It’s Ok to Fold

I love playing poker, specifically Texas Hold-Em. Like life, with poker it’s not just about the hand you are dealt but how you play the hand. One of the hardest things is knowing when to fold. A frequent error people make when playing, which I have been guilty of too, is justifying reckless betting because you were “pot committed.” Meaning you have committed/bet so many of your chips early on into the pot that folding wouldn’t make sense due to your chip stack.

However, I see players falsely use this term because they didn’t want to fold and lose the chips they have already bet, but ended up losing more by sticking around. It’s not easy giving up on something you have given so much into because it feels like a waste or failure.

This happens a lot. Not just in poker but in life. People get “pot committed” to businesses, careers, relationships, goals, beliefs, identities, or expectations. You hold onto something so closely and for so long it’s hard to let go. You make a commitment and when you see it’s not going in the right direction you feel obligated to not give up on it and see it through to the end.

A few painful things I have had to give up on was being a football player and being this physically strong macho man, husband, and father. What I have come to discover is true strength lies within us, which was not easy to grasp when I spent so much of my life early on trying to acquire physical strength. By giving up on the idea that physical strength is the most important thing has helped me immensely live a more happy and fulfilling life.

There are tons of examples of people changing course and giving up on a dream that led to accomplishing something new. Like Ray Kroc spent most of his career selling milkshake devices but gave up on that career to buy McDonald’s at age 52 and it’s now the world’s biggest fast-food franchise.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has transitioned careers multiple times. He dreamed of playing in the NFL but when that didn’t work out he became a professional wrestler with only $7 bucks in his pocket. After rising to the top of wrestling he transitioned to acting and is now the highest paid actor.

Now there are some things you or I shouldn’t ever give up on. For me, it’s my faith, family, or living. My point is that it’s ok to fold, give up, pivot, readjust, stop, or change course. Live life with an open mind, flexibility, and being ready to adapt. In fact, by doing so can save you so much heartache, energy, stress, headache, or will help you discover new passions.

What’s something in your life that is time to fold?

Why I Screamed Freedom

Waking up after my spinal cord surgery was a surreal feeling. It felt like I woke up in the Twilight Zone or in a never ending nightmare.

At 18 years old I thought I was invincible and nothing like this could happen. So hearing I had a 3% chance to move or feel anything below the neck was difficult to process.

I am wondering if you feel or have felt like this over the past month? I have. How things have altered and changed so unexpectedly from COVID-19 feels like a bad dream. It has been difficult to process. Some are experiencing a tougher blow from the changes than others but nonetheless we are all feeling it.

If you are like me, your mind can’t help but race to how great things were before all the flurry of changes occurred.

When I was lying there in the hospital I thought-

Yesterday at this time… I was walking.

I was suiting up for my college football game.

Now I’m lying here in the hospital paralyzed, with only a 3% chance of ever moving from the neck down. How can this be?

I took for granted the things I was able to do before my accident. Like being independent and doing simple everyday tasks.

I longed for a sliver of freedom but at the moment I couldn’t even support the weight of my head on my neck. I couldn’t get out of bed. The only way to move me was to get lifted by a hoyer lift onto a large power chair. Once seated I still didn’t have enough strength to even use the joystick to drive. So I just sat there… or had to let my dad drive me which usually ended up with him crashing me into walls. LOL

Then a few days later came the day I mustered up enough strength to gently push on the joystick and drive. It was an incredible feeling as if I just got my driver’s license and handed the keys to a new car. I wanted to scream “FREEDOM” like Mel Gibson from Braveheart as I inched through the halls of the hospital.

There is only one thing that could make driving a powered wheelchair so special, perspective. I vividly remember the feeling of not moving anything at all and having no freedom. To this day I try to recall those early days in the hospitals. It reminds me that life can change on a whim for the worse, and that perspective feeds my gratitude. I now understand that our most important strength isn’t always physical but instead mental. That moving independently even in a wheelchair is an incredible blessing for example. The list goes on of the things I’m so appreciative of.

Ironically, I’m currently realizing all that I have taken for granted pre COVID-19. Like my kids being at school, shuttling our girls to softball or dance practices and games, going to our favorite sushi restaurant, being around friends, family, or strangers, and even all of the travel for my speaking events.

I’m sure you could make your own list of things you have taken for granted … Here is what can be so special and powerful about the moment we are going through, it now gives us perspective.

When the world and life finally get back to normal and in a good routine do yourself a favor and don’t forget what this moment feels like. Let it serve as a reminder of how quickly life can change. Grow stronger from this time and award yourself with more gratitude by having the perspective that things could be worse. Use that perspective to appreciate the little things you took for granted.

