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Oh, That’s Some Risky Business My Friend

In our daily walk as people, professionals (or anything else you identify as) we are all faced with opportunities—to grow or regress, to stay or to leave, to shiitake or get off the pot. 
Each opportunity great or small requires us to make a decision—often that decision is gauged on whether or not the outcome will benefit us and how much of a risk is involved. We’re naturally attracted to what’s more comfortable for us, but is what is most comfortable for us the best thing for us?
Not always. The achievement of comfort does not equal success. There needs to be a continual self awareness and a search for what we want out of our day, life and career. 
Maybe staying in that job allows for a nice apartment and cool toys, but following your passion and opening that car wash will support your long term needs as a career professional and as a wife/mother. The up front risk is great and nothing is guaranteed but the potential reward is so great you can’t and shouldn’t pass it up (Obviously your risks should be calculated and planned out. Don’t run blindly into risk because uncle Josh told you to.)
I’ve found when I’ve jettisoned relationships and jobs that weren’t right for me and sacrificed creature comforts and money in the short term, my long term goals and needs were met and I was able to achieve what was best for me. 
There’s always a risk in sharing this information because people might go out and take a risk and fail BUT there’s also a chance they may become inspired and go out and succeed or find out something about themselves that they never knew. Not sure what the odds are on your risk fail/success rate but for you I’m placing my bets on the latter. 

A Simple New Year’s Resolution that Will Easily Net Positive Results

The New Year is coming up and if you’ve been following this blog in what is now it’s third New Year, you’re aware of my distaste for New Year’s Resolutions.

However, if you’re going to make any resolutions— and it’s your life, you’re the boss :) — make this one:

Identify a person, someone who you think meeting would be unattainable, and reach out to them asking if you can have a conversation or even meet in person. 

This person you’re going to reach out to is: better than you at something, (currently) smarter than you at something, is the leader in something, or has a respected character or personal attribute.

You’re looking to surround yourself with someone who can help you raise your game in the game of life.

Can this person help you grow a better garden, strengthen your marketing, find a better job, or be a better spouse (hell, all of the above would be a “magical hole-in-one”)?

Once you identify this person and how they can help, try to find a way that you can help them—and it’s okay if you don’t find something, the point is you tried hard. 

Phone numbers can be more difficult to find but email addresses can usually be found through old press releases, web sites, Twitter, blogs, and so on. 

Offer the person to whom you’re reaching out your help, or send their office a gift basket, or offer a free meal face-to-face. 

Sometimes the person won’t want anything, and sometimes it’s nice to get a free meal :) But the point is you cared enough about the person, their time and energy, to make the offer. It will be appreciated and be seen as a karmic gesture or if “karma” is too hippie of a word for you, a friendly gesture from a good citizen of the world. 

Identify one stellar person and follow through in reaching out… then commit to repeating the process. Life will change for you in ways you never expected. We’re all in this together and most people are happy to help when they have the time.

Why Storytelling is So Important for: Speeches, Breaking Down Stigma, and Civil Rights

Whenever I’m feeling particularly uninspired or low, one of my favorite activities is to read the biography of someone famous and look for the part of their life story where they struggled. I find that I learn a lot more from a person’s low points (mine included) than their highlight reel of achievements. 
“If that woman can overcome her paraplegia to become a famous painter by using her teeth, then holy cow, I can do anything.” 
“That guy lost his wife and daughter in a car accident, fell into tremendous grief, rebounded and eventually found love again and became the Vice President of the United States—then, snap, I can keep fighting on too.”
When people give of themselves through the telling of their stories it makes the impossible in our lives tangible and attainable. 

Stories Break Down Stigma

The world becomes smaller. “That black guy,” “that lesbian-chick,” “that snarky-writer-guy who talks about suicide;” they all now have a name. David. Jamie. Josh. Each of these people has wants and needs, to live, to love, to survive and thrive… just like every other human being. 
Each person’s story displays its own beauty and with each the storyteller has the opportunity to uncover a piece of themselves—and by doing so they allow us to peel back and examine a layer of our own soul.

Stories are a Demand for our Civil rights. 

Once stigma is broken down because of the courage of the “abnormal” person telling their story, they are now viewed as a human being—they now have a seat at the proverbial table of equality. Jim Crow is repealed. Women’s suffrage is enacted. Mental health laws are passed that empower and aid people with illnesses rather than traumatizing or criminalizing them.

That’s the kind of world that I want to live in. 

Make it All Work Together

You have a million good ideas—whether they’re for homemaking, business, vacation, or anything in between—and maybe several great ideas… but realistically there is no way in the world you’ll be able to give your full attention to each one. 

Instead of going from idea to idea, it would be worth figuring out how to make two or more of your brilliant ideas work together. 
  • A three month work vacation in Iceland, slinging martinis? Sweet.
  • An opera themed ice-cream truck? Word up.
  • A living room that converts to a sauna? Rad.
  • A show that integrates music, cartoons, live theatre, and stand up comedy? Boo-yah.
Take a moment (okay, several). Breathe. And then think big. 

The “impossible” has turned into “i’m possible” thousands of times before throughout world history—why can’t it be you too?

