Turning Tragedy Into Triumph with Michael O’Brien

Michael O’Brien is the founder of Peloton Coaching & Consulting, and the author of “Shift: Creating Better Tomorrows“.
Before Michael’s Last Bad Day (i.e., when a white SUV hit him head-on while he was out training on his bike), he was a successful sales professional and marketing director. But he felt burdened by the same stress that you and your team feel every day. Michael shares, there were many days when Michael lacked the energy, enthusiasm, and inspiration to break down his work silos, ease the drama, and get closer to being his best.  His recovery from his near-death cycling experience was the catalyst to the seminal shift that changed his perspective, mindset, and actions. It put him on a different path to create better tomorrows at work and in life.

Favorite Success Quote

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Have fun storming the castle!” – The Princess Bride

Key Points

1. The Start of A Professional Career

Michael’s interview begins with an incredibly fascinating story about an ad.  After graduating from James Madison University, he lived in Washington D.C. to pursue a career.  One of the first things he did was place an ad in the back of the Washington City Paper.  He proclaims that this is the best piece of content he ever created.  Listen to the interview to hear how Michael found his incredible wife Lynn.  They just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.  To hear the full story, listen from the 2-minute mark on the player above.

2. The Be, Do, Have Life Trap

Michael began his career life through living a do, have, be lifestyle.  You work your self hard in order to have a whole bunch of material possessions in order to Be happy.  This is a form of conditionalizing one’s life.  Have you ever said to yourself, “I’ll be happy once I have …”?
He thought he had to be Superman at home and at work.  He was doing a lot with a lot of pressure.  He recalls repressing all the stress he was feeling.  It was accumulating inside due to chasing happiness.  Do your best to avoid overusing or only using this approach to life as it will not fulfill you or make you happy.

3. Michael’s “Last Bad Day” Wake Up Call

On July 11th, 2001, Michael was in Phoenix, Arizona for a company meeting. One morning, Michael went biking to clear his head and get some exercise.  On his fourth lap, he got hit head-on by a Ford Explorer while biking one morning on lap four of his workout.  He still remembers the sound of his body smashing into this car and the screeching tires, and the thud of his body hitting the road below.  Due to the severity of his accident, Michael needed immediate medical attention.  He had been knocked unconscious and he could not move. Fortunately, there were EMT’s at the hotel Michael was staying at.    A trauma helicopter was called which flew Michael 19 minutes to the nearest trauma center.  He fractured numerous bones, but the most threatening injury was an exploded left femur.  The shattered femur lacerated the femoral artery.  He needed 34 units of blood product his first surgery.  While on his helicopter flight, he committed to himself that, “If you live Michael, you’re going to stop chasing happiness.”  He remembers every minute of this flight.  He was in the ICU for about 4 days following his accident.  He explains July 11, 2001, as his last bad day.
Many of us are living a do, have, be style of life instead of being present.  This is because we are busy “doing stuff”.  Michael explains this accident as a big pause button for his life.  When he came out of the ICU, the doctor told Michael that the driver had had a revoked license, and they shared that Michael would now have a lifetime of decency and be required to have numerous surgeries.  This was a dark chapter in his life.  He became consumed with anger, bitterness, and fell into a funk.
On his flight back to New Jersey, he recalls an encouraging quote from Viktor Frankl.
We are not defined by our life’s events, but we are defined by how we react to the events that happen in our lives.  He also realized that all the events in his life were neutral until he decides to label them.

4. Rehab

Michael realized that he could label July 11, 2001, in a lot of different ways.  He made the decision that that would be his last bad day.  Yes he would have struggles, but he would end each day with gratitude.  He became determined to chose how he labeled each event that happened in his life.  To generate lasting “sticky” change, we must strive for one degree improvements day after day.  While he was going through rehab, he used the angled measurement device to motivate him.  He recalls being forced to bend his leg, and it hurt badly.  He strove to gain just 1 degree more of flexion with each rehab session, realizing that day after day of one-degree improvements would add up.  He began comparing this process to his life.

Heart Healthy Hustle Round

Heart: What activity do you use to care for and strengthen your internal character?

Michael spends a lot of time on his bike.  Michael uses time on his bike to analyze if he is leading with love and honoring his values.  He uses certain rides to ask himself, “How am I showing up in the world?  Am I showing up in service to others?”

He spends time working on his self-narrative.  He meditates at times, as well as checking in with himself and taking time for himself to develop.  This ensures that he is better for all those around him and those he serves directly.

Health: How do you maintain your physical health and avoid burn out?

Biking, core strength focus, flexibility, and breathing.  Being outdoors is impactful as well.  Michael strives to spend time in nature as he notices it fuels his health.  He shares that he has “grazing” habits and that in 2019 he is going to be more mindful of his food intake and “grazing” habits.
Foods Michael enjoys protein smoothies, whole foods, and good meals.  Michael shares that his wife is an incredible chef and this helps him to eat real food.  If you really want to be at your best, limit your sugar intake.

Hustle: What’s your main motivation for doing what you do and hustling to the max of your potential?

He believes he lived through his accident for a reason.  Michael believes one of the reasons he lived through his accident was to share his story.  He aims to help people become more aware of the way they are living their life.  He wants to move people into action and help others become the wealthiest person they know, while simultaneously maintining your joy and happiness.  He believes that by pursuing work like this, he can help other people avoid their “SUV” accident.

“The Park Bench Paradigm”

If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self and why?

“Michael, you need to start breathing more.  Make sure you pause as you keep pedaling.”

“You need to have a conversation with mom and dad about how they want their life to be, as they get older and past retirement age.”

Influential Books

The Alchemist by Paulo Cahelo

How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life

Thanks A Thousand: A Grattitude Journey

Connect with Michael O’Brien

Michael’s Book: Shift: Creating Better Tomorrows: Winning at Work and in Life


Instagram: @michaelobrienshift

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