Every once in a while, someone comes along and shows us how it’s done. They shine like a beacon of freedom, majesty, and inspiration – and all of us can learn from what they did to become stronger and more successful ourselves. This week, we focus on the undeniable boss-ness of W Mitchell.
The next time you think you have it rough, the next time you think the world’s against you, I want you to remember W Mitchell.
You might be thinking, “Who the hell is W Mitchell?” To that son, I say, take a seat and listen.
We start this man’s tale in San Francisco in 1971. W Mitchell was a former U.S. Marine and was now a cable car gripman and a hobbyist pilot (#BossHobby). He has worked his ass off to buy a cool motorcycle, and naturally, he decided it was a good idea to ride this motorcycle over to his girlfriend’s place and show it off to her – and while he was riding over to her place, that’s when it happened: a laundry truck slammed into him, which – no joke – somehow knocked off the gas cap of the motorcycle, doused him in gasoline, and ignited.
W Mitchell sustained catastrophic burns to 65 percent of his body and was left with stubs of fingers and not much a face. He was 28.
Instead of whining about it and feeling sorry for himself, he got after it, underwent tons of skin grafts, and just stopped caring what people thought about his appearance. There were always folks that would look at him like a monster, and he made the conscious decision to stop caring about what they thought.
A few years later, when he had finally crushed this obstacle and moved to a small town in Colorado, guess what? He was piloting a plane when it stalled out and crashed. W Mitchell tried to pull himself out of the plane, but he couldn’t – he was now paralyzed from the waist down.
Well, that’s a crap hand W’s been dealt, right? Surely, whining would be acceptable now. I mean, most people are apt to whine when they get a parking ticket – so whining about two consecutive critical injuries would be OK, right?
Maybe to you, but W Mitchell has some damn standards, and his #BossLife-ness refuses to accept self-pity. Instead of feeling sorry about himself, he crafted a way of thinking. It was based on the idea that while we can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we respond to it. In fact, that was the basis of the book he wrote called It’s Not What Happens to You, It’s What You Do About It. Dude became competent in a wheelchair despite incomplete, burned hands, and he focused so hard on how awesome it was that he survived these accidents that instead of feeling depressed, he was the happiest guy in town. Here he is in his own words:
“Before I was paralyzed, there were 10,000 things I could do. Now there are 9,000. I can dwell on the 1,000 I lost, or I can concentrate on the 9,000 that are left.”
W Mitchell has never been one for “dwelling,” so he focused on the 9,000 – and apparently one of those was governance because he decided to run for mayor of Crested Butte, Colorado. His message was that “he wouldn’t be just another pretty face” because W Mitchell was so comfortable with himself that he could taunt you with savage self-deprecating jokes like that.
Oh yeah, and he won.
Today, W Mitchell is a millionaire living in California with a second home in Hawaii. W Mitchell took more cold shit from life than most people could ever imagine, but instead of breaking, he rolled with it. If he can do it against all odds, then what can you do with average luck?