In 2005, when I was 38 years old I had a heart attack. In the month or so leading up to the heart attack, I was starting to exhibit the classic symptoms – pain radiating down the shoulders, achiness in my jaw and between my shoulder blades. But I didn’t know what they were.
Before I go on with my story, I want you to take careful note of the symptoms of a heart attack. What you see on TV – guy grabs his chest and falls over – isn’t typical. The symptoms of heart attack are (copied from WebMD):
- Discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or pain in the chest, arm, or below the breastbone
- Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat, or arm
- Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
- Sweating, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
- Extreme weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats
Some people also report a sense of doom or that something just isn’t right. If you are experiencing these symptoms, call 911 right away. Don’t wait until you’re dead to verify that, yep these are symptoms of a heart attack.
Back to my story. On the night of the heart attack, I felt instantly sick to my stomach. I could tell that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t just the stomach flu or food poisoning. I remember being curled up on the floor of the bathroom wondering if this was it – if this was the end of me.
I remember being afraid and then angry. I was too young. There were supposed to be a lot of years left for me to live. In that single instant my values shifted drastically. I wasn’t at all disappointed that I hadn’t gone to the Bahamas. I couldn’t care less what was going to happen next on the TV series LOST.
What I’ve learned is that when you face a very real possibility that you might be at the end of your life, you will ask these two questions:
- Did I love people well?
- Did I make a significant ripple in the world?
I’ve heard that others who have faced a similar situation also asked if they lived fully, but for me if I answered my two questions well, I would be living fully.
These two questions were burned into my mind. During the months of my recovery, I was confused because these two questions seemed at odds with each other. How was I supposed to spend my time?
Sometimes I’m a pretty slow learner. It has taken me several years of reflection and mulling before I’ve come to realize that both questions are intertwined with each other. You can’t separate them. You can’t make a significant ripple in the world if you don’t love people. The impact you will try to make will be meaningless. Both questions are ultimately about loving people – people close and people far.
It has also taken a while for me to figure out how to realign my life around my passions, dreams, and my message. Now I am helping others to join me in positively influencing the world. My passion is to get everyone to take hold of my two fundamental questions and to act on them.
What I see instead is that people are so stressed out in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, that just the idea of living a life of significance seems completely out of reach. I’ve found that when you get out of debt, have an emergency fund, and your retirement is being funded, living a life of significance becomes attainable. Money and our dreams and passions are intertwined.
When you have money for your goals of significance the possibilities open up in a big way. Your results will rock your world and those you are influencing. You will take success to a whole new level. You will have a deep sense of having lived well. You will connect with people like never before. People will have a new respect for you. And you will have a lot of fun.
Now you know my story, and now you know why we have started Steam Engine Financial Coaching.
Do you have a similar story you’d like to share? Tell us about it.