How Brain Cancer Made Me A Better Leader

- - Resources

This is the story of Nathan Sexton who is vice president of business intelligence, bellhops. Where many scared and wish they never suffer from the life-threatening disease like cancer, Nathan fought bravely and emerged as a leader both in his life and career. Cancer and the process of treatment have completely changed his life and mentality.

From Nathan’s Pen

June 4, 2015, was a day that brought drastic changes in my life when I encountered the number of rounds of chemotherapy. My life took a sudden change about which I had never imagined. But the change was for the better future that made me a better leader.

Fourteen months earlier June 4

In Chattanooga, Tennessee Right before fourteen months began a startup company in the times of odd. I began his company with only 13 employees. It was a new experience for both me and my wife as we became parents for the first time and sudden switch in career had cut my income to half.  I was not much aware of the management. I had little customer experience, but I was ready to serve the best.

On The first day of my work at bellhops, I was nervous but excited at the same time. My crew was small, but I had big goals in life. My aim was high as I want everyone to work with excitement and fun, bring ideas and feel passionate about work. And since the part-time employees were incredible my work picked up speed.  But all this was not sufficient to achieve the goal; I wanted to learn how to manage to become a good mentor and a leader.

To learn how to manage I started reading books. I began with “delivering happiness” book by Tony Hsieh who is a chief executive of zappo. The book sought out to be a great help for me. It advocated me in the customer-centric culture and also taught me how to deal with the hardships of life and how to be a leader in a workplace. The book brought a change in me, and anyone who works at bellhops should read it, the book left such a great impact on my mind.

The bellhop was growing, and so did my team and career. I got many promotions and finally landed in the position of vice president. I became successful in raising fund, expanding services by early 2015 to 90 American cities. The office moved to a new space that was a posh area and soon we were at the top of the world.

A day that changed my life- June 4, 2015

The first day of new office, I was very happy, and a grand celebration was organized for the entire team. Everything was perfect until the last moment, but I collapsed at the party. On the second morning, I woke up in hospital. A tube was running down to my throat; I was much disoriented seeing myself in such a position. I asked to nurse what happened. The answer of a nurse was deeply set in his mind that I still remember it. I had gone through an MRI because a ball size mass was found in his brain which was continuously growing. But the condition was operable however the surgery should be done as soon as possible.

I went to Vanderbilt University medical center, Nashville for surgery. Almost 95% of the tumor was removed, but few portions were still left behind. After a couple of weeks, my surgery’s report came out that again left me disoriented. He was having grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme, a non-diagnosis one that spreads faster. But I didn’t lose hope.

The brain was healing from surgery, and soon he was ready for radiation and chemotherapy that was a six-week course. After the course, I was able to perform work but only for a limited duration that was 20 hours a week. This gave me a different environment in the midst of hospital since I love my job. The bellhop was like a second family for me. After radiation, I had undergone chemotherapy which was going to take 12 months.

I am now at six months of my journey, and the third cycle of chemo is going on. I am back to my normal life and excited to head up my business and intelligence team. All through which I went through has taught me so much. I learned how to deal the problematic situations of life. I was jealous of my teammates in the beginning, but this incident had changed my mind. I learned to trust my teammates.

It was almost difficult to give away my legos before June 4. But after that incident, I was left with no choice other than giving them up. After leaving them, everything was okay, and I was feeling better. My customer enthusiast team is now better than before. The whole experience taught me that one should trust teammates when working in a team. Teamwork is all about trust and empowering each other. Only then one can achieve greater heights.

After returning from the whole incident now, I can focus more and work for company’s progress. I learned many things such as how to delegate, how to build relationships with colleagues. I have adopted changes in my life. Now, my focus is more on serving others and bringing more benefit to them rather than for myself. Today, I enjoy working with others can I do whatever I can for them and company.

Now I follow words of Richard Branson that once I heard in an interview back in 2014. If a person is loyal towards his company, then give him tools to work, treat them well, and they will work for taking your business to greater heights. They will be happy. I do whatever it takes to make bellhops feel proud, what my teammates need to succeed, to treat them well than anywhere else they would be treated. My goal is now to work for others and my family. And surely Brain cancer has made me a better leader.

An engineer by education and an entrepreneur by choice. Asish is a TCS Best Student Awardee, NDTV featured student entrepreneur and International School of Entrepreneurship Education awardee. He also worked with many startups and big companies for their business development and strategical growth. Asish has been heading The Startup Journal since its inception in 2014.