There are 4 valuable lessons and insights for you at the end of this article, but just to give you a little Prelog, “You’re gonna die.”
Behind the ‘dead’ seriousness, it’s a rather matter of fact statement … a heavy one for sure. You are going to die and that is the end of it.
There is often a disconnect that prevents us from leveraging the potency of realizing our eventual death as our cultural references are limited and too often associated with a “doctor’s prognosis,” an old western film” trope or something of the sort. It rarely contains personal connection and is hardly inspirational. Yet, the statement itself can be uniquely personal and meaningful.
During a fan’s 20-second window to snap a photo with GaryVee (video), a business entrepreneur, angel investor, and author known for his a “straight talk” style, asked for three words of inspiration. GaryVee replied, “You’re gonna die.” Just like that. Simple and matter of fact. The brevity and also potency of his words seemed to even give GaryVee a moment of pause. GaryVee and his fan recovered and, together, seemed to grasp the insight. That’s inspirational, they said. And, now let’s do something about it. And, by it, he meant the personal knowledge and recognition that you — yes you — are going to die.
It’s a seemingly simple, yet challenging concept to grasp, let alone to do something about it … to allow your own inevitable death to inform how you live and shape your actions. This is due to the fact that for most people one’s mortality seems a thing that is so very far away in time. However, for those who have brushed up against death and survived, whether the “Big One,” meaning our physical death, or even the little deaths … those ego deaths … we experience throughout our life, it becomes a bit more tangible and real; sometimes, drastically so.
For me? I understand dying on a personal level and how that knowledge can inform and inspire one to LIVE fully. I had a brain aneurysm at the age of 11 that took away just about everything that I thought made me…ME. For all intents and purposes, I died. I lived, of course, but very little of what I thought was ME remained. I had to relearn how to walk, talk, read, write, do math, and even to know the purpose of a salt shaker. I had to relearn how to LIVE in a whole new body, one that was not and would not ever be the same.
When we lose a part of ourselves, we like to think that what remains is what is ultimately our true, solid, and pure self. That comforts us, or is meant to; there is certainly some truth to it. In turn, it becomes the foundation upon which we recover. And, in that process of recovery we begin to struggle and within that struggle there are choices. It seems we are inclined to rebuild some semblance of our former selves, but I have learned that there is another choice.
From moment to moment, I mentally, emotionally and physically wrestled with the question “Now, what am I going to do? What can I do? But, it took me years to get to that point; to work through the loss of ME; and to build a self that had a future. For a very long time, I repeatedly asked one question: Why me? And, while that is a fair question for an 11-year old who on the morning of having an aneurysm pitched a no-hitter in little league, and scored a triple-double in basketball. The sky was the limit, and certainly a baseball or basketball career was in store. Why me is a fair question for anyone after such personal loss. But, it wasn’t the question that I needed to and would eventually ask in order to change my perspective from that of loss to “ok, what’s next?”
Yes, my 11-year old self was changed forever. If we are but our dreams and aspirations and the identity attached to and formed by them, then I did die that day I had an aneurysm. In the same vein, I was also reborn and, overtime, little by little and sometimes with great, big, inspired strides, I learned to accept and embrace my story. And, most importantly, I began to understand that MY story was in front of me. I realized that I had an alternate choice, and that choice wasn’t restricted to how I might now go on living with loss by rebuilding a semblance of my former self: as an athlete unrealized; as half of or less than my former self; as a burden rather than a son; as a charity case rather than a friend. Instead, I came to realize that I did indeed have the choice to make a future that was positive, adventurous, giving, rewarding and meaningful to myself and others. I had my experience. It was a traumatic loss and because of that I understood more concretely that I was going to die eventually and, in turn, I decided to live fully without exception. I decided to live authentically.
Back to GaryVee, literally “You’re going to die” is the exact same thing as “You’re going to LIVE”. Except there’s one difference in sensibilities…I already died, and I was reborn to show that you also can create anything you want in this life through LIVING.
Looking back at the road trip and 20 years of life, everything happened the way it really did happen. Living authentically gave me hope, and now, the ability to help spread hope to others. By sharing our stories, we open up to other’s stories.
