It is my experience that the most important lessons come during highly stressful, emotional events. Events that are heart-wrenching, that we wouldn’t wish on anyone and yet, paradoxically are uplifting, affirming, and that we wish we could share with everyone. I recently had the privilege of experiencing this first hand and so I am sharing this powerful lesson with you, my loyal reader.
Some of you know my friend and former podcast co-host Darren Cecil. Those of you who regularly listen to the Disarming Persuasion podcast know that Darren is caring, intelligent, and incredibly funny. The other thing you need to know about Darren is he was born with his left arm missing from just below the elbow, more on that in a minute. Last summer Darren was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma, brain cancer. He is now home and resting comfortably in hospice care surrounded by his adult children, wife, and grandchildren.
I spoke with Darren for the first time since his diagnosis. He has a great outlook. The first time I met him, he was on stage at a chamber event and he made fun of his own missing arm. I knew right away I liked the guy. As I got to know him, I learned that he has never viewed his missing appendage as a handicap. In fact, he turned it into an asset. He would hustle other kids on the basketball court for money; he used his self-deprecating humor to get girls, he learned to catch a ball, then hold his glove under his arm so he could use his one hand to throw it. I hold him in high esteem because of his refusal to let the circumstances of his birth define him as a victim.
With all of this in mind, I was not surprised and yet profoundly affected when I got to speak with him earlier this week. After the perfunctory how are you doing? How are you spending your time? What can I do/get for you? I asked “the question.” When two, east coast, city boys get together (he’s from Boston, I’m from Philly) we don’t dance around things so, I asked him “how long do they give you?” His response and the ensuing conversation were profound, affirming, and life-changing for me and there is a HUGE leadership lesson here.
Darren’s response to “how long” was simply, “They don’t know. Could be days, could be years.” When I heard that I thought and asked him, “Then what’s changed? Isn’t that true for all of us?” Darren’s response was typical Darren, “The only that’s changed is I have another thing to deal with.” There it is, the simple reframe. Sure, the illness means Darren’s life is different and he has always (like most of us) had some sort of issue to deal with. No, he doesn’t have the energy he once had. But really, who does? He can still help people, whether its his family, friends or strangers, that’s up to him. Nothing is stopping him from continuing to give to the world his love, wisdom, and knowledge. What a POWERFUL way to reframe his situation.
As leaders, we are often faced with situations seemingly beyond our control, situations that may appear dire. Yet, in each of those situations, there is a chance to reframe your perspective, look at it from a different point of view, and in doing so, find real meaning and opportunity.
Darren has always been an inspiration to me and he continues to be one during this struggle. While I ask you to join with me in celebrating this story of strength, I also ask you to join me in praying for him and his family. If prayer is not your thing, send good thoughts and healing intentions, it all counts.