnosis a couple of years ago. When that news was given to me, I didn’t react externally, but inwardly I remember thinking to myself, “It’s time to get after it and beat this thing.” When you have faith, family, and friends who matter to you – you must be willing to fight! Two years later, I am cancer free and doing well! Others I’ve known, even within my own family, have not been so fortunate over the same time period.

This post isn’t about cancer specifically. It’s about the adrenaline rush and the positive attitude and the determination that when facing a challenge – personally or professionally – is critically important to the outcome.

This week, I have a new challenge before me, only this time is in my professional life. I have a new business that has been started in a full-time capacity. For the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to do some consultancy work for various companies regarding their recruitment efforts. Maybe it was evaluating their current strategies, processes, technologies, people, etc. and making recommendations on the most effective and efficient ways to tweak those things to get strong results. Maybe it was leading training efforts for recruiters or those internal managers who make hiring decisions in effective interviewing techniques. Or the way that most people know me is through the SHRM webcasts that I lead where 1500-2000 HR executives and leaders listen each month to hear my ideas regarding the future of recruiting and the ways to build a world class model today. I’ve loved being able to do this type of work, and now it is my focus full-time. This week I launched DX2 Consulting.

DX2 Square LogoNo more guaranteed salary. I rise or I fall based on my own efforts. I’ve owned my own business before and did quite well, so this isn’t uncharted territory for me, but it has been a while and the way you build a business now has a few new challenges. My hope is that those who have been listening to me on those webcasts will now contact me and engage me to come to their organizations and “work my magic.” And if anyone reading this can help me spread the word and send leads my way, it would be greatly appreciated. But when you look at this current challenge objectively, there are far more serious things that people deal with each day. I know. I’ve dealt with them.

If you want to know more about DX2 Consulting, click here to be taken to my web site, or here to be taken to the DX2 LinkedIn page.

As I close this post today, I wanted to share some quotes around this topic that have helped to shape my thinking:

  • “It still holds true that man is most uniquely human when he turns obstacles into opportunities.” – Eric Hoffer
  • “What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity.” – J. Sidlow Baxter
  • “Success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles, but by your reaction to them. And if you look at these obstacles as a containing fence, they become your excuse for failure. If you look at them as a hurdle, each one strengthens you for the next.” – Ben Carson
  • “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”  – Charles A. Beard
  • “You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere, and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost. What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me.” – Helen Keller

Cancer Saved My Life

_DSC0046Two years ago this week, I was laying in my hospital bed after undergoing surgery. I had gone in to remove a single, small mass on my small intestine. This was supposed to be an easy laparoscopic surgery with a quick recovery. However, when I woke up in the recovery room, I could tell it had been a much bigger surgery than anticipated. As my eyes were just starting to open, I could tell that a nurse was standing next to me and I asked her, “That wasn’t laparoscopic, was it?” She answered with a soft, “No, Mr. Douglas. It wasn’t.” I replied back with, “How big is my incision?” She said, “It’s about a foot long.” Under heavy sedation, I fell back asleep.

A short while later I arrived in my room with my family and a few friends waiting for me. As they set my bed in place, my wife was on my left. I rolled my head over and looked at her. She looked back and told me, “They removed 15 tumors from you today and they are pretty sure it is cancer.” The next several minutes are a blur to me. I believe I just laid their silently for several minutes and pondered what I was about to go through. I know for certain though, there was no big reaction. No crying. I think it could best be described as a quiet determination and surprisingly, peace.

For you to understand how cancer might have saved my life though, we have to look at what my life was prior to that surgery.

I worked…a lot. I didn’t take care of myself. I ate crap. I didn’t exercise. I had blown up to just above 300 pounds. I would eat Tums all day long – sometimes 4-5 at a time just to try to relieve some of the heartburn and stress that was going on inside. I couldn’t stand or walk for long before I was winded or my back and knees would be killing me. At the rate that I was going, a heart attack was a certainty at some point. My priorities at that time were wealth, success, recognition, advancing in my career, and I gave whatever left over time to my family.  I was dying a slow but certain death. But then came cancer.

On August 24, 2011, my surgeon walked into my room and told me that my pathology reports had come back and that I did have cancer. He removed 15 cancerous tumors all from my small intestine in my previous surgery. Then he tells me, he missed one other and that I needed to have the same surgery again. I went home for a few days, had some other tests run, and then went back to the hospital to have my second surgery. It didn’t go well. After removing another section of my small intestine, and trying to put the two open ends back together, it didn’t seal. Only no one knew that for several days. I could tell that something was wrong as soon as I woke up. I had 104 fever for several days. The bed would shake non-stop because I was so cold. I didn’t want visitors. I didn’t want the lights on. I didn’t want anyone to talk to me or touch me. I just wanted to lay there and be left alone in the dark.

I don’t know if you have ever found yourself in a situation where you are living in a dark and painful place, but it shows you quickly who you are and what you are made of. I hurt so bad. I was dealing with this new diagnosis. It was just a dark, dark time for me. I was still fighting and confident that I was going to overcome this, but it was going to have to be my way and not with people telling me every little thing that I should be doing or thinking or acting. This was my battle to fight in the way that I needed to fight it.

