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March 28, 2023

David Richman lost everything 3 times in his life, and kept getting back up

In this episode of the "Between The Before & After Podcast," host Coach John McLernon interviews David, a man who has overcome numerous challenges in his life. David shares his story of escaping a difficult home life at 18, being robbed of everything he owned, and finding success in life. He also talks about his journey to become a better father, his 5000-mile journey to interview cancer survivors, and the importance of uncovering personal stories and emotions.

Welcome to the podcast "Between The Before And After," where we explore inspiring stories of overcoming adversity. I'm your host, Jonathan McLernon, and today we have a special guest, David Richman. David is an author, public speaker, and endurance athlete whose mission is to form more meaningful human connections through storytelling.


Chapter 1: Escaping a Difficult Home Life

David shares his experience of leaving a difficult home life at the age of 18, only to be robbed of everything he owned and left with nothing. He talks about how he found his way forward and eventually achieved success in life.


Chapter 2: Filling Every Day with Meaningful Activities

David talks about his multifaceted approach to life, which includes writing, guesting on podcasts, doing charity work, creating mosaic art, cooking, and spending time with friends. He reflects on how his life turned out differently from what he had imagined as a child.


Chapter 3: Overcoming Trauma and Finding Meaning

David discusses his book, "Cycle of Lives," which shares stories of people overcoming trauma and delves deeply into their emotional journeys with cancer. He talks about the power of storytelling to form meaningful human connections and find purpose in life.


Chapter 4: Intentional Optimism

David shares his philosophy of intentional optimism, which involves choosing to focus on the positive aspects of life and finding meaning in difficult situations. He encourages listeners to keep moving forward and to never give up on their own stories.



Thank you for listening to "Between The Before And After." I hope you found David's story inspiring and that it encourages you to find meaning in your own life. Please subscribe and leave a review to help us reach and inspire more people. Remember, your story is not done yet, so keep moving forward.



Welcome back to between the before and after a podcast about the stories that shape us. I'm your host, Coach John mclean. Each episode, I bring you an inspiring guest with a moving story that shines a light on the power of the human spirit. I'm excited to share this story with you. So let's dive in. So imagine if you will being 18 years old, escaping a difficult home life only to be robbed of everything you own and left with nothing and then trying to find your way forward, enjoy a little bit of success in life, maybe quite a bit of success. 

Only find yourself stuck in a very, very difficult relationship and having to leave that behind again and you successfully get out of that only then to discover someone you love very, very dearly is diagnosed with cancer. And this is just the beginning of the story. David has a heck of a story. David, welcome to the show. The Yankee coach John was having it's a pleasure to have you on man. 

As I started to learn some different elements of your story, I'm just, I'm just blown away by everything that you have have been through and so we're, we're gonna get into that. But before we do, I always like, um, people just get a little snapshot of where you're at right now and kind of what you're up to. Oh, thanks. You know, I, I just, just real quick, you know, when I interview people that were the, the most ridiculous people ever. Right. Yeah, I would go. Like, what? Huh. You did, what, what happened to you? And they, they go, it's no big deal because they're just living their life. Right? So, that's what I love about uncovering stories. 

I know you, you, you uncover stories and you love that too is that it's, it's shocking what people go through and you're just sitting there in amazement and they're just like, well, whatever. I'm just living my life. Right. So, there's something about it. 

We, we normalize it. I mean, you know, I, I, I've got a back story as well and when people hear it, they're, they're kind of shocked at it as well and I think, well, but it, but it's kind of my life and we, these things happen to us and we, we, we figure out a way. So, yeah. And, and that's you done it? It's weird to, to, to, to frame, like, to frame your story around the fact that it might be shocking because you're just like, well, I just, I just live my life so it's just my life so back to your question, what I'm doing now, I spent my time between, like, 10 different things. Like everybody else I know. And like, there's a, there's a term we call them polymaths. Right. People that, that do multiple things. 

And, and I, I work in finance. I write, I, I, I guest, I guest on a ton of podcasts. I do some charity work. I do mosaic art work. I, I, chef and host and, and love to love to hang out with friends and I just do everything I can to fill every day. Right. Yeah. You certainly, you certainly don't lead, lead a boring life, that's for sure. Um I often wonder, you know, when we're, when we're Children and the thing that we like, we sort of picture maybe this is how I see my life panning out and then you look back and you go, well, gee, that wasn't what I saw happening over the last 20, 30 years. Oh my God. No way. I mean, God, I grew up saying, ok, I'm gonna be an architect or a, I have even thought I was gonna be an aerospace engineer and I loved math and I love drawing and I loved and I love those kind of things. And I'm just like, man, I gotta like, that's where I'm gonna go. And the one thing I knew coming out of my home life was that I was, if I ever did get lucky enough to meet someone and have kids that I, I wasn't gonna do most of the things that my parents did. 

I really admire people who look back and go, oh, my parents were role models. I have a friend, I'm seeing him later today. And if you ask him the question, who are the two greatest people you've ever known in your life? 

He will say unequivocally his mom and dad. He goes, they, they literally are the greatest people that ever lived. They both passed but he goes there, nobody's even close. And I'm like, wow, isn't that amazing? Yeah. So uh I know people like that but I'm the guy that's the opposite of that, like I said, oh, coming out of that life, I'm gonna try to do everything the opposite. Mm. In a nutshell. Um You know, because you, you mentioned before we started recording that you, you left home at 18 and you, you're really trying to get away from, from that, that home life. You know, what, what uh and only sure what you're comfortable but what, what if it made you like? 

