As a recent stroke survivor and author of You Will See God’s Miracles If Only You Believe (available on Amazon.com), I am here to share with you some crucial life lessons I learned in recent years concerning well-balanced lifestyles, how to divert personal disasters, and the art of listening to what your body and mind are trying to tell you. As an executive, my plate was filled to overflowing. I basically worked from sun up to sun down, so to speak. Prior to my stroke, I thrived in my role as CEO of a successful chamber of commerce. To balance the stress, I would work out at the gym a minimum of two hours a day, six days a week. There were even days when I would go to the gym twice in one day. What I did not realize was that stress in my work life and excessive workout regimen were taking a toll on my health.
Friday, December 20, 2013, will be forever etched in my memory. That fateful morning, I woke up exhausted, and my spirit told me to stay home and get some much-needed rest. Driven by my ambition, I jumped out of bed and drove to the gym for a vigorous work-out. As a result, I suffered a severe hemorrhaging stroke induced by a rigorous work load and around- the-clock schedule. During my time in the hospital, the neurologist told me something very startling: “It was your drive that got you in here, and your drive will get you out.” Then, he said something that stunned me. I asked him if I had stayed in bed that morning, would I have had the stroke, and he responded with a resounding “no.”
What was so disappointing to me was that I felt the tool God blessed me with to continue my career in motivational speaking was now gone! I came to the realization that no matter how hard I’d worked, I had given that part of my life to benefit others who really didn’t appreciate it. Not one board member came to the hospital to check on me, and not one card or bouquet of flowers arrived at the hospital from my colleagues. In that moment, it became crystal clear what mattered most…my health and well-being.
The Learning Process Begins…
I felt like I was learning elementary lessons with my young grandson, but in my own house. I woke up every morning at 4:00 am, turned on my iPhone, and practiced phonics, while also working to stimulate the weakened facial muscles from the paralysis. I would then turn on the recorder to have a dialogue with the Lord and to hear my voice in an effort to work on strengthening it. I continued this daily process of strengthening and discovery for one year.
Three years later, 85% of my voice has returned, and most of the left side of my body is functioning at full capacity. Although I am still bearing the scars of the stroke, I am grateful for this experience. It has reawakened my purpose and those dreams that I had abandoned along the way.
Throughout my journey, I have learned that there are seasons of sadness and seasons of joy, and these times serve a common boundary for life’s changes. I continue to see good unfolding in all the experiences I have come through. It is so important that whatever life holds in store for us, our deeds, our prayers, and our love toward one another uplift and motivate our spirits. Oftentimes, God helps us to come to the realization that we have a unique purpose on this Earth, a realization that brings us in tune with our true being and inner self. For me, it took having a severe stroke to truly learn this lesson.
I now believe that it is through trials, tribulations, and struggles that we learn to love unconditionally. And it is in my faith and knowing God Almighty leads us to the light at the end of the tunnel.
We must skillfully and intellectually prepare ourselves to live in a society that oftentimes denounces our ability to succeed. We must reach out and grasp our visions of success with an assurance and a claim that it is ours. We should pursue excellence in our life’s work as if our very lives depended on it. And, we must strive and continue to strive until our dreams are no longer dreams, but a part of our reality. We begin with ourselves: discovering and assessing our potential, as well as our limitations. We must improve our personal standards and develop self-confidence, as well as an internal security that no one can take away. Relying simply on our beliefs and principles, we become an armor of strength in the pursuit of our success.