Preventing Bad Moments From Turning Into Bad Days With Michael O’Brien


Sometimes, it takes one traumatic moment to really change your life for the better. These are the things that can really open your eyes to your future. That's exactly what happened to Michael O'Brien. Michael is the Executive Business Coach of Peloton Executive Coaching and serves on the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association global board. He is also a speaker, a cyclist, and the author of the book Shift: Creating Better Tomorrows; Winning at Work and in Life. In this episode, Tony Martignetti talks with Michael about how you can prevent those bad moments from turning into bad days. Pause, breathe, and reflect through several of Michael's life-changing flashpoints and understand how he became the person he is today.


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Preventing Bad Moments From Turning Into Bad Days With Michael O’Brien

It is my honor to introduce my guest, Michael O'Brien. Michael is the Chief Shift Officer at Peloton Executive Coaching and he serves on the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association global board. As a coach, speaker and bestselling author, he helps leaders build resilience and prevents bad moments from turning into a bad day. Michael's going to get into a lot more of the details of his past as we dig into his flashpoint moments on the show. I want to welcome you to the show, Michael.

Thanks for having me. I have everything ready for s’mores later because you cannot have a campfire without Graham Cracker, marshmallow and chocolate. We'll make some of those bad boys as we have our little convo.

Someday, this virtual campfire is going to be just the campfire and we're going to have some in-person conversations. It's going to be beautiful.

It will be.

I'm so thrilled to have you on. I've been a huge fan of all the things that you do. I have my Pause, Breathe, Reflect shirts and my copy of your book. I'm a huge fan. I'm looking forward to digging into your story and sharing on in this space for people to learn from what you've gone through. With that, I want to share for the people who are not aware of how we do this, we do this through what's called a flashpoint. A point in your story that's ignited your gifts into the world. There could be one or they could be many. As you're sharing your story, let's pause along the way and see what themes are showing up and what we want to touch on. With that, I want to turn it over to you so you can share your story and go from there.

My story starts in Rochester, New York, where I grew up. The suburbs, I would say lower middle class. We were more motel than hotel people. The folks can sing along, “Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn, but we were drive-up motel folks. My mom was a nurse and my dad was in sales. One flashpoint moment was the day I came off the training wheels on my bike. I still vividly remember that. I was the last kid on my block to come off of training wheels. There was a lot of teasing too that I was a little bit of a baby because I still had my training wheels and all that. That moment I was like, “I can go anywhere now.”

For me, the bike could take me far away even though at that moment, when you were 4 or 5, down the block but it seems far away. It was my first moment where I felt like I had independence and I could explore. For that moment, I fell in love with the bicycle and that love affair had continued through elementary school and into middle school. Although not necessarily getting into racing, I just loved being on my bike. I had a paper route back in the day. I used my bike to do that because I wasn't old enough to drive.

Another flashpoint was when it came to college. My parents didn't go to college. They went to tech schools to get business knowledge. My mom was an LPN, not an RN. She didn't go to a four-year institution. I was the first kid in the immediate family to go to a four-year university and I wanted to go away. This whole, I want to go away and I want to have some experiences.They were like, “No, you’re going to stick at home. Everyone sticks at home. What's wrong with Rochester?” Rochester is a beautiful town. Good people in Upstate New York. Some of the most beautiful people live in Upstate New York,” but I was like, “There's a whole other world out there.”

Chasing happiness while being stressed is like a hamster on a wheel grinding it out.

I had never traveled. The biggest trip we ever went on was Maine for a two-week vacation to a motel. That's where my dad's family would all go. We'd go to Howard Johnson's for our clam boat. That was where we were. We went to Toronto because my favorite baseball team is the Toronto Blue Jays because what American kid doesn't grow up wishing to play for Canada’s team with America's pastime, that was me. I wanted to get away from college and they were like, “You're going to stay here in Rochester.”

The first year I did, I stayed in Rochester. I commuted to a four-year institution from our home and that whole year I was nonstop on their nerves. I need to go away to college. I need to have some freedom. Eventually, I went to school down in Virginia, James Madison University. That led me to DC after college, my first job selling copiers. I wanted to combine career-wise what my dad did, sales and what my mom did, healthcare. I thought if I could sell something that was worth selling that would be cool. At that time, that was the late 1980s or early 1990s, pharmaceutical sales were becoming a little bit more of a thing and I became a pharmaceutical sales rep. I could talk to doctors about medicine and I thought I could do well by doing good.

I did that first job and that first year I met my wife. I was in debt because I didn't know how to manage my money coming out of college. I had a lot of student loan debt because my parents didn't save for my college. I had to work through college to pay for college and then I didn't know how to use a credit card leaving college. In commission sales as you have in copier sales, some months are like you're going out and buying drinks for everyone. You're 22, you're not that sharp, to be honest. No offense to anyone, 22-year-olds out there except for Taylor Swift. She was sharp at 22.

I was spending money like I was printing it. I wasn't printing it. I got into a little credit card debt. I had to ask my dad for a bailout. That was another flashpoint that made me financially responsible. I knew I had to amp up my game in terms of my financial health because that was embarrassing asking my dad for a loan because I was irresponsible with my credit cards. I got the pharmaceutical gig and I thought I was making big money.

I was making $30,000 a year, $8,000 bonus. I had a company car and I met my wife later that year through a personal ad in the Washington City Paper. It was the first ad I've ever written in my life. It was the best ad I've written in my life. I never did a personal. She never did a personal. This was before This is the back of the freebie paper in DC. I was looking for some people to hang out with like go to clubs, concerts. I met my wife and we've been married for many years. It worked out and then we moved to New Jersey for a little bit more adventure for my career. We had our first daughter in DC. We had our second daughter here in New Jersey.

VCP 92 | Bad Moments

In 2001, I had probably the biggest flashpoint I have. On my last bad day, I was out in New Mexico for a company meeting. If LinkedIn was a thing back then, things would have looked good, Tony. Great gig, marketing director, making more money than I ever thought I would make coming out of college, sort of bettered my parents. I could stay in hotels, not motels. I could provide for my kids. It looks good. Two amazing daughters, healthy, smart and beautiful and great marriage but I was so stressed inside.

I was just chasing happiness, I was on the hamster wheel and I was grinding it out. I didn't know how to run my finances coming out of college but I didn't know how to process my stress so I just packed it inside. An avid cycler still. I was trying to get back into racing after the birth of our second daughter. I brought the bike out for the meeting thinking I get some training and because the race was coming up. That morning of July 11th, 2001 a Ford Explorer crossed the centerline of the road and hit me head-on going about 40 miles an hour.

I was going about 20-ish then it’s everything you learned in high school physics. When something's going 20 and something's going 40, it makes for a powerful energetic collision. I remember everything about that morning. The sound of me hitting his grill, the sound of me going into the windshield. I still can remember vividly the sound of the screech of his brakes and I got knocked unconscious as you would imagine. I regained consciousness. When I did, I asked a question that only another cyclist can appreciate. I asked them, “How's my bike?” I was in the worst pain of my life and I'm cracking a joke because that was how I dealt with hard moments. I would try to use humor to diffuse it because I was not comfortable with some tough moments and they were like, “Your bike's fine.” A total lie. The bike was totally destroyed.

They were like, “Try to focus on yourself and breathe.” I knew by their reaction that my life was in question. When they put me on the medivac, which I tried to convince them that wasn't the wise thing to do because I was scared of flying back then. I was like, “I don't want to go on the helicopter. I’ve never been on a helicopter.” “Mr. O’Brien, we need to get you on the helicopter. We're too far away from the hospital.” We had to fly to Albuquerque, a nineteen-minute flight. It would have been a 45 or 55-minute drive, far too long.

They were wise because I broke a whole bunch of everything that day. What was life and death was the left femur shattered and when it did, it lacerated the femoral artery of my left leg. I was, in essence, bleeding out in the middle of New Mexico. I got on that helicopter. When I got on the helicopter, I made a bargain with myself that, “Michael, if you live, you're going to stop chasing happiness.” It was one of those bargains you make when you feel like your end is near. I had no idea how to do it. “Sounds good, let's do this thing. You're going to stop chasing happiness and be present, and all that jazz.

Some people use humor to defuse tough moments.

