INTRODUCTION: My Story, and Why Yours Is The One That Matters
December 3rd, 1999—life was good. No, it was great. At 20 years old, my first year of college was behind me. I had spent the last 18 months becoming one of the top-producing distributors for a $200-million marketing company, earning more money than I had ever imagined I would be at that age. I had a loving girlfriend, a supportive family, and the best friends a guy could ask for. I was truly blessed.
You might say I was on top of the world. There was no way I could have known that this was the night my world would end.
11:32 p.m. / Driving 70 mph Southbound On Hwy 99
We’d left the restaurant, and our friends, behind. It was just the two of us now. My girlfriend, tired from the evening’s events, was dozing in the passenger seat. Not me. I was wide-awake—eyes glued to the road in front, waving my finger in the air like a baton as I quietly conducted the melodies of Tchaikovsky.
Still in a state of euphoria from the night’s events, sleep was the furthest thing from my mind. Rocketing down the freeway at 70 miles per hour in my brand new white Ford Mustang, I was only two hours removed from giving the best speech of my life. I had received my first standing ovation, and I was elated. In fact, I desperately wanted to shout out my feelings of gratitude to anyone that would listen, but my girlfriend was asleep, so she was no use. I considered calling Mom and Dad, but it was late; they might already be in bed. Should’ve called. But I simply had no way of knowing that moment would be my last opportunity to speak to my parents—or anyone—for quite some time.
An Unimaginable Reality
No, I don’t recall seeing the headlights of a massive Chevrolet truck coming directly at me. In an instant of perverse fate, the full-size Chevy pickup, traveling at an estimated 80 miles per hour, smashed head on into my undersized, and under-matched Ford Mustang. The following seconds played out in slow motion, Tchaikovsky’s commanding melodies orchestrating our wicked dance.
The metal frames of our two vehicles collided—screaming and screeching as they twisted and broke. The Mustang’s airbags exploded with enough force to render us unconscious. My brain, still traveling at seventy miles-per-hour, smashed into the front of my skull, destroying much of the vital brain tissue that made up my frontal lobe.
Upon impact, the tail end of my Mustang was shoved into the lane on my right, making my driver’s-side door an unavoidable target for the car behind me. A Saturn sedan, driven by a 16-year-old, crashed into my door at 70 miles per hour. The door collapsed into the left side of my body. The frame of the metal roof caved in on my head, slicing open my skull and nearly severing my left ear. The bones of my left eye socket were crushed, leaving my left eyeball dangerously unsupported. My left arm broke, severing the radial nerve in my forearm and shattering my elbow, while my fractured humorous bone pierced the skin behind my bicep.
My pelvis was given the impossible task of separating the Saturn’s front end from my car’s center console, and failed. It fractured in three separate places. Finally, my femur—the largest bone in the human body—snapped in half, and one end speared through the skin of my thigh and tore a hole in my black dress slacks.
Blood was everywhere. My body was destroyed. My brain was permanently damaged.
Unable to withstand the immense physical pain, my body shut down, my blood pressure dropped, and everything went black as I plunged into a coma.
You Only Live… Twice?
What happened next was nothing short of incredible—what many have called a miracle.
The emergency rescue teams arrived, and, using the jaws of life, firefighters cut my bloody body from the wreckage. When they did, I bled out. My heart stopped beating. I stopped breathing.
Clinically, I was dead.
The paramedics immediately put me on the rescue helicopter and worked determinedly to save my life. Six minutes later, they succeeded. My heart started to beat again. I breathed clean oxygen. Thankfully, I was alive.
I spent six days in a coma, and woke to the news that I might never walk again. After seven challenging weeks of recovery and rehabilitation in the hospital, learning to walk all over again, I was released to my parents’ care—back into the real world. With 11 fractured bones, permanent brain damage, and a now ex-girlfriend who broke up with me in the hospital, life as I knew it, would never be the same. Believe it or not, this would turn out to be a good thing.
While coming to grips with my new reality wasn’t easy, and at times I couldn’t help but wonder—why did this happen to me?—I had to take responsibility for getting my life back. Instead of complaining about how things should be, I embraced how things were. I stopped putting energy into wishing my life were any different—into wishing bad things didn’t happen to me—and instead focused 100% on making the best of what I had. Since I couldn’t change the past, I focused on moving forward. I dedicated my life to fulfilling my potential and achieving my dreams so I could discover how to empower others to do the same.
And, as a result of choosing to be genuinely grateful for all that I had, unconditionally accepting of all that I didn’t, and accepting total responsibility for creating all that I wanted, this potentially devastating car accident ultimately became one of the best things that ever happened to me. Hinging on my belief that everything happens for a reason—but that it is our responsibility to choose the most empowering reasons for the challenges, events and circumstances of our lives—I used my accident to fuel a triumphant comeback.
