Starting Fresh


Sometimes, you have to hit rock bottom to know where you should head next.

In my last post, I recalled a story from my career as a police officer. That career came to an abrupt and unexpected end when I was still in my 20s after I suffered serious injuries when a woman purposely rammed her car into my patrol car at full speed.

After a year spent in and out of the hospital, and undergoing challenging physical therapy, my body had started to heal, but the rest of me was still a wreck. I suffered from constant pain and had to take high doses of painkillers just to get through the day.

I wanted to go back to work, but I only had two options and I didn’t like either one. I could return to a light-duty assignment, or I could accept early retirement. I took the second choice, but it was a painful decision. Working as a police officer had been a dream come true for me, and I loved every minute of it.

But then I had to ask myself what comes next? I had no idea.

At first, I sat around all day watching TV and eating, feeling depressed and angry. Not surprisingly, I quickly added 75 pounds to my frame. I finally sought help to get out of this dark valley. The psychiatrist I visited declared me to be “borderline suicidal” and prescribed antidepressants.

That sounded an alarm I needed to hear.

I couldn’t keep treading water. I had to break out of the cycle of feeling sorry for myself. I had to find a way to move my life forward. I knew I literally had to move.

So the next day, I threw out the antidepressants, laced up a pair of sneakers and went for a run — which was actually more like a walk that lasted only a few hundred yards. But the pace and distance didn’t really matter. What was important was that I pushed through the pain. The next day I lasted for a quarter mile. I kept running, and I kept going farther. Soon the extra pounds were melting off, and the weight on my shoulders started to feel lighter.

It was during that time that I interviewed for a job managing security at the same orthopedic hospital where I had received care after the crash. I knew I had to get back on track with a new career, and my time in the hospital helped to provide inspiration to move into the world of health care. I got the job and started down a path that I describe as “falling up,” which eventually led me to Scripps Health and the role of CEO.

All these years later, it would be easy for me to neatly pack away that painful period deep inside my head. But that would be a mistake.

There’s value in keeping fresh in my mind that low time in my life when I had to fight for the chance to start over.

It helps me keep things in perspective. It’s easier for me to see myself in our front-line workers. And sharing this experience helps others at Scripps feel connected to me because they know more about the struggles I’ve faced in my life and what I’ve had to do to keep moving forward.

Don’t be afraid to tap into those times in your career when you faced your toughest challenges or made your biggest mistakes. Sharing those experiences with front-line workers can help provide inspiration for them to keep moving on their own path to make things happen for themselves.