They flew me to Albuquerque. The first surgery lasted about 10 or 12 hours depending on when you hit go. I had 34 units of blood product for that first day. I spent the next four days and change in the ICU.  The doctors told my wife, “Your husband's been in a bad accident. We did the best we could. The next 72 hours are going to be critical. We're not sure how he survived. If he was ten years older and not in shape, he would have died before he got to the hospital.” She was like, “What?” All of a sudden, our world, which was a flashpoint for all of us, got turned upside down. What do you do then? We got a 3.5-year-old daughter, a 7-month-old daughter and now your husband's fighting for his life in Albuquerque and we lived in New Jersey. That was a big one. I came out of the ICU and the rest is a story that starts off rough but it does end well because we're here talking with a virtual campfire in between us. That was definitely one of the big flashpoints.

We'll go from here but this moment here for us to step back into the story and say, first of all, thank you for sharing that. That's powerful. This relationship you have with wanting to be independent but then realizing that you need others around to support you, to teach you lessons and to keep you going is interesting to see that you're always driven for that independence. When you had that moment that stopped you in your tracks, the most major flashpoint moment in your entire life. I don't think that's understating it at all.

It's definitely the biggest flashpoint, a big boom flashpoint.

You'll never forget the sound of those breaks for sure. That moment gets you thinking, “I have to reprioritize how I look at things, how I think about my life, how I approached that pursuit of happiness and what it all means.” It's funny how we wait until those moments in life that instead of doing them when we're not in peril, when we're not having these dramatic moments in life but it's those moments that wake us up.

They do. That whole thing about independence, I wasn't necessarily one that dove into school all that much. My parents didn't stress it. The main ingredient to my relationship with my dad was sports. A lot of the sports he loved like bowling because it's Upstate New York, you're a bowler and golf and stuff were more like individual sports. You see at the end the guy holding up the trophy or like Eric Heiden in the Olympics in Lake Placid, all these moments. Certainly, there are lots of team moments and I played baseball and stuff but there was this, “That's what I want to be.You dream and stare up at the wall.

I had all these posters in my bedroom like a lot of kids do and they were all individual athletes. It wasn't necessarily any team one. I was like, “That's what I want.” I have to do more to be more. It is even more common now with social media because we have this FOMO and comparison. It's far more toxic now than back in 2001 because we didn't have social media back then. I had enough of it through those regular four channels on the TV, ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS. That was just Sesame Street. I had definitely a lot of that.

Switching gears a bit to the moments that lead up to our big moments because I do think life is a collection of our moments. A lot of folks will ask me, “Do you need to go through something like you went through to wake up?” I'm like, “No, you don't.” What I'm trying to share with people is that you don't need that moment. You can avoid your SUV but you have to live life with awareness. I wasn't living life with much awareness. I was like woke up, got on the hamster wheel, grind it out and you miss your moment.

Although I don't have the data points specifically but I completely believe that I had plenty of moments that led up to my accident where the universe, God or Mother Nature said, “Michael, not good. Here's a choice.” I was like, “God, universe, Mother Nature, too busy. I got to grind it. I got to do more to be more. I don't have time for you.” I blew past it until they had a conference call, maybe on Zoom and said, “This character, O'Brien, down there. He isn’t getting it. Maybe we want to give him something he can get,” and they sent me that SUV. It forced me to pause.

VCP 92 | Bad Moments


There was no way around it but I believe I missed plenty of smaller moments where if I had awareness, I could have made subtle shifts before and avoided the whole accident. I will also say, “I'm grateful that I missed those” because the accident has shaped me into the person I am. It has given me a little bit of a different platform to spread this message to help others. Had it not been for my accident, I might not have this opportunity to connect with you, Tony, and your readers or with anyone else and share this important message about how we're living our lives.

It's beautiful that you said that because there is an element of sometimes hearing people tell their story. First of all, I want to say that's part of the reason why I love doing the show is that I love sharing people's stories because there's an element of helping others through this process of sharing the moments that have changed people's lives and transformed them into who they are. Sometimes you get stuck in this place of, I haven't had anything major happen to me, or they have this trauma envy. You need to have a moment of trauma and therefore because you didn't have that moment, you feel like you're missing out. Don't feel that way. Each person's story is unique in its own way.

Sometimes those signals that are showing up in your life, you need to listen more, get quieter, listen more to what's happening and see what shows up. I love that you brought in the pause because I keep on saying how it seems simple yet it's the most powerful thing people can do. The power of the pause in being able to shift you into this moment of, “It's time to wake up. Listen to those things that have been talking to you over that time and show you what's meant to be for your life and your next step in your path. A lot of us have the need for the traumatic moment to truly wake up and see our callings rise.

