You’re so much stronger than you give yourself credit for; you can change the world, one step at a time.

When I was 19, I was playing flag football at a local high school on the weekend. We took it seriously, way too seriously. We played flag football like it was real football; cleats, under armour sleeves eye black. I think at that point and time after dreams of high sports glory passed, it just seems to be what we do.

I was fast, strong and athletic. I could play an position on the field, and because of my strength I preferred to play defensive end, though it looked a bit awkward for the 5’ 7”, 215 pound bodybuilder to be pushing over the large guys playing on the defensive line. I looked much more at home plowing through other players as a running back.

Here’s the issue that you face when playing weekend sports: 10% of guys are athletic and the other 90% are living the sports dreams that didn’t happen in school. Though I wasn’t the world’s best athlete, in this group I was a stand out. Due to that fact, you often have to play positions on the field that aren’t your favorite. I was fast and excellent in coverage, and I usually would end up playing corner, to this point I hadn’t given up a touchdown.

The day came when I gave up my first and last touchdown. I was back pedaling for 5 yards, then I would turn and run with the receiver. Remember, I said that we took this way too seriously. When a corner turns to run with a receiver after back pedaling, there’s a split second plant of your foot that occurs, allowing weight to shift.

I planted my foot to turn and next thing I knew I was on the ground, the receiver running into the end zone with the ball. I tried to stand and just fell, totally unable to put weight on my leg. My teammates rushed over to me, they had heard a sound like a machine gun going off before I hit the ground. I would find out later that I had torn 3 major ligaments in my knee, and the adrenaline rush that happened immediately prevented me from even feeling it.

A relatively easy surgery was scheduled a month later, but it would turn out to be anything but easy.

I had never considered my own mortality, and this event should have made me really look at it, but it didn’t.

The surgery went off without a hitch, but they wouldn’t let me go home. There was an issue with my breathing, but they could figure it out. I was put in an ambulance and moved from the same-day surgery center to a local hospital, into a room in the ICU.

I was in and out of consciousness, and as crazy as this sounds, in and out of my body; watching this life experience like it was a movie. Though I never actually died, it made me believe more than ever that we are spiritual beings. I was fully aware and separated from my body.

The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my, but told my parents I was dying. A priest was brought in and I was given what’s now called anointing of the sick, but used to be called last rites. It should have been a red flag to me then, but wasn’t, none of my “friends” came to visit or inquired how I was doing after hearing nothing for almost 4 days, well accept my friend Pete. He’s one of those guys that you may not see for a year, but you always pick back up like you’re brothers, I’ll always be grateful for him.

It was a very traumatic experience of my life, well to this point. After 3 days, I just started breathing again and the doctors couldn’t explain it. I’d like to tell you that the heavens opened up and I now had my purpose and I was going to live a life that mattered because it was put in jeopardy. Nothing changed.

I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life, I was smart, and good at school. My mom always wanted to be a teacher, and with no dream of my own, it sounded like a great option. I wasn’t going to be just any teacher, if I was going to do it, I was going to be a college professor. I guess some part of me was convinced that if I did that, then it would somehow be my dream. I went college, grad school and studied in England but I never ended up getting that PhD. It wasn’t really my dream so I wasn’t willing to put in the effort that it would really take to achieve that. I ended up teaching a small private school, living a totally purposeless life.

Then, at 24, came the real most trying time, the one that would actually change me and cause me to look for my purpose. In addition to to teaching I was a weekend manager at a gym, I was always cutting it close to get in my own workout and getting back to work, though it was only about a mile away. I worked every Friday night and Saturday afternoon for almost 7 years.

My mom had struggled with shingles for a while, and though the doctor had told her to go to the hospital, she hadn’t. Life gets busy, we think many times if we don’t acknowledge things then it will just go away. That wasn’t the case. In this case, shingles were a sign of a larger neurological issue that ended rather dramatically.

I was on the elliptical doing cardio when my boss asked me to come in and work early, at the time I was angry, but now I’m grateful. I remember grumbling to myself the whole way home about how angry I was that I wasn’t able to finish my cardio. I got home and met a family friend just about to leave, he had stopped to see mom but she wasn’t coming to the door. I offered to quickly help by going to find her before I left for work; I was aggravated about this too.

I walked around the house for 10 minutes before I found her on the floor. She had been the victim of a stroke. I will never forget that feeling, it was the greatest level of terror I have ever felt. I went into “handle it” mode. My first call was to 911, my second to my dad and my final to my boss.

The next thing I did was odd, but I started packing several days worth of food in a cooler. A few minutes later it hit me and I went out into my front yard, hit the ground and screamed. That was how my dad found me when he got home and mom had already left in the ambulance. Neither of us were in any condition to drive and so I called my fiancee to ask her to drive us to the hospital.

By the time we had gotten to the hospital, they had already moved mom to another facility that could offer better care. The next week of my life was a blur. I remember a few people came to visit but many more called and called and called. That was the most aggravating thing, others always wanted a status update, but I didn’t have one. My response was always “The same as yesterday.” More people cooked food for my family for the next 6 months than I could have ever expected, I’ll be forever grateful for that. To say the least, it was a trying time.

She was in a coma almost a month, my dad and I were visiting everyday. That’s the period that no one ever talks about: the lull. It’s the time after the urgency has worn off, and it gets really lonely.  It was mid-May by the time she woke up, she had lost her ability to speak and using the right side of her body was almost impossible. She would spend another 3 months in an acute care facility, I still hate the smell of those places.

It started to awaken something in me, started me thinking about my own purpose. What did I want from life. I was introduced to my first business opportunity early the next year and without much preparation, I left my job in June of the following year. I messed up more times than I did it right early on, but I had a newfound thirst for freedom. It’s funny that almost losing my own life did make me look for something more for life, but almost losing someone so close to me did that for me.

I’d rather spend my life on my own terms working hard to make it go right then not having the ability to control my life. I tell you this not to make you feel sorry for me or to make you look sullen. Rather I tell you this to tell you to make it count and it’s when testing times like this come that we learn how strong we really are.

You’re so much stronger than you give yourself credit for; you can change the world, one step at a time.

Will you find your purpose right away? Probably not. However, you need to create something that truly is you first if you’re ever going to help others. That’s what I learned and it’s why I’m so passionate about what I do.