We Are Either Growing or Dying

February 25, 2019
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Terri Maxwell

We Are Either Growing or Dying

The soul is what drives us to grow, achieve, search, learn - all in a singular quest to become more. Whether a business or a human, if we squelch this life force, the process of dying ensues. We are either growing or dying and the choice is ours.
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I was recently reminded of a life philosophy, as two separate events played out.

On one hand, I’ve watched businesses once vibrant and growing, and now stagnant, be sold for less than their original value, all because they were in sales decline.

“You’re either growing or dying,” I remarked to our staff. "Businesses, like people, are living organisms, and they either grow or die."

At the same time, a painful personal dynamic revealed the same lesson.

Within the same month, my all-time favorite uncle had emergency heart surgery, and COULD have died, and his brother (my birth father) unexpectedly died.  

Let me provide brief context.

Both of my adopted parents are now deceased, sadly my mom passing away just last year. I credit my traumatic childhood, and my estranged relationship with my parents, for shaping me into the compassionate yet insightful person I am today.  

About 25 years ago, I found my birth family. In an experience that could have been a made-for-TV movie, I met my birth father, grandmother and then birth mother in the same week.

It was exhilarating and simultaneously confusing to find family I looked like and shared many characteristics with - despite not growing up together or even knowing each other for my first 30 years of life.

My birth father and I struggled to connect despite remarkably similar personalities. However, his brother (my uncle) and I developed a simple yet joy-filled relationship. Our love for each other has always come naturally, so learning that he had gone into cardiac arrest was a jolt.  

Fortunately, prayers were answered and he survived a complicated surgery.

Once he was out of ICU and we could speak on the phone, I relished in his explanation that what got him through the surgery was his faith, and commitment to growth. From the moment his chest pains accelerated, he devised a plan for how to improve his health if he survived. He felt as if there was too much to live for and decided that it wasn’t his time to die.

I made note of his chuckle-filled phrase, “You’re either growing or dying,” as this philosophy had been forefront in my mind. Whether in business, or personal relationships or day to day life - we are either growing or dying and the choice is ours

My uncle, now safely at home, called late on a Friday night with an urgent plea to call him.

“This can’t be good,” I said as my trembling hand pressed the callback button.

“Hi hon,” he said gently. “I wanted to be the one to tell you... your dad passed away a few hours ago. While I was in the hospital, he fell and experienced a brain bleed. He’d been in ICU since and didn’t respond to any of the treatments.”

Numbly I asked questions about what happened, and he shared the details provided by my step-mom.

“He just didn’t respond to the treatment, it was like he wanted to go,” he remarked.

“He’s wanted to go for a long time,” I said.

As we drifted into a tear-soaked conversation, I reflected on the handful of conversations I had with my dad over the last five years. Despite our strained relationship, the change in his spirit was pronounced.

He had a stroke about seven years ago which limited his mobility somewhat, and his response was to focus mostly on what he had lost, versus what he could gain from the experience.

In his early seventies, our brief conversations the last few years were strained in large part to our diverging perspectives. He wanted to talk about how he was “slowly dying,” and I wanted to know who he was becoming, as he reached this important life stage.  

My questions were always the same:

“What new perspective does this give you?” And “How can you learn from this?”

He just didn’t want to do the work. Despite profound intellect, he lacked the propensity for introspection.

This is important because, when we commit to searching for answers and growth, we are no longer bound to our physical body, and our spirit takes over. It’s an amazing experience to be untethered from the body and led by the soul.

At our very core, the soul is what drives us to grow, achieve, search, learn - all in a singular quest to become more.

At some point, whether a business or a human, when we squelch this life force, the process of dying ensues.

We are either growing or dying and the choice is ours.

The truth is: We don’t need to be in perfect health to grow.

We don’t need to have things work out the way we planned, in order to learn from the experience of change.

We don’t need to be successful to learn from failure, any more than we need to fail in order to learn from success.

But we do need to remain committed to growth.

To do that means to always seek the lesson, focus on what we can learn, and to look for the insight in the mundane facets of life, as well as the transformational periods we experience.

We are either growing or dying, and the choice is ours, moment by moment.

With the soulfulness of Wayne Dyer and the entrepreneurial spirit of Richard Branson, Terri is a world-class business growth expert, social impact investor, and serial entrepreneur whose purpose is to inspire potential. With her own money, Terri built a portfolio of purposeful companies, Share On Purpose, Inc., and now invests in and creates mission-driven start-ups.

In a career that spans more than 25 years, Terri has launched, owned, sold, rebranded or turned around more than 40 companies. She is known for her game-changing business models and personal transformation frameworks.

Everything she built came directly from a wellspring of perseverance and soulful resiliency, which she openly shares through her first purposeful brand, Succeed On Purpose.


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