How My View of Success Changed After a Cancer Diagnosis

If you follow my blog, you know I was diagnosed with blood cancer two years ago. If you haven’t followed me that long… surprise! Being diagnosed with cancer made me think. And guess what? My whole view on life and success has been changing.

Polycythemia Vera (PV) is what I have. It’s a slow and progressive blood cancer in which my bone marrow produces too many blood cells, mostly red. There is no cure. It doesn’t really go into remission. But it’s very manageable for many years. Still, it’s made me rethink a few things.

Traditional Success Doesn’t Amount to Much

I don’t care if your making an eight-digit income. It doesn’t mean much in the big picture. You might be able to buy more stuff and more services, but your stress levels will likely be high. And you’re still going to die!

I used to want that traditional kind of success. Here are some of the things I was hoping for:

  • Financial independence through creative endeavors.
  • A nice house next to the ocean in a mild climate.
  • Fame as a musician, writer, or both.
  • A best-selling novel and a movie deal.
  • Whatever kinds of cars I wanted.
  • A best-selling record and a soundtrack deal.
  • Lots of musical instruments.
  • Connections with big names.
  • A real hot wife.
  • And all the other trappings of success.

But after being diagnosed with PV, I started to rethink. To be honest, I hadn’t really wanted that kind of success since I was a younger man, but it started to appeal to me even less after the little c.

I mean what’s the point in all that money and stuff if you become too busy to actually live life. John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” And it’s true.

Stop Planning and Start Doing

Much of today’s so-called success is in the planning. I’ll bet 9 out of 10 people (or more) have spent ten times the amount of time planning for success than they ever did achieving it. We’re a land of dreamers. We have big goals, but we often fall short.

But since being diagnosed with cancer, I said, “Fuck it!” I have no desire to work toward achieving the dream of the traditional vision of success. It’s true.

I. Don’t. Give. A. Shit.

Don’t get me wrong. There are things I want to do in life. I have a list of things I’d like to accomplish. But none of those things are on the list you read earlier in this post. I don’t care about big houses, fancy cars, hot wives, and stardom. I do care about the things I love.

I still want to make music. I still want to write poetry. Maybe I’ll even write another book or three. But I’ll only do it when I feel the inspiration. And I won’t be creative with the intention of becoming rich or famous.

I still might like a house near the ocean. A comfortable, quality automobile is still on my list. But it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

Here’s my new success list:

  • Spend time with the ones I love.
  • Take trips and see the things I’d like to see.
  • Continue my work as a college teacher for a few more years.
  • Prepare for a decent retirement.
  • Make music when and where I want.
  • Write books, poetry, and songs.
  • Stay healthy as long as I can.
  • Walk, run, lift weights, and practice karate.
  • Make more good friends and foster true love.

Cancer Made Me See Straight

It’s funny how sometimes the negative things in our lives help us to see what’s the most important. Getting diagnosed with cancer helped me to open my eyes to what really matters.

Do I still dream the dream from time to time. Of course. If Hollywood called me today and said they wanted to turn A Train Called Forgiveness into a blockbuster film, I’d be on board. If Nashville called and told me they wanted to buy my song catalog, I’d probably make a deal. But I’m not going to push for those things. Instead, I’ll just do what I love: create stories and music.

Don’t be surprised if you see a little less writing from me in the future. I’m not pushing. I’m taking my time. Then again, if the inspiration strikes, don’t be surprised if you see me writing more.

It’s not the quantity that matters. It’s whether or not the writing, music, photography, art, or whatever it is you do makes you feel good about yourself. If you’re not happy doing something, what’s the point? As for me, I’m happy as a clam doing what I love at my own pace. But I get miserable as hell when you tell me I have to practice marketing and promotion.

I encourage you to focus on the things you love, whatever those things are. If you put your time into those things, you’ll find success. In fact, you’ll BE success. And that’s what it’s all about.


Posted on Categories Success