After Facing Death, John Negroni Reinvented Himself

by Al Siebert, PhD

THRIVEnet Story of the Month - July 1999

Losing his job as a corporate executive plunged John Negroni into an abyss of fruitless job searching. His experience as a vice-president for a Fortune 500 company qualified him for a number of executive positions, but during his job search he knew that deep down he really didn't want to work for anyone else again.

John began to do a lot of soul searching. He questioned God as to what was in store for him. "What is it you want me to do?" he asked, day after day.

"Finally the answer came," he says, "it came in the form of a heart attack. I was in a meeting in Manhattan. I had discomfort and pain up my entire body. It was nine in the morning. I walked out of this meeting and found a nurse in the building. I laid down for awhile but the pain wasn't getting better. I said to them, "Call an ambulance."

There were signs leading up to it," he says, "only no one was sure what those signs meant at beginning. I was having pains that weren't going away and discomfort that was getting increasingly more uncomfortable. I would carry my attaché case in the mornings and experience pain. Something wasn't right.

"While riding to the hospital in the ambulance, I started to doubt myself. I started to doubt whether there was a God, I started to doubt every single thing about my life. I don't know why. My whole life came before me. I went back in my life to when I was a child. Just thinking about it now gives me chills.

"I told myself that if I survived, I would completely redirect my life. When I asked God that all-important question about what it was I was supposed to do with my life, God answered. I would do the things in my life that I always wanted to do."

Extensive medical exams and an angiogram, showed that John had blockage in his arteries in three different places requiring quadruple bypass surgery.

"I kept asking the doctor, how could this have happened," John says. "I exercised, I ate right, my cholesterol was 180, everything was as it should have been. How could I have this problem?"

Twenty-eight days after his surgery John spoke to an audience of educators and students on the similarities between care giving in health care and education. "They gave me a standing ovation," he says. "People came up to me afterwards crying, telling me that they never had been so moved. It was a wonderful, wonderful moment for me."

John says he reinvented himself. "I never once asked God, why me? I knew there was a reason for my heart attack, and now I know what it is," he says. He's replaced his executive Brooks Brothers' clothes with casual dress. He says he "practices what he preaches" when it comes to personal and professional effectiveness and managing life and job stresses in his new life as a facilitator, executive coach, and speaker to companies around the world.

John's most popular talk is titled "Three Minutes to Live." He shares his quadruple bypass/heart attack journey, pointing out that human beings can literally die in three minutes if plaque gets into your main artery. He says his medical problems were without a doubt a result of years of unresolved stress and wear and tear on his mind and body. He says that we can all effectively manage high pressure lives simply by keeping an eye on what's important.

John's advice is to care for your mind and body as if they were a dear, dear friend. "Introspection is key," he says. "We have to tell ourselves constantly that our history is not our destiny. You can walk a different path and discover things in your life you never thought you would. I always tell others that they must find something in their life that they love doing. When you can do that, it is as if you are reborn."

John Negroni can be contacted at

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