Like a lot of people, my life had been a series of up’s and down’s. Leading into the new millennium I was still struggling with the aftermath of a divorce. I got caught up in the dot-com bust, getting laid off from a series of jobs. I had previous experience as a technology consultant, but there were suddenly about 400,000 brand new technology consultants (i.e., laid off techs) on the market. Because of the divorce, I not only had no money or assets, I had considerably less than no money, and legal troubles were just starting because of that.
I was living in the cheapest apartment I could find, and was sleeping on the floor. Any furniture I had was donated from friends. My car broke down and then the apartment manager had it towed because I hadn’t moved it for 30 days. My transportation was a bicycle. I had been very active for my entire life, but I was definitely gaining weight. My knees were starting to give out. I decided to take advantage of my free time and the local greenway, and would either skate or bike a hundred miles or so per week just to get back in shape.
One day on the bicycle I pounded up a hill in order to make a green light across a very busy street. In the middle of crossing the street, I experienced a sudden cardiac arrest (due to an electrical arrhythmia, not a blockage). If you happen to be in an emergency room, your chances of surviving SCA are pretty good these days. If you have paramedics on site in less than four minutes, you’re still probably better than even. However, if you happen to be on a bicycle by yourself, coasting down a hill into the woods away from any kind of help, this is not something you are expected to survive. Most people experiencing SCA during an athletic activity are described as “dead before they hit the ground.”
I remember this event with near perfect clarity for some reason. I remember thinking that I was riding away from help, that I should use the brakes in order to make the turn at the bottom of the hill, and I remember thinking I should spin. This is something bikers do on downhills; just spinning the pedals without any pressure helps you stay loose and relax. Spinning the pedals probably saved my life; I learned afterwards that using your calf muscles actually pumps blood out of your lower legs and relieves the strain on your heart to a significant degree. Something to keep in mind if you are wondering if there are any health benefits to taking a walk!
Anyway, my heart started on its own. Afterwards I went back to the spots where my heart stopped and started back up again. Coasting the bike between the two points from a rolling start, I figure my heart was completely stopped for close to 60 seconds, maybe a little less. I remember tunnel vision closing in.
I did, however, survive. I had a hands-free mobile phone, and made a phone call to a friend (now my wife). She wanted to call 911, but there was NO WAY I was going to get off that bike. Eventually, I made it all the way home. It probably took 10 minutes to baby walk up the steps to my door.
I should point out that this was not a pain-free event. Initially it felt like somebody had hit me in a chest with a sledgehammer; like I was going to fall backwards off the bike. I got the sledgehammer again when the heart started, and then it was like getting hit in the chest with a ball-peen hammer each and every heartbeat. The heart did not feel right, like it might stop at any second. However, as I rode (very slowly!), the heart was progressively feeling a tiny bit better, which is why I had no intention of messing with the status quo by getting off the bike.
Anyway, by any objective measure it’s kind of hard to beat near-death as a low point in your life, so that was probably it, right there on Kimball Bridge and Rock Mill Roads. Before this event I was in a really, really bad way. Afterwards, I was still in the really, really bad way and getting worse by the day, except now I couldn’t even walk all the way up the steps to my apartment without taking a rest, much less doing silly-assed stuff like looking for work or going shopping. You can take an educated guess what happened to my fitness program! Hello, fat! Goodbye, knees!
In a couple of words, life Sucked (with a capital “S”). Then, in the middle of all this mess I saw the poster for the movie “What the <bleep> Do We Know?” and went to see a $4 matinee.
I’d like to note that The Physics of Success has little, if anything, to do with the concepts in the movie. I still love the movie, though. What it did was remind me of the Success Principles I had learned long before, and ultimately (and obviously) abandoned. I remember riding slowly home on the bike (really, no kidding – I didn’t have a car!) and saying “Mike, you don’t have to do this. You know better!” The rest of that story is in your free copy of “Turning Your Life Around” that you can get by signing up to the right.
After I had turned things around and my life was on a much better track, my daughter (who is currently working on her doctorate in Behavioral Neuroscience) got me interested in Supersymmetric String Theory, which reignited my passion for physics. I had honestly got a bit bored with Quantum Mechanics, because it didn’t really have any answers, mostly just questions. String Theory is a whole new animal.
Meantime, this whole business of Success Principles was really bothering me. I was putting it to excellent use, and was more convinced than ever that this particular Santa Claus was real. I had two special insights and a failure that led to writing The Physics of Success.
First, I had been reading about and visualizing the amazing properties of matter as described by Einstein and expanded upon by String Theory. Then one day I realized that I was made out of that stuff!. In other words, this wasn’t exactly like reading about some black hole off in the middle of the galaxy somewhere, this was personal.
Second, several months after that first insight, I was thinking about the Success Principles, in particular our consciousness and how our brain worked. And that’s when I remembered that our bodies, including our brains, are made of matter and therefore have the same amazing properties of matter described by Einstein and String Theory, and that might explain a whole lot of stuff.
What I failed to do was communicate this to anybody. Every time I tried, whoever I was talking to would look at me like I started to grow those reindeer antlers from the Santa Claus article. The concept was just too big for a casual conversation, and hence, The Physics of Success was born.