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Michael Powell Lost His Dream Career, and It's the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Him


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"Opportunity knocks for everyone, but most people don't have their bags packed or aren't listening for the doorbell."

Michael Powell was in the army for 25 years before an injury made him rethink his whole career. Here's how he got his strength back—and why he calls it the best thing that ever happened to him.

Some of our favorite excerpts:

"Well, you know, to be honest with you, most of the time, things came and found me more than me taking conscious paths. And I actually pretty much believe in that philosophy. I teach kids who come to me, opportunity knocks for everybody. But most people don't have their bags packed. Or they haven't been listening for the doorbell."

"I think that that's more of what I was taught, both from my parents, and from the systems I was in, what to do. You know, I loved the Army. It was what I wanted to do my whole life. It was what my father had done. I went there with fire, brimstone, and passion. I did choose that path. That path was both obvious for me, and passionate for me.

The Army's very lockstep. You do this, you get this for rank. Then you go to ROTC. Then you graduate, you get commission. Go in the Army. I didn't have to make a lot of decisions about how all that works, it happens for me. And then one day I went to an exercise at 6:00 in the morning. And at 6:00 p.m. that night I'm in a German hospital with a smashed spine, and a broken cradle, and a broken career.

And, you know, you couldn't have told me that morning that was gonna happen to me. And I spent a year in the hospital, tryin' to just learn how to walk again. And all of a sudden the career that you thought for 25 years was gonna be what you were doin' for the rest of your life, has been ripped away from you. I had no choice in the matter."

"And what are you gonna do, you know? So learning to be resilient. And I teach kids you're not gonna get a pass. Life's gonna hit you, too, somehow. I hope not this badly. But when it does, that's when you're tested. You know? What do you do now? How do you adapt to that? when you can do that well your brain and your mind are open to that. And you'll go paths you never thought you might go."

Published in: Career