Discover Joy Right Where You Are At

Kids have an unbelievable gift for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Discovering joy right where they are at. They show me how to be more present and to stop making comparisons. Thankfully I have 6 of them + a 21 year old 😊 They have taught me so much.


The other day as we just shut the front door to leave to go on a family walk. A calendar notification pops up on my phone. It was a canceled family vacation. 😩 I wish I had deleted it. I open the calendar app and see I have a canceled speaking trip the following week. It was like throwing salt on an open wound. 😭 My thoughts start spiraling down a rabbit hole of all the things our family has missed out on if it weren’t for the pandemic. Instead, we are on a walk around the neighborhood right after it rained. Sweet. 👍

 

As we stroll down the sidewalk we approach a puddle. Our daughter, Izzy 👧🏼 (7yr), takes off sprinting. She jumps like a long jumper but instead of landing in a sand pit she lands right in the middle of the puddle. 💦 Water shoots in every direction and hits me. I’m now more irritated.😡

 

Before I can say something to her about getting me wet and getting her shoes dirty, our 2 year old, KD 👶🏾, erupts in laughter. As if it was the funniest thing he has ever seen. He walks over to the puddle and starts jumping and giggling. Soon everyone joins in stomping and splashing each other. 

 

I can’t help but smile. 🙂This moment stops me in my tracks as I admire the joy and fun they are having with just a puddle. They don’t need the beach, a resort, restaurants, waterslides, or a theme park… They just need a puddle. So what if I’m a little wet and their shoes are a little dirty. It reminds me happiness can be found right where I am regardless of the circumstances. That I need to lower my high standards of where joy can be discovered and stop making comparisons so I don’t miss the fun that’s all around me. 

 

It’s easy to think as we age the more sophisticated we are supposed to be. Believing if our preferences aren’t met then we are unable to be satisfied. We are taught preferences are signs of importance and position. That perhaps splashing in a puddle is too simple of an activity to enjoy. Some might call it high standards, but these standards can isolate us from the magic and wonder of life. It makes it extremely difficult to discover joy right where we are, to live life to the fullest.  

 

I challenge you to find joy wherever you are today. To stop comparing your life to someone else’s or how different life could look without the pandemic. Regardless if you are sitting in the front row or the nose bleeds. First class or economy. Unemployed or employed. If your at a theme park or splashing in a puddle.  Happiness is waiting for you. 


Stay blessed,

Chris

Our Unexpected Adoption Story

 

It’s December 22nd, 2017. I am on vacation with my then fiancé, Emily, and her family. I’ve been looking forward to this vacation for months. We arrived at this beautiful beach with light turquoise water and white sand, and all I want to do is kick back with a drink and relax in my beach chair.

As I’m in full vacation mode. I notice Emily intently reading something on her phone, which surprises me because we are out of the country and there is terrible cell service in our area. After a moment she looks up at me and says, “Chris, take a look at this text.” The message is from our foster care licensing agent. It reads: 
 

“Sorry to bother you on vacation. We just had a sibling group of four girls come into care, ages 1, 4, 6, 8. The children’s mother has passed away and now their grandpa, their guardian, is in the hospital dying. Can you help?” I look up at Emily noticing tears in her eyes. She pleads, “Chris, we’ve got to do something. We’ve got to take these girls.”

 

If you know Emily, you know she tends to lead with her heart rather than her head, which is where I come in! I am the voice of reason. As much as I love being a foster dad I had to put my foot down, or as I like to say I had to put my tire down.

 

“Emily, we need to think long and hard before taking in FOUR kids. We can’t just make a snap decision. We already have a 3 year old boy with behavioral issues in our care. 5 kids would be beyond challenging.” I wait for Emily to nod in agreement, to acknowledge I’m right, which I always am. A man can dream, right? Lol 😂

 

But instead she throws me a curve ball she says, “Chris, how can we say, “No” when you know they need us?” 


“Emily, are you aware that YOU will have to take care of ALL of us? Grocery shop for 7. Cook 7 meals. Get 7 people up in the morning. Chauffeur 7. As well as take care of our dog? And that’s just for starters. Not to mention most of our family lives in Iowa, and we live in Florida. The guilt I would feel when you need a break or get overwhelmed. It will put enormous amounts of stress on our relationship and seriously impact how much quality time we spend together. Also, we’re only 3 ½ months away from our wedding and we still have a lot of planning to do.


Well, I think you know where this story is going. In case you were wondering this is how all of our fostering conversations go. A few days later on December 26, just the day after Christmas the girls arrived with one backpack, shared between the 4 of them.

All of us have the best reasons, the most logical reasons in the world, reasons that make perfect sense to say no to things. No- to pursuing a new opportunity, giving your time or your money, or opening your home for kids in need. But the greatest rewards in life don’t come from saying “no” or from the comfort of a beach chair.  

 

Saying yes was the best decision we could have made. They just needed a safe and loving home, which we were more than capable of to offer. Those 4 girls are now 4 of our 5 daughters thanks to adoption. Because we were foster parents there was no adoption costs! Here’s a photo of the 4. Ava is 11, Lily’s 10, Izzy’s 7, and Ariana is 4.

We also have Whittley who is 21. As her name suggests, she’s female— so I’m really out numbered. However, we are now fostering a 2 year old boy and co-parenting a 6 year old boy. Which puts the total of kids we’ve fostered at 18.

 

By saying, “Yes” Emily and I got out of our comfort zone in a major way. Fear of change causes us to want to keep the status quo, but the only real way we can learn about our personal strengths and weaknesses is to challenge ourselves, and reach beyond our comfort zone. The day I began to stop resisting was the day I began to realize that we could handle more than I thought was possible. 

The fear of change is almost always more frightening than the reality of it. Besides, God doesn’t call the qualified—he qualifies, “the called.” I’m so thankful for Emily, my capeless hero, for pushing me. Because I can’t imagine life without our girls. 

 

If you are considering fostering to adopt please visit the Dave Thomas Foundation website to learn more. Check out their PSA below. See how we got into fostering in the first place by watching my documentary 7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story. It just released on platforms like Apple TV and Prime Video. You can even get the DVD!

 

Sincerely,

 

Chris

Dave Thomas Foundation Commercial
 

7 Yards Virtual Red Carpet Event

Do you want to watch 7 Yards BEFORE the release date? You can be the first person to watch my documentary film ➕ enjoy an once-in-a-lifetime experience by attending the 7 Yards Virtual Red Carpet and Charitable Event on February 22, 2021 7 CST / 8 EST right from the comforts of your home.

At the virtual event you will hear from cast, crew, and special guests, enjoy deleted scenes, and experience a fun video I made with my kids 😂. This is a film and an event that the entire family can enjoy together! 

How it works: 
1. Buy a red carpet virtual event ticket for the entire household.
2. A confidential 7 Yards movie link will be emailed to you.
3. Please watch film before premiere night! The link operates like a 72 hour rental.
4. On Feb 22nd, the day of premiere, the join event link will be emailed to you. 

There has never been more uncertainty and frustration in the world than right now. This pandemic has created so much headache and heartache for millions. I know what it’s like to deal with extreme uncertainty and difficulties when I went from a college football athlete to a quadriplegic with a 3% chance of ever moving below the neck.

Fortunately, with faith, family, friends, and grit I was able to navigate that difficult road to discover a happy and meaningful life despite my losses. I want the same for you which is why I’m so excited for you and your family to watch my documentary 7 Yards. My hope is that it encourages you during this difficult season  

God bless,

Chris

7 Yards Film Now Available For Preorder

Hi Friend,

Have you ever had a time in your life when nothing seems to go right? You are feeling defeated and are dragging on by until something or someone inspires you. You feel this fire 🔥 in you to live with more meaning and purpose. To do better.

For me that fire has come from things like a conversation with a friend, a viral video on social media, a podcast, or movie. What’s humbling and motivating for me is when people tell me my story and attitude has given them inspiration to live better. 

Well that’s why I’m soo excited 🤗 to share my story in the documentary film 7 YardsThe film will give people that fire to keep fighting. I’m happy to announce that it will be releasing on AppleTV and AmazonPrime on February 23rd! Now available for preorder. 🥳🎊🎉
Preorder on AmazonPrime
Preorder on AppleTV



There are 7 ways you can help spread this inspiration to not just yourself but to others. See the image. Email me about joining the launch team.

Just keep talking about it with friends, family, coworkers, and sharing about it on social media. Spread the word and let’s inspire the world! Be fire starters 🔥 (The good kind of fire starters 😂).  

God bless,

Chris

7 Yards Film Coming Soon

Hi Friend,

I can’t put into words how excited I am! It’s been a 3 year journey to film and launch my documentary film 7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story but the wait is almost over! The film is set to be release on streaming platforms this February of 2021. The news was first announced by Deadline and you can read the full article here. But stay tuned for more details and news to come!

7 Yards is a feature-length documentary that explores the resilience and perspective of myself and you get to hear from others who have come along side me over the past 10 years. In October 2010 at age 18, I suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury during a college football game. Doctors gave me just a 3 percent chance to ever move again. But I defied that diagnosis.

The film features powerful interviews, emotional reenactments and real footage from our 2018 wedding. It’s the inspirational comeback story of my journey from college athlete to medical miracle to viral inspiration and now adoptive father. I promise it will inspire you!!! Watch the trailer here

2020 Challenge & Memories

When I reflect on my 2020, I naturally think of everything that I missed out on or lost. I can think of a lot of things but who couldn’t the way this year has gone? However, when I asked myself and family what was your best moments of 2020, we all realized it was still a very special year. To name a few:

– Welcoming a child in foster care, KD 👶🏾 He is the happiest little guy I know. I could stop right there and this year would be incredible because of him.

– Being stood up by my daughter Ava at our Chris Norton Foundation dinner & raised lots of money for our wheelchair camp & mission. Plus, won big at the casino that night with my friends 😎 

– Delivering one of my best & the last live speech of the year and getting a standing ovation just days before COVID-19 shut down the U.S.

– Getting an elevator in the house so I can get up to our master bedroom, tuck in the kids to bed, and get to use my office instead of the kitchen table! 

– Having a cupcake 🧁 bake off. I was the lucky one to be the judge 😋 

– Welcoming 👦🏾 Tafari to the family and being able to take care of him temporarily. 

– Last but not least we have had all of our needs met despite the challenges. We have a safe, healthy, and happy family. ❤️


The more I reflected the more I found great moments in the past year. But don’t get me wrong… I’m so ready for 2021! 


This is my challenge for you: Come up with 7 special moments of 2020. Do it as a family! Anything that makes you smile or proud. I would love to know what you came up with!


I hope today and this week everyone takes a moment to reflect on your special & happy moments of 2020. 


Happy NYE,

Chris

Stopping Perfectionism

I am able to balance being a perfectionist by always reminding myself… I’m flawed. Not in a shameful sense but acknowledging I’m human. If I wait for the perfect moment, the perfect result, then I’ll always be waiting. Imperfections, mistakes, and failures aren’t a representation of who I am and don’t define me. They are indicators that I have some work to do. 

Researcher Carol Deweck discovered people fall into two different mindsets. Fixed and Growth. 

 

A fixed mindset is when you believe that your qualities are carved in stone. Your skills are “fixed” you either got it or you don’t. When you experience failure or difficulties with this mindset it is very unsettling because it causes you to doubt who you are as a person and your self worth. 

 

You will feel a sense of urgency to prove yourself constantly and will get defensive over mistakes. You will interpret most situations as a direct measure of your worth and competence. Therefore, you are more likely to shy away from challenging experiences because if you fail means you are a failure. You will view Effort as a sign that you aren’t good enough. 

 

A growth mindset is when you believe your qualities and skills can be improved through effort, different strategies, experience, and help from others. That a person’s potential is unknown because you can’t predict someone’s passion, effort, or training that they might undergo. Despite feeling frustrated and disappointed you will still be ready to take the risks, confront the challenges, and keep working hard. Effort is a good sign. 

 

You can probably imagine how each mindset can affect our lives… A belief that your qualities are carved in stone leads to a number of thoughts and actions, and how a belief that your qualities can be developed leads to a host of different thoughts and actions, taking you down an entirely different path.

 

The good news is you can change mindsets. They did an experiment where they separated students into two groups. One group, the control group, were taught just the basic anatomy of the brain and how intelligence is fixed. The other group was taught how the brain can develop and get smarter through learning, effort, and trying different strategies. By the end of the semester the kids taught about growth mindset saw an increase in their grades and the control group, the fixed group’s grades declined. 

 

Simply learning and understanding that you can get better, improve, and grow can help you pull away from the fixed perfectionist way of thinking that you have to be flawless.

 

We are all a work in progress. We are going to make mistakes. So make sure to give yourself some grace. 

 

Take care.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and share this blog & video with others. I appreciate your support! If you have questions that you would like to get my thoughts on please email them to me.

5 Ways to Elevate Your Mood


As a motivational speaker it’s my job to practice optimism. Thankfully by nature, I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky guy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t suffer from down days fueled by fatigue, frustration, and insecurity. These moments humble me and remind me I’m human. Therefore, in this short YouTube video I have identified 5 ways I keep my spirits up and elevate my mood. 5 ways that will change your mood around too. 

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and share this blog & video with others. I appreciate your support! If you have questions that you would like to get my thoughts on please email them to me.

Take care,

Chris 

P.S. We have coffee! 30% goes to the Chris Norton Foundation. Email debnorton2255@gmail.com to place your orders. 

Just Keep Going. A Thanksgiving Day Miracle

Hi Friend,

Ahh waiting is the worst. Waiting in line, waiting for the right partner, waiting for the pandemic to be over, and the list goes on.

10 years ago today I was anxiously waiting for a breakthrough in my recovery. It had been 5 weeks since I lost all movement below my neck. In those weeks I tirelessly worked in physical & occupational therapy and prayed. My goal was to move something in my legs and then someday walk.

I passed out in a few workouts. I vomited from exhaustion. I went to bed scared and worried about my future. I was told by a well respected neurologist that I would never move anything in my legs. Essentially trying to tell me to give it up, move on.

There was something in me that told me not to give up. Keep going. I had people in my corner telling me the same thing- “Keep going.” I did just that. I didn’t hold back. Despite all of the other reasons and logic telling me to stop.

It was Thanksgiving morning. My PT Megan came into my room for a short therapy session. It was way too early in the morning. I was groggy 🥴. But then I felt this odd sensation in my left big toe that brought me to life. Up to this point I never felt as strong of a connection with any part of my body. Then…

I wiggled it. I was elated!!! The wait was over. I was so thankful I kept going. A Thanksgiving Day miracle.

I don’t know what you are going through. What you are waiting for. I know you are frustrated, exhausted, at the end of your rope, and ready to throw in the towel, but don’t. I am here to tell you to Keep Going.

Keep working hard. Keeping putting in the time, the effort, and prayers.

Keep going. Your day will come.

Happy Thanksgiving 🍁🦃🍽 ,

Chris

Zoom Out for a Better Perspective

Hi Friend,

I’ll never forget the day my dad bought his first legit camera. It was 2001. He wasn’t a professional. He wanted to take good photos of the majestic wildlife we saw on our family trips to Yellowstone National Park. The disposable cameras he’d been using didn’t cut it. It was nearly impossible to get great shots of our family’s favorite animals—bears and wolves.

Purchasing a camera with a telephoto lens was a game changer because it allowed my Dad to take photos from a distance and increase photo quality. But there was one small issue—the camera was a manual, it didn’t have automatic focus or light adjustment. Operating it wasn’t half as easy as you might think. If you were even a hair off, the image quality suffered and you didn’t know if you messed it up until the film was developed. Plus, we never took time to learn the ins and outs of using it to its full potential.

On one particular trip as the sun was just starting to pop up from the horizon we spotted a black bear and her cubs walking across a fallen dead tree. It was an incredible site. They were only 30 yards away from the road! We pulled our vehicle over to watch. My dad grabbed out his camera and captured the incredible moment. That was the “money shot.” The rest of the trip he jokingly said, “That picture is going to be on the cover of National Geographic!”

When we returned home from vacation, we could hardly wait the three days it took for the prints to be developed. When we gathered around and opened the envelope. We were disappointed to find that more than half of the shots were blurry! Including what we thought was the “money shot” with the mama bear and her cubs. (That didn’t stop my dad from framing some of the fuzzy ones.😂).

I’ve come to realize, our happiness is a lot like my dad’s camera. Only we have the ability to sharpen and adjust what we see, but to master the craft takes practice. In order to become skilled, we must pay attention to what we’re focusing on in the first place. It’s easy to zoom in on what’s wrong, what’s missing, or what we don’t have. This will cause anxiety, stress, headache, and heartache. Zoom out, expand your perspective. Know it could always be worse. Take time to recognize what & who you have and what’s going right. We need to do this everyday in order to get through life with peace and happiness.

I have to expand my perspective a lot during the pandemic. I start focusing on the canceled speaking engagements, vacations, the soccer league our kids were signed up for, trick or treating, but even missing the little things like going to restaurants or the kids being at school. I pull myself out of that headspace by recognizing that we are all healthy, safe, together, and happy. I understand it could be worse and others do have it worse. It takes adjusting my focus and zooming out.

Is there something going in your life or in the world that you are too zoomed in on and is causing you a headache? Try zooming out and focus on what & who you do have in your life.