How a Single Conversation Saved My Life.

“Every conversation is a selling moment”. This has been my signature message and a mighty cornerstone of my keynote and workshops on sales culture. At times, it is met with some skepticism, a smirk, eye roll or a raised eyebrow because people resist the notion that they are “in sales” and that’s what energizes me. To that end, here is an real, honest to goodness life instance of how this concept changed and saved my life. Literally. I have been sharing my story about my recent brush with cancer and what I want to share now is how my own journey began a few years earlier and long before my own diagnosis. How a simple and seemingly innocuous conversation had an intense impact on me that led to a life saving decision.  How a single moment can positively affect someone’s life.

May, 2013. I was at a networking event and saw a friend of mine who I had not seen in a year or so. I walked up to him and after a handshake and hug; I asked “how are you?”  He mentioned that he was “getting better and feeling stronger”.  I wasn’t sure what he meant (but human instinct and my own fears kicked in and told me that there was a health issue).  He went onto tell me that he had been found to have prostate cancer and he had just finished his treatments.  BAM. There it was in living color – my fear of cancer staring me in the face and reawakened in the light of my friend’s reality.  Ever since my father died in 1989 of a brain tumor, I have had an almost abnormal fear of getting a diagnosis of cancer and as we get older and we hear stories, we are faced with our own fears and mortality. That’s just the way it is.

As I was listening, I felt that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and simultaneously I began to silently chastise myself for having neglected making my appointment for my annual physical. In fact,  I was way overdue to see my doctor.  Knowing that my friend was not much older than I was, I thought “could this happen to me?” One of the first questions I asked him was “how he found out” and that led to a conversation about seeing his doctor and getting his PSA level checked (a somewhat controversial blood test that can lead to early detection of prostate cancer). I knew something about this test as I had had a friend get diagnosed nine years earlier with the same thing. We talked for about 30 minutes, and not wanting to monopolize his time, I gave him a hug and pledged to be in touch soon and not let the time go by as it had – a pledge I have kept.  The final comment that he shared with me was “to get my physical and get the test”.  A perfect and true “selling moment” if there was ever one.5-lifesaving-technology-1

June, 2013. I went for my physical and nervously asked for the PSA test – I felt the anxiety attacking me. No argument from the doctor and no pushback which was both a relief relief and in some ways scared me a bit more because I so wanted him to talk me out of it.  To tell me that I had nothing to worry about.  It’s nothing more than a box to be checked on the lab forms when they draw blood for the standard blood tests.  Totally painless and a non-issue. I wanted to believe that I would not be in the same shoes as my friend. Denial and fear are powerful emotions. Two days later I got an email from the medical system letting me know that I could log on and see my results (not a good idea for a hypochondriac at 3 a.m.). I did and as I scanned the results, I finally arrived at the PSA line. When I saw the number I froze. 5.5. The normal level is 0-4 and I was obviously out of range. My mind immediately raced, I got very frightened that I must have cancer. I panicked and felt that awful chill run down my spine and I broke out in a cold sweat. I literally could not breathe for a moment or two and then I went into a mental freefall. I began to imagine the worst and I saw my funeral. I was in a bad way and I was also alone. My wife had gone to Florida to see her ailing father and I was alone to stare at the computer screen and think the worst.  I started to cry and then I thought about the conversation a month earlier with my friend and through the tears and extreme anxiety I thought about how this was no coincidence that we reconnected.  I have always been a believer in fate and karma and this was no accident.

I didn’t get back to sleep that night and as I paced my house overwhelmed with anxiety as I watched the clock and at 8:58 am ( I wanted to be the first in the queue) I called my doctor. I felt some relief when he came on the line and we began to talk about the results – and as he was trying to talk me off the ledge- I thought simultaneously of the conversation I had with my friend and mouthed a silent and heartfelt “thank you” for hearing his story, for taking his counsel and seeing the doctor. I had been afraid to see my doctor and he sold me on sucking it up and going. I am grateful he closed me on it. Rarely has a day gone by where I do not feel profoundly appreciative for that moment a month earlier. You just never know where a conversation will lead. Every conversation matters to someone.  Every conversation counts.  Do not bet against me on this.f539d7b521d749dd37f4f196709824af

Far too often we forget or simply don’t know the impact we have on people with our words and stories. Every time we connect – whether it’s the written word, a text or hopefully a live conversation, we are imparting something remarkable to someone. Images are created very quickly and those images guide our reactions and how we hear what is being said.  The words and our presence in those instances influence, educate, motivate, and yes, inspire. It’s a moment where with your words – you have the chance to save a life. In this case it was mine.


Thank you for listening.  Thank you for being there.


Todd Cohen, CSP is an accomplished and sought after international keynote speaker, sales culture expert and author of “Everyone’s in Sales” and “Everyone’s in Sales; STOP Apologizing.”  Todd’s dynamic and motivational keynotes and workshops are based on the foundation that regardless of career path or position, everyone is a salesperson.

Annmarie Young Photography
Annmarie Young Photography

Since 1984, Todd has led sales teams to deliver more than $950 million in revenue for leading companies including Xerox and Thomson-Reuters.  You can also see Todd’s articles on Sales Culture in many magazines, trade journals and the Huffington Post.  

For more information or to book Todd Cohen for your next meeting please visit

Follow Todd on Twitter @SalesLeaderTodd.


1 thought on “How a Single Conversation Saved My Life.”

  1. Todd, thanks for sharing your story. I love the way you expanded the definition of @a selling moment” — a great perspective for all of us. Glad you were “sold.”

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