Shift: Creating Better Tomorrows: Winning at Work and in Life

Shift: Creating Better Tomorrows: Winning at Work and in Life

by Michael O'Brien


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Shift: Creating Better Tomorrows: Winning at Work and in Life by Michael O'Brien

***ALL the profits from Shift will go to World Bicycle Relief.***

This is a must-read book for anyone looking to change their perspective and live a more purposeful life. Michael O'Brien (OB to his friends) shows that the secret to becoming our best starts with our mindset. 

Drawing on his personal story from his ''last bad day'', Michael shares the emotional and physical recovery that starts with his near-death accident on the morning of July 11th , 2001. A keen cyclist out on a training ride in New Mexico, Michael was hit head-on by an SUV that crossed into his lane traveling 40 miles per hour. He takes readers into the early darkness of his recovery and the perspective shift that gave him the awareness that he could be defined by how he responded to his tragedy - not by the tragedy itself. Michael uses his newfound perspective to fuel his recovery and help him create a better a better tomorrow. 

In Shift, Michael introduces ''ways of being'' that can help anyone build a stronger peloton (the team that transcends the individual) and get closer to the best version of themselves. 

Michael's story is life changing, inspirational, and insightful. Shift is a book about the power of mindset, perspective, and grit to enable each of us to ride the ups and downs of our life's journey.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780998732800
Publisher: Red Hill Publishing
Publication date: 07/11/2017
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Michael O’Brien is President and Founder of Peloton Coaching and Consulting. As a certified executive coach, he has advised, motivated, and inspired Fortune 500 executives, entrepreneurs, and other difference-makers at organizations like Brother International and Johnson and Johnson. He also serves as a mentor and volunteer with organizations that promote professional growth, such as the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association and James Madison University’s College of Business. Before starting Peloton Coaching and Consulting, he was a healthcare sales and marketing executive and received his marketing degree from James Madison University. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two daughters.

Read an Excerpt



The truth is you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed.


It was still dark out when I put on my cycling kit that morning — my bright-yellow ONCE cycling jersey, black Lycra shorts, shoes designed to clip into my pedals, helmet, and sunglasses to reduce the glare once the sun made its appearance. It was July 11, 2001, and I had woken easily in my hotel room despite a little remaining jet lag from my flight two days before. I was excited to get in some laps before the day began.

My company was having a sales conference at a resort somewhere in the open desert between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico — a place that felt to me like the middle of nowhere. Just beyond the resort's swimming pools and manicured golf course, I saw nothing but dry grass and desert brush in all directions.

I hadn't been looking forward to this conference. Since I had just returned from a weeklong meeting, the last thing I wanted to do was spend another week far from home, missing my wife and two young kids while I sat in another nondescript hotel conference room watching PowerPoint presentations and discussing sales strategies. Not to mention I wasn't even in sales — my department was marketing! And just as important, the Sunday after the conference, I had signed up for a cycling race, my first in years, and I was anxious to work my way back into racing shape. After several years of transition — moving to New Jersey, having children, and furthering my career — my wife, Lynn, and I had finally settled into a routine. For me that meant I could finally get back to racing.

I didn't have great expectations for my performance in the competition; I was just excited to participate. Still, I was frustrated when I learned that my company had scheduled a conference far from home right before the race. To salvage my lost training time and log some much-needed cycling miles, I decided to bike while at the conference. My plan was to wake up early each morning, before the conference began, and at the very least do a few laps around the property. I had borrowed my friend Derek McGinty's Bike Friday folding travel bicycle and had brought it with me to New Mexico.

Like the other participants, I arrived at resort the day before our meeting began, and that evening, my coworkers and I went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I had what must have been the worst Mexican food I have ever tasted. The chicken enchiladas were inedible, and even the margaritas were horrible. Where are we? What are we doing out here? I thought to myself. I missed my family and my life back in New Jersey. We must have gotten one heck of a deal from the hotel, I figured, to come all the way out to the middle of the desert in July.

I didn't train on the first day of the conference, and the event was just what I had expected. Despite the best efforts of our meeting organizers, the material presented just didn't engage me, and judging from the glazed-over looks of everyone else in the room, it didn't engage them either. Admittedly, this wasn't new for me. I had sat through plenty of lackluster work meetings and conferences in my career. While conferences certainly weren't my favorite, I chalked them up as an unavoidable part of the job, and this one wasn't the worst. In fact, that first day, I answered some trivia questions correctly and won a book — a copy of Sun Tzu's The Art of War. This ancient text on Chinese military strategies is often applied to modern business management. Unfortunately, I don't have much interest in that approach. I have never thought that work should be treated as if it were war. I believe that work should be about finding victories for everyone.

That night, after a quick after-dinner drink at the bar with my colleagues, I went back to my room determined to get up just before sunrise the next day. I wanted to get as many miles on the bike as I could before the second day of the conference. While everyone else was asleep in their hotel rooms, or plodding along on the hotel gym machines like hamsters on hamster wheels, I would be enjoying the vast expanse of the New Mexican desert, the brisk morning air and bright sun on my skin.

I HAVE LOVED RIDING A BICYCLE EVER SINCE THE first time I got up the bravery to ride my little two-wheeler without training wheels. I vividly remember flying down our sloping driveway without a helmet, right into the middle of the road. To be honest, I probably wasn't going that fast, but a five-year-old's imagination and memory have powerful tendencies toward exaggeration. That said, if a car had come through, that would have been the end of me, right then and there. But I was too young to understand the danger; all I knew was the incredible joy of careening downhill on two wheels. I can still remember the feeling of exhilaration and the wind on my face.

There's something so magical about a bicycle. There's a simplicity in all those circles — the wheels, the crank, the cogs — that reminds me of da Vinci's drawings. To me, it's also functional art. I love how you use your own energy to move the wheels to propel your body forward through space. On a bicycle, you have a perspective different from what you have in a car. I love the sense of adventure, independence, and freedom that comes with cycling.

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, cycling wasn't nearly as popular as it is today. In the United States, bicycles were viewed as just for children, something that you used to get to and from a friend's house or to assist with an early-morning paper route. Once you were old enough to drive, a car was the respectable, adult way to get around town.

For me, that changed when I first caught a glimpse of the Tour de France — the world's most prestigious bike race. I remember watching edited footage of that incredible race on the CBS Sports Spectacular on Saturday mornings. Even though they probably only showed twenty to thirty minutes of it, the Tour de France was so different than anything else I had been exposed to. I was fascinated watching those cyclists push themselves to their individual limits while using teamwork in a way that was completely different than in other sports. Soon after, in the summer of 1984, cyclists from the United States suddenly burst onto the scene, dominating the Los Angeles Olympic Games. I was sixteen at the time, and I remember watching with pride and amazement as the U.S. team took home four gold, three silver, and two bronze medals for a sport that, prior to that moment, had barely been on my radar. Two years later, American cyclist Greg LeMond became the first non-European professional cyclist to win the Tour de France. That was it — I had caught the bug. I knew I had to return to my childhood love of cycling.

I quickly became swept up in the romance and culture of this traditionally very European sport. Particularly in France, Belgium, and Italy, cycling was not only a viable mode of transportation for all ages, it was considered a serious sport. National and regional teams as well as company-sponsored teams were common, and organized races for such teams consistently drew thousands of avid cycling fans. I was entranced by the idea of teams of rugged cyclists tearing through the narrow cobblestone streets of picturesque little French villages. I loved the toughness and blue-collar-ness of it all, the camaraderie and competition. When I watched the 1979 film Breaking Away, about a small-town kid who becomes obsessed with Italian bicycle racing and dreams of becoming a competitive cyclist, I thought to myself, That's me!

My father and I shared a love of sports — playing sports, watching sports, discussing sports — but this had always involved the traditional American sports. I had spent much of my childhood and teen years connecting with my father over our mutual love of baseball, basketball, golf, and bowling. My father was even my Little League baseball coach. Suddenly, in my late teen years, I started wearing Lycra and shaving my legs. Although he never said anything, I think my father felt, at least at first, that my interest in cycling was a bit different. He, along with most Americans, didn't understand its nuances, but he was supportive of my new pursuit.

After I graduated high school in 1985, I left my parents' home in upstate New York to attend James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, two hours southwest of Washington, DC. At JMU I pursued a marketing degree, and my free time and energy went into working on campus and starting JMU's very first college cycling team.

There, my appreciation of riding with a team and the mentality of the "peloton" grew. This French word translates directly as "platoon" in English, and it describes the main cluster of riders in a race. Prior to college, I had done much of my riding alone, except for a ride with a friend or in a race here or there. Now I experienced the upside of riding with a team. Though a peloton might seem, at first glance, to be nothing more than a bunch of individual racers each striving toward his or her own goal at the finish line, there is actually much teamwork and collective strategy involved. For example, when you are riding behind a fellow cyclist, his or her body will intercept and cut the wind resistance for you by as much as 40 percent. This tactic, known as "drafting," allows you to go just as fast as the other rider while exerting much less energy. It is a great way to save energy for the end of the race, when racers will break away from the peloton and sprint for the finish line.

When I look back on the years I raced in college, I realize that, despite being strong, I probably wasn't the smartest, most strategic racer. I tended to burn up my matches too early with ill-advised breakaways, which didn't allow for enough energy at the end, when I needed that final push. I was also too cautious. At the end of many races, things can get fast and a little rough. At times I was too timid to take the risks necessary to win because I wanted to avoid crashing. Because I played it safe, my results suffered.

