Posted September 7, 2020 in Podcast
Brain Cancer at the Age of 39 With Matt Newman
What would you do if you found out you had cancer?
The difficult truth is that illnesses like cancer can show up at any time, and we don’t always have time to prepare. Right now, in the age of COVID-19, it feels like sickness and the sudden consequences of it are scarier than ever. How can we start living out our purpose today to make the most of our time?
My guest today knows what it’s like to get that earth-shattering news from his doctor. When he was just 39 years old and already a father of three, Matt Newman was diagnosed with brain cancer. It was a grade three astrocytoma, and the prognosis wasn’t good.
But as a financial advisor, Matt had a unique perspective on the situation. He’d known all along how important it is to plan financially to support your family after you’re gone, and he was dedicated to making sure his family was supported and to overcoming cancer at the same time.
Today, Matt has completed his chemo treatments and is cancer-free. This man has the heart of a lion and the spirit of a warrior — which I’ll let him tell you more about later! He also wrote an incredible book out of his experience with cancer called Starting at the Finish Line, which recounts his experiences, and it’s an incredible and inspiring read.
Throughout his experience, Matt has maintained that cancer gave him a gift. Was it a good thing? No, and he still wishes it had never happened to him. But cancer has shifted Matt’s perspective and taught him to keep fighting and treat every moment as precious.
“It’s a horrible experience, and it’s something I’m going to deal with for the rest of my life. But this is my journey. I own it. I’m driving — cancer’s just riding shotgun.” – Matt Newman
You are going to be inspired by Matt’s journey — I know I was. I’m grateful to him for sharing his story here on the Reaching Beyond podcast. Let’s get started.
Who Is Matt Newman?
Matt Newman is a cancer survivor, but he’s so much more than that. By day, he’s a financial advisor, and he’s an expert at helping people achieve their financial goals. He’s passionate about helping people plan and provide for their families long before cancer can throw their lives for a loop.
Matt is also a bestselling author. The book I mentioned earlier — Starting at the Finish Line — is a powerful memoir about his experiences with brain cancer. Deservedly, it reached the number one spot on four different categories on Amazon just one week after its publication. Matt didn’t write the book to be a bestseller — he wrote it to release his emotions and process the gifts and perspectives shifts he’s experienced as a result of having cancer. Nonetheless, his story has impacted tons of lives, and he inspires people every day to fight through cancer and live more fulfilling lives in the present.
“People are … sick of some canned speech. They’re sick of some dude giving them a bunch of stats. They want to connect with something that’s similar to the path that they’ve been placed on. They want honesty. They want integrity. They want realness. … And people put notes in the books … and tears come out and thankfulness, and you realize that this happened for a reason.” – Matt Newman
Since writing the book, Matt has taken his story far and wide. He’s a highly-sought keynote speaker, and he’s given three different TEDx Talks, including Starting at the Finish Line, in which he tells the story of his book. He’s also been on the radio show ESPN Tonight to share his story. Today, he continues to speak at events around the country, inspiring people to embrace the hard lessons cancer can teach.
I’m so grateful to have Matt on the podcast today. His survival story is incredible, and he had a lot of wisdom to share. In this interview, we talked about what it means to have the heart of a lion, and the fight of a warrior, the key perspective shift cancer has given Matt, and what gifts Matt thinks we can all receive from our current disease pandemic. I think you guys are really going to learn a lot from this episode, so let’s dive in.
The Heart of a Lion and the Fight of a Warrior
You may be surprised to hear this, but Matt didn’t start out his process of writing down his story, thinking, “I have the heart of a lion. I’m going to do this.” That wording came to him through a friend.
When Matt decided to write down the story of his struggle with brain cancer, he was writing entirely for himself. He wrote for catharsis — to work through his emotions and experience healing there. He didn’t care if anybody actually read his story — he just wanted to put it on paper for his own sake. But then a friend of his read the book, and Matt’s perspective started to change.
“So a friend of mine said, … ‘Man, I’ve been reading your stuff. … It reminds me of a lion. You’re like a lion, man.’ And he sent me a picture. … I’m sitting, looking at this picture, going ‘The Hell do I care about a lion?’ … So the lion’s in the corner of my screen right here, I’m writing something down for myself to make myself feel better. … And I’m looking at that picture, [and] the lion’s got this look on his face … like, ‘I’m the king of the jungle. I’ll just rip your bleeping head off if you don’t like it.’ … And I realized that what we want is … the heart of a lion and the fight of a warrior, and that will truly define us at the end.” – Matt Newman
For Matt, having the heart of a lion and the fight of a warrior means taking back his power. It means having a mindset and an attitude of “I’m the king,” even in moments when he feels weak or powerless. It goes back to his quote that I mentioned earlier — Matt’s driving, cancer’s just riding shotgun.
What struggles have you overcome in your life? I know you’ve gone through something. Maybe you’ve struggled with cancer as Matt has, but even if you haven’t, you’ve overcome some struggle just to get to where you are today. I want to encourage you to remember the lessons you learned from those hard experiences, and have the heart of a lion and the fight of a warrior. If you keep on fighting, learning, and growing, you’ll live the most fulfilling life you can, and you’ll leave behind a legacy that you can take pride in.
“It’s Okay to Not Make It About You”
That was just one of the big lessons Matt learned from his experiences with cancer. Here’s another one: “It’s okay to not make it about you.”
Have you ever heard the expression “live like there’s no tomorrow?” It’s a nice idea, but it’s become a little clichéd in our society. But for Matt, cancer brought that question to reality in a whole new way. Suddenly he didn’t know how much time he had left with his three small children, and he started to think and live a little differently.
Matt told me the story of the time his son’s school hosted a Father’s Day picnic lunch. It was a simple event — just 30 minutes, where the dads would come to the school and eat brown bag lunches outside with their kids. Matt was undergoing major cancer treatments at the time, and the strain was tough on his body. But did he miss that lunch? No way.
“So my wife says, ‘Listen, you are beat up. You don’t have to go to this.’ I go, ‘I would never miss this for the world.’ I have a new perspective and understanding. … these are moments in life that you never get back. I have a clarity that I didn’t have before.” – Matt Newman
That day, Matt went to the school and totally enjoyed having lunch with his five-year-old son. It was a fun time of connection with his kid, but Matt couldn’t help but notice something: Most of the other dads spent their time on their phones. They didn’t have time to focus on their children — other things took priority.
“But you know, my first thought was, ‘Oh my God, that was me.’ … I would have had a Blackberry. [But] this wasn’t dad’s lunch. This was Luke’s lunch. … I had no anger, I had no animosity because that was me. But I was not seeing [that] cancer is giving me something. The question is: Am I cognizant enough to take it and own it? Or is it just a ‘woe is me’ situation? And I saw it, I grabbed it, and I made it mine. And that’s the gift I was given.” – Matt Newman
At that moment, Matt’s perspective changed. He realized that work and being constantly connected to a Blackberry were not the most important things in life. It was way more important that he make that experience about his son. He learned how to live in the present moment and create a fulfilling life for his family and a lasting legacy for himself.
What have your priorities been lately? If you have a spouse or kids, have you been intentionally spending time with them? Or are you more worried about your phone? Remember to take the time to make your life not about you. Reach out to the people you love, and make some experiences totally about them. That’s truly living like there’s no tomorrow.
Lessons from COVID-19
Matt has such a healthy and beautiful perspective on life and priorities that I was excited to ask him for his thoughts on the pandemic. What does he think we can learn from this experience? What changes can we make to our lives and perspectives in the wake of this pandemic?
Matt believes the answer lies in all the new ways we’ve found to use technology. In this time, when we’ve all been working from home and hosting meetings online, we’ve definitely dealt with some challenges. But we’ve also found new and innovative ways to maximize our time and actually be more productive.
“I’m actually working harder than I ever did in a more compact period of time because there [are] so many things like airports, travel, all this stuff that is a waste of time in general, doesn’t happen any longer, right? It’s better for fitness. It’s better for being able to be a child. … I think if we embrace change, [we will] see that the future of many of our industries is going to be based off this conversation.” – Matt Newman
I totally agree. I think that the pandemic — while it hasn’t been easy — has given us a lot of opportunities to reevaluate the ways we use technology to get the most out of our time. We’re learning how to get more done in less time, and that allows us to be more productive at our jobs, spend more time with the people we love, and lead more fulfilling lives.
How have you spent your time in quarantine? Have you been a little complacent, just waiting for the whole thing to be over? Have you been frustrated or upset? Or have you tried to use the time and leverage it to reimagine your business to create a life you love?
Reach Beyond with Matt Newman
Friends, this episode was powerful. I am so inspired by Matt, his story, and his strength. I am grateful to him for coming on this podcast and sharing his experiences and wisdom with us, and I genuinely hope you were inspired today!
I asked Matt for his definition of success, and here’s what he said:
“I think the definition of success would be the connection and inspiration and the legacy that you leave that truly defines you. … It’s not about what you do for yourself. It’s about how you’re perceived. And if you’re perceived [for] the way that you’re looking to accomplish things people [are] … given the opportunity to see the realness and purity that comes along with that. So I would say it’s the legacy that defines us.” – Matt Newman
What legacy are you leaving? How will the people who love you remember you when you’re gone? If you put your heart and your energy into creating a legacy you and your loved ones can be proud of, you’ll start living a more fulfilling life today. Just remember to live on purpose right now and take the focus off of yourself, and the rest will follow.
Thank you so much for joining me today! I hope you loved this episode as much as I did. If you did, please share it on Instagram and tag Matt, @startingatthefinishline, and me, @kyle_depiesse, with your biggest takeaways. Also, if you have an extra minute today, I’d be so grateful if you’d leave me a five-star review over on Apple Podcasts. Your reviews really do help new listeners find this podcast!
Until next time — Cheers to your success. I’m rooting for you.