Life is Hard

December 14, 2015

This is probably the most difficult article I’ve ever written. 

I am going to expose myself, open up and be vulnerable.

This is most likely something you will never read again from me, as I keep my family very close and private and guarded from my public life. However as I am writing this from the waiting area at DeVos Childrens Hospital, in my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, while my beautiful, perfect, innocent little boy fights for his life, through an illness that no child should have to bear, I am reminded of two very important things and the reason I chose to share some of my personal journey and to teach you what I have learned. 

1. Life is Hard

2. You MUST still learn to Live Every Moment

Ayden Riggs at the interactive wall, DeVos Childrens Hospital, (Living)




Life Is Hard


Allow me to bunny trail for a bit before I get to the main topic. (huge surprise right?)

I have been fortunate to share some of the same stages and audiences with many impacting “self-help” names like: Tony Robbins, Darren Hardy, Robert Kiyosaki, as well as leaders and celebrities like Donald Trump,

Jay Leno and Rich DeVos. As you know I write under the header “Spend Your Time Living”,

and I talk mainly about 3 things:

1. Living Every Moment of your life to experience every last ounce life has to offer,

2. making yourself an invaluable resource to the world around you by creating the very best Value Proposition 

in every single relationship, business transaction and human interaction you have, and 

3. the mechanics with which to organize your time and the access people have to you, or your Circles.


That being said, I would say that it would be inaccurate to classify myself as a “self-help” resource. The Self Help industry in the US generates about 10 Billion Dollars/year and mainly focuses on giving people self confidence and a positive self image. No real happiness or success can generally be achieved without those two items. But those are not really the focus of my discussions, or my “niche”. Although utilizing the SYTL methodology can lead to you discovering the best way for you to have confidence and self image, those items, in and of themselves, will not teach people to Live Every Moment, nor will they even scratch the surface of The Value Proposition or having Circles. So I guess you’d say I’m more of a Life Secret Teller. I like to give away the big secrets in life that few people know and even fewer understand how to implement. That’s what SYTL is all about, discovering and learning to utilize the secrets that very few have learned the very hard way.


Which brings me to the point of this article.

I meet a lot of people who have read all the “Self-Help” books, and been to the seminars, and have learned how to feel good about themselves, to look others in the eye, to smile at others, to use their names in conversation, and a host of other basic success principles. They are all “in the pursuit” of something. Happiness, money, filling the void, finding meaning, etc…. And they are all reading these books and listing to the cd’s and feeling just great about themselves, their lives and the amazing future they are so vividly dreaming about every second of every day…. (I used to be one of those people)


Then they lose their job, Or they crash their car. Or their girlfriend dumps them. Or let’s get even more real…. Their spouse dies. Or their best friend is paralyzed. Or they go bankrupt. 

Or in my case, their beautiful, perfect, sweet little 8 year old boy is diagnosed with a completely out of the blue, 

painful, confusing, complicated, scary, unforgiving, and completely unfair, life threatening illness.

His name is Ayden and I love him more than life….

Whew. Got that out. (sniffling) 

(I tend to write how I speak). Most people tell me they like it. I apologize if you don’t.

Actually, no I don’t. I write how I write, deal with it. (That’s a bit of humor to lighten it back up)…. so….


                                                                                                                                                   Ayden Riggs, 8 Years Old


What’s the question they all ask?   

How do I Live, in the bad moments?

(big L, refer to past articles if you don’t know what the big L is all about)


Or other variations; How do I Live Every Moment, if the moments suck?

How do I Live (enjoy) life, if someone I love is in pain, or suffering?

In today’s world a realistic question might be, How do I deal with a school shooting or a terrorist event at my office, or my friend or family member killed in combat?

How does all this stuff SYTL teaches me help, when things are not going well?


Well, however you frame the question, it is a good one and an absolutely essential thing to understand. So let me begin to answer how I begin most of my answers…. By saying something unexpected and sometimes the opposite of what you’re used to a speaker or author, parent, school, institution, etc… telling you.

Are you ready? Here it goes.



Life is Hard.

Yes, life is hard. It’s hard today, it will be hard tomorrow and most likely it will get harder as time goes on….


Whoah. You’re asking, “What did he just say? 

Isn’t this guy supposed to make me feel “better” about myself and life and teach me about happiness and love and joy?

The simple answer is NO. That is not what I teach or why I teach it.

I teach about “real” life and how to learn to navigate it with the best experience.

That is a vastly different thing than giving you warm fuzzy feelings and “blue-sky” goggles to see pretty things all around you.


Let me explain. 

4000 Years ago, man’s life expectancy was much different than now.

1 in 3 infants lived to be 18 years old. (30%). Only about 50% lived past 18 and they only made it to about 50.

Life was hard. 

During the Middle Ages (or dark ages), when people were less connected and there was hardly any medicine or science, it was even harder. People that did not die of starvation, worked tireless 12-18 hour days growing their own food and died of everything from infections of simple cuts, to the common cold.

Life was hard.

From 1775 to present, Americans have been involved in 81 wars or conflicts, costing over 2 Million lives.

Life has been hard.

Today, according to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 business fail within 18 months, over 50 Million Americans live below the poverty level, over 10 Million adult Americans are unemployed, heart disease and cancer are at an all-time high, and over 16 Million children go to bed hungry each night in this country.

Life is STILL hard.


So let’s summarize life being hard.

You can study hard, work hard, eat right, exercise, be a go-getter, and do everything you can to be a great friend, relative, business associate and parent and yes, tragedy you can not control can, (and at sometime probably will), hit you so hard you don’t know if you can get up after the gut punch.

In my life I’ve lived through my parents divorce, changing schools 10 times, great success, financial loss, friends dying, family members dying, being on both sides of lawsuits, building businesses, losing businesses, building friendships, losing friendships, personal betrayals, one sided friendships, seeing people hurt one another for no good reason and yet all those things together don’t even come close to watching your child suffer.


So what I’m saying is that it is pretty much a guarantee that life is going to smash you around like a small sailboat in a huge storm.

You’re going to get roughed up like a 98 pound kid getting hit by four 300 pound pro football players! 

You WILL suffer loss. You WILL lose friends. You WILL be betrayed. You WILL have health issues effect you or a loved one. And you WILL fail. 


Wow, pretty uplifting stuff huh? Let’s let that last one sink in a little.

Yes, you will fail at times. 

You will make mistakes. 

You will make the wrong call.

And so will EVERYONE else in the whole entire world. (You’re not alone)


Ok, we have established that life is hard for everyone at one time or another, and in one way or another.

So let’s talk turkey.

How do we Live (big L), through it?


You have heard the example of the Glass Half Full or the Glass Half Empty type of thinking right?

A person with a positive mental attitude will say a glass is half full of water, while a negative mental attitude will say the glass is half empty. Well let me tell you a couple stories, and then you can compare them to your situation and see what kind of person you want to be.


My 8 year old son goes into his 30 or 40th medical visit of the year. His bones and muscles are weak and underdeveloped from the Loeys-Dietz Syndrome. His intestines are not functioning properly causing him to have the sensation that he needs to go to the bathroom all the time, so he can not sleep at night. He has an enlarged heart. He can not play sports like his friends or his arteries will rupture. He is on heart medication, blood medication, GI medication, allergy medication, asthma medication, and a range of others. He can not run or punch or kick or tackle or wrestle like his male hormones want to, and oh yeah, he has migraines. 

HE’S 8 YEARS OLD!!! (that was me yelling)


Now you also have to understand his natural disposition is unbelievable, beyond normally, ultra sweet. He is so loving, tender, caring etc.. He will cry if I kill a bug instead of let it go outside. He loves life, all life.

So here is this kid, with all this stuff going on, and you know what he does? As the nurses and doctors look at this sweet little boy and hold back their loving tears, what does Ayden say? He says, “It’s ok, my LDS isn’t as bad as the kids without food that my Dad helps. At least we have food”…. Then he goes on to tell his current favorite joke, that he has made up. (tons of them) Latest: What kind of vehicle does Dracula drive? …  A “Van-pire”… 

And as the the doctors and nurses laugh, he knows he has put them at ease and he lays back and lets them do their jobs.

And I fight back the tears….




Why do I tell you all this? How does this help you find the answers to Live through your bad moments. I mean, you’re probably thinking it’s tragic, but he’s 8 right? He’s just a kid, with the mind of a child. He’s only thinking about how to have fun and not the bad. He’s not an adult like me, with adult issues, like thinking about a job, or bills, or complicated romance, or the office politics, or the stock market, or having no money, or having to start over in work or life…… right…….


Ok, it’s Secret Time…Don’t miss it….



He’s NOT thinking about those things.

He’s focused 80% on others and 20% on his own issues and this makes him happy.

Wow, can you do this? Can you see how the mind of a child is the answer?

You have that inside you; we all do. We just let all these seemingly important things get in the way of that simple compass. That no nonsense thing built inside us that allows us to think about the fun and the good and focus on them. You MUST find that piece of you. You must find it, and allow it to be the bulk of your perspective.


I have learned SO MUCH from my son in the last year.

Yes that’s right “I’ve learned from him”, how to Live Every Moment, during the tough times.



If you still haven’t figured it out, let me summarize for you.

1. Life is going to deal you some crappy stuff. Possibly more bad than good.

2. You need to focus on the things that really matter, and let the rest go. LET THEM GO!

3. Most importantly, you need to be focused on being good to others every day. 

My son has taught me that making others happy is the only thing that will make you truly happy.


Let me end by sharing some life lessons that Ayden has taught me this year that have made me even better at Living EVERY Moment, offering an even stronger and more powerful Value Proposition than ever before, and last but not least how ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL your Circles are in life. You will NEVER get time back, so do not waste one second of it on any person that is not bringing 100% positive into your life.

Not One Second!



Life Lessons I've learned from Ayden:

1. When choosing between being on your phone/computer/or a call, or watching Star Wars Rebels cartoons with your child, always sit down and watch a 20 min cartoon. If the email or call was important, they’ll leave a message.

2. When driving in the car with someone you care about, stay off that phone, turn down the radio and talk with them.

3. Play a lot of “I-spy”, it’s a great game.

4. Tickling should be a daily activity.

5. When someone is talking to you, stop what you are doing and look them in the eye.

6. Never, Ever, Ever say just a minute when a child asks you for a hug. It may be the last one you get from them, or they from you….

7. Always have a good joke to tell. Humor can lighten the mood in any situation and the healing power of a smile can change a persons whole day.

8. NEVER let anyone come between you and your family, or threaten their health, happiness or their time with you. This is your primary function in life and you fight with every breath in your body, every resource you have, and every favor you can call in, to prevent anything or anyone from interfering in your family or the fleeting moments you have with them. 

9. Remember: THIS moment is the one that matters most, LIVE in it!   

(there may not be a next one)


I shared these very personal things with you to try to teach you this point.

My son’s illness and the initial fear that gripped me was almost unbearable. I almost broke, and I’m a tough cookie. But his example of searching for the fun, the joy, the happiness in every little moment, at home, in the car, or at the hospital, taught me that there is beauty everywhere in life. You just have to be looking to find it and be ready to give it away. It took the mind of a child to show me this. I have learned it, I hope do too.


That is how you Live in the tough moments. 

You search for the joy and you give joy to others, circumstances be damned.

(Sorry for the language, but it’s the right sentiment)


Next time you’re feeling bad for yourself and you can’t seem to find your way back to Living in that moment, think of Ayden and what he would do. Think of his smile, a funny joke and his child-like mind searching for the joy and let your child-like self come out and help you find the joy around you.

Then be sure to give it away.


That’s Living.



Thanks Ayden,


Love Dad.




Here is a gallary of pics for you to see a glimpse of this in action.

I catagorise them Hard and Living Every Moment

The Hard ones make me tear up. The Live Every Moment ones make me smile,,,, then tear up.

If an 8 year old boy can find a way to see the Joy in moments like these,

than I know you can the Joy in your life moments too.

Scroll through them and see a living example of SYTL in action.

I hope these images inspire you to find the joy and Live!


(Mouse over the pics and click arrows to scroll, or click tiny arrow upper right and start autoscroll)









For more information on Loeys-Diets Syndrome visit the Loeys-Diets Foundaiton Web Site HERE



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