Excerpted from Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields by arrangement with Portfolio Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright (c) 2011 by Jonathan Fields.
On Valentine’s Day in 2003, at the age of thirty-one, Kris Carr was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer that had already progressed to stage 4 and spread to her liver and lungs. Her first doctor recommended removing the organs and waiting for a transplant, which seemed a horrifying course of treatment to Carr, one she ultimately refused to accept. She set out on a mission to reclaim her health and to find the best doctor in the world for this extraordinarily rare disease. She found him in Boston, and though his practice was closed, she convinced him to take her on as a patient. They began to work together, and early on he told her that her cancer was very slow-growing; he recommended that she go out and live life as fully as possible.
The experience created a different frame, a new story line for her life. Until then, she’d been an actress for pretty much her entire working life, but she had always had a Jones to get behind the camera—to be the one telling the stories. This was her moment. She had nothing to lose. So in addition to radically changing her lifestyle and nutrition in a quest to become as healthy as possible, she set out to create a documentary about her journey called Crazy, Sexy Cancer. She wanted to tell a story about not lying down and waiting for death, about rising up and living not under but beyond the shadow of one of the scariest words on the planet.
Everyone around her thought she was nuts. Nobody would want to see a movie about cancer, let alone buy or show it. And the title, sexy and cancer together? With her condition, she was told, she shouldn’t be doing things that would cause her so much stress. But Carr didn’t listen. She couldn’t. This was the thing she couldn’t not do. Her calling came from a death sentence that had given her permission to live. Damned if anyone else was going to take that away from her.
Crazy, Sexy Cancer premiered at the South by Southwest film festival in 2007 to rave reviews and was soon after sold to the cable network TLC, where it drew a huge audience and launched a movement that continues to this day. An evangelist for plant-based nutrition and living fully, Carr’s third book, Crazy Sexy Diet , became a New York Times best seller, and she’s now working on her fourth book and speaks globally to those with cancer and anyone open to living a better life. Through all of this, her cancer has not only slowed but stopped growing. Still it remains her teacher—guiding her calling, her creations, and her life.
When you are called to create, the psychology of the endeavor also changes.
Experiencing a calling creates a sense of deeper conviction, of purpose that often you, even as the creator or vision leader, don’t fully understand. It’s not religious, though it can be, but there is a sense that “in this moment, this is what I must do.” Amorphous as the source of the drive may be, this sense of deep commitment changes how you experience the emotions and challenges of the process. It helps steel you against the demons that dance around in your head, the resistance that taunts and teases you away from your work. It fortifies your uncertainty scaffolding, giving more ability to lean into risk and exposure, to act when you’re being judged from all sides. Judgment be damned, you’re doing what you’re here to do.
When you are driven by a calling or a deeply personal quest and you allow that calling to inspire action, you live in the world differently. You do a thousand little things you’ve never have done before. You act and interact with more confidence and vitality. Your personal energy changes. The way you speak, the way you carry yourself, your willingness to move heaven and earth and to share and evangelize your vision become palpable manifestations of your will to succeed. You begin to radiate the quest. You come alive. And people around you not only feel it, but become drawn to it. And to you…
You may have experienced the power of being called to create, either as the visionary or the one captivated by someone else’s vision. It may well have been more compelling than any well-constructed argument for action. But in the end, such a calling is often based on a blend of unyielding faith and deep conviction that “this must be done.” Nothing more, nothing less.
And on the backs of that hard-to-defend faith and conviction lie some of the greatest creations and careers the world has seen.
Jonathan Fields is a dad, husband, entrepreneur, speaker and author of Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance.