I remember holding my diploma outside of Ohio Stadium and reflecting back on that seven year journey that it took to hold that piece of paper in my hands. I looked at the words “Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering” and I did not think for a second about things like struggling to make the grade to pass a class. Five years of classes and I did not see myself as an authority in that area. That was not my future. Instead I thought about the struggles that I went through to get that degree outside the classroom.
I thought about two years in particular. I thought about 2008 when I lost my mind and ended up in the psych ward. I thought about the fight that it took to get back my mind. I reflected back on 2011, the worst year of my life, once again fighting to get back my mind and losing the battle to get my body back after fighting harder for it than anything else I had in my life. Those two years talk taught me more than anything you can learn in a classroom in five years.
I saw myself as an authority on perseverance and someone that knew the difference between right and wrong. So search for a civil engineering job? Absolutely not.
“You know that I was never going to be a 9 to 5. No, that was never me. I was born with a compass in my hand and a restless soul.” – Andy Grammer
I looked at the paper and I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I knew that no employer besides myself was going to allow me to do exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something special. I wanted to change the world with my story. I wanted to spread hope. I wanted to send a message to the world that no matter how how hard life gets and how many things God throws at you that you are only given these struggles to become stronger in the future. I wanted to make people see the silver lining. Difficult times always lead to better days. I saw myself as a prime example of this.
I learned very quickly after my accident that the best way to help myself was to help others. It all started with one post on Facebook where I opened up to share my story. Right away people I hadn’t heard from in years were telling me that I was giving them a different perspective on life and that they no longer would take the little things in life for granted. Hundreds of blog posts later, speaking nearly 100 times to thousands upon thousands of people, and the reactions that I’ve got from the countless people that have read my book, I know that I’ve made my mark on this earth.
From the hundreds of letters from students about how I impacted their life, the complete strangers that reach out to me on Facebook looking for help sharing with me the struggles that they are going through and believing that I have the answer, the standing ovations, the simple one on one conversations that I have with people after my speeches who are not afraid to open up to me, to just the kids or people that want to give me a hug or handshake after my speech just to thank me, go to show me that I am making a huge impact on this world. I chose to follow my own path and along that path there are so many beautiful things that I have seen.
I did all of this by making myself vulnerable. There are no secrets that I hold and nothing that I have not shared that cause me to feel shameful. By sharing my mistakes I know that I am teaching others not to go down the same path that I went down and now I’m teaching others to follow me down the path that I am going down now.
Every day I wake up happier and more optimistic about the future than the day before. I wake up every day like I’m on a mission. I know that I will not have an impact on everyone that I come in contact with, but I do know that I have changed many lives. I’m not trying to be arrogant. I just want you to believe that one man can change the world and show you how you can as well. All you have to do to do the same is to realize that you will find true happiness by helping others. We all have made mistakes in our life and learned from them and all you have to do is share them and make yourself vulnerable because you can help someone else not to make the same mistake and suffer any amount of misery.
I finished my book back in February 2013 and ended it with this quote by Steve Jobs:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
I’m one of the crazy ones. Are you?