Successful people talk about it being lonely at the top. It is not lonely. Sometimes you have to go it alone, and the right people will show up to support you. However, you have to be willing to go it alone, you have to be willing to endure the silence of your own mind and your own thoughts and your own being. And within that, you will find not only courage, but the strength to keep moving forward.
The first time I truly experienced “going it alone” was when I separated from my first mentor in a very unfortunate situation. It was devastating. One of the things I learned was that my confidence was coming from outside of myself. It was wrapped up in another person’s thoughts, in another person’s ideas of who they thought that I could be, and not necessarily who I saw myself as.
This was a turning point for me. I realized two things. One, that the source of my confidence cannot be outside myself, except for my faith in God. Two, that confidence is fleeting. With the pain of losing somebody who you perceived as your biggest supporter, you gain something else. You gain insight into who you are.
Little did I know that this lesson learned so early would serve me in the future….
I was to experience that devastating feeling of separation again, only this time it would be much worse. It was the loss of my best friend, Jennifer Brown, whom I lost to cancer.
From the time we met, we shared deep bond. We spoke every day, sharing our dreams, hopes, and goals for our future lives—she knew everything about me. We were in each other’s weddings; we were more than friends, we were family.
Working side by side for 25 years, running all my companies, we accomplished many things together. I remember Jen and her husband Dave driving to Kentucky to support me when I came out of retirement to compete in the world championship. It seemed that she always had my back and I had hers.
One day, Jen told me that she believed she wasn’t well. I can recall telling her she had nothing to worry about, that all would be okay; but she was right. She was not well—she had breast cancer. She got treatment and it went into remission. We thought she had it beat.
We never thought it would come back, but it did. And it had metastasized to her brain. She sent me a text on October 26th that read, “I have 3-6 months to live.” I was in shock. I immediately tried to call, but she wasn’t ready to talk about it. I did not want her to accept that prognosis.
I told her there had to be an answer, a solution to this new information. After experimental treatments, chemo, radiation, weeks in the hospital, then hospice at home, on November 16th she passed away.
It was like someone had torn me apart piece by piece. My heart broke. I could feel it; the pain pierced right through me like a knife. I had lost people before, but somehow this was very different. I can remember how final it was to watch as they buried her, I felt as if I took my last breath. I was not ready to say good-bye. I wanted to be strong, and keep it together, however, in that moment, I could not. The tears fell and I wanted to shout, and scream at God – WHY?!!! THIS IS SO WRONG!
All I could think about were her last words to me…I love you!
She could barely get the words out because at that point she couldn’t really speak anymore. When I left her house that day I did not realize that those would be the last words she would say to me. That pain is a different kind of pain, it is a pain that really tests your resiliency, not like the pain of losing an arm or a leg, it is not a physical pain. Instead, your spirit is crushed and your faith is tested. You keep waiting on God, hoping He will come through. But what happens when His answer is “not now,” or “not yet,” or even “No,
I have a different plan.” In this moment, what do you do? Do you wrestle with God, question or doubt Him? Or do you find a reason to keep on believing? To keep moving forward? Is it that we go through these experiences so that God can remind us that we are never alone, that He is always with us, through the good and the bad, through disasters?
Is it God’s reminder that we are not alone, that he is always there, as in the poem, Footprints?
Finding purpose has carried me through. The real question I had to ask myself is: How can I honor her legacy?
I decided that I needed to live with purpose. We had done so much and accomplished so much together, I knew what she would expect of me. It’s funny how many people wanted to just fix me or say the magic words that would spring me back to the old me. I was lost for sure. I would sit and gaze out. People would talk to me and I was just not there.
All I wanted was my best friend back. I learned a lot about people over the years. I know many do not see you, they look at you, most don’t want to see you as it would force them to acknowledge their own pain. I imagine the reason why: It is too unbearable for them.
What we sometimes fail to realize is that our pain can be shared, we are stronger when we lift each other up. “Strength is in unity.” One afternoon I had a student who sat with me. She did not ask what most people did – “How are you?” It was as if she knew, and she did know. She shared with me her loss, and her pain. We spoke about how she got through it. She acknowledged where I was and made it all okay, normal. That is strange for me to say as I never desired to be normal – my goal in life is to be extraordinary.
Frequently in my seminars, workshops and coaching, I speak of living your life with purpose and passion. Jennifer did exactly that. If you were to ask her what her life’s purpose was, she would tell you it was to love her family and friends as best as she can. In my opinion, she did that and more. She will be dearly missed.
But her spirit lives on in the way her family and friends carry her memory forward and choose to love others in the same heartfelt manner as Jennifer did. I believe her passing is a reminder to all of us to live our life and our purpose as best as we can. And this is my wish for you, to live your life with passion and purpose. The greatest measure of a life is how it is lived, so live well.
We must go beyond resilience to become Unbreakable. We each live within our own story. The brain does not just observe the world, it projects a second story and that story is our perception, a perfect story that holds our life together. But when an event occurs to shatter the story, then we break. We break against these painful experiences. Then we have a choice, to remain broken or to use those pieces to start over one piece at a time and rebuild, moving forward, stronger for the experience.
When we are resilient, it just means that we are pushing it off into the future, that we can endure for a longer period of time. But when we talk about becoming unbreakable, it is reaching a place where we recognize that God has given us the ability to create a new story and the story that has ended is just a chapter in our life. And we understand that we are given the ability to create so that we can create a new story, create a new chapter, especially if we are coming from a place of possibilities.
About the Author: Sifu Karl Romain has led a life of adventure filled with challenges and hard-earned successes. From immigrating to the US as a child to becoming a world champion martial artist, he has had the opportunity to practice overcoming obstacles and has become Unbreakable.
To find out more about Karl, please visit www.daylighttraining.com.