Unbelievably, I was able to go home about a week after my second surgery. I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink – only what the IVs had been pumping into me. When I got home, I still knew that something wasn’t right. I still had fever. I still hurt badly. I was so very weak. My wife took me back to the surgeon’s office and I told him what was going on. He had a small examination table in his office that I laid on. He opened up my incision as I was lying there…no pain killers, just opened me up. I could see my insides. He placed a lot of bandages inside the wound and then had me hold myself together. He then sent me to the hospital next door for a CT Scan. Moments after the scan ended, he was with me and told me that I would be having an urgent surgery right then. He informed me that I was septic because the small intestine never sealed and that my body had been leaking toxic fluids into my system for 9 days. I had to have surgery or I would die.

After having a friend rush my daughter to the hospital, kissing her and telling her that I love her, I was rolled into my 3rd surgery in 6 weeks. The leak was fixed and I felt better instantly, but it would still be a long road back to gaining my strength and appetite again.

I lost 80 pounds during this process….50 of that in 1 month. For months I couldn’t walk from my bedroom to my living room. I went from XXXL clothes to XL. I had to buy all new clothes as everything just fell off of me. _DSC0488

Relay for Life is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and they were having their event a few blocks from my house. It had been 3-4 months now and I was able to get up and around some now, so I decided to go. My daughter put together a team to walk all night and had people pledge money for their accomplishments. As part of the opening ceremony, they have cancer survivors walk a victory lap. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but wanted to try. So I did. Then they have a caregiver’s lap for those who have taken care of the cancer patient in their life. My wife walked that one and I walked another lap with her. Then I walked a 3rd lap. As my daughter was walking with me, I turned to her and said, “I want to see if I can run a lap.” So, we ran a full lap together. Now, we didn’t set any records. People walking were going faster than my “running,” but it was a big accomplishment. Before the night ended, I had walked 6 miles. What a huge turnaround and accomplishment!

I started going to the track a few times a week after that and began running and walking more. My goal was that I would run a 5K before the end of 2012. On the week before Christmas, that goal was accomplished as I ran my first 5K. I ran another in June of 2013. I have another one scheduled next month to run in as well. I began coaching basketball for an AAU program of high school girls, my daughter is one of them. I am so incredibly active now compared to my life before cancer. Losing the weight through the battle with cancer gave me the opportunity to hit “reset” and start living an active life again. It saved my life!

On August 23, 2011 – my priorities were money, possessions, and prestige. On August 24, 2011, my priorities were faith, family and friends. Cancer changed my life and refocused me on the things that truly matter. It gave me the chance to live, to enjoy life, and to invest heavily into my family and friends. Did it suck to have cancer? Absolutely! I still battle remaining issues from my surgeries. I get sick 20-25 times per day, every day. It’s not fun, but I am still in a better place today than I was before my diagnosis.

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On May 1, 2012, I was declared “cancer free.” I was fortunate to only have cancer for a short time compared to so many others who battle it for years. I’ve lost people very dear to me who battled it and it overcame them. At times I feel guilty that lived through it when others didn’t. There is no pride or ego that goes along with defeating this disease, just humble thankfulness.

Audition Day: The Voice

the voiceTomorrow morning, at 7:00 a.m., I will be at the Austin Convention Center to audition for The Voice. I am 45 years old, a husband of 24 years, the father of a soon to be 16 year old daughter, the Managing Director and Partner at a recruiting firm (Providence Partners), and I will go stand in line beside kids as young as 13-14 for my chance to sing. Am I crazy???

I grew up in a very musical home. My mom played the piano, and my two older sisters sang in a Gospel quartet that traveled all over the country performing. My first solo came when I was 2 years old. I took 13 years of vocal lessons, attended college on a vocal scholarship, and have performed for as many as 25,000 in a live performance, as well as performing on TV and radio. My dream coming out of high school was to be a professional musician, but while in college, I messed up my vocal chords by singing around 4-5 hours a day each day. My throat would bleed while I was singing, hurting like crazy afterwards, and then my voice would disappear after a while. My dream ended when that happened.

I spent close to 20 years as a Youth Minister and a Worship Leader at various churches, so in a way, I did become a professional musician – but not quite the way I envisioned it at 17 and 18 years old. Several years ago, I stopped singing for a couple of years and it was the first time in my life that I took that kind of a break. It allowed my vocal chords and throat a chance to fully heal. But now, much older, and not near as polished as I was “back in the day,” I have a chance to go audition. But why?

I’d love to tell you that I have this burning passion to just sing the rest of my life away…and I do enjoy singing still, but that’s not it. It’s a weird story, but one worth telling.

On August 24, 2010, I was diagnosed with cancer. Let me tell you, when you hear the words, “You have cancer.”, it changes every aspect of your life. My priorities shifted from making a lot of money, advancing in my career, and owning nice things to the priorities of faith, family, and friends. I wanted relationships. I wanted meaningful conversations. I wanted to do all of those things that I always wondered about but never took the chances to try. I wanted my daughter, and those around me, to see that taking a risk – putting yourself out there – is okay! I went through a tough time in my fight with cancer…my second surgery was the worst and could have cost me my life. But after a few months of hard core surgeries and treatments, I was declared cancer free!

So, when I walk into my audition tomorrow morning, it’s not to impress everyone with my voice. At this stage of my life, there will be many who are far better than I am. But I walk in to take a risk, to put myself out there, to face a challenge, and with the hopes that I’ll make it far enough to share my story. Not long ago, I didn’t know if I would live or die…but neither do any of us. Tomorrow is not promised. Enjoy life. Take time to do fun things and build memories. Engage in deep conversations about things that matter. Tell people who matter in your life – “I love you.” And find your song and sing it as loud as you can!