Chairman of SAP, Hasso Plattner, told the media early reports indicated McDermott “nearly bled to death” from the glass puncturing his left eye. McDermott didn’t know it at the time, but he had “shattered his cheekbone, sliced his eye socket, and cut the optic nerve,” according to reports. (For the full story, see Bill’s YouTube video, “The Brave Ones.”) He underwent 12 surgeries and spent months in the hospital before he was able to return to work. The company had to hastily prepare a succession plan in case he didn’t make it.
Today, he believes the accident prepared him for bigger challenges ahead:
“My accident changed my life for the better. You get knocked unconscious and the glass hits all the wrong parts. I lost that battle. But I won a bigger one. So I don’t get rattled by the chaos. I get inspired by beating it back and finding out how gorgeous it is on the other side.”
Michael Phelps was training for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when he was trying to do something many of us do several times every day, get into a car.
It turns out the Olympian is a bit of a klutz.
“You should just keep me in the pool, put a bed in the pool, give me food in the pool so I never get hurt. I’m bad on land.”
He fell, bracing himself with his right hand, and broke his wrist. To most of us a broken wrist is a nuisance, but to a swimmer at Phelps’ level who wins races by hundredths of a second, it’s the wing flap to an airplane. You can’t swim competitively and win with a broken wrist.
Bob Bowman, Phelps’ coach since his early days of training, put a rose tinted lens on it when he told the Detroit Free Press he was “not worried” and that the break “could have healed on its own.”
But media pundits were quick to catch on to the severity of the injury and thought it spelled disaster for Phelps. They predicted it would keep him out of the water and doubted not just that he could win but whether he would even qualify. “Will he even be able to compete in the Olympics at all?” the headlines blared.
Later, Bowman admitted Phelps was as upset as Bowman had ever seen him. “He was devastated,” Bowman said. “He kept saying, ‘It’s over. I’m finished.’”
Phelps knew he had to lay off swimming but still find a way to prepare. He let his natural competitive instinct take over and figured out a way to train without swimming. “I realized that all the people that told me I can’t do it, that this is going to make it even harder, you know what? I’m gonna do it.”
Phelps got back in the water using a kick board, doing his laps using only his legs. Let’s call it the Phelps crawl, because it helped him set a world record.
Fast forward to Beijing. Nine months later, Phelps is facing incredible competition from Serbian gold medalist Milorod Cavic in the 100-meter fly. With less than one lap to finish, Phelps is a full stroke behind Cavic. That’s when Phelps kicks into high gear. His turbocharged kick was strong enough to get his hands to the wall first — and he won the gold by 1/100th of a second.
When the race was done, Bowman said, “The tremendous setback…without it, Michael would not have won the race.”
Michael Phelps agreed, and he also learned something about himself and life, when you overcome adversity it becomes your friend:
“It made me realize that things can change in the blink of an eye, and it also made me realize that when you use your imagination anything can happen.”