In 2005, I was working as an international sales manager travelling all over the UK and Europe, when I was nearly blinded by a brain tumour. In 2006 during the main op to tackle the tumour, there were complications. I underwent three ops in five days, and in the process I lost hearing, facial and balance nerves and was left in a coma. I lost the ability to walk, to talk properly and was left dyslexic and brain damaged.
I set out on a journey of recovery. It was two years of physical exercises before I could walk properly and another two before I could run. Gettting my brain back to its preoperative state took about five years of conscious brain exercises. During this time my face was surgically rebuilt, other tumours removed or irradiated and my body returned to normal. I am now a public speaker trainer and author.
Neuroplasticity in the recovery process: train your brain
Neuroplasticity describes the process by which the brain can adapt to new ideas and learn new tasks. Perhaps, more importantly, to remain sharp and retain the new information gathered. The process defines your memory capacity, creative abilities and problem solving skills.
I have a unique perspective on the concept of neuroplasticity. Following my numerous operations, I was left brain damaged, with impaired speech and reduced cognitive capacity. My English and maths capability reduced by 25 years and I had short term memory issues. Since 2009 I have been in a journey to regain the lost functionality.
My recovery plan involved a full mind and body approach, linking brain exercise to mindfulness meditation. This has been very successful, and my speed of speech has now increased by a third, with dyslexia errors much improved. The functions of my brain, from creativity to problem solving have improved significantly, and even my memory capacity is better.
Because of my experiences, the conventional career path was blocked to me – no one would take a chance on my health, and I had no references, a five year career gap with reduced hearing. So I set out to create my own company, to make my own way in the world.
It was very necessary for me to increase the cognitive workload improving stamina, capacity and capability. This was an important part of my own recovery programme; training, writing and public speaking exercised all those areas where I clearly had technical weakness, yet first class knowledge.
Leadership lessons from recovery
1. Always attempt the impossible. When someone (even extensively qualified) informs you that something is impossible, what they are actually saying is that this is something they could not do (or are afraid to try?) You must always attempt the impossible, after all this how we grow.
2. Always have at least one really outrageous goal. This is the `world title`, the `million dollar shot` or `the once a lifetime opportunity` that will motivate you. It is your motivation in life that ultimately determines your success; shoot for the moon.
3. Take responsibility for your own health, life and progress. Seeking blame or scapegoating is waste of time and resources and will not assist you in going forward. Once you take responsibility and get moving, the stress goes out of the equation. The journey actually gets easier and results seem to get better by the day. Take responsibility.
4. Whatever limitations you have (physical or mental) you always have the option to improve on them.
5. You only live once. There is no point sitting down in 10-20 years’ time quietly listing all your missed opportunities. This can be anything from sweethearts to family, careers, business, professional life to hobbies and health. Do it now, while you have the chance.