A story of tenacity

Agent overcomes major life obstacle to build a successful business


Anthony Brown

Editor’s note:  Anthony Brown is among the top 20 in sales at Royal LePage Atlantic in the province of Nova Scotia. His inspiring story exemplifies the commitment it takes to launch a successful business when faced with adversity.

On an evening like any other in January, 2009, 24-year-old Anthony Brown, was strolling on the grounds of the campus of the University of New Brunswick when he was hit from behind by a distracted minivan driver, bouncing up onto the vehicle, his head shattering the windshield.

Certain moments set the trajectory of a person’s life.  For some, it’s a fateful decision; for others literally a collision with fate.  Anthony might still be working as a senior manager in the corporate world but for the moment when the mini-van veered into him and everything changed.

The week following the accident was lost to Anthony as he lay in a coma, his family keeping vigil.  He eventually awoke to discover the left side of his body was paralyzed.  Doctors told him it was as though his brain had become disconnected and there was no way to predict the extent to which he would regain any functionality.

“I don’t remember anything about the accident nor do I have any memory of the first few weeks following,” he said.  “I do remember eventually laying in the hospital bed wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.  Being paralyzed presents some pretty big obstacles and I was still a young guy.  I decided that I was going to maximize whatever recovery was possible and I was going to work as hard as I could to get better.”

Anthony threw all of his determination and energy into his therapy and set a goal to walk by his 25th birthday, a month away.  “I had started to be able to move my leg a little bit but I had yet to walk.”  He was visiting his parents on a pass from the hospital on the weekend of his birthday when he declared his intention to his mother.  “She could tell I was serious and said, ‘Can you at least let your Dad hold onto you so you don’t fall?’  I took my first steps that day simply putting one foot in front of the other.”

Although he continued to progress during weekend visits with his parents, hospital policy mandated that when he wasn’t in therapy he was wheelchair bound.  He was terrified that his body would forget the strides he’d made so when he was alone in his hospital room during the week he struggled to his feet and walked in circles.  Four months after the accident he was recovered sufficiently to be discharged with one continuing limitation.  To this day, Anthony has no use of his left hand.

As an outpatient, Anthony continued to get stronger and eventually the time came when he was able to return to work.  While he was attending university, Anthony bought a house and charged rent to his friends to live with him.  As a result of that experience, he fell in love with real estate.  “I decided that if I was going to have a second chance at a career I was going to sell houses.”  But how would he get around? As the victim of a brain injury, his driver’s license was suspended until he completed rehabilitation and passed a test to demonstrate that he could safely operate a motor vehicle.  Undaunted, Anthony obtained his real estate license before he could drive.

Returning to the work world, Anthony wanted to look the part and that included wearing a collar and tie.  “I absolutely love my ties. I have more ties in my closet than any grown man should have and I knew that I was going to have to learn how to tie a Windsor knot with one hand.”  Anthony researched on line and asked his therapists for help but couldn’t find a resource to teach him so he took matters into his own hand.  “It was a Saturday around 8:00 a.m. I sat down on my couch and I looped a tie around my neck and I said to myself. ‘Anthony, you will not take it off until you can tie it.’”.  He failed time and again over the next eight hours until finally he tied a presentable knot.  “That day, I discovered the concept of failing forward.  All day long I discovered one more way it didn’t work until eventually it did.”

Fresh with his bus pass in hand, his real estate license and a neatly tied Windsor knot, it was time to get rolling! Anthony is a believer that success leaves clues and he decided to mimic the behaviours and best practices of the successful agents in the office including establishing a real estate geographic farm area and conducting regular open houses.  The only obstacle he faced was doing it all on public transit with one hand.  “I would struggle onto the bus in Nova Scotia’s harsh winter with several big, metal-frame open house signs and my paperwork slipping from my grip.  I didn’t care though; I was prepared to do whatever it took to be successful.”  Toward the end of his first year in the business, he passed the requisite test and obtained his driver’s license.

Every goal that Anthony set he achieved but still he felt something was holding him back.

“Whenever I thought about the accident I harbored a lot of negative feelings toward the driver until one day I considered his point of view.  I thought about how terrible it would have been to be the guy driving the minivan and to all of a sudden look up and see this kid flipping up over his hood. That day I decided to forgive him.  He had left the scene and even though he returned right away, I’ve never met him and I doubt that I ever will. I can say with one hundred percent certainty that today I hold no ill feelings toward him whatsoever.  From that moment on I was able to move forward with much more momentum and progress so much quicker.”  Now, Anthony is targeted to earn over a quarter million dollars this year.  He is happily married to Pam, enjoying their two boys Max and Donnie.

“I learned through the process of my recovery and the challenging start to my real estate career that there is no way for a person to know their own strength until it is tested,” he said.  Anthony marshalled his own determination and relied on the help of his family and his healthcare workers for support and guidance in navigating through and charting the course of his new normal.  He concentrates on that within his control and minimizes the rest.  Reflecting back on the day he taught himself to tie the Windsor knot, “I learned that failure is not the opposite of success; failure is the path to success.”

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