That Looks Pretty High -- TFS' Bill Dalziel stands on top of a mountain, pretending he doesn't have a rare lung disease.
You need a definition of Start Your Impossible? You need something, someone who shows you what SYI means over and over again? Demonstrating how it can make you be more than you ever thought you could be?
Meet Bill Dalziel. He should have died sometime during the last decade. Instead, he started playing hockey and climbing mountains. All after being diagnosed with a rare lung disease that gave him three years to live. And yeah, that’s right. He climbed mountains. With a lung disease.
So, Start Your Impossible. Just like Bill Dalziel.
Going Up -- After his 40th birthday, gravity was the least of Bill's worries. So he decided to climb some rocks.
It’s hard to say where we should begin Bill’s story. He’s been a claims specialist for the Toyota Financial Services Customer Service Center in Iowa for only a year and a half. He’s actually surprised he hasn’t been fired yet. But we’ll get to that in a second.
Before that, he owned a paintball business that, combined with another job, kept him working 70-80 hours a week.
Maybe we start with his wife, Tania. Next week marks their 35th wedding anniversary. Congrats!
But let’s be real. We’re writing about Bill because of what happened on his 40th birthday, and what’s happened in the 14 years since.
Back in 2005, Bill couldn’t breathe. Doc said he had something called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. In a state of denial, he went and got a bunch of second opinions. Then it sunk in: Three years to live. Happy birthday, Bill!
“Everything for me started at that moment,” he says. “Now I don’t stop. Full blast as hard as I can. Lots of goals to do. I’ll never complete them all, but that’s OK.”
Let’s do the clichés now: It took a death sentence to inspire Bill to truly live. Life didn’t start until it nearly ended. Once he realized how precious they were, Bill seized the days, carpe dieming harder than anyone has ever carpe diemed.
OK, so now you get it. Bill Dalziel was basically a dead man, and he decided to get busy living. Dude strapped an oxygen tank to his back and started doing everything most of us fear.
Besides hockey and climbing, he started deep sea diving, he went on the most dangerous hikes he could find. He jumped out of planes, went white water kayaking, took up motocross, started skiing down mountains. No amount of collapsed lungs – and there were a few – could slow him down. He said he had a barrel list because a bucket list was too small.
So, for 14 years, Bill has been starting his impossible with an oxygen tank in places where oxygen tanks are sometimes not enough for people with healthy
lungs. Elevation doesn’t seem to matter to him.
Point is, Bill was no longer afraid of death, so he just looked it in the face and said “what’s up, bro?”
Bill has a motto: He’s either working or on vacation. There’s no in between. He loves it all.
Going Down -- Apparently, part of Bill's Barrel List was falling out of an upside down plane. Mission accomplished.
When it comes to his reason for working at TFS, Bill says what most of us are thinking: He came to TFS for the vacation days. After years of long hours and no time off, it was a pretty sweet feeling to have that built in.
But during his new-hire training, Bill experienced the most Bill Dalziel story ever. He tells it here:
“It was a very rough start at the beginning. One week into the job, I had an accident that almost took me out completely. It was a skiing accident. I hit a jump wrong, landed on my face, shattered my head, had to do facial reconstruction. I was in some pretty good pain. The accident happened on a Saturday, and I came back to work on Monday. I was in training, went to management and joked that the security guard wouldn’t let me in because my face didn’t match my ID picture. I said, ‘Let’s cut to the chase, if I’m going to be let go, let’s do it right now and save the suffering.’ See, during training, you can’t miss any time. But I had to have surgery on Wednesday. The surgeon couldn’t schedule the surgery at night because it would take all day. So, I missed Wednesday for surgery and came back to work Thursday. That’s the kind of person I am. I don’t miss work. I’ve come to work with a collapsed lung before. I’m very committed to being at work on time and never missing a day because of injuries. But I’ve learned to back off just a little since that last accident.”
Look, if this guy isn’t Mr. SYI, then who the hell is?
Of course, management let him stay. Things are going pretty well now.
At Last, Victory -- More than 14 years after his diagnosis, doctors can no longer find inflammation in his lungs. Hockey, presumably, helped with that.
Bill likes to tell the story about the time he was trying to summit one of Colorado’s famous 14,000-foot mountains. He ran into a persistent and particularly mean goat blocking the trail. The goat false charged a couple times, almost knocking Bill off the mountain. And by the way, Bill’s last oxygen tank was low. Finally, the goat got within a few feet, Bill threw rocks at it. Either side of the trail was just cliffs. Eventually he managed to scare the goat off, or maybe it just found some other climber to harass. What’s the point of the story? Just that mountain goats can be jerks, and Bill once again navigated a scary situation.
But look, this is life and life sucks sometimes. The good news is that Bill kind of just beat his disease. Doctors can no longer find any evidence of inflammation. He’s pretty much off the oxygen tank now. But now, it’s his wife Tania. She was born with hearing issues, and she’s going both deaf and blind, and has a non-cancerous brain tumor. That’s the real reason Bill sold the paintball shop. He and Tania ran it together, and he didn’t want to keep it going without her.
“When it comes to my impossible, I did it. I completed it,” Bill says. “Now, it’s my wife’s impossible as to what we can get her to see and do before her vision completely goes.”
The couple doesn’t fully know yet how they will handle the days ahead. But Bill’s history assures us they’ll find a way.
After all, there are too few days to let any of them go by.
“Realistically, there is no tomorrow,” Bill says. “I’ve done this math so many times. If I live to 70 years old, living a full life, that’s 25,500 days to live. If someone said you have a week to live, how would you spend it? You have 25,500 days to live. It’s the same philosophy. If you look at each day individually, why would you let anything ruin it for you? When I get off work here, I’m jumping on a bike and going kayaking.”
By Dan Nied