After 4 emergency room visits, 8 days of blindness, and long hours of excruciating pain…
I can see again.
Last week was by far the most painful and terrifying experience of my life.
The pain literally brought me to my knees and made me beg for someone to make it stop.
The silver lining, however, is the life-changing lessons I learned while laying quietly in a pitch-black closet for what seemed like a never-ending string of miserable days.
All I could do to pass the time was listen to audiobooks, try to eat a little food every day, and practice controlling the pain and anxiety of not being able to use my eyes.
It was truly terrifying.
How I Lost My Sight
I spent the prior five weeks traveling through Asia – Thailand, Myanmar, Korea, Philippines, and Japan.
It was a very productive fact-finding trip looking at some potential investments and partnerships.
But fate had a different path for me.
During my flight home from Tokyo, I had some redness and itchiness in my right eye.
By the time I got back to Austin, both my eyes were bright red and burning like hell.
“Good luck with the pink eye”, said the customs officer.
“Shit! Pink eye? How could that have happened? Isn't that where kids accidentally rub poop in their eyes?”, I thought to myself as I walked into the airport terminal.
By the time I finally made it back to my home, my eyes were on FIRE…
And something just didn't seem right, so at 4 AM I headed off to the ER to get it checked out.
The doctor examined my eyes and said, “Wow, something sure did a number on your eyes. Your corneas are completely scratched off of both eyes. On top of that, it looks like you picked up a nasty strain of viral conjunctivitis, aka pink eye.”
Great, so not only did I catch a highly contagious strand of pink eye in both eyes, but somehow I scratched off my eyes' most vital protective layer.
Each one of these is bad enough by itself, but combine them and the pain becomes exponentially worse!
“You're going to be in a lot of pain for the next few days. Get ready to settle in for the ride”, explained the ER doc.
He prescribed me some pain medication and eye drops, wished me luck, then sent me on my way.
The next 24 hours was a descension into what I can only describe as Hell on Earth…
I quickly lost vision in both of my eyes. I'm not talking about pitch-black blindness, but a terrifying mashup of severely blurred vision combined with light sensitivity that makes a migraine feel like a relaxing massage.
I couldn't recognize faces, read any text, walk outside, or look at any screens with light (e.g. computer, iPhone, TV).
And because of the extreme light sensitivity, I was confined to living in my bathroom and closet where I could block all sources of light.
The pain became so excruciating that I didn't sleep for two nights in a row, which prompted two visits to the ER in the same day.
It felt like someone was constantly stabbing a hot knife in my eyes.
I begged the doctors to numb my eyes because none of the pain medications they prescribed me weren't having any effect.
The only thing that brought temporary relief were eye drops that completely numbed my eyes. The problem was that my eyes wouldn't heal as long as I used the drops…
So my only option was to be patient and suffer through the pain until my corneas could grow back.
The doctor reassured me, “The good news is the corneas are one of the fastest healing parts of the body”.
Finding Meaning In Suffering
Aside from the burning pain and fear of not being able to see, boredom also added to the deceleration of time. Each minute felt like an hour; a day felt like an eternity.
As is usually the case when I have down time, I turned to books.
And since I couldn't read with my eyes, I decided to listen to all of the unread audiobooks I had on my iPhone.
Thankfully, one of the books I listened to had a profound impact on my experience and offered a pathway for me to find meaning in my suffering…
“Man's Search For Meaning” was written by Viktor Frankl, who was a psychiatrist that survived Auschwitz, an infamous nazi concentration camp.
Throughout the book, he recounts his experiences with hunger, torture, death, and pain that most people can't imagine in their wildest nightmares.
He found “the search for meaning” as a driving force that kept some prisoners alive.
This part of the book gave me context to my pain and fear…
If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.
The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity — even under the most difficult circumstances — to add a deeper meaning to his life.
He may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal.
Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.
“Am I worthy of my suffering?”
After thinking about that statement and relistening to that excerpt several times, it hit me like a ton of bricks…
Here I was in my comfortable dark closet, nowhere near the horrific conditions of a concentration camp, yet I was still suffering…
And I could choose to let the suffering get the best of me… Or I could use the suffering to add a deeper meaning to my life.
I chose the latter.
Focusing On Purposeful Work
“Ok, so how the hell do I find meaning in temporary blindness?”, I pondered.
In the book, Frankl discovered three primary things in which we can find meaning: love, courage, and purposeful work.
So, I looked at this experience as a way to sharpen my definitions for what love, courage, and purposeful work meant to me.
With nothing else to do except to stare into complete darkness for an unknown number of days, I began to think deeply about my work.
I began to ask questions like…
- With so many entrepreneurial and investment opportunities, how do I make sure I'm doing the most purposeful work?
- Even though I can make a lot of money doing X, does it fit into my life purpose?
- What is my highest and best use of time?
- Should I work with or associate with X person?
As I've learned over the years, getting money is relatively “easy” once you understand a few key principles about people and life.
But the harder part is aligning your life purpose with profitable opportunities.
For example, you could make a lot of money selling drugs, but could you sleep at night?
You can grow wealth by trading financial markets, but is it worth the mental and physical stress you put your body through?
You can create massive cash flow with real estate, but do you have the ability to manage the many moving parts of a rehab project?
There's no single right answer for anyone. It just takes focused, uninterrupted reflection on what truly matters to you.
During this week of blindness, I redefined “purposeful work” to mean not solely striving to make the most amount of money, but to focus more on the long-term positive impact it will have on society.
This is partially why I stopped day trading every day early last year. Sure, trading 8+ hours a day can make good money, but ultimately what's the long-term social ROI from all that time?
Now that I primarily focus on swing trading cryptocurrencies, I have an extra 40+ hours a week to focus on higher social impact activities.
This is also why I now partner with real estate experts on any construction job. Sure, I can make more money managing a project myself, but is it my highest and best use of time?
And this is also why I've partnered with expert mentors at Skill Incubator. Why only teach subjects in which I'm an expert when I can bring other talented peoples' skills to our community?
My purposeful work now is all about:
- Helping to create products and services that improve the quality of peoples' lives in education, personal finance, adventure travel, and healthcare
- Mentoring driven entrepreneurs, traders, and investors while quickly eliminating complainers and people that won't take action
My roles vary widely from CEO to coach to investor to advisor. No matter what roles I take on, they must fit into one of my purposeful work categories above.
The Long & Short Of It
Look, everyone suffers… Physically and emotionally.
But as I learned during my experience, the most important thing is that, no matter what, you strive to find meaning in your life.
If you don't know where to start, then just ask yourself this simple question…
“How do I define love, courage, and purposeful work?”
It's very simple.
Your life will find amazing clarify once you make the choice to be courageous, define how and who you're going to love, and determine what purposeful work you're going to execute.