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A Survivor Of Childhood Cancer, Horrific Drug Trials, And A Heart Attack Is An Inspirational Speaker with Michael Crossland
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Our guest died every couple of weeks and came back to life.
Cancer, heart attack, died on the operating table, then played baseball.
He’s an international speaker. We found this guy on my Facebook feed on Goalcast and if you see him talk, you’ll be in tears. Taylor, my co-host, emailed him six times or something.
I was sitting on the couch one morning after I did a little morning meditation. I start every day with that, and I just pulled up Facebook and saw this Goalcast video. I pressed play and in fifteen seconds, he’s talking about how he was the only one who survived a very rare form of cancer. I pressed pause and I pulled up his website. I was like, “This guy sounds like a good fit for the show. Let’s go.”
What happened was I watched it the same day and we both talked about him not knowing we’ve seen it. Taylor started reaching out to him and not only did we have him on this episode, but we’ve got the chance to have dinner with him and get to know him. He’s a really cool guy.
You’ll hear his story on this episode but beyond surviving what he survived, Michael Crossland gives back.
He built a shelter in Haiti. He’s got 30 kids out there.
They’re all his adopted children.
Everybody, check out Michael. Don’t miss this and enjoy the show.
This is Elsa Ramon with Sean Entin. You know those days where you’re extra whiny and you’re saying, “Why me?” We have somebody here that’s going to make you think twice about doing that ever again. We have Michael Crossland. If you’ve never heard of Michael Crossland, first of all, I don’t know how. Secondly, if you haven’t heard from him or heard about him, please take a moment to look him up because this is going to be a source of inspiration for years to come. Michael’s joining us from Australia. Michael, I want to say that we are all incredibly honored and touched that you are gracing us with your presence now. Just being able to talk to you is a source of power and inspiration.
That is an extremely overwhelming introduction. You’ve pumped my tales up way too much and I hope that I can do justice to your introduction to inspire these wonderful people that are reading this.
I’m not worried about that at all. When I first heard your story, I was in shock. Not so much because of all the health challenges that you’ve been through your entire life since you were a child. What I find the most incredible is your state of mind, which is always positive and hopeful and forward thinking. That’s some of the many reasons why you’re here now. Other than the fact that you’re a fighter. You’ve started your life almost, would it be safe to say, against the odds?
Yeah. I went to the doctor with my sister and my mom. My sister had an ear infection. I’m much more of a hugger. I don’t really do the handshake thing. As an eleven-month-old baby just starting to take my first steps, I gave the doctor a big hug and grab hold of his leg as I’m trying to leave the room. My stomach brushed to his shin. He thought that didn’t feel right. I was taken to my local hospital. That night, I was airlifted to a big hospital in Sydney. Five years later, I was finally allowed to go home.
Five years from that hug and the brush of your stomach against the doctor’s shin. That, in itself, to me is a miracle that the doctor was that in tune and that aware from just a hug. That could have been the one thing that saved you from an alternate ending. Maybe that hug was the difference of you living versus you not living.
When I was diagnosed the following morning with incurable cancer of the central nervous system called neuroblastoma stage four, the doctors said to my family that if I last another 90 days, it’d be a miracle. They took me home and allowed me to live in the next few months with my family because there was nothing that they could do. My mom asked one simple question and that was, “I don’t want to know what the chances are of my son dying. I want to know what the chances are of my son surviving.” The doctor said that I had a 96% death rate. I’m so blessed every day that my mom chose to look at my life not being 96% empty, but she chose to look at my life being 4% full. I think so often in the world that we live in now how regularly we all look at the glass being half empty as opposed to being half full.
Your mom is one of those people that you just want on your side. Everything that I read about you and listened online about you is that your mom never ever took the negative news hard. She pushed that aside and said, “No, as long as there’s a chance, there is hope and we’re going forward with that hope.”
We truly believe that outside of love, hope is one of the most powerful words in the English dictionary. If you can instill hope into somebody’s life, you can instill courage and determination. That’s amazing what we can do with a little bit of hope. She did take it pretty hard, but she never showed that emotion to me, not once. She taught me some powerful lessons as a baby and throughout my life. One of the most important things that she taught me is that it’s not the adversity in your life that defines you. It’s how you deal with it that allows you to live a remarkable life. I know that you guys and many other people reading this have faced their fair share of adversities, challenges and pain. There are only two types of people in the world. There are those that use their pain and suffering as the justification behind why they choose to fail. There are those that use the exact same pain and suffering as the motivation to succeed.
That’s one thing that she has instilled in my heart as such a young child. I had chemotherapy nine days on, three days off for nearly three years. One day the doctor came in and said that they were sorry because the treatments were no longer doing the job. We needed to go into surgery because the tumor had built a resistance, that it had taken over half my body. It was growing up into my aorta and into my heart and crushing my spine. I went into surgery and six hours later, the doctors came out and said to my mom, “We’re sorry, we didn’t get it all. There’s nothing that we can do.” My dad and my three older sisters were flown from Coffs Harbour down to Sydney Hospital. They came into my room to say goodbye. I can only imagine as a dad or as a sibling having to go in and say goodbye to someone that you love so much. We were so lucky the next day that there was an American doctor that was trialing a test drug. He was going to trial that drug on 25 patients. It already had 24 candidates for that drug.
They all have to be terminally ill and they all said whether we want it to be number 25. We said yes and they had no idea what the side effects would be from this drug. That drug had never been used on humans before, only on animals. We were all terminal so it was just to have a crack, as the Aussies would say. We decided to do that. Unfortunately, the side effects of that drug were absolutely horrific. Within 24 hours, we were all transferred from the oncology ward to the burns unit. We were completely covered from head to toe in blisters. What they would do to try and prevent our brains from frying because we were burning from the inside out is they would wrap us up in bandages and they would let us in baths full of ice trying to prevent our brains from frying. I can only imagine the pain as a parent watching that from the outside looking in. I say to people around the world that I’m one of the lucky ones, not because I’m still alive but because I was with my mom.
My mom was the one that had to make a choice every day to inject that drug into a child. Within 30 days, twenty out of the 25 of those kids had died. Within the second month of that drug, it began to burn my internal organs. I lost one of my lungs. My liver and my kidney were destroyed. The muscles around my heart began to deteriorate. Unfortunately, 24 out of those 25 passed away. To be the only survivor and to be here every day, striving to make a difference in other people’s lives and striving to be the best version of myself is what I want to have a lot. I remember when I was finally allowed to go home after them burning me for another seventeen months, the doctor said to her that I would never go to school, I would never play sport, I’d be a housebound baby. If I reached my teenage years, it’d be a miracle. I didn’t hear what the doctor said and my mom came walking back through the curtains. She had a tear in her eye and I said, “What did the doctors say?” She said, “The doctor told me everything was going to be okay.”
As long as there was a glimmer of hope, everything was going to be okay. Your mom’s a smart and strong woman.
Michael, what year was this going down?
This was happening in 1989. I was a five-year-old boy.
All of this had happened before the age of five. The cancer was found and your years in the hospital, the medical trial on the medication that killed 24 out of 25 people in the trial. Everyone but you died after this last-ditch hope of trying to survive with this experimental drug. This is all before you’re five. This is unbelievable. Most people who are adults would probably tell you that they wouldn’t have the mental strength and fortitude to get through something like that in their adult years, let alone children. Also, on the other hand, children are extremely resilient and they can adapt. At that age, at five and continuing on, do you remember the things that you did or thought to yourself to keep going?
I remember that my mom was very passionate about having a goal, having a dream, and being able to visualize that and stretch herself to grow. She said to me one day in the hospital, “Michael, I want you to tell me what you want to be when you grow up.” As a five-year-old boy, I looked at my mom and I said, “I have a dream.” She said, “What’s that?” I said, “When I grow up, I want to be normal like everybody else. I want to go to school. I want to make friends. I want to go home.” I can only imagine as a mother or a father to have your five-year-old boy’s big dream was just to be normal. I didn’t say I wanted to be a policeman. I didn’t say I want to be a fireman. I wanted to be normal. She didn’t accept that dream. She said, “That dream is not big enough. I need you to come up with a bigger dream.” The next day, she came in and she said, “What’s your dream?” I said, “Not only do I want to be normal like everybody else, but my dream one day is to play baseball in America.”In the world that we live in today, what’s important is how regularly we all look at the glass being half full. Click To Tweet
She said, “I like your first dream. I don’t know about your second dream, but I’m going to believe in you. I’m going to support you and I’m going to do everything I can to help you make that dream come true.” A lot of people asked me as an Australian boy where does that dream come from, wanting to play baseball in America? Every hospital I’ve ever been to all around the world, the cleaners seem to mop the floor at 4:00 AM. I have no idea why but they do. They bash your bed and you’d wake up. I’d wake up and I turn the TV on. At 4:00 AM, the only channel we had back in those days was a channel called ABC and back here at 4:00 AM, Major League Baseball was on. That’s where my big dream of wanting to play baseball came from.
