How to Achieve Your Goals, with Sean Swarner


Exclusive Interview with: Sean Swarner

With only one functioning lung, a prognosis of fourteen days to live, and being in a medically-induced coma for a year, Sean Swarner is the first cancer survivor to stand on top of the world: Mt. Everest. As he continues to defy the odds, test his own endurance and inspire and motivate people around the world, he shares his message of healing, hope, and triumph with cancer patients worldwide. Swarner also serves as a source of inspiration as the founder of the non-profit organization, The CancerClimber Association, as author of the book, Keep Climbing, and as a motivational speaker to corporations, universities, and other organizations around the globe.

…my emotional attachment to living and drive to survive were key to pulling through. Focusing on living as opposed to “focusing on not dying” made a big difference.

SPEAKING.COM: What was the process like rebuilding your life after being in a coma for a year?

SWARNER: It wasn’t exactly easy, and even though it was a medically-induced coma, I frankly don’t remember much about being 16 years old. Moving forward from the lucid moments I had was very difficult, but my emotional attachment to living and drive to survive were key to pulling through. Focusing on living as opposed to “focusing on not dying” made a big difference.

SPEAKING.COM: When and why did you decide you wanted to climb Everest?

SWARNER: While in grad school working toward my doctorate in Psychooncology (psychology for cancer patients), I decided I wanted to do something bigger, something that would scream around the world that nothing is impossible.

Life is based on perspectives and choice. We are always in control of how we see things and what we believe is possible. Hope is also a huge factor, and I wanted to use Everest as a proverbial 29,035 foot platform to shout “Hope!”

My parents literally said, “we didn’t get you through two cancers to go kill yourself on a hunk of rock and ice.”

SPEAKING.COM: What were some of the reactions you received from people around you regarding your plans to summit Everest, and how did those reactions affect you?

SWARNER: Countless people told me outright that I was crazy. My parents literally said, “we didn’t get you through two cancers to go kill yourself on a hunk of rock and ice.” Numerous people around the world thought what I was attempting (climbing the highest mountain on earth with one lung) was literally and physiologically impossible.

I took those reactions into account and stored them in the back of my mind, channeling my desire to prove them wrong into motivational energy. Despite the tons of negative feedback I got, in the end, it was my choice to attempt the impossible.

SPEAKING.COM: What were some of the challenges you faced in building a team to get you to the top of Everest?

SWARNER: When attempting to get sponsorship and support, I lived out of a Honda Civic for months after grad school, and my office was the library and a pay phone bank.

I didn’t have a big team. My brother and a cook were stationed at base camp, and accompanying me up the mountain were the most amazing climbers ever, two Sherpas.

“A+B doesn’t always = C” for everyone…People’s perspectives on life differ, so the 7 Summits to Success takes this into account and doesn’t TELL anyone what to do or how to do it. Instead it makes them question their own “how”…

SPEAKING.COM: What are a few of the 7 Summits to success?

SWARNER: My newest eBook series focuses on what most speakers and authors don’t: the understanding that “A+B doesn’t always = C” for everyone. Each individual has a completely unique background that shapes his/her reality and motivation. People’s perspectives on life differ, so the 7 Summits to Success takes this into account and doesn’t TELL anyone what to do or how to do it. Instead it makes them question their own “how” through stories of my climbing adventures and a concise “workbook” to help guide people to their success.

For example, the first book, Everest: Being Unstoppable takes people through the struggles, the drama, but ultimate success of Everest. The lesson/guidance given to people throughout is the importance of having an emotional attachment to the end result, and living the future goal as though it’s already in the present and completed. By doing so, whenever someone has a proverbial bump in the road, the end result accompanied with those intense emotions remind you that the struggle is worth it.

SPEAKING.COM: What is the “Upside Down Mountain” analogy and can people apply it to their own challenges?

SWARNER: Anyone, anywhere can use this. It’s basically the same as the above example: Knowing – not thinking or believing, but knowing – you’re already successful. This may mean writing down the goals so they’re real, practicing visualization, or any other exercise that works for you to make you fully understand it’s happened. The key is picturing yourself on top as opposed to starting at base camp and struggling to get there.

We’re human beings, not human “doings.” Our emotions, when tied to the end result, are incredibly powerful motivators.

SPEAKING.COM: What are some ways people can stay focused on long-term goals and avoid getting distracted from whatever it is they should be doing to meet those goals?

SWARNER: Emotions. We’re human beings, not human “doings.” Our emotions, when tied to the end result, are incredibly powerful motivators.

My second suggestion takes its inspiration from the business world. Successful businesses have guidelines that help them stay on track toward their goals. Why wouldn’t you do the same in life? Why wouldn’t you want goals associated with values to keep you in the right direction and on-task?

SPEAKING.COM: What do you recommend to people who are considering abandoning a goal or project?

SWARNER: It depends on how much they believe in the goal and how possible it is, but also how much it means to them. Since everyone is different, there are multiple questions that need to be asked. This is where my Performance Coaching could help – A LOT.

One of the keys though, is to understand that “success” shouldn’t be our end goal, because after we get “there,” what’s next? Instead, shouldn’t we focus on constantly succeeding?

SPEAKING.COM: Have you ever had a goal or project that you let go of, and if so, what factors led you to that decision?

SWARNER: I’m sure I had little goals here and there that I gave up on, but obviously nothing of significance. I did, however, give up on one goal (for now): getting into space with Elon Musk. I’d rather they figure out the whole exploding rocket thing first.

SPEAKING.COM: In April you trekked to the North Pole completing the “Adventurer Grand Slam.” What’s next?

SWARNER: Recently, I proposed via satellite phone to my now fiancé. I’ve been told marriage is a more difficult expedition, so I’ll be focusing on that along with my speaking, coaching, and a potential TV show based on adventure!

To bring motivational speaker Sean Swarner to your organization, please contact Michael Frick at: Mike@Speaking.com

© SPEAKING.com, published on June 17, 2018

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