Nolan McDonnell

See the Good in Everything

Nolan McDonnellI had a roommate in the hospital, Dan, who saw the good in everything, which is ironic because he was blind.  At any rate, Dan expressed immense gratitude in everything, every day, all of the time.  For example, the nurses would bring us disgusting powdered eggs for breakfast, mystery meat that the cats wouldn’t even eat for lunch, and dinner was generally some Jell-O with a side of canned fish.  Put it this way, the food was so bad that I went on a hunger strike, not because I was some pompous prick, but because the food was terrible to the point where the sight and smell of that garbage repelled my appetite.  Meanwhile, as I am rejecting my mystery meals day after day, my roommate in the hospital was always saying, “That is so very nice of the staff to bring us free food because I could not eat if it were not for someone making food, dishing it up, and feeding me.”  From that moment on I learned from somebody, who could not see at all, saw so much good and beauty in the world. 


There is both good and bad in everything, and if you focus on the good, you will have a good life.  Whatever you choose to think about the most will naturally become the center of your life.  Additionally, when you have an optimistic and proactive outlook, and when hardship arrives, you will be more inclined to find solutions to overcome your challenges instead of marinating in unfortunate circumstances.  For example, when I was younger, I wanted to be a professional skateboarder, although I never reached a pro-level, my body, my mind, and my spirit embodied that of a skateboarder as it was the center of my attention for such a big-time of my life.  With that said, I still have an eye for skate spots and will stop to talk to skateboarders when I see them because it is an embodiment that made me who I am today.  Earl Nightingale once said, “You become what you think about.”   Your attitude, values, and beliefs can ruin your life or take you to unprecedented heights.  With that said, virtually nothing is impossible in this world if you look for solutions to your challenges, put your mind to whatever it is that you want to achieve, and maintain a positive attitude throughout the process.

A friend of mine, Jarrod Flowers, asked me, “How do you deal with the grief of how your brain used to work? [Before traumatic brain injury].”  One of the best things that I learned from my TBI, a result of being robbed at gunpoint, shot in the head, and the bullet going in the left side of my head and projecting out the right, is that you can either prepare to suffer or prepare to heal in adverse circumstances.  For example, if I am not happy with the way things are in my life then I start working towards the way I want them to be.  I do not want to make this example all about me, however, four years ago when I sustained my injury I could not read, write, do any type of math, I was paralyzed from the neck down due to my brain not making any connections to other parts of my body.  With that said, I prepared for getting my brain back to work how I wanted it to by eating all the foods that were good for my brain, I enrolled in college and took statistics, communication courses, and a critical thinking class as well.  My ultimate goal of taking these college courses was to stimulate my brain, learn, and be proactive towards healing the damaged parts of my brain.  With that said, I do not grieve about the way my brain used to be, instead, I set goals that cannot be achieved with average effort, yet which are still attainable, and I enjoy the journey of reaching those goals.  I also learned that I need to be kind to myself, let loose, and enjoy the journey as well.  

The above paragraph sounds like an ideal way to live, however, it becomes difficult when life throws obstacles at us.  It’s hard to see the good in a breakup, the death of a loved one, or most unfortunate circumstances.  However, what I learned is that we cannot always control what happens but we are always in control of the course of action that we take as a result.  Additionally, another thing that I learned from my injury was that you can always find the good in adverse circumstances by finding meaning in the suffering. 

When I came out of the coma I told myself, “When one gap comes to an end a new journey begins, life should never be unfulfilling.”  When I woke up on my deathbed, after being shot in the head, I realized I was faced with two options, prepare to suffer or prepare to heal.  There was no room for the luxury of worrying about the way things were, missing the things I had, or trying to find sense in the random act of violence that was perpetrated against me.  My sole focus was to provide myself with more positive thoughts and energy than my negative situation had to offer.  I pledged to myself that I would think no evil, speak no evil, and find beauty in everything, including struggle.  With that said, by preparing to heal many doors opened up as I embarked on an unexpected journey of a lifetime.  Joseph Campbell said, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”  Losing my collegiate honors standing, my house, and my dogs were things I had to immediately let go of in order to overcome this catastrophe that was presented in my life.  With that said, being shot in the head taught me how to swim, find meaning, and acceptance, the three necessities of overcoming adversity.

Living a positive lifestyle where you see no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil is a relatively simple task when you are living in isolation inside a hospital setting.   However, when I was released, I experienced an entirely different world.   Coming out into the real world, after being discharged from the hospital, I could not get away from negativity on news networks, family members complaining all the time, negativity on YouTube whether it was rap music about killing people or recommended news articles about some tragedy, Etc.  The way I have been combating negativity and day-to-day life is by waking up before anybody else does, taking time for myself,  writing a paragraph about one thing positive that I learned that day before I go to bed, and if I hear someone complaining within my vicinity  I ask them if they can find something good about whatever they’re griping about.  I believe that negativity is contagious and that if one person starts complaining and being awful then it will bring down the morale of people around them so I tried to remove myself from those situations or change the situations into a positive and constructive form of communication.

Nolan McDonnell

Hello everybody. My name is Nolan McDonnell and this is my blog post about what I learned about seeing the good in everything.  I find it challenging to see the good in everything when something happens to me that hurts me emotionally, Such as a break up for example, so I wrote this blog article as a reminder of what I can do to be optimistic during challenging times and thought it might help someone else as well.



5 thoughts on “See the Good in Everything

  1. Inspirational blog post! Part of my daily goals are to find small positives in each day and be mindful of what I see, hear and say, too. I think writing the daily positives and getting up before others to quiet time are two things I need to add to my goals. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Interesting… Easier said than done though… I’ve been dealing with a TBI since 2003, tried many ways to stay positive but it still gets the best of me sometimes…


  3. I love your words. Thank you for sharing. My daughter suffered a TBI from a surgery and the meds they gave her. She is a miracle like you. It happened when she was 18. November 2018. I am going to read this to her. Her name is Marlee. She still goes to PT, OT, and Vision therapy. Being grateful saved me.


  4. As a TBI survivor, who was confined in hospitals and on a wheelchair and with a rollator – my one goal was to limp/ walk which I now do.

    I have set reachable goals and my new one is to jog/ run with a severe limp AND I WILL!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s