There are no coincidences. You were meant to see that because from that point on, you did it and you made it your goal.
Even when I was having my treatment, what I would do is I would get the doctors to put the needle to have my chemo and my test drugs and my treatment into my head. That means I had two hands and my mom bought me a Velcro glove and a Velcro ball. We’d sit on the end of the bed for weeks and months and months at a time playing catch. That’s where this desire fostered. I had that belief that I was going to make it happen.
Unbelievable, and then you played baseball, right?
Yeah, I did. I finally got out of the hospital. They told me I’d never go to school. I was lucky enough to go to school and graduate high school. They told me I’d never play sport. I loved the game of baseball and I started playing that. I started to get pretty good by the time I was twelve. I made the area team and then the state team over here, which was very exciting. Then I had another pretty big hiccup at the age of twelve. I got glandular fever and you know when you go into hospital. I’m sure you’ve all been there. Especially you, mate, you’ve been there many times.
I’ve been there for six months. It’s not fun.
You go in there with one thing and you collect everything whilst you’re in there before you leave. I went in there with one thing which was glandular fever, then I got the chicken pox, then I got pneumonia, then I got the belly bug. All of a sudden, the after-effects of that drug came back to bite me in. Unfortunately, at the age of twelve, I suffered my first major heart attack. I was in the hospital for four months. I became a very depressed little boy until I heard the doctor say to my mom through the curtains, “We’re very sorry but your son’s heart is so badly damaged that he will never be able to play sports again.”
That was my dream. That was why I was getting out of bed every day. My mom came through the curtains and I made that I didn’t hear what the doctor said. I said, “What did the doctor say?” She said, “The doctors told me that everything was going to be okay.” I realized then and there that no one in your life is ever going to tell you what you can do. They’ll only tell you what you can’t do. It’s your choice whether you choose to listen. Three years after being told I’d never play baseball again, I was on the other side of the world representing this beautiful country I call home playing baseball in America, listening to our national anthem, watching our flag get raised and truly living the dream.
Your entire life, you have been told what you can’t do. Isn’t it funny that you’ve done everything you were told you couldn’t do? Do you feel like there’s not enough hope given to people when they face physical adversity, mental adversity? When their lives change from something catastrophic happening to them medically, do you feel like there’s enough hope given in these situations?
No way in the world. I have the utmost respect, admiration, and absolute gratitude to every doctor that serves this planet to try and bring health and happiness into the lives of others. I believe that they need to be realists as well. Sometimes they cautioned towards the end of covering their backside, if you know what I’m saying. No one truly knows your end date and God’s the only one that is truly in control. Something that I share a lot when I’m on stage that frustrates me more than anything in the world is that there are people on this planet that live their life like this is their dress rehearsal. This is their one and only shot at life. There’s no tomorrow. There are no maybes. There’s no next time. It’s now. If you want to make something happen in your life, if you want to truly live the world and live the life and have the love, the happiness, the joy in your life that you want to, then now’s the time to make that choice. Don’t wait until the end of next year. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Don’t wait until you get the pay rise. Don’t wait until you get a promotion. Do it, believe in yourself, back yourself. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
If you’re whining out there reading this, just stop. Seriously, there are days all of us have that we don’t feel like getting up and doing what we need to do. It’s stories like yours that help the rest of us pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and continue on doing what we need to do on a daily basis and stop taking things for granted, which I am positive you don’t do. I’m sure you don’t take a single moment for granted in your life.
Every morning I wake up like a kid in a candy store. I wake up and I can’t believe that I’m still here. I can’t believe that I get to live the life I get to live. I’ll share something that is incredibly exciting and extremely moving. That is another reason for my purpose in getting up every day.
What do you do now for your road to recovery? Are you prescribed on meds? Are you more on the alternative health path?
Lots of things have occurred since playing baseball in the States. I wanted to go and live there. I was lucky enough to sign a scholarship to live in America and play baseball when I was seventeen to live in Texas. Unfortunately, I was only over there for six months before my health deteriorated and I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing at the level I needed to do it. I came back home. I did a TV show on Australian Story. It was viewed by three million people. It went to the World Film Festival. I was very honored to win a few awards over there. Then I had to get a real job. I’ve got a job in the corporate world and I got a job in banking. I remember I was about three days in when I got asked by the CEO, “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” My mom always taught me to shoot for the moon and if I missed, I’d end up in the stars. That was the day I told the CEO of a company that I’d worked for three days that I was going to take his job in five years time.
I promise you that is not what you should say to a CEO ever. It did not go down very well at all. We were not friends. We did not get along very well. Within twelve months, I was the youngest Bank Manager in Australia. Within two years, the youngest Area Manager. Within three years, the youngest State Manager. Within four years I was the youngest National Sales Development Manager for one of the largest companies in the world. I reported directly to my mate, Tom. Every Friday, we’d have the same conversation, “How are your staffing numbers going? How are your profit margins going?” I’d always ask him the same question, “How is your retirement going? How’s your retirement fund going?” I wanted him to retire. I wanted to take his job. I was driven by the three P’s that destroy people. I’m always driven by power, privileges, and possessions. I had to live in a $1 million house. I had to drive a $100,000 sports car. I had to wear the Rolex, the Armani suits. I had to create the perception of what I thought success was. It took me to hit rock bottom in 2010 for my whole world to change.
That did change because your mother became ill, if I remember correctly. You’re in this life where money is coming in. You’re extremely successful. You’ve beaten the odds multiple times throughout your entire life. You’re on a high and your mother becomes ill.Outside of love, hope is one of the most powerful words in the English dictionary. Click To Tweet
I was extremely successful. I was successful in a financial sense, but my definition of success has changed dramatically for the better ways. I thought success for a long time was about how big my house was, but I understand that success is about how big my heart is. Success is about getting out of bed and making a difference in somebody else’s life. That’s what true success is. I had the materialistic possessions. I had a huge debt. I had a massive mortgage. I was living beyond my means. I had to create the perception of what I thought success was. That was sitting in 1A on a plane, that was driving the fancy cars.
Then my mom and dad separated. I was the big banker so I knew all about money or so I thought. When they went to settlement, I had to invest the money that she got from the settlement because we didn’t have enough money to buy her a house. I invested all of her money and that was about six weeks before the global financial crisis hit. I lost all of my mom’s money. I failed my mom and I failed my family and the woman that I loved more than anything in the world because I couldn’t take care of her.
She became very depressed and unwell. I remember hoping and praying that I could be in the bed to not be who was unwell. I got stressed out and I got very unwell. In 2010, I got bacterial meningitis. I got fluid on the brain and I had Bell’s palsy down the right-hand side of my body. I had to learn to walk again and talk again. I remember my wife would come in every day and she would say, “I love you. I’ll see you in the morning.” I remember I would say I dedicated my life to serving other people. I had a dream and a goal to make a global impact.
That’s when people laughed at me and told me I was an idiot to not walk away from my cushy and comfortable corporate job and stay doing what I’m doing. I said that you can tell me what I can’t do, but I’ll work hard to show you that I can. As I’m sure you’re aware, in 2011, I went to Haiti where the earthquake hit in 2010 and killed 316,000 people. I opened a school. We have 270 kids go to that school now. On the way back from building that school, my wife and I were told that we’d never be able to have kids because of my ongoing health challenges. We decided to open an orphanage. Now, we have 41 beautiful little kids that we get to look up to 365 days a year. Every single one of these beautiful kids has a roof over their head and they get three meals a day and they’re getting an education. They’re starting to realize that the pain and suffering and poverty that they are brought up in is not normal and they can achieve some remarkable things.
Because of you, these children have hope and future. I remember hearing in one of your talks when you were sent to Haiti, you went there and you were profoundly affected by one of the children who had told you he was happy because he gets a bowl of rice every other day. There was something else to that story too that melted my heart and I’m sure it did yours because here you are now giving these kids a better life. What was the other thing that you talked about besides the bowl of rice?
I met him at the orphanage and I asked him, “What’s the best part about living here?” He said, “The best part about living here is I get a bowl of rice guaranteed every second day. When my mom, dad and both my brothers died, I lived on the streets for nearly four months. The only food I would get would be at garbage bins.” That was the best thing about living there. I had to ask him, “What’s the worst thing?” He said to me, “The worst thing is every nighttime because that’s where my entire family got taken away from me. Where I sleep, I get soaking wet because I have the top over my head that leaks bad, but it doesn’t matter whether it leaks or not. I still get soaking wet because I share a bed with two little boys and both of them still pee in their pants.”
