As humans fighting for our survival, we are programmed to see the threats around us. However, many of us get lost within this negative space that we start living a life of fear. Sharing how he overcame the Dr. Dooms in his life is world-class professional keynote speaker and author, Matt Jones. In this episode, Matt tells us the story of how he got past the fear of being thrown into life’s fires and came out better and stronger. He shares how he was diagnosed with cancer, later being told he only has 10% chance of survival, and, instead of surrendering to his circumstance, fought through it. At the heart of his struggles is the power of having a positive mindset, likening our mind to a garden where we water it with positivity and pull out the weeds of negativity. Matt then gives us a peek into one of his many great books, Life’s a Marathon, where he speaks about the lessons he learned from joining marathons that can help you overcome challenges and achieve your goals.
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Keeping A Positive Mindset To Overcome Life’s Challenges With Matt Jones
Our guest is amazing. He has numerous books. He’s a world-class professional keynote speaker and author. He’s an amazing person who has a story that you are going to be captivated by. To give you two quotes from two legendary motivational speakers, Les Brown called Matt Jones. He says, “Matt Jones speaks in a voice that transforms lives. His life example moves audiences of all kinds.” Brian Tracy, another person who’s addressed almost four million people in over 40 countries said, “Matt has a wonderful ability to inspire and motivate you to overcome any obstacle and achieve any goal.” If you’re not excited yet, I don’t know what’s going to get you excited. Matt Jones, it’s nice to have you on this show.
It is an absolute honor and I’m humbled to be here.
We’ve got to start with your story because if nobody knows what your story is, it’s a captivating thing. If you want to know more about Matt Jones, you can go to MatthewDJones.com and find out more. If you need a speaker, this is the guy that you’re going to look for. When you were a senior in college, you got some news that changed your life and that wasn’t the only news that you got. Tell us more about the news that you got when you were a senior in college.
I was a senior in college and I was into bodybuilding. My hero was Arnold. I lived in Kansas. My dream was I want to move to California, get pumped up and be like Arnold. I was a certified personal trainer. Your audience would agree, sometimes life can change in a moment. I began that fall semester, I knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t do my workouts. I was tired. I was sleeping up to sixteen hours a day. One 24-hour period, I slept 23 hours, had a sore throat and thought I had mono. I go to the doctor, get tested, results come back negative. It’s like, “Matt, we’ve got to run some more tests. You’re free to go home.” A little bit after 1:00 on September 11, 2002, my phone rang. It’s a phone call I’ll never forget. It was my doctor. That’s when he said the three words no one wants to hear, “You have cancer.”
Life-changing moment. As I look back on it, that became one the greatest blessings in my life. I tell people I’m fortunate. I don’t use the word, lucky. I’m blessed to have been diagnosed with cancer because I discovered something about me that each one of us has. No matter the challenges we face, no matter the setbacks, no matter the obstacles, there’s someone inside of you that’s greater than all of that. Sometimes in life it takes those massive character-building experiences for you to recognize and discover that person that’s always been inside of you.
The interesting thing is you didn’t have cancer once. You’re minimizing it in the fact that at 23 you had cancer and it could have become fatal. What did that feel like? If you look back on it, how did you get through that time?
The reality for me is it was like this roller coaster ride, this adventure over a marathon over several years of going to remission, relapsing, needing a bone marrow donor, getting a call saying, “We have one,” then they backed out, going back into remission, relapsing and at one point not having insurance. It was one thing after another. Sometimes you get a little bit of hope, but then the negative. I’ll tell you one example, and it relates to so much that is going on now. I was back in remission in 2004 and I was waiting for a donor. I haven’t found a donor for a bone marrow transplant. That’s what I needed for a cure. I was getting these massive headaches and I was referred to Kansas University Medical Center, Downtown Kansas City, Kansas. It’s a January day. It’s cold out and I’m sitting in the hospital room waiting for these test results. I hear this knock and in comes the doctor I refer to as Dr. Doom.
The reason is this is the type of person that brightens the whole room as soon as they leave. How many Dr. Dooms do we have now? I always tell people, it’s like the evening news. They say, “Good evening,” and then they tell you all the bad stuff that’s going on.
They start you off on the right foot though.
