by David DeFord
Twenty-one-year-old Art Berg felt confident in his
bright future. He had a strong faith. He and his
beautiful fiancé were planning their upcoming
wedding. He owned a growing, successful business.
He enjoyed perfect health and excelled in many sports.
Everything in his life lined up perfectly—smooth
sailing all the way.
But at Christmastime in 1983 his ride through life
careened from the paved road of promise and skidded
violently into a ditch. On his drive from his home in
California to see his fiancé in Utah, the driver of his
car had fallen asleep at the wheel.
Art woke up in a Nevada hospital, alarmed that he
couldn’t feel or move his arms or legs. His doctor
informed him that the accident had rendered him a
quadriplegic. Plus, he had lost the use of his chest and
stomach muscles, and several other functions. The
doctor told him that he would have to change his plans—
he would forever need someone to dress him, feed him,
move him from place to place, drive him wherever he
needed to go, and worst of all, few in his classification
marries and has children. The doctor told him that he
would have to dream new dreams, and think new thoughts.
His idyllic life had tragically been snatched from him on
that Nevada desert highway.
Yet, in spite of the rude and devastating prognosis from
his doctor, when his mother first visited him in the hospital
after one of his many surgeries, she whispered softly to him,
“While the difficult takes time, the impossible just takes a
His doctors, the new Eeyores of his life, continued to focus
on the limits under which Art would live for the rest of his
life. Here’s how Art responded,
“At one point, I asked the doctors why they were so
pessimistic about my future. Their response was, ‘We just
don’t want you to get a false sense of hope.’
“I was silent for a long time. And then something clicked
inside me. ‘No,’ I said. ‘All you’re doing is giving me a
false sense of hopelessness. And that’s not the way I’m
going to live my life.’
“It was a breakthrough moment for me. I was not going to
let myself be defined by my problems. I was not going to
follow the doctors’ advice and focus on the enormity of the
new life that I had.”
His mother’s encouraging message, “the impossible just takes
a little longer,” became Art’s motto. He promised himself that
he would force himself into an independent life. When the
time came to select a wheelchair, this quadriplegic rejected
the motorized versions and selected a manual one that would
require him to regain some use of his upper limbs.
He couldn’t grasp the wheels with his hands, he had to use his
shoulders to push his hands against the wheels. This process
was made more difficult by the absence of feeling in his hands.
But he began very slowly. He literally inched his way down the
hospital halls. He learned to grasp eating utensils in his rigid
hands and awkwardly feed himself.
Through consistent effort, his wheelchair skills grew. And in
spite of many, many mishaps, some he describes with humble
humor, he learned to become independently mobile. Art figured
out ingenious ways to dress himself.
He found work that would accommodate his limitations and
received numerous sales awards—he had something to prove.
He even went on to break the world’s record for long-distance
quadriplegic wheelchair racers in his classification when he
completed a 325-mile ultramarathon over the Utah mountains
in seven days.
Eventually, he started another business. He traveled the world
speaking 150 dates per year about how he proved his doctors
wrong and achieved the impossible. His speaking practice grew,
and his message of hope cheered millions.
Art Berg taught his audiences:
1. We can achieve the impossible if we consistently strive
toward our goals
2. Defining ourselves by our problems only serves to
3. Courage is taking action in spite of our fears
4. Challenges make life sweeter and richer
5. Responding to setbacks with humor and determination
help us overcome discouragement
These lessons apply to us all.
When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways—
either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits or
by using the challenge to find our inner strength.
The Dalai Lama
The value of a thing lies in the cost of attaining it.
Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the
spines of others are often stiffened. Billy Graham
Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's
not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when
you've had everything to do, and you've done it.
A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances,
but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes. Hugh Downs
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Get to know Norman Vaughan who lived by the motto, dream
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