I thought I was going to die.
It came down to a phone call from my doctor. He told me the procedure I went through showed the tumors they previously found were benign. Waiting for those results was one of the most intense scares of my life. I couldn’t help but think of all the other crap I had to deal with before being struck with the possibility of facing death.
All of us know that you have to be a little crazy to be an entrepreneur. You push your mind and body to the max every single day. There is a huge amount of risk and an equal amount of stress that you deal with, day in and day out. Financially, mentally, emotionally and physically -- running a business can be taxing.
Plus, my passion is for helping people -- supporting my team along with mentoring other entrepreneurs. Now, what would happen if I had to set all of this aside to deal with an illness?
I had to take a step back, like I always do, and ask myself, "What is the lesson here?" I’m still alive, so there must be something I could take away from this experience and share with the world. And yes, this is super personal, but who cares? I was faced with the potential of being diagnosed with the most deadly disease of our generation. I saw that something was wrong with my body, and just like in business, when you think something is wrong, more than likely it is. With that said, there are a few lessons that this experience validated for me that I would like to share.
Trusting my gut became life or death
If you read nothing past this line, you must take this in: We absolutely can live or die by our convictions. For years, my stomach did not feel OK, but everyone kept telling me, “You’re fine.” Each time I would visit my doctor for a checkup, he would say, “Don’t worry about it.” But something told me that this is urgent. That I need to fix this issue right away.
When someone has a highly regarded title or expertise in a particular industry, people will assume two things. One, that this individual has all the answers. Two, that their professional ranking trumps our own knowledge. Dealing with this health scare confirmed for me that neither of these assumptions are true. In fact, I think it’s time to call bullshit.
My professional knowledge may not be extensive in health and medicine, but it’s my body, and I knew something was wrong. No one could convince me differently, not even the experts. You can respect expertise but still trust your instincts.
Similarly, if you really love your business, you have to be its greatest advocate. You have to save it like you would fight to save your body. There can be no gray area in this space. So, what happens if the so-called experts do not see or understand your vision? You get tenacious about finding your own solutions.
Going by the book does not make you a winner
I have never been one to do well with rules. I used to be a lot more reckless and just do shit and deal with the consequences later. I’ve matured since then, and I make sure to measure how consequences will affect myself and my team first. However, that young man who asks for forgiveness instead of permission is still within me. When I am determined to execute on my goals, persistence is my strength and what has saved me in business and now in life.
The recommended age reserved to screen for colon cancer is 50 years old. Many years younger than what is typical, I went to my doctor one last time and told him that I need to get a medical screening done. To some within my circle, including my doctor, I appeared to be a hypochondriac that spent too many hours Googling my symptoms on the web. Despite the naysayers and recommendations, I stuck to what I felt to be right for me.
If I’m going to solve problems, I solve them all
I know you cannot handle every single problem at once, but the big problems you have to take care of. Especially when it is something future-oriented. Just like in business, I was tenacious about solving this problem.
Some of the smartest, most knowledgeable people ignore their health because they are too afraid to find out what is going on inside of them. This is ludicrous. They choose to let fear win, allowing themselves to be validated by false positives instead of getting proactive about uncovering what is wrong.
I cannot afford to ignore any problems. Cancer has riddled my family. Coincidently, both my father and stepfather have been diagnosed with bladder cancer. Thankfully, I made it through this OK. Staying on top of problems has helped position me to detect hazards early. Before they become a threat to my business or my life, I am searching for options to protect what I have built. If you wait for that terminal diagnosis, for your funds to be completely drained or to let go of the employee who is not the right fit, then it’s already too late. Your ability to pivot and overcome just became seriously hampered.
No one knows your body or your business like you. People told me not to worry, and if I listened, this could have developed into a horrible situation later on in life that could not be solved with just a simple surgery. Purposely staying in the dark about anything benefits no one -- not your family, not your friends, not your team and especially not you.
Recently, a friend asked how I was doing after all of this. I am happy to now say, I feel great.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors