As a farm boy in Nevada, I had dreams of making a difference for good our world. I graduated from high school, won a scholarship to college, left the farm, and muscled my way to a bachelor’s degree, and on to law school at Brigham Young University.
My wife and I were everyday people with big dreams. We were raising a family, I joined a small law firm, we built our first home, and after five years of hourly billings, the firm made me a partner.
Then, one day that was no different than any other, I knew it was time. I made my difference-making, game-changing dreams a priority and ran for elected office. It was scary and risky, and I won and held a seat in the Utah legislature for six years. During that time, I learned and grew and I was involved in big things. I passed tax cuts, made my state safer, and learned about our big world outside Utah. I was starting to impact the big world by changing my world, just as I’d dreamed.
It was time for a new challenge. In 2002 after experiencing the vitality of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, I decided the time was right to leave my safe legislative seat and run for the United States Congress. It was another bold and risky move. Again, it was the right move and a rich personal experience. I traveled across the state and the continent, and even visited with then President, George W. Bush, in the Oval Office. We reminisced about the grandeur of the Winter Olympics and we laughed at my paltry campaign bank account. It’s true. You can see the photo of the President and me in his office laughing at my campaign account balance. Ultimately, I lost the race by a whisker. Nevertheless, I grew as a person. And, I knew I’d made a difference. My immediate world was changing and would never be the same.
While loss is never the most fun part of any process, it is an important one. So, I picked myself up and laid track for my future. In 2009, I joined the Utah Attorney General’s office as Chief Deputy. In 2012, I ran for Attorney General and won my opponent 2-1. I was riding high, my family and career were on the track I’d always envisioned. I was on the way to changing my world in a much bigger way.
Then came a day I could never have imagined.
Just five short days after my swearing in ceremony, I was accused of crimes I did not commit. Eleven long, painful months later, I was forced to resign my dream job and watch as my political nemesis, the opponent I had bested in the Primary election, took my place as Attorney General and many friends and colleagues in government distanced themselves from my situation. I became a political and social pariah.
As if that was not enough, six months later I was arrested in my home in front of my wife and led away in handcuffs. For the next three years I did not know if the situation would ever be resolved. Those were most certainly the darkest days of my life.
But, the sun also rises. On March 2, 2017 I was fully exonerated by a jury of my peers, on every allegation against me. Now the world would know beyond a doubt what I knew all along. I was innocent. I’d been badly wronged.
The five year walk through hell had pressed me to my limits. There were times when I actually wished I were in ill health or old enough to be near death, because I could not bear the thought of living in my circumstance even one day longer. When it was all over, with my nemesis still occupying my elected office, I had a difficult decision to make. Would I let the bitterness of the past sour and crush me? Would I become a victim like so many others? Or, would I, could I rise above the situation and become a catalyst for achieving greater good in the world?
In an instant, I decided to look forward and forgive the past. I knew that my best years and greatest contributions were yet ahead of me. With my name cleared I had won, and I would not become a victim. I would seek reimbursement of the legal fees I’d incurred, but I would not expend my energy chasing the people that disrupted my life. Instead, I would use my experience to drive positive change. I would help change the game as it is currently played. And, I resolved to dedicate myself to helping others become Game Changers as well.
In my darkest, most desperate days, I learned that we all face huge disappointments, trauma and tragedies. Every one of us will then choose how we deal with the people and situations beyond our control. Will we become victims? Or, will we use our experiences to improve our lives, our communities, and our world? The latter is the only conclusion that matters.
Join me as we talk about how to turn the most difficult events of our lives into game-changing opportunities. No matter who you are or where you are, my message is this: where there is a purpose there is hope no matter your circumstance. As a teenager on a farm in Nevada, I dreamed of improving the world. As an adult with a lot of life behind me and much still ahead, my dream is stronger than ever. More importantly, I can rise, not in spite of what happened to me, rather because of it. With the pain of the past came the lessons. With the opportunity of the future, I find my resolve.
With vision comes hope. With hope comes strength. I look forward to sharing with you along this journey for you to become a Game Changer as well.
One world leader said it well:
“A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes. Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Ghandi