Thursday, June 17, 2004

Look to your left. Look to your right. One of you will be diagnosed with cancer in your lifetime—that’s one in three according to the American Cancer Society. That means that there is virtually nobody who works—employer or employee—who will avoid being touched by the dreaded disease during his or her work life.

Recently, I sat down with the world’s most famous leadership coach—he of fire-walking and brick-breaking fame—Anthony Robbins. Tony has teamed up with relationship guru Deepak Chopra, the not-for-profit Wellness Community and Merck & Co., to launch a website called ( The site features deep advice on dealing with chemotherapy and the medical aspects of cancer as well as the psychological needs of victims and their work colleagues and employers. allows visitors to send a free e-card—it’s called the Cards for Cancer program— featuring healing messages from Robbins or Chopra or famous Chef Michael Lomonaco to victims. I asked Tony, who himself has been battling a dangerous form of pituitary disease, about his project and how he advises employers and colleagues dealing with cancer.

Tony, you are single-handedly responsible for making “motivational speaker” an aspirational occupation for an entire generation of folks. I know more people who want to be the next Tony Robbins when they grow up more than they want to be President. How did you achieve this status?

Well, first, I take exception to being labeled a “motivational speaker.” I am anything but a motivator. I am a life coach. I teach leadership and I teach coaching. Most employers are coaches.

Why have you chosen to support Cards for Cancer and

I am donating my time to this battle with cancer because I believe that the battle with cancer is not only physical. So much of it is psychological. It’s a psychological disease as well. The emotions of fear and stress are just as debilitating as the disease. The only way to really deal with the stress is to be supported by friends and family. But the worst part is that co-workers, friends and employers don’t know what to say. My motivation has to do with helping people start the conversation. That’s the free e-card program at It’s a conversation starter. It’s a way for the victim to know you are thinking about them.

Why an e-card?

Because the hardest part of dealing with someone else’s cancer is just starting the conversation. An e-card breaks the ice.

What is your advice for employers who are dealing with one or more employees who have learned they have cancer?

First, stop being an employer and start being a human being. Your first job is to tell your employee that we are here for you. Second, go to and take a look at the wealth of resources there for you and for the victim. And third, send them an e-card. If you don’t especially connect with the message on the cards with my message, you can choose on of Deepak’s messages or Chef Michael’s.

You have shared the fact that you have been dealing with your own health issues in the form of pituitary disease. For the cancer victim, what is your advice in dealing with the emotional side of the disease?

First, see the disease as it is—not worse than it is. Second, see it better than it is—that’s the step of leadership—you are leading yourself on the path of having the strength to survive the disease. And third, make it the way you see it. That means taking control of your recovery, which includes learning about chemotherapy, and staying connected to your network of friends and family that will help you deal with the emotional part of recovery.

Finaly, in your legendary leadership events that have featured fire-walking, you teach goal orientation. What is your goal in participating in the program?

My goal by getting out there and talking is to get people to support and participate in the recover of those with cancer. I don’t want people to have an “out” for failing to offer emotional and social support. An e-card is so easy, it gives you no excuse for not reaching out. It helps manage the depression and anxiety. We know for sure that those with the best emotional support spend less time in the hospital and have a better recovery rate.

Jay Whitehead is America’s most-read, most-watched and most-listened-to expert on workstyles. Email your questions to

Listen to Jay Whitehead on web-radio every Tuesday 5pm to 6pm EST when he hosts Won on Won with Whitehead on . On Tuesday, June 22, Tony Robbins will be the guest and you can hear more about and this topic. Email questions in advance to Jay Whitehead at

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