No, I gotta get away from this as soon as I can. Well, so, um you know, we don't know what's happening around us when we're young, right? You, your kids have no idea what's going on as toddlers, even as young, young kids, you know, they're just, they're on their own little bubble and as they start to gain enlightenment, they start to realize perspective around their life in the world and you start to grow or whatever and, you know, I didn't know much, but as I kind of got older into my teens and, and watch it, it all kind of gained a little bit more perspective. 

Basically, I was raised by parents who are nearly 40 years age and diff different from each other. So, uh when they met my mom was 18 and my dad was 56 and a couple of years later, I was born uh uh my sister and then me, uh just, just like 13 months later. Um And, um you know, I came to realize the truth of the fact that my mom was really too young to have kids and she hated them anyway. And my dad was really too old to have kids and he didn't really want them anyway. And so, uh I think I grew up in a household that was very uh lonely and quiet, you know, speak when spoken to get out of the way, don't come home till dark, you know, like, like, you know, there's a very sterile, unloving, very chaotic environment then add to that the fact that my mom was a very aggressive and very unhappy, not nice person. And so it's just, it was just a very ugly, not fun place to grow up. 

I neighborhood I had good friends. I had some good memories but, but the last place I wanted to be was at home. And I think about how that shapes like a young brain and how that influences the decisions that we're going to make in life because you didn't ask to be put into that situation, you didn't ask to, to live through those circumstances. And yet those formative years that was the environment that you were living in. And it can definitely affect our ability to socialize and form and build relationships and even maybe like our decision making sometimes we, we, we don't make the best decisions because sounds like there was a lot that was kind of piled on your shoulders without you asking before. You really had the capacity to, to process and deal with it. Yeah. Yeah, that's very, very true. And I never knew like, like one day as a kid, right? I could come home one day having done A B and C and I would receive praise and the next day I could come home having done exactly A B and C and I'd get the shit kicked out of me, right? Like you never knew which home you're gonna come home to, right. And so, so what, what, what when you have an unsafe environment, especially for kids, right? 

You have an unsafe environment. And I'm not saying like, I mean, everybody had tons of people had it way worse than I did. It's not, it's not that bad. 

But, but when you have an unsafe environment, like you're unsafe to be yourself. You're not, you're not allowed to settle into who you are because you're always on edge when you have an unsafe environment like that, it can affect you. And the way it affected me and I didn't even John, I didn't even realize this the last couple of years, the way it affected me was that I um I was always a people pleaser because I always was worried that if I did the wrong thing, something bad was gonna happen. So I always tried to do the right thing. Even if it wasn't in my best interest, their best interest or whatever, it's just made up in my head. 

Maybe that's the right thing. I need to be, I need to work harder because that's what the boss wants. I need to act this way because that's what the spouse wants. I need to do this because that's what the friend wants and you just, you just don't know. So that what came out of my childhood was and I again didn't realize this till much later in life was just this overwhelming desire to please other people and not, not have any sense of my own self. So now you're, you're 18 years old and you're all right. 

I'm, I'm making my escape. I'm getting out of this situation, you know. Um, and your sister was older. Had she left home at this time? 

Yeah, she had left home. She was, uh, I was 18. She was 19. So it was just really early on and she had left home and, and was starting to embark on, on, on a good life. Right. Um, she went to college, she met somebody in college. Um, she stayed married to them until she died. 

Um, a couple of kids. Very happy. Right. So, she was, she was way more capable of becoming an adult and living a, a grounded, decent, authentic, best self. 

I'm sure she had her problems. But, um, I, I definitely did not my, our path very much div diverged and, and at 18, I mean, it's like out of a movie, but a coup, a couple of, like, I, I left Los Angeles, went down to San Diego for one night and then drove to Vegas as I was gonna make my way across the country and, like in a movie, my car broke down in Vegas and, uh, and then I got robbed at gunpoint out of everything that I owned. And, uh, and I ended up being homeless, living out of my car with 56 cents and nothing but a carton of cigarettes to eat. 

So, um, so it was very different and I, and I didn't have anybody to call. I, I could have called my sister but I couldn't burden her. I certainly didn't have a family I could have called, you know, need a parent would have, would have taken the call. And, um, really I was gonna call friends or something like that. And you know, and, and it's so interesting to hear you describe that because I think man, of course I'd call somebody for, for help. But you know, you mentioned how it sort of like the product of your environment was really to be a people pleaser and not wanting to burden people and not wanting to, maybe not wanting to like introduce tension into relationships and as such, you go through this experience and uh and you think like, I don't want, I don't want to burden anybody with what I've been through. So I'll just kind of figure. So when you think about it, like, think about a little kid that and, and this wasn't me, but I'm just saying uh uh in general, I think about a little kid that is um afraid to be themselves, right? Imagine that kid when they grow up, they're not gonna easily ask for help, right? Because they're used to taking care of themselves. 

They don't turn to people from help, they turn away from people. So I was the kind of person where yeah, I could insulate myself growing up as a kid. I didn't know I was doing it because I, I wasn't aware, but I learned how to insulate myself. And so the first sign of trouble was not to go reach for help because how was I going to do that? I've never done that in my life. Right. And, and so the first sign of major trouble, I'm just like, ok, I just gotta, I gotta figure it out. Right. And of course, this is pre, I imagine this is pre cellphone way, pre cellphone, right. 

You know, so you get, you get to, to Vegas, you break down on the outskirts of Vegas, you know. Um, what happened? Like, were you like outside the city on the side of a dust? Like, you know, Vegas is kind of a empty desert kind of thing. 

Yeah, I was on a AAA road called Boulder Highway which which connects um uh Vegas uh and then goes over the, the, the Hoover Dam and then on towards the Grand Canyon. So I was on Boulder Highway and my car blew up and uh, and, and I, and I, I, I, I was literally pulled in behind a gas station. I mean, a AAA grocery store and I, I made an assessment and, and, and, and yeah, I, I, I don't want to get into the whole story but, but in between my car blowing up and me getting to safety, I, I got robbed at gunpoint like uh by a, by a, it's a long crazy story. But um, I, I've gone to a gas station and asked for help. He said, yeah, I'll help you and, and, and, and I followed him home because I needed to stay with him for a couple of days while my car got fixed, then they robbed me of everything. Then the woman puts a gun in my face says get the hell out of our house. And I went holy shit. So I went and got my car and I drove to a, get a, uh the first place that I could find was the back of a grocery store. And I took an assessment. I didn't have any clothes because just the clothes I wore, I left them behind because there, there was a gun in my head and I, and I looked in the back of the car, all I had was a carton, a mirror at one hundreds. And I had a little change thing and I had 56 cents and I'm like, shit, what the hell am I gonna do? Like, what am I gonna do? So, I took, I took a dime and I went to a pay phone and I called my sister collect and, uh, and I said, uh, she said, oh my God, where are you? What happened? We haven't heard from you. And I, and I said, well, you know, I'm gonna go to college and do whatever she goes. Are you? Ok? And I'm like, yeah, I just wanted to have a friendly voice or whatever. I'm good. I'll call you because I, how am I gonna burden her with that? Right. Wow, that was not. Yeah. So, uh, what, what did you do? 

I mean, so I got here you know, because, I mean, 46 cents now because you, you, I'm on a phone call, you're behind a grocery store. You got nothing else. And a car dumb as a brick. I'm dumb as a brick because I don't know anything about the world. 

I'm like, emotionally, I'm probably nine. Right. And, and intellectually I'm, I'm probably 16. 

You know, I'm, I'm just, I'm just dumb and so I, I, I stayed there for three nights. I didn't, I, and, and I, I didn't eat, obviously I didn't drink. I, I, you know, I, I was just like, what the hell am I gonna even do? So I just got this wild idea as a kid, I worked at a fast food restaurant. And so I said, hey, you know, I'm only 22 years away from that. 

Maybe the manager still works there. So I walked into, uh, that fast food restaurant chain and I said, hey, I used to work as in high school, you could call my boss. He's, he'll tell you I'm a good guy. 

I'm looking for a job. So they, they called the dude still worked there. He gave me a glowing reference and they go, yeah, you look like you need a shower, but we'll hire you. And I said, ok, let's do it. So I, I got a job at, uh, Jack In the Box and, um, worked double shifts enough to, uh, and, and strangely enough, the manager gave me such a glowing review that the manager that hired me said, well, you know, do you live close? And I go, yeah, I live right there and I pointed to my car and she's like, is there drugs involved? And I'm like, hell, no, I never done a drug in my life and she goes, what's the deal? And I told her, and she said, all right, stay with me for a week until you get, get your feet on the ground. 

And, uh, and I did so. So, yeah, that was, that was the start of it. You know, I just think they contrast those two experiences, you know, someone taking advantage of you and robbing and then somebody turning around and trusting you and not like that's a beautiful story, the goodness of humanity where, hey, let me, let me, let me fix this kid up here. He need, he needs, he needs a hand up, you know. So as, as we move forward, you know, you, you ended up, um, I think you, you were gonna go to college but did you end up going to college? 

I did not because, um, you know, I mean, listen, um I didn't have any money. I didn't have anything to lean, lean on, you know, I'm starting from scratch and I also didn't have any direction as a kid. So I didn't even know like I, I hadn't been mentored. I hadn't been told, I hadn't been instructed on life. Right. So I had to learn life and a lot of times that's hard lessons. 

So, you know, you learn from experience rather than somebody helping you. And that's why I like helping people because people got to live their own lives. But uh they could, you could help them along, be being informed and giving them some wisdom and some leadership and some tools, but I never had any of those. So, so, um you know, I just went from, you know, one job to another working double shifts and trying to, you know, get an apartment and make money and do whatever. And then uh every job I had, I ended up, ended up heading into management somehow some way because I work hard because I had to work harder than everybody, right? Like you have a knack for this obviously, right? And then also combine that with my need to self preserve and combine that with my need to please other people. Like I, I was able to succeed at whatever job I did. And so, um so I became a manager in a restaurant and I became a manager at a hotel and then I, you know, did everything I did just kind of led to more opportunity to work harder. So when was there a time to, to, to go to school? 

I didn't know that I should worry about myself. I was worried about maximizing the situation that I was in and surviving. And then I realized, well, shoot, I'm doing all these things that I haven't gone to college. Well, why don't I just continue to fake it until you make it? And so I ended up working for a, a Wall Street firm and running $100 million business for, for many years. Yeah. That, that is remarkable. 

Um, and, and I, I don't know if you'd be able to pull it off today but, you know, pre sort of widespread internet use and things like that you can pull it off and obviously, like, you could pull off to get in the door but, you know, to have 14 years or, or, or whatever of staying power there, you obviously had, had a level of competency that was just kind of, kind of untapped. Um, so along the way you, you met a woman who would, at some point become your wife and the mother of your kids. Um, how did you meet this lady? Uh, so we met, actually skiing and, um, um, going into it, I had no clue that, um, I was actually just marrying my mother. Right. Turns out she was a, yeah, it turns out that she was a, and strangely enough they even looked at, like, how could I, how would I even have done that? Like, what, what, like what? But, yeah, she was angry, day to day, unpredictable, you know, very, very, very psychotic, just like my mom and I and every relationship I had before that was quote unquote that. Right. Because, because I was, I was, and I didn't, again, you, you don't know what, you know until you know it. Right. So, whatever, I, I forgive myself because I didn't know it until I knew it. But I figured if I, I, I think that, that subconsciously, I figured if I could have a great relationship with somebody that was as screwed up as my mother, then that would kind of repair my memories of my childhood. Right. Because if I could make it good now, then, then I solve the equation, you know, it does, it does. And the, the other thing that, that sort of I think about is despite, like, from an outside observer, you would think, well, this is nuts. 

