7 Things Losing My Leg Taught Me About Overcoming Obstacles

February 15, 2007 started off like any normal day. I didn’t know it would change my life forever.

The temperature was minus 40. A normal logger doesn’t work when it’s colder than minus 10, but I could not let the cold beat me that day.

It was about 9 o’clock that morning when a tree I was sawing unexpectedly split vertically up from the trunk. I couldn’t get out of the way in time. It hit me, hard.

Miraculously, I felt fine. I tried to stand, but my left leg did not touch the ground. I looked down, preparing myself to see a broken leg. But it was far worse than that.

It was gone.

overcoming obstacles

Steam was rising off the end of my leg, just below the knee, and a stream of blood about the size of a pencil was streaming into the snow. I spotted my boot laying there, twisted backward, with something white sticking out of the top.

As my mind started to piece together what I was seeing, I jerked my eyes away, my head spinning.  All I wanted to do was wake up from this horrible nightmare.

When people asked how I managed to survive that day, I think one of the most important things was this incredible feeling of really wanting to live. But that was just the beginning of the obstacles I had to face.

I probably have some unique techniques when I’m overcoming obstacles, as my circumstances are truly out of this world. But you can learn from my story.

7 Things I’ve Learned About Overcoming Obstacles

1. Know that pain, and obstacles, are temporary

One thing I always say to myself when things are going bad is that the sun always comes up tomorrow. It doesn’t really matter how bad you feel or what has just happened because life is going to go on for everyone else in the world.

Related: How Your Painful History Can Help Inspire Others

Are you going to waste energy trying to stop the world from spinning, or are you just going to keep on living? I always pick the easiest way. I want to get on with living and just let the world spin as it may.

2. Use your past successes as a way to build confidence

When I went back to logging after the accident, I started feeling sorry for myself one day. Then, I suddenly thought to myself, “If you can drag your butt out of the woods with a leg sheared off, bleeding to death, you sure as heck can do this!”

Related: 5 Reasons To Boost Self-Confidence

If it’s important, you should always see how far you can get. If you don’t try, you have already failed.

3. Break big problems down into bite-sized hurdles to get through

I never look at the totality of the problem, but rather took it one step at a time.

For example, when I tried to ride my horse after the accident, the first thing I discovered was that I would have to make myself bow-legged so my foot wasn’t sticking out there hitting trees.

Then, my fake foot wanted to slide through the stirrup instead of staying put, so I put a leather cover over the front to fix that issue.

Then, I discovered I couldn’t put equal weight on both stirrups, which made the saddle ride to one side. I fixed that by hanging my 4’ crosscut saw on the weak side to keep it balanced.

Finally, I found when brush hit by a fake leg that it would push the socket out of position, which would make my leg throb. I fixed that by tying the stirrup forward to the breast collar.

Related: 5 Tips On Overcoming Adversity

Looking at the whole situation can sometimes be overwhelming. If I had done that, it would have been way harder to find the willpower to learn how to ride again. Focus on one problem at a time, and take them as they come.

4. Being hard-headed can be a good thing

Hard-headed determination was something I think I was born with. I could never take no for an answer.

To overcome anything, you have to be determined. I see way too many people who quit too easily. Don’t be a quitter. Keep on going.

5. Take time for yourself in nature

By spending time in quiet wild places, I have been able to figure out what’s really important in life. If you can figure that out for yourself, you will quit wasting energy on things others deem important.

Related: 3 Ways To Put Yourself First In Life And Work

However, to do that, you have to get away from this relentless advertising we are bombarded with on a daily basis and get in touch with yourself. It takes days of quietness to figure this out.

With a centered soul, you can overcome almost anything, because you will only be focusing on the things that are really important to you.

6. Don’t take stuff personally

Life’s ups and downs can be explained by one simple phrase: stuff happens.

Asking the universe why I had to lose my leg would get me nowhere. I don’t waste any energy trying to figure out why. It’s done and over. There is no going back.

7. Use the fear of failure to your advantage

I have always chased my dreams. I think some people are afraid to do that because, if they fail, they will not have a dream anymore.

Related: 7 Tips To Achieve Your Dreams

People have told me that I am not afraid to fail. That is not true at all. Failure scares the hell out of me. And that’s exactly why I refuse to fail.

Fear will happen to everyone because we’re all human. Let your fear of failure become your motivation.

The Takeaway

It hasn’t been easy for me. Overcoming obstacles as big as the ones I’ve faced is hard. But it is what it is, and I have a lot of living to do yet, bum leg or not. Don’t let your hurdles define you. Let them be proof of what you’re really made of.


Gary EdingerGary Edinger has been a log truck driver, a log cabin builder, a commercial salmon fisherman in Alaska, and a licensed hunting guide in Montana. He raced sled dogs for 19 years. He has been a member of the board of directors of the International Sled Dog Racing Association and president of the board of Price County Waterways Association. Gary is also the author of Will To Live: A Saga of Survival.

Photo by Mantas Photography

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