Chris Norton – Taking Radical Responsibility Defies Life’s Challenges
By Mary Maxey
October 24, 2019
In this episode, our guest is Chris Norton. He is a cool individual with a heart for God and loves football. He has been in phases of life where most people shut down, but he was able to pull through. He reached a different moment in his life that changed his entire trajectory. He has used this moment to build success not just for himself but for his family and the rest of the world. He has also appeared on multiple network television shows, and a documentary on Netflix called 7 Yards.
[2:50] Why should I listen to you?
I’d say you should listen to me because I’ve got a lot of life experience, and it is always great to hear other people’s perspectives. You should learn things from my experience because it will help your life.
[4:00] Can you give us a quick synopsis of what trends back in your life?
I was just an 18-year-old college boy who was plain and had dreams for himself. I wanted to be a football player, meet my life’s love and make a lot of money. But on October 16, 2010, I got injured when I was playing with my teammate. I suffered from a severe spinal cord injury and lost all movement. I had different surgeries, and I was given a 3% chance to be able to move or feel again. I had to do everything in my power to take control of my future, and that was the beginning of my rebirth.
[7:00] What were the emotions you felt at that moment? How long did it take you to know that you could move past this?
It was a long process, and that was the beginning of being emotionless. I wasn’t in any pain. It just felt like a regular football attack. I was numb, and I could not feel any sensation. Nothing worked, no matter how hard I tried to squeeze my hands. The more I say no when I’m being asked to make a move, the more I feel detached from my entire body. I was afraid, but this part of me reminded me to stay calm. I couldn’t do it, but I gave it time. At that point, I decided to face reality, closed my eyes, and blocked everything I didn’t want to see. I told God I wouldn’t play football again if he gave me the chance to be able to walk again. Little did I know that God had a bigger plan for me than I had for myself.
[10:20] Where and how did you get the mentality to be honest with yourself?
It’s a gradual step. It is not one day at a time, but one moment at a time. During therapy, I decided to make the most of each hour. I took responsibility. What I call “radical responsibility” is taking responsibility for all the outcomes in your life, such as good and evil, success and failure, and so on. Making excuses for yourself just keeps you stuck. They prevent you from doing what you ought to do. My power lies in my response, and that’s where I channel my energy. I asked myself different questions because I didn’t know what to do or the next step to take. But I decided to get out of that situation, which is the same for everyone. Focusing on what you can’t do is more accessible, but you can make the impossible possible.
[13:17] What are the things that I can use when I face a vessel like this?
Every night, I called myself to sleep because I was terrified about my future. At night, when I had nothing to distract my fears from rushing in, it was always my darkest and most challenging moment. I didn’t have anything to work on, so it was hard to distract myself from these fears. At a point, I could distract myself by engaging in things that challenged me physically and mentally. I indulged in so many things, which helped me, and I believe it can help anyone too. I always think there is a way forward, either by deviance, acceptance or so on. There is a way you can get through this, and there are also a lot of solutions. You just need to accept, define and take responsibility for it.
[19:13] Was your faith in God present before the accident, or was it after the accident?
I have always been with God. My parents dragged me to church every Sunday. They brought me to church, and I showed up. I was listening but wasn’t living my life to the Christian standard. It was an emergency case kind of faith. I held on to my faith at that moment because I knew that I needed something. When my injury happened, it was a time of complete loss, worry, and uncertainty, and I turned back to my faith. I had always been independent outside of God, but I grew my faith by having a dependence on God. God wasn’t in control of my life when it happened, but I turned to him, trusted him, and believed in every one of his words, which turned things around and helped me move forward.
[22:25] How did the whole thing with your family work?
My wife, Emily, was passionate about kids, especially kame from unloving places. She knew from a very young age that she would do that. It was different because I thought everyone had parents like mine. I grew up without realizing how blessed I was to have a family as I do, but she opened my eyes to see how naive and oblivious I was to the facts. She introduced me to the 17-year-old girl she mentored, and we took her in. She went to school and finished high school while she was with us. She later moved out to stay alone. Her absence in the house made us adopt four more kids. Every time we add a child, we can adapt to it. The more you take on more, the more you realize how much your potential can handle.
[31:15] As you look at the next stage of your life, what are the other stuff you focus on to continue working?
I’d say right now. I am doing a lot of reading, reading about philosophy. I think learning never stops, and that is part of the work on how I can be a better dad, husband, and speaker. Being a dad and husband is essential to me, and I pour a lot of love and support even when I’m overwhelmed. As a parent, you just have to show up. No matter how tired you are, you have to make sure that your kids know how special they are and how I also love my wife, who gives them a great example.
[32:50] How does someone strengthen their resilience the way that you have?
It is something that you look back and think about. You remember the things that you have overcome, things that you have achieved, and so on. Those are your proud moments. Being able to reflect on those things is essential, and I’m always considering the people counting on me. What you do and what you say matters because people pay attention to every one of your actions. I believe in examples. I know my kids are looking up to me, watching my examples and how I live my life. These things always help me to do my best and never look back.
[35:10] How much has your wife helped you as a team member?
I’d say it is a life of impact and positive influence. When Emily and I started dating, she became my toughest trainer. She always pushed me to do better, and I walked better with her after a while. At that point, I knew Emily had to be the one to hold my hands. She is someone that brings out the best in me. She has high self-esteem for everyone. She is also very giving, thoughtful, and caring. She loves people regardless of who you are or where you come from. She encourages people to do more and to be better. Emily is an unbelievable team member.
[40:20] What was the drive for adopting kids?
Each time we want to add a family. When we bring them in, we fall in love with them. We wanted them to be part of our lives forever. It was an easy decision because we feel peace in our hearts. We also wanted to be the best in parenting.
[52:14] What promise did God make to the world when he created you?
I’d say that it is a life of impact, positive influence, and significance. He created me to live a life of meaning by serving Him and positively impacting others.
[5:30–5:35] If you do nothing, nothing will happen, but if you do something, something will happen.
[11:02–11:06] The more responsibility you can accept, the better your response to adversity will be.
How to connect with Chris Norton