Personal Lessons in Disruption from my Car Accident & Reconstructive Hand Surgeries (Pt. 1)

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On July 12, 2008, my life forever changed AND I had a car accident that took away functional use of my left hand, which nearly cost me two of my fingers in the process.   

From that little crack in the passenger side window, I crawled out onto a hot road in the Abu Dhabi summer…

I say on that day my life changed and I had a car accident because the concept of disruption never crossed my mind until that moment.

You see, unbeknown to me – I wasn’t ready for disruption on this scale, and I was less agile than I gave myself credit for before this accident. 

Self-Determination Theory

Born in Spanish Harlem and raised in the South Bronx in NYC, my motivation was to break down barriers that stood in my way because I REFUSED to have my fate be determined by anyone other than myself.  

To say that I embodied a confident mindset would be an understatement.  

Unfortunately, what I now know about the world of strengths-based development, I would say I was overusing my strengths because how I used them and the impact they had on situations weren’t always consistent…….more on that in a bit.

When one concentrates on achievement, internal self-development often is neglected in the process. 

The irony of it all for me was the more I moved toward something external like a goal, the more I moved away from internalizing what I needed as development for myself…….my car accident certainly triggered that deeper awareness. 

Humility in Action

Because it was always a conscious decision to work for non-profit organizations and actively give back as a volunteer, I thought I had a handle on humility, but that wasn’t the case.  

While humility is still a value of mine, three years working with my physiotherapist to regain movement in my hand showed me my command over how I displayed it was lacking.  

His naturalness, his fluidness with it forced me to confront an emerging question………….if I believe in humility, which I did, and I attempted to live it, which I did – how did I get it wrong? 

Inside / Out Alignment

The real lesson I learnt from my physiotherapist was servant leadership, a by-product of true humility.  

It wouldn’t be until years later when I retrained and certified myself as a strengths and performance coach that I would fully embrace what Inside / Out truly meant to one’s personal development and personal disruption readiness. 

Instead of saying it in my own words, I’ll let Simon Sinek explain what Inside / Out means with Start with Why. 

Overcoming Our Blindspots

I’ve talked previously about blindspots vis-à-vis Johari Window, but here I want to reference it in relation to one’s strengths and how our blindspots interacts with our real-time readiness for disruption.  

For my recovery, I applied my strengths from the mindset of survival mode. And though that strategy kept me sane early on, my surgeries and recovery would stretch over four years.  That application of my strengths was misaligned and only provided short-term benefits, and what I needed was a healthy, sustainable growth [and recovery] approach. 

It didn’t start from the Inside / Out, but rather it was Outside / In.

Building Space to Learn

There is an old Chinese Proverb, “what is good may become bad and what is bad may become good.” I like this saying – it truly captures how I feel about my accident and recovery.  

As terrible as it was to endure a car accident a) I survived, and while I don’t wish that experience on anyone b) I am more self-aware, inside / out committed, and disruption-ready because of it. 

Where in your life has a difficult experience brought about transformational learning for you?

About David

David is a leadership development advocate and practitioner, who is passionate about creating the conditions for sustainable people development and organizational success.  His passion for sustainable success is grounded in the belief that all people and organizations can enhance their performance when the right conditions for success are intentionally cultivated with all stakeholder needs front and center. 

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