Eduardo Garcia and his sister, Indra Fanuzzi, teamed up with another dynamic brother-sister duo, Jennifer and Christopher Jane, to build a business, Montana Mex--a clean label product line that makes cooking at home easier. Then tragedy struck.
Garcia, an accomplished chef and true mountain man, was bow-hunting elk to create one of his mouth-watering delicacies when he discovered a baby bear lying motionless. Reaching down with his knife to investigate what was going on, Garcia was electrocuted by a 2400-volt power line hidden underneath the cub.
Severely burned by the electrical shock, Garcia was so delirious that he did not even realize he had a cell phone to call for help. Somehow the avid outdoorsman mustered up enough strength to stumble a painstaking three miles for help.
Garcia was air lifted to the nearest hospital where he spent 50 days in the Intensive Care Unit surrounded by loved ones. 50 days of anguish. 50 days of sleepless nights. 50 days bordering the precious line between life and death.
Garcia endured an eleven-hour surgery to remove four ribs and most of the muscle mass from his left torso. His left hand and forearm were amputated as a result of being burned beyond repair.
And then, as if losing four ribs, core muscles, and his hand were not enough to overcome, it was also discovered that he had stage two testicular cancer. The cancer required three months of chemotherapy while he was already in the hospital struggling to recover.
The last few years of Garcia's life, and the lives of his co-founders, he has been in and out of hospitals for the initial surgeries, chemotherapy, and reconstructive surgeries. Garcia was incredibly resilient throughout his ordeal. But he didn't do it alone. He had continuous support from family and friends, and large doses of humor. Laughing in the midst of the unknown is healing.
As part of the healing process they were able to let in the pain and cry when necessary. They countered the grief with being unashamed to laugh and have fun. Through spontaneous dancing and watching their favorite stand up comedians, they found comedy and humor between embracing what had been lost while cherishing what they still had: Eduardo's life.
Four years later, the Montana Mex team has triumphed over tragedy. They are back in business, and using that same humor to sell their clean label Mexican food products. Marketing slogans like "Take My Top Off and Pinch Me", "Shake While Dancing", and "Hold Me Tight Pour Me Slowly" on the seasoning salts and sauces are making people chuckle every day.
The humor has also differentiated them in the marketplace. HEB, one of the largest grocery retailers in Texas that is family owned, is focused on clean label products among other conscious-minded activities like community involvement and lowering emissions. The head buyer sees hundreds of products. The humor he saw on the Montana Mex packaging made him feel like he knew them. He liked them before he even liked the product. Now they are in over 1,000 retail stores and on the Home Shopping Network.
It has been said that humor has the power to heal us all. Where might you be able to add more humor in your life?
Here are other lessons to learn from the resilience and spirit of Eduardo Garcia and the Montana Mex team.
1) Be empowered. Garcia could have easily taken a path of self-pity. Sure, there are moments that are harder than others like when he had to relearn some of the simple things in life like how to skillfully wield his chef's knife again. Instead he is embracing his new reality and making the best of it and utilizing that empowerment. So much so, in fact, that he has partnered with the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) to help others going through similar experiences. The Challenged Athletes Foundation provides adaptive equipment and programs for beautiful souls with physical opportunities. Here is a video that is bound to touch your heart with the impact CAF is making. Be warned. You may want some Kleenex near by.
Where might you be in a victim mentality? What can you do today to change that? As Maya Angelou said "Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances."When you stand in who you are it gives you the power to change your life.
2) Be fearless. Eduardo and his co-founders, really family, could have stayed paralyzed in fear those early days in the hospital. Instead they looked fear in the face and laughed. They made everyone laugh by joking about what no one wanted to talk about. They found ways to have fun while their entire world was collapsing around them, making the pain and the challenges easier to deal with. The positive energy contributed greatly to the healing process for Garcia and all his loved ones.
What are you afraid of? How is it impacting your life? Until you face your fear it will continue to have power over you. Is that really how you want to live? More often than not, your fears are much worse than reality. It's time to face those fears. I invite you to take one small step today.
3) Be you. They had a debate at Montana Mex: was it too risque to put "Take My Top Off and Pinch Me" on their product? Would everyone get the humor? Jennifer and Christopher Jane convinced the team that they should just go with it. They decided it's better to be unashamedly who they are and see how people respond. It has worked and buyers connect with Montana Mex on a personal level because of this.
Where might you be making decisions based on what others might think? What can you do differently? People desire connection in our world. If you are not being authentic there is no way for them to connect with you, your products, or your services. As Oscar Wilde says "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
The Montana Mex team stuck together through thick and thin. In a time of tragedy they pulled together with humor as an important element--and came out the other side better because of it.
If you are in the midst of pain please get the support you need, from loved ones, and professionals. Maybe you can throw a spontaneous dance party! If you can find just one little thing that puts a smile on your face, please do.
Learn the full story in the upