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Speaker advises FFA to embrace each day

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 05/16/2013 10:53 AM

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Motivational speaker Mark Black encouraged FFAers to pursue their goals and passions today.

Black, from New Brunswick, Canada, spoke during the Fourth General Session of the 84th annual Minnesota FFA Convention.

Black said you're never too old or too young to pursue your goals.

He realized that as a 20-something recovering from a heart and double lung transplant in 2002.

Black was born with a life-threatening heart defect, and he underwent two heart surgeries before he turned 1.

He was three years into his college career when his condition deteriorated to the point where his appetite had diminished, and he couldn't get enough sleep. He went home on break, and his mother greeted him by saying he looked horrible and immediately rushed him to the doctor.

He hadn't realized he'd lost a third of his body weight in three months.

His doctor told him he needed a heart and double lung transplant, and he needed it within 18 to 24 months.

Black and his father went to Toronto to await a transplant. They waited for six months. By this point, his health was so bad he was put in the hospital because he was at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. He knew he would stay in that hospital bed until he got a transplant, and he knew the odds favored him dying in that room.

He became accustomed to the hospital routine. Each morning between 6:30 and 7 a.m., he was shaken awake by a technician with a needle who drew his blood. One morning, he awoke to six nurses in the room. He'd had a heart irregularity.

Then at 10:15 p.m. one September night, he received a call, and the person on the other end of the line said they had a set of lungs and a heart for him.

What do you say to someone who says that? He thinks he said thank you and hung up.

He called his mother to give her the news, and she asked, "Are you serious?"

The next morning, Sept. 7, 2002, the surgeons arrived at 5:30 a.m. He was in surgery for eight hours and the intensive care unit for five days. He was out of the hospital 16 days after surgery.

Since then, he's run four marathons and spoke to groups across the United States and Canada.

He chooses to focus on what's positive in his life.

The fact of the matter is sometimes life is hard, he said, but it's up to you to make choices to interpret what happens in your life.

Even in his hospital bed, lots of things were going right, Black said. Every day for six months, he had a family member or friend beside him. He had his faith.

Shortly after getting the news from his doctor, he struggled to overcome his feelings of despair. His mother told him he had a choice to make — he could feel sorry for himself, or he could find the positive in the situation. She advised him to find the positive.

The difference between those people who are happy and those who are miserable is what they choose to focus on, Black said. Likewise, the people who succeed choose to focus on what's going right.

Think back to when you were 5, he said.

"When you're 5, you believe you can do anything," Black said. Somewhere between 5 and 15, you lose that, he said. People start to limit themselves.

People who change the world dream big and are willing to risk failure, he said.

Many people waste a huge chunk of their life worrying about things they have no control over. Focus your energies on what you can control, Black said.

"You can be alive every day," Black said.

That's why he's run marathons, not only because he can, but for those who can't. For those who weren't as lucky as him.

Take the time every day to let those you love know you love them, he said.