One of the best things about being an author – if not the best thing – is the opportunity I’ve had to meet my readers, many of whom have interesting ideas, fabulous suggestions, or extraordinary tales of their own to share.
Take for example, this week (or last week when you get to read this). Reader Jamie Anderson popped by How To Do Everything and Be Happy‘s facebook page to “LIKE it“, having just finished listening to the audio book. I got an email telling me he’d done so and moments later I found myself admiring his “cover photo” (all of which will mean something if you happen to use facebook). Anyway, we struck up a conversation, and a while later Jamie dropped me an email to tell me why the image meant so much to him.
Here’s part the email I received:
About 4 years ago I was running a company I had set up 3 years previously doing something I was good at but didn’t really love. Suddenly one night I was struck ill, and ended up in hospital. The doctors told me I most likely had an autoimmune condition and that my life was about to change forever. I lay in my hospital bed reading pamphlets they had given me about how my life was about to change. I downloaded Audible on my phone and purchase Michael Heppell’s “Flip It” book, which helped me look at this potential nightmare in a different way.
Anyway, I was discharged and went home with my huge basket of new drugs to deal with this condition.
I sat down, and started to list all the things that I wanted to do. All the things I wanted to change. All the things I wanted to try before this condition got the better of me. “Fly a helicopter”, “buy a stupid red American 80s sports car”, “Try rock climbing”, “travel to…”, “Get out of this company I hate”. You get the idea.
6 hours later, I got a frantic answerphone message from the doctor whose care I had been in. “Please call us back urgently Mr Anderson, we need you to come back in”. I feared the worst. Had the biopsies shown cancerous growths? Could this get any worse?!
I headed back to the hospital, and met with the anxious Doctor. “Mr Anderson, I’m sorry, we have made a big mistake”. “Oh God… it’s cancer isn’t it” I thought.
“You don’t have this autoimmune condition at all!” She said. “It’s a simple bacterial infection that has caused all of this, and we can clear it up in 7-10 days with these pills”. She thrust some new pills into my right hand, and took the bag of pills from my left hand.
It had all been a terrible mistake, and after about 1 month I was fully recovered. But it made me think how fragile life is and how quickly it can change. If that’s the case then what the hell was I doing living a life I didn’t love, doing things I hated every day, and not doing the things I really wanted to do!?
Well, it took me another 18 months to close that business, and it was horrible. But the result is that I’m now happier! I’ve flown a plane (not a helicopter yet), done several sessions of rock climbing, and bought (and sadly sold) a burgundy 1987 Pontiac Fiero. My God, I loved that car. I want to get another one. I will get another one. I own a 1988 Pontiac Fiero – 20th December, 2012. See, I’ve read the book! I’m now a self-help junkie, and your book is one of my top 10 (out of the 150 or so I have read so far).
Anyway, my cover image on my Facebook page came about as follows: I thought long and hard about who best to ask about how to live life well and make the most out of every day. I realized that the dying (those who knew they had 1-4 weeks to live) would be the best people to ask. It’s amazing how that sort of news can suddenly make you very wise and bring incredible clarity to what you think about life. The same week, I found an article about a nurse who had asked the dying their main regrets.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
These were so striking, I kept reading them every day, but they weren’t very powerful written in that way. I then read a related article where someone had turned them into commandments, and another had created the image you’ve shared.
It’s not perfect (the don’ts are a problem), so it’s on my list to remake the image with more powerful affirmations. But my feeling is that if you follow these affirmations in life you can’t go too far wrong.
What an amazing story, eh? And I have to say I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for sharing your story Jamie – here’s hoping you get to fly that helicopter soon.
If you have a tale to tell, drop me a line via this blog or on facebook. I’d love to hear from you.
The above image is a lot bigger than seen here and would make a fabulous computer wallpaper. Right click to save to your computer.
Find out more about How To Do Everything and Be Happy here.