A lot of us have to get there. To your earlier point, embrace serving this Kintsugi spirit. Kintsugi is broken pottery that's put back together. It's a Japanese repair art form. With lacquer, it's called the golden repair because they dust it with gold and make these beautiful scar lines. In every piece of art or pottery that's put back together in this whole concept of broken but back together more beautifully. It's unique because every piece breaks differently. Whether it's one line or a multitude of lines, it's still beautiful. What I see sometimes happening with this whole trauma envy is that a lot of folks out there try to hyperbolic their trauma or their event.

You're just trying to make it bigger than it is. We've all had our moments. Life is hard. We've all had our struggles, wrinkles, gray hairs and scar lines. Some are emotional and some are physical. Let’s embrace them. The message of one scar line or multiple scar lines is still the same as how it shapes us into who we are. We're resilient. We've survived 100% of our bad days if we're reading this now. All that is good but the pause was another flashpoint where I knew I had to get my mind right and healthy to get my body healthy.

I knew nothing about mindfulness or meditation back then. I thought it was like, “That's what hippies in California who eat grape nuts do.” No serious professional does this mindfulness stuff. It's soft. Something in the hospital said, “Michael, you should slow it down and get your mind right in order to get your body healthy.” There's a good documentary on Netflix called Heal and serving the same concept where you got to heal the mind to heal the body.

The next morning, I got out of bed, into my wheelchair and rolled myself to a quiet place in the hospital. I was quiet to set my intentions, to slow everything down. Back then and even more so now, life is so fast. A lot is coming at us and we're in this reactionary state almost chronically. That's one of the reasons why we're stressed in our moments especially the big moment that we're all living through in 2020 and change. I knew slow could be fast, that slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

I didn't know those quotes back then but something was just speaking to me. I didn't hear voices, it wasn't like that, although some people do and if that's your jam that's cool. For me, I knew I had to get quiet and that was the start of my mindfulness practice that I do. Spending time in the morning, meditating and being mindful. It was also the spark that now is Pause, Breathe, Reflect and that whole notion that by hitting pause, reconnecting to our breath, we can slow everything down and be more thoughtful. Be more aware of how we're showing up for our career, for our lives and those around us.

Great athletes, when they go hard, they go hard, but when it's time for recovery, they recover as hard as they go hard.

Especially those around us because what I've learned through all this is that and I didn't necessarily need to go through this and get this lesson. Life is not a solo project. It takes everyone. We're all connected. It takes a strong peloton to bring you down the road as fast as safe as possible. I look at my medical team as my medical peloton, they were all working on my behalf. Although they were all in different teams, they were all trying to help me get down the road safely to cross my finish line.

It's something that you maybe think about too, which was about this element when you think about slow is fast, this is not a sprint. It's not like you're meant to be constantly going at a high speed always. You can't be a top performer if you're constantly running. You have to be thinking about how am I creating spaces to slow down and create the pause so that I can enter my life powerfully and come back powerfully. If you're running always, you need to recharge. You need to have that moment to step back and say, “What am I doing as I enter this next meeting, this next day, this next moment in my life?” That's the power of that.

If I could riff off of that because I know this space you work with business professionals. This is the thing that gets me crazed about leaders now, yesterday and maybe even tomorrow. We love our sports analogies so folks out there that don't like sports analogies, they’re like, “I can't stand sports analogies.” We use them all the time. Grit and determination, we throw them out there. Here's a core principle of every great athlete that we don't give enough attention to. Great athletes, when they go hard, they go hard but when it's time for recovery, they recover as hard as they go hard. It's almost like, “You can recover but not on my terms, not on my time.” Recover at home? When we're doing email on the couch or working from home, we're constantly going.

One sports analogy that could lead to better performance at work is the importance of recovery and space to breathe. When COVID hit, everyone went crazy like it was a sprint. The analogy I used in 2020 was, “This isn’t no sprint. It isn’t a marathon either. It's a triathlon.” It's going to come in phases and it's much longer. You have to pace yourself, breathe and manage your energy. The sports analogy that business leaders can use especially now is you need time to recover. Go hard. We are going to work hard here. That's what we do but we're also going to recover hard because that's how we remain healthy. That's how we put out great work that makes a difference in others.

Everything we've talked about has been so powerful. I want to get into the story of what brought you into the new world. Here you are recovering from your incident. You’re finding mindfulness and at this point, you're still considering yourself a corporate employee. What happened next? Tell me how you took all of this and then become who you are making such an impact in the world.

