When I had my jewelry company, Adesso, I had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people. In 2012, I sent jewelry to a stylist for a couple of NBA players. One of them, Ronny Turiaf, loved the pieces but beyond that, was moved by my personal story. We had something profound in common. We both were cruising along in our early 20’s, feeling healthy and well when we were told that we were sick inside and needed surgery. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 21, and Ronny, after being drafted by the LA Lakers right out of college at age 22, was told he had an enlarged aortic root in his heart that required immediate surgery. There is something life changing in feeling the fullness of your youth and then hearing the shocking news that something you cannot see or feel is about to change your life.
I vividly remember hearing my diagnosis at my best friend’s house in NY and I am sure Ronny can pinpoint the same instant. We both made it to the other side and are probably better for it, but the trauma of those experiences, including the total bizarreness of having your life turned upside down and then quickly put back together again with little time to actually process what happened, changes you. “I never really truly dealt with the ramification of having a heart surgery because it happened so fast. Next thing you know I am a basketball player and oh yeah, everything is good. It wasn’t until later on that I was like, wait a minute.”
Ronny called me for the first time on his way to the celebratory parade for his 2012 Miami Heat championship. We went deep fast and that call was the beginning of a lasting friendship. We understand and learn from each other, and crossed paths in this lifetime to encourage the doing of great things. It was at dinner about a year ago with Ronny that I first vocalized the dream of this project. And here we are. "Regardless of if you like it or not, life is going to take you on a rollercoaster and that’s what you are doing with Last Cut in my personal opinion. You are taking the wisdom that you have gained over the last X years to be able to empower other people to go for their own, and to express what has helped you and what you have dealt with so people can recognize themselves in you. I think that would never happen if it wasn’t for the rollercoaster you were on. That surrender…That’s what I relate to, not only you, and that’s why I decided when we talked about it…you know what? For me, that’s a rollercoaster right there, because it’s taking me into the drop where I am not used to talking about those issues or whatever it is, but I surrendered. Because if I am being put in front of that, I will try to work on it and try to seize the opportunity.”
Tell me about a notable last cut.
Ronny: "Oh man. Let’s talk about the one that I am currently in. Why not? I am going to take this opportunity that I have been trying lately for growth. So I think for me the latest one, [as] I feel like life is a series of last cuts, has been the decision that I made to embark on this journey of self discovery the last 8 months. After having a hip surgery, I came back to resume my NBA career in 2015. Things happened that led me to take this time to accomplish some of my biggest dreams, a most profound dream of mine to just basically live this… choose my own freedom…and just say no to just…say yes to my desire to just go and explore and go and look into meditation and look into going to the Seven Wonders of the World, spending time with my family, doing things that I knew that I neglected and that was not an easy feeling to live with everyday, when you know that you have neglected relationships with people and that you have neglected the part of you that wanted to do something else. So I think for me the decision to do that in November of 2015 was my last cut, my latest one."
What was the most challenging part about giving yourself this opportunity?
"How long you got? Oh. How long you got? I could start by saying the 10-15 times a day people are asking me why I am not on the basketball court. I could also just keep going and talk about the challenge of going through a 10-day silent meditation. I could go and talk about what is that result of seeing part of yourself that you don’t want to see. I could also just talk about realizing that some of those relationships, really truly feeling why some of those relationships, needs nurturing, needs redemption. And just a constant universe’s nudge to ask, “What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing?” and not being able to formulate what is exactly happening, but knowing that you doing something because that’s what you feel you are called to do. It’s that frustration aspect that comes from having to quote unquote justify your actions and it’s like, “Wait a minute, I am doing what I want to do. I am not bothering anybody.” So it was the biggest challenge for me, compounded with the fact of that other part of me asking, “You know there is something else you need to do too. Right? There is that thing that needs to be addressed and that thing that needs to be addressed. Is that really what you want? Are you sure about that? Are you sure? Are you sure?” So it’s that constant triggering that forces you to refine yourself all the time. So that’s what it was. That were some of the hardest parts for me, but also that probably was some of the best 7 months or 9 months that I spent in my entire life, because I literally, I was free."
What did this last year look like for you?
"I did whatever, however, whenever I wanted to do every single day for the first time in my life. It was…it is truly magical. I am truly grateful to have been quote unquote forced a little bit to have been through that situation because I am truly grateful for that opportunity to have been able to do that, those experiences, the people that I have met, the stories that I have, where it has led me to be here today sitting with you to be able to share my story that has been uncomfortable to share--this part of me that nobody knows, but maybe my mom. And to be okay with that and be that excited about what’s coming ahead in the future and how everything makes so much sense all the way to the last breath that you have, it’s been…even if it is sometimes difficult, I truly feel as if I am in heaven. I somewhat, with the help of a higher power, I dictate in which direction I want to go."
Was there an immediate freedom?
"Fucking freedom. That’s what it was. Let me just back track. How I got there was the fact that…I really feel as if the universe is a funny energy…I always said that I wanted to play for 10 years in the NBA and it got to year 10, but not exactly how I wanted it. But at year 10, I was like, "Ok, it’s not exactly how I wanted, but it’s coming on 10 years. So I am just going to do what I said I was going to do after 10 years." When I booked my ticket, there was this sense of “Is this really happening?” But then as soon as I sat, which is my favorite, one of my top four or five favorite things to do in life, as soon as I sat in my seat on the plane, I was like, “Oh yeah…it's about to go down.” And every day I woke up and I did exactly what I wanted to do that day. Just picture waking up every day and googling things to do in every city that you go to. That's an amazing feeling and in the same token, having that voice kind of challenging you because this is something so brand new, so outside of my comfort zone to just really cut that cord. It's like, "Is this real? Is it really happening?" It definitely was a refining process. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s very entertaining to see what comes up when you are willing to give yourself that space to really go forward with what you want to do. It is amazing how we have a preconceived notion about what we are supposed to do or what we are not supposed to do. It is very interesting. Once you get to that point, you see you can actually do it. We get a choice. What do we want to do with it?"
So it was worth it?
"Do you think that you need to breathe air? Do you think that you need to drink water? Hell yeah, man, it was heaven. It was the moment that I felt that I will never forget and starting now, going forward in life, my mindset on life is definitely altered, shifted, refined and my appreciation for life is even more, is even higher than what it was before and I beat out heart surgery so, geesh, man, life is good.
I started to feel it right before [I took this time]. What do you value in life? Oh wait a minute. I remember just having a conversation with one of my friends from college. She told me one thing that has stuck with me ever since. She was like, “Ronny, in life you have non-negotiables and trade-offs.” I was like, "Wait a minute. What am I trading and where am I putting the value?" Whoa. Simplify everything. That is one of the most awesome [pieces of] advice that I’ve been given because for me it allowed me to put my thoughts, feelings, whatever you want to call that, together in a way that boom [snap] simplify…two boxes and, ever since then, it has been much easier to navigate through life because of that. It simplifies. Do I want this? Do I want to trade that off? No, ok cool. Next. So clarity, what has been such a crazy, recurring topic for me over the last 8 months. Clarity with what I want and what I want to accomplish, the fact that I matured as a man, that I see things differently and where do I want to go."
How did you start to tap into what the future looks like for you? What impact do you want to have in the world?
"It started with me going to this conference called Awesomeness Fest in Costa Rica and then being surrounded by 350 entrepreneurs in the world, trying to change the world. And it was the first time I felt like I was at home in a long time. Like oh cool, that’s what I want to do. That’s actually what I want to do everyday. I want to just take action to change the world in whatever capacity I can. If it is being a basketball player and inspiring people to go towards that, great. If it's that and coming back and doing this, great. If it’s that and stopping, great. I will be guided towards that path. I love the fact of being inspired by other people and that’s what for me those last 8 months have been all about. I went and I met with people that inspired me--- every single one of them. I flew to Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica, Canada, France, Carribbean, Europe, everywhere. I met with those people and I wanted to tell them, “I am practicing telling you, you inspired me. Wanderlust driven. My wanderlust is driving me somewhere and I am grateful to be in your presence because you are doing something amazing."
What is most true to you?
"I think for me what is most true to Ronny is the desire to never stop discovering and for me the discovery is limitless. Discovery of myself. Discovery of others. Discovery of what the world has to offer. This inner voice inside of me that is always giving me advice and direction of where should I go, where should I not go. I think that is what is most true. I love it and I am learning to really allow myself the space to take a full look, a 360 degree look, at what that journey is."
How do you stay in tune with that voice?
"It’s a really open ended question. I personally have daily discussion with myself from sitting on my meditation chair, listening to music and allowing myself to be moved and writing poetry to me just sitting once again in my meditation chair and gazing through the windows and letting my mind just wander on many things to me being in solitude in nature. So for me it is at that moment what is necessary to be done? Because just like me trying to stay in tune, there is also the flip side of the coin of me being out of tune and me not really feeling like I am doing the right thing or that I am in the right flow. I am constantly figuring out ways to stay in the flow and the constant effortless living that I desire to be into. I am always constantly doing that. I think that life all the way until today has taken me through a wide spectrum of endeavors that allow me to keep discovering part of what makes me who I am today. The constant denominator throughout that is solitude. For me solitude is the one aspect that I have and that I require and that I cherish to be able to have and stay in tune with that voice. Yeah, solitude. I am a lone wolf, I think, but I like to be around people sometimes."
How do you handle balancing life out in the world and the inner work?
"I think that’s the one thing that I have learned over the last 12 months, especially after my 10-day silent meditation, and with the dedication and devotion that I have to my daily meditation sitting. Being in tune with my body and really fine tuning that connection, and my action and my words matching. It usually translates into that feeling of peace and that feeling where everything is staying still around me and, my life is just going to a way that is effortless. And when I start to not match my actions and what I am thinking, I find that I just veer off the path and some things, little hiccups, happen here and there. I think for me the hardest part that I have to deal with is being in public and being someone that is somewhat an introvert when it comes down to how I am on a daily basis. It’s all when I am being triggered to be an extrovert and to be in contact with people. So I have found ways to stay true to myself, but to live a daily life like everybody else. It has really been a case of trial and error. I think it is way easier now to communicate. A friend of mine talked to me the other day and asked me, “Ronny what is the one skill that you cannot live without for the rest of your life?” And I thought about it and I’m like, "You know what I do not want to lose? The ability to articulate my process of thinking with calm confidence." And that’s where I feel as if I am getting closer and closer."
"I am learning to really allow myself the space to take a full look, a 360 degree look, at what this journey is."
"I saw one of my college teammates two or three weeks ago and he reminded me why a group of us got the NLF tattoo, "Never Lose Faith." And it’s not that I forgot but I was detached to it. So to see one of my college best friends for the first time since probably 9 years and to get a fresh reminder, I was like, “Yeah I will Never Lose Faith because I know I am on the right path. I am supported, guided by a large community of people that want to see me accomplish my dreams so I just need to stay true to that because other people want me to stay true to that and are going to help me go towards that and I need to stop thinking otherwise. And that’s it."
"When I won the NBA championship in Miami, one of the guys used to always say, “Weather the storm. Weather the storm. We will come out on top.” And that’s what it is. Let’s weather the storm. Let’s hold each other accountable, but also hold each other by supporting each other towards our dream. Life is more fun that way."
I am so grateful to Ronny and everyone else who has shown up in this space to share, support and relate. Being wholly honest about what is most true to us is far from easy when done internally, and sharing about last cuts publicly is a whole other realm of bravery and vulnerability. I am immeasurably thankful for the community supporting my love and dream for this project. Thank you.