A Credit to Humanity: How 19 Year Old Stephen Sutton Inspired A Nation
After being told his cancer was terminal in November 2012, teenager Stephen Sutton wrote his bucket list – 46 things he wanted to do and experience before he died.
“I viewed my cancer as a huge kick up the backside to do something with my life; to not take things for granted,” Stephen explained.
At the top of Stephen’s bucket list was to raise 10 thousand pounds ($18000) for charity, followed by other activities including sky-diving, busking, flying first class and getting his name into the Guinness Book of World Records – all of which he achieved within months of writing his list. Stephen has inspired millions of people around the world to help him surpass his original fundraising goal of 10 thousand pounds – at last count Stephen had raised over 3 million pounds (over 5.3 million dollars!)
It wasn’t long before Stephen’s positivity, enthusiasm and zest for life in the face of tragedy caught the attention of the media. In April, Stephen posted on Facebook a final “goodbye” message that went viral. Stephen wrote, “It’s a final thumbs up from me,” alongside a picture of himself lying in a hospital bed surrounded by drips and an oxygen mask, giving the thumbs up with a big grin on his face. The picture encapsulated the attitude that Stephen had taken towards life.
“The reason we took to Stephen so passionately was because he was better than us; he did something that none of us could even imagine doing.” ~ Jason Mumford, Comedian
People saw in Stephen something that is all too rare in this world. They saw somebody who was truly living. Somebody who was being themselves – no hang ups, no excuses, no justifications. Despite his circumstances, Stephen was fully present and engaged with the world around him. He made sure he wrung every last drop of joy from life until his final breath.
We see time and time again, stories of people turning tragedy into triumph; transforming pain into gain. But why is it often people in the worst situations making the best of life? Why does it take something terrible to happen for us to truly wake up and start making the most of life?
Please Take These Three Lessons Away From Stephen’s Story
1. Define What Matters
Write out your fucking Scary and Exciting list. If you’ve already done it, do it again. Write down everything you want to be, do, have and experience in your lifetime. What’s really important to you? Don’t wait until tragedy strikes before you consider this question. Your time on earth is limited. Decide who you want to be and what you want to do.
2. Get Busy
Don’t put off living. Stop squandering your time on shit that doesn’t matter. Erase “someday” and “one day” from your vocabulary. Conditions will never be perfect. Decide what matters and get busy. Take consistent action in the direction of your dreams. When you come to the end of your life, you’re not going to look back and wish you’d gotten more sleep or spent more time aimlessly scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed. Get out into the world and start expressing yourself. Create things. Share what you know with others. Talk to strangers. Find ways to intensify experiences. Spread joy. Make memories.
3. Count Your Blessings Daily
If you knew you were going to die next week, you would take on a new-found appreciation of the world. You’d go places, do things, savour experiences and conversations. You’d understand that the Seven Wonders of the World are; to touch, to taste, to see, to hear, to run, to laugh and to love. You’d see the fullness and richness life has to offer, you’d view the world as the wonderful playground that it really is.
Don’t wait for something bad to happen before you give yourself permission to truly live.
On 14 May 2014, 19 year-old Stephen Sutton from Burntwood, UK, passed away peacefully in his sleep after a four year battle with cancer. Stephen Sutton accomplished more in his short life than many people will ever accomplish.
In his final interview given weeks before his death, Stephen said, “I’ve realised that you only get one shot at life. I need to make every second count. I firmly believe that you should have the same motto. But don’t rely on tragedy to have a good time. Make positive changes today.”
Stephen had the courage to unleash his greatness and the world became a better place for it. Now it’s time to unleash yours.