Why I Don’t Let Adversity Define My Life After Spinal Cord Injury


I love lacing up my turquoise Nike running shoes each morning.

However, every time I leave my house, going for a jog is the furthest thing from my mind as the door closes behind me. In fact, I will go out of my way to avoid a set of stairs like it’s the plague. And if I get somewhere and the elevator is out of order, well let’s just say it can sour my mood quicker than a cold cup of coffee.

In spite of all this, I certainly don’t consider myself to be an individual in possession of an indolent nature. Actually, I’m more productive than most people I know. I just don’t use my feet right now.

I’m paralyzed.

A 2009 diving accident took away the use of my feet. And my legs, hands, and arms. My spinal cord injury took any movement and sensation below my shoulders. Not to boast, but I do have a pretty strong shoulder shrug. Unfortunately, any muscles I do build up don’t stand a chance against the perpetual atrophy always waiting to pounce on my progress. A quick jump in the lake to cool off turned into a life full of navigating much more complicated tides.

Gone are the days spent obsessing about gross margins, inventory turns, and sales data, like I did when I was a sales and marketing vice president. I no longer plan my vacation time around customer line reviews. All of the aforementioned tasks I used to deem meaningful have now been replaced by much more critical issues, such as trying to maintain bone density, skin integrity, and pulmonary health.

Paralysis can be paralyzing.

Most of us could recite, ad nauseam, the indelible marketing campaigns that have been rammed through our TVs and jammed into our psyches, reminding us to, “Be All That You Can Be,” “Go Forth,” and “Seize the Day.” However, living life isn’t just about enlisting in the Army, wearing your favorite pair of Levis, or purchasing that sparkling DeBeers diamond.

All of us have goals and aspirations. Unfortunately, we also have responsibilities and obligations that often consume our focus and take precedent over our happiness. Most of us spend our days attached to our smart phones and tablets which keep us connected to all that stuff we’ve designated as important. It can help fool us into thinking we are in control. I’ve discovered that the only thing I can control is my attitude. I’ve also discovered it’s the only thing worth controlling. My attitude is what has kept me going stronger than a pack of Energizer batteries ever could.

As I can certainly attest, anyone’s situation has the ability to drastically change in an instant. Anyone. Your entire life’s agenda can change quicker than it takes Apple to introduce another version of its iPhone. Unfortunately, that change can occur when you least expect it. Life doesn’t reconstruct itself to accommodate our plans. We need to adapt our plans to accommodate what life hands us.

My paralysis has not paralyzed me.

I run a successful nonprofit organization, serve on multiple boards, routinely speak to large audiences as a motivational speaker, work out several hours a week and still find time for the occasional cigar and single malt with my friends. I am busier now then I was before I broke my neck.

I have not let being paralyzed define who I am.

What you choose to do in life is entirely up to you. Whether it’s your aim to become a successful advertising executive, help others through some philanthropic endeavor, achieve financial independence, or simply dive headfirst into a hobby you’ve always wanted to, it’s up to you.

My advice: Don’t let your situation define you. Be willing to take control of your attitude. Because when it comes down to it, there is some truth to be found in all those advertising campaigns that companies spend billions on. They are right, life is too short, and tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Just Doing It isn’t just about lacing up those Nikes each morning.

Read more on Scott Fedor’s website.

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