Health & Fitness

Hardships of cancer brought out the leadership in me!


Hard times never end! We just have to find out the right path through the maze of life avoiding the difficulties and cherishing even the minute success. June 4, 2015, is one such day in my life that truly shattered me to astonishment. It was when I had to hand over the difficult responsibilities of life to my young family and be nothing less than a liability for them. The chaotic and infinite sessions of chemotherapy left me helpless. While I was just busy in finding out the negatives of life, the same day taught me the skills of an ideal leader.

My wife has truly been the most auspicious person who ever entered to my life. Leaving my financially stable but unsatisfying job might sound a bit foolish to many, but yes, I did that 14 years back, and that too for a mere budding startup at Chattanooga, Tennessee. This literally came as a shock for my wife as we just then had our first baby and the mortgage papers were all set! Taking a switch in my job would cut my earnings to half! Still, Thanks to her for being supportive enough, and letting me join as the director of customer experience at Bellhops, which is a tech-based moving company and included 13 individuals.

My enthusiasm was at its peak, but same was with nervousness. Lack of management and customer serving experience was what letting me face certain issues. I was completely set to lead, but have no idea about where to start from. The initial day began with introduction phase with my team members, where my chief operating officer directed me to our small cornered venture of Bellhops. And Guess what? My team mates were two college going students, working part-time between their classes!

Well, the crew was small, but the goals were not! These two young guys were absolutely supportive and enthusiastic, and their advanced skills helped me to pace out our work every. We were determined to attain our aim of bringing betterment to the entire service industry and entitling the complaint department to respect, where no one would even wish to work. However, I can’t just be a leader, for making my teammates one; I had to be efficient enough. My skills flourished when I begin to read, and it all started with Zappo’s chief executive Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness. Apart from customer-centric and dealing experiences, it also taught me to drive my workplace leadership skills. The book has now become an essential for every new employee joining the team at Bellhops.

So when everything was on track, something wrong is meant to happen! The startup grew, I got many promotions, the team strengthened, and finally, I became the vice president of operations. Our services expanded to 90 American cities by 2015, and everything was like a dream when the horrifying experience of June 4 came in!

Ideally, it has to be the best day, we were at our new office planning to proceed for lunch, and then everything blacked out! I woke up at the hospital with a tube down my throat. A nurse was around, and I asked her for pen and paper to write down all my complexities. She told I have been diagnosed with three seizures and asking on why? Her response shook up my world. She said that I had an MRI done which showed accumulation of mass in my brain. And a week later, this turned out to be a big growing ball of a cancerous tumor. As it was operable, we choose Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville for the treatment of this tumor.

My pathology reports after a couple of weeks showed it as a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme. Which grows ghastly and is life taking. We still stood on, and after healing, I got back to my work, for around 20 hours a week. However, my six weeks radiation and chemotherapy course was going on, that helped me to feel a bit normalized. Even in this heartbreaking trauma, my Bellhops family stood beside me and helped me go through all the pain and treatments with ease. The radiation ended but the chemo is still on, but I and thankful as I am back to my beloved job for a full time.

So, mind mapping around what I have learned through all this and how my life changed me into a better human and leader? Well, experience teaches you the best quality about humanity, I witnessed some real acquaintances within my teammates, whom I didn’t even trust earlier. In fact, some wise words were spoken by the chief operating officer of Quip, Molly Graham, inspired me to consider my team and firm as lego, and build out the best structure through it. Rebuild if not suitable and rely on your team. Add up new and interesting people to this roller coaster ride and mentor them to your best. Don’t just be a leader, be a smart team mate who can balance out every challenge and do the things with greater confidence.

The experience was actually thrashing, but it gave me a lesson for the lifetime. Now I wasn’t scared to motivate my team members and rely on them while overcoming my fears. Now, I believe in empowering them to do the best, which I didn’t pay attention to earlier. Getting back to work introduced me with better opportunities and my dealing through them helped the company to flourish.

Not only my job, skills, team connection and relationships were strengthening, but my health too, discovered huge positive changes. Now, I know that life is not just meant to be spent for yourself, but you are born to do something great for others. Today, I have the strength to d the best that I can do for my whole firm. I want my employees to be bigheaded of their job, to get everything they want to succeed and to learn all the skills that can drive them to be a better leader. I would have never every treated them the way I do now, and that’s certainly my win against life!

Author – Nathan Sexton is a vice president of business intelligence at Bellhops. He love to share the phases what he faced during his hard time and how he overcome with that. Very inspiring story and everyone should read it once.

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