Everything will be okay – says the man who should know
How to shine bright in the midst of adversity
Michael Crossland has inspired many people with his story of overcoming extraordinary obstacles to build a life of sporting and business achievements.
A one-time pro-athlete turned banker, Crossland, 35, has spent a lifetime developing strategies to cope and recover when everything falls apart in life. And with a natural gift for communication, he has become a sought-after speaker and coach for developing success through a better mindset.
Now, having just had all his speaking engagements cancelled for the next nine months, Crossland is facing the prospect of no income for the rest of the year.
But amid the disarray and disruption of the COVID-19 crisis, his message hasn’t changed: “everything will be okay.”
He has a book coming out with that title later this year and a film is being made of his life for Netflix called – you guessed it – Everything will be okay, for release in late 2021.
Diagnosed as a baby with an incurable cancer of the nervous system, called neuroblastoma Stage 4, he was the only child to survive out of a group given an experimental drug called DTIC.
“We started this drug 9am Tuesday morning. Within one month, 20 out of the 25 kids had passed away. Within 90 days, 24 out of the 25 kids were dead. My mum would sit there and watch a doctor come in and zip up a body bag and wheel them out because of the same drug that she chose to put me on,” he says, his voice wavering at the memory.
Crossland says he is one of the lucky people in the world, not because he survived but because he wasn’t his mum.
“My mum had it tough. She had to make the choice to inject the drug into a child that had killed everyone who had ever taken it … Until one day I was finally allowed to go home.”
Told by doctors that he would never go to school or play sports, and it would be a miracle if he reached his teenage years, his mother insisted that “everything will be okay.”
When he expressed a dream to play baseball in America, his mum encouraged him to do everything in his power to make it happen, buying him a velcro glove and throwing a ball back and forth to him in his hospital bed.
“There were a lot of hiccups along the way,” he says. “I had my first heart attack when I was 12. I had glandular fever, I had bacterial meningitis, but people kept telling me I wouldn’t do it, so it made me work really hard to make sure I could do it. I was lucky enough at the age of 17 to sign a contract to live in America and play baseball.”
Tragically, a year later, while he was playing baseball in Phoenix, Arizona, he suffered a career-ending heart attack and was sent home. That was the first time he wanted his life to end.
“I was a depressed boy. I thought life wasn’t fair. And I would pray every night that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. I just wanted God to take me, but I kept waking up every morning. Yet every time I’ve been knocked down, I always remember what my mum taught me. ‘Son, it doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, it’s about how many times you get up that truly determines the quality of your life.’”
Despite a phenomenally successful career in banking – becoming the youngest bank manager in Australia a year after he started, then the youngest area manager, and the youngest national sales development manager – Crossland’s life has continued to be a roller-coaster. In 2016 he was diagnosed with four tumours of the throat. But throughout it all, he has continued to believe that “everything will be okay.”
“When I was told that I wasn’t going to make it, Mum said everything was going to be okay, and when I was five, after all those horrible trial drugs that killed everybody, the doctor said I’d never go to school or play sport, I’d be a housebound baby. I said to my mum ‘what did the doctor say?’ She said ‘everything will be okay,’ and then when I had a heart attack at 12 and they said I’d never play baseball again, I said to her ‘what did the doctors say?’, ‘everything will be okay.’
“And when I got sick in 2010, I got bacterial meningitis, I got fluid on the brain and got Bell’s palsy, Mum said ‘what did the doctor say?’ I told her ‘everything’s going to be okay.’
“I got diagnosed in 2016 with four tumours of the throat, they told me that my tomorrows weren’t guaranteed, I needed to slow down, and my mum called me and said ‘what did the doctor say? I told her that everything was going to be okay.
“And when I was told our little boy had contracted an illness called sepsis and they told me that he only had four days with us, my wife said, ‘what did the doctor say?’ I told her that everything was going to be okay. And even now, I truly believe that everything will be okay.”
“There is no way in the world that I would have got through what I have been able to get through without his devotion, his love and his unwavering commitment to us.” – Michael Crossland
Crossland describes himself as a strong Christian but admits there have been times when he walked away from his faith.
