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What was your biggest wake up call in life?

Bryan Liu
Bryan Liu
6 min read
What was your biggest wake up call in life?

Steve Job’s 2005 Stanford Commencement speech was one of my favorite speeches of all time.

I first listened to it in 2007 on my iPhone and I thought he beautifully touched on the most important aspects of our lives with his three stories: Connecting dots, finding and doing what you love, and death. I felt like I was handed the manuals to life -- if I follow his pearls of wisdom correctly, my life could end up being fruitful like his. Sky's the limit.

Ten years later, I woke up in my apartment in San Francisco. I’ve always wanted to work in the tech industry and I finally broke into the industry as a software engineer after months of hard work (more on this in another blog post). This was a dream come true right? As I stepped out of my bed to prepare myself for another day, I collapsed immediately onto the floor. An excruciating pain shot through my right leg and when I looked at my knee it was swollen beyond recognition.

At first, I thought I simply had worked out too hard and had sprung my knee. It’s nothing, I’ll be back in action in no time, so I thought. I went to the hospital and my expectation of a simple & quick “gimme-a-pill” solution soon turned into months of struggle. Taking X-rays, hopping on crutches, last-minute admittance to ER, passing between specialties, switching between hospitals, countless insertions of needles for blood work, these are just a few of the activities I’d gone through in a few short months. After a series of diagnoses, the doctors concluded that I have an auto-immune arthritic disease and that I’d have to be on medication for the rest of my life. I sat in the doctor’s office completely shell-shocked. The medications may alleviate my symptoms but may also risk cancer and infection in the future. It is a choice of short-term upside with a long-term downside

Jobs’ story about death became ever more relevant as I began my fight for my life. I decided to look for alternatives because I knew I ought to explore all options before taking the one in front of me.

As I embarked on my journey to seek alternative solutions, dragging my aching legs to different clinics across the globe on my own, I asked myself:

  • Why didn’t I spend my time more wisely?
  • Why didn’t I do all the things I wanted to do, and instead chose to chase after work and money?
  • Why didn’t I spend more time with my family and friends?
  • Why didn’t I treasure the relationships I had?
  • Why didn’t I play more with my loved ones?

As I reflected on my life and the choices that I’ve taken, I realized that I shunned away from what my heart desired due to fear. Fear of not having enough money. Fear of not achieving. Fear of not doing enough to survive in this world.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary -- Steve Jobs 2005 Commencement Speech.

Jobs gave me this wisdom years ago, and I have failed to heed his words. I’ve worked at places that squashed my passion. I’ve befallen into the trap of chasing after money and status. I’ve lived society’s dogma. I lived in my own fears. His stories finally struck a chord in me, and I prayed for a second chance to live life correctly.

In the next few months, I went through a series of traditional and alternative treatments which ultimately led me to the remote country of Cypress. Here I was going through an intensive Ozone therapy, which essentially was infusing supercharged oxygen gas into my blood. The big idea behind this therapy was to oxidize a patient’s blood so that his immune system was modulated and functional. After 2 months of this therapy, I stood on a sandy beach in Cypress with the seawater splashing against my legs. I walked along the beach, and for the first time, I walked without any pain. After a year-long struggle, I was miraculously healed. Most importantly, I didn’t need to take any medication (more on this in another post).

I looked at the horizon and reflected on my journey. I felt like life had hit my head with a brick (as Jobs had said in his speech). It was awful-tasting medicine, but I guess I did need it. I was given a second chance at life, and I knew now that I must not repeat the mistakes of my past. I ought to heed to Jobs’ words more and truly live my life by my heart instead of by my fears.

Our time is limited. What we have and what we think we have can vanish in an instant. We ought to pursue what we are passionate about and enjoy the treasures in life.  I made a promise to myself to forget the lessons of this experience. Whenever I go through too many days deviating from what felt right in my gut, I’d ask myself if I were truly living a meaningful life with the time spent. After all, I still had so many things I’d want to do: I can’t wait to learn salsa dance; I can’t wait to dive into the ocean; I can’t wait to write that romance poetry. A beautiful life awaits me, and my health journey was a wake-up call that I hope not to receive again in the future.

Look at where I went immediately after I got better!

Climbing to the Dragonstone (from GOT)

...feasting like royalties in GOT

...driving around Spain and encountering a mindblowing scenery