Simon Keith is the first person to play a professional sport as a heart transplant recipient.
He’s also one of the longest-living organ transplant recipients in the world.
What’s more, Simon has successfully built and sold 4 companies over a 15-year period.
He served as the Chief Operating Officer for the Nevada Donor Network, a federally designated not-for-profit Organ Procurement Organization, leading the organization from a ranking of 53rd (out of 58) in the USA in 2011 to #1 in the USA from 2015-2019 (and the world) in terms of number of organ donors & organs recovered for transplant per capita.
And now, in this interview, Simon answers some questions about “moments of truth,” inspiration, motivation, and more.
But before you dive into the interview, here’s a video of Simon Keith on stage:
Ask The Expert: Simon Keith
Question #1: Knowing your story about being a heart transplant recipient, what about challenging people to find their “moments of truth” do you believe changes the trajectory of their lives?
People wonder why others seem to be more effective when the stakes are the highest. Why some seem to get promotions, or overcome setbacks, or whatever is important in their lives. I believe strongly that ‘most of life’ is relatively simple and we make it harder by the choices we make. Daily questions like; should we eat what’s good for us or what will satisfy a short term immediate need? Should we go to the gym and work out or sit on Instagram or watch TV. The answers are ‘easy’ but for some reason in many cases we make the choice to do the opposite of what is best for us. I believe strongly that if make the ‘correct’ choices the majority of time good things will happen for us. The discipline needed to make the ‘right’ choices will significantly change ones lives and when the tough moments come, the likelihood of success increases exponentially.
Question #2: What lessons from your life would you say contribute to the motivation and inspiration of others?
Simple: When you are 21 years old and about to have your heart taken out of your chest..this is a moment of truth. Being told post transplant you will never play football (soccer) again by virtually everyone, only served as motivation. Playing again, for me, was the ONLY option I had. There was no Plan B.
The biggest obstacle? Doctors, Family, media, friends, other players, coaches? None of them. The single biggest obstacle: Fear. Being able to conquer the fear – and do what no other human had ever done – is what I focus on. Being able to be so laser focused that nothing will stop you. That is what it takes to accomplish your goals.
Question #3: Which “moment of truth” motivated you to establish The Simon Keith Foundation and why?
I met a young boy named Chris. Chris was a 7 year old boy who had received a transplanted heart when he was 18 months old. Chris was the third of three boys from a beautiful family who loved him dearly. So much so that they wanted to do everything to protect him, including holding him out of sports. They did want Chris to get dirty, or hurt or in any way compromise his health. Chris loved soccer and wanted to play. After I got to know the family, I was able to get them comfortable enough to let Chris play.
When Chris played his first competitive soccer game – at 8 years old – he came off the field and looked at me and with his big brown eyes staring up at me, and his bottom lip quivering, he said to me, “Thank you for letting me play…now I am not left out any more”.
For me that was the moment I knew that there were other kids and families in the same situation..I was determined to help each of them.
In 2018 The Simon Keith Foundation sponsored every child in the USA and Canada to attend and compete in the Transplant Games in their country. We will do the same in 2020.
Question #4: Your tenure as a successful entrepreneur has offered many lessons that you could share across dozens of talks… which lessons across your career have you found to be most prominent and useful?
I did an article for Forbes Magazine.
The major thing that sums up my business philosophy is: Keep the Light on Green.
Keeping the light on green refers to all aspects of business. It is an overall philosophy for every aspect. Want a new client: GO get them. Have a challenge with an employee: GO talk to them. Have an idea: GO and do it.
Question #5: What does it mean for you to be the longest living organ transplant recipient in history?
Not exactly true. There are no official stats on this but I can comfortably state that I am one of the top 10 (maybe 5) longest heart recipients in history, Being the first (and one of only two – the other a golfer) professional athlete to compete post heart transplant means more to me than longevity.
My ability to excel in the complicated and highly regulated world of organ donation – taking the worst organ procurement agency in the US to the top agency in the world in 3 years – and it has remained the most productive for the last 6 years is extremely gratifying.
But, the most satisfying thing I have done and continue to do is to be the most productive, effective advocate for organ donation (maybe) in the world. Speaking at the Canadian and British Parliaments as well as the Whitehouse and all over the world, and continuing to advocate for those like me is clearly the most important role I have.
PS. In a few years I am sure I will be the longest living recipient ever!!
Here are the major takeaways from Simon’s answers:
- “I believe strongly that if make the ‘correct’ choices the majority of time good things will happen for us.”
- “The discipline needed to make the ‘right’ choices will significantly change ones lives and when the tough moments come, the likelihood of success increases exponentially.”
- “The single biggest obstacle: Fear. Being able to conquer the fear – and do what no other human had ever done – is what I focus on. Being able to be so laser focused that nothing will stop you.”
- “The major thing that sums up my business philosophy is: Keep the Light on Green.