Three years ago, my heart stopped. For 20 seconds. Thirty-five years old and no longer beating. It was a wake-up call. I wasn't where I wanted to be in life, and wasn't doing what I wanted to do, and it was all over.
Coming back to the waking world, as you might imagine, I spent many sleepless nights taking stock of my life. I'm sure that sounds natural, and those were frightening and overwhelming nights of self-reflection. What was most important? Was I putting my time in where it counted? Was I happy? Was I putting "first things first"? No, I wasn't.
While I am healthy now, there are many lessons and observations from the experience, and I wanted to share a few that changed my life forever.
After that event, in the sleepless hours of the dark of night, your mind will race. There are a million unbidden questions that come in these midnight moments, with only the mocking tick-tock of a distant clock to keep you company. When pressed with such a life-changing event, it wasn't hard to find the right question. Neither was answering it. The one I kept landing on was "what is truly important to me?"
Figuring out what is truly important wasn't difficult. Nor should it be. Guess what? Work didn't make the list of true life priorities. I just couldn't see my tombstone inscribed with "He really busted his ass at work". Everything else I valued would make a great and proud headline on the last great marble cover of the book of my life. What would you want written on yours? What would your tombstone read?
It wasn't a shock that work didn't make the list, but when I compared it to how I spent my time, it didn't match up. I had spent many long days and sleepless nights focusing on something that I didn't want to define my life. What's more: I was no longer happy but was still dutifully plugging away. Sound familiar?
Knowing what I wanted to change took time, but was easy. Which takes me to the second, infinitely more difficult, and perhaps most important lesson: Changing your life is about 20 seconds of insane courage. If I could lose my life for 20 seconds, could I find 20 seconds of insane courage to change it all?
This is the key to fundamentally changing your life. In my experience, many people are unhappy in their lives, but will accept a state of mild unhappiness instead of face the fear of change. That's because it is known and comfortable, like a well worn shoe that doesn't quite fit and has no tread, but is familiar. I mean, a new shoe might be more comfortable, but it requires going out and getting one, buying it (it's expensive), breaking it in, getting rid of your old shoe-and what if you don't like it? All the excuses we use to hold ourselves back from trying for something more for our lives.
But the truth is, 20 seconds of insane courage is what's necessary to change your life in the most powerful ways. To do it, you need to drop all your filters and let your truest heart speak and say exactly what you mean, need or want. Do it for 20 seconds. And trust me, insane is italicized for a reason. In this, you will feel numb but strong and it will feel like an eternity. This is usually a conversation with people and they will be shocked, confused, hurt or angry. Change is scary. We all fear it. Even if we know what we want is something different. Even if we are not happy. And especially when it comes with a heavy price. The higher the price, the more we fear it. But this is you taking control of the rest of your life and daring to want something different. Please trust yourself for 20 seconds.
This is enough time to say what it is you truly want. And as one of my good friends always says: "You never get what you don't ask for." So ask for it. Then don't back down.
This is equally important. Don't back down. After you say what you truly mean, you will be overcome with the very sane and wildly overwhelming urge to roll it all back. Two seconds or two weeks later, it will happen. Don't do it. The hardest part to start meaningfully changing your life is already over. Don't retreat just to make it easier for a moment.
It will lead to life 2.0.
Life 2.0 is what happens after. If it's a meaningful life change, the process will come at a cost. Probably a huge one. Pay it. The risk will change your life. And there will be hard days. It's part of living. Let them happen. But the results of this risk can be amazing.
For me, the result was I spent a year living my life and being with my daughter. She's amazing and I got to grow with her. And we continue to grow together. But I had to leave my job to do it. My life changed so much I list it on my LinkedIn profile because it was my second MBA, and the nature of my life going forward. I will never not live my life again. In addition, what I do now professionally is more closely aligned with my business style. I'm empowered to make meaningful change every day and most days, I take advantage. I'm generally and genuinely happy with my life. I live my life every day, unshackled by those things that I let hold me down before. I have used 20 seconds a few times since my first, and all have led to amazing and powerful life changes. And while it was hard to get here, I am here now, and 20 seconds of insane courage was how it all got started. So I'm curious, what do you need 20 seconds for?