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I almost broke my wife’s jaw

How one errant elbow completely changed my life – and how bad things can lead to the best things.

I always told myself I would never hit a woman.

But there was my future wife: injured, being held up by her friends, tears of pain in her eyes, because of me.

And to this day, we tell anybody who will listen about that terrible moment.

Hey! Let’s back up, shall we?

I thought it was hilarious

It’s 2003.

Spring of my senior year of high school.

I’m standing backstage of our production of Bye Bye Birdie, where I played the lead role of Albert Peterson.

(The photo above is from that weekend – that’s me on the right, my victim on the left.)

Not being popular growing up, I savored getting to lead the whole show and enjoying all the attention that came with it.

In the play, Albert briefly directs a choir of teenage girls. Because I thought it was funny, I used the opportunity to mimic the very-defined mannerisms of our choir director – an in-joke to the girls on stage.

I could ham it up a little, my back to the audience, and I got most of the girls to laugh and smile at me.

Backstage during one of the performances, another cast member (who was not on stage during that scene) asked what I was doing.

I proceeded to show her.

Now, the first thing I always did was throw my elbows back violently, which was something our choir director did.

Unbeknownst to me, a sophomore girl named Amanda happened to be standing behind me in that moment.

When I threw my elbows back, one of them caught her square in the chin, smashing her jaw.

I spun around to see her arms flailing, her eyes like dinner plates, and two of her friends catching her as she fell.

I felt about two inches tall

I immediately began apologizing and asking if she was okay.

With tears welling up and her lip quivering, she nodded and assured me repeatedly that she was fine. Then she scurried away.


I had to go back on-stage, so I went out and did my scene. When I came back, I caught one of her friends and asked how Amanda was doing.

“She’s in a lot of pain, she’s crying in the practice room right now. She just doesn’t want you to see her because she knows it was an accident, and she has a huge crush on you. She doesn’t want you to feel bad.”

In that moment, she has a huge crush on you wasn’t really something that registered in my brain. The girl was two years behind me in school, and at the time I was so focused on the fact that I hurt her, nothing would shake that.

I didn’t get any more information beyond that.

The next morning, I took what little I made as a grocery store cashier and bought her flowers and a card. In it, I apologized again and offered to pay her medical bills if she had any (like I could do that). What else do you write when you accidentally assault someone?

She was very gracious and told me she was fine.

I didn’t give it much thought until a year later.

“Dude, they almost wired her jaw shut…”

A year later. 2004.

I’m at a diner with a few friends from high school. I’m in college now and far past that incident.

Her name was brought up in conversation, and a mutual friend of ours who was close with her drops the bomb on me.

“Did you know that she couldn’t eat solid food for, like, 6 weeks? Her jaw was sprained or something like that. Dude, they almost wired her jaw shut. I know they were talking about it!”

And just like that, I felt terrible all over again.

This girl was seriously injured at my hands. I’d never hurt anybody in my life!

Jump ahead 3 more years. 2007.

I’m at a wedding reception – was invited by the groom to crash. While outside drinking some beer and smoking cigars, out walks Amanda.

She looks shocked to see me.

I am thrilled to see her.

I run over and give her a hug. She’s there because she sang in the wedding. She had no date.

I had a girlfriend at the time who was largely uninterested in me – and wasn’t at the wedding anyway.

So we spent the night dancing together and having a great time.

That was it.

Or so I thought.

“The only thing I know about you is I almost broke your jaw once.”

One MORE year later. 2008.

That girlfriend had just broken up with me.

I was feeling depressed and exhausted after spending 5 solid years trying to date girls who had no interest in me.

I just wanted to be with someone who wanted to be around me.

Immediately after the breakup, my mom and my older brother – who both had watched me dance with Amanda at the wedding the prior year – said the exact same sentence:

“I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but when you’re ready to date again, you need to call that girl from John and Jessica’s wedding. She was cute, really into you, and you two had a lot of fun together.”

After prodding from one of my friends, I decided to give it a shot.

I didn’t have her number. I hadn’t communicated with her at all since the wedding.

What do you say to someone a year after you danced with them and you want to go out on a date?

If you’re me, you use the perfect icebreaker:

Long story short: we went out for a drink. Had our first date a week later.

A year after that (2009), we were engaged.

A year after that (2010), we got married.

She still has the Get Well card I gave her in 2003.

Your “negatives” can be advantages in your career

When I elbowed Amanda in the jaw in 2003, I felt terrible.

It was easily one of the worst moments of my high school life – a total accident, but still. I injured a young woman.

But without that moment, I wouldn’t have known that she had a crush on me.

And I wouldn’t have danced with her at that wedding.

And I wouldn’t have thought about asking her out when I was suddenly single in 2008.

A negative turned into one of the Biggest Positives Of My Life.

In my professional life, I’ve had big-time negatives that have positively influenced the trajectory of my career:

  • My struggle to make money in college forced me to get a job waiting tables, where I developed soft skills that I depend on to this day
  • Growing up poor forced me to learn how to bootstrap my way and find resources to draw from – even when it seems impossible
  • My childhood being largely alone forced me to learn how to problem-solve for myself and be resourceful in getting around roadblocks
  • My lack of desire to be “THE BEST COPYWRITER EVER” forced me to develop routines and frameworks for selling myself and creating the best client experience possible to separate myself from the pack

There are writers out there with more “education” than me, who have done internships and expensive writing programs that taught them copywriting (but not how to get clients), and who have had every solution handed to them from the outset.

I outwork them all, and outearn them, purely because I went through disadvantages that they didn’t.

What about you?

Where are your competitive advantages?

What gives you an edge that nobody else has?

What has forced you to develop something stronger that clients want?

You can’t just say, “I work harder than everybody.” There has to be MORE than that. Everybody says that.

Once you figure out the unique selling proposition you bring to the table over everybody else, you can sell to any client.

Doesn’t matter if it comes from a good place or a bad place – it may be a strength you didn’t even realize you have.

Use it.

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