Finding Beauty in Brokenness: Lessons from Florence 🎨

Greetings from Florence, Friend!
Overlooking Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo, I’m reminded that beauty often comes from brokenness. 
This city has been through hell and back during its long history. Plagues, wars, floods, fires – you name it. Repeated destruction, followed by rebirth and renewal. 
Like a phoenix, Florence rose from the ashes again and again. Now, the result of those cycles is breathtaking. The elegant Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, the gorgeous sunsets. Beauty forged through hardship.
This resonates with my own story. My spinal cord injury felt like a personal apocalypse at first. My dreams for the future, shattered in an instant. 
With time and perspective, though, I learned to find new hope, new dreams. Emerging from that “fire” changed, but not destroyed.
We all experience twists of fate that break us. The question is what we build from the wreckage. How will your fire refine you?
Florence taught me that our most powerful, beautiful selves can rise when we alchemize hard experiences into wisdom. Don’t let adversity break you. Let it open your heart and broaden your vision.
Healing takes time, just like Florence wasn’t rebuilt in a day. Give yourself grace, and step forward bravely into your new normal, whatever that may be. The beauty will come.
At golden hour in Florence, all visible flaws fade away. Light shines on its monuments, its people, its enduring spirit. What if you saw yourself and others in that same light? 
So that’s your call to action: how can you turn your current struggle into art? Is there a way for your story to uplift others who feel alone in their pain? You have the paintbrush – begin crafting your masterpiece. 🎨🖌️🖼️

Ciao for now,


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Hey There, I Owe You An Explanation

Hi Friend,

I hope this message finds you well. It’s been way too long since you’ve heard from me, and I owe you an apology for my radio silence.
The truth is, life has taken me on quite the rollercoaster ride lately. I’ve been jet-setting around, working on this brand new speech I’m super stoked about – it’s called “A No Excuse Life,” and I was able to deliver it last week with rave reviews 🙏.
And that’s not all! I’ve been diligently crafting a kick-butt video course that I believe will blow your socks off. Seriously, I’ve poured my heart and soul into it, and I’m itching to share it with you.
But wait, there’s more! I’ve been creating something special – a mastermind community where we can all join forces to crush our goals. The synergy there is gonna be off the charts! Be sure to email me if this interests you. 
Oh, and did I mention the fundraiser I’m cooking up called Tailgate Toss? It’s happening on November 4th, and I’d be excited if you could join in and support our family wheelchair camp.
Now, amidst all this hustle and bustle, being a dad and a husband remains my top priority. Balancing family life with these projects has been a wild ride, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
I want you to know that I’ve missed our interactions dearly, and I’m gearing up to shower you with inspiration galore. Life taught me a valuable lesson during this time – sometimes, we’ve gotta hit pause, catch our breath, and come back stronger than ever. 🚀
So, from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry for the silence, and I can’t thank you enough for sticking with me. Our journey is far from over, and I can’t wait to catch up with each one of you soon.
Now, here’s the action part: I’d love to hear from you. What topics or ideas are burning in your mind right now? Reply to this email and let’s start a conversation. Your input is incredibly valuable to me.
Your friend,
Chris 😊

Think About What You Are Thinking About

Hi Friend,

Why is change so hard? Well let’s face it… moving from what’s known to the unknown is uncomfortable. But any significant change worth making requires enduring discomfort. Because we are conditioning our minds and bodies to behave differently than what it’s been taught/programmed to do by us. It takes a concentrated effort to change what we are subconsciously doing. It’s crazy to believe but 95% of what we do is subconscious! So, unless we start thinking about what we are thinking about then change will be nearly impossible. 


Everything starts with a thought before there’s an action. There’s this loop of thought < action < emotion then back to < thought in a loop. Over an extended period of time this loop then gets hardwired into our bodies. So if you keep thinking negative thoughts your body will become accustomed to negative thinking & feeling. So much so that you will seek it out subconsciously, like an addiction to negativity. 


Here’s what’s fascinating 🧐 Our bodies cannot tell the difference between experiences that are reality or the imaginary. Between the past, present, and future. Dr. Joe Dispenza said in order to change your personal reality then you need to change your personality. Your personality consists of how you think, how you act, and how you feel.

The good news is then we can change our entire life by elevating our thoughts. Trading our shame, blame, guilt, and anger for emotions like gratitude, joy, or love. We can think ourselves into an entirely different person, but that takes a substantial amount of awareness to be conscious of the unconscious.

So are you going to be defined by a vision of the future or are you going to live by the memories of the past? 


This entire message is my shortened Cliff Note from this great podcast episode on the Ed Mylett Show with Dr. Joe Dispenza about unlocking your mind’s full potential. I encourage you to give it a listen. 


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31 Lessons Learned Over 31 Years

I celebrated 31 years of life this past Monday. Time feels like it’s going faster and faster. I swear it was not very long ago when I turned 21. I have learned many things along the way.  In fact I will share 31 lessons that have impacted me. 


  1. This moment is what’s real and important, tomorrow is an idea. 
  2. Personal responsibility is the key to being resilient. 
  3. True strength is displayed through your character, not your muscles. 
  4. The quality of your relationships is a reflection of the quality of your life. 
  5. There’s no shame in asking for help. 
  6. If you only focus on what’s wrong you will never see what’s right. 
  7. With every difficult situation ask yourself “What can I do?”
  8. When you are lacking purpose, ask yourself “Who is counting on me?”
  9. Get rid of all excuses, they only hold you back. 
  10. Trying and failing feels a lot better in the end than not trying at all. 
  11. The greatest gift you can give is your attention and appreciation. 
  12. Live as if your days are numbered because they are. 
  13. Always speak your goals and dreams out loud, manifesting works. 
  14. You are the average of the 5 closest people you spend time with. 
  15. Big people help others feel bigger. 
  16. Make time for reflection and restoration. 
  17. Words have the power to change worlds. 
  18. Truest thing about you is what God says about you. 
  19. Give selflessly what you hope to receive. 
  20. How you make people feel is how people will remember you. 
  21. External remedies and accomplishments will never solve internal problems. 
  22. Accept what’s out of your control in order to give more energy to what’s in your control. 
  23. Be quick to apologize & forgive then learn from it & forget. 
  24. Time is never wasted when spent with those you love. 
  25. Manage your emotions & impulses so they don’t manage you. 
  26. If you don’t like where you are, then do something about it. 
  27. Instead of criticizing and blaming others, look in the mirror. 
  28. Meekness is not weakness. 
  29. Read everyday. 
  30. You can’t influence someone who doesn’t feel heard & understood. 
  31. Your life is as rich as the lives you enrich. 

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This is Why you Need to Stop Waiting

Hi Friend,

I’ve heard this odd and sad illustration about a frog 🐸 . If you drop a frog in boiling water it will jump out immediately. If you put it in cool water and slowly heat it up to boiling the frog will STAY and boil to death. Poor frog. Sadly, in a lot of ways we can be the frog that never jumps. We start feeling the heat from life but it regresses slowly enough to not make a change. It’s so gradual you miss it until your life is in flames.

There are many stories of dramatic events leading to dramatic changes. A big moment that forces a person awake to start living with purpose. I’ve experienced this firsthand with my spinal cord injury. It spurred me to make major changes and enlightened me to the strength of the human will and how to live a significant life. For others it’s a cancer diagnosis, car accident, sports injury, being fired, the loss of a loved one, and much more. But… What if you never have some life altering event that shakes you awake?


There’s a less recognizable adversity that can be even more destructive. It’s a silent adversity that’s creeps in. The kind that slowly infects you without realizing it. Until finally one day you realize how deep of a mess you are in. You scratch your head wondering, “How did I get here?” Or “This wasn’t how my life was supposed to go.” It’s death by a million papercuts.


This adversity looks like a marriage that slowly drifts apart to the brink of a divorce, weight gain, financial debt, staying too long in a job you don’t like, mental illness, and unmet dreams & goals from waiting for the “right time”. What happens is we gradually make minor compromises, slightly dropping our standards and expectations, and then numbing our hurt and disappointment with gratitude or past accomplishments. Telling ourselves that “When ___ happens THEN ___.”

Today and for the rest of 2023, I want you to stop waiting and start working towards a tangible solution. Waiting without working a plan is simply wishful thinking. It’s blind faith. If you want a breakthrough then it’s on you to break through. It’s time to stop the bleeding. Draw a line in the sand and tell yourself enough is enough! Change starts NOW, not tomorrow, or after the weekend. Make a plan then work the plan. Lean on others for support. Know you didn’t get into this situation overnight and you certainly aren’t getting out of it overnight. What I constantly remind myself is that 👉 your future will take care of itself when you take care of today.


Get to work,



How to Make Disciplined Decisions Easier

Did you find ways to challenge yourself? Any opportunity to choose what’s best for you over what’s comfortable is great resilience training. However, doing what you should be doing over what you want to be doing is easier said than done. That’s why in this email I’ll share what helps me make disciplined decisions. Here are a few steps I take: 


First, I recognize what’s truly important or not. Family, faith, and our well-being is my top priority and what’s secondary are things like work, sports, or social media. 


Second, I take note 📝 how I actually spend my time and where I put my energy into. It’s easy to say family is important but it’s another to turn off the phone or not bring work home with you. So stay mindful of your actual decisions and what you spend your time on.  


Third, I think about what temptations make it hard for me to stay disciplined. I figure out how to limit/eliminate those temptations. Like not having treats and my favorite chips in the house, removing certain apps from my phone, or putting my phone on silent in a different room.


Finally, I focus my energy on what I can control and what I can do about it. I stay present and work hard to not let my mind drift to the past or worry about the future. The more you use the word can’t the more of a victim you become. Saying and even thinking the word can’t will rob you of your resilience. 


The last thing I want to share are some of my favorite quotes & sayings that help me to keep persevering:

  • Do what you have to now so you can do what you want to later. ~ Unknown 
  • Your future will take care of itself when you take care of today. ~ Me 😊
  • The 40% rule. When your brain is telling you to quit your body has only used 40% of its potential. ~ David Goggins
  • If you do what is easy your life will be hard. If you do what is hard your life will be easy. ~ Les Brown




How to Enrich Your Life

Your life is as rich as the lives you enrich ~ Me 😊

Hi Friend,

I can’t believe school is already starting for our kids. The Norton family has had an epic summer and I hope you have had one too. Here are a few highlights from the past 2 months: We went to Sea World, Aquatica, our Foundation Family Wheelchair Camp in Minnesota, spent time with family and friends in Iowa, watched fireworks over the Mississippi River on the 4th of July, weekend getaway to Fort Lauderdale, and celebrated 3 birthdays and 1 adoption day. I’d say we made the most of our summer vacation. 


However, no trip can measure up to something as meaningful as our camp experience. It emphasizes a quote of mine, “Life is as rich as the lives you enrich.” It’s great to treat yourself but when you can also treat somebody else to something special and help them smile it just means more. I have seen this play out over and over again and even as I reflect on all of the memories created from this summer. 


This June we brought together 22 families across the country who all have at least one child with a physical disability. These kids and myself know all too well what it’s like to be excluded, to feel alone, self conscious of their differences, and to be on the sidelines as a spectator instead of in the action, but not at this camp. 


This year’s camp theme was “See the Possibilities” which is exactly what took place over the course of 4 days. All the campers used their unique abilities to do activities they didn’t think they could do. Like zip line, horseback ride, play laser tag, score soccer goals, and launch rockets, among many other activities. Kids who have never had a friend made lots of friends. Parents who felt they had no one else to relate to their situation or had no one to talk to found other parents to confide in. It’s a special week. 


After witnessing now three different years of transformations, we are not only going to make sure to have this camp every single year in Minnesota, but the hope is to have these camps across the country in every major region. We will also work hard to make sure everyone of them are completely free for the entire family to attend. The biggest challenge is finding a camp that has enough (15 or more) ADA accessible rooms. If you think you can help fundraise or locate that campsite please feel free to reach out because we need all the help we can get!

Here is a highlight reel from camp.


