The Pros and Cons of Transplant Week

If you follow me on Twitter, you can’t have helped but notice that it’s been a very busy week, with no less than five pieces of media telling my story during transplant week. (Links to follow).

Transplant week is always a special week for me, for very obvious reasons. It’s a chance to harp on about the miracle of organ donation and for me to tell my story to inspire people to have difficult conversations with their family and sign the Organ Donor Register to record their wishes.

It’s also a challenging week. It forces my life into a spotlight, not just in the media, but in my own head as well.

Talking about the difference between pre- to post-transplant me shows just how far I’ve come, but also challenges my perception of my life and what I’ve achieved. It challenges my understanding of the world I live in and it challenges the decisions I’ve made in the years since my transplant.

And here’s what it all comes down to:

I feel a pressure to “succeed” and make a difference that my donor would be proud of.

The funny thing is that I know this is silly. I know there’s no reason for me to feel this way, or for it to leave me feeling inadequate if I haven’t achieved what I feel is “success”. Yet it’s a feeling I can’t shake.

As one very good friend said to me during the week when I voiced this to her, “Your donor will just be happy they’ve allowed you to still be here, regardless of what you’re doing and how successful you are.”

The problem I face is that I don’t know that for sure. Yes, it makes sense. Yes, I can see the logic. But I’ve never met and will never be able to meet my donor, so I don’t know what they think.

That’s why I’ve been so busy this week. That’s why I remain so willing to talk so openly about my transplant journey. That’s why I’ll always take advantage of transplant week. Because it’s the one chance I get to demonstrate just how much this all means to me.

To that end, I’ll be sharing links to the various media hits I had this week here on the blog in the next few days. If you’ve heard them already, thanks for listening. If not, perhaps download them and have a listen in the car or when you’re out for a walk. The two radio interviews are the most in-depth I’ve ever done and in both of them I share some thoughts and stories I’ve never shared publicly before.

And, of course, if you haven’t already, please sign the Organ Donor Register.

Speak with passion, people will listen

This week is National Organ Donor week, or Transplant Week if you’d rather the shorter version.

It’s a massive week for me, a chance to talk about the thing that I am most passionate about and, hopefully, to inspire people to sign the Organ Donor Register.

It’s only Monday morning, but already I’ve had three pieces go out: a short news piece on BBC Radio Northampton, a 3-minute news piece on ITV Anglia and a 15-minute chat on BBC Three Counties Radio yesterday morning.

Whenever I speak about cystic fibrosis or organ donation I know people listen. I’m blessed with both a compelling story and the means to express it. I’m not very good at identifying my own strengths, but I know communication is definitely one of them.

However well I speak or write, though, I know that most of my friends have heard this stuff a million times. Most people I’m connected to on Facebook have been with me throughout my whole journey and know exactly how I feel.

Despite this saturation, and to my surprise, they are still listening to everything I share. I’ve had more engagement on Twitter and Facebook in the last 24-48 hours than I’ve had for the last couple of weeks combined.

Why? Because I’m speaking with passion.

To listen to someone speaking with passion is to hear their words pour from their heart like a dam bursting to give way to the floods behind it. Regardless of whether you agree, more often than not you’ll listen to their arguments because of the force of feeling behind them.

Passion is honest. It’s almost impossible to fake passion, which is why politicians so frequently fall foul of the trap; they try so hard to sound passionate, but the effort always shows and comes across as a lack of sincerity at best, straight-up emotional manipulation at worst.

There is a rawness, a freshness, an authenticity to someone who speaks with passion that can’t be bought or faked. It’s naturally compelling and our ears tune into it without any conscious thought on our part.

I don’t like to bombard people with calls-to-action to sign the Organ Donor Register and talk to their family about their potential death. I recognise that it’s not a subject people much want to discuss. But weeks like this give me a chance to speak with passion about the thing I care most deeply about. So I’m grabbing this opportunity with both hands and I’ll be shouting from the rooftops all week.

You can help by simply sharing this post, or the organ donation link, with your friends so they understand just how important it is for us to stop three people every day dying while they wait for a transplant that doesn’t come in time.

(By the way, have you signed the Organ Donor Register? Do it now!)

Stop waiting for perfect

I have a habit with my work to wait until everything is “just right” before putting it out there for people to see.

For some, this strive for perfection underpins everything they do; they simply won’t let something out of their grasp and let it free into the world without knowing it’s 100% right.

Here’s what I’ve learned: there’s no such thing.

There’s no perfect version of a book, or a blog post.

There’s no perfect cut of a film.

There’s no perfect design for a website or platform.

There’s no perfect time to release something.

There’s no perfect circumstance in which to do anything.

If we wait for perfect, nothing will ever happen. Even when we think we’ve got something just right, how many times have you looked back over something from the past and wondered what on earth you thought was so perfect about it? Haircuts, for example…

The true nature of perfection is constant evolution. But recognising we’ll never make something perfect, all we can do is vow to never believe we’re done.

Some of the world’s most famous and talented people do this every day:

Footballers train daily to improve their skills and keep themselves at the peak of fitness to be better able to play “the perfect game”.

Photographers who take “perfect” images are still always exploring, always playing, always looking for the next thing to make their work even better.

The startup world loves the word ‘iteration’ because they know being open to shifting their ideals of their product or service based on what the customer wants is the closest thing to perfection their product will get. Perfection is achieved perhaps for one fleeting moment before the next iteration is needed and started.

Into this same bracket I put myself: I’ve iterated this blog many times. And I’ve been working for the last three months to perfect it. But I can’t.

So this “soft relaunch”, if you will, is my acceptance of a lack of perfection. It’s my choice not to wait for perfect, but to acknowledge it never will be and instead get out of my own way to write more, share my experiences and get back to the root of this blog: smiling just once every day.

What are you waiting to perfect? Stop waiting, start doing.

Apologies

The best of intentions doesn’t always get the best of results. Despite being earnestly intent on blogging more this year, I haven’t updated the site since the very first day of 2014.

I do plan on coming back and as I type I’m working on a new and (I think) exciting format for this blog, what it stands for and what I want it to mean in the future.

Until then, maybe it’s best for you just to skim through the archives…

Year of Positive Change, Month 1: Daily Exercise

Today is the first day of the first month of the Year of Positive Change and my first target:

Exercise Daily

I want to be fitter, to be healthier and to be able to really challenge myself physically in 2014 and beyond.

Twice now I’ve trained for the 3 Peaks Challenge and had to cancel the trip at the last minute and each time I’ve settled into my old patterns of not doing any exercise and letting myself slip back.

At the end of 2013, I promised Gareth that I would run a 10k in his honour with his sister and brother, I intend to stick to that promise. Can there be any great motivation?

Beyond that, I just want to escape this nagging feeling that I’m not doing enough with the new life I’ve been given.

Six years ago when I was first recovering from my transplant I promised myself that I’d make the most of these lungs and really push myself, but I haven’t.

Broken promises are the worst things in the world, but when they are to ourselves they are so easy to overlook. [Tweet this]

This month, then, I will be doing some form of exercise every single day. I’ve started a gym programme on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and I’ll be looking to add some yoga and dynamic stretching in on the off-days, with maybe a good walk on a Sunday. Here’s what I hope it will achieve:

  • I’ll be fitter.
  • I’ll be happier (I’m told daily exercise is great for perking you up.
  • I’ll be more grateful for the ability to get up and do things, which so many people aren’t able to do.
  • I’ll feel like I’ve made a really positive start to the year, tackling one of the things I struggle most with first.

I’d love you to join me if you’d care to. It doesn’t have to be as drastic as I’m taking on, you could perhaps commit to taking a short walk each day – once round the block in the evening, say – but just commit to getting yourself off the sofa, out from behind the desk or away from the kitchen for just a few minutes each day.

I’ll be publishing weekly updates here, so feel free to keep me in check (or motivated with your own story in the comments) or connect with me on Twitter or Google+.

Will you be undertaking a short piece of daily exercise? Commit to it in the comments below.