A Defining Moment

Good afternoon, all! The following is a guest blog from my friend, Dr. Jim Schultz,  whose passion, in his own words, is to educate, entertain, and inspire you to reach your personal goals in the areas of fitness and finance. He earned his Ph.D. in finance and is currently a professor of the subject at Winthrop University as well a motivational speaker… and even an amateur bodybuilder (a natural bodybuilder, I might add!). 

Dr. Jim Schultz

I was so touched and inspired by the following article he wrote and am honored to share it  with you here on my blog! I know it will bless you. Check out his website and follow him on Twitter @JSchultzFF.

Stay fit, stay faithful ~<3 Di

I squinted through the frosted glass, but could only barely make out the road. Snow and sleet continued to pound the windshield as the night quickly went from bad to worse. It might not have been the best idea to travel two and a half hours north, on Christmas night in Michigan, just to gamble at an Indian casino where the age requirement was only eighteen.  But, science has proven that the part of your brain that understands consequences isn’t fully developed until your early twenties – especially not in males. So, I left the comfortable game of Risk I was playing with my two closest friends, Jake and Dave.  Together, we threw caution to the snow and began our adventure around 10pm. About two hours later I found myself only a few miles from the casino wondering if I’d make it another ten feet without barreling blindly into the back of the car in front of me.

Somehow through the grace of Big Guns we got to the casino. Once we were inside, all the toils it took to get there simply disappeared. Visions of grandeur were all we could focus on as we made our way right to the tables. In hindsight, the next eight hours were a total blur. The only thing that I remember is that I lost the $200-300 I had brought with me, and unfortunately my cohorts hadn’t fared any better. A quick glance at my watch showed 9am, and having to be at work by noon that day, I knew it was time to leave.

We were halfway home, and I had driven the first shift. I desperately wanted to grab a few minutes of sleep before my work shift started at the restaurant, so I shook Jake who was sleeping in the passenger seat. He agreed to switch with me, so he manned the steering wheel and I nestled into the co-captain’s seat and was sleeping within seconds. Everything that happened next is completely absent from my memory.

It turns out that we were all sleeping in the car, even the driver. Jake fell asleep at the wheel, crossed over the freeway, and crashed into a tree going about 75mph. The impact hit almost entirely on my side of the car, and I was knocked unconscious immediately. Jake was rattled awake. He quickly turned to me and saw that there was blood and glass everywhere. He shook me, but I wouldn’t respond. He yelled and pleaded for me to wake up, but I was motionless. For all he knew, I was gone. That moment in his life is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’ve heard him tell the story on many occasions, and every time he gets to this part I can’t help but get chills. Both Jake and Dave walked away from that crash without any serious damage, and for that I have always been grateful.

I spent the next week in intensive care with vague images of my friends coming up to me with nervous chit-chat. The drugs I was on were so heavy that this time in my life was a lot like when you wake up straining to remember a dream from the previous night.  As you try to piece the plot together, some things are very clear and unmistakable, while others are hazy at best.  The memories I have from this hospital visit are just as fragmented and scattered as one of those dreams.

The reason I landed in the hospital was that I had broken my right femur bone. Seven days upon arrival, I was released with not only a titanium rod going through my right leg, but also a severe case of vertigo. Obviously, with a broken right leg I couldn’t walk anywhere without assistance. But, the vertigo was so intense that if I was sitting down and simply stood up, I would fall over. At the point of impact it was determined that I smacked the right side of my head against the part of the car that divides the front seat from the back seat. My right ear took a pounding, and leaving the hospital looking more like a drunken sailor, I now realized first-hand how much your ears really do control your balance.

A couple weeks after my departure from the hospital, I was at home with my parents and the drugs were finally starting to wear off. The cloudy visions that overhung my life were finally being lifted, and each day started to feel more normal. Until one day, I answered the house phone only to hear silence on the other end.

“Dad, the phone is broken.”

My dad picked up the receiver and heard the dial tone, “I don’t know. It seems to be working fine.”

The next day, we made an appointment with the ear doctor to see what was up. Like a magician pulling a never-ending handkerchief out of his hat, the doctor kept yanking shards of glass out of my right ear. After he was finished, he gave me a clean bill of health and sent me on my way. I went home and quickly noticed that I was still having a difficult time hearing anything out of that ear. It was really strange because I would try and listen to something, a song in my headphones, a dial tone on the phone, only to get nothing from my right side. But then, if I sat really still and made it as quiet as possible, I could hear this strange ringing noise inside of my head. It was kind of like how you feel when you get back from a rock concert. The next couple of days your ears are ringing, and it’s tough to hear clearly. Well, every day was like that for me.  Except that I couldn’t hear squat with my right ear except for that persistent rattling sound.

So, we made another appointment with the ear doctor, but he was booked for the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, the ringing was everywhere. I couldn’t focus on anything else. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t hang out with friends. I definitely couldn’t sleep without that ringing noise inside of my head dominating my mind. Finally, the day of the doctor’s appointment came, and I cannot recall being more excited for anything in my entire life. This guy had to have something in his bag of tricks to make the ringing stop.

Instead, I got some different news. The doctor ran a few tests, analyzed the results, and then explained them to me as most doctors do; somewhat cold and indifferent, but at the same time concise and matter-of-fact. I had lost the hearing in my right ear due to severe inner ear damage, and there was no way to bring it back.  That ringing in my head?  Yeah, that’s called tinnitus, and to this day a cure is a crapshoot at best.

At this very moment, I can recall what happened next as if it happened fifteen minutes ago. I walked outside, alone, as my mom was filling out some paperwork inside. I stood in the parking lot and looked at the sky. With tears welling up in my eyes I made a promise to myself. This event would not define my life. Having not even completed my second decade on this earth, I was not about to walk through the rest of my life crying ‘woe is me’. So, looking up into the heavens, I simply whispered, “Why not me”?

The next few months of rehab for my leg and vertigo were very challenging, but manageable. The fact that I practically fell in love with my slightly older, yet happily married, physical therapist made my sessions a little less daunting. Nevertheless, I was still closed off from a hemisphere of sound while my head whistled non-stop, and it was wearing me down. Over that time I can probably count the number of times I didn’t cry myself to sleep at night on one hand.

It was without question the darkest, most difficult time of my entire life. Still, I never went back on the commitment I made to myself, and with each passing day I slowly began to realize that I was doing what I had made out to be the impossible – I was living with this. There was even one morning I woke up and didn’t even notice the ringing in my ear until noon. My leg slowly healed, my balance gradually returned, and my confidence inched higher. By May of that year, I was back working at the restaurant I was heading to the morning of the crash. I still got a little down here and there about my situation, but for the most part I continued to regain my positive, optimistic outlook on life.

With that whole experience being over ten years old now, I can honestly say without any reservations that it was the most positive thing to ever happen to me. I would even go as far as to say that every significant accomplishment in my life since then has been a result of that incident.

My decision to compete as an amateur bodybuilder happened while I was bed-ridden and trying to nurse my broken leg. After completing my undergraduate degree, I revisited this memory before I chose to continue on for my M.B.A. and later Ph.D. in finance. When I finally got up the nerve to ask out my future wife that muggy June day in Memphis, I reminisced about this experience just shortly before I went into her work. It has turned into such an incredible source of motivation that I almost wish everyone could experience what I experienced. It is a constant reminder that life is so precious.  Tomorrow is promised to no one.

 

 

 

 

Regardless of what your goals in life are: fitness, finance, whatever. The clock is ticking and once the hourglass is empty – that’s it. The time to makes those dreams a reality is now.

 

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2 thoughts on “A Defining Moment

  • Tim Briggs

    Inspiring story. Out of pain and suffering came something good. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jim was my Professor at Winthrop University, and undoubtedly the one who gave most motivation, about Finance, about trying your best, in class, in adversity, in life in general. In a way that leads to no regrets and a proud feeling of what has been accomplished. It is a difficult thing to own that drive, and an even more difficult task to master it so well that you are able to spread it around you like the best news of the day.
    I didn’t know about this story of his but it explains a lot. Very often, the most successful and driven people are the one who went through tough experiences and came back stronger. I am proud to say that I was one of his fellow students at Winthrop and his starting motto makes even more sense now.
    “It’s a great day to be alive!” – Dr. Jim Schultz

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