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KEEP GROWING

What I’ve learned from a traumatic accident

By Jim Knight
October 2021

The morning of July 4, I went for an early morning bike ride on my usual loop around my hometown. Just after starting, I hit a slippery patch on the trail, causing my wheels to go out from under me, and I crashed, shattering several bones in my hip and pelvis. I had to have extensive surgery, and I spent three weeks in two different hospitals recovering. In a flash, on that bicycle path, my life was turned upside down.

From the moment that I was lifted into the ambulance, I recognized that I was about to learn a lot. When everything about your life gets disrupted, you can always expect to start learning.

''When everything about your life gets disrupted, you can always expect to start learning.'' @jimknight99 #TheLearningPro Click To Tweet

The change I experienced tangibly and quickly taught me the obvious lesson that each day, each experience, each person is precious, and we need to value all of it because everything can change in a moment. But there are a few other lessons I have been taught as I’ve recovered.

Be patient — progress takes time. For the first eight weeks of my recovery, I saw very little progress. I was discouraged, and I worried that I might never get better. However, as I write this, I am getting ready to walk without crutches, and each day, I am taking tiny steps forward.

Progress, I’ve learned, especially at the start, can be hard to see. Wise people stop doing things that aren’t working, but they also need to guard against recklessly giving up before seeing results. Our obsession with quick fixes can keep us from seeing real fixes.

Progress takes time. Our obsession with quick fixes can keep us from seeing real fixes. — @jimknight99 #TheLearningPro Click To Tweet

Disrupt your routines to find new inspiration. Like most people, I have a long list of tasks I need to complete, and each day I put my head down and try to do them all. After my crash, I couldn’t do any of my scheduled tasks. Suddenly I had time to think, and that led to an explosion of ideas like I’ve never experienced before. Sometimes doing nothing might be the best work we can do.

''Sometimes doing nothing might be the best work we can do.'' — @jimknight99 #TheLearningPro Click To Tweet

Plan to be inclusive. My injury helped me see how easy it is to unintentionally exclude people we want to include. I often had experiences that were designed for everyone, but which I couldn’t enjoy. For example, I read a short column on self-care, and every suggestion involved walking, something that was impossible for me.

As I move forward, I hope that I will think more carefully about how to include everyone. A simple act, such as using a microphone to ensure that everyone hears, can make a huge difference.

Look for beauty. When I got home from the hospital, I decided to fill my days with the music of J.S. Bach, listening to different compositions each day as I went about the dull, slow work of healing. My daily music ritual has done more than distract me — it has fed my soul.

Whether we experience beauty in the still, quiet of the morning, or in Captain America comics, or in the laugher of a 2-year old, beauty breathes life into us. Especially when times are tough, we need to make time for beauty because beauty will get us through.

Remember that people are good. One of the hardest parts of my injury was that I couldn’t do the tasks I had planned to do. It’s hard to give a Zoom workshop when you’re in a hospital bed taking painkillers. Within hours, my colleagues selflessly volunteered to do my work, adding more to their plates to take everything off my plate. They told me, “Don’t worry, we’ve got this. Just get better.”

Recognizing the fundamental goodness of other people might be my most important lesson. Throughout my injury, family, friends, coworkers, and complete strangers have put down what they are doing to help me do what I need to do. This was important for me to see.

Recognizing the fundamental goodness of other people might be my most important lesson learned from my accident. — @jimknight99 #TheLearningPro Click To Tweet

I’ve seen so much hatred, division, and fear in our world that I had begun to wonder whether human compassion no longer existed. But since my crash, I have no doubt that people care deeply for each other. Caring is our default mode. That’s a lesson I hope I never forget.



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Jim Knight (jim@instructionalcoaching.com) is a senior partner at the Instructional Coaching Group and a senior research associate at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning.


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