That little boy has graduated from high school. He got a full ride scholarship to Brazil to study engineering. He is now one year into his studies and he has fallen into the golden keys category, which means that he is in the top 10% of university students from around the world. This little boy that had no hope and was just existing now has a dream in his heart that anything is possible. We think that life gets tough because we get stuck in traffic on the way to work or because the weather is too cold or the weather is too hot or we have to wait too long for our food at a restaurant.
Regarding this kid who’s now in a school in Brazil, what’s his name, do you mind?
His name is James.
The reason why I’m asking is that he’d be a great interview as well on the show.
We just need to work on his English. We can try and make something happen.
He would be an inspiring story. Did you ever imagine that these children would become what they are becoming from that one meeting that you had with him?
I go back three to four times a year. These kids have so much resilience and so much courage. They’ve taught me so much. You imagine just for a moment living your life where you have nothing. You have no iPads, no laptops, no phones, no computers, no food, no family, and you wake up this morning. You think you have everything and the reason why you think you have everything is because you woke up this morning. That’s the way they live their life. Every single day, they wake up filled with gratitude and excitement because they had the innate ability and the incredible blessing of simply waking up this morning.
If we live our lives like that every single day, you wake up, the alarm clock goes or you open your eyes and you think, “I’ve got another chance. I’ve got another day. I’ve got another opportunity. This is my day where I’m going to make the choices that are going to change my life and change other people’s lives. I’m going to get out of bed with gratitude and I’m going to strive to truly make an impact on other people’s lives now,” what an incredible life you will live and what amazing things you will be able to achieve. That’s the way they live their life every single day. To your question, I have no doubt that some of these kids are going to go on to achieve remarkable things because they have faced true adversity. I’ve made the choice to use the pain and suffering that they’d been brought up in as the motivation to succeed and not the justification of how they will fail. There’s one boy who made the national Haiti soccer team last year. He went to the World Cup.
I love hearing these stories. It fills me with so much pride for you and these children who are given hope. That’s all it took for them. They had the potential. You saw it all, but they were up against such extraordinary odds. If someone could just soften the blow a little bit, it’s amazing what we could all become.
It seems silly for me to ask you, what drives you every day?There are those that use their pain and suffering as a justification behind why they choose to fail. Click To Tweet
What drives me is that there have been a lot of changes in my life over the last few years. 2016 was, without a doubt, one of the greatest yet one of the most challenging years of my life. In 2016, I finally got a chance to put a pink ribbon on a brand-new door to a new home for my mom. To be able to give back to a lady that sacrificed so much of her life for me was without a doubt one of the coolest, one of the greatest, one of the most incredible days of my life. To see her smile, to hear that tone of voice, to finally be able to give to somebody who gave so much of herself for me was incredible. 2016 also came as an incredible challenge. My wife had been trying to convince me for months to go to the doctors because there was something wrong.
I kept ignoring it because I was too busy. She had made an appointment for me to go and see the doctors. I went to the doctors that very next day. Unfortunately, the doctor found four tumors in my throat and told me that my tomorrows weren’t guaranteed. I remember saying to the doctors, “That’s one thing that we all have in common because no one is guaranteed tomorrow.” I left the room and I drove home. As I was driving home, my mom called and I remember seeing her name pop up on my screen in the car. It took every ounce of energy and effort to just hit accept. I answered the phone and she said to me, “What did the doctor say?” I finally got a chance 30 some years later to return the favor. I told her that everything was going to be okay. As a 32-year-old man, I had to plan my own funeral. I had to do a video message saying goodbye to the ones that I loved. I remember I postponed the surgery by eight weeks so I could write my autobiography. I was going to leave that as a legacy to take care of my wife once I was gone.
We had the surgery and they removed three out of the four tumors. The fourth tumor is around my vocal cord. It’s not in a great space. Because I’m still here, I no longer take the money from the book. We have never taken a cent from the book. We donate all the profits to charity. We’ve been able to donate nearly $250 million over the last few years. The book is now a bestseller in six countries around the world. It brings great pride knowing that by just sharing my story, I have the opportunity to not only inspire people that read it but also give to those in need. I realized when going through surgery that the quality of one’s life is not dictated nor is it determined by the amount of days we live on this Earth, but it’s what we fit into those days that allows us to live a remarkable life.
