Dave’s Really Bad Day: A Prius, An Ambulance and UCLA

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It’s true what they say about car accidents. At least the bad ones. Or at the least the only bad one that I’ve had—last Wednesday night. I don’t remember the Prius taxi cab turning to get on Southbound 405 in Los Angeles. I don’t remember the “large” or “enormous” Mercedes turning into us (the taxi driver and me). I don’t remember the impact. Thank goodness.

I do remember coming to slowly, in the Ronald Reagan Medical Center at UCLA, with a neck brace to prevent cervical movement and an IV in each arm. I remember the feeling of the scissors as the custom made Brooks Brothers suit was removed from my body. I remember thinking of a scene from the sequel to Patton when his general’s uniform was cut off of him after a traffic accident that led to his paralysis and, eventually, to his death.

I remember words: “morphine,” “CT scan,” and “head injury.” I could see the concerned and focused faces of the medical professionals and the police. The word that summarized it was “bad.” Perhaps, “oh shit, really bad.”

I could think of a few words myself: “Feinberg” (as in Dr. David, the CEO of the UCLA Health System), and “plastics.” By the time I was enough of myself to know that this wasn’t an alien abduction, purgatory or nightmare, my wife was there. She was holding my hand, looking brave and comforting, but that post-accident altered state of awareness turns the smallest quivering muscles into meaning. I knew it was bad. As I could talk more, I felt that my teeth were not where they were supposed to be. The tip of my tongue was feeling the top of them. I have vague memories of the doctors stitching up a gash on my chin that looks like a second smile and people looking at my right ear and frowning.

At one point, the trauma team began a series of simple tests, each one making me feel like I’d live. Could I see through my left eye? Yes. Right? Yes. My ears worked, although the right one hurt to the touch, even through the morphine fog. I had no broken limbs, my ribs felt okay. I could feel and move my toes. Anything involving talking, my jaw, my teeth, or my tongue led to scribbling on clipboards and more of those “oh shit” looks.

Those looks kicked me from the present to the future. How would we tell my four-year-old daughter? The daddy of a four-year-old is supposed to be superhuman—not a bleeding mass of bandages, unable to talk. While my wife pretended to be ok, I knew that she was wailing inside, and soon the wailing would be out loud. When would we be able to kiss again? Would I be able to work? I make a lot of my living, and support a small company, through keynotes, workshops, consulting engagements, and writing. Writing I knew would be OK. My brain worked, and my fingers seemed alright.

When I got to my patient room, it was perhaps 5am.  My dinner, the day before, had started at 7pm.  It was the end of day two of a three day live event our team had cooked up called “Leadership Unleashed: Live in LA” at the Skirball Center just north of the Getty Museum. Day two had ended well and I started to see how day three would snap into place. I could see this new content becoming a new book, a new live program, and hundreds of keynote speeches. We had dinner with a company that had brought several of their team members to the event and it was wonderful. We had great food and a little too much to drink which is the reason for leaving my car at Skirball and making plans to take a taxi home. I’ll remember the last food I’ll taste in a long time, especially the butterscotch pudding. For the people at that dinner—thank you.

The last topic of the second day was “inventing a crisis.” One of the participants had noticed, quite correctly, that the content of days one and two had brought us as far as we could go as individuals. But, it was “all about me,” rather than “all about us.” It was about creating heroes, and leaders go way beyond what heroes achieve. Leadership often starts with a person and then goes “tribal” before it seeks to create massive change in an organization or in the world. One of the last things I said to the group before we ended at 6pm is that it takes “inventing a crisis” to do that. I asked them to think about how to do that overnight. A crisis is “invented” or made apparent to people through pro-active leadership. Sometimes it shows up from the outside at the perfect possible moment, even though it usually sucks for everyone when it arrives.

When word got out to the CultureSync team that the taxi driver and person behind the wheel of the massive SUV had “invented a crisis,” there wasn’t much I could do. As a type A wacko, I wrote email from my bed (shout-out to Apple: my new MacBook Pro with Retina display works perfectly, as does my iPhone 5, and my iPad—all survived the taxi ride better than their user), high on morphine and who knows what else, to offer advice to our team a few hours before day three would start at 10am. They wrote back and said they were glad to hear from me and that things were looking good and that I should shut up and get some rest and let them work. In other words, they were unleashing a new level of leadership, and that’s what this three day event was intended to do—for everyone there, starting with the CultureSync team.

As my mentor Warren Bennis impressed on me over and over, leaders create other leaders. The roots of our company are star-driven, with people talking “we” but really meaning “I.” We’ve done a lot to course correct that in the last 18 months, mostly by having non-founders run many of our training programs, but it would take a crisis to jolt us from a hero with friends to leaders on a quest together. The crisis is here.

About 20 hours after getting to UCLA, a remarkable plastic surgeon led a team to rebuild what could be reconstructed of my jaw. The surgery estimate of four hours went to five and almost to six. I now have two titanium plates in my jaw, am missing several teeth, and there’s a question about whether some of the ones I still have will make it.

I’m now at home, six days since the accident. I have a big day today: drink liquid food and go see the dentist for the “stop scaring young children” project of 2012-13. I have a massive cut on my chin. The trauma surgeons closed it and the plastic surgeon reopened and closed again. It looks like a second smile, which is probably good because I can’t feel enough to do a normal smile. I do feel a bit like the Joker.

I have some sort of gum holding my right ear together, with a lot of stitches in it. I can feel about 70% of my lower lip, and I’m missing enough teeth to make people talk of a bridge rather than an implant. My lower canine teeth were deep in my jaw and moved back to something resembling normal. I’m not sure if this is a plastic surgeon’s standard speech or not, but he said, “I trust you not to eat food, so I won’t wire your jaw shut.” That’s like saying, “I trust you not to try to play with the zombies I left in your garage, so I won’t chain you to the bed.” The thought of trying to eat anything is right on par with playing with zombies.  In fact, I’d choose the zombies over this.

Because this event is a crucible, and crucibles are so central to leadership, some of you have asked me to relate the series of events that lead up to the accident, and what happened after.  If you’re not interested, then thank you for reading to this point and I appreciate your thoughts and concerns.

As I mentioned earlier, the accident happened between the second and third days of the “Leadership Unleashed: Live in L.A.” event. About 100 people attended, from all over the U.S. and Canada. The way it played out was spooky, coming at a time, and in a way, that accomplished something impossible without it.

We were wrapping up looking back at major life milestones: a crucible experience, which is a loss, setback or period of self-doubt (thank you, Warren Bennis); a “high-five!,” which is a time of achievement; and a “hell no!,” a moment when your internal compass told you to not do what was easy or expedient.

We then mine these stories for our core values, our “great gift,” and our “origin story.” Our great gift is something unique to us that operates best in only certain circumstances. It’s just there when we need it, when we reach for it in a desperate situation. Our origin story is a statement of why we’re here, as though our life was constructed to handle the challenges immediately before us. All of this is “invented”—a combination of discovery and creativity, harkening back to the Greek idea of “inventio.

We then focus on a present situation that pisses us off, that is an “outrage” of something that violates our values. For me, the outrage is that organizations are largely soul-sucking monsters which need vitality but outlaw its expression instead. They become pathological and antisocial in many cases. The people in them are generally good natured, but within the context of unthinking machines of processes and structure, the people often act in service of something other than mission, passion, and core values.

