A Winner’s Secret
“It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do about it!”
That’s the title of a book written by motivational lecturer W Mitchell. It’s also how he lives his life—in the aftermath of two life-changing adversities. W Mitchell recalls the fiery motorcycle accident that burned over 65 percent of his body!
“I was a grip man on the San Francisco cable cars. On my way to work one day, a laundry truck ran a stop sign and hit my motorcycle. The gas cap popped open— out poured about two and a half gallons of gas. Within seconds, the engine ignited the gas and I was an instant human bon fire. Thanks to the courage of a man working at nearby a car dealership, he rushed over and put out the flames. An ambulance rushed me to the hospital. Thus began an adventure that’s taken me where I am today. I lost my fingers, my face and over half of my body was burned. Yet, I was able to come back thanks to the doctors, nurses, friends, family and a lot of lessons I learned along the way. I began my journey with the understanding—it’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do about it.”
As he was recovering from the motorcycle accident, W Mitchell came face to face with a crippling physical adversity. “Four and a half years after being severely burned, I was piloting a small six seat airplane in Colorado. I agreed to take four people for a ride. As we lifted into the air, the plane’s engine stalled. After cutting the power, the plane fell back on the runway. Although the passengers escaped unharmed, I couldn’t move my legs. At the moment, I didn’t understand what happened to me. Later, I learned my back was broken. I was now paralyzed.”
How did W Mitchell respond to the crippling injury? “Life isn’t always fair. But, it does present us with opportunities. In my case, I had a choice to make after the plane wreck and the motorcycle accident. I have learned this—when life hands you lemons, you get to choose. You can complain about the bitterness of the lemons or you can set up a lemonade stand. I choose the lemonade stand.”
W Mitchell, one of the country’s most celebrated public speakers, says mental scars and a powerful four-letter word limit many people—fear. “We’re afraid of what’s going to happen to us at work, in our relationships and in our own limitations in life. Yet, most of the things we are afraid of never come to pass. So many of us spend our time driving along the road of life using our rear view mirror. We’re disappointed in what we did. We’re afraid of decisions we made. But, just like driving a car, keeping an eye on the mirror isn’t a very successful navigation tool. There’s a reason the car’s windshield is so much bigger than the rear view mirror. Instead of filling our mind with fears, regrets and inadequacies by staring at the rear view mirror, we need to keep our attention on the windshield of life—a windshield that includes the here and now—not the past. We are amazingly resourceful if we focus on where we’re going instead of where we’ve been.”
Instead of withdrawing from life, W Mitchell is passionate about the human spirit and one’s ability to grow through risk taking. “There’s a story about a monkey reaching in a jar to grab a hand full of nuts. Once he grabs the nuts, he can’t pull his hand out for fear of losing the nuts. Now, he has a dilemma. He doesn’t want to let go of what he has. Yet if he doesn’t let go of what he has, he can’t move on with his life. The same is true in our lives. All of us are unsure about what’s next. Most of us don’t really like change. So, we put up with being miserable instead of unleashing our full potential. Sure, it’s not going to be easy. But, the benefits are enormous.”