VCP 92 | Bad MomentsWe can call it an accident incident or kerfuffle because we love the word kerfuffle. That kerfuffle you had on July 11th, 2001 or a squabble, another great word. I got home. Eventually, I got out of my wheelchair and I got back on my feet. I learned how to walk again on my 34th birthday, the parallel bars. It was 20 feet. Sweat was coming off of my body, it was like a three-hour spin class or something like that. I got home and then I started thinking, “What do you do after you almost lose your life?” I was like, “Do you go back to work?” That doesn't seem right. Maybe I sell everything, shun material possessions, which was a little bit of my chase.

I would be happy when I got the new car and all that stuff and the external merit badges that we all choose. Do we do all that, go to Nepal and go trekking through the Himalayas? I was like, “That seems reasonable.” People do that. I read about them in books but I was like, “I have two daughters under four. That doesn't seem like a smart thing to do.” I was then like, “I'm going to quit my corporate job. It's Corporate America. That's the evil. I’m going to work for a nonprofit. I was like, “That doesn't seem right either. I went through all these different options of what do you do? We didn't have Google to answer this question for you. Google, what do you do after you almost die? We didn't have that.

I thought about all that. I was like the work I do because the field I was in was Alzheimer's disease. It was meaningful work. I thought I was making a difference. I made a determination that I'm going to go back to my job. I’m going back to my job on my own terms with a new script, a new way of showing up, handling my stress, not letting a bad moment turn into a bad day and another way of connecting with others. I was going to rewrite my story. My last bad day is not unicorns and rainbows. It's that day where we decide to go forward. We are going to write a new story. One of my mentors during a low moment in my recovery, which was another flashpoint, said, “Michael, all the events in your life are neutral until you label them. You get to choose a label.”

Nothing has meaning until you give it meaning. That connects back to Pause, Breathe and Reflect. The power of the pause to be like, “Here's a moment of reflection. How do you want to label your thing? I made a determination. I'm going to go back to that work on my own terms with a little bit more of the power of the pause embedded in there. I do credit that newfound awakening, that discovery and helping me get to the executive suite. I was the youngest person ever to get to the executive suite in my company, it was like an easy pass there. I woke up one day, I had a team of 1,000 and I was responsible for over $4 billion. I was like, “That's a lot of money for this not-so-great academic kid in high school.”

I was leading in a different way. That being said, I also knew I'd get into the line of work I'm doing now because it's something that happened in the ICU. I told my wife, “Buy Amazon stock, it's a hot stock. We should buy it.” I was highly medicated. It was going for $15 a share back then. We never bought it. It's going for a factor of a zillion times more than that. I didn't even know how much it is. I interviewed her for a sales job. We went through the whole interview guide. How disturbing is that? I had memorized the interview guide. In the end, I was like, “It's going to be a while until I can get back to you. I’ve been in a bad accident so it will take us a while to make the hiring decision.” I never hired her but then I also told her, “Go find David. David will show us the way, in essence.”

When I came out of the ICU, she asked me, “Who is David?” I never used to talk about work at home. She never knew who this person was. I was like, “What are you talking about?” She's like, “You kept on referencing David that he's going to show us the way.” He was the first guy I ever knew who was a coach and I was like, “That's a seed that was planted. I'm going to follow in his footsteps one day. I'm going to water that and fertilize that.

Life is a collection of our big moments.

I knew I was going to get into this line of work but I wanted to go back to my corporate job because I do believe this. We can change how we work together in a corporate setting or entrepreneurship. We will change how we live together because we spent so much time at work. If we can change how we work together, we will change how we live together. To have a diverse, equitable and inclusive society through work, we can make that happen. We also need a lot of other factors but I think work is one lever that we can pull.

I wanted to get back to work on my own terms. I knew enough about who I was and what I wanted to do, which is now that when I saw the signs, I was going to be at peace. I would make that decision and do the work I'm doing. We had a moment in 2014 where I was at a cycling camp in Tucson, Arizona. I got a call from my boss, the president of the organization. I was the VP of North America at the time for a Japanese pharma. He's like, “There's an announcement.” Mr. Nato with the Japanese company. The chairman was coming over from Japan to the States. I was like, “Do I have to leave my cycling camp since I was on a little vacation?” He goes, “You got to come back.” I came back, left my bike there thinking I'd come back to camp and fly back. I learned that my boss was being pushed out for political reasons and I was going to get a new boss. That was another flashpoint where I was like, “It's time.” I had spent eighteen years there.

