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“There I was, freezing in 20 degree weather at a bus stop, homeless, and watching other homeless people fighting over a six pack of beer”. That was the turning point for TShane Johnson, an entrepreneur who’d hit rock bottom, after realising he was only one or two decisions away from being in that exact spot – the only thing keeping him from them was the good fortune that he didn’t drink.
For most, the lowest point in your life would arguably be when you had a fatal accident robbing you of your career and dreams. In TShane’s case, when your life has had this much flavour of highs and lows, there’s a wide array to pick from.
TShane now runs across America raising money for veterans sharing an inspiring story of determination to prove nothing is impossible, however, the prospect of walking again, let alone running, wasn’t a likely factor of his future.
A Marine With A Stolen Dream
Before he was an entrepreneur, TShane joined the Marine Corps in 1998. “It was my lifelong ambition to become a bodybuilder like Arnold Schwarzenegger” he tells me. So even as a Marine, he did regular personal training sessions and spent extra hours in the gym building up the specific physique required to compete. Given his lifestyle, he was in peak mental and physical shape when his whole life changed.
Upon returning home form his Marine Corps base on a motorcycle, a car in front changed lanes suddenly causing him to slam into the side of the car, and he went flying into the road at 35mph hitting a brick house, chest first.
A flailed chest, both lungs punctured, a broken collar bone and cracked shoulder blade, all his ribs were shattered. “I had a sliced liver, spleen, kidneys, my left bicep cut wide open, and a broken right hand”, he tells me, nonchalantly. “I got up, confused and bleeding out, unable to breathe.
“No one would help me. I managed to walk two blocks by taking only small shallow breaths and holding my sliced open bicep as a weak attempt to try and slow the bleeding. I walked by a local fire station, where there happened to be an off-duty doctor who was visiting”, he recalls.
They rushed to help him and bayflighted him to a local hospital but he flat-lined once in the helicopter and twice when he arrived at the hospital and had to be brought back to life with electric paddles (dying three times). In the helicopter they had to (without anesthaesia) cut three holes into his chest to insert tubes to allow all the blood and fluid to drain out- his lungs had been filling up with blood and fluids. He was drowning.
He was told by doctors he would never physically be the same again but returned to his spiritual home in the Marine Corps, where he slowly completely healed and discharged without any major issues. He had zero physical therapy from the military and had to do it himself. “It was an amazing recovery” he fondly recalls. “I went on to compete and actually won 4th place in a bodybuilding competition)”.
The Homeless Entrepreneur
In the years proceeding the incident, he turned his attention to business, and built up a Multi Million dollar company, unfortunately in the mortgage lending industry. “The irony isn’t lost on me”, he explains. As someone who himself had a home, a mortgage, and in this case, a mortgage lending business, everything went up in smoke during the mortgage crisis that caused the 2007 global meltdown.
Having lost his business, home, and assets, he tried to get some odd jobs before attempting to get back into the mortgage industry, but he had been helping his sister pay her bills to keep a roof over her young son’s head because her husband, a veteran, had committed suicide, so he felt like he was her only hope.
“I lost my home, and my car, but all that mattered was that I could afford to keep them warm”, he tells me. “In the meantime I was wearing socks on my hands to keep them warm, and when I saw that group of homeless men fighting over beer, I did indeed think really hard about just giving up”.
His training as a Marine however caused him to take a different attitude. Rather than wallow, he filled his mind with books from entrepreneurs and inspiring quotes from great thinkers, which eventually took him back on to a more steady path. Having recovered mentally and physically, he started up again, had a child, and started running across America to raise money for Veterans – sort of like a real world Forrest Gump, with less of an accent. His mission is to inspire others that they can come back from anything, no matter what, and create a positive future for themselves and their community.
“So, what next?” I asked the ex marine. “I will break the current Guinness’ Book of World Records for the ‘fastest marathon completed while carrying a 100 pound pack’ in less than 6 1.5 hours. To do so I need to complete 1,100 Miles with 100lbs on my back but aim to raise $1,000,000. Proceeds will go to the Gary Sinise Foundation later this year”, he replies determinedly.
So, if you think you have some challenges ahead of you this month, take it in your stride, and take it from TShane, you can bounce back from almost anything. As for the record he’s looking to beat? Well, I certainly wouldn’t bet against him accomplishing just that.
March 3, 2019 at 12:05PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs