"My Name is Nathan Hale of Albany, Ohio, a small village located in Southeast Ohio. The youngest of four boys and I was born with Bilateral Congenital Vertical Talus also known as Rocker Bottom Feet. In short my Achilles Tendons were about 1.5inches to short and my arches are upside down so I walk on a bone mass located in the middle of my feet where the arch normally is located. This would become a big problem for me by the age of twelve as I was active in three sports and developed a love for football. Starting at age twelve the pain had gotten so bad I finally met a sports medicine doctor who was willing to try and help. From age 12-17 I had 2 complete reconstructive feet operations and 2 more screw removal operations. At age 18 I had one more major foot operation in hopes that if it worked I could have the same operation on my other foot then I could go back and play college football. A few months before that operation I was instructed by my surgeon to quit college football after bones shifted in my left foot crushing my Plantar nerve and artery. I tried this last big operation in hopes that it would allow me to go back to play college football, it was unsuccessful.
This was the start of some bad years in my life. I moved home and I started drinking heavily and using drugs. The pain of losing a game I loved and working so hard to make it to the next level crushed me. I was able to hide my troubles from the world and worked building houses while I attended Ohio University where I would eventually earn a degree in Specialized Studies in Psychology and Child and Family Life Studies. Then at the age of 28 I was told by my surgeon that double below the knee amputation would be my best option. I understood it could be an option due to the kind of pain I felt daily. From the time I woke up till I went to bed my feet hurt and if I did any activity it made my knees hurt worse than my feet and on some days my hips would start hurting bad too. Over the next 4-5 years I visited many Podiatrist and Orthopedic doctors. Most agreed with amputation, some didn’t and some had never even seen a case of what I had in real life. One thing they all agreed on is that I would experience a lot of pain my whole life living on these feet especially if I wanted to remain active. So at the end of all that it came down to this a choice, my choice to in my early 30’s amputate or start living a life of pain and take serious pain medicine daily to try and have some “normalcy” to life. At that moment I also knew I could not make this choice living the hidden life of addiction and feel 100% confident in it. I was able to stop using and became a man of faith, changed the way I thought and the kinds of thoughts I would allow myself to have and nothing has been the same since and life has been amazing. After a year of prayer, weighing my options and even seeing a therapist a few months I made the choice to have my right foot amputated on September 15, 2016. That fall I spent a lot of time in the woods during archery season healing both physically and mentally as I adjusted to learning how to live as an amputee. All that time setting in such a beautiful place watching life at its most basic gave me time to think on where I would like to take my life from here and the impact I would like to make with my story.
As I continue to heal physically and am now back on my feet I am currently working on starting a career in public speaking. I want to focus on high school and college athletes and share my story of losing college football, the fight with addiction that followed and how I was able to fight back from that to become a happy, healthy amputee (and possible double amputee) who loves life as much now as I ever have and am excited for a future of making others the best they can be by sharing my life, the mistakes I have made and the life of hope and happiness I have created for myself."
Tell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.
I would describe my hustle as “humble and serve.” With all I have been through physically from operations at a young age, the loss of a personal dream (college football) and overcoming addiction and a negative thought process it has made me very humble from a young age. To hurt so bad after an athletic competition at such a young age made me grateful to even be able to compete. Getting up early to get to the woods to watch the sun come up and then take a walk through the woods knowing I would hurt worse for a couple days makes you enjoy that sunrise and the world waking up just a bit more. Watching my physical ability decline like it did in my mid 20’s brought about a feeling of humility I would have probably never of had if not born with Bilateral Congenital Vertical Talus. This condition has also given me a chance to serve others. By simply sharing what I have been through and living my life as a victor people have an example they can relate to and realize there is nothing stopping them from doing things they thought they could not do. If an amputee with his other foot being bad can get up, keep a happy mindset and love others while living the most active life he can there really is no reason those who are healthy cannot do the same or better. With hard work and persistence I hope that I am able to serve others further by speaking publicly and sharing my entire story to make sure others don’t have to go down the road I did at times in my life and give them hope for a better life for themselves.
What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?
I know in my own life that high levels of stress lead to nothing positive. There are a few things I do to de-stress when life sometimes gets to be getting the better of me. As a man of faith I pray, it’s something I can do and always have a little peace about what I prayed over. I am not saying that it fixes everything but to have a little peace to where we can think more clearly and make better decisions is a big help. I realize that faith is not everyone’s thing so I would say meditation or finding just 10 minutes of quiet time where you can simply slow your breathing, focus on the things that are good and get your thoughts going in a more positive direction. I also like to spend time outdoors when things are stressful. In the woods and in nature brings such calmness over me. Seeing the wildlife in its environment and how natural it all is brings peace and my mind is quiet and just lets goes of the stressors it was thinking about. The final thing I do for stress relief is exercise. The gym gives me a place to tap into doing something physical and positive for my body. By losing some of the physical ability I once had it feels good mentally to go to the gym and work my body to the best of my ability. I feel like I am accomplishing something that I used to take for granted and always feel better when I leave the gym then I did before I went.