You will be afraid. And the fear is real, but you can let it go. Afraid to fall, afraid of others’ opinion. Afraid of being who you want to be. And, with a stroke many lose “the job,” “the girlfriend,” “the husband,” and “the friends” they once had. Most lose it all, because you are afraid of facing the ‘new you’. You aren’t afraid of “death,” because you died; you are afraid of your new life. Once you let go of the old life, and set out on an adventure to seek your new life, the opportunities are endless. Like myself, for instance: once I let go of trying to be the way I used to be I experienced a whole new paradigm. “You’re gonna LIVE.”
Cory Weissman said – “Your old life is gone, and your new life is about finding a new adventure, and what you will discover.” For #TalkingGenius on Instagram Live, we always ask “How do you define yourself?” Not once has anyone said that their life is defined by their life-changing injury or medical event. But, with it also the trappings, the restrictions imposed by others or yourself that tried to define your previous self, and so much more. And now you are new … See, my story was similar to Cory’s, I wanted to get the ability to play basketball again, me and the game, and all that came with it – girls, popularity, fame, like my old self. When I saw that basketball wasn’t my calling, my senses led me to filmmaking to sharing real-life stories to enrich the lives of others. For you, yes, you get a whole new life, a whole new YOU to create. What was “you” is now “dead,” but you have been given a second chance at life and you will celebrate it not by contemplating mortality, but being ALIVE.
I was an all-around athlete by the age of 11. I pitched a no-hitter in little league, scored a triple-double in basketball, the sky was the limit. After my brain aneurysm, I lost a lot of friends, changed directions trying to find myself in this ‘new me’, worked too hard trying to become my old self again; I just wasn’t the cute kid anymore that girls had a crush on. I had to deal with my self-image because I had lost that love of myself, and it showed in my face. My dad sat me down the day after I got rejected from asking a girl to the 7th grade dance, and I will never forget it – “Kyle, kids at you age are going through the same thing you are. You need to work on you, and someday, you will find someone who “loves you, for you.” That will go a million miles.’ I only found that to be true years later because I chose a life I wanted to live.
Rise up to the responsibility to share your story. 11 years ago, for my 10th anniversary from having a brain aneurysm, I was told by someone that “we aren’t going to celebrate my anniversary anymore,” and that “we are going to move on with our lives.” See, we rather mourned over the “I almost died” part instead of changing the perspective, and sharing the celebration that I was lucky enough to see another day. It wasn’t until several years later when I moved to NYC that I felt more free than ever that made the choice to celebrate my life instead hide. I count my anniversary as my 2nd birthday, and to be quite frank, I like to celebrate that day more than my actually birthday. If we are aware that we are indeed going to die, and when we have experienced it and realized that the awesomeness of the opportunity to “Thrive” we become aware of our responsibility to share that knowledge and real-life experience with others, for which we can express in words and feelings, but also through our positive actions.
Denise, my speech therapist from the hospital 21 years ago, recommended Jesse to interview because we had similar family support in recovery. Jesse was a rugby player who survived a heart transplant at the age of 16. After filming the entire day with Jesse, Liam turned to me and said, “Anymore questions, Kyle?” I did, in fact, had one final question that was not on the list…
I was curious, and I wasn’t sure if I should ask this, but I did anyway. “Who does your heart belong to?” There was a pause…Jesse looked around for a moment, a little apprehensive, then he said, “There are so many answers to that…my heart belongs to me, and my heart belongs to David Grey…he had a brain aneurysm when he was 21.” My eyes began to fill with tears. I looked behind the camera at Liam, his eyes were watering up too. We both felt the same thing.
In that moment with Jesse, everything changed. It was like the whole road trip – my whole life – had brought me to that moment. Jesse had sparked something deeper that, one moment ago, was not there. My whole life, I had wondered “why me,” and in that exact moment listening to Jesse, I discovered “why me.” I had found my purpose. I lived, to tell these stories, and that was exactly why I left basketball in pursuit of filmmaking.
By changing the perspective “…to LIVE,” one can acknowledge the possibility to feel like a new person; and with that, bring love, not only for yourself, but others; share experiences with others to enrich their lives, and enable yourself to find your purpose. Whatever you WERE doing before, that’s gone … dead; you have been given the opportunity to LIVE.
You may ask yourself: What makes you, you? When I look back at old photos before my aneurysm, I can hardly recognize myself. The memories are gold; maybe that’s why I kept them – perhaps that’s all we are – a long string of existence which contains your personality, memory, and experiences. All we can do in life is to create a story worth living before we die. The story is not a story until you start writing one for yourself, and that starts with “You’re gonna LIVE.”