I want to tell you a story, a true story, a critical eye-opening story.
At age 54, I decided to have a complete physical. This was not the routine 15-minute physical, but one that was so thorough it wasn’t covered by my medical insurance. In fact, I had to cough up $5,000 after-tax dollars to pay for the procedure. Man, was it intense! They performed stress tests, blood work, x-rays, full-body scans and everything else recommended for a man my age who had, for years, avoided doctors like the plague.
When all the testing was complete, they gave me the diagnosis: lung cancer. To confirm this and to map the functional processes in my body so they could determine the extent and type of treatment, they immediately sent me for one further test — a PET scan. This was on Dec. 19th. As you might imagine, Christmas was different, and difficult, this year. It was also a bit reflective.
Once, in a tape series, Brian Tracy asked, "If you were guaranteed success and could not fail, what would you do?" In the 1980s, Dr. Robert Schuler, founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, put it this way: "What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?"
When I began asking myself that question decades ago, the answers were obvious. My professional goals were to become a motivational speaker, a best-selling author, financially secure, a respected industry leader and one of the best new-home sales consultants in the world. When I was given the lung cancer diagnosis and spent time during Christmas reflecting on my life, I realized that every one of my goals had been achieved.
Then I thought, "If I’m given a limited time — a year, maybe five — to live, what would I want to do?" The answer came in an instant: Spend time with my family.
Well, yesterday I had the PET scan and on the way to the medical facility, I was involved in an accident that wrecked my car. Can you believe that it did not even faze me? I walked away and the other driver walked away. As corny as it sounds, all that ran through my mind was that everyone was alive and well. For that particular moment in time, we both had the gift of life. I said a prayer of thanks and continued through the difficult process of the PET scan.
Today, which is Dec. 27, the doctor called and said the scan refuted all the other tests. I do not have cancer. They will continue to monitor that suspect portion of my lung, but, for now, I still have the gift of life without any hovering dark clouds. With that good news came the realization that I also have the precious gift of more time to spend with my family. That now tops my list of great things to accomplish.
Although I was uneasy while waiting for the results of the PET scan, I was also at peace. I spent last year cementing an estate plan so I had the calm reassurance that my wife and son would be taken care of financially if something were to happen to me. And, because of my spiritual beliefs, I knew beyond any doubt where I would spend eternity.
There are estate plans that secure your family’s financial future and those that secure your spiritual future. My advice is to make sure you have both in place because you just never know what’s around the bend. Life — as you know it — can change in a heartbeat.
A New Year is now beginning and you know I’m going to advise you to tenaciously and relentlessly pursue your goals. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do that. However, this year, I’m including a caveat. Take time to reflect on what those goals really are and on what success really means to you. And those scars that you received from being beaten and battered by life in 2007? Convert them into stars that will light the way to a better and brighter future.
A final thought: Regardless of how large your bank account gets, remember that your true treasure is your cache of family and friends. Love them. Value them. And tell them.
May God Bless You in 2008,