The Best Blog Post You Never Read
You are as powerful as you allow yourself to be … you can choose your own thoughts, reactions and emotions to every event in your life.
As we prepare to welcome a new year, I’ve been considering what might be an appropriate post to close out 2012. I thought about the tried-and-true “Best of” approach, but I wanted this to be something more than a list of archived articles that you would (with only the best of intentions) bookmark, but never quite get around to reading.
So, I’ve decided to share with you what is, to me, the most meaningful post since birthing this blog a little over two years ago. Of course in those early days traffic was pretty slim here, so that means very few people have had the opportunity to meet the man who taught me the power of taking responsibility for my own life.
With that in mind, I decided to revisit the story of W. Mitchell and aptly named this post …
The Best (IGG) Blog Post You Never Read
W. Mitchell (Mitchell as he prefers to be called) slowly wheels himself on the stage to speak. Predictably, the sight of his badly scarred face and fingerless hands cause a hush among the audience.
With his signature irreverent sense of humor, warm smile and soothing voice, Mitchell soon manages to create a sense of intimacy, as though you’re sitting with an old friend. Then something magical happens, and the scars seemingly fade away as he begins to tell his story.
On July 19th 1971 Mitchell started the day on top of the world. He was a strong, good looking young man of 28 who enjoyed an active life and had a passion for sports; he’d just made his first solo flight, had a dream job as a gripman on the San Francisco cable cars, and would be the first to say, he did just fine with the ladies, thank you very much.
That afternoon he jumped on his brand new motorcycle, and headed out to see his girlfriend. It was then that fate changed his life forever.
Mitchell didn’t see the laundry truck until it was too late, and hit it squarely in the side. Even with the impact, at that point his injuries were minor; but a faulty gas cap on his new motorcycle popped off and drenched him in gallons of gasoline. The hot engine ignited, and Mitchell was turned into a fireball about ten feet high and four feet wide.
A nearby car salesman grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the flames. The ambulance arrived minutes later and rushed him to the hospital; but with horrific burns over 65% of his body and most of his face and hands literally burned off, chances of his survival were considered extremely low.
But through incredible care, multiple skin grafts, fierce determination, and many, many small steps to reclaim control of his life, Mitchell did recover.
If only I had”(fill in the blanks) is what many people say to me . . . and to that I simply reply “Look at me. My face looks like a badly made leather quilt. It has literally made children chant, “monster, monster,” as I passed by. I have no fingers. I cannot walk.
Few would fault anyone faced with his pain and enormous obstacles for considering, even for a time, simply giving up. And yet, despite what most would consider overwhelming disabilities, Mitchell continued learning how to adjust to his new reality, and moved to a small town in Colorado. He even managed to once again fly a plane.
But fate wasn’t quite finished with Mitchell yet.
On a clear, chilly Colorado morning in 1975 he was about to take a group of passengers on a routine flight. As the plane took off he noticed they weren’t rising as quickly as they should have. What Mitchell didn’t realize was the wings had been covered in a thin sheet of ice which slowed the normal climb. They reached about 100 feet and the plane stalled and fell back to earth, slamming into the runway belly up, bursting open the fuel tanks. Mitchell yelled for his passengers to get out of the plane and he tried to follow . . . but he couldn’t move.
Later in the hospital, the doctors told him he’d crushed his spine and was paralyzed from the waist down. Mitchell would spend the rest of his life in a wheel chair.
For a man who’d just spent the last four years of his life recovering from incredibly devastating injuries, this must have seemed too much to bear.
As Mitchell tells it, every day the orderlies would come into his room, put him in a wheel chair and take him to the gym. He absolutely hated it. Things were too high to reach, it was too difficult to get around – and once again – the world seemed filled with impossibilities.
Yet, every day a few more obstacles would disappear, and a few more things became possible. Once again, with amazing courage and determination Mitchell managed to prove to himself and those around him, that it really is not what happens to you, it’s what you choose to do about what happens to you.
Each choice we make causes a ripple effect in our lives. When things happen to us, it is the reaction we choose that can create the difference between the sorrows of our past and the joy in our future.
Please take a moment to listen to W. Mitchell himself, talking about the power of choice.
These days W. Mitchell splits his time between Santa Barbara and Hawaii, and despite his many disabilities, lives a full life as a successful businessman, sometime politician, environmental activist, motivational speaker, and author.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found Mitchell’s message as inspirational as I have, and I’d especially like to take this opportunity to thank you for including IGG – Tips, Tools & Tantalizing Ideas in your day.
My wish for you for 2013 is that you will make it a habit to reach a little beyond what’s comfortable to achieve goals that really matter to you … refuse to accept simply “getting along” in life out of fear or limiting beliefs … cultivate the skills to become stronger and more resilient … learn to master the self-motivation skills that will keep you energized and moving forward … and intentionally choose happiness, each and every day.
Mahalo nui loa!