Things will turn out better than or worse than you expect. Rarely does our crystal ball hit a bullseye.”dad
Note: The following nearly decade-old content is in the 2012 book: Awaken Your Age Potential: Exploring Chosen Paths of Thrivers. There are more i’s in this one passage than a year’s worth of 5-daily blogs.
Note: There are a few errors in the timeline and narrative. Lesson in hindsight, the editor doesn’t intimately know your story. It is a reminder that other books you read likely contain errors yet we believe the story exactly as written. Deadlines, pressure, and other factors can damage a perfect process and permit errors, like history and narrative.
No man on my dad’s side of the family has lived past sixty. This fact, as you might imagine, has instilled me with a sense of urgency to live each moment to the fullest. So, from a young age, I’ve done my best to do just that, to make every moment count.
At age eighteen, for instance, I started a habit of living consciously and thinking in advance about the possible outcomes of my choices. I’ve made about a million choices since then, but a few big ones have shaped who I’ve become today. I left my family behind in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and went west for college. As a freshman at the University of Idaho, I decided to read everything I could about success and positive thinking, and enrolled in the Disney College Program.
Soon after college, I rode my bicycle across the country, and when I returned, I sought employment at a great company, and landed a job at Disney. On my way to and from work and at home before bed, I listened to motivational tapes of visionary speakers such as Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, and Napoleon Hill every day. During those years, I decided I’d wait to marry the right person, and sure enough, with a little patience, I found her.
Still at the Disney, I married Cheryl, and we eventually bought our dream lot behind the Magic Kingdom, in 1990. Two years later, at 33, we built the home we continue to live in today, and we began making efforts to have a child. Little did we know at the time, however, that our desire to become parents would lead us to face one of the most significant challenges of our lives.
From the time I was 33 to the time I was 41, we spent our life savings on in vitro fertilization (IVF), even though the process couldn’t guarantee a child. When we were unsuccessful on our fifth IVF cycle and the odds of having a child looked bleak at best, I had the epiphany of a lifetime: I suddenly realized material things don’t matter at all. Between our first and fifth IVF attempt, I had endured the kind of pain and emptiness that will bring you to your knees. Even though the prospect of being a dad scared the heck out of me at first, by our fifth try, I knew I was born to be a dad–but I also knew my chance at fatherhood was slipping away. Then, miraculously, we conceived our son on the sixth attempt. In the end, IVF not only gave us a son, but it also gave me a better understanding of what faith, hope, and love really mean.
After that sixth IVF cycle, life kept improving. At age 40, I was invited to become a speaker on leadership and professional development at Disney. Now, thirteen years later, I’ve spoken to nearly a million people from every walk of life and professional background imaginable. It has been a tremendous experience. I’m committed to “walking the talk”—that is, to embodying the ideas I present as a speaker—and the blessing I’ve discovered is that to teach is to learn twice.
But we all encounter setbacks from time to time. Adversity doesn’t develop character; it reveals it. It would be unfair to not tell you two important, life-altering experiences that occurred in between some really great moments in life. The first was a painful self-discovery, prompted by a burning desire to be an example and not a warning. The painful revelation was that I either drink alcohol every day, or not at all—there is no middle ground. The second was discovering our son, then five, has an incurable disease. Life goes on and is never easy, but it is glorious and worth the effort.
In another example of facing adversity, I had a major health scare after the promotion. My doctor discovered dangerous cholesterol levels, and he instructed me to exercise and change my diet. The warning prompted me to run the distance between two mailboxes every day for one week, then run the distance between three mailboxes every day during the second week, and so on. In my neighborhood, mailboxes are one hundred meters apart. So after one month, my run was equivalent to one lap around a high school track, but my pace was slower than walking—for real.
I continued exercising regularly, but every three years or so, boredom, apathy, self-pity, and a variety of other excuses crept into my thoughts about exercise and eating. I kept on, however, using the creative tactics to stay motivated that I teach in the classroom at Sunday school and at Disney. Eventually my pace quickened, my cholesterol levels normalized, and in 2009, I went on to represent the USA at the Masters Track and Field World Championships in the 400 meters!
How did I do it? I dared to ask myself these questions: Why can’t I? Why don’t I try? I believe you should never set limits for your health. It’s better to be an example of good health at the end of your life than to be an example of bad health; in other words, we should all strive to model good health for the young people in our lives.
With my health back on track, I continued my quest to live each moment to the fullest, and I founded Mid Life Celebration, LLC, at age 49. The company challenges male baby boomers to do something great before they die, whether that means mending an important relationship, funding research for the treatment of a disease, or doing anything in between. At Mid Life Celebration, LLC, my dream is to teach personal responsibility in five key areas: mind, body, spirit, money, and HQ (the paperwork of life). I’m two years away from retiring, and will put 110% of my effort toward Mid Life Celebration. In the meantime, I write five blogs everyday—one in every key area—to get my message out.
While the seven thousand blog posts I’ve published may set me apart from my peers in one way, my predisposition for envisioning the future and then making it happen is really what makes all the difference. I don’t just hope things will happen; I make them happen. I am, after all, the “CEO of Jeff.”
That said, I don’t think I’m all that different from the rest of society. I’ve always believed it isn’t death itself that we fear, but rather we fear not living before we die. Most people are afraid to fail and are therefore afraid to try. Many become self-conscious because they look to external influences to define their way of life, and as a result, they conform to society and fail to achieve their full potential. Fear of success is also a real phobia. The thought of what we are capable of can be scary. It is for me.
But that’s what inspires me to think of carpe diem as a daily, moment-to-moment battle cry. The best path toward success and the best way to nurture self-growth, I’ve found, is to develop a sense of obligation to humanity. I truly believe everyone needs to find purpose in life, for without purpose, you will drift and flounder.
At fifty-three years old, I’m proud to say I feel a strong sense of purpose. My wife and I have been married for twenty-nine years, and our son is now eleven years old. I would love to be a grandfather someday, so I plan to take care of my mind and body in order to do so. Currently, I’m living out a ten-year plan that will take me to age sixty, and at that time, I will reassess my goals and strategies. Life can change on a dime, so one needs to be flexible. My greatest desire is for my life to demonstrate how to live and age well and to hear the following words during my last breath: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
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This website is about our HOME. This is the fifth of five daily, differently-themed blog posts about: (1) mind, (2) body, (3) spirit, (4) work, (5) home. To return to Mid Life Celebration, the site about MIND, click here.