The i'Mpossible Project …According to Samuel A. Simon (33)

This is the thirty-third edition of The i’Mpossible Project: A series where anyone can share a personal story of inspiration or an event in life where they overcame tremendous odds. Everyone has a powerful story to tell and something to teach the world. (See HERE for guidelines on how you can write for The i’Mpossible Project.) Here we have Samuel A. Simon with "The Ultimate Consummation of Our Love"

In the spring of 2000 Susan, my wife of thirty-three years was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It all started with her annual check-up and her internist saying she felt something “funny” in Susan’s right breast and the suggestion that she see a breast surgeon.

While I was surprised, I wasn’t alarmed.  It was going to be Susan’s fourth breast biopsy and unlike the three previous ones, this one was to be done as an outpatient procedure in a relatively new surgical center, now found in shopping centers everywhere.  

The surgeon literally skipped into the recovery room to tell us, “It’s just scar tissue from the old biopsy site—nothing to worry about. I’m sure of it.” I wasn’t so sure because we still needed to see a lab report. The call came three days later that the surgeon wanted to meet with Susan and me as soon as possible.

Like all of those moments in our lives that are unforgettable—where were you when President Kennedy was shot, or where you when the World Trade Center fell on 9-11— I remember the moment of that visit like it was yesterday.  “Stage 3,” he said, “because the size of the cancerous tissue, and because cancer was in both the ducts and the surrounding tissue.” As he was sketching out his explanation on an 8.5 x 11 lined piece of paper, I knew immediately what it meant. I knew in the deepest part of my soul that this was going to be a journey to the end.

Susan’s mother died from breast cancer at the age of fifty-six and Susan was now fifty-four. My mother died from breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain seven years after the mastectomy.  I understood that the outcome for Susan was grim.

What happened next is difficult to explain and something I couldn’t say out loud for thirteen years. How was I going to be able to be with Susan through the end-of-her days? How would I be able to dance the last dance with my wife?

And that is how I imagined the moment.  Susan and I standing together in the center of a grand ballroom with a fabulous orchestra, surrounded by everyone we had ever met, not just our friends and family, but all the generations from before us and I wondered if in that mass of people wouldn’t also be the generations yet to come.  As the orchestra played the song we loved the most – Unchained Melody – Susan’s breath would become slower and softer.  The dance would become more intense and the breathing would become even slower and shallower.  Then the dance would end. The music would stop. 
I tried to suppress what I feared might be hallucinations of being in a ballroom as I committed to be with Susan through the surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments.  Despite my classical aversion to bloody messes – hell, I rarely changed our kids’ diapers – I knew I had to be with Susan throughout this entire process.  I slept in the hospital room all the way through her double-mastectomy.  I held that small, semi-circular pan when she was ill from the anesthesia.  I learned how to empty those small plastic bulbs that hung off each breast filled with a red liquid. I even became optimistic when the surgeon told us there was no cancer in Susan’s lymph nodes.

That optimism was shattered first when the surgeon had to correct himself when the lab test showed that there was extensive cancer in the lymph nodes.  Seventeen nodes tested.  Ten showed cancer.  Second, and most dramatically, the oncologist we selected during his first exam of Susan found a lump – post mastectomy – on Susan’s chest at the incision point.  We were urgently referred back to the surgeon who scheduled a procedure one week later to remove the new lump.

At that point I had once again accepted the inevitability of Susan’s journey, and now could feel the time arriving much sooner than anyone could have possibly predicted.  I needed help. My first effort was to talk to our Rabbi. Rather than making an appointment during business hours and visiting in a formal counseling session, I just showed up one night as she was getting ready to go home.  She graciously invited me in to her office as she was packing up, but her session with me missed the mark.  She tried to empathize by anticipating my sadness at the prospect of being a widower with grandchildren whom my wife would never get to know.

My next outreach was to a psychiatrist whom I had seen periodically through my adult life, especially as I was going through life transitions. It was he who helped by simply saying that my elegantly constructed ballroom dance was a metaphor for the process of being with the person I loved most in this world through her end-of-life—and he said it was beautiful.  Those words and that session were magical.  It had never occurred to me that the “dance” could be beautiful.  I feared it as tragic and devastating.  I do not know if it was just his words or if it was my own readiness but the session had a dramatic effect on me.  It enabled me to understand that “The Actual Dance” was filled with beauty and dignity and that it would be the ultimate consummation of our, Susan and my, love for each other.

As it turned out, the lump turned out to be a rare water cyst. Susan, despite falling into a very high-risk category, survived and continues to thrive—as does our love and our dance.

* * *
Samuel A Simon is the playwright of The Actual Dance, a one-man show about his journey with Susan during her breast cancer.  His original career was that of lawyer and businessman working as a national recognized member of the consumer movement.  In this his third career, he performs, writes and speaks about the role of the love partner in caring for those facing terminal illness.
The Actual Dance is coming to New York City to help transform the Way People Live and Love in the Face of Cancer… and the show needs your help. The mission of The Actual Dance is that Everyone Who Needs to See the Show Be Able to See it.
Learn more about how you can help with a tax-deductible contribution and more here:
Why is this "The i’Mpossible Project?
Inspired by Josh Rivedal's book and one-man show The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah. Gospel (non-religious) means "Good News" and Josh's good news is that he's alive, and thriving, able to tell his story and help other people.
On his international tour with his one-man show, he found incredible people who felt voiceless or worthless yet who were outstanding people with important personal stories waiting to be told. These personal stories changed his life and the life of the storyteller for the better. 
Josh's one-man show continues through 2015 and beyond and he is looking for people in all walks of life, online and offline, to help give them a voice and share their stories with the world.