Where do you go for inspiration?
I often am inspired by other people. In this day of social media and YouTube a person can find someone doing something to inspire or be their best daily. I will get on YouTube and watch a speech from Inky Johnson or Eric Thomas, watch one of those guys and tell me you do not want to be a better you. I also follow people on Instagram and other social media outlets that I look up to or people who are using their lives to make others better, the Rock, Cameron Hanes and Inky Johnson as well as people I have met or people in and around my community. Inspiration is everywhere if we choose to look for it.
What are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?
I try and read some of the Bible daily, even if one is not a person of faith there is so much information about life in that book, how to treat others, how to live your life and as a man of faith it is very helpful to me. I am also currently reading the Napoleon Hill classic Think and Grow Rich. I also enjoy the author Andy Andrews and many other books that focus on success or the power of thought. I also listen to the podcast Cameron Hanes “Keep Hammering” an amazing podcast that inspires so many to live a healthy life and enjoying the outdoor lifestyle. An often I will try and listen every week to Inky Johnson’s “Inkspirations” and Eric Thomas “TGIM” Thank God it’s Monday. One very important thing I have learned is that if we feed our minds positive we will get positive from our minds.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?
Persist, and realize that change does not happen overnight. You have to be persistent in your actions, habits and thoughts. There will be days we don’t feel like being happy or sticking to the changes we are trying to make, on those days persist. Keep your thoughts focused on good things, keep doing the positive habits and actions when you don’t want to and at the end of the day you will have made it through a bad day still one step closer to the person you are trying to become. One last thing, for anyone going through a major life change or battle, like fighting cancer, becoming an amputee or losing a loved one. There will be days when you just can’t fight and that is ok. On those days let someone who loves you fight for you, let them cry for you or carry the burden for that day and then come back strong the next day. Just do your best, some days your best may be a little better than other days but always just do your best.
What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?
“No problem can be solved with the same consciousness that created it.” –Albert Einstein
“If decisions are choices…and our thinking dictates our decisions then we are where we are because of our thinking.” –Andy Andrews
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says IMpossible”
I empty my bucket –Inky Johnson
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil 4:13
In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.
What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?
- Honesty- Being honest with others is always important but honesty with yourself is paramount. We can talk ourselves into any excuse or negative thought pattern so easily, yet when we look in the mirror we justify it because we are not honest with ourselves. Being honest with yourself is not about condemning yourself when we don’t do our best or we mess up. It is so when we do mess up we can be honest with ourselves and come to a conclusion about how to make it right much easier and faster than if we are constantly making excuses for ourselves.
- Purpose- One of my favorite speakers Dr. Eric Thomas explains it as “know your WHY.” When we have a deep desire to accomplish something all the challenges that come our way are easier to battle if we have a vision, a purpose for the pain. Finding my “why” or my purpose has given me an understanding that for so long I didn’t have as to why I was born with Bilateral Congenital Vertical Talus. I used to think why me, why was I born with this? Why not someone who didn’t love an active sport or someone who didn’t want to be great? As I began to study my purpose I also gained understanding. I understand that my purpose was to share this story with others to provide them an example and hope. My football career ended like it did and I went down that bad road so I could go back and save other young athletes and people from doing the same thing. I can use this amputation (and possible double amputation) to show others we can get through the hardest choices and struggles of our life and yet, live in happiness with a peace about us that others want and need and we can help them attain it.
- Faith- I understand that not everyone is a person of faith and I can respect what others choose to believe in. For myself however, my faith has kept me going in the toughest times of my life. When I was living in a world of shame and addiction I still felt loved even though I couldn’t love myself. While making the choice to let doctors amputate my right foot I spent so much time in prayer and thought and was able to reach the decision to amputate with peace and no regrets. I am not saying this is what others should do or have to do but one thing I would say is find something to have faith in, something bigger than yourself. Volunteer; join an organization that is making an impact in your community and in people’s lives. When we have faith in something bigger than us it allows us to take the focus off of ourselves, we don’t think about our problems near as much and the feel good emotions we get from what we have faith in often helps provide answers for problems that do arise in our life. Those three values along with others have kept me positive, happy and driven through the biggest physical challenge of my life since becoming an amputee. I personally know others who are facing challenges much greater than mine; yet, they have remained steadfast in positivity, love and inspiration. I am learning we all have a story, we all are unique in our own way and can make a difference in others lives. It is up to us to step out on faith and become the people we want to be that makes this world better because we are in it. One great step in becoming that person is living a life of love and happiness and watching as your happiness hustle develops into a lifestyle that can and will literally change your life.