Disease as a Blessing
This blog post was featured in the Huffington Post on May 10, 2016.
I thought it was the end of the world for me.
I had a great professional life. I’d worked in fifty-two countries, counseled prime ministers, lectured to thousands of top executives, been asked to solve different serious problems—never a boring moment. I used to fly from Los Angeles to Australia to consult just for one day, then get on a plane for South Africa to work for three days, and go from there to Moscow to give a lecture the day after. I would travel like this from one country to another, from one company to another, each with a different interesting problem, which, once solved, won me recognition that fed my ego big time. Great, no?
Then the bad news arrived: The traveling, lecturing, and consulting for weeks in a row— the constant jet lag, always changing hotels—caused my blood pressure to get very high. I was eating in restaurants all the time, and they use salt on everything. The lifestyle was stressing my body.
My long-term unregulated high blood pressure, I was told, gave me “a little present” in the form of a chronic kidney disease. Now it was only a question of time before kidney failure started to manifest in shortness of breath, loss of energy, and loss of memory. I would then have to go in for dialysis for three hours, twice a week. People who were on dialysis told me that the process is not only time consuming but also robs you of energy. You have only enough strength to survive from one treatment to the next.
That all meant no more traveling, no more consulting, no more doing the work I love… The end of the world for me.
I was told that I could reduce the chances of having kidney failure if I could control my blood pressure. If I wanted to live, I had to change my lifestyle. To me it looked like the end of the world as I knew it. To stop my lifestyle meant to become a vegetable. Just the thought of it made me deeply depressed.
But since I wanted to live, who does not, I reluctantly cancelled all my travel, and all my clients, unless I could serve them remotely. I went to True North Health Center in Santa Rosa, California for two months. There I learned to eat plant-based food. I lost fifty pounds.
Moreover, I discovered there is something called life—normal life. Getting up at the same time every day. Eating healthy. Sleeping normal hours. Getting to know my wife, and my children. I started exercising, doing yoga almost every day—something I dreamed of doing for years but could not because of my traveling. I discovered I have friends who really care for me. Sixteen people expressed their willingness to donate their kidney to me. (Fourteen of them were rejected for various health reasons; two are still being tested.) In other words, I discovered there is life beyond work.
Was this the end of my life or the beginning of my life? If I had continued my previous lifestyle, life would have passed me by and I would have died in some hotel or on a plane. I would not have lived much longer. Now I have a chance.
Was my disease a curse or a blessing? To me it is obvious.
Just think of it. Every problem is a call for change and major problems are a call for a major change.
Thus, all problems are really an opportunity for the better.