After I pushed my limits physically and mentally last year, this year was a much quieter year – let’s call it the Year of Recovery.
The big event for me personally in 2016 was that I had a traumatic bike crash on May 3rd. I was on a morning ride with some faster guys, and descending a road I knew well (84 from Skyline). I was taking the turns a little faster than usual, confident in my skills and trying to keep up with the bike racers, and so I was going close to 30 mph when I whipped around a turn and hit the bump shown here (it hadn’t been there previously, and was less visible until the cops circled it in orange when they showed up to direct traffic after the crash). I lost control and went off the road – no cars were involved, thankfully. The guys I was riding with called 911, and I woke up on the side of the road with the paramedics there, but no memory of what happened. I was taken to the hospital on a backboard in an ambulance, and was diagnosed with a severe concussion (two brain contusions visible on the CT scan) and two fractured vertebrae (C6/C7 – yes, I literally broke my neck). But I was very fortunate that it wasn’t worse – I could easily have been paralyzed or killed. I had to wear a neck brace that immobilized my neck for three months while the vertebrae healed, and do a bunch of physical therapy after it came off, but was able to avoid surgery, and am now mostly fully recovered.
So much of 2016 was spent recovering physically and mentally from the bike crash. But it was a good opportunity to reflect on my life and what matters.
And for me, it all comes back to people. My posts on gratitude and generosity were inspired by my renewed appreciation for the people in my life. I had a rotation of close friends coming by to visit in the weeks after my crash, bringing food or taking me out to dinner, but more importantly, helping me stay connected when I was home alone all day.
This reminder of the importance of people also inspired me to focus more on helping people; in particular, I have spent more time on coaching and mentoring in 2016. My broad experience and perspective has been useful to a variety of people, including engineers, designers, entrepreneurs and non-profits (I’m now advising two non-profits, one as a board director, and one as an advisory board member). This was also the motivation behind my series of posts on how to design one’s life. I have really enjoyed the time I have spent helping people find their path, and plan to make this a continued focus in 2017, including starting formal training as a coach. Please contact me if you are potentially interested in getting coaching or mentoring from me – you can read recommendations from a few people on my LinkedIn page.
Beyond the crash and coaching, my life has mostly remained the same:
- I am still in the same job (it’s now been 8 years at Google, including 4 years in my current role as Chief of Staff to the product VP of AdWords).
- I am back to my sports:
- I’m back on the bike, and it feels great, but I haven’t worked up the nerve to descend 84 yet, and am still very cautious on all descents.
- I played volleyball several times this fall (although my shoulder was still weak from the crash).
- I even went skiing and felt really good, and am looking forward to doing more this winter.
- I went to Up to All of Us in February of 2016 and even led a couple sessions on how to drive change during the retreat.
- I went to the Overlap retreat in Minnesota in June even though I was still in the neck brace, as it’s one of my favorite weekends of the year. And I was thrilled to be chosen to be one of the organizers of the Overlap retreat in 2017, which will be in the Bay Area. Contact me for details.
- I am continuing to explore my own mind, including therapy and mindfulness/meditation.
One learning from 2016 that I want to remember is that I am strong and resilient. I was telling my therapist this summer about my fear of failure and stressing about whether I was doing “enough” to push my limits. And she looked at me and said something like “I’ve watched you get dumped and bounce back. And you’ve now broken your neck and are coming back from that. What more proof of your resilience do you need? Trust your resilience!” So I want to continue to push out of my comfort zone and trust my resilience to bounce back if and when I fail (but I’ll try to avoid breaking my neck again).
I have led a lucky and privileged life, and this year was yet another reminder of that – I survived my crash, and was very grateful to be working for a company that covered me while I recovered and to have insurance that paid for my medical care. I have a great set of friends, and am part of several communities that I value. I am looking for more opportunities to give back and share (per the thoughts in my last post on finding ways to help those around you), and hope that coaching will be a way to do so. Let’s close the books on 2016, and make plans to change things for the better in 2017.