“I was feeling like I was all alone and very isolated and ‘why, why, why?’, and now I look back on that and realise in all those dark times, and those moments of fear and anxiety and worry, I was never alone. I was being carried. And I realised that there is no way in the world that I would have got through what I have been able to get through without his devotion, his love and his unwavering commitment to us and how dare I ever question that!
“If we have faith that everything’s going to be okay whilst we’re on this earth, even when we do come to a time of leaving this earth, it is still going to be okay because we know exactly where our final resting place is. And through all those experiences, I always thought it was just a saying that you’ll get back up every time you get knocked down, but I realise now that it’s far deeper than that because even when you don’t get back up, where you will go will be a far greater place – and that’s really powerful and really deep.”
As someone who still has a compromised immune system, Crossland gets emotional thinking that he might catch COVID-19 and have to leave this world and his young family.
“I fall into that potential 4 per cent who are depending on hundreds of thousands of random strangers to be vigilant and take sensible precautions, not because they are worried they might die of the disease, but because they care enough about us vulnerable people who could,” he wrote on his Facebook wall on March 17.
He is a well-known figure in his hometown of Coffs Harbour on the NSW mid-north coast, where shopkeepers have been glad to bring him goods to his car, while wearing gloves, and letting him tap his card to pay.
“It’s going all right. Our beautiful little boy is coming out of daycare today and we’re hoping that my wife’s boss will let her work from home in marketing.
“That will give us a greater safety net, not having her exposed and then her bringing it home, which would be an absolute nightmare.”
Crossland has almost finished producing an online training program about a better mindset – available for purchase and download at better-mindset.com.
“It’s a six-month online training course. And I think now’s the time where people’s mindsets need to be really shifted. There’s going to be a lot of people at home twiddling their thumbs and if I can give them something that I know is going to add great value,” he says.
“I really love one of my coaching sessions about replacing fear with faith. In a corporate sector I can’t really speak about faith because it can turn people off, but the greatest gift that I get is when I get off stage and someone says clearly you’re a Christian, and I go, really, is it that clear?”
Crossland said he discovered the power of the mind partly through his own experiences and partly through coaching elite athletes and top CEOs.
“I look back on a time in 2016 when I was diagnosed with cancer and I went home, I didn’t speak to anybody, I got into the shower, I vomited in the shower, I got into bed and I just wanted to never wake up,” he says.
“My three steps were moving, sharing and helping.” – Michael Crossland
“And I thought ‘no, I’ve got to get up’, so I went for a drive down the beach, I went for a walk. Whilst I was going for a walk, I ran into a mate. I started having a really good chat with him. We had lunch together. Then I spoke to a counsellor that afternoon. He invited us around for dinner, I met my wife there after work, we had a beautiful dinner and then driving home, I stopped to get some fuel. I really love paying for my fuel and paying for someone else’s, so I paid for my fuel, paid for somebody else’s, drove off and that made me feel really good.
“Then I got home and my wife said, ‘by the way, how did you go at the doctors?’. And I think to myself my conversation at 10pm after I’d physically done those things today had led me to a completely different answer. My three steps were moving, sharing and helping. First thing is I moved, I physically got active, got the heart pumping. The second thing I did was I shared – I communicated what I was feeling and I realised that point in your life is a sign of strength not of weakness, and the last one is I helped – I helped someone who was less fortunate than I was who could never return the favour because they didn’t even know who paid for their fuel.
“So those are some ways that I’ve actually been able to develop by sitting down and analysing what my behaviour was through those challenging periods of my life.”
“Many people that have been to the dark side or faced hell and back, they are those people who seem to shine brighter than many.” – Michael Crossland
Crossland said his overriding message is that we can use the pain of the past as an excuse for failure or making bad choices, or as a motivation and determination to succeed.
“The one thing that I’ve learnt and discovered and harnessed in my life is through great darkness and true pain that is our discovery moment. We do not discover how unfair our life is but rather, we discover how powerful we’ve been created.
“And I think that is truly powerful and life changing because it just demonstrates that we are actually the recipients of great learning and great strength because of the pain of our past. I think so many people that have been to the dark side or faced hell and back, they are those people who seem to shine brighter than many. And it’s not because of their pain but how they have dealt with that pain.
“God – and mum – told me that it’s not the adversity in your life that comes to you, it’s how you deal with it. I think that if we deal with it with faith and grace, with gratitude and humility, we will shine on the other side.”