It was God, the universe and Mother Nature telling me, “It's time to do your next chapter, to do the work that you're doing that I made a difference. I had spent time as an executive. I thought I had the street cred to speak to executives as well as those folks that were working their way up or were individual contributors because I've done every role. With a lot of peace, I made the call right before Memorial Day, the weekend of 2014 that I was like, “It's time.” We're going to do it now and bet on myself and our Peloton that we can make it work.

92VCPCaption4Part of this is that element of knowing that, showing up at work every day. You've had your last bad day, no more bad days but also knowing that there's another thing that's lighting you up beyond your day job that was somewhere out there. Sometimes what happens with people when they feel as though, “I'm not sure this is the place for me or this.” They need to have some kind of a light that shines on them from the outside that says, “I'm not defined by what I'm currently doing, I'm defined by whatever I want to. I'm not defined, I'm undefined, therefore I can create whatever I want to create, which is a powerful way to operate in the world. I think that's where you're coming from at that moment.

That moment of neutrality with the pause to say, “In this space, I can create. I can turn it into anything I want it to be. At times, to your point Tony, we do feel trapped. We've been at one company for so long. It's the only thing that we've known for so long, we can't even imagine ourselves away from that company but we always have some choice. Even though sometimes the choices that are in front of us are not all attractive. They're not all beautiful but we still have a choice that we can either leave, we can continue to show up the way we show up and get into a victim mindset. We can show up differently, a new perspective or we can leave and try to explore something new. Bet on ourselves and know that we have so much in us that we can flip the page and say, “From this moment forward, it's a new chapter and I get to write it. I have agency in that.” Once we get to that point and have faith in that, that's a powerful place to live life from.

As we're getting close to the end, I want to ask, what's one thing that you've learned about yourself through your journey that you want to tell the audience and that you haven't shared so far?

I would say that my scars are my beauty. When I first came out of the hospital, all the skin grafts I had and all the different scars from my face all the way down through my legs, where the big ones are on my legs because those are where the skin grafts were placed. I tried to cover that stuff up. I had big a-has around trying to get the mind right, the body right and all that jazz but it wasn't like a light switch. It was like awareness and then a day in and day out, sometimes three steps forward, a few steps backward, steps forward.

One thing I had a hard time grasping was seeing my scars in a positive light. I saw them as like, “Those are ugly and people are staring at them.” They're like, “What happened to that guy?” There's so much in this society with vanity, how you look and all that jazz. I had a moment sitting on the couch with my youngest daughter. She was around 7 or 8 at the time. She was mindlessly rubbing one of my skin grafts as a kid. I was like, “Grace, what do you think of the scar?” She was like, “I think they're cool.” I was like, “You do?” I didn't want to say that dad thinks they’re ugly and I try to hide them from everyone else. She was like “They're cool.” I was like, “Maybe that's enough of a shift where I can start appreciating them more and then eventually loving them more.” Buying into that whole kintsugi spirit that our scars do tell this wonderful story of our resilience and our beauty.

Live life with awareness.

The message I would share with your readers is that their scars are also beautiful, emotional or physical. I have both from life. I have both from all my different flashpoints as everyone reading does. Those scars tell this wonderful story about who we are, if we can embrace that and realize that we're all perfectly imperfect, maybe we can give up the chase of perfect. We realize that we're just going to try to show up and be the best human being we can be.

There's something about it that drives home this need, that we need to be more compassionate with ourselves, that self-compassion. It starts with loving ourselves as weird as that sounds but also owning up to the fact that we're not perfect. Because if we were perfect then this will be a boring place to live and that's not the place you want to be. We want to be at a place where we all have our own uniqueness to us.

I think that's one of the gifts of what we've been through over the year is that we've seen that we're not all perfect. We don't all have it together because work and home blended. The more we can step into that and bring more of our full selves to work. Keep in mind that every work culture has defined values and stuff. It's not like I can just bring my whole full self. We step into a place of employment and there are ways that you need to show up to make that culture work. That may not be consistent with how you might show up when you're out doing whatever at night. I don't think that's terribly wrong.

Sometimes we go to a temple or church, we show up differently there because there are norms and values. The same with work but we can appreciate more that we're all trying to figure this thing called life out. A lot of times we get it right. We get it right more often than we get it wrong but sometimes we get it wrong. We trip and stumble. We might have a scar or blemish and that's cool because we get back up again. Hopefully, we learn something and we can go forward. We can keep pedaling with a little bit more wisdom.

We're going to shift to one last question. I never want this to stop but I have this one last question for you. What's one book or books that have had an impact on you and why?

The Alchemist is one, that's what I gift a lot. Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee is cool. She's from NPR fame. She had a TED Talk that went viral too. I think that's more of her fame probably the viral nature of things but it's about slowing down. The work Breath by James Nestor brings the science of your breath into the public domain, a great book and a great read. This is not a shameless plug for my book but writing my book as someone who has post-traumatic seventh grade English disorder or stress disorder, thinking you're never going to be a writer. English in middle school class was rough. To be able to write it, to go through that experience, relive the tale and share it with folks was meaningful on so many different levels, therapeutic on a whole bunch of different levels.

It’s also terrifying because when you write a memoir, you're putting yourself out there. It's the naked version of who you are or at least partially closed version of who you are. It's not the twenty tips to slay LinkedIn. That's a different type of book and those books are needed but when you put out a memoir, you're putting your full self out there. Will people like the book? It's easy to tie that to do they like me? The whole thing that so many of us chase after from time to time or maybe all the time.

I'd say writing my book in terms of the profound impact it had on me because it helped slay a limiting belief from my youth and middle school. It was therapeutic and a lot of ways rewarding that so many people have read it and they're like, “Your message spoke to me, I've changed my life because of it.” That makes all the pain and suffering that I've gone through, that I still go through because I still have consequences or complications from the accident I live with to the current day. It's part of my reality. It makes all that worth going through if the message of the book hits the mark with someone. 

Honestly, that's not a self-plug. That's something that is real and it resonates. It's a different type of book for sure than most. It's revealing about who you are. Thank you for sharing that and all the other books too, which were all interesting recommendations. I can't thank you enough for coming on the show and sharing all of your insights, your stories. I feel like we're seeing another side of who you are and we're sharing a beautiful gift into the world by bringing you on the show. Thank you. I also want to give you an opportunity to share where people can find out more about you.

All the events in your life are neutral until you label them.

Thanks for having me, Tony. It's great to connect. One of the gems of social media makes the world smaller and it's one of the gifts that we were able to connect and find each other along the way. I love your story that I got to share on my podcast. It was great talking to you about that. I’m honored to be part of your peloton of guests that you've brought on to your show. The best way for people to reach me is There you can learn a little bit more about me and also learn about the cross-country bike ride I'm going to do in the Summer of 2021 called the Pause, Breathe and Reflect tour. It's a ride from Oregon to Virginia, 45 days to celebrate twenty years since my accident. It's going to be a bike ride of gratitude, resilience, mindset, connection and a lot of good jujus. I hope people will check it out and send me encouragement and wonderful waves of energy and love to help me keep peddling.

I wish I could be there with you. I'm a huge fan of biking myself but I got family things that I got to deal with. I'm going to plan for the next anniversary tour.

We’ll do something for the 21st. I'll come up to Boston. I'm a big Pan-Mass Challenge guy. Living with COVID, I haven't been able to do it, virtually of course but maybe in 2022, believe it or not. I can't believe we're saying that here. We can come up and get a little ride in together in New England.

I can't thank you enough for coming to the show. I want to thank the readers for coming on this amazing journey with us. I know you're leaving with so much to take in and reflect on so let's pause, breathe and reflect and go storm the castle with Michael.

Thanks, Tony.

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About Michael O'Brien

VCP 92 | Bad MomentsBefore My Last Bad Day (i.e., when this white SUV hit me head-on while I was out training on my bike), I was a successful sales professional and marketing director. But I felt burdened by the same stress that you and your team feel every day. There were many days when I lacked the energy, enthusiasm, and inspiration to break down my work silos, ease the drama, and get closer to being my best.

My recovery from my near-death cycling experience was the catalyst to the seminal shift that changed my perspective, mindset, and actions. It put me on a path to create better tomorrows at work and in life. It sparked my executive career progression, which helped me find happiness and passion for business leadership development and Peloton Executive Coaching™.

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