I’ve been on 155 flights. I’ve spoken in 22 countries around the world. l feel so privileged and so blessed to do what I do and live the lifestyle I get to live. There’s a misconception about me and in the media and in the world right now that I must be this incredibly rich and wealthy man. I’ve realized in my life that it feels far greater to give than to receive. I know that I have a big mortgage. I’ve got to take care of my mom and I’ve got to take care of my wife and my beautiful little kids in my orphanage. There are a lot of expenses, but it feels so great to serve other people. It’s like a drug. I’m addicted to giving to other people. It makes me feel great. You asked me what inspires me, what motivates me, what keeps me moving forward. The one thing that I wanted more than anything in the world was to become a dad. I think that that’s the greatest gift, to be a parent. That’s the one thing that they said we would never be able to have as a child because of my health challenges.
Five years of IVF and a lot of pain and suffering along the way, we were due to have a beautiful baby boy. It was the 22nd of February was when he was due. On the 8th of December, my wife got a lot of back pain. We were taken to a hospital. That night, we were airlifted to Sydney Hospital. Four days later on the 12th of December at 6:40 PM, we had a beautiful little boy named Lachlan James. He weighed 2.8 pounds. He was just over ten weeks early. He had a horrible illness. They pumped him full of steroids and drugs for four weeks until eventually, we were finally allowed to take him back to our local hospital where he was supposedly going to sit in intensive care for another month or so before we could take him home. On the way home, flying on the plane, he contracted an illness called sepsis which is a blood disease. We were told that we only had four days with our little boy. We prepared his funeral and we got ready to say goodbye, but he never quit. We were transferred back to Sydney Hospital and he fought like a little champion.
One day I captured his first smile when he was hugging his mommy. I just had this inner peace knowing that he was going to be okay. He had his first birthday and we had an amazing celebration. He’s been on 38 flights. He’s traveled the world with me to many different countries. I love him more than I could ever imagine. He has opened a new valve in my heart to understand truly what love is. Someone said to me, “Michael, you have been dealt with some really rubbish cards in your life.” I speak on many people’s behalf. I’m sure that many people would agree that it is not about the cards that you’ve been dealt in your life that determines the life that you get to live. It’s about how you choose to play them. I think that whilst everyone is being dealt cards, that means I’m still in the game. I’m going to do everything I can every single day to play my cards as effectively as I can. Get out of bed and have a dream, a goal and a vision to make a difference in other people’s lives. I challenge myself and I challenge other people to get out of bed and do something that their future self will be proud of.
You’ve not only hit it out of the park, but you have also completely owned the power to be able to change your life and others. I can’t say enough about the inspiration that you are and now you have a beautiful son. Is it any surprise that he’s that much of a fighter? Look at his dad. Look at his grandmother. He’s got the most incredible examples of human perseverance that anyone could ever have. He is one special, lucky little boy to have you guys in his life.
Thank you. He’s the cutest little angel you’ve ever seen in your life. Make sure you jump online and check him out. He is absolutely and unbelievably gorgeous inside and out. I’m very grateful that he looks like his mom and not his dad.
Are you surprised that you actually had a son or a child because your whole life you’ve been told you weren’t going to do this and you can’t have that? It seems like as soon as somebody tells you that, you make it completely the opposite.
How’s his arm? Is he going to play ball?
He definitely already has his Velcro glove and his Velcro ball. Every day I’m putting the ball in his hand and he keeps putting it in his left hand. He’ll put an LA cap one day I’m sure.
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised either. Michael, that’s such great news. Congratulations to you, your wife, your mother, about your baby boy. I am so delighted for you guys. I’m so happy to hear it. All the times in your life, you and your mom have been told that, “I’m sorry, this is it.” You proved them wrong every single time. In 2016, you were told that the doctors had found cancer in your throat. At that time, it seemed to me that you thought maybe this was the time when all the other times in your life, you didn’t accept that.
I felt as though I almost got to a point in my life where I became complacent with who I was and what I’ve been able to accomplish. I think that I got to a state of mind where I truly didn’t believe that I could fight anymore. I talked in life about the two types of people. The metaphor or the visualization of that is that we have a choice to live above the line or below the line. We become a victim in our life or we become a navigator. It’s scientifically proven that we will all become victims more than 40 times a day. It’s okay to be a victim. A little piece of chocolate cake. We dipped below the line and we’ve had a little piece of cake. All of a sudden, we realize, “We’re below the line,” not realizing or acknowledging that it’s okay to dip below the line. What we do is we make the choice to stay there and we go, “We failed, so we might as well stay here,” and then we eat the rest of the entire cake.