“Good evening and here’s everything’s bad.” One of the things I study is Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology asked the question, “What’s the good life?” The Titanic sank in 1912 or something. Here’s the interesting thing. If you were a farmer in Kansas, it would have taken you nine months to hear about that. Now, we have this 24/7 news cycle where news stations are trying to get the headlines and we’re bombarded with all this negativity where sometimes our perception is things are worse than they are. If I would’ve listened to Dr. Doom and I’m about ready to tell you what she told me, I wouldn’t be here. One of the things I strongly encourage people is one of the most important things you can do on a day-to-day basis, you’ve got to feed your mind with positivity. You’ve got to watch out for the Dr. Dooms. There was a great motivational speaker, Keith Harold, and he says, “You’ve got to monitor your ear-gate.” You’ve got to be careful what goes in your ears. Here I am, I’m sitting on this bed and comes Dr. Doom. She pulls up the stool, and I’m 25 at the time, and she says, “Matt, the cancer’s come back and it spread to the fluid in your brain.” Talk about a bad Monday morning.
They gave you a 10% chance of living at that point, right?
Yeah. She proceeds like that wasn’t enough. She says, “You have a less than 10% chance of living,” and gets up and walks out. Here’s the reality, I didn’t need that negativity in my life. What this reminds me of, the great Les Brown, one of my mentors, he said something so powerful, which are words that we need more than ever, “Someone else’s opinion of you doesn’t have to become your reality.” How many times in our life do we hold back on our dreams, on living a life we want to live because someone along the way told us no or told us we couldn’t do it or said something negative?
I would have to say a lot of people see the negative thoughts or the negative things that are happening to them and place those in front of what their dreams are, in front of what their passion or their purpose is. They’ll never truly live their lives.
We all do it. I’ve done it. I still do it. It’s on a day-to-day basis because often we get much power to a fear and it can paralyze you. Sometimes you get paralysis by analysis overthinking things.
The interesting part is the story didn’t end when you got the 10% chance of survival. Your story continues. You had full body radiation that wiped out your immune system so you can get the bone marrow transplants. One of the things I see in one of your posts is a picture of you and your dad standing next to you and you had to relearn how to walk.
I had full-body radiation. I had to do experimental chemotherapy. Because the cancer has spread to the brain, they put a special device in my head to administer the chemotherapy. What happened was this port to administer the chemotherapy in my head around Valentine’s Day of 2004 had gotten infected. One of my kidneys began to fail. My temperature rose to 104 degrees and I slipped in an unconscious state. That’s when Dr. Doom told the nurses to call my family and friends because she didn’t think I was going to make it. Against all odds, miraculously, I recovered from that. When I came to, I was out of it. The first thing I remember, Rob, is I’m sitting there on my hospital bed and my dad was there. The physical therapist was there and I have these tennis shoes on and the laces were untied. I’m thinking to myself, “I’m supposed to do something with these laces,” but I couldn’t remember what it was. I didn’t even know where I was. How old were you when you learned how to tie your shoes?
I don’t even know, six maybe.
I was eight or something. I remember I’m 25 years old and a bodybuilder. I’m all about strength. My dad, he asked to tie my tennis shoes. They tied my tennis shoes and they helped me to stand up. Once again, I knew I was supposed to do something, but I couldn’t remember what it was. They took both my arms, one arm around the physical therapist and one around my dad and then he took my left leg and put it in front of my right and my right leg put in front of my left one by one as I had to relearn how to walk. “One step at a time,” that’s what my dad told me. He said, “Matt, you can do it one step at a time.”
That’s a huge message, not just to you at that point but to a lot of people. I keep thinking about Dr. Doom. Sometimes people look at stories like yours. You’re an amazing individual and they go, “My story isn’t that bad. I just have this going on.” People can think of Dr. Doom as the bearer of bad news. A lot of times, it’s themselves that are telling the bad news to themselves in essence.
One of the things I believe that the biggest challenge you, I or anyone faces are the limiting beliefs the negative self-doubt, self-defeating inner dialogue. It’s that inner Dr. Doom. What we find in positive psychology is this thing called Negativity Bias and what it is, is that fear of flight. As humans, our brains evolutionary and biologically are programmed to see the threats. We’re programmed to see the challenges as survival. For the majority of people, up to 80% of their thoughts are negative. It’s easy to focus on the illusion of fear and we become our own Dr. Dooms.
