When I got my degree this is what I heard, “you just got your degree that you worked so hard for, why don’t you get a civil engineering job?”
I could not have cared less about what it said on my diploma. Of course it felt like an incredible feat, but more importantly than that it meant that I was finally free. No longer did I have to live my life by what it said on a syllabus. I now had the opportunity to take my life in any direction I wanted to. There was no one to answer to. There was no one to tell me what to do. I had waited for that freedom my entire life. Now I had it and the last thing I was going to do was turn my life over to a company and have them tell me what to do. It was time for me to carry out my dreams and not slave over carrying out the dreams of someone else.
People tried to tell me what I should do with my life, but I wasn’t going to listen. There was only one person to listen to and that person was me. I had a vision in my head and all I had to do was get it out.
Going off to The Ohio State University I knew that I was going to get a great education. Although I found that the education that I was going to get was not so much from inside those textbooks that I was forced to learn from, but rather just from living my life. My education came from my friends and the people that I would meet there. I tried to surround myself with great people. I surrounded myself with people that were smarter than me so that I could learn from them. It came from being outgoing and unafraid to start a conversation with anyone. It came from the organizations that I joined that transformed me into a leader. It came from my discipline in the weight room always trying to push myself to get physically stronger and faster. The slalom course was my playground and I pursued greatness chasing buoys pushing myself to be the best that I could possibly be. It came from being a teacher of the sport always trying to make our team better.
When it came time for struggle I was prepared to fight back. I’ve dug myself into holes that have seemed impossible to come out of. 2 1/2 weeks in a psych ward didn’t make me question who I am. It just made me want to fight and grow to be a stronger and better person. I love fighting against adversity. Music always fuels me to fight harder. I remember going to this partial rehabilitation program for 3 1/2 weeks after the psych ward listening to two songs by T.I. on repeat. Those songs were “No Matter What” and “Slideshow”. These lyrics really spoke to me:
“Life can change you directions
Even when you didn’t plan it
All you can do is handle it
The worst thing you could do is panic
Use it to your advantage
Avoid insanity manage to conquer
Make impossible possible
Even when winnings illogical
Losing’s still far from optional”
– T.I. – “No Matter What”
“Impossible is nothing your environment is irrelevant
Just don’t let your emotions overpower your intelligence
Refuse to give up, your mistakes don’t define you
They don’t dictate where you’re headed they remind you
That time keeps ticking let your mind keep clicking”
– T.I. – “Slideshow”
When I first had my accident I was extremely confident in my recovery. Yes, I would be walking again. Yes, I would get back out on the slalom course again. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that life would go on exactly the way it was before and I was ready to fight for it. That’s what I thought this battle was about. I thought it was all a physical battle. Every obstacle in my life up to this point I had conquered. I thought this was going to be no different. Although in this case no matter how hard I fought I was losing this physical battle. Then it became much more of an emotional and mental battle.
A year later I had a paradigm shift. I didn’t have to win the physical battle. I didn’t need to be the person that I was before the accident. I realized that I didn’t even want to be that person. I had to win this mental battle.
Before the accident I lived for myself. Now it was time to live for others. I needed to lead by example. I wanted to show people that no matter what you go through in life or what your situation is you can still find happiness and still be successful. I wanted to be a prime example of how every obstacle you face in your life should be used as a way to make you a stronger and better person.
So when I got that diploma I didn’t think of how hard it was to get through those civil engineering classes. I thought about the entire journey and the adversity that I had to overcome. Those classes were a joke compared to what I went through. I saw myself now as an expert at overcoming adversity and someone that understood what happiness was all about.
Throughout my entire life I never saw myself as someone working a 9-to-5 job. There was no way a one-page resume was going to represent who I was. So I wrote a book. The thing about my book is that I finished writing it in February 2013. I could write another one about what has happened since, but so much keeps happening that I would have to write a new chapter every week.
Here I am five years later. I followed my own path. I love constructive criticism, but I’m always going to be my own boss. I’m not for hire. I have so many friends that went to school that went on to get jobs in their respective areas. The biggest complaint I hear is that people feel like they are not making a difference. They bring in a big paycheck, but most people want more. So many people are getting tired of working toward someone else’s dream. So just ask yourself what it is about you that brings value to this world. What could you do that could make an impact? Could you turn that into a career?
Life isn’t about making money. Money does not buy happiness. I was very happy when I used to speak for free. Are you passionate about your career? Do you get excited every time you get to go to work? If not, then you’re in the wrong place.
Go against the odds and you could be your own boss. If you’re doing something that you truly love then you’re going to push yourself even harder to be the best at what you do. At the end of the day if you’re happy then that means you’re successful.
The sky is the limit when you’re doing something you love and built yourself. Just think… if you’re just working up that corporate ladder and being a slave to your job just to get up to the top of that company, you’re still going to have a roof over your head when your office is on the top floor of that building. The worst part is that company wasn’t even your dream to begin with.