A head-on collision has changed my life—for the better. -By Ken Krogue
I’ll bet a lot of you have been asking, “Hey, Ken, where’ve you been lately?”
At times, I’ve wondered that myself.
Perhaps many of you know that I suffered a terrifying head-on collision not long ago. That’s why you’ve seen a lot less of me around the office lately. As a result of the car crash, I suffered a concussion and whiplash that I’m still dealing with. The entire experience has changed my life in profound ways.
I’d like to share with you what’s happened to me over the last few months—the accident and the slow recovery process. I don’t think anything in my life has had such a powerful effect on me.
Why talk about it?
I can’t help but share important lessons. For years, as a founder and president of InsideSales.com, I’ve taught companies how to create high-velocity inside sales organizations. As a volunteer, I’ve showed Boy Scouts how to build a campfire, put older kids through football drills, explained to executives the principles of strategy applied to sales and marketing.
Now, I’d like to offer what I’ve learned about my life.
This all began about noon on Sept. 2, 2015. (In fact, I just noticed that my last blog article was that very day about the infographic my friends did about my mom’s passing.)
I’d just begun spending a lot of time at home in Mapleton with urging from Dave Elkington, trying to finish a couple of books I’ve planned for years, and went out to get a few things. Coming back on Highway 89, I slowed down to 20 mph to get into the turn lane. A large truck traveling at 55 mph was coming down the hill around the corner. Just then, a young woman in a Honda Civic pulled out and the truck, unable to stop in time, hit her car, picking it up and hurling it across to the side of the road. The impact forced him to plow into my lane at a net speed of about 70mph and we had a head-on collision.
The force of the impact crumpled the front-end, hood, and engine of my ¾ ton Chevy Silverado, shattered the windows, and spun my truck across the freeway and into a steel barrier. I hit the side door, my arm slammed into and bent the steering wheel, and my seatbelt, pulling me back, felt like it tore me in two. The airbag deployed, saving my life, but causing a concussion as it deployed with force on the front of my head at the same time whiplash whacked me from the back as I hit the barrier.
Time seemed to stop.
I remember watching the particles of the airbag explode in front of me. Four batteries I’d bought for my motor home flew from the bed of my truck, landing as far as 30 yards away, and I watched the acid that exploded out of them sizzle in the cab. My spleen hurt; I thought I’d broken some ribs. Otherwise, I didn’t feel a thing. A guy showed up and told me not to move. He called my wife and told her what had happened. As she arrived the ambulance came for me. At the hospital, they picked glass fragments out of my hand and set my arm where I’d fractured my ulna, one of the two long bones in the forearm. By the end of the day, they released me.
And the young woman in the Civic? She had to be life-flighted. Everyone assumed, given the impact of the crash, that she’d died. Amazingly, she survived, with a broken nose and arm. I’ll need to bring her into my story again soon.
The next few days were really cloudy. It’s hard to explain, but I could only see and think in one narrow direction. I was very emotional and irritable; the littlest stresses tipped me over. I was trying not to let people notice. My natural filters that kept me from saying stupid things were partially gone. My biggest struggle was just to keep my mouth shut.
Obviously, I couldn’t process the insurance claims myself, but I couldn’t resist tracking down the truck driver. After I found his name on an insurance form, I called him up and said, “I’m the guy you hit.”
He said, “I remember your face. You didn’t have time to even flinch. And I remember seeing the back of the young woman’s head. She didn’t see me, but I saw two beautiful children in the back seat. I did everything I could to swerve so I wouldn’t crush them.” The landscaping trailer he was towing behind him jackknifed when he hit me.
I asked, “So, what happened?”
He said, “The cops came, and I asked, ‘How’re those kids?’ The cop said, ‘there were no kids in that car.’”
I guess that young woman had a little help. I know I did.
So did the truck driver. I’ve talked with him since. He’s a different person today.
And so am I.
A few days later I was up in my cabin up in Timber Lakes just east of Heber City, recuperating over the Labor Day Weekend. I told my wife, I’ve got to go to church today. Well, it was pretty crowded—a chapel-full and three overflow rooms of people. I was in the back of the last one in, feeling pain and powerful drugs. And I suddenly had this urge that seemed to lift me out of my seat, “I need to get up there and tell my story.” I walked to the front of the congregation and said, “You don’t know me, but I’ve got to tell you what just happened to me.” I was fuzzyheaded but walked them through the story, and then I sat down.
Later, people reached out to me and put their hands on me in a consoling way. A young guy came up to me and said, “I know you,” and pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of my wreck. He said, “I was one of the first people on the scene, and I work for the guy who hit you.” And he validated the story of the two beautiful children. The truck driver still swears up and down those children were in the back seat.
Well, not all of my recovery is shot through with otherworldly mystery and human warmth.
I forget stuff.
And I’m having the hardest time writing again.
For those of you who know me, this is frustrating and painful. I’m getting help for this piece from Tom Post, a former managing editor at Forbes Media who was my editor for several years and who now works for my dear friend, Cheryl Snapp Conner. Both of them are coaching me back to help me rediscover my writing.
