"You are not a statistic."Aug 04, 2023
5 minute read...
When was the last time you realized that a long-held assumption you made was invalid?
Today, I’m going to share a doozy.
The natural order of things.
You’re born, you grow up, you get married, you have kids, they grow up, perhaps they produce children of their own, you eventually pass on, your kids (and grandkids) survive you, rinse and repeat.
Parents outlast their children. It’s the natural order of things, right?
My father passed away at the age of 60 due to complications from what was then considered a rare form of cancer. Did my family and I grieve? Absolutely. Do we still miss him? For sure. I often think of him, smile at childhood and adulthood memories, and wish I could talk with him about so many things. But even though he died at quite a young age by today’s standards, he went before me, my siblings and his grandkids, and well, life goes on. It was the natural order of things.
Fast forward 12 years, and my daughter, then just 25 years old, was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme – terminal brain cancer. When it comes to this particular cancer, the probability of dying within 12-18 months – from the point of diagnosis – is about 75%. If you go out five years, that figure rises to 95%.
“You are not a statistic.”
Her medical team guided Jenn and us (her family) to challenge the assumption that the statistics were an appropriate predictor for her specific case. They refused to answer the question, “how long does she have”. They said, “Look, these numbers are based on statistics. And statistics come from looking in the rearview mirror. You are not a statistic. We don’t know how long you have, so we will not predict it. We are here to help you live. We are in the fight with you.”
(There is a lesson in here for those of you who still rely on forecasts, but I’ll reserve the business focused talk for another time.)
Jenn did, in fact, beat the statistics. She survived for nearly 8 years, and for the majority of those years, she was living a happy, full life. Her smile glowed like it always had, her laugh filled any room she was in, and her hug made anyone she shared it with feel incredibly special.
Jenn passed away on August 2, 2014. Given the disease, it was to be expected. But it was still a shock, it was still unacceptable, and it was certainly not the natural order of things.
The first assumption we were able to dismantle was that “statistics are accurate predictors for an individual case”.
The second was a bit tougher.
What do we really mean by “the natural order of things”? Who is to say what that is?
In the US, it is estimated that 12% of parents have buried a child by the age of 60 and 18% by the age of 80. So while it is not the norm (thank goodness), it is certainly not a rarity. Organizations like Compassionate Friends exist because there is a large pool of parents who lost a child, grandparents who lost a grandchild and brothers and sisters who lost a sibling.
Over the years I have come to think of this phrase “the natural order of things” a little differently. The natural order of things in my family was that our daughter, our beloved first born, went before us. Atypical sequence yes, but not an anomaly. Undesired and painful but not unnatural.
Assumption Hacking Grief
How does this help me? Before, when I focused on her death as being out of a natural order, it led to feelings of guilt and of being a victim. These feelings tended to trigger mental and emotional searches for who or what was at fault. Who or what could we blame? How sorry could I feel for myself as a grieving parent?
When I eventually decided to accept that Jenn’s death by cancer was the natural order of things for our family, I no longer needed to blame anyone or anything. I could allow myself to live life, which includes experiencing the full range of feelings: the extreme joy, the intense grief, and everything in between.
Many parents who lose a child feel tremendous guilt at the notion of getting back to life. What right do they have to enjoy life when their own child couldn’t any longer? As I accepted that the natural order for our family was atypical but not an anomaly, I realized that there was no better way to honor my daughter than to live a full, meaningful, joyful life. I don’t doubt that’s what she would want for me, her dad, her sister and us all.
I subsequently decided to start Jenrada, to help people and their businesses work through the challenges they face and achieve more of their goals. I wanted people to be able to do these things in ways that bring them more joy and fulfillment. I still do.
When I started the company. I was advised to call it something that either made it clear what the company does or use my name. I went the atypical route and gave the company a name that is meaningful only to me and will only be meaningful to others as it provides value to them. Jenrada is the combination of the first letters of the 3 most important people in my life. Jennifer, Rachel and Danny. Through Jenrada, I keep Jenn’s name alive and I honor all 3 of them by helping others improve their lives and businesses.
Life is unpredictable. Hug your loved ones every day. Decide on a goal that’s meaningful for you and go for it.
And if you need some help maneuvering through the changes that get you more of your goal, all while bringing more joy and fulfillment to you and your company, I’ve been there and I can help with that. Feel free to reach out to me here and we can chat.
Til next week,
Every year Jenn led a team to fundraise for the National Brain Tumor Society. She named the team “Jenn’s to Hell With The Stats” Team. The photo was taken the year the fundraising walk corresponded with her 5 years beating the stats. The picture is taken with her 2 grandmothers. (If you think outliving your child is tough, imagine outliving your grandchild.)
Whenever you're ready, here are a couple of ways I can help you:
- Assumption Hacking Essentials. Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt said in his forward to The Goal, “The challenging of basic assumptions is essential to breakthroughs.” In this digital course, I'll take you through a five step process for challenging those basic assumptions and creating breakthrough in the process. Join the waitlist and get notified when the course is released.
- Jenrada Programs. Customized workshops and longer engagements to help you create an organization of aligned problem solvers delivering extraordinary results. Complete this form, send me an email, or schedule a discovery call.
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