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"The F.A.S.T. Formula"
The 4 Things You Really Need to Succeed.


By Mary Lyn Miller 
(Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul: 101 Stories of Courage & Inspiration from Those Who Have Survived Cancer)

I know a lot about passion because in the process of living, I lost it, but in the process of dying, I found it again.

My life was about three things: pleasing, proving and achieving. I thought that if enough people liked me, I would feel better about being me. I wanted desperately to please everyone . . . family, bosses, neighbors, people I didn't like. It hardly mattered who they were; other people's approval and validation were the source of my self-esteem. 'Looking good' was my daily regime, and I was incredibly good at it. I continually quested for greater and greater accomplishments because those proved my value to the outside world.

This thinking affected the entire fabric of my life. My work was a series of long hours, proving my dedication and making sure I never offended anyone. I made impossible promises that were hard to keep because I was afraid to say no, which added untold amounts of stress. By constantly reacting to outside circumstances rather than taking charge of my life, I felt victimized and I lived in fear that 'they' - whoever 'they' were -would suddenly discover I was incompetent. The fact that I was the youngest woman in my company to hold an executive position and became Director of Corporate Communications while still in my mid-20s did not assuage my concern. Nothing soothed my self-doubt.

The only solution I knew was to try harder, work longer, achieve more. I just knew I'd be happy when I did the right thing. I left the corporate world knowing that being independent would change everything. Ironically, I became a career consultant and taught people how to look good and be aware of what others expected of them. I knew all about that.

Of course, I was still a people-pleaser and took lower fees because I feared no one would use my services. Instead of being driven by the demands of a boss, I was driven by the demands of my clients. I couldn't understand why I was financially struggling and assumed the answer was to simply make more money. So the cycle escalated as I decided to increase my marketing and promotion efforts even more. When I burned out and grew discontented with no improvement in my income, I decided there was some- thing intrinsically wrong with me and embarked on a campaign to fix it. I went to classes, lost weight and joined personal-growth groups. I was still empty.

So it went ... my life of pleasing, proving and achieving. What did it get me? Tired. Broke. Emotionally depleted. And terribly afraid.

Then in 1986, the awakening came. I discovered I had bladder cancer and the prognosis looked bleak because my symptoms could be traced back for three years. My doctor had the bedside manner of a blacksmith and was not gently encouraging. In my first surgery, he removed the largest tumor he had ever taken from a bladder and announced we would be doing another surgery in 10 to 12 weeks "to see what was left." This is a fun guy.

The cancer changed my life forever. I made a decision to live, and that had a number of implications. I gained immediate clarity about what was important and began focusing on becoming well. I changed my diet, discovered herbs, explored holistic healing and learned what it meant to take care of myself.

Most important, I began asking the question: Who am I and what am I doing here? Previously, my concern was: What does everyone else want and how can I make them like me? I shifted from being involved with the changing demands of the outside world to focusing on what was in my heart. This was not an easy process, since I had spent my whole life looking outside for answers. I was so accustomed to ferreting out what other people wanted from me, I had no idea who I was.

I realized that my life totally lacked passion ... that zest for living, that sense of joy, creativity and spontaneity that truly comprises life. Suddenly faced with possible death, I knew I had never really lived. In fact, there had been no 'life' in my life.  As a result of this awareness, passion became my reason for living.  I committed myself to it wholly and completely!

No, I had no idea what it meant.  I just knew that my daily purpose was to get up and do something passionate each day.   I walked on the beach, discovered I love rollercoaster rides, took fun classes that wouldn't make me a "better" person and read books I had wanted to read for years. I made a list of things I wanted to do before I died (whenever that might be) and as I did them, the list just grew.  Enthusiasm, excitement and fulfillment were ends in themselves. I wanted to fully experience and live every moment I had left.  I could wait no longer.

I felt more positive and hopeful. It took less energy to produce better results. I allowed myself to be uncertain about how my future was, going to unfold; I just continued exploring and expressing my passion on a daily basis. I now know the sheer force of this commitment produced miracles.

By now, my business was shut down, I had no money coming in and no one was interested in hiring a terminally ill patient. But some of my old clients began calling and asking if I would do career coaching in my home. Heaven knows, nothing else was happening, so I said yes, but my consulting took a new turn. I talked about the cancer and my commitment to living a passionate life; I thought they might want that, too. Indeed, many wanted to hear more, and I began conducting groups.

By the end of the first year working in my living room, I discovered I had seen more people and made more money than I had any other year in my career. After all those years of working and trying so hard, it was that simple. What a revelation! I knew I had stumbled onto something that could work for anyone who embraced it.

The other major miracle is that I have been cancer-free since 1987. My doctor is stunned by my recovery. When I have my annual checkups, he always comments on how well I have healed. Apparently, there are not even any remaining indications of the surgery.

Is this the result of a commitment to passion? While I cannot prove it to you, I don't doubt it. I believe passion is the strongest force in the universe and that it is a magnet for all one's good - happiness, power, joy, abundance and health. You know how exhilarating it can be to be around a group of passionate people. It produces a euphoric energy. Like running, it creates endorphins in the brain. Endorphins boost and protect the immune system. Cancer is a disease of the immune system, so why couldn't passion heal it?

For me, the process of dying brought great relevance to living. Today I bring as much life to living as possible. It has also become my livelihood. I built an organization called The Life & Career Clinic, which has helped well over a thousand people heal their relationship with work through discovering their passions and purpose in life. Passion is not for the lucky or the talented; it is the fire waiting to be ignited in every soul. Through cancer, I received the gift of life. Now I get to give it away by speaking and teaching, and do so with great gratitude and joy.


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