11 Things I’ve Learned in 11 Years
These past 11 years have taught me much, there is no denying that. Though there has been trials and tribulations, there has been triumphs and victories along the way as well. My trials have humbled me, and my victories have kept me grounded and have given me hope to know that I can continue to be better. The most important part to acknowledge in all of this is the fact that I have opportunities. Above anything that I’m about to tell you, the one thing I’ve learned above everything else is that dreams are universal, but opportunities are not. I’m a part of the less than 1% of people in this world that has the opportunity to exercise all my dreams and to try and pursue them. Something we must all understand is that this is not the case throughout the world, let alone even here in our own backyard in Southern California. For this I remain humble, I remain hopeful, and most of all I remain motivated. I have the opportunity each and every morning to wake up and be better, not just for myself, my fiancé, or my family, but also for each and every one of you who has lent a helping hand along the way throughout this journey. For that I say thank you and to that I write to you this, the 11 pivotal things that I’ve learned over these past 11 years:
1. I’m Still Me.- Regardless of circumstance, regardless of time, regardless of place, regardless of the way in which I get around and the way in which I do things, I’m still me. Once I got injured, I thought that I would lose sight of who I am and that my identity was lost. Little did I know that life was leading me down a path of who I was ultimately supposed to become. This was the biggest lesson of all. I really am still me, still the same stubborn Hal at the end of the day. That same Hal is the one who will not give up on each of you, because I’m still me, that same 17-year-old that was asking for challenge and ultimately got it; one of the biggest challenges of all.
2. Don’t sweat the little things, but also at the same time acknowledge the little things because they turn into big things.- I’ve learned to become patient and my gosh do I still have a long ways to go. This injury has really grounded me in the sense that I have to be patient. I have become borderline OCD, that much I can tell you. There are certain things that I want to correct, want to change, want to clean up and because I physically can’t. it drives me crazy. This is where I have learned to be patient. Those things that would normally drive me nuts, the little things in life, I have learned to let them roll off my back. However, I have also chose, in the right context and in the right moments, to acknowledge the other little things in life that truly matter. These are the little details that I’ve learned to not overlook, because these are the little details that make up the true beauty in this life and in my journey. Sometimes those little things can also be what matter most.
3. Don’t let the 1% of people get you down.- I’ve found over these 11 years, that 99% of people are behind me and my endeavors. I have also found that there is 1% of people, that regardless of what myself, or you may do to try to better the world, those people will still always try to find fault in everything that you/we do. The best part about this, is that it is okay that those people feel that way. I have learned to let those people not get the best of me, there is still 99% of people who affect my life, who effect it in the right way, the positive way. I have learned to focus on those people, not on those who are ultimately trying to bring me down.
4. There is purpose behind all this.- Why me? What if? These were prominent questions early on in my 11 year journey that I continued to ask myself. I thought that I might have done something to deserve this, which ultimately left me in this state. Little did I know that there was much bigger purpose behind all of this. Look at all that it has become, my journey it is that I speak of. The foundation, The Perfect Step, and I’m not to be thanked for that by myself, we are all to be thanked for that. Have you ever taken a second to just look around to see all the people that we have helped? All the families that we have given hope. How could we look at that and say that there is not purpose behind this? Each and every one of us coming together was for a purpose. At the root of all this, we are just one person, with one voice. But when we rally together, we are much greater, we are the purpose in this journey. For that I say thank you and I tell you that I would never take this back in 1 million years because of the purpose behind all of this now. You. Us.
5. My friends and community are far greater than I even expected and my standard was already through the roof.- I had a true perception of each and every person around me prior to my accident, during the dark days, and even after my accident. I thought each and every one of you was amazing to never leave my side, to support my endeavors, and most importantly to support others around me. Little did I know, that each and every one of you could and would exceed my expectations. How have you done it? By being wholeheartedly and authentically yourselves. Each and every one of you has been the reason why I get up in the morning, because I’m so excited to see the expectations each of you will yet again exceed. I had the bar set high and you continue to set higher. Where will we go next? The only place to go is up. How do each of you continue to do this? You all are heaven sent.
6. Nobody can measure the power of ones will and determination.- There are people who will try to bring you down, naysayers, nonbelievers, and those who simply cannot measure one’s heart. We are all delivered doubt in some way by those around us; that is fuel to our fire. As cliché as it sounds, that fuel does not derive for me in wanting to prove those who doubt me wrong, but it more derives in wanting to prove myself right. I know that I can do this and my expectations are high for myself, because I know what I’m capable of. The only difference of where I want to be and where I am not right now is the excuses that I continue to make. I have unlimited potential and the only limits that are put on my potential are by myself. This I understand. Nobody can measure my will, my heart, or my determination but myself. I remain accountable to myself before I do to anybody else. People are huge on having accountability partners, but how can those people hold us accountable and to a certain standard if we are the only ones that know truly what that standard is within us and how good we can truly be. For this, I hold myself accountable and to a standard, that to some, is unattainable. But, to me it is the next thing that I’m going to accomplish. Nobody can bring me down.
