Healing: A Creative Use of Fear
Multiple brain tumor survivor and former professional athlete, Josh Perry has devoted his life to sharing his belief that we are all capable of changing aspects of ourselves and our lives, despite any circumstance we find ourselves in, to live the most ideal life we envision. Our most in-depth D.Lab interview ever, we chat with Josh on everything from health challenges to evolving creative interests and even a little squirrel dentistry…
As a former BMX professional, your background is rather different from most of our D.Lab interviewees… Tell us more about who you are and what you’re all about!
My name is Josh Perry, and I am a former professional BMX athlete and multiple brain tumor warrior. I am all about what I feel is my calling in life and that’s to empower others with the tools and skills to optimize their lives and leverage fear to their advantage. I don’t believe we must suffer in life and it’s my mission to help others live as happy, healthy and successfully as possible while understanding you can choose to change your circumstances from a place of gratitude and inspiration.
My experiences in my BMX career while overcoming multiple brain tumors has taught me a lot about life, how we view our lives and how we can optimize how we live in a day to day manner to overcome any circumstance we may find undesirable. It starts with auditing how we show up in life and deciding if it’s congruent to how we envision our ideal lives or not. A simple question like, “is this choice helping me get closer to my goal”, can yield a profound sense of clarity and with that clarity comes a powerful shift in focus and behavior moving forward. With each congruent choice in life we can get one step closer to the lives we desire and that’s what BMX taught me and what I do my best to share with the world.
My experiences and learnings along the way led me to where I am today as a coach, speaker and author with the goal of inspiring people to see their lives from a different angle and empower themselves to overcome any unwanted circumstance in their lives whether it be with their health, their career, their relationships, etc. At the end of the day, my experiences with battling multiple brain tumors during my BMX career has taught me how to see fear from an empowered angle and leverage fear to my advantage by seeing what learnings and experiences are on the other side or pushing past fear. I have now dedicated my life to serving others in this manner and helping them become the best versions of themselves.
How important was creativity in your healing process, were there any outlets that you found particularly helpful?
Creativity has been something I have never thought I possessed because I was looking at it from the standpoint of being creative meant you were good with art (painting, sculpting, drawing, etc.) in a more traditional sense. Because I was not skillful in that manner, I deemed myself not creative.
It wasn’t until I learned that my form of art and self expression was what I did on my BMX bike. That said, when the first brain tumor diagnosis occurred in 2010, I felt destroyed. The thing I loved the most and gave me the ability to express myself freely was taken from me. What helped with the first brain surgery recovery process was editing videos of my past riding and envisioning my recovery and plan for riding after I was cleared to do so.
The second surgery at the end of August, 2021 was much different. I had stepped away from living my dream as a pro BMX athlete for about 16 months going into this surgery and found an outlet for expressing myself in writing, podcasting, bowling and golfing. Again, the physical elements would be taken away for some time but I had been writing for about a decade now. I naturally amped up my writing even more as well as took to creating podcasts and videos of me sharing valuable information that has helped me in my journey. I also picked up playing the guitar as that helped me put my time and energy into something I could progress with which is also very helpful for the brain’s health and resiliency.
On top of that, I have always been fascinated by stories of others that have overcome adversity in various forms and continued doing what they love in life. Learning how others handle adversity and overcome it has helped inspire my writing and how to write in a way that tells a story and sparks others imagination to benefit their own lives. I love looking at artists in music and how they use metaphors to express what they feel and have been through. During the first few weeks of this recent surgery, I spent a lot of time playing guitar, reading, writing, and learning more about my favorite musicians and how they approached their art forms in various ways. This was helpful because it kept me sane while not being physically active, which I still love even off the bike these days, and felt as if I was working towards something as I navigate these new waters away from BMX as a career.
With any kind of project, does inspiration “strike” you? Or is it more of a deliberate process?
I would say that with any type of project or goal I set my sights on, it’s a bit of both spiratical moments of inspiration as well as a deliberate process.
I am constantly inspired by others pursuing what they love and the lives they ideally envision for themselves, especially those that were able to make a career out of what they loved to do. This was very crucial for when I was a kid and saw Dave Mirra riding BMX for a living and I was inspired to pursue this newly created dream to become a pro BMX athlete. As an adult, consciously aware of this process, I actively seek out stories that inspire me to be better and to keep going after the vision I am working towards in my life.
An example of inspiration “striking” me is how I am obsessed with music and listen to a few artists on repeat – Mac Miller, my buddy Rowlan, and Slipknot / Corey Taylor – who are very intentional with their lyrics and how they write. Even if it’s a song I have heard a thousand times before, which are many of their songs, a line will hit me differently based upon where I am mentally and emotionally that day. I will feel inspired by something they said or how they said it and it will spark inspiration inside of me for how I can share something I have been through and how I can share it in a manner that sparks the same kind of inspiration in another.
I am inspired everyday by various things I come across in my day to day and I also make a deliberate attempt to come across inspiration in various facets of my life. We can’t create inspiration for ourselves but I choose to be inspired by things I love doing in my life and enjoy consuming, whether it be music or stories.
You learned some pretty difficult lessons fairly early on in your adult life, what advice would you offer to anyone facing a seemingly unconquerable challenge?