I still remember those years with fondness, traveling to small towns around the region to compete in races. Racing was something I did for fun; it certainly wasn't a professional pursuit. Cycling is one of those sports that you've got to work really hard at just to be good enough to hang in the peloton. I had put myself through college with loans, and I certainly wasn't going to be able to pay them off with cycling.

I quickly learned the benefits of riding with a group and the mentality of the "peloton" ... Though it might seem, at first glance, to be nothing more than a bunch of individual racers each striving toward his or her own goal at the finish line, there is actually much teamwork and collective strategy involved in a peloton.

When college came to a close in 1989, it was time to shift my focus and get a job. But what job? I knew I wanted to do something with my marketing degree that made a difference and helped people. With a father in sales and a mother in nursing, I chose to enter the pharmaceutical industry. This seemed a natural progression. I felt good about joining a field dedicated to providing medicine for people who need it. Yes, there is a commercial aspect to any pharmaceutical company, but there is an altruistic side as well.

Because many pharmaceutical companies hired only people with sales experience, I spent the first year and a half out of college selling copiers and fax machines. It wasn't my favorite job, but I chose to see it as sales boot camp. I learned a lot in that time, and my experience helped me land a pharmaceutical sales position in Washington, DC. I thought I had struck gold. Not only was I making good money for the time — $30,000, plus a company car — I was working for a company that was developing a novel drug to treat vascular disease, which was an issue that was important to me.

However, everything changed when the Federal Drug Administration chose not to approve the drug we were developing for sale. Because of this unexpected development, the company was forced to do some restructuring, and my entire team was downsized, me included. This was the first time I realized how important it is to differentiate yourself in the workforce, to stand out from the herd.

After trying my hand at another company for a few months, I ultimately landed a job as a medical sales specialist for a small Japanese multinational company that was in the process of opening a subsidiary in the United States.

I met my future wife, Lynn, through a personal ad I posted in 1992, not long after I had started in the pharmaceutical industry. Lynn was everything I had been looking for: a strong, independent woman "not afraid of expressing her opinion on today's events." That was the line in my ad that hooked her. We were married in 1994, and in the years that followed, we moved out of the DC area to New Jersey and the suburbs of New York City in late 1998, where I was offered the opportunity to shift from sales to marketing, and where Lynn and I started raising a family.

Those years were fruitful but stressful. A few days before starting in the corporate office in New Jersey, the vice president of the company called me and said, "You'll be working directly with me." The guy who I thought was going to be my boss unexpectedly resigned two days earlier. Suddenly, I had to take on many responsibilities of the former marketing director. All this on what was not only my first day on the job but my first day in marketing!

Ultimately, the work was interesting, and I felt passionate about our mission. Our company had partnered with a major global pharmaceutical corporation based in New York City to promote a drug that our company had developed for Alzheimer's disease. Prior to this development, there had been nothing safe and effective on the market to combat the debilitating effects that Alzheimer's disease has on memory, function, and behavior. I had seen the disease up close: my great-aunt came to live with us when I was a young boy, and she had suffered from Alzheimer's. It was scary to see. Then, after Lynn and I married, Lynn's father developed early-onset dementia, which he dealt with for about ten years before he passed away. In my job, I felt driven to help get the word out to people about their options for treatment.

Although the work was exhilarating, I always felt like I was racing to play catch-up. A typical weekday for me was packed with back-to-back meetings, and on the weekends I often had to travel for work. At home, Lynn took care of our newborn daughter, Elle, and by the time I came home from work at night, she was tired from attending to the baby all day. We would eat dinner, put Elle to bed, and I would get back on my computer, responding to emails and finishing more work. I justified this way of living by reminding myself that it was the career I had chosen, and in many ways, it was good enough.

Oftentimes, though, I felt guilty for moving Lynn up to New Jersey, away from her friends and her career in Washington. Before we moved, Lynn had worked as the director of international programs for a trade association. It was an exciting job that required a lot of foreign travel. Ultimately, we knew it wasn't the kind of job she could do while being the kind of parent she wanted to be. Because of this, we decided that she would leave her job to focus on the family, while I would be the one to prioritize my career.

My boss at the time was also a family man, but his kids were a bit older than mine, so he would often get in to work later in the mornings and work later into the evenings, while I would arrive at work early so I could be home before Elle needed to go to bed. Early in my tenure as a marketer, my boss would come down to my office at 5:30 p.m. and say, "Let's go grab dinner and get some sushi." Then he would get caught up in important matters, and it could be another two hours before we even sat down together. This was no fault of my boss, but I felt like I couldn't say no.

On the nights when I didn't have to work late and on the weekends, it was important to me to spend my few precious moments with the family or to give Lynn a bit of alone time for herself. Because of this, my cycling time was inconsistent. My Serotta racing bike desired a little more quality time.


Excerpted from "SHIFT"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Michael O'Brien.
Excerpted by permission of Red Hill Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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