2000 A year that begins with me lying in a hospital bed—broken, but not defeated—ends quite differently. Despite not having a car, even less of a short-term memory, equipped with every excuse in the world to sit at home and feel sorry for myself, I returned to my sales position at Cutco. I had the best year in my career, and finished #6 in the company (amongst over 60,000 active sales reps). All this, while still recovering—physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially—from my wreck.
2001 Having learned some invaluable life lessons from my experience, it was time to turn my adversity into inspiration and empowerment for others. I started speaking and sharing my story at high schools and colleges. The responses from students and faculty were overwhelmingly positive, and I embarked on a mission to impact youth.
2002 My good friend, Jon Berghoff, encouraged me to write a book about my accident, to further inspire others. So, I started writing. As quickly as I started, I stopped. I’m no writer. Essays in high school were challenging enough, let alone a book. After repeated attempts that always ended with me staring at my computer screen, frustrated, it didn’t look like a book was in the cards. I did, however, finish in Cutco’s Top 10 for the 2nd year in a row.
2004 To try my hand at management, I accepted the position as Sales Manager for the Sacramento Cutco office. Our team went on to finish #1 in the company and break the all-time annual record. That fall, I also reached my highest personal sales milestone and was inducted into the company’s hall of fame. Feeling that I’d accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish with Cutco, it was time to pursue my dream of becoming a professional keynote/motivational speaker. I might even write that book that had been swimming around in my head the last couple of years. I also met Ursula. We were inseparable and I had this feeling that she could be the one.
February 2005 Sitting in the audience at what I intended to be my last Cutco conference, I came to a painful realization: I’ve never fulfilled my potential. Sure, I’d won some awards and broken a few records, but watching from my seat as the two top performers collect the highest annual award that Cutco offers—the coveted Rolex—I realized that I’d never fully committed, at least, not for an entire year. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I left the company before fulfilling my potential. I had to give it one more year, but this time I had to give it my all.
2005 Despite the late start to the year, I set a goal to nearly double my best sales year ever. I was terrified, but committed. I also concluded that I had an obligation to write that book and share my story with the world. I worked 365 days straight, selling and writing, with a level of discipline which eluded me the first 25 years of my life. I was fueled by passion to do what I had never done before: to venture from my painfully comfortable realm of mediocrity—from which I operated my entire life—into the space of being extraordinary. By the year’s end, I reached both of my goals, more than doubling my previous best sales year and completing my first book. It’s official: anything is possible when you are committed.
Spring 2006 My first book, Taking Life Head On: How to Love the Life You Have While You Create the Life of Your Dreams hit #7 on the Amazon bestseller list. Then, the unthinkable happened. My publisher fled the country with 100% of my best-selling royalties and was never heard from again. My parents were devastated; I was not. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my car accident, it’s that there is no point in dwelling on or feeling bad about the aspects of our lives that we can’t change. So, I didn’t. I’ve also learned that, by focusing on what we can learn from our challenges and how we use them to add value to the lives of others, we can turn any adversity into an advantage. So, I did.
2006 Without almost zero knowledge of what the profession entails, I accidentally became a life and business Success Coach when a forty-something financial advisor asked me if I would coach him. I agreed. I ended up loving it. My first client saw measurable results in his life and business, and I was passionate about helping others, as their coach. At just 26, the odds of me succeeding as a professional coach were probably slim to none, but it’s so in line with my purpose in life, I went for it anyway. My coaching business took off, and I went on to coach hundreds of entrepreneurs, salespeople, and business owners.
Shortly after, I gave my first paid speech when I was hired by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to be the featured keynote speaker at their national conference. Although I’d been speaking to large business audiences made up of primarily salespeople and managers, since 1998, with my spiky hair, (somewhat) youthful appearance, and nickname “Yo Pal” Hal, impacting young people was the way to go. I started speaking and sharing my story at local high schools and colleges.
2007 The year my life fell apart. The United States economy crashed. Overnight, my income was cut in half. My clients couldn’t afford coaching. I couldn’t pay my bills, including my house payment. I was $425,000 in debt, and devastated. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially—I hit rock bottom. Never in my life have I felt so hopeless, overwhelmed, and depressed. At a loss for how to fix my life yet again, I desperately sought answers to insurmountable problems. I read self-help books, attend seminars, even hired a coach—but nothing worked.
2008 The year my life began to turn around. I finally confessed to a close friend how bad things had gotten (which I had successfully kept a secret up until this point). His question: Are you exercising? My answer: I can barely get out of bed in the morning—so, no. “Start running,” he said. “It’ll help you feel better and think clearer.” Ugh, I hate running. I was desperate, though, so I took his advice and went for a run. The realizations I had on this run became a turning point in my life (details in Chapter 2: The Miracle Morning Origin – Born Out of Desperation), and I had the inspiration to create a daily personal development routine that I hoped would enable me to develop into the person I needed to be to solve my problems and turn my life around. Incredibly, it worked. Virtually every area of my life transformed so fast I called it my “Miracle Morning.”
