I heard that my friend died, which was terribly sad. 

I received news today of a friend in Vancouver who worked at the same insane, high stress office as me for a number of years. He was a bit overweight and in his 50s I’d say. I was a consultant to the group for some time then became an employee later, so I had overlapped with him for over a year and a half. I noticed that he increasingly seemed to be frayed at the edges, just overworked and stressed beyond belief. He would pump himself full of coffee to keep up with the long hours. Sometimes when the pressure was really on in the office for some new, random deadline, I’d notice his body respond with a real stress response - his face turning red, sweat starting at the brow and shaking in his hands. He ended up quitting the company and switching over to another group. My hope was that this would allow him time to physically recover from what we all went through. Well, today I heard that he died from a heart attack.

This to me is so tragic. He was so brilliant in his industry and was such a likeable, quirky guy. The level of knowledge that man had in his head was very robust and truly it will be hard to fill in the gaps that he left in his industry. Hearing this also makes me feel like I made the right decision to leave that high-stress company in pursuit of my own healing and sanity. Moving away from my beloved Vancouver was a really tough decision, but from the sounds of it may have saved my life. I was staying at that job as long as I could to get my Permanent Residency passed for Canada, which was tied to the job. Each day I would try to talk myself through why I was holding on to an entirely toxic situation because someday it would be worth it because then I could get what I wanted. But my goodness, at what cost?

I noticed over the two years I worked with that organization, first as a consultant and then later as an employee, I really saw a decline in my health. At first the stress took a hit on my emotions, always kind of throwing off your confidence in your ability to do good work. I have always been a high performer, so it was so strange to me to feel like I could never somehow get it right. But the thing was, nobody could. It wasn’t just me, it was everybody in that group. So, at least I could take it less personally, but unfortunately, I started to take it physically. What started to happen over time was that my stomach rebelled and quite simply refused to digest food. It started to just move right through me as if to say, “I simply cannot and will not digest this life. I don’t like it.”

There were days that I’d ask my friend in the office to look out for me as I would try to just recover for a few moments by laying on the floor of my C-Suite office with the glass door and huge south-facing windows. Truly, it was a palatial environment and I was so terrifically unhappy within it. I’d lay down on a yoga mat and try to just decompress and convince my stomach to calm down and be healthy, but without addressing the root problems it remained stubbornly defensive. I reached out to my Dr who didn’t have any constructive advice besides, “try to exercise and be calm.” Not helpful.

So I went to a naturopath, who ran a number of tests and came to the conclusion that what I was experiencing was extreme burnout. Frankly the sessions became too expensive to continue on with, but I got the idea. The problem is that I had been stressed for too long, and my body was simply saying, “fix this or I will make you slow down.” So I made the dramatic decision to move home to the USA and be closer to family where I could hopefully start my own business and rebuild my body. Within the first couple months my body effortlessly started processing food again, probably largely because I wasn’t working besides helping to plan my brother’s wedding. It seemed to be directly related to my living situation and environment - when I felt like I could calm down and regenerate, my body immediately set about restoring itself. Such an amazing system.

It was remarkable that I was pondering these survival issues, when my Kick Ass Brother sent me a motivational video - that kid always has a way of tapping into where I’m at. 

This video about living lives of “Quite Desperation” is really powerful, and I encourage you to watch it. My favorite ideas are as follows:

  • Guard yourself against negative programming

  • Fear kills dreams. Fear kills hope. It will paralyse you. The only thing to fear is fear itself.

  • Make a commitment to you to do whatever it takes to change your life.

  • Most of you don’t want success as much as you want sleep.

  • Start saying, “I can do this. I can figure it out”

  • Change the way you see yourself.

Truly, if the Joy Experiment is teaching me anything, it is that each day is precious and valuable. There is joy to be found, and you must seek it with abandon, because who knows how long you have on this beautiful planet.