It’s one of those things that debilitate people and they feel like they have to go through this great impact moment in their lives to have that. It’s not that. It’s having that positive self-talk to be able to not convince yourself, but tell yourself that, “I’m worth it. I can do this.”
A lot of times people say, “Matt, you had this great story, this great lesson.” One of the greatest lessons I learned was when I was five years old and my grandfather helped me plant a garden. We had this little patch of dirt in the back of our yard and he said something to me I’ll never forget. He said, “Matt, every single day you have to water your crop and every single day you have to pull the weeds.” One of the things I like to share is that our mind is like a garden. On a daily basis, you’ve got to water it with good stuff, positivity, motivation, encouragement. Also on a daily basis, you’ve got to pull those weeds and negativity. Those negative thoughts, that False Evidence Appearing Real, that illusion of fear, the thoughts of Dr. Doom. Have you been to Vegas with those buffets?
The great thing about the buffet is you choose what you’re going to eat. It’s the same thing with our thoughts. Just because we have a thought doesn’t mean we have to accept it or believe it. We have control over the thoughts that we’re going to choose. That’s part of watering your mind and pulling those weeds and negativity.
The funny thing is we’re not done with this story yet. This story doesn’t stop with you conquering three bouts of cancer. It was 2005, a year after you finished up chemotherapy that you did what in San Diego
I finished chemo in June 2005 and then for my first anniversary to celebrate, I completed my first marathon, The San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Let’s go back here because you were told at what year that you were not going to walk again, that you had to learn to walk again?
That was Valentine’s Day 2004. What happened was that day I came out of unconscious state. My dad tied my shoes with the physical therapist. Even with their help, they’re picking up my legs and putting in front of me, but I was exhausted and weak. I couldn’t go five yards on the shoulders of two other people and they had to put me in a wheelchair. They’re the ones doing all the work. That’s how exhausted I was. That’s how depleted I was. They put me in a wheelchair. Here I am, a 25-year-old man, I was a bodybuilder and I can’t go five yards with the help of two other people. I’m in a wheelchair and this is before the bone marrow transplant. I’m still battling cancer. They wheeled me back to my hospital room and I’m lying in that bed and that Dr. Doom inner voice started talking, “You can’t beat this. You’re never going to be healthy again.” Part of me wanted to quit, to give up.
I’ve been through so much, I beat it. When I first got diagnosed, I was in remission three months and the doctor said, “Matt, there’s 80% chance you’ll never come back.” After that, I felt like I was Rocky Balboa. I conquered cancer. I knocked it out. I used to drive around my hometown, windows rolled down and blasting Eye of The Tiger, “I’m like Rocky Balboa. I can do anything.” Seven months later, it came back. I need a bone marrow transplant. I went back in remission. I got the headaches and here I am going through all that. It seemed every day something more bad news. I was about ready to quit. I was ready to give up, but there was this little voice at the back of my head that said, “Matt, do a marathon.” I’m pretty sure it was all the medication they had me on.
It’s a crazy thought to have. A lot of people hear these stories of resilience and hear these stories of conquering something that most people give into and they hear you say, “There was a point where I was ready to give up.” It’s okay to have that thought, right?
Absolutely, and every single marathon I had that thought.
In the morning or while you’re running it?
All the above like, “Why am I doing this? This is crazy.”
You say marathon, but here’s where the story goes even farther. You did the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego to celebrate being in essence in remission from cancer and then you said, “I’m not done.”
Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was contemporary with Zig Ziglar. Did you ever have the honor and privilege of hearing him?
Yes, I did.
He’s an amazing guy. One of my favorite personal development quotes, he says this, “You’ll be the same person you are today five years from now except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read.” After I did San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, I was like, “That’s it. That was my goal. I wanted to prove to myself I was healthy. I did it. I’m done. I’m never going to run again.” I’m wrong. I met this couple and their goal was to do a marathon on every continent and that inspired me. That’s why it’s important to be around people like yourself, people who are positive and going after their goals and their dreams because they will inspire you to live your life at your best. This opposite is true. If you’re around a lot of negative people, you’re going to go down that common denominator. That’s why it’s important who you surround yourself with, who you listened to, the books you read, the audiobooks, the podcasts you listen to because that will determine who you are, the people you meet and the books you read. Inspired by them, I set out on this amazing journey of doing a marathon on every continent.