That’s the metaphor I like to use when people get to a point in their life where they go, “Life’s a little crappy right now. Life’s a little tough.” We dipped below the line and then we go, “We have a choice to stand up, take ownership, take accountability and take responsibility for our lives.” That’s the state of mind that I was in. I got to the point where I was like, “Maybe this is it. Maybe enough is enough.” I’ve been able to provide for my wife. I’ve been able to give back to my mom. I’m going to be able to leave a legacy for my wife when I move on by writing this book. I’ve been able to accomplish some things in my life. Then I realized that I needed to jump above the line. I needed to take three very simple steps that were going to transform my vision, my outlook, and my mindset. The three steps that I needed to do is I needed to move, I needed to share, and I needed to help. Those were the three steps that I had to do.
I came home, I got in the shower, I vomited in the shower. I was so emotionally exhausted. I jumped into bed, I pulled the dinner out of my head. I thought I’m going to die. Then I thought, “No, three steps: move, share, help.” I got in the car, I drove to the beach, and I went for a walk along the beach. That was me moving and doing something. The second thing I needed to do is I needed to share. I ran into a friend of mine. We had a good chat. I told him what was going on, what was on my heart, how I was feeling. It gave me a little clarity. It got a little bit of heavy weight off my chest. Where do we go and see a counselor? Where do we go and speak to a peer, a colleague, a friend? That was me sharing. He said, “Do you want to go for a surf?” We went for a surf and he said, “Do you want to come for dinner?” I went straight to his house for dinner. I texted my wife and I said, “We’re going for dinner. Come straight around.” After work, she went straight there and then on the way home, I needed to do that third thing, which was to help.
One thing that I like to do is pay for other people’s fuel or gas. I filled my car up, I go and I pay for that. In Australia, you put the fuel in and then you go inside and pay. Whereas over there, it’s the opposite which is very confusing for an Aussie that stands at the gas pump for about ten minutes wondering why the gas is not going in. Then realizing you have to go inside to pay. I went in and paid for my gas. I paid for others too and I drove off. That was me helping. When we help other people, we get a big dose of perspective. It makes us feel a little bit better about our own situation. I drove into the driveway in our house and my wife said to me, “How did it go at the doctor’s?” I think what would my response have been to my wife if she’d called me at 11:00 AM when I was convincing myself that I was going to die versus the conversation eleven hours later after I moved, after I shared, and after I helped.It's amazing what we can do with just a little bit of hope. Click To Tweet
I realized that I was a victim at that state of my mind and in my life. I simply had to make the choice. I needed to make the common sense decision to put things into place to ensure that I took care of myself and my family. Then I just needed to work on shifting my mindset. I know you asked before what drugs am I on? How do I look at it? I’m on no drugs at all. I’m completely alternate. I’m not on drugs or anything like that because I don’t need it. I am on lots of vitamins. I am very strict with my diet. I’m very strict with my exercise routines. I make sure I exercise every day and I see a kinesiologist now, not a doctor. That has been a remarkable shift. I like to explain to people that all of a sudden, I have a new level of normal. They say, “What do you mean by that?” I’ve been at a level for 33 years. Let’s say it’s your eyebrows. That’s where I thought that this is as good as it gets. I’m tired of it often and I don’t sleep very well and I’m very lethargic. I get a lot of headaches and I’m in a lot of pain in my chest. I thought that was okay and that was normal.
Now all of a sudden, I’ve shifted. My mindset’s changed, my diet’s changed, my exercise has changed. I have a new level of normal which is about a foot above my head and it’s amazing and I feel great. Every day I’ve got so much energy and excitement. Then all of a sudden, I ate a big pizza when I’m in America because pizza is amazing over there. I wake up the next morning and all of a sudden, I’m back to my eyebrows where I was before, which was my old normal and it feels terrible. My whole life, I thought that that level was the best it was going to get and it was okay and I put up with it. Now I’ve tasted a new level of normal when I dip back to my old ways, my old behaviors, my old exercise routines, my old diet. I go, “This is not where I want to live.” The message from that is ensuring that you go out and you try to become the best version of yourself.
You do things that are going to create a better life for you. If I was to give you a Lamborghini or a Ferrari, would you put good fuel in it or would you put rubbish fuel in it? You’re going to put an amazing fuel in it. You’re going to take care of that thing. We’re worth ten times the amount of a Lamborghini or Ferrari or a fancy car of your choosing. Yet we choose to put poor fuel. I’m not just talking about fuel as in the food and the drink that we intake but also the surroundings, the friends, the people that we spend time with, the negativity, the hatred, the pessimistic outlook that people can instill on our lives. We need to be free of that negativity and focus on the good stuff.
I’m speechless. I am completely understanding who you are because you choose every day to be extraordinary. Not just ordinary but extraordinary. Michael, I can’t thank you enough for sharing with me. It was the move, share, and help because I get stuck oftentimes and now, I’m going to do this all the time. I’m going to move, I’m going to share, and I’m going to help people. Those words to me resonate so hard to my heart and I want to thank you on that.
It’s my pleasure.
I can’t thank you enough, Michael, for agreeing to be on our show as well. At this point in your life, I’m just curious. Wherever you go, you’ve been all over the world now. You’ve given speeches. You’ve given talks. You’ve touched lives in so many different ways. In the sports world, in the medical world, whatever it is, you’ve touched people’s lives in so many different levels. At the end of the day, does that blow your mind?
It does. I never sit around and think, “Look what I’ve been able to achieve.” I am so humbled that I get hundreds of messages a day from people around the world that tell me that my story, my journey, my life has inspired them to not give up, to have one last try, to not take their own life, to believe in themselves. All these amazing, very moving, and incredibly humbling messages. To be frank and honest, I’m just an ordinary Aussie that faced my fair share of adversities, that has made the choice to get out of bed and try and make a difference in other people’s lives. I do a lot of Make-a-Wish for kids that want to meet me before they die. I think, “Why me?” I’m not a TV star. I’m not a celebrity. I’m not a professional athlete. I’m not a hero, yet they want me to be a part of their journey. I am incredibly humbled and extremely blessed every day to get out of bed and hopefully just make a difference in one person’s life so that I can pay that good deed forward and make a difference in somebody else’s.
Michael, you’re all those things and more, truly. It’s been an honor to speak with you. I’m so happy for you, your wife, your mom, about your little boy. I am so thrilled and thank you so much for the update on the kids in Haiti. The last I had heard in one of your talks was what that little boy had been through and what you did to make their lives better. It’s always nice to hear the outcome and follow up on how these children are doing. That is just incredible. Thank you for sharing that.
An update on that, out of the 41 children that are living in our orphanage, we found out that sixteen of them still have parents that are still alive. Some were living within two miles from the orphanage, yet they didn’t know that their child was alive, and the child didn’t know that their mother was alive. They just got lost in the earthquake. We’re in the middle of transitioning these beautiful kids back into their family’s homes, which is incredibly moving. Unfortunately, a lot of the families live below the poverty line.
We’ve created a training and development center to help these parents start their own micro-businesses so that they can make some money to take care of themselves and their families. Then we can reintroduce these kids back into their lives, which is amazing. It’s amazing what a bit of hope and a bit of positivity and an incredible amount of courage and optimism these people have to be able to do what they do. It instills in my heart and the people that I share these stories with perspectives. When we have a perspective at the center of all our problems, it’s amazing how easy it is to get through them.
Michael, thank you so much. For our audience, if you think you can’t make it through the day, check out this episode again.
It’s just extraordinary. It’s amazing, Michael. Move, share, and help. I’m all over this. Thank you.
It’s my pleasure. Take care.
About Michael Crossland
In the last five years, our guest has presented to over 500,000 people from all walks of life around the world. He has spoken to corporates from all backgrounds, Juvenile Detention Centres in Texas, September 11 victims, elite athletes across the globe and, through his numerous charities, including the Make a Wish Foundation, has given hope and strength to many people facing life-threatening illnesses.
Despite spending nearly a quarter of his life in hospital, he has forged a highly successful career in the corporate world, represented Australia in his chosen sport and featured regularly across all forms of media. He also runs a school and orphanage in Haiti and has been presented with the Australia Day Ambassador role for 7 consecutive years.
The award-winning documentary on his life, by ABC’s Australian Story, has been viewed by over 4 million people, and in 2016 he released his first tell-all autobiography, which is now a best seller across 6 different countries. In June 2017 he featured on MTVs funny show ridiculousness in the USA with over 3 million viewers and was one of the queens baton bearers for the 2018 commonwealth games! And if that’s not enough one of his recent online videos has been viewed by more than 38 million people.
Ladies and Gentleman please put your hands together for Michael Crossland!