Why would you go, uh, you know, be in a relationship with someone who was, resembles, like your, your sort of abusive mother. But in the same token, that's what your brain knew. There was like a familiarity in that chaos. And so even though again, we look at it, we go, I wouldn't want to be in that situation. Your brain goes. Yeah. But I know how to, I know how to exist in this situation because I've been running in survival mode for so long. And that's my familiar, even if it's awful. Yeah. I, I have a friend and he's a, he's a very famous musician and he's been married four times. OK. And I said to him, dude, I go, what the hell are you doing? And now he's on his fifth marriage. What are you doing? Like having had four divorces? And he goes, dude, it took me forever to understand the simplest thing about relationships. And I go, what he goes don't get in a relationship with a woman that's got daddy issues. He goes until I learned that I realized what the hell am I doing? 

I was a terrible father. I had a terrible father and every woman that I met, I was only attracted to women that had daddy issues because I could solve all of those problems by making it work. But it never worked. He goes, when I finally realized that I met somebody who has a great relationship with their father and we're wonderful together and I was like, damn, I had the same issue. Yeah. Yeah. And so, but so this spilled over into, into marriage and, um, and having twin girls, um, twin boy and girl. 

Oh, sorry, twins, a boy and a girl. Sorry. Um But so, so you decided, um, though at some point in time I can't keep doing this. And I think, you know, you probably, obviously if you're running 100 and $10 million Wall Street company at this point in time, you know. Um, but you got, you got these, these kids and whatnot, like that's gotta be pretty stressful. Yeah. Yeah. It was, it was horrible. It was, it was really, really horrible. And if you add into the fact that she was an abusive alcoholic that made it even harder and, you know, I, I just kept trying harder and harder and harder and what did it was, you know, like sometimes you just know what, you know, and you know, or you hear the right words when you need to hear them and, um, I was really at the depths of the depths and um you know, we don't need to go into the detail. It was a bad, bad, bad time. And I was complaining to a friend and I said, like, Chris, I go, dude, like, come on, man, I'm so tired of this stuff. 

I'm so tired of it and I go over my list of issues that, you know, she does this and this is happening and this is my life and blah, blah, blah. And he, and he, and he finally stood up and he goes, dude, I'm so tired of hearing this crap. He goes, everybody else is not the problem. You're the problem. And I'm like, what the hell are you talking about? And I listed again all the crap that's been happening to me. And he goes, listen, man, he goes, here's what the deal is. 

He goes, you walk down the street, you see a wild animal, a problem at work. A, a friend that's a bad person, a relationship you know, somebody that's a bad person, you see a wild animal and you pick it up and you take it home and you clean it up. You get in a nice home and you talk nice to it and then you go to pet it and it bites you and you're shocked, he goes wild animals bite. Why don't you figure out why everything in your life is a problem that you need to try to solve. Why don't you look in the mirror and deal with your problems? And I'm like, wow, that made perfect sense at the time. You're right. Why, why do I gotta find every single problem to try to solve? And then it all started to kind of piece together and I went, yeah, like, why don't I care about the guy in the mirror? Like I never have, I've always protected him or I've always tried to be a but like I, I, I've done but I never like, looked in the mirror and go, dude, you, you're the one that matters. Like, like, like, like think about you being your best self. I, I didn't even have a concept of that. What a good friend as you're describing it. I mean, and you, you're like taking a back when you hear that it is a bit of an affront because it's challenging this deeply held belief that everybody else is the problem. But you know, probably the best of friends aren't the ones that tell us what we want to hear, they tell us what we need to hear. And I, I often find myself saying we can receive a hard message if we know the heart of the messenger. True. Yeah. True. True. And you know, I might have heard that kind of thing or thought it many, many times. Right. Because as you're sitting there wallowing in your grief, you kind of examine like, what's the cause of it? What, how can I get out of it? How can I avoid it next time or whatever? But all the pieces just didn't click. And when he told me that I actually at that, at that time that I was like a day or two before I was able to leave that relationship, get my kids and me to safety and in a way that wasn't gonna harm, harm us or, you know, set us up bad for the future or whatever, we, we were able to, to do it in a very safe way. And I, and I, and I remember literally standing in front of the mirror for like an hour and I, I closed the door, the kids were asleep and, and I, and I probably looked like a total idiot, but I, but I was talking to myself looking in the mirror going like, who are you like, like, like think about what Chris said, like, like literally who are you like, what, what matters to you what kind of person are you? And I started saying, well, ok, you're this and you're this and you're that, which is the good things. And then I go, well, you're this and you're this and you're that, which are bad things and I'm looking at myself going like, why, like, why are, why are you, why are you a smoker? Like, why are you overweight? Why do you not care about yourself? Why do you have to, well, you know, why do you have a chip on your shoulder about not going to college? Why don't you? And I just started like going like, all right, who are you? And I didn't know. 

Yeah, I didn't wanna talk, talk about um Yeah, we talk about like a midlife crisis and I'm thinking this is, this is almost like an existential crisis in a sense. Yeah, it definitely was not a midlife crisis because I think a, a traditional midlife crisis says, ok, I took stock of what I've done before. I'd like to not do that and I want to evolve into somebody else. And it's usually at a position of saying I want more out of life, right? 

I was coming from a position where I felt like I hadn't begun to live life because I, not, not one thing I did was out of authenticity or out of coming from the right decision making process. None of it was grounded in who I wanted to be. What my true authentic self was, it was like, it was a, an awakening, not a, not a, not a midlife transformational crisis. It was like, wow, you mean, I can actually care about myself, like, what the hell is that? It's funny. I remember when I had that realization myself, you know, this, this idea that especially as men, this idea that because I, I think uh maybe common like, media sort of shapes our perception of about self-care and what it's supposed to look like. And there's sort of a very often a very feminine twist to it and it doesn't really resonate with, with us as men. But realizing that first it starts with like it's OK to take care of yourself. Like you don't have to be a martyr for, you know, I, I remember someone telling me there's no metal for martyrs man like, yeah, yeah. Stop it. If you used, if you used to not doing that, if you're used to framing your self-care, your survival around the actions of others rather than your own actions, it's hard, it's hard to do that. And then I, so, so I, I literally just took a very honest assessment of myself, right? And, and said, OK, well, these are your good things and these are your bad things and you got to start learning how to live your life and uh figure it out, go figure it out, go, go like, go figure it out, you know, be, you know, be, start to become the person you want to be. Right. I, I haven't done that. 

So, so that, that first part was taking that honest assessment, which I had never done. I, I don't know that I had ever looked at myself in the mirror and really saw myself. Right. And when I did look, I didn't know who I was. Hm. Hm. And so you had this sort of this catalytic moment and you go, ok, I'm, I'm now, here we go. 

It's time to make this change. And I think about between the before and after because we see the before and the after we see I was this and now I'm this. But, you know, there, there's a lot of work that goes in. 

We'd love to think like, oh, wow, this, this lightning bolt from heaven, there was a change overnight and things like that. And I imagine though there's actually a fairly difficult road that you sort of went down. But you, but again, we can go on a difficult road if we know this is, this is where I'm, where I'm going to. And what, what did you picture when you said, I don't really know who I am. Did you have an idea of like who I want to become? Oh, yeah. Uh, or that I could just at least try to discover and be ok with that and, and you know that, that I know this sounds really silly to say and people are gonna go, oh you know, would you write that on a sticky and put it on a mirror? But I was a super empathic, very, compassionate, very sensitive person, very, but I had no sensitivity to myself. 

I was not compassionate with myself. I was not empathetic to myself at all, at all. And so I had to learn how to be OK to fail. 

I had to learn how to tell people no, because it was in my better interest, my better interest to do that. I had to learn how to tell people. Yes, because it was my, my better interest to do that, right? I had to start becoming that person and I had to try to figure it out along the way. So the first thing was like I said to take, take stock, the second one, which is harder to do, but I learned it over a, a time was to just like be easier on myself, forgive myself, just free my mind. Let it go. Like you didn't know, dude, you just didn't know until you knew that you married your mom. You didn't know until you knew that you shouldn't try to fix an abuse of alcoholic until you knew you didn't know. So just give yourself a break, dude. Like, like now, you know, so now that you know, do the right thing, I didn't know, right? And that's like the epitome of compassion and I was think I was thinking about, um, was it goodwill hunting with Matt Damon and Robin Williams? Do I have that? Right. And there's a scene where he's like hugging him saying it's not your fault, it's your fault. 

It'll make me cry just thinking about it. Right? Because you, you, you just don't know like until you, until you have some compassion and just say it, it's ok like I'm, I'm not gonna beat myself up. 

I'm not gonna be a martyr. I'm not gonna beat myself up. I'm not gonna say it is the way it is and that's just life, right? 

You just have compassion, free your mind and let it go and then just go find out, find out who it is. And what I wanted to do was I said I got four year old twins. I wanted to be a dad. 

That was a good dad. I'm an overweight smoker who's stressed out and making bad decisions. You know, about a lot of things in life. That's not a good dad. So, what, what could I do to change that? 

And, and how, why, why don't I, why don't I allow myself some compassion and try to be the best person I could be for me, which is, again, sounds silly. It sounds trite, but it's just, it, it's, it's a, it's the center of who I am but that, you know, I think would have all of my relationships changed for the better when I, when I had a shift in my relationship with myself where I stopped calling myself like a worthless piece of trash and I wanna stopped hating myself. I, I looked at everyone and how they interact with me differently and it, it positively affected every relationship I had and, and now as a dad, you know, I, I started older but I think, man, I, I wouldn't have been a good dad, like, you know, earlier on in life. Think about you. You said something that's so profound about, about, about, you know, how you treated yourself. You know, I'm still learning how to not have that negative, but it's so ingrained in us to have this negative self talk. So at the beginning of the year, I'm, I'm, I'm my wife's traveling on business. 

I'm, I'm, I'm in the, in the garage working out and I dropped a £30 weight on my toe, a £30 dumbbell on my toe. I'm a runner. I already got jacked up feet anyway, but literally a £30 weight dropped on my toe and I saw green bloody murder and I fell to the ground and the first thing that came out of my mouth is you're such a freaking idiot. You're so stupid. And I, and I'm, I'm yelling at myself that way and then I go, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa Don't be a hypocrite. 

If that was somebody else that did that, would you run over to them and go, you're such a freaking idiot. You're such a dummy. You're so uncoordinated, you're such a clutch. Why are you so stupid? You would never say that to anybody else? Why do we say it to ourselves? Right. And so, so, you know, I mean, we say a million times and that's why it comes with trauma, right? 

Self-protection and, and dealing with stress and those kind of things is we just, we become so good at that negative self talk. We've become so good at, at, at stuffing stuff away. We become so good at, at, at hiding ugly truth that it, it's just that can become who we are and it's just not the right thing to do. It's fascinating to think of negative self talk as a protective mechanism and it seems strange to maybe someone who hasn't struggled with it. But I think what, like first off, I'll get to it before somebody else can say it to me. And I don't have to hear it from somebody else. Absolutely. And absolutely, you know, if, if, if I can take it for myself and I can take it from anybody else. And so I'll just toughen myself up and it's oh man, like it's, it's so destructive but interesting to have the ability to catch yourself, the awareness, to catch yourself in the moment and go hang on a sec. What would compassion look like? And I, I love that question, you know, would you ever start, start yelling at somebody else and yelling like they're, they're an idiot for, for doing that. 

