Fifteen years ago this morning, I was lying on the desert asphalt of New Mexico fighting for my life.
That morning I went out on a pre-meeting cycling training ride. I thought it was a perfect counter balance to our upcoming death by power point. In an instant, my life changed forever when a speeding SUV crossed into my lane traveling about 40 miles per hour. He hit me head-on.
It sounds funny now, but I remember asking the EMTs, “How’s my bike?” It’s a question that other cyclists may appreciate; the EMTs probably thought I had a traumatic brain injury. I guess I was trying to use humor to ease their non-verbal concern. Unfortunately, my condition was no joking matter.
I began to wonder if this is what it felt like to die. I always thought that near death accidents were something that happened to other people. I never thought it could happen to me. But it was and I couldn’t believe it. I was in the process of arguing with reality and reality was winning.
As I waited for my helicopter, I started thinking about important things such as, “How will this impact my family?” And, “If I live, my life be different.”
I now consider July 11, 2001 to be My Last Bad Day. See video (Warning – some footage is not for the squeamish).
As I came out of my five-day stay in the ICU, I started to learn more about the accident. The more I learned, the angrier I got. Life was different, but not in the way I wanted.
Those were difficult times, to be sure.
By the time I got to my third hospital, I finally had my “aha-moment” that pushed me toward awareness and acceptance. That moment shifted my mindset and jump-started my journey from tragedy to triumph.
Every year since the accident, I try to share the wisdom I’ve gained as a way to help others overcome their challenges and realize more joy, success, and happiness in their lives—regardless of their circumstances. Here are some lessons learned that will also appear in my upcoming book, Shift.
“People underestimated their capacity to change.
There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.”
– John Porter
Life is Too Short for Regrets
This statement would be just another cute cliché meme if I didn’t come face-to-face with it. Before My Last Bad Day, things in my life were good. But I was struggling with the stress and pressure of corporate America; I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be.
A lot of my pressure was self-imposed because I thought I had to have all the answers. Vulnerability wasn’t part of my vocabulary. I now realize that nobody has all the answers, but I was missing that wisdom at the time. I figured my stress was just part of the game. After all, that’s why they pay you, right? I felt stuck.
A few years ago, Bronnie Ware asked hospice patients if they had any regrets. The patients revealed that most of their regrets focused on opportunities not pursued.
Don’t waste your days! They are too precious. Don’t let the start, stop you!
“Do not wait: the time will never be just right.”– Napoleon Hill
Awareness Doesn’t Lie - Nothing Changes Until You Do
“The Bigger the Why, The Easier the How.” – Jim Rohn
In the loneliness of my hospital room, I had many, “Why Me?” moments. I couldn’t understand why bad things happen to good people. Then I had my aha or also known as my WTF moment. As in, “WTF are you doing Michael?!? Get it together!”
That moment helped me answer some important questions.
Why Me? To demonstrate that bad things happen to good people because it is life’s way of making good people great. And to show that life is defined by how you respond to it and our mindset is the key to our happiness.
Ok, that’s fine. But, who cares?
In a word, my peloton. They needed me to be the best version of me regardless if I was playing husband, father, friend, leader, or colleague. They cared. As does your peloton.
To make this happen, I knew that I had to make the first shift. Here’s the truth: Nothing changes until you do. If you want success, you have to make the first move.
Work Hard – Keeping Pedaling, Don’t Coast.
Quitting is easy. Training is tough.
It seems that hustle-and-grind marketing is everywhere today. Back in 2001, it was called hard work. I don’t care what you call it as long as you do it.
Working hard means no coasting. It’s about prioritized action to make tomorrow better than today. Call it grinding or hustling if it motivates you to show up and get sh*% done. That’s cool. All I know is that if you want something, then go out and get it.
Forgiveness – Letting Go to Let’s GO!
In 2012, my family and I toured Auschwitz II – Birkenau. The tour was guided by Holocaust survivor Eva Kor. Eva, her twin sister, and the rest of her family were sent there during WWII.
During the tour, a participant asked Eva if she was able to forgive the Nazis. Needless to say, it’s an emotionally charged topic.
Her response moved me: “Yes, but not because they deserve forgiveness, but because I deserve it.”
For a long time, I wanted to get back at the driver of the SUV. He was driving with a revoked license. He shouldn’t have been driving that morning. But he was.
Life isn’t always fair. But, what I know for sure is that you get to choose whether it defines you. We can choose how we wish to respond. For too long I was privately carrying around draining energy. I knew I had to let it go to move forward.
“Forgiveness is a favor we do for ourselves, not a favor we do to the other party.” - Harold Kushner
Gratitude – The Attitude that Changes Everything
Finding success in business and life isn’t a solo project. You need a strong team to make success happen. Some call it a tribe. I call it my peloton. My 15-year journey would be very different without my wife, daughters, family, friends, and countless others that the universe brought into my life.
Some acts were small; others were massive surprises. But each was an energetic ripple. Although they didn’t all know it at the time, they held me together during some of my hardest, loneliest moments. Each one was a difference maker; each was a life changer. For this, I am forever grateful.
For who are you grateful?
Do they know it?
Every day we are given the opportunity to define ourselves. However, too many of us are running through our lives with our heads down, focused on our phones, reacting to email, juggling too many priorities, and missing what’s truly important. It's time to SHIFT. Let’s GO!
What day will be Your Last Bad Day?