But I’ve started on the long and pocked road back. I did some treatment with several chiropractors, massage therapists, and tried physical therapy. But I couldn’t get an appointment with a neurologist until the middle of January. Some friends told me about a new concussion clinic in Provo, Cognitive FX, headed up by Dr. Alina Fong, a graduate of BYU and a neuropsychologist. Using a functional MRI, which monitors changes associated with blood flow in the brain, the machine makes a movie of the inside of your head, mapping out what happens when you have a concussion (or develop Alzheimer’s).
While in the fMRI, I went through six batteries of cognitive exercises, which lit up different parts of the brain and mapped out where the trauma occurred.
At first, I could only tackle the easy stuff, looking at a screen and trying to match the dots and shapes. It was hard, like physical workout. I’d never before thought of the brain as a muscle that atrophies without use. It doesn’t heal by itself. We have to activate areas around the brain, creating new pathways.
That’s what I’m doing on many levels: creating new pathways in my life.
Dr. Fong found a very clear signature for mild brain trauma that first day. I tested 2.58 on a scale of 0 to 5, with anything over 2 a concussion. For the next few days, for 7 or 8 hours a day, I engaged in 47 different exercises with cognitive therapists, like hitting buttons on a board while looking in my peripheral vision, doing bio-sensitive feedback to control my brainwaves, and, of course, engaging in physical therapy.
I was told I’d feel worse the first couple of days, and that was true. I felt noticeably better by day four. But by the end of day five, when I tested 0.23, I felt quite good. I could think, see, and feel again. While I could think and speak again, I could not write. It’s something about the linguistic side of the brain where I’m still struggling. I’m going back for a couple more days soon.
And I’m learning I have to reset before I hit a wall, I call it “vapor lock.”
It’s still really hard to hold my head and body up after about two in the afternoon. If I lie down and rest, I can usually pick up where I left off. But if I try to push through, I’m exhausted.
I’ve learned to type a little while lying on my side. Mostly, I speak my thoughts into a voice recorder. I’ve trained Siri to recognize almost all that I say, though she sometimes makes bad mistakes—as in four-letter words I don’t mean to say.
All of this—the accident and the recovery—has been life altering. I’ve learned to care less about the obvious things like money, status, winning.
Don’t get me wrong. InsideSales.com is the top company in our space—and, of course, I care deeply about this great company and the people who helped carry it to the summit.
But I find that if I take less and give more, better things come back to me. I am trying to focus on the essentials.
So many of us are on an endless treadmill of meetings and busy-ness, going faster and faster, while our work gets worse, our results disappoint, and our relationships suffer. We are in the thick of thin things. But if I focus on the mission—helping other people do better, get through tough times—the business will take care of itself.
Before the accident, I wasn’t taking care of myself. I didn’t exercise, didn’t eat or sleep well, and was on the verge of diabetes. Pedal to the metal, I hadn’t realized what a toll this life was taking on myself—and my wife and family—over the last 12 years. I’d let some important family responsibilities slip.
Now, I’m eating better and just starting exercising. I have more time for what’s really important to me: my family, and especially for my youngest son who needs me. Friends I rarely see have suddenly come into my life again. Life has become much more beautiful. I wish that other people could discover that they, too, can get off that crazy treadmill before they can’t get off.
I think while I’ve been gone others have been experiencing change in their own lives. We all take what life gives us and try to improve and become better. I’ve felt very bad that I haven’t been able to contribute on the day-to-day like I would like to. I’ve heard that there has been lots of important change happening at InsideSales.com and in the Inside Sales industry that I love so much.
I don’t want to exaggerate or romanticize what’s happened to me.
Sometimes I look at earlier articles I’ve written on my blog or out on Forbes and think, who was that person? I read them again and I’m amazed I once wrote them. These days, the only time I can form ideas and remember them is if I visualize them, go to bed reviewing them, and then wake up at 4 a.m. with a clear perspective that I can retain. If I can get to that stage, I can own it. If I don’t, it’s gone and I can’t seem to get it back.
I’ve given a couple of public speeches since the accident. I’m told they went well. Friends like Koka Sexton, Jamie Shanks, and Jill Rowley covered for me a bit on stage at Sales Hacker. Most people don’t know I’m even struggling. But it seems to take five times the effort it once did. I’m afraid I pushed so hard when I spoke at RootsTech that I made myself ill preparing for what used to be second nature to me.
It’s all part of creating those new pathways.
The good news is, the doctors say that with time I should bounce back. In fact, Dr. Fong says in some areas, with the work I’m putting in, I’ll actually be better.
The books I had been working on clear back in August and September are actually in draft stage, though months later and with a lot of help.
Dave and the executive team have been very patient. My wife and family have been amazing. I’ve tried a few times to come back and found myself immediately overwhelmed. I used to easily swim in the deep end of the pool. Stress was nothing. Now it is something significant to be reckoned with.
I’ll be back. I may not be quite the same person. And it may take a while…
But I’ll be back. -Ken