I’m Sean Smith. I’m a father and husband first, speaker and coach second.
I’m thoroughly flawed, cracked and mired with as many internal blocks and challenges as the rest of us. I’m a recovering perfectionist, I have a Ph.D. in procrastination, and I sabotage myself on a daily basis.
But I’m completely fascinated with figuring out this game of life, how the human mind works, why we hold ourselves back, and teaching other people what I learn along the way.
My main business obsession is helping entrepreneurs get rid of their fears, values conflicts, limiting beliefs and sabotaging patterns so they can live with passion, presence and purpose.
But, I have to be honest with you…
I never planned on doing what I’m doing now. In fact, not too long ago, I just wanted to be a stay-at-home dad while my wife Cybil made all the money to pay the bills. =)
But that’s obviously not how it worked out. If you’re interested at all, saddle up and let me tell you the short version of my story…
As a kid, I just wanted to play baseball. I started playing when I was 8 years old, and I was pretty damn good in Little League – one of the best pitchers around. And then right when I started to get REALLY good, I blew out my arm during pitching practice.
Major tendinitis, most likely from throwing too many curve balls growing up before my elbow joint could handle the stress. (Parents… don’t let your kids throw curve balls!!!)
However, as bad as that was for my playing career, it’s an ingredient in the recipe of events that would completely alter the course of my life and happiness for the best.
That was the summer of 1986. I was entering the 8th grade. And later that same year, after the accident, I would never be the same again.
December 17th, 1986 was a day that changed my life forever.
It was a cool and cloudy winter morning in Union City, CA, near the San Francisco Bay Area. I was riding my bicycle to school for an early morning Geometry class that I had to take at the high school. (I’ve always been really good at math)
I was literally high on life. On top of the world.
My All-Star baseball team had returned from the Little League World Series a few months before. I was a mini-celebrity in my town, and had even gotten my picture on the front page of the local newspaper. Plus, the San Francisco 49ers were set to play their arch rivals, my beloved Los Angeles Rams, in just two days. I was pumped. I had my blue Rams jacket on, ready to talk trash to all the silly 49er fans at school.
And then, my world turned upside down.
As I was riding in the bike lane along Alvarado Niles Boulevard, I passed through an intersection, where a lady was approaching the stop sign at the corner. As she went beyond the white line, I realized that she was about to hit me. So in order to avoid being run over by her, I did the only thing my mind could think of at the moment – swerve left. And hard. What didn’t occur to me in that eternal instant was that I had swerved directly into oncoming traffic.
Before I could even turn my head around to see what was about to happen…
I felt the crushing impact.
A bright yellow car, which the police said was traveling at least 50 miles-per-hour, ran right through me, demolishing my bicycle and sending my 13-year-old body flailing into the air.
My Rams jacket left a big blue smudge mark as my back collided with the roof. It seemed like all the air was knocked out of my body. I blacked out.
I don’t know how I landed on the pavement. I was momentarily unconscious. All I remember is time… going… so… slow…
And then I literally woke up in the slow lane, with cars rushing toward me,
getting bigger and bigger and bigger
In a state of panic, I quickly jerked my body up to run out of the street. But instead, my left leg collapsed because my shin had been shattered by the car’s bumper.
My logical mind was suspended in time, but luckily my human instinct took over and I must have somehow army crawled my way onto the curb and out of further danger.
Soon, a small crowd of witnesses had gathered around me on the street corner. The lady who triggered the accident by driving through the stop sign was kneeling over me, praying to God to spare my life.
That’s the moment I knew I was in serious trouble. Fear replaced the emptiness.
And then, everything started going fast. In no time at all, I was in the back of an ambulance asking all the medical guys if I was going to be okay. Of course they said yes, as they’re supposed to, but the looks on their faces told me they weren’t so certain.
Next thing I knew I was in the hospital on a gurney, with everyone talking fast and moving faster, rushing me through the halls.
They had to cut my pants off of my leg and I overheard that they were preparing me for emergency surgery. I still didn’t really understand what was happening, as I seemed to have reverted back to a child-like state of awareness.
At some point during the chaos, I seized an opportunity to lean forward and look down at my wound. To this day, I don’t really know how to describe what I saw. Sparing you the visual details, let’s just say that my leg was completely mangled.
I’m pretty sure God never intended for us to see our own bones. Especially when they’re exposed to the air and broken into bits and pieces.
My parents were now arriving at the hospital, looking as frantic as I had ever seen them. The doctor told them something that made their faces turn white and their jaws drop. It wasn’t until many years later than I learned what that statement was.
“If the experimental surgery doesn’t work, his leg has to be amputated.”
Lucky for me, the surgery did work. They took the floating pieces of bone, mashed them up and basically made a little sandwich with what remained of my upper and lower tibia (front shin bone).
To fast forward a bit, rehab was long and difficult for me at that age, but in less than a year I was back on the baseball field, playing the game I loved.
I finished my career having played in 3 world series tournaments at all different levels, which is almost unheard of. I played my final game competing for the National Championship, losing in the late innings to an improbable comeback.
Looking back, there are so many variables that could have been different, and would have made Dec. 17th, 1986 my last day on Earth. But it happened exactly as it was meant to happen, and I thank God everyday for the lessons I learned.
I guess I wasn’t quite done yet.
That accident truly was the most positive experience of my childhood because for the first time in my life, I looked at the world through a mortal set of lenses. I learned that no matter who you are, what you look like or where you are in life…
You are not promised your next breath.
So I made an agreement with myself that day. I decided that if we only have one go-around on this big green marble, and we never know when our time is up, I was going to give it my best shot.
I never wanted to have that “What if…” conversation that too many people have toward the end of their lives. The one that sounds like…
“What if I would have done this?” and “What if I wouldn’t have done that?”
And then the real kick in the gut – “What could I have become?
I knew that would be the most painful conversation I’d ever be in. So I vowed to myself to always strive for greatness and never settle for mediocrity. I started changing habits. I began obsessing about goal setting and achievement. I stopped hanging around many of my friends who were leading me down a path I didn’t want to travel.
I stopped taking life for granted.
But this promise doesn’t make me unique at all. If you’re still reading these words, I bet you’ve made a similar vow to yourself at some point in your life too. Most people do.
Yet what I learned over the next 19 years was that sacred promises made to ourselves don’t necessarily guarantee our success.
Even though I had all the talent to succeed, including a never-quit mentality and work ethic, I still struggled well into my adult years.
I desperately chased my dreams, but kept creating frustration and mediocrity instead, as I tried to figure out what I was meant to do with my gift of life.
I lasted only one year as a juvenile probation office before I quit, not feeling like I was making any difference at all.
I spent 7 wonderful years in the classroom as a math teacher, but quit soon after my daughter was born, determined to make a living as an entrepreneur. I joined a network marketing company, telling everybody I had “retired” and was running a business full time.
In reality, “retired” meant I endlessly staggered around in fear,
basically dousing our life savings in gasoline and lighting it all on fire.
I’m pretty sure I finished my MLM career as the worst representative in history, having earned just under $1,100 in 4 years. Ouch. Time to move on.
I spent 6 months trying to sell internet advertising to attorneys. Dumb decision.
I invested $20k into a stock market system, where I learned to trade options. Didn’t work out.
I started a promotional products company with a college friend. Really dumb decision, and a six-figure loss.
But one thing I give myself credit for is that I never gave up trying. Remember, I made that promise to myself as a 13-year-old kid and I was determined to keep it.
As financially devastating as it was, the MLM industry had introduced me to the world of personal development. Zig Ziglar. Jim Rohn. John Maxwell. And so many others.
They gave me hope.
In August of 2005, with a young daughter, a pregnant wife, lots of battle scars, filled with fear and several hundred thousand dollars of credit card debt, I attended Jack Canfield’s “Breakthrough to Success” seminar. GREAT decision.
I received my life’s purpose. I learned how to deal with my anger. I admitted to myself that life wasn’t working. And I mustered the courage to start a career as a speaker so I can share my message and my gifts with the people who needed them most.
On November 17th, 2005, I attended Melanie Benson Strick’s “Ultimate Business Breakthrough” seminar. PHENOMENAL decision.
After having a full blown emotional breakdown while doing a simple 90-day goals exercise, one of the co-facilitators took me outside the room and into the middle of the crowded hotel lobby.
Those next 20 minutes changed my life again.
This guy Matt, who happened to be a life coach, proceeded to guide me through the most powerful and liberating visualization of my entire existence.
He helped me identify and eliminate the biggest, most painful internal obstacle I had, a nagging belief that I wasn’t enough.
When I went back home, my wife noticed a difference. My friends asked me what happened. And I couldn’t stop smiling.
So a few months later, I emailed Matt and said,
What did you do to me? Where can I get it? I don’t care if it’s legal.
Matt said it’s called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Per his instruction, I got certified the following summer, began my obsession with human psychology and the unconscious mind, and started sharing what I learned with anyone who’d listen.
I also started a journey into the self-help universe, one that would have me attending 10 seminars in the first 12 months, and many many more in the years since.
I became a bonafide, unapologetic, fully addicted, card-carrying seminar junkie.
To date, I’ve invested well over $150,000 into my own personal growth and development. Truthfully, I think I got the Bargain of the Century.
The first 2 years of my new career were amazing. My wife gave birth to our second child, I was traveling North America hosting my own seminars, helping people erase their fears and limiting beliefs, and making uncomfortably large amounts of money.
Then, my ego decided that multiple six figures wasn’t enough — it was time to become a millionaire! So in a moment of ambitious ignorance, I changed my focus in 2008.
Painfully stupid decision.
To fast forward through the details, our business tanked, I had to fire my two employees (who were personal friends), and we eventually surrendered to bankruptcy a year later.
Humiliated, embarrassed and spiritually broken, I retreated. I found the darkest corner and licked my wounds for months, scared to risk failing again.
But, I didn’t quit.
Slowly, we turned the business around, became financially smarter than ever, and righted the ship. For the next year, I coasted on autopilot, still scared to risk too much.
And then on September 29th, 2010, I got the call. Pancreatic cancer.
Not my dad. It’s not fair. He’s too good of a guy. My mind raced. I was scared. I was sad. I was pissed. I didn’t know what to do.
This was the first time I had experienced cancer with anyone I was really close to. If you’re familiar with pancreatic cancer (I’m sorry if you are), it’s almost always detected too late and it’s brutally painful.
After his health deteriorated while living on his own and not being able to take care of himself (he and my mom divorced when I was 18), we decided to move him in with us.
When we picked him up at his apartment, his neighbors told him to hang in there, and kept saying they’d see him soon. But everyone was thinking the same thing, though none of them wanted to say it out loud.
It would be the last time they saw him alive.
The last 80 days of my father’s life weren’t easy for him, as he quickly lost control of his body. He fell several times, and bruised his chest badly one morning when he rolled himself off of the new hospital bed in our living room and landed on a metal trash can.
One night after a dinner out, he was feeling really good. So on the way back to the car, he decided to jump off the curb. He didn’t quite stick the landing, and broke his hip. The look on his face as he lay helpless in that parking lot tore my heart out.
That night epitomized the best and worst of my dad, all at the same time. He was impulsive. Even though it turned out bad, he still jumped. I respect him for going for it.
That’s what the world needs more of – people who are willing to go for it. You’re 67, with pancreatic cancer, and terrible knees? Screw it. I’m gonna jump! =)
Being with my dad for his last 80 days taught me a lot. First, after most of our friends were predicting how terrible everything was going to be, my wife and I chose differently. We pre-decided that it was all going to be beautiful. No matter what. And it was.
In life, you will always find what you’re looking for.
Second, I noticed that I only got sad when I was envisioning him already being in the ground. So I also decided that I would not experience his death while he’s still alive.
Because of those two decisions, I know that my dad’s last 80 days were the best they possibly could have been. He was surrounded by love and joy. And I was fully present with him, soaking up as much as I could before he punched his ticket outta here.
Toward the end, he was ready to go. He wanted to see his little sister and his parents again in Heaven. He entered Hospice care on a Friday afternoon, and told them in no uncertain terms that he wanted to be medicated heavily until he passed away pain-free.
On Saturday, he was pain free, with two industrial strength pain patches on his skin. But he wasn’t my dad anymore either. He had slipped into an altered mental state. Didn’t know where he was, or that he had cancer. He kept trying to get out of bed.
He was happy. But I wasn’t complete.
Deep down, I had a feeling that was very unsettling. I knew his death was close, but I hadn’t had my final talk with him. I had words that needed to come out.
So I called the nurses and asked if I could remove one of the pain patches in hopes that his awareness would return for one more conversation with my dad. They said sure.
It was Super Bowl Sunday. After the game, my wife and kids said goodnight and left us alone downstairs. Just me and my dad. One last time.
I held his hand, told him that I loved him, and asked him if he was complete. He said yes. I asked if he needed to see or hear from anyone before he lets go, and he said no.
Then I asked him how I could honor his legacy with my own journey, once he’s gone. He softly shook his head like I had asked a silly question, and his next few words rocked my soul to the core. With no hesitation, he said…
“BE who you can be. DO what you can do. And LIVE a good life.”
Be. Do. Live. Amazingly simple. Immensely powerful.
After that, I told him I had taken the pain patch off so I could have one last talk with him. To which he replied, “Thank you Seanie. I love you, son. Now put that patch back on!”
=) That’s my dad. Funny as hell down to his final breath. He always knew how to make us laugh. No matter what.
He spent the following day in a hallucinogenic state, eyes wide open, reliving his whole life right in front of us.
He took his last ‘jump’ the day after. I miss him terribly, but I celebrate his spirit every single day. He was the best dad anyone could have.
My last conversation with him was so profound that it took my breath away. He gave me this torch of wisdom to carry forth.
I’ll do my best, Dad.
So that’s me. Sean Smith. Father and husband first. Teacher second. Broken, scarred and scared. Powerful, determined and courageous. All at once. As my good friend Brennan says, I’m “perfectly flawed”.
Thank you for reading. I don’t know if you shed any tears along the way, but I sure as hell cried my eyes out writing all this.
No matter what you’ve been through in life, you are valuable. You are love. You are loved. You have a message to share. Share it.
BE who you can be. DO what you can do. LIVE a good life. And for God’s sake…