You did seven marathons on seven continents and that wasn’t it because Matt Jones heard that there was another continent that was discovered, correct?
Yeah. I thought I was done. I’m feeling pretty good about myself. I’m like, “I did all this. What’s the next goal?” It was 2017 and I’m on the computer. I see this headline, “The New Discovered Eighth Continent, The Hidden Continent.” In Google, it’s called Zealandia.
What was your thought at that moment when you saw that?
I was like, “Are you serious?” Part of me was excited too because as much as training is taking out of you, one of the great experiences in my life has been to go to these different continents, in these different countries. I know you experienced this. Everywhere I went, I meet the nicest people in the world and how the majority of people are loving, caring and helpful. I was in shock. I was like, “I’ve got to do some investigation. It’s like Pluto.” When we were kids, Pluto was a planet and then they took it away. Someone told me they brought it back, I don’t know. New Zealand is the only part of it that’s above water. They had this new satellite technology. Ninety-four percent of it is underneath the water. It meets all the major criteria of a continent. Some people are recognizing it as the eighth continent. My goal was to do a marathon every continent. Just to be sure, to cover my bases, in November 2018, I completed my eighth marathon in Queenstown, New Zealand.
To go from 23 years old when you first had your cancer diagnosis to the present day, you did eight marathons on eight continents and conquered cancer three times. It’s an amazing story. If you need a keynote speaker, if you want somebody to motivate your audience, Matt Jones is your guy. You can go to MatthewDJones.com to find out more about him. You have many great books. The one that I love is Life’s a Marathon. Tell me more about that book
What’s great about that is I looked at my life and I asked myself, “What allowed me to overcome this?” To me, it seemed like insurmountable odds. You’re told you have cancer, it comes back, then cancer in your brain. It doesn’t get much worse than that. Not only that, how was I able to achieve for me these extraordinary goals, a marathon in every continent after I learned how to walk? I discovered those three things that I did, three choices that other people can use to overcome the challenges they face and achieve the goals that they want to achieve. The book talks about those three choices. Visualize your victory, the timeless truth that says, “Where there’s no vision, the people perish.” Secondly, you’ve got to take action. It’s not enough to know, you got to do. Thirdly, you’ve got to make the choice to elevate your attitude. One thing Charles Swindoll said, and I love this quote, “The single most significant decision that you and I can make on a day-to-day basis is our choice of attitude.” I go in-depth using my story, but more importantly how others by using those three choices can cross the finish line of the marathons in their life
It’s not just your life. The greatest thing about this, and you apply it to other books, about sales, leadership, happiness, is that your life story and this is the greatest thing about having people tell their stories, especially yours of that resilience, is people can take that resilience and that power that you developed and lived and apply it to their lives and their challenges. You don’t have to have cancer to use these three tools.
That’s the great thing about mentors. Their hindsight becomes your foresight. I’m an avid book reader. One of the greatest things you can do is go and pick out an autobiography of these amazing individuals. Sometimes we look at it like, “They were successful.” If you read their autobiography, what you discover, and you know this, is they have to face much adversity. It’s almost like the amount of success correlates with the amount of adversity.
You’re talking about Titanic running into the iceberg. There are always those great memes about you see that tip of the iceberg that’s on top of the water is success and all that’s underneath it is all the work that it got to that tip
They don’t see the years that went. There’s no such thing as the overnight wonder. It’s the years of the practice, years of learnings, years of growing. I want to share something with books. Here’s the interesting thing. Before I ever got diagnosed with cancer, I am sure you read, Think and Grow Rich. In there is one of my favorite quotes, “Every adversity, every heartache, every failure carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” When I was first diagnosed with cancer, the average American watched over 30 hours of TV a week. In 2002 when I was diagnosed, do you know what’s the number one TV show in the world was?
No. What was it?