It's like, well, no, you didn't, you didn't consciously decide, hey, I'd like to drop a dumbbell on my foot to see what happens, you know. Right. So, so not to give you a, uh, a, too much of a tangent to go off of. But recently I, I did a, uh, AAA psychedelic experience and um it was a pretty intense three day situation and I didn't know what to expect going into it. And I don't know that I got a ton out of it, but one thing I did get out of it is absolutely something I needed to know and something that I've come to terms with, I couldn't identify it like as, as, as, as clearly as it came through during this experience was that I, I was always stuck in um intention and I was always stuck in, hey, if I do A B and C, this is the way it's gonna work out. And when it didn't, I beat myself up for it because it's like, hey, man, I did everything right. And it still worked out wrong. And I was just like, wow, man, that explains so much in life. Like I beat myself up based on the outcome because I always had to protect myself. I always had to, is the, is my mom gonna come home and be violent? 

Is my, you know what, whatever it was always the outcome. And if it wasn't the right outcome, then, then, then, then I did something wrong and I reversed that right. When I did that change in my life, I couldn't figure it out at the time. But I, I, I knew it recently that it was that now I worry about the actions and I worry about what you, what you put into it because that's all you can control, you can't control the outcome. 

I was always trying to control the outcome. And so all of my negative self talk happened based on the outcome rather than the effort, right? And, and maybe the the predicted outcome, the way the pattern your, your your brain was used to seeing. So this is the expected outcome and so on. And you know, it's, it's interesting, I think with psychedelics sort of coming much more mainstream in recent years and, you know, micro dosing and things like that and Andy experiences like I was and so on, you know, becoming more popular for sort of expanding the mind. But maybe it just speaks to there's this yearning in our society for some sort of healing because, you know, I think trauma has been passed down from generation to generation and we just play out the patterns of our parents and our grandparents. And this is maybe seen as a way to kind of break free from that cycle. Speaking of cycling there's a, there's a clever segue. 

Um, but you've done, yeah, you, you took up endurance athletics and you started, you know, in running and then cycling and iron mens. And so you went from being like this overweight, stressed out smoker to like an endurance athlete and doing some pretty remarkable things. And you did that starting in, in your 40s. Yeah. 30 39. I, I, I, I put on running shoes for the first time when I was 39 I, uh, having smoked a quarter million cigarettes and being I'll talk Canadian 30 K overweight. 

Um, you know, I, uh, I, I, I was not in a position to go running. So I put on my running shoes and I tried to run down the block and I couldn't do it right. And I said, oh, this is not good. And so a couple of days later I ran around the block and a couple of days later I ran a mile and then I did a five K and then I said, well, shoot, if I can run a five K, why can't I run a 10-K? And if I could do a 10-K, why can't I do a triathlon? And if I could do a triathlon, why can't I do a half iron man? And then I learned a very, very important lesson. So I go to do a half iron man. Ok. I'm only several months away from having quit smoking and starting this journey. So I'm, I've, I have no business being there. 

None, no business being there. And I, and I drive to the start line. Uh, and I, and I, and it's a wave start. So I'm watching people go off ahead of me and I'm standing there looking at these people and they're all Greek gods and goddesses. There's not an ounce of fat on any of them. 

They look like they were carved out of marble and they look like athletes. And I look at myself and I go get the hell out of here, man. You don't belong here. 

This is not you. Like this is not who you are. Just go home and I almost went home and the gun went off and the wave took off and like 90% of the people were athletes. They, they on, on the swim, they just went swimming and then I looked back at the start line and there was a dude flopping around on his back and there was another guy swimming in circles and, and I go, oh shit, I can swim better than that. I go. They don't care about what anybody thinks. Why, why, like, why do you compare yourself to these other people? Why don't you just aren't you here to figure out how to be your best self? 

Stop comparing yourself to the outcome like stop like you don't need to, nobody's thinking about you. They're thinking about themselves and they don't care. They're just trying to be their best el, why don't you try to do that? And I went all right. All right, I'll, I'll try to do it. So I, I did half Ironman. Then I did Iron Man and then I did a, you know, 50 mile run, 100 mile run and I just kept going and doing crazier and crazier things, man. 100 mile run doesn't sound super fun. But I mean, I guess when you just keep pushing and challenge yourself, there's probably a, maybe there's an addictive quality to it as well, like, yeah, it's not addictive in the fact of doing the event is not addictive. Uh Some people I guess might be attracted to that. 

What, what I was attracted to was I was addicted to this idea of discovery. Like, what am I capable? Who am I? What, what can I do if I want to do it? 

I'm not there to, I wrote this book called Winning in the middle of the pack. And I love the idea of the middle of the pack because you know, you think about when you go to a big race, right? Everybody's looking at the first guy that finishes and they're looking at who's that last straggler that's gonna make it before the cut-off. But anybody in between, nobody cares, nobody's watching. And I'm like, how beautiful is that? So I was addicted to this idea of if nobody's watching and nobody cares, that just leaves me to care. 

It's a strange thing, man. But I was addicted to, if I'm the only guy watching then. All right, let's see what I can do. Yeah. Yeah. That's quite something. And, and this ultimately led you to decide and, and there's a few other things leading up to it as well, but deciding to embark on this 5000, you know, mile journey across, across the US and interviewing people um connected to, to cancer stories. And I think now I understand the inspiration behind it, but I'll, I'll let you let you share what might have inspired it. Uh So, yeah, thanks John. So um when I looked in the mirror and said, I like, who are you like literally within a week of that, I got a call from my sister who we had, we had, we'd stayed pretty close and, and uh um you know, so, so we were, we were close. Um I got a call from her and she said, hey, I got, I have terminal brain cancer. And so my journey of discovery was exciting and wonderful and scary. And it was gonna be this long, endless journey in my mind. 

I, I figured and at the same time, she's going on a end of life journey like she's got kids and a wonderful relationship and great friends and wonderful husband and, you know, everything's working for her and she's living her best authentic self and that's gonna come to an end. And, you know, it was pretty poignant because, you know, in, in one sense I admired her for that. So I really understood how far away I was from where she had been in life and yet I was gonna get the opportunity to get there and she was not gonna get the opportunity to enjoy it. So that was kind of the catalyst for it. And when I um you know, without making a complicated uh story, too simple, when I really started paying attention to the people that were taking care of her. And when I started to do events that would raise money and awareness for, for brain cancer and, and just be a part of that community. 

I realized that people were not well equipped to deal with the emotional side of the trauma and we all had traumas. I, I knew we weren't, I wasn't capable of dealing with the emotional side of my kind of traumas too, but I really was taken aback by with cancer, especially uh doctors, caregivers, patients, loved ones, you name it. Uh they, they really don't know how to deal with the emotional aspects of that kind of trauma. And so I said, I'd like to know why, like why, right? Who doesn't relate to the fact of you're walking down the hallway at work and you see somebody and they're kind of burdened and you go, hey, man, what's up and they go, oh, you know, I just found out my aunt just got diagnosed with cancer and it's really rough. 

I was really close to my aunt. And you go, oh, I'm sorry. And you go, like exit? Because what the hell can you say? 

Like, oh, I don't say that, uh, you know, like, how do you, how do you start those hard conversations and, and, and so, um, you know, we could drop off a casserole and, and we can write a card and we can say we're sorry. But really, how do you start a hard conversation around? What, what people are going through, what they've gone through? And I, and I wanted to, uh, yeah, I wanted to kind of just tackle that subject. Yeah. And I mean, I, I think, I often wonder, like, you know, what kind of what runs through your mind when you hear, like, your sister, who I think maybe through all of your chaotic upbringing, she was a bit of an anchor, a bit of a constant in your life. 

And, uh, so, so the one thing that was maybe positive about your childhood is now being taken away from you. Yeah. And I didn't embark on, I, when I did the bike ride, that was kind of the culmination of the cycle of life project uh, before writing the book, but I had interviewed tons of people, but I narrowed it down to about 15 that I had interviewed for some of them. 

A couple of years, I've talked to him for hours and hours and hours, you know, multiple, multiple, multiple times, you know, dozens of conversations, over hours and hours and hours to uncover their stories really in a deep the most hidden corners of their mind and uncovered all the traumas in their life and how those affected their ability or inability to connect with people when they're going through difficult times. Because I really wanted to understand like the true depths of the thought of, you know, what are people going through or what have they gone through? And why is that important to understand when we're trying to connect with them about cancer or other things? Right. And I thought to myself, um, jeez, I lost my train of thought when we're talking about my sister. Sorry. But just my brain, I was thinking, thinking about my sister. Um, that, that, that, um, that when it came to her to navigate the emotional stuff, um, she was a little bit more equipped, right? 

And, uh, so, yeah, she was an anchor for me. Um, and, and, um, you know, I realized that uh what I had to grieve was what you spoke about. I didn't have to grieve my sister. 

I had long grieved her. But what I had to grieve was that one person that through all the chaos of my childhood knew me. Like there was only one, there's only one person that knew the shit I went through and now she was gone. So, no, nobody was gonna know about my childhood. Nobody could care. Nobody could get me. Nobody could understand. Right. And that's the thing that I needed to grieve. And so, um, you know, and everybody has things, they need to grieve. 

Mine's no worse or better than anybody else. But, um, but that's what, that's, I kind of didn't learn that until I did the bike ride where I just went. Oh, shoot. You know, I'm never gonna have that person that knows me like that. And so, you know, um, you had the opportunity to speak to a number of people. 

Uh, and, you know, cancer is an interesting thing in a sense that not all that often do you kind of get like, hey, your, your, your time is coming to an end and it seems strange to think that there is some element of positivity to maybe a life being cut short by a cruel disease. But I think about maybe someone who passes away in a car accident and there's just, it's a very, very sudden there's no opportunity for closure, no opportunity to say things, no opportunity to have that one conversation. You wish you could have had things like that in this situation, you're given the opportunity to have some of those conversations and say what needs to be said. And so I feel like there's like a strange element of, of mercy to it ironically. But I'm thinking you, you've conversed with a number of people, a number of people who, who are terminally ill. 

You know, when you converse with people who, who know that there's, now there's a very genuine timeline here. You know, we often think I, I got a lot of time, like I'm 41 years old and I think, man, I probably another 40 years, I think, natural thought process. But now you're talking to people who are like, you might have six weeks, six months, whatever, what, what stands out to you. And I guess every conversation will be unique and individual. And this is why you wrote the book Cycle of Lives. But I'm just thinking what, what stands out to you is your uh from these people who are sharing with you, their stories as their lives are drawing to a close. 

Yeah, it's very insightful. Um your, your thoughts there and you know, there's no greater truth. Then there is that silver lining with something like that where you do have the time to kind of reconcile to connect or to whatever. There's no greater truth. Then that doesn't make it any easier to connect. 