I get asked this question a lot and I am grateful to be on the other side of some of my life’s most challenging experiences. The reason I can say that is because I can reflect on my past and make sense out of what I did to overcome each and every challenge, no matter how difficult it was in the moment, and pass that along to others and actively implement the learnings in my own life.
My advice comes straight from my experiences and what I went all in on with this recent AWAKE brain surgery. What I say to anyone facing any challenge, big or small, is to focus on what you DO WANT to occur or become your reality. It’s easy to get caught up in an undesirable circumstance, especially when it’s painful and feels like there is no way to overcome it. In and out of BMX it was my vision that propelled me forward. Even when I was at my lowest and depressed, it was my vision that helped me get out of bed and at least make my best attempt to succeed.
When I say vision, I am talking about the ideal desired life you want to experience. We all can say what we want to do, have or experience and that’s great. What I have found that saved my life and brought me where I am today is getting really clear on what that vision means to you, how it will feel, what it looks like, and focusing on how to make it happen.
For example, with both surgeries I kept focusing my energy on healing and getting back to doing what I love most rather than entertain the thoughts of “what if I don’t wake up” which kept trying to take the reigns of my focus. For the first surgery in 2010, when I was 21, that vision was continuing my BMX career. This second surgery at the age of 32, my vision I was focused on is helping others around the world see past their circumstances and believe in their vision for their ideal life via my book and non-profit.
Had I lost sight of my vision either time, I may have woken up but I guarantee I would have been living in fear and most likely not going after what I wanted to create in life. I have learned we can let our focus wander, which typically defaults to fear and stress, or we can empower ourselves by focusing on what we do want to become our reality. With that comes my belief that we can create our own micro obstacles to overcome regularly so when obstacles outside of our control present themselves, we’ve mentally and emotionally prepared ourselves to overcome whatever it is with as little fear as possible.
What was the last new thing you learned? It doesn’t matter what, we’re still curious!
Upon a home inspection for the house my fiance and I are buying, I recently learned squirrels’ teeth never stop growing and that’s why they tend to cause damage to various parts of a roof. In our case, it was some pipe that vented the moisture out of our attic or something.
You’re a big believer in learning how nutrition affects our health and wellbeing overall– do you have any fun facts about how our diets may influence our creative energy and output?
Yes, I have loved learning how what we put into our bodies affects our brain’s health which affects our overall performance with our health, cognitive abilities and creativity. To keep this section brief, what we consume can create energy or it can rob us of energy which harms the brain and our mental well being.
We have turned into a society of convenience which comes with processed foods lacking proper nutrition. They may taste good and or be convenient for times sake but they are not optimal for providing the building blocks to properly repair the body. They come with lack of nutrition, harmful additives and chemicals, and oftentimes a lot of sugar. Even the ones with all the fancy health claims on the packaging. This combination of processed foods lacking essential nutrients, sugar and chemical additives robs our rewards systems within the brain, leads us to being a slave to sugar and takes a ton of energy from the brain by using said energy in riding these harmful substances rather than focusing on creating ATP (our bodies natural energy currency) and repairing tissue. It’s like having a power strip with too many devices plugged in past the power strip’s capacity. It may fuel the devices for some time but it may not do so for a long time or may prioritize some over others, leading some devices to not get enough energy all together. With this analogy, you can see how various systems in our bodies may deteriorate if not provided with enough energy but we demand them to perform. Our brain typically takes the toll.
A great way to look at nutrition is comparing a camp fire to solar energy. The camp fire creates a ton of smoke and harmful by-products that can be dangerous as well as needs to be constantly fed to stay alive and if it rains or gets too windy, it can blow out. Solar energy, on the other hand, is a much more sustainable, reliable and cleaner form of energy that creates little to no harmful by-products in the process when compared to a campfire and can actually be sold back to utility companies for a return on investment. Our brain’s are designed to be “dual fueled” and society used to utilize this to our advantage until agriculture came along and then the grocery stores, and then modern technology created processed and ultra-processed foods. We can still tap into this dual-fueling system with the right approach and understanding, and that’s what I love helping people implement and seeing what comes from the brain “turning back on”. When the focus is on prioritizing the health and performance of your brain, you see all kinds of other systems in the body improve. Our brain’s are a billion dollar bio-computer and are capable of so much more than we can fathom until we tap into its fullest potential.
Anything new coming our way? Feel free to plug your latest project!
I am working on launching my first book via a Kickstarter campaign to help me cover the costs of an editor and self publishing. Each tier of rewards comes with a copy of the book before it’s publicly released.
Beyond the book, I am working on launching my foundation, The Quest To Progress Foundation. Our mission is to raise funds for patients going through a TBI, brain tumor, or any cognitive impairment / mental health challenge. As a patient of all the above, the last thing I want a family or individual to worry about is basic living needs like rent, food or utilities, let alone navigating their path for treatment and handling medical expenses. I am currently looking for potential partners to speak with that want to be a part of the foundation and help directly change lives. My email is [email protected] if anyone is interested in speaking with me and seeing the deck I put together that shares my vision for the foundation.
Thanks for giving me this opportunity to share for anyone who took the time to read this far! I never imagined people would be interested in what I have to say or do in my life and I am truly honored to have the opportunity to share my thoughts and help others live their dreams like I have been fortunate to do in my life so far.