Have you allowed yourself to be defined by your worst day?

Today is February 17 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “have you allowed yourself to be defined by your worst day?”


In June 2016, Clearwater Threshers pitcher Matt Imhof, the Philadelphia Phillies' second-round pick in the 2014 MLB first-year player draft, suffered a "significant injury to his right eye'' during postgame arm care band work. Imhof, 22, was taking part in a routine stretching regimen after a game at Brevard County when a piece of equipment malfunctioned and he was struck in the right eye.


He was rushed to the hospital and then flown to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, where he had surgery to repair his eye, and after that did not work, surgery to remove it. In that one moment in time Imhof lost his dream to pitch in the major leagues. In that moment, his dream of playing professional baseball was gone. As Imhof wrote in an emotional post on ESPN.com “I felt like the person who walked into that training room in Brevard County was not the same person sitting alone in this hospital room. Everything I thought I knew, everything I had planned for myself, was gone. Baseball, my future, my vision, all of it.”


But his surgeon, Dr. Wendy W. Lee told him "You have suffered a life-altering injury, not a life-ending one. It may be hard for you to see right now, but you can still do anything you want. You can play baseball again. You can drive a car. You can even be a brain surgeon. Anything that was possible for you before the accident is still possible for you now."


After listening to Dr. Lee’s words Imhof realized he had to decide he was going to let his worst day define his entire life. Imhof announced his retirement in a self-written ESPN article on Jan. 25, 2017. Imhof refused to let the injury to define him:


"I had two options. I could let this injury define me. I could be angry -- no one would blame me for that. I could be depressed, feel sorry for myself and live in the past. I could let the rest of my life be defined by the worst day of my life. Or, I could pick myself up, dust myself off and move on."


Matt Imhof did not allow his worst day define him. Neither did Jake O’Connor. A former framer who landed in a wheelchair when a wall collapsed on him at a construction project in Fort Collins, Colorado, O’Connor responded in a dramatic fashion and launched ReActive Adaptations. ReActive is O’Connor’s reaction to being wheelchair bound for the rest of his life.


With a love of the outdoors and a dedication to not have his life defined by his worst day, O’Connor creates knobby-tired, three-wheeled,— hand-cycles that start at around $8,000 that bring paraplegics and quadriplegics back to the outdoor trails they love. With innovative suspensions, drivetrains and frames, his born-in-Crested Butte bikes provide long-missed thrills to disabled athletes.


In nine years, O’Connor has built about 200 three-wheeled bikes that feature two wheels up front and one in the rear. If it is true that “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it,” how do you respond to events that change the course of your life? How often are you even aware of how you respond to events?


Have you allowed yourself to be defined by your worst day?