I can't tell you, John how many, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people, I've talked to that lost somebody to cancer or they were going through cancer themselves and they survived or they were caregivers or doctors or whatever, who will say, yeah, I, I didn't really talk about this or I didn't talk about that. Like, I just, not that long ago I talked to somebody and I go, I go, so you took care of your dad as they were, uh, going through terminal cancer. And she's like, yeah, she was a really tough thing was, you know, my dad was this kind of person that wouldn't let anybody take care of him. 

Like, like he was the rock, he was a solid guy. And I end up being the person like changing his freaking feeding tube in his stomach. And I'm like, uh like, he's gotta be just completely raw with, with embarrassment and you know, all this because nobody can take care of him. And I go wow, that's a really, that's a good gift. And she goes, yeah, you know, but I never really talked to him about like how it feels like I never, I never felt safe to talk about the emotional side of it. And I telling you at some level that basically is true with everybody I spoke to. So everybody had some truth in the statement and had some experience in the statement of it's just really hard to talk to people about the emotional aspects of, of trauma. And so especially with cancer, even if we have that silver lining. So to answer your question specifically, what did I find out from people? It was one that um everybody's just living their lives. 

Nobody thinks anything is, is spectacular. You, you talk to people, your back story is spectacular but you're just like whatever. It's just me. So I think that's fascinating when you uncover those stories, we can learn stuff from that. Um That was one, number two is was shocking. John. I'm talking about people who were very deep emotional, not of your own, but most of them were very deep emotional connected, you know, empathetic people or whatever. But they all told me, yeah, I never really ever talked about or yeah, you know, I'm just never really explored this thing about my life or whatever. And I'm just sitting there going, wow, man, we all just, just bury stuff. 

We all just keep so much trauma, stress, negativity, pain, difficulty just boxed up inside and we just leave it to, to, to rot and, and, or we, we secure it up so much so that, you know, we're never gonna let it out and it just sits there and festers and everybody has that everybody's going through something or has gone through something that's just absolutely unbelievably painful. And if we have some, a little bit of insight into it, it might make us understand who they are and where they're coming from and allow us to connect with them. You know, I was just shocked by the stuff people told me and I'm like, wow, man, I would have never guessed and they would have been like, yeah, you would never know because nobody knows, I never talk about it. And you know, what's, what, what's fascinating though, I think is in one sense you're a safe person to share these things with. Yeah, because there's no, there's no deep emotional connection there in one sense. 

Maybe it, it formed but you're, you're a safe person. This is why therapy is a thing. You can go talk to your therapist. I mean, uh, you know, the joke is I'm a coach, not a therapist, but the irony is, you know, um, nutrition is the cover story, right? When, when we're working with people, it's, it's, it's never really about the food, right? Yeah. So my wife, you know, I'd be, I'd be on the phone with someone she'd walk by and, you know, whatever. And then I, I'd finish my interview and I'd go grab a glass of wine with her cook dinner or whatever. And she's like, dude, you can't ask people the kind of questions you ask them, you can't ask somebody that and I'm like, I have to like, I, I, I have to ask those questions and strangely enough, uh, everybody that ended up making the book, they didn't have any barrier to asking questions and we uncovered things that they had never explored before ever. So it was, that's what makes the book, I think so special because not every story could, uh, I get out of people and not every story could they tell me? And those people didn't make the book but, but, but uh and no, no fault of theirs, maybe more fault of mine. Um But the people that did make the book, they, they, that the beauty of their stories is they're as deep and authentic and real and exposing as possible because they bought into this idea of, if we're limited in the way we connect can connect to people because of our traumas, because of their traumas because of our past traumas. 

If, if, if I give everybody everything and I let them know how it affected me as a oncologist or as somebody taking care of somebody that's dying or having gone through cancer myself, if they can frame it around that, maybe it can help them in their conversations with others and, and everybody bought into that. And so I think the stories really worked because we can relate to. Oh, crap. Yeah. I, I, I get what it's like to have a parent abandon you. 

I get what it's like to have somebody in your life commit suicide. I get what it's like to be bullied as a kid. Like I get those things. So now that I know them about you, maybe we, we can frame, you know what you're going through now a little bit more, you know, deep and connected on, on a deeper level. You know, I, I think there's so much more to explore and I think I have to put you on my 2024 callback list. 

Um, but, you know, as, as always, I like to ask my guests, anyone listening to the conversation today. Um What do you hope they would take away? What's one nugget of wisdom you hope they might take away from hearing this conversation today. Uh You know, um, we haven't even talked about it, but I, I'll tell you the thing talking to you has really made me um welcome is the thought that you can be intentionally optimistic. 

You know, like I, I, you know, I mean, we could, anybody could find themselves in any kind of a bad situation and realize, oh, that's my life. I just gotta accept that's the way it is or you can be intensely optimistic and go, no, it can be better. Like it can be better, you can make it better. So, I don't know, talking to you makes me feel good about that, about that idea that, you know, if you can develop some compassion for yourself and you can, you know, go on a journey of discovery and you, you can, you know, maybe purposefully transform yourself, you know, away from, or pivot away from your reality and be optimistic that the next step is a better one or tomorrow is gonna be a better day. I mean, what better way to live is that? So, I don't know. I, I guess my, my words of wisdom would be. I don't care what you're going through or where you're at in life. 

I mean, it the next step and in the next hour can be better. Absolute. 100%. I love that. Well, David, thank you so much for, for being on today and look forward to when we get to see chat again. 

Next, let's do it again. John, we'll keep talking. Thank you so much for tuning in to between the before and after. 

If you've enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave a review because that helps this podcast to reach and inspire more people. I love exploring the stories that take place between the before and after the powerful experiences that shape who we become and I love human potential. I love the possibilities that lie within us. So whatever you may be up against, I hope these stories inspire you because if you're still here, your story is not done yet. So keep moving forward.