7. We can all BE PERFECT.- It is a phrase that has led many people to believe that at its literal sense, it is unattainable by human beings, much less God himself. What I have begun to understand is that it is attainable by each and every one of us. We all have an understanding of how great we can be, how much we can give and how much more effort we have in the tank. As long as we are exercising that ability to be the best that we can be each and every day, are we really falling short of being perfect? No, we are able to be perfect in our own way. We are being a better version of ourselves each and every day and what more could anybody else ask from us? We all are a perfect masterpiece, with a perfect purpose that we are supposed to exercise in this world. As long as we are exercising that purpose in our own way, we all can be perfect…
8. Family and friends are everything.- When I look to my left and then to my right, during those moments that matter the most, who is there? Family and friends… One might say, who else is there in this world? Certainly there is enemies, or perceived enemies. There are people that we do not know yet, there are acquaintances. In addition, to me and my family, our friends are also quite simply the family members around us that we have gotten to choose ourselves. These are the people that we choose to surround ourselves with and there is something to be said of that. These are the people that bring us to the highest point in our lives, but are also there during the lowest lows, to bring us back up to reality. Family and friends are everything in life.
9. While people find fault in how much I like to go, go, go, I realize that it is OK to go and do those things that most people don’t get to go do.- I’ve often times been told that I need to slow down, when in all reality I live life at a three mile-per-hour clip each and every day. My life is fulfilled in a very sedentary way inside of a 16” x 16” chair where I always feel confined, there always seems to be constraints, there seems to be limitations trying to hold me back. I will not let these artificial resistances and roadblocks hold me back from what is out there. There is so much to do, so much to see, so much to experience, and the only way to do it is to just go. Sometimes I get ahead of myself and for those who are with me, they wonder how we are going to get to where we are going, how will we simply do it? What I have found to be crazy about all of this, is that it always seems to work itself out. This is simply because, for those who are around me, they simply follow my mentality of we will just figure it out. And that is exactly what we have done. I will continue to go, go, go, because, “dreams are universal and opportunities are not.” I have been so blessed and fortunate to have the opportunity to do the amazing things that I get to do on a daily basis. I’m going to take full advantage of those blessings that I’ve been given and I’m going to go enjoy every single moment that I have the opportunity to do so.
10. Just when I thought I wasn’t going to be able to, I have realized that I can still help people in my own way. - I truly thought when I was laying in bed in ICU and in rehabilitation hospital, that I had nothing left to give to the world. I was going to be a bump on the log. I was going to be a nuisance, I was going to be a burden on everybody around me. What more could I possibly offer? I was stuck in a chair, I had physical limitations, I couldn’t physically go and influence the lives of those around me. Wow, was I wrong… I had so much life left to live, so much left to give to others, and I could truly impact the lives of those around me in a very unique way. The biggest blessing in all of this, was not that I was put in this position, but simply was the fact that I have been put in a position to exercise my ability, so I could not focus on my disability. I’m being used as a tool to help God find his glory on earth. I know I have a role and a purpose in all of this and the best thing that I can do every day is to wake up unselfishly and go about doing what I do best; and that is serving others. If I can wake up and do that every day, I consider that a full life lived.
11. This is all for nothing if I can’t share it with all of you. Memories can’t be made by yourself, so if you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far go together.- When I tell you this, know that it comes from a sincere place. I do not intend to run a full sprint and for this to come to a complete halt. However, I must tell you that I do intend to give it all that I have each and every day, so the clip at which I will move will be fast to some, but to me this is my standard. I do intend to go far and I do have an understanding that in order to go far I must bring each and every one of you along with me for the ride. I need you far more than you need me. I have huge aspirations for us, bigger than many of you can even wrap your head around. I sit here as a physically weak man, with a literal and figuratively strong heart pleading to you to just trust me, to just believe me, and to just give me the benefit of the doubt when I tell you that we are going to exceed some of your wildest dreams. I just need you to remain patient, I need you to trust in helping other people, I need you to go, go, go with me, I need you to be the family and friends that I need by my side during the good and the bad, I need you to make the effort to be perfect every day, I need you to stay the course with an understanding that nobody can measure your heart and your determination, I need you to hang your hat on the fact that you are far greater than I ever anticipated and you should be proud of that, I need you to lay your head on the pillow comfortably at night knowing that there is a purpose behind all of this, I need each of you to stay positive and not let the 1% of people get you down, I need you to not sweat the little things but to not overlook the little details, and lastly I need each of you to recognize that I’m still me. If each of you can do each of these things for me, wow are we going to go amazing places together.
Those 11 things that I’ve learned over the last 11 years, what would you think if I told you I learned each of those things from each of you? How would that make you feel? It’s true. Something else I’ve learned on this journey is that if you are always right, then you are not learning anything new. If you are always talking, then how could you ever be listening. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Those moments when I am quiet and content and you think I am unengaged, is when I am most intently listening. For that important fact, that important piece of information that I could use to make me better. You see, I am the best I have ever been today because of each of you. But, I will be even better tomorrow because I am making the commitment to invest in each of you to continue to listen. I understand that the more I listen, the more I will learn and the more I will be better. The fact of the matter is, is that each of you knows something I don’t know, I want to get past the surface level conversations and stop talking about the weather and get down to business to talk about the things that matter most, those deep things. I want to learn more about life and most importantly I want to learn more about each and every one of you.
What do each of you think the next 11 years has in store for us? Are you going to jump off this moving train? Are you going to be left in the dust when all of us are triumphing together, celebrating both the good and the bad? Don’t be that person, because you have it in you. You can do it, you can stay with us. We might move swiftly, but we are going to go far and my gosh are we going to touch a lot of people in the process. Don’t you want to be a part of it all? Don’t forget to breathe, don’t hold it all in. Are you ready to Be Perfect? Let’s go, we got more left in the tank… Cheers to 11 more years!