Renewal. A life skill.

Keith Yamashita
3 min readApr 24, 2019


Birth is certain. Death is certain. The time between is a series of choices in how we spend our days. What happens when something bad happens, and you have to recover? A moment of renewal. I’m here in this moment, and maybe you are, too.

When you cannot go above or below, the only way is through.

This past year has been perhaps the greatest in my life. Extraordinary and demoralizing. Exhilarating and grueling. Light and dark. Rewarding and frustrating. It was a year of extreme polarities, and every murky shade of gray between.

It started with a first half year doing incredible and thrilling work at my company, SYPartners. I was undertaking the initiatives I’d been hungering to work on for decades — helping transform companies, fueling positive social movements, applying creativity to generate new possibilities for a more equitable, humane, just society.

In the middle of a video conference, it hit. A stroke.

I didn’t understand it was a stroke at the time.

As the video conference went on, my face grew more paralyzed. My speech started to slow and slur.

I drove myself to the hospital, and the second half of my year began. Where I’d have to confront the disabilities caused by the stroke. Completely and profoundly examine and challenge my own self narrative. Sit in the darkness of it all, and not run away (my customary approach). It unearthed the fault lines in many of my relationships. I mourned and learned how to experience and describe the many shades of emotions — not just the extremes, but the granular differences between anger, disappointment, rage, despair, hopelessness, frustration, and on and on.

There are worse things to be afflicted by, and my stroke could have been far worse — I am actually very grateful it wasn’t worse. But that doesn’t in any way diminish the suffering I went through, or the many of us who suffer from the shocking (but normal) time in between our glorious birth and ultimate death.

O, The Oprah Magazine asked me to share this story in their May issue. You can read it here: Where the Light Gets In.

For seven months, I was out on medical leave — graciously granted by my company, and supported by my boss Michael Birkin and my business partner Susan Schuman, who shouldered all my duties.

I am easing myself back into work now.

Some things are wonderfully the same.

But there is something also quite different.

I have always been a leader dedicated to the success of others, to the mission, to the greater good of the work, the initiative, and the project. In the quest to create impact, I would exhaust myself — every last ounce of energy invested to depletion. Sacrifice was my primary currency of self-worth.

As I come back, the true-north of my mission is the same: To have a positive impact in and on the world. But my method is different. My hope is to first nurture and nourish myself so that I can best serve this impactful work. A simple amendment to my own personal purpose statement and a seismic shift for me: To have a positive impact in and on the world — and to do so in a way that nurtures my own resilience.

This simple mental shift has profound ramifications in…

How I invest my time.

How I plot my days.

How I respond in moments of request.

How I relate to the topics of uncertainty, mystery, and the unknown.

I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know how long I’m on this planet for. (It turns out that none of us really ever do.) But what I do know is that I’m trying to live in a way that takes this stroke as a sign and an invitation to live life more fully.

Renewal is a life skill. Let’s explore how to build it. Start here.



Keith Yamashita

A human, being. A father. A husband. A founder of @SYPartners. Discovering the illuminating power of starting over through a journey of renewal. #RenewYou