Chilling in Sedona

The view from the the Sky Ranch Lodge above Sedona

I never thought I’d visit Sedona.

I’d heard of it, but nothing that I heard moved me one way or the other.  There’s plenty of stunning natural beauty within an hour of my home so why travel a few thousand miles just to see some sights?

But life’s full of surprises.

Earlier this year, my doctor announced he was moving to Sedona. Bad news for me because he’d been helping with a lot.

I’d made a half-hearted pledge to visit him “someday,” but, as I said, life is full of surprises.

Twists and turns

About a month or so ago, not much more than a week after I arrived in New Orleans for my winter visit, I stepped on some unstable pavement and torqued my left ankle. “Boy, that’s going to hurt later,” I thought.

Surprise. My ankle was fine, but later my knee was not. Pretty soon it became clear that if I was going to walk around, I was going to need a cane.

“OK. I can live with that. I’ll use the cane until the knee gets better and then back to normal.”

That was the plan and the knee did get better and I was walking fine. Great.

Then about a week later, it went out again and a few days after that it stopped taking any weight at all. The cane didn’t cut it any more. To further complicate things, I had a pre-existing problem with my right arm so crutches were out.

That fast I found myself in a wheelchair less than a week before I had to get on a plane to run five full days of seminars. As if that weren’t enough, I’d also taken on a “mission impossible” type project for a very worthy and very needy non-profit in New Orleans.

The consolations of philosophy

There’s only one thing to do in a situation like this: become a philosopher. There’s not much else you can do.

First, I marveled at how easy it is to end up in a wheelchair. Two bad legs or one bad leg and one bad arm and you’re in.

Second, I consoled myself with the idea that it was a temporary condition.

But neither of these ideas helped me deal with the practical problems that kept me up the night I realized that the wheelchair thing was not going to resolve itself quickly.

Practical questions like how I was going to get from New Orleans to Chicago and then from O’Hare to the hotel reared their ugly head.

And so did the big one: How was I going to cope with needing to be wheeled around in a wheelchair for five days at the System Seminar? Would it freak people out? Would it freak me out?

Normally, I do a lot of standing and walking at my seminars. Now I would be able to do zero.

Normally, running the seminar takes a lot of of me physically. Now I was running the longest seminar I’d ever attempted and I was going into it already exhausted and stressed out.

Suddenly not being able to walk before your biggest event of the year can do that to you.

“Conditions are rarely ideal”

The night before the seminar starts I always have insomnia. In fact, I pretty much have insomnia for the whole seminar.

Usually that’s fine. I just deal with it.

But I needed every bit of rest I could get so I did what most human beings do: I worried.

I worried about it being 3:45 AM in the morning and not being able to go to sleep. I worried about how I was going to keep my energy up for five days. I worried how I was going to keep my mind sharp since normally I literally “think on my feet” and I wasn’t going to be able to be on my feet.

I worried and worried and worried.

Then I got a message. Where it came from I do not know, but it popped into my head clear as day and it made me laugh.

The message said: “Conditions are rarely ideal.”

I had to laugh because it was such a profoundly true and obvious statement.

Tell me when in anybody’s life conditions are ever perfect.

Sure, occasionally you catch a wave and everything is smooth sailing for a while, but how often does that happen? 5% of the time if you’re lucky.

The biography of every living person (and every person who’s ever lived) is full of screw ups, set backs, massive inconveniences, with the occasional disaster thrown in for good measure.

It’s called life and it happens to everybody all the time.

Conditions are rarely ideal…so what are you going to do about it?

I chuckled and went right to sleep.

New plan

Realizing that not only are conditions rarely ideal, they were certainly not ideal now, I changed my focus.

Instead of thinking about all the things stacked up against me, I focused on one thing: How I was going to do what I had to do with excellence regardless of the obstacles and, equally as important, how I was going to use every second of downtime in between presentations to maximum effect to recharge my batteries so I could hit it again – and again – and again – for five days in a row.

One thing that helped enormously: instead of engaging in idle chit chat with every person who wanted to shoot the breeze, I left the seminar room immediately when I was done and rested.

Small thing but it helped a lot.

I also enrolled a lot of people to help me, something I normally never do. I’m big on being self-sufficient. Big mistake when you’re running a complex operation.

So I assembled a team of people I knew I could count on.

Teamwork and necessity

Chef Mark Garcia, a member of my System Eagles Club, prepared me exquisite, healthy and delicious meals so I was always well fed and not dependent on the whims of the hotel kitchen and room service.

Dr. Andrew Colyer, another System student, worked on my leg and back on the breaks to not only keep them from seizing up, but also to promote their healing.

Thad Winston, a colleague of super System grad Lloyd Irvin, wheeled me through freight elevator and maze of the hotel kitchen so I was able to get to the stage without going through the lobby and seminar room in a wheelchair. Instead, I popped out a door next to the stage and made the last ten feet on crutches.

Then, for practicality’s sake, I did something I’ve never seen any seminar leader ever do. I sat on the stage for the entire five days of training. (It was a lot easier to do that than get up and down the stage stairs every time a new speaker came on.)

The result was that System 2010 was one of the most focused events we’ve ever done. I always knew exactly what was going on in the room and was able to keep things on track at all times.

At first I worried how I was going to keep my attention “on” eight to fourteen hours a day (Saturday started at 9 AM and ended and 11 PM.) Then I made an important discovery: worry consumes energy I couldn’t afford to spare. So I just dealt with things one minute a a time, taking great care not to waste energy on anything unnecessary and to make sure I had ample time to recharge my batteries on the breaks.

Adaptable plans

As the seminar wound down, bit by bit my knee got better. So much so that on the final day, I was able to put some weight on the knee and actually walk in my room a bit.

Nonetheless, it was clear that the knee was still in bad shape.

Once it was clear I was going to make it through the seminar, I allowed myself to start thinking about what I was going to do after the seminar.

Back in New Orleans, I had a gorgeous apartment waiting for me. A classic place with its own private courtyard right in the heart of the French Quarter. In a few minutes, I could walk to one of my favorite places on earth, Frenchmen Street, one of the last spots in America where you can see ten or more great bands in a one block area without paying a single cover charge.

Just one problem: I couldn’t walk to Frenchmen Street and New Orleans, God bless it, has some of the most messed up sidewalks in the world. Normally it doesn’t matter, but my knee could not afford another twist.

So, what to do?

Back home in the Hudson Valley, my home has lots of stairs and going up and down stairs is still a killer on my knee.

I was beginning to worry and then I realized: “Hey, why not just head west to Arizona, get a place near your doctor, and work with him for as long as it takes to get better?. You have the time. You have the money. Why not?”

The practical problems of getting to O’Hare and then Phoenix and then Sedona (a place I’d never been) and finding a place to stay all the while on crutches (after the seminar, I graduated to crutches) were solved and the next thing I knew, I was in a comfortable room in a peaceful spot with a view to die for.

Just down the street there’s s little restaurant that’s good enough for now.  (I can walk there without crutches as long as I don’t step on uneven ground.)

Monday, I start the next round of treatments for my knee.

Meanwhile, I’m reading, watching TV, napping, eating – just generally taking it easy, something I too rarely do.

Could messing up my knee actually turn out to be a good thing?


I’m going to withhold judgement until I am walking again normally, but in the meantime, I’m enjoying the peace and quiet here and thinking it might not be a bad idea to get more of this (minus the knee problems) in my life.

Conditions are rarely ideal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get things done and even enjoy yourself in the process.

Good luck with your challenges.  I hope this story helps with them.

– Ken McCarthy

P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.

If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.

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44 Responses to Chilling in Sedona

  1. Gordon Bell April 18, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    Great inspirational read and testimony to the fact that there are things in life we are capable of doing that we at a previous point thought were impossible.

  2. Francois April 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    Hi Ken,

    Indeed, conditions are rarely perfect – but the determined mind will not let those stop it from reaching its goal. Thanks for sharing your very personal story and good luck!


  3. lanny April 18, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    great work…probably the best system seminar yet. great theme: conditions are rarely ideal. good luck with the knee. sedona is about as peaceful as it gets for healing.

    all the best.

  4. Scott April 18, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Nice job Ken, on your seminar and your perseverence – For some, the best comes out under pressure and not worry.

    Congratulations, I hope you are feeling better and better.


  5. Ian April 18, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    Hey Ken,

    Heal fast and thanks for the great story.

  6. Chris King April 18, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    Such a well told and vivid story! I do feel strongly that conditions like yours happen for a reason.
    Four and a half years ago, I had a freak accident and fractured my hip. Seven weeks without any weight on that leg and no driving.
    I learned more about asking for help and having compassion for others’ pains and breaks during that time.
    So glad you are healing and enjoying it too,

  7. art April 18, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    Hi Ken,
    You captured the realities of life.unplanned issues present themselves. I heard a quote over 30 years ago and it drives my life…persistence wears down resistance. Have an awesome time in sedona..its an awesome place.

  8. Nitin Mistry April 18, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    Hi Ken,

    This was my first System Seminar – David Rothwell was the one who persuaded me to come! Normally this would not be too much of a persuation, but this year is extra ordinary for me because as the saying goes … “It never rains, it pours” and that is certainly my situation this year regarding expenses. This year I will need to make 2 trips. One to the UK for a family wedding and one to take my wife and kids for our family vacation. So those are pretty huge expenses for the Mistry house hold since my wife does not work (I am so blessed she can stay home).

    But after a bit of budgeting planning with my ‘better’ half I told David that I would come along. Wow! I can honestly say it was the right decision for me!

    I met some amazing people from all over the world. Made some valuable networking contacts and customers for my own product (Google AdWords Campaign Manager – PPC Keyword Toolz).

    Met David Rothwell face to face after so many months colabarating via Skype.

    Well done Ken – It was a huge inspiration and a great event. See u next year!

    PPC Keryword Toolz

  9. Art Crowley April 18, 2010 at 12:37 pm #


    Love your attitude–it’s the mindset of a true survivor. Thanks for the inspiration and for sharing your story.

    Best wishes on a strong recovery!
    – Art

  10. Clarke Echols April 18, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    Some rules I’ve been discovering:

    1. Life’s what happens while you’re making other plans.

    2. Don’t take life too seriously. You won’t get out of it alive anyway…

    2(b). But Do be Serious about Serious things — especially those pertaining to your eternal future that inevitably follows this temporary mortality.

    3. Life is really about adversity and how you deal with it. And some of life’s greatest lessons come in the pits of adversity — lessons that *cannot* be learned by any other means. And from those lessons can come great wisdom and other priceless benefits.

    But most people try to avoid or circumvent the adversity by asserting blame and becoming a “victim”. They don’t understand: Life’s not about what happens — it’s about how you handle what happens.


    Still, I tire of adversity and would that it could be otherwise. That’s normal.

    But when things go wrong, Sedona’s a wonderful place to unwind. I’ve only been there once — passing through from Phoenix to Flagstaff to see my nephew and his family. Be glad it’s spring and not the heat of August, though. 🙂

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery.


  11. Marc Woolf April 18, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    Ken – terrific post and one that resonated with me completely because of some relationship challenges I’m experiencing in my life. I wrote down the guidance you received regarding “conditions are rarely ideal” and am going to stop worrying so it doesn’t consume more energy. Feel better and thank you for all that you do.

  12. Claudia April 18, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    Keep up the good spirit!
    Reminds me of “The story of the Taoist farmer”. Situations are neither good nor bad, they just are. “That’s the way it is”
    Hope your knee is getting better soon!

  13. Sean Greeley April 18, 2010 at 1:01 pm #


    Thanks for sharing your story and best to you on a speedy recovery.

    Looks like you’ve got a great view to enjoy during the process.

    Sean Greeley

    P.S. I also want to say thank you for continuing to put out great emails and top-shelf quality content. Your stuff is awesome and you’re greatly appreciated.

  14. Garrett Todd April 18, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    Hi Ken,

    Nice to see you at System 2010. Glad to hear you are getting some R&R, I suspect you really deserve it. I have found “scheduling” time for myself is a good strategy for getting time for myself. Maybe making relaxing a “to-do” will help you reduce stress and wear & tear on you. Plus, you think better when you’re mind is not always under the gun, so you may find yourself coming up with more innovative ideas.

  15. walter daniels April 18, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    I can sympathize with the “bad knee.” Both of my knees are bad, and due to a progressive back problem, I’m in a powered wheelchair (for life). It makes “normal” transportation almost impossible. Every day, I face the choice of “do I let it stop me, or overcome it?”
    I’m glad you didn’t succumb. Many hitting multiple setbacks, fall apart. For some of us that’s the normal state of affairs. 🙂 We learn to “soldier on,” or we’re never heard of again.
    For some of us, we hit a stretch where everything is going well, and we look for the unseen/unexpected problem, waiting in hiding. We’re so used to problems, we know there’s one hiding, waiting to “get” us.” So, we’re you’re opposite.

  16. Kim Dushinski April 18, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your story Ken. It is inspiring because you are so right – conditions are rarely ideal. It is what one does in spite of less than ideal conditions that makes the difference.

    It is also good to see that you are taking care of yourself.

  17. Adam killam April 18, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    Ken heal up! This was my first system seminar and it was focused like you said. You created an experience that for me will be business changing and potentialy life changing-thank you!

  18. Candy Orow April 18, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    Hi Ken,

    WOW, to say you’ve “had some challenges” would be an understatement. This is inspirational on so many levels.

    All I know is that you and your team pulled off an amazing seminar. This was my brother (Bob Orow) and my first event with you and it will certainly not be the last.

    It was great and we learned so much. Loved the wonderful connected vibe that everyone had. Such good energy and input from all involved.

    Good solid information from you and the other presenters – in an open and sharing environment. Most helpful for Bob and I in moving our business forward.

    I understand that it wasn’t your perfect case scenario to be sitting like you were, on stage, behind a table. But… I must say, I thought your presentations, focus with the audience and how you made closing comments on each of the presenters was absolutely outstanding.

    You’ve proven that our (you) “target” presenter didn’t have to be moving on stage to make your message come across loud and clear, it was direct and perfect.

    Hey, maybe next time you may want to add some “seated commentary” like this year. It’s a good thing. Kind of like – when you want someone’s attention, whisper… only in this case, stand or sit still and deliver a knockout presentation.

    THANK YOU for all of your blood, sweat and tears – it was greatly appreciated by both Bob and I.

    We wish you a healthy, speedy recovery.

    Candy Orow

  19. Susan April 18, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    Hi Ken!

    We were at the System…nice work being so covert about everything. The event, as always, was wonderful. We learned a lot. I brought my brother along…I think the event will be life-changing for him. Thanks for your tenacity and sharing a great life lesson.

    Susan Kruger

  20. Elizabeth April 18, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    Thanks for another truly inspiring thoughtful post! Yes, it’s very helpful (and timely) to be so entertainingly reminded that life’s too short and precious to waste on worry. Conditions are rarely ideal – that’s a powerful perspective! Hope your knee gets it’s bounce back, as you continue to relish the challenge to do things differently,

  21. WhiteRockReporter April 18, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Great read. Sedona in Arizona…besides the black did you like Sedona?

    And are you on the mend or will it be a chronical condition? Hope not.
    Best for System 2010 and the future of yours.
    Johan BC

  22. Rich April 18, 2010 at 3:01 pm #


    You’re the most “human” guru I’ve ever known. Thank you for your relentless honesty, openness, and contributions to the internet marketing field.

    I couldn’t make your system seminar 2010, but I listened to all the free calls beforehand, and I marveled at how you offer such a thing for free!

    Be proud that you are you. It may sound silly, but it’s nice to know a good human being like you.


  23. Jean Wolfe April 18, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    What an inspiring story Ken.

    You have had a lot of physical challenges I remember .. perhaps this one will be the last. Wishing you a joyful route to recovery – you deserve it.

  24. Darren April 18, 2010 at 3:18 pm #

    Great post thanks Ken,

    I could not get up from NZ to Chicago this year for System 2010 due to being in the middle of my own set of current “challenges” but what you’ve shared here is what I’ve come to learn over the years also. It’s not about what happens to us, it’s what meanings we attach to those happenings. If we focus on the outcome rather than the obstacles – we can always prevail!

    Take care and heal quickly!


    Darren Hart

  25. Ryan Healy April 18, 2010 at 3:19 pm #


    Thanks for sharing that story and the lessons that go with it. Hope your knee heals quickly. Enjoy Sedona!


  26. Nadeem April 18, 2010 at 3:22 pm #


    Thanks for sharing this.

    I don;t know whether you intended it this way but there are a couple of lessons in this.

    Firstly if you can pull off an event like The Systems Seminar those still healthy have no excuse.

    Secondly it’s a reminder about focusing on ones strengths by (outsourcing) or in your case enlisting the help of others for tasks they are better suited at.

    There are a couple of other lessons but I shall leave it here. Naturally I wish you a speedy recovery.


  27. Sandra Berthene April 18, 2010 at 4:13 pm #

    Thank you, Ken, for your informative, insightful, truly inspirational post. Thank you for the best System Seminar yet (2010 was my third). Thank you for the honesty and integrity I’ve seen and heard you demonstrate time and again, at the seminars and online.
    I sympathize with your mobility problem. As one who’s had both knees and a left hip replaced, I routinely trip airline security. Dratted nuisance! But your “life is rarely ideal” reponse is spot on.
    And I gotta tell ya — however it might have made you feel physically or emotionally, I thought it added a lot to have you sitting on stage during the presentations.
    Enjoy Sedona. It’s the right place for you to be right now. You’ll heal faster and better there.

    Sandra Berthene

  28. Donna Maher April 18, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    Hi Ken,

    Wow… when it rains it pours but you triumphed over the entire situation with grit, wisdom and quiet spirituality.

    We’ve never met but I feel like I know you from being on your list over the last several years. You are so genuine and so wise, that’s why I’ve stayed.

    I’ve heard that Sedona has some amazing healing vibes in it (for want of better phraseology) and it should help, along with your doctor and your positive outlook even in the face of pain and temporary disability.

    Hang in there… and thanks for sharing such a personal story. It was inspiring and even strangely comforting to read how you handled everything.

    Sending healing light & prayers your way,


  29. Sean April 18, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    Wishing you a speedy recovery, Ken, and good health!

  30. Steve Lahey April 18, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    Good food for thought, thanks. I wish you a speedy, complete recovery.


  31. Mark Henderson April 18, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

    HI Ken,

    Congrats on preservering through an amazing challenge.

    Reading this brought back a line from the latest Transformers movie .. it goes something like..”Fate seldom calls upon us at a time of our choosing”.

    So in the midst of gearing up for a hectic Monday at the job, you gave me a reason to smile – thanks.

    Now then, back to your healing.

    Mark Henderson

  32. Carol Riess April 18, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    Thanks for the story, Ken, and thanks for a wonderful System Seminar (my first).

    Glad you’re healing well and in such a beautiful place.

    Carol Riess

  33. Joe Sabah April 18, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    As a 6 year STROKE survivor… I know. Now walking with a cane… at least I’m walking.

    Helpers each day. Seminars sitting down IS GOOD.

    Call me if you need more. 303.722.7200

  34. Steven Pam April 18, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    What an interesting and thoughtful post. Thanks for putting that experience in words and sharing it.
    We always seem to be so bogged down with minutiae that we forget to take that perspective.
    Sorry I missed the System this year. Hope to see you (hopefully on two feet) next time or in the future.

  35. Naomi April 19, 2010 at 2:56 am #

    that’s an inspiring story Ken. You’re right, conditions are hardly ever ideal. It reminds me of one time I went surfing the day after injuring my back.

    I actually had a great surf because I couldn’t use much strength, I had to think ahead, conserve energy and be very focused.

    It’s interesting how you can actually learn a lot from an illness. In the words of another wise teacher – ‘sickness is strong medicine.’

    All the best for your full recovery

    – Naomi

  36. Gary Bencivenga April 19, 2010 at 7:21 am #

    Inspiring, Ken! You have demonstrated the wisdom of Napoleon Hill’s famous words, “Within every problem or setback lies the seed of an equal or greater opportunity or benefit.”
    On a personal level, I know what you’ve been going through. Last year I twisted my knee and, last month finally resorted to arthroscopic surgery, which went fine. But I just wanted you to know, I’ve limped in your shoes. Get well soon, good friend.

  37. Barry Friedman April 19, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    Great read, Ken. You are taking care of yourself and that isn’t encouraged in American society. You are setting a wonderful example and modeling self-care – thank you.

    By the way, Both men who have led the annual TED Conference spend the entire conference on stage – IMO it adds a sense of safety and leadership to the proceedings – stick with it.

  38. Orestes April 19, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    Hi! Ken,

    I´m very sorry to hear that. Relax and enjoy the peace of Sedona as that´s what you need right now.Next step see yourself whole.You´ll be fine again my word.
    I´ll pray for you!


  39. Yoggi April 20, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

    i can’t imagine the internet marketing without you. What would happen if you die?

    Thanks to the God that he’s safe!

  40. r May 4, 2010 at 5:35 am #

    Sorry about your knee,but that is life.There is an ancient saying in my land which says that there is not a tree which has not been swayed by the wind.


  41. veterinary technician June 7, 2010 at 2:37 am #

    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I enjoy seeing websites that understand the value of providing a prime resource for free. I truly loved reading your post. Thanks!

  42. Flight to Kathmandu February 2, 2011 at 3:00 am #

    Great resources. i really love this post
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