Fall 2008 I continued developing my Miracle Morning, experimenting with various personal development practices and sleep schedules, and researching how much sleep we really need. My findings completely shattered the paradigms and perceptions held true by most people, including me. Loving the results, I shared it with my coaching clients, who loved it just as much. They told their friends, family, and co-workers about it. Unexpectedly, I began seeing people I’d never met posting on Facebook and Twitter about their Miracle Mornings (more on that later).
2009 My best year yet. I married the woman of my dreams. We got pregnant and gave birth to our daughter (can I say “we” or is that more of a she thing?) My coaching business was thriving; I had a waiting list for clients. My speaking career took off. I was giving talks and keynote messages at high schools, colleges, and corporate and non-profit conferences. The Miracle Morning spread like wildfire. I got emails every day from people telling me it was changing their life. I knew it was my responsibility to share it with the world, and that writing a book was the best way to do that. Slowly, I began to write again. Make no mistake, I’m still no writer—but I am committed. As my good friend Romacio Fulcher always says, “There is always a way… when you’re committed.”
Taking YOUR Life Head On
I share my story with you to offer evidence of what can be overcome and achieved, no matter how difficult your challenges are. If I could go from being found dead, told I would never walk again, going broke and feeling so depressed that I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, to creating the life of my dreams, there are no legitimate excuses for you not to overcome any limitations that have held you back from achieving everything you want for your life. None. Zip. Nada.
I believe it is crucial for us to embrace the perspective that anything another person has overcome or accomplished is simply evidence that anything—and I mean anything—you need to overcome or want to accomplish is possible for you, no matter what your past or current circumstances. It begins with accepting total responsibility for every aspect of your life and refusing to blame anyone else. The degree to which you accept responsibility for everything in your life is precisely the degree of personal power you have to change or create anything in your life.
It is important to understand that responsibility is not the same as blame. While blame determines who is at fault for something, responsibility determines who is committed to improving things. Thinking back to my accident, while I wasn’t at fault for the crash, I was responsible for improving my life—for making my circumstances what I wanted them to be. It really doesn’t matter who is at fault—all that matters is that you and I are committed to leaving the past in the past and making our lives exactly the way we want them to be, starting today.
It’s Your Time, This is Your Story
Know that wherever you are in your life right now is both temporary, and exactly where you are supposed to be. You have arrived at this moment to learn what you must learn, so you can become the person you need to be to create the life you truly want. Even when life is difficult or challenging—especially when life is difficult and challenging—the present is always an opportunity for us to learn, grow, and become better than we’ve ever been before.
You are in the process of writing your life story, and no good story is without a hero or heroine overcoming their fair share of challenges. In fact, the bigger the challenges, the better the story. Since there are no restrictions and no limits to where your story goes from here, what do you want the next page to say?
The good news is that you have the ability to change—or create—anything in your life, starting right now. I’m not saying you won’t have to work for it, but you can quickly and easily attract and create anything you want for your life by developing into the person who is capable of doing so. That’s what this book is about—helping you become the person you need to be to create everything you have every wanted for your life. There are no limits.
Grab a Pen
Before you read any further, please grab a pen or pencil so you can write in this book. As you read, mark anything that stands out which you may want to come back to later. Underline, circle, highlight, fold the corners of pages and take notes in the margins so you can come back and quickly recall the most important lessons, ideas, and strategies.
Personally, I used to struggle with this, because I am a bit of an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist, and anal about keeping my things looking clean and neat. Then I realized that I needed to get over it, because the purpose of a book like this is not for it to remain untouched, but rather to maximize the value we extract from it. Now, I mark up all of my books so I can revisit them anytime and quickly recapture all of the key benefits, without having to read the entire book again.
Okay, with your pen in hand, let’s get started! The next chapter of your life is about to begin…
1. What happened when Hal drove 70 mph Southbound on Hwy 99?
The full-size Chevy pickup smashed head on into his undersized and under-matched Ford Mustang.
2. Why did Hal share his story with us?
He shared his story with us to offer evidence of what can be overcome and achieved, no matter how difficult the challenges are.
1. I was wide-awake—eyes glued to the road in front, waving my finger in the air like a baton as I quietly conducted the melodies of Tchaikovsky.
2. Still in a state of euphoria from the night’s events, sleep was the furthest thing from my mind.
3. The metal frames of our two vehicles collided—screaming and screeching as they twisted and broke.
You are in the process of writing your life story, and no good story is without a hero or heroine overcoming their fair share of challenges.
Everybody has his road to success, but any persons must have tided over many obstacles before they succeed.