The Jerry Springer Show. Imagine you’re watching 30 hours of Jerry Springer. You’re going to see a lot of negativity out there. At the same time, the average American had less than one nonfiction book a year. Here’s my point. If I had been watching 30 hours of Jerry Springer a week, I don’t think I’d be here. There was one quote from one book that planted the seed inside of me that gave me hope and vision. I remember I’m lying in that hospital bed that first night, and one of the things I share with people, the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions. It’s easy to ask, “Why me? Why are these bad things happening?” For me, when my life turned around, when I asked, “What’s the good that could come from the bad?” at 23 years young, in 2002 September, I’m lying in that hospital bed in Topeka, Kansas and I visualized this victory that someday, somehow, somewhere for someone, some good will come from this experience.
Matt Jones, you are an amazing individual. Thank you much for being on the show, but we end with the same questions. I always ask the same questions to all my guests. The first question for you, what is one thing you haven’t done but is outside of your comfort zone?
Climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
When are you going to do it? Put it out there. You did eight marathons in eight continents. Don’t give me the, “I don’t know.”
Originally, it was going to be December 2020. Of course, there’s everything that’s going on. My other thought is to do a triathlon because I’m not a good swimmer. That would be one but I had to learn how to swim first.
Here’s your second question. Favorite quote and why?
I shared the Napoleon Hill quote, but I’ll give you another one by Dr. Viktor Frankl. He wrote Man’s Search for Meaning. He was in a Nazi concentration camp when he wrote the book. He said, “Everything can be taken from a person except one thing, the last of their freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” I was reading that when I relapsed. It was powerful to me realizing that we can’t always control our circumstances. We can’t always control what’s going on. We can’t always control other people. Ultimately, we always have a choice of our attitude. We can choose to be positive or negative. We can choose to have hope or fear. That quote always stuck with me.
That’s a powerful quote from an individual that went through something powerful.
No matter how bad sometimes we think we have it, there’s always someone else worse off than us. Someone who would want to be in your situation.
We have to live our own lives and live our own lives to the greatest potential. Many people are scared of that and it’s not something to be scared of. Your last question is if you could pick to have coffee with three other people at a firehouse table, in other words nothing is off the table and you can talk about everything. Who would it be and why?
Can we do future people?
The future person would be me in ten years, me ten years ago and me in twenty years.
Who would drink the most coffee out of you, ten years in the future or twenty years in the future?
Probably ten years in the future. I don’t know if I’ll be drinking coffee by then.
It’s all about self-reflection and self-visualization in essence.
One of the beauties of life is every season, we’re offered unique opportunities of growth and happiness. As you know, one of the most important things is to be in the moment because all we ever have is the moment. It’s easy to get caught up in the imagined future or the dead past that we miss out on the only thing we ever have, the here and the now.
You’ve got one more thing. It’s the rapid round questions. All you’ve got to do is say one of the two things that I give you. Paper or plastic?
Soup or salad?
McDonald’s or Taco Bell?
Camping or hotel?
Fly or drive?
I’m going to say drive.
I didn’t see that one coming. Sleeping late or wake up early?
Run or walk?
Partly sunny or partly cloudy?
Fire or water?
How about use a porta-potty and continue to drive or run to the next physical bathroom?
I use a porta-potty.
Coke or Pepsi?
Go big or go home?
Matt Jones, it’s been a pleasure having you on this show, as well as having you be such a great impact and influence in this world. Thank you for coming on.
It’s my absolute honor. Thank you for having me. It’s amazing to be a part of anything that you do because you are making such a difference in the world.
I appreciate it. For any of you looking for some more information on Matt Jones, go to MatthewDJones.com.
About Matt Jones
Matt strives to be a thought leader who offers solutions to the problems individuals and organizations face. His mission is to help flame the fire within individuals and organizations to develop a “Marathon Mentality” in order to reach their full potential by overcoming challenges, improving daily, and striving to attain greater goal attainment as well as life fulfillment.
att’s keynotes are based of his inspiring life experiences of overcoming cancer three times when doctors did not think he would live, surviving a bone marrow transplant, relearning how to walk, and completing seven marathons on seven continents. Using his experience of overcoming insurmountable odds, Matt incorporates psychology tools from the field of Positive Psychology to motivate individuals and organizations to achieve greater victory. He uses stories, illustrations, and humor to educate audiences while keeping them engaged. Matt also tailors his talk to fit the needs, objectives, and goals of his audiences.
He has spoken for organizations in several industries including banking, construction, education, engineering, finance, insurance, government, healthcare, human resources, non-profit, property management, public safety, real estate, technology, travel and several more.
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