Take care,



Adopt this Lesson to be Resilient🥊

Hi Friend,

Living your best life requires flexibility. A willingness to adapt to the unexpected. The more rigid you are, the less resilient you will be. One of the best ways I learned to be adaptable was through a very unlikely source. 


When I was in high school I did improvisational comedy on the speech team. Me and 3 of my buddies were a part of this improv group. How it works is you randomly draw 3 scenarios out of a hat and you have 2 minutes to pick one of them, figure out characters, and the closing word that lets the entire group know to stop. Your skit can not go over 5 minutes. The goal is to entertain the judges. 


Possible scenario prompts might be: Chaperoning a school trip to an amusement park, school mascot on criminal trial, the first meeting of an unlikely fan club, or grand opening of a restaurant gone wrong.


As you can imagine everything is spontaneous in improv. The very first thing we learned about is the rule of “Yes and__” Basically, regardless of what the scenario is or what comes out of someone’s mouth you must not only accept it “yes” but also respond by adding more to it “and__”. This helps progress the flow of the scene and ideas. Saying “no” was forbidden as it stops momentum and creativity. 


For example, someone might say “Chris, wow you have wonderful eyes.”

A poor response would be: “Thank you!” Or “No, I do not”

A better response would be: “Thank you, after I was attacked by this wild herd of cats I thought my eyes would never look the same.”


It’s a pretty basic concept and it was fun to force yourself into some creative rebuttal. You never knew how the skit would unfold which made it exciting. 


Now, imagine adopting and applying the rule of “yes and__” to your life when the unexpected happens… Life is unscripted as much as we may try to plan for everything. We must be willing to embrace fate whether we want to or not because we simply can’t undo the past. Life will move forward with or without you.

You need to improvise, get creative, and devise a new way. The most resilient people are also the best at improvising life’s curveballs. They just keep going. Like the boxer in the ring taking hit after hit. 🥊 You get knocked down 👉 Yes and__  🥊 You get hit another time 👉 Yes and__! 


Marcus Aurelius sums this up in Meditations with this quote:

“You must build up your life action by action, and be content if each one achieves its goal as far as possible—and no one can keep you from this. But there will be some external obstacle! Perhaps, but no obstacle to acting with justice, self-control, and wisdom.
But what if some other area of my action is thwarted? Well, gladly accept the obstacle for what it is and shift your attention to what is given, and another action will immediately take its place, one that better fits the life you are building.” 

Take care,


How to Create More Urgency

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will” – Chuck Palahniuk

Hi Friend,


Imagine you are a soldier who will be deployed to the battlefront of a war in one month. While you don’t assume you are going to die, you understand there’s a real chance it could happen. I want you to think about how you might go about your day differently… 


How might you treat your family and loved ones?  

How would you view the minor annoyances of spilling coffee on your shirt, breaking your phone, getting cut off in traffic, or dealing with an upset child?  

How much time would you spend on your phone, computer, or watching tv? All of a sudden priorities change. 


This is how I’m creating more urgency and getting a broader perspective— I’m thinking about death… But not in a morbid or depressing kind of way. It’s a reminder to treat each day as a gift. Sometimes we forget we don’t live forever. 


A healthy reminder of having limited time helps keep what’s important or not important in its proper place. Understanding we have an end date prioritizes relationships, encourages being present in the moment, and creates urgency to utilize our time meaningfully. 


Stephen Covey’s 2nd habit of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is, “Begin with the end in mind.” You want to visualize the end so that you can live each day with purpose and clarity of who you are trying to be and what you are trying to accomplish. Think about what you want people to say about you at your visitation. The ancient Stoics also mediated on mortality with something they called Memento Mori. This reflection helped inspire them to make their words and actions matter. 


I hope you can see there is nothing wrong with thinking about death. In fact, there are some great benefits by reflecting on it. When you are on your deathbed ready to take your last breath you will think about two things: How’s my relationship with God? What’s my relationship with the people closest to me? Sometimes when we go about our routine we forget what’s most important. Use the reminder that our time on earth is scarce to inspire you to live life with urgency and meaning.

Take care,