Stay grateful.

 

I have Crazy Coworkers

As a kid I loved shooting baskets in my backyard. ⛹️‍♂️There was something therapeutic about shooting by myself and watching the ball go through the net. One thing I hated the most though was when you release a 3pt shot that has the right trajectory, arch and backspin then all of a sudden… the wind takes it and is blown sideways. Brick. 🌬🏀

Despite logic telling me otherwise, I still expected to make the same number of shots with the wind blowing as I did with no wind 🤦‍♂️. As you would imagine this just got me more frustrated. It is difficult shooting baskets in bad conditions like wind 💨 rain 🌧 or snow ❄️. After some time I would stop the suffering by moving closer to the hoop.

Although I was unable to work on everything I wanted to practice, I knew I should get something done and be somewhat productive with my time. I couldn’t control the weather so I was forced to adjust what I practiced and my expectations. I stayed away from shooting long distances and stayed in close focusing on my shooting form or ball handling.

Right now with COVID-19 we are dealing with unfavorable conditions. What you had in mind for your business or work probably has been blown sideways. For me, I WANT to get as much done as I did before the virus but now that I share office space with 5 crazy kids I am interrupted every 5 minutes. Kids, A.K.A. my crazy coworkers, don’t respect office hours. I am figuring out that if I want to keep my sanity and not beat myself up then I need to change my expectations. It is unrealistic to think I can be as productive as I was before the pandemic.

So what I am getting at is don’t be too hard on yourself with these conditions. You can’t expect to be as productive, hit all of your goals or projections you had for you or your business at this time. Keep your sanity by adjusting your goals to something manageable or achievable.

I’m not saying you should do nothing and be lazy all day, but just lower the bar or change it up. For example, I’m going to see how many books I can finish. Typically I don’t take time to read during the day. I am going to make the most of the extra time I spend with my family. Perhaps for you it’s a spring cleaning project like a junk drawer or the garage. What will your adjusted goals look like?

 

“That was the thing about the world: it wasn’t that things were harder than you thought they were going to be, it was that they were hard in ways that you didn’t expect.”
― Lev Grossman

What should have been… 😭

Wow! The COVID-19 pandemic has altered SO MUCH. I’m sure you could finish this sentence due to the pandemic, I should have been _____.

Today, our family should have been packing for our spring break trip. I should have been checking my basketball bracket to see how poorly I did with my March Madness tournament picks. I should be preparing for all of my spring speaking events 😭.

This pandemic has changed, disrupted, and destroyed so much more than a basketball tournament or a trip. Schools, graduations, proms, jobs, businesses, lives and so much more have taken a hit.

It is very easy to start thinking about what should have been… While it is natural to feel this way, these words can get us in trouble by focusing too much on what’s out of our control. When done too often can distract us from the present and future possibilities. We must resist the temptation to dwell on what cannot be undone.

I have fallen into this trap before, many times actually. One in particular happened when I visited Luther College just 7 months after my injury. I was there to tour their accessible housing. It would be my new home away from home starting in the fall.

After the tour, my buddies and I went to the end of the year football meeting. Our coach discussed summer workouts, the expectations for next season, and how the younger players will need to step up in big ways to fill the spots left by the graduating seniors.

I came into the meeting with a smile and joking around with friends. However, once the coach started to talk about players stepping up, I felt my spirits dissipate as I envied the opportunity my teammates had. I couldn’t help but think That should have been me he was addressing… I should be getting my body and mind ready for next season… I dreamed about being a college football All-American and leading my team to a conference championship.

And. It. Was. Gone. Never. Happening.

I fought back the tears. I did my best to bury it and put a smile on my face. Later that night I grieved that dream knowing it would never be realized.

The next day I forcefully turned my focus to what can be done. This wouldn’t be my last past painful reminder of what should have been. It’s very human to feel that way but what is imperative is not letting the pain linger for too long. I believe this is one of my greatest strengths- Grieving then moving on quickly to what can be done.

The most important part to any disappointment or loss is to grieve- to acknowledge the hurt and pain you are experiencing. To just let it out or as Emily & I tell our kids, “Don’t carry around your stink, flush it.” 🚽

We don’t mean to bury it but to let out what’s bothering them. It’s like releasing an invisible & smelly weight that you have been carrying. Once they let go of what was weighing them down it is amazing to see how their demeanor changes.

My friends Marc & Angel Chernoff tell a story about their psychology professor. The professor holds up a glass of water and asks the class how much the glass of water weighs. The class shouts out different answers. Then he asks, “Is it heavy?” The whole class answers “no.”

The professor tells the class that how light it is won’t matter as much depending on how long you hold it for. Because how heavy will the glass feel if you hold it for a minute, an hour, a day, or a year? The longer you hold something the heavier it will feel.

It is no different than when we hold onto our past pain and disappointments. The quicker we can let go! AKA Flush it, the better we will feel. Then you can start moving on in a healthy manner.

What in your life needs flushed? 💩🚽

A Complete Stranger Did This?!

Yes, it’s true, not all heroes wear capes. I still can’t believe a complete stranger did this for my family just 2 weeks after my injury…

My parents and sisters were dividing their time between a hotel room across the street and my hospital room to ensure that at all times —there was always at least one family member with me.

One evening as we are hanging out in my hospital room there is a knock at my door. My dad opens it, and there stood a man in his late sixties.

The guy says,
“I know this is going to sound totally random, but I read an article about your son in the newspaper. My wife and I felt compelled to help in any way we could, so I got in the car and drove over to offer you to use our 3 bedroom condo while we are out of town for the next six months for the winter. It’s only 10 minutes from the hospital. It would be a place for you all to stay, shower, and do laundry. It sure would mean a lot to us if we could help.”

My stunned dad says, “Wow, that is incredibly generous of you, but you don’t know us. We’re complete strangers.”

The man says, “Sharing our condo is a way we can help. Please come on over and tour the place, meet with my wife and I. We’d be honored.”

So the next day, my parents had a tour of their home. And the man was right—the condo could not have been more perfect. It was close to the hospital and it helped us, as well as family and friends to avoid expensive hotel bills when they came to visit.

When you watch the news it can feel like we live in a dark and heartless world, but since my injury my family and I have actually discovered the opposite to be true. Time and time again we’re reminded just how many good people there actually are here on earth — like the generosity of a total stranger who was compelled to help us in anyway he could.

Speaking of generosity, it’s incredible to think 7 years ago we had a dream to start the Chris Norton Foundation. A nonprofit that could make things a little easier for those navigating life with a wheelchair.

As a result of this dream and our efforts, we have impacted thousands. Of course none of this would have been possible without you, the love and support of so many capeless heroes—

Your support has touched people’s lives in countless ways…

It is because of you that Rylee has a camp to look forward to all year long. Here is her story—

Rylee and her family’s smile says it all doesn’t it?

While I’m blown away by how far we’ve come and what we have done, I’m also completely humbled by how far we still have to go.

So please remember this:

It’s YOU, the capeless heroes that make this foundation go…

and it’s YOU that helps us grow.

Special thank you to everyone who came out to the Overcoming Adversity Dinner this past month 🤩 it was an incredible evening. Not only did we raise a record high $110k that night but my daughter Ava (10yr) stood me up at the end of my speech in front of 490 people!

Thanks to everyone, our “Capeless Heroes” who support our mission and our wheelchair camp. 🙏🏻

 

Overcoming Ignorance and Embracing Acceptance

I had a frustrating experience the other day. A technician came over to look at our A/C unit. Emily and I greeted him at the door, showed him where the unit was then I went back to helping Lily & Ava with homework and Emily went upstairs to help Ariana.

A little while later he calls out “ma’am… ma’am” I turn around and say, “She’s upstairs but you can let me know what’s going on.” He looks at me then turns around and just walks out… I sat there stunned, but thought to myself, “maybe he didn’t hear me?”

When I got back to the table my kids were appalled 😮 as they witnessed the entire thing. They couldn’t believe he had done that and how rude he was to me. As soon as Emily came down they had to tell her.

I’m so quick to brush off those kind moments and not give it a second thought. I’ve had similar experiences where people discount me because of my wheelchair. However, having my kids there to witness it happening to me, and their refusal to let it go, forced me to reevaluate the situation.

It’s crazy how quickly people judge or write someone off based on their appearance. At the end of the day I don’t think the repairman, or anyone who has judged me in the past, has been intentionally “mean” towards me. Rather, I believe these people acted out of ignorance.

I can’t imagine how my friends feel who are physically disabled and unable to talk but are so intelligent & aware. These situations probably happen to them daily.

These moments reinforce the importance of exposing yourself to new & different people. It can be as simple as volunteering for a nonprofit that supports people who are different from you like a homeless shelter or my wheelchair camp.

I know that starting the wheelchair camp in the first place has taught me so many valuable lessons, and our decision to bring our kids to the camp last year has given them a completely different outlook on people that are different from them. For the most part, it has taught them that we share so many more similarities with other people than we do differences.

The more we understand and get to know each other the quicker we’ll be able to move past ignorance and embrace acceptance.