We call the outrage “a crisis” and people’s perception of it changes. A period of instability begins, where the status quo now seems in doubt. Leaders broadcast the “call” to others, to take up the challenge with them. People in key roles make themselves apparent, their titles taken from the literature of quests. “Masters” are ones who know us most deeply, see our ability, and what there is for us to do. “Wizards” have seen the future and make prophecies about what will work out. Today’s wizards are good at extrapolating trends and finding historical parallels. “Magicians” can do amazing things, today, mostly though technology. “Diviners” (many are intuitive and trained in psychology, coaching, or leadership) can see others’ core values, great gifts, and sense of outrage as though these hints were tattooed on people’s. There are teachers, fellow travelers, and friends. What results is a “quest,” a movement of a tribe (20-150 people), to seek its “object.” Leadership begins at this point—when the person broadcasts a call and others respond. They own the quest together.

Literature isn’t real life, but it was created to explain patterns and provide meaning. Readers of my work will know I’m an “empiricist.” I believe in what can be proven. Looking back over the past week, it’s as though every step in the process revealed an order far wiser than any of us on our best day. The crisis, I was thinking over during and as I got into the taxi, is often when the hero’s great gift no longer functions (like kryptonite), or isn’t enough.

At about 11pm on Wednesday, our crisis started, when the Mercedes and the Prius impacted, creating a period of uncertainty. I had, at least for the moment, been rendered unable to talk, with a recovery that would force me out of planes and engagements, which is how CultureSync earns a lot of its money.

I am incredibly proud of the CultureSync team. None of us wanted this crisis, but from what people at the event tell me, they stepped into the crisis and took charge. They used everything we teach and everything we stand for to turn this crisis into an opportunity and to deliver on the promises we made.  This is leadership unleashed. This is what this event was about. If you want to be that kind of a leader or you want to have teams of people around you that can do what they did, you really should check out the Tribal Leadership Intensive or the Tribal Rainmaker Program, because this is what we teach. I’ll bring a lot of what I’m learning from my personal crucible experience into those programs, and a lot to the next book. Thanks to my doctor’s orders, I will be off work for a month.

I want to thank all of the participants at the event for your leadership and for your commitment. This is what leadership looks like. I often joke with people that when you say you want to become a leader, treat that pledge with seriousness. Now you understand what I'm talking about. Life has a way of shaping you in short order. And I want to thank everyone in our community for all of your good wishes and emails. I’d love to stay in touch with you and to actively continue this conversation with you and support you in your leadership.

About the Author

Dave LoganAs Co-founder and Senior Partner, Dave’s job is to connect people to members of the CultureSync tribe and then get out of the way. That’s a long way of saying he doesn’t do any actual work, other than consulting, writing, giving keynotes, or hiding from everyone at CultureSync by teaching at the USC Marshall School of Business, where he’s been loitering since 1996. When people try to make him sound credible, they say things like New York Times #1 author of four books, consultant to three dozen Fortune 500 companies, and PhD in organizational communication from the Annenberg School at USC.View all posts by Dave Logan →

  1. Joseph Iliff of SeekOutWisdom
    Joseph Iliff of SeekOutWisdom12-04-2012

    Dave, thanks for sharing so much about what is happening with you. Please take care of yourself. We need your wisdom. And the right time and medium will be there when it’s ready.

  2. disciple

    Dave, thank goodness you’re okay, and thanks for sharing another great story. first i was chuckling at your thoughts while ‘high on morphine and who knows what else’, and then was moved to tears when i read about the topic and focus of your seminar. very inspiring. thanks for keeping on and carrying the torch for hope. get well soon!

  3. Robert Richman
    Robert Richman12-05-2012

    Beautifully written, Dave. You’re truly pioneering the real understanding of leadership.

  4. Liz Marley
    Liz Marley12-05-2012

    Yes beautifully written. Think most beautiful thing I think I have read by you. And clear. VERY glad you are on track to heal. And very sorry about jaw/chin and loosing teeth. Definite trauma. That would upset me greatly. VERY glad you are OK. And I think you might have just altered the world (again) w/ your sharing. Thank you. I have a new relationship to crisis. It is an honour to know and work w/ you (& your team).

  5. carculture

    Dave, auto accidents are the American yoga. Thankfully, you’ve survived this crisis and are able to continue sharing your powerful visions of leadership. It’s an enormous gift. Fight on!

  6. JP Laqueur
    JP Laqueur12-05-2012

    It was a joy meeting you last week, a shock seeing what happened, and an inspiration to witness the response by your team and my fellow attendees. You unleashed not only leadership but a powerful culture as well that week. Hope to see you in NYC in the spring at CORE: Best wishes for a wonderful holiday and speedy recovery.

  7. Greg Kramer
    Greg Kramer12-05-2012

    Dave, Thanks for your inspiring take on an unfortunate accident. I’m sure your
    messageperspectives on leadership will deepen as a result of your experience benefitting
    the people that you touch. Wish you a speedy recovery.

  8. Rajesh Setty
    Rajesh Setty12-05-2012

    Dave, good wishes from the Bay Area. Please take care and get well soon, – Cheers, Raj

  9. Debbie Weiss
    Debbie Weiss12-05-2012

    My name is Debbie Weiss and I am an RN, I would love to be involved with leadership courses one day. I read your book and listened to the tribal discussions. This is all so inspiring. I intend the best health, healing and well being for you. Thank you for the work leadership unleased does.

  10. Farzam Afshar
    Farzam Afshar12-05-2012

    When I heard about your accident during our course last week, I was certain that was your invitation for the leadership to show up in your company and for all the course participants. I am happy to know that you are well. I am deeply grateful to you and the staff for unleashing my leadership. I am having lots of fun with it at work and home as I am being used by it. Cheers, Farzam

  11. Lisa Mashnouk
    Lisa Mashnouk12-05-2012

    Very moving….thanks for sharing, and here’s to a speedy recovery!

  12. Jeremy Houchens
    Jeremy Houchens12-05-2012

    I really don’t even know what to say. Attending the event and then all of this… Words are sometimes useless. Even now, digesting your story… wow. When people ask what the event was like… that has been the first response… wow. The event was billed as Life Changing… I do agree.

    Thanks for creating such a special group, team, community, message, everything… just a better reality.

  13. Dan Kaufman
    Dan Kaufman12-05-2012

    Thanks for sharing Dave. As LIsa said, very moving. And my oh my what a community your leadership has created. Rest well, heal up, no talking but please keep writing! Dan

  14. Johné Parker
    Johné Parker12-05-2012

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautifully written and very personal post. More than a little amazed (but not really surprised 🙂 ) that you wrote emails from your hospital bed mere hours after the accident (I’m a fellow “Type A Wacko” 🙂 ) and really inspired (but, again, not surprised) by how your team stepped in to unleash a new level of leadership for day 3. SO happy that you’re healing and sending good thoughts for a speedy recovery.

  15. Tara Rodden Robinson
    Tara Rodden Robinson12-06-2012

    So grateful that you’re going to be okay, Dave! I treasure you as a friend and colleague. My prayers and thoughts are with you!

  16. Adrian Papacica
    Adrian Papacica12-06-2012


    Hang in there. Try to use this time to meditate, if you can. It will help with your recovery.

    Best Wishes and Fast Recovery!

  17. Cliff Michaels
    Cliff Michaels12-06-2012

    Dave – so very proud to know you as a friend & mentor. Wishing you a rapid recovery. If you or your family need anything at all, please don’t hesitate to call. Fight on & thanks for sharing your leadership wisdom with the world. Cliff

  18. travistasset

    To Dave & the rest of the CultureSync team, as well as the guest speakers – Thank you for the unleashing of all that leadership is! The workshop was phenomenal and I am in utter appreciation for all that you did and all that you continue to be! Sending good vibes your way and trusting you will have a speedy recovery.

  19. Marlon Ramos
    Marlon Ramos12-06-2012

    Hope you feel better…would love to see a pic of that “second smile!”

  20. Chandra Singasani
    Chandra Singasani12-06-2012

    Wish you a fast recovery… take care…

  21. Matthew Jensen
    Matthew Jensen12-06-2012

    Dave, get well soon! Wishing a very speedy recovery!!

  22. Raleigh

    Dave- good luck with your recovery and get well soon. Has the doctor prescribed wine? Will send as needed.

  23. Sasha Barbour
    Sasha Barbour12-07-2012

    Dave, Wishing you a full recovery and a safe and happy holiday season with your family. Fight on!

  24. Brian Sutton
    Brian Sutton12-07-2012

    Dave-thanks for sharing your story. Keep your
    spirits up and get well soon.

  25. Oliver Kim
    Oliver Kim12-07-2012

    Dave, I wish you a quick recovery. Get back to “Life is Great!” soon.

  26. Myron Williams
    Myron Williams12-07-2012


    Your books, articles and talks have made an impact on me and the people I work with. May God bring physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual healing to you and your family. May your holidays with your family be precious.

  27. SK

    Incredible experience and thanks for sharing your very personal experience.
    Wishing you a speedy and full recovery out of this crisis to emerge even stronger.

  28. Sherrill Leverich-Fries
    Sherrill Leverich-Fries12-07-2012

    Feeling grateful you are okay, and in awe of how this arose to provide the opportunity for the tribe to step into full leadership. Sending wishes for a full and speedy recovery, and for the next opportunity to be less crisis driven!

  29. Russel Buetow
    Russel Buetow12-07-2012

    Thanks for being a leader AND a teacher – letting us learn from your crisis. I hope if I am interpreting this correctly that you are on a great trajectory for recovery. Prayers to you and your family and Fight on!

  30. Claire Solis
    Claire Solis12-08-2012

    Thank you for sharing and continuing to inspire no matter the circumstances . You and your team are amazing people that have truly set a beautiful example of leaders working together in the middle of a crisis and prevailing . My prayers go out to you and your family , wishing you a very speedy recovery !

  31. Parvinder Thapar
    Parvinder Thapar12-08-2012

    Hope you have a full and quick recovery. Great to know that you are doing okay. My best wishes and prayers to you and your family. Fight On !!

  32. anju grover
    anju grover12-09-2012

    thanks for sharing this story. you never know when what can happen, your story is scary but inspiring. am glad that you are on the road to recovery, wish you well.

  33. David R. Tschumi
    David R. Tschumi12-10-2012

    Hi Dave,

    I hope this finds you rapidly recovering and heading for a ton of “Life
    is Great” moments yet to come!

    I wanted to thank you and your amazing “Co-Leaders” on a “Job well done”
    at the “Leadership Unleashed: Live in LA” event – all of Team Nova was and is grateful
    for the experience. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and
    your family, and like so many others, I encourage you to fight on!

    David R. Tschumi – Nova Medical Products.

  34. Isaac

    Feeling grateful that you doing much better now, As usual Dave you know how to make that great positive impact by looking into matters through a Leader POV.
    Thank you for sharing & being a great teacher and mentor even in your “Crisis” time.
    Hopefully, you recover fast .

  35. Dave Logan
    Dave Logan12-11-2012

    Hi everyone, thanks for all the good thoughts. I’m doing ok, but it’s a long struggle back. Still waiting to learn whether a few parts of jaw make it or not (the surgeon tried to salvage everything he could). As my dentist said yesterday, this is a life changing accident. That’s really true. Thank all again. Dave

  36. Brad Thompson
    Brad Thompson12-12-2012

    I am very sorry to hear of your accident and wish you a speedy back-to-normal condition. Count your blessings we live in a modern day of age where doctors can restore people back to new or better than new condition.

    Your accident reminds me of a time many years ago when the pedal to my bicycle broke off in a sprint, sending my front foot into the front wheel catapulting me high in the air, head first into the concrete, without a helmet. I was a pro racer at the time and a bike mechanic, nothing could have prepared me for that situation. I was out cold and bloody for 1-2 minutes before getting up and walking the six houses length home not knowing what happened, until my friend told me. I lost about a weeks worth of memory and very lucky to only suffer some road rash and a mild concussion with no serious side effects. I now always wear a helmet, not playing that game again.

    For all intensive purposes I should have died from that impact and made me realize there are things that are not provable at work behind the scenes. I’ve had a few other close calls that were unexplainable why I came out fine, such as an icy highway and head on semi-trailer truck, which I try to forget.

    It’s these types of situations that really shock us to our mortality, the meaning of life, God and so much more. Going forth, life means more, we value others more, and are more thankful for the smaller things, and especially for devine protections, which are priceless.

    It’s when we fall down and are in our weakest condition, we are the strongest. May you find your Jedi powers in all this and fly to new heights like never before. Also enjoy all little things and people that are with you during your recovery.

    All the best & prayers,

    Brad Thompson, CEO – Digital Spyders Inc.

  37. Shekhar


    Wishing you a quick recovery.

  38. Adrian

    Hi Dave,

    I just finished reading this and I am so impressed with the way you practice what you preach. I met you during the Sierra Health Foundation’s HLP class 7 kick-off in Sacramento and you have had an impact on me and my organization ever since. My prayers are with you and your family as you continue to bounce-back.

    In community,
    Adrian Ruiz
    Executive Director
    Youth Development Network

  39. Shannon Waller
    Shannon Waller12-13-2012

    Hi Dave,
    I was just looking up your address to send you a Holiday card and wow – I’m so glad you’re OK! It sounds like you’re doing well, although I’m sure it’s been arduous and painful. Your brain is clearly working – it’s a great post, and I’m not surprised your team delivered. Your clarity and leadership has always inspired me, and I’m sure them too.

    Best wishes for a fast and full recovery. Thinking of you,

    Shannon Waller
    Strategic Coach
    Toronto, ON

  40. Ivan Vela
    Ivan Vela12-13-2012

    Thank you Dave. You’ve taken a chaotic and life changing event and orchestrated it into a story of leadership 2.0 and a few lessons for many of us to take away. Now it’s time for your tribe to take care of you. All the best.

  41. tory nixon
    tory nixon12-13-2012

    Dave, so sorry to hear the news of your accident. Hoping for and wishing you a full and speedy recovery. Please let us know if there is anything we can do for you. Take care of yourself and we’ll see you back in action at graduation. Tory

  42. George

    Powerful sharing, as always. Your humor is incredible, shining forth from a situation that we never imagine can happen to us. I often tell my colleagues, “Any of us can get hit by a bus, but the work goes on…..” You really did. And here you are with inspiring ideas and commitment that epitomizes true leadership. C.P. Snow said, “We work and live as if there is all the time in the world. The truth is, there is very little time, and much to be done. Let’s get on with it.” I think he’s talking about the salt of the earth, love of others, that makes the world go around, and our responsibility for creating and sharing it. It counts for more than all the things we have or what we do. We love you, Dave, and look for your quick recovery.

  43. DanaC

    Dave – Can’t possibly imagine going through what you are enduring. Wait, you aren’t enduring, you are learning and sharing. What a fabulous example you are to all of us. You are truly the “silver lining” in our clouds, and are now an even greater inspiration to me. Your storytelling ability reminds me to never forget the power of a story and to share, share, share. Forever your devotee,

    Dana Campbell
    P.S. hope you get well very soon

  44. JoeStauffacher

    Wow! Reading your descriptive text brought me back to my accident where I compounded fractured my femur. Crazy how the human brain feels the pain as another person describes it. Now my mouth hurts. Since a month has passed I hope you are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  45. Eiko44

    I am impest about how work, both you and your staff. I hope you recover very soon and your back in action not same as before, but better and with more experience and new look at your job, and how you work. Take care and I´m glad you so strong.

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