Stop, right now for one moment from your busy, busy life and stop to think about this simple question:
What really matters?
Seriously, take a moment to pull away from all of the noise in life and all the things going on in your day and actually think about this question.
Just a year ago, I was speaking at Forsyth Barr Stadium at the global INSPIRE event in Dunedin, New Zealand where they had roped off 5,000 seats of the 30,000 person stadium for our event and live streamed it to thousands of viewers around the world. DrJanet Smith Warfield captured and posted an excerpt of my presentation which led me to begin to gather the courage to share the full video.
When I was in Munich, Germany a few years ago, Peter Stevens asked me this powerful question, "Maria, in your life, what really matters?" This question floored me. It was a turning point for me. I realized that nothing I thought mattered even mattered at all. I had been wandering through life rinsing and repeating the same thing every single day but I wasn't truly fulfilled. I was living this life of adventure, traveling the world for free and getting paid to do what I love. I was living this "amazing" life but I wasn't able to fully enjoy it..
Many of you may not know this, but I was very sick and in and out of the hospital a few years ago for emergency blood transfusions and what turned out to be 3 large tumors growing in my stomach, one of which got to be about as big as a football, and I couldn't walk for almost a year. Thats right.. I was in a wheelchair.
But you wouldn't know that if you just looked on social media because I didn't post about this anywhere because I didn't want anyone to know that I was sick or that I was hurting. I thought that my consulting business that I worked so hard to build over the past 5 years would fall apart. I thought that people wouldn't hire me if they thought I was sick or if they knew I couldn't walk. I realized I had to do something different.
Another pivotal moment for me was when I attended Michael K Sahota's Agile Leadership class.. (and then went back 5 times to the same class..) Michael talks about how important it is to stand in the truth, he explained how the 4A's leadership model helps you to know when to ask for help, and he talks about how you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first in order to help others.
I realized that I hadn't had oxygen for myself in quite a number of years, yet I was running around the world giving oxygen to other people... traveling, speaking, training... wanting to help others live better lives and be more effective at how they work. I did all of these things to make a difference at the expense of my own health, not realizing that I wouldn't be able to help others the more that I depleted my own energy.
This led me to reach out to hire Tyson James Lee, one of the most knowledgeable and experienced health and fitness coaches I've ever met. I realized that in a full year after getting out of the hospital that my health hadn't improved and I had adrenal fatigue so bad that I could barely get through a full 8 hour day of training. After a training class, I would be so fatigued that I could barely stand up and I had chest pains so bad that I wondered if I was going to be alright or if I would have to go back into the hospital. After just a few months working with Tyson, I felt better than I had felt in as long as I could remember. I felt better than I had felt in years.
Over the past several years, my best friend and business partner, Nic Sementa had been encouraging me to slow down, come off the road, eat healthier, but it took me years to understand what he was trying to convey. I knew he was right, but I was too busy feeling lost. I didn't slow down long enough to truly understand what he was saying. When I began to get it, he was there to help me find a place, there with encouraging words when I felt overwhelmed, always believing in me and believing in the best "me" that I could be. I feel so blessed to have friends that look out for me and my wellbeing. How often do the people around us see exactly what we need to do in our lives, but we don't listen?
I remember in one of the Agile Leadership training classes, Michael had started the morning introductions by asking people to say if you could wake up tomorrow and you could be anything or do anything, what would it be? People were saying fun superhero-like things like "I wish I could fly" or teleport, or all of these amazing sounding super powers... as we went around the circle, with tears welling up in my eyes, I realized that all I wanted was to wake up the next day and feel okay. To not be in pain, to be able to breathe normally without having chest pain, to be able to sleep a full night without insomnia, to not have adrenal fatigue. I just wanted to feel better. Out of all of the amazing possibilities in life, I just wanted to get back to ground zero. I just wanted basic health.
The last time I saw Tyson when he was here in Florida, he said something to me that was really thought provoking. He said, imagine if people knew how much we struggled. When you achieve a certain level of success, people see the victories. But what if people knew that the things I've done haven't been easy. What if they knew how much I struggled. What if they knew I was able to achieve the things in life that I have while going through some of the deepest darkest challenges you could imagine, barely able to get out of bed, being rushed to the E.R. periodically because my hemoglobin count had dropped too low and my blood count was dangerously low to where I could have died. What if people knew that the first time I DJ'd at an event, I traveled through the airport in a wheelchair to get there and that the first time I walked through an airport not in a wheelchair after I had gotten out of the hospital was after that very event that was the first time I DJ'd. What if people knew about how real the struggle was that led to the victories.
How much inspiration and hope would that give to people that want to achieve great things in their lives but didn't know it was within their reach because everyone who has made it to a certain level of success has had HEARTBREAK, moments of DOUBT, immense STRUGGLE, has probably QUESTIONED EVERYTHING, and yet found the "UMPF" to keep going and to still make it through to the other side.
I've been hesitant to share my story for fear of being judged. Of people thinking less of me for some reason.. for showing that I've been weak. But what I realize now is that vulnerability is actually strength because we all struggle at one point or another in our lives and sharing your own challenges actually helps to connect with other people on a real level.
For the first time in my life, I told my whole story. My whole story live on stage to thousands of people. It was hard for me to do. I was afraid of being judged. I was afraid people might think I was weak. I was afraid of so many things. I received a challenge at the beginning of the year last year from Timothy R Johnson to tell my whole story and I realized that he was right. I had to open up and be authentic, vulnerable, and raw to really connect with people and to make a greater impact. That in order to really help people, I needed to share my struggles because I need to relate to people on a deeper level.
Enclosed is a link to the full video, my full story in a TED Style talk from the INSPIRE event:
Awesome voyage, @maria! Your story has made me appreciate the title of your talk: The Power of Personal Agility! And how one question, if you let it work on you, can really change your life!