Life is a decision

I met with a very good friend yesterday.

I have visited him quite a few times over the past several weeks as he has endured radiation therapy for a very rare form of cancer. 

We were in business together several years ago and his exuberant attitude used to lift people up around him, even in the most challenging times in our business. 

At the time it reminded me why we raised our family with the understanding that being happy was a decision and not a feeling.

Feelings aside, we can, daily, make a decision to be happy.

I would say if you make that decision every day, the “feeling” which is haunting you may itself disappear.

Notwithstanding, some people need medical support for conditions that require attention to help them live a normal life.

In some sense, my friend was in that same position. He was doing his best to stay positive every day as he undertook a gruelling regime of radiation therapy.

On top of the therapy, I witnessed his weight drop from a healthy 200 pounds to about 135. 

His goal was to live long enough to get to an operation, but along the way he developed a condition that prevented him from eating.

If he could not keep food down he would be denied surgery because of the low chance of success. 

I stopped off to see him yesterday en route to a car rally in the Columbia Valley. He was back.

He was his jolly, uplifting, funloving self again: Planning a future, scheming some big business ideas and generally looking forward with confidence.

Not the same guy I had witnessed who was slowly losing the fight. 

He shared with me that one morning he found it hard to wake up. He was almost in a coma. He looked at two choices.

He could not fight, give in, and say goodbye to his family. The other (the friend that I knew) was to get up one more time and make a decision to live. 

Interestingly, that was about the same time he met a gastrointestinal expert that prescribed him a series of pills that completely changed his condition.

Over the next four days, he ate like a horse and showed up for his operation — that was a week ago — the friend I knew was back, except his hitch-hiker is no longer with him.

Every day, we have multiple decision points. Human nature skews us to the path of least resistance, the easy way out.

Thank goodness, my friend took the hard route. 

We are going fishing in a few weeks — after we have eaten a big meal together.


Near misses with princes

In 2008, I jumped at the opportunity to do a charity based enduro motorbike ride in South Africa.

My brother and I rode about 2,000 kilometres though some amazing terrain on the Eastern Cape from Port Elizabeth to Durban. 

Even before we arrived, there were rumours flying that Prince William and Prince Harry would be on the same trip with us; what a blast it would be.

Unfortunately, they were on a return journey with the next group from Durban back to Port Elizabeth.

The trip was gruelling. Big climbs in the Drakensberg Mountains, big canyon descents and multiple river crossings every day.

The good news was that the princes would have to ride the same motorbikes back.

With that being the case, I wanted to make sure if a prince rode my bike, he would know that it was well used. I spent the next few weeks completely thrashing it, and had a blast.

While our trip was absolutely memorable and exhausting, the media completely gobbled up the return trip with occasional glimpses of the princes in South Africa.

A few years later, my wife and I were working in the Samburu in Kenya for our charity. We were staying at an amazing place called the Lewa Conservancy on the banks of the Samburu River, one of the most incredible big game safari regions in the world. 

Our hosts asked us if we would like to see their luxurious game lodges (as compared to our tents). We were driven up to one lodge and shown around.

At $750US per night per person, it was very impressive. 

At the second lodge, we were suddenly told that the party had not yet had breakfast and had requested some privacy. Of course, we had seen all we needed to, but wondered who was staying at the lodge.

Later in the week on the journey home we heard that Prince William had proposed to Kate MIddleton in Kenya. It made us wonder if we were there at the same time. 

A few years later, we returned and asked the question: were they here? We received a positive reply.

Given that we have been hanging around inadvertently with princes for so long, we are just a little miffed that we were not on the invite list this weekend.

Nonetheless, our very best to Prince Harry and Meghan.

Habits create success

Bad habits are so hard to break sometimes. Or so we think.

Equally, and in the same vein, good habits are only a commitment away, but that commitment feels a little like walking across a suspension bridge in Nepal with a raging creek 100 feet below — terrifying.

A dose of OCD probably goes a long way toward providing the impetus to quit anything cold turkey. For most of us, however, it is a more gradual process.

It is often the decision to create a habit that we find more difficult than the process itself.

A habit takes about 30 days of repetitious activity to become part of our daily routine. Of course, stopping a bad habit is the same. So if you smoke, you had better be prepared to quit for 30 days before you have a long lasting impact.

Let's assume for a moment that the 30-day number is accurate. Think about the results below for a moment:

  • If you are worried about affording retirement, start saving just $1 a day for 30 days. If you continue the habit over 50 years with compounding interest you would have close to $700,000.
  • If your business is struggling, cold call or meet one new client each day for your business. After only a few months, you probably would be considering taking a break from the habit, so you could service your new clients.
  • If you are feeling unhealthy, run a kilometre every day. After a few months, you will be running greater distances and feeling the distinct benefits of a routine exercise program.
  • If you have a challenging relationship at home, tell your wife or husband that you love them every day for 30 days. Life would be so good that you wouldn’t want to stop the habit.
  • Worried about the price of gas? Ride your bike to work every day for 30 days. The savings on gas, insurance and maintenance, plus the added advantage of being healthier would be a very positive asset.

The important point is that consistency is the key to make positive changes in your life or your organization.

If you need an accountability partner to chase you a little, reach out to a friend.

If it is important to you they would typically be pleased to help out.

Who knows, they may even join you on the change if it has a positive impact on them too.


Less is more

Editing is not one of my strong points.

In fact, as a keynote speaker, I have to work hard on choosing the right words and speaking more slowly.

Today, I spent some time with a rally-driver friend who wanted to evaluate how he could improve his driving and in-car communication.

The conversation led to a talk about co-driver notes. 

What was interesting was that he was using more words, but getting less information in his notes.

What I had found in my experience was even keeping words as much as possible to one syllable left enough space for me to modify my notes and get more information from the same amount of speaking.

Besides which life became just a little easier for the co-driver who could say “ice” instead of “slippy” or “brake” instead of “caution."

I started to think about my army experience too where the word brevity is drilled into you early in your military career.

The army, just like a rally driver, needs a lot of information in as short a timeframe as possible with as few words as possible.

As a result, whenever the Kelowna regiment is on exercise with other army disciplines, they are always complimented on their communication skills.

If we are to be better communicators (if there is an assumed benefit to that) then perhaps we need to focus on using fewer words with more impact. 

I understand it is not easy. In fact, I can give a talk and people may say that it was very inspirational. I can speak for an hour and jam in a lot of words in a minute.

Then, my wife can walk up to the podium, say two sentences and people around her start crying and thanking her for impacting their lives so much. 

I guess that is enough from me then.

Have a great weekend.

More It's All About . . . articles

About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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