Whenever I start to lose perspective over a business frustration, I immediately think of my best friend, Pete, and my thinking straightens mout immediately. Pete is an extremely talented sales guy. He’s fun, humorous and makes others feel instantly at ease. Despite all of the challenges he faces, he never quits striving, believing and being thankful. I’ve been lucky to be Pete’s best friend since we met 25 years ago in college. Believe me when I tell you, Pete makes the world a better place by being part of it.
Pete is paralyzed from the waist down. He was the victim of a tragic accident involving an irresponsible driver a year ago. An avid runner, Pete was struck by a car while training for a marathon near his home in suburban Illinois, USA. The driver ran a red light, hit Pete and sent him flying 30 feet before he crashed into concrete pavement. The impact was devastating, leaving Pete with a broken leg and ribs, a partially severed spinal cord and badly damaged internal organs.
Pete was between jobs when this happened. He had just accepted a new job and was enjoying one week at home with his wife and kids before starting the new position. Pete’s youngest son, Andy, is our Godchild. He is a beautiful child with autism. Prior to Pete’s injury, the family was focused on Andy’s improvement with twice per-day therapy. The tragic accident meant the family’s sole breadwinner was no longer able to work and, most significantly, they were without health or disability insurance while their medical costs skyrocketed.
My wife and I decided that we would do everything we could to help. We are lucky to have our health, ample financial resources and the blessing of Pete and his family in our lives. Our commitment, along with that of others, is allowing Pete to focus on what’s most important: recovering and realizing his dream to walk again. While the doctors have counseled modest expectations, Pete simply won’t accept it. He has endured nearly a dozen surgeries, months away from his family at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and many more months of hard work. I watched him during weekly visits for the first 12 weeks of his rehabilitation. His ability to make the therapy team cheer, laugh and cry with his progress, gratitude and good humor was (and is) beyond inspiring.
To me, Pete is a hero. We’re told in business that commitment, persistence, self-confidence and having a positive mental attitude make all the difference. Pete proved to me that not only do these things matter … they’re all that really count. His journey has also shown me how quickly things can change, and how your personal life comes first. I used to run my life around my business. Now I run my business around my life. Because I made the decision to let my business "give life” versus "take it,” I have more sanity in my day-to-day routine and I can spend more time with my family. I’m also learning what the word “daddy” means in highly personal ways (nothing beats a peanut-butter-and-jelly kiss from a happy toddler!). I have Pete to thank for that.
Tom Salonek is the founder and CEO of Intertech, a software development training and consulting firm, and author of Building a Winning Business. Fun fact: Tom starts off every day by running with his Doberman, Alexander the Great.