How This Cancer Survivor Is Stronger Than Ever
Date: March 8, 2016
Diagnosed with cancer twice, given three months to live and spending a year in a coma would be enough for anyone to cope with. But not Sean Swarner.
He is an inspiration to speakers who are hoping to achieve more than just inspire their audiences, but literally save their lives!
The amazing thing about speaking is that it isn’t just something people do to brag about themselves. Speeches help people when they have no hope left.
Finding inspiration for your speech doesn’t come out of a textbook, but real life experiences, and no matter what difficulties you’ve been faced with, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
And the amazing Sean Swarner, who has been through more than anyone could ever comprehend, shares with us what that light is.
Hi Sean, it’s so great to speak with you. Can you please tell us a little about the main topics you cover in your speeches?
I’ve accomplished what most thought would be impossible.
My mindset, perspective, and how I see the world is completely different than anyone else because of my history (being read my last rites, and climbing Mt. Everest with one lung).
I speak on a number of topics, but everything comes down to perspective and how people see their world, goals, and other areas of life – tailoring my presentations to be unique for the event and people listening, to help guide them to the best perspective on their specific goal.
Do you have a goal in mind when you’re speaking?
It’s to make the audience re-think the word “impossible” and to change their perspective on what they can achieve.
What makes you different from any other speaker?
I’m the only person in the world who’s accomplished what I have, and am fortunate enough to have created a way of connecting with people on an emotional and direct level, for immediate and life-lasting changes/benefits.
What inspired you to take this career?
When I was a teenager, I battled through two life-threatening cancers and was at one point read my last rites and told I only had 14 days to live.
I had nothing to hold onto and nothing to live for, but I found hope.
The human body can live for about 30 days without food. The human condition can sustain itself for roughly 3 days without water, but no human alive can live for more than 30 seconds without hope.
I wanted to give and help people with something I never had… hope.
What was your latest presentation and how was the experience?
Although I’ve spoken to and helped companies like IBM, Dow Chemical, Unilever, and have been told it was the best presentation they’ve ever seen, my last talk was to a group of High School kids – and it was fantastic!
The teachers said they had never seen their students that engaged and quiet before. Earlier in the day, I surprised a 3rd grade class down the road with a visit.
Last year I had a Skype call with them after I returned from the South Pole, and their teacher said they haven’t stopped talking about it since. I worked with the teacher and surprised the kids.
The looks on their faces were priceless.
Do you think it’s important to continuously grow as a speaker?
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Everyone on earth has a story to tell, and you can learn something from everyone.
Live, Love, Laugh, Learn, Lead by example. Five ‘L-words’ that include the word ‘learn’ because we should always continue learning throughout life to reach our life-purpose.
I often ask people if they think they have fulfilled their life’s purpose. My answer to them is, “are you alive? Then you haven’t.”
Have you ever had someone approach you and say that you’ve had an impact on their life?
This story gives me the chills every time I tell it. Often times when people are going through life, they question what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and if they should continue.
I’m no different. Whenever these questions begin creeping into my mind, I think about a lady who came up to me after a talk. She was next in the queue, and I could tell she had been crying because her eyes were bloodshot and her mascara had run down her face.
When she came up to me, she latched herself onto me, buried her face into my chest, and started crying again. It took all the strength I had to hold back my tears. Eventually she told me that in the past 5 months she had lost her son to cancer, her husband died as well, and she was diagnosed for the third time with the disease.
She went to the conference knowing she wasn’t going to go home and actually had a suicide note written in her room. That day, she was going to kill herself. She looked me in the eyes, tears flowing down her face and thanked me for saving her life.
Do you think you need to go through ‘tough’ life experiences in order to inspire and motivate others?
I think to fully understand what I’ve been through, and why I do what I do, yes. However, those ‘tough’ experiences don’t necessarily have to be two cancers.
As I initially said, life is all about perspective and how you see the world. For me, my ‘Everest’ was truly that… Mt. Everest. For some people, it could be walking around the block. It could be getting the motivation to get out of bed. It is all personal experience and based on perspective.
I didn’t go from the hospital bed and a coma for a year to the top of Mt. Everest. My first goal was to move from the hospital bed to the bathroom so I wouldn’t soil the sheets.
After that, it was to move around the nurses’ station in a wheelchair. The next step was to shuffle on my own two feet. But how I see things is different because even before I begin, in my mind’s eye, I start successful.
By doing so, any frustration that would normally make me quit, only slows me down, because I’m already there.
If your role is to motivate others, who/what motivates you?
I hope my life, words, and actions motivate others because those others are who motivate me. Everyone who has struggles. Everyone who has difficulties. Everyone going through a hard time… they don’t have a choice.
People fighting for their lives can’t quit and turn around. Climbing the highest mountain on every continent, completing the world’s most difficult race (the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon), trekking across Antarctica to the South pole… I always have a choice of turning around.
If those others can continue forward, I can continue as well. Supporting each other and giving each other motivation and hope can help us all be unstoppable.
What process do you take to create a speech?
One word – questions.
I try to understand the corporation’s/association’s/establishment’s goals completely and what issues they have so I can incorporate it into my speech.
That way it’s not a canned presentation, it’s more impactful and directly related to their specific issues.
A lot of speakers fill the crowd with energy and try to create a momentum within the audience. That’s adrenaline and disappears within a few days.
What I do is leave people with a story that resonates for a lifetime. It’s a seed of hope and change that continues to grow and help people forever.
And Sean repeats this process for every one of his speeches, because what he says can change someone’s life. Be more than a speaker who informs their audience.
Make a difference to people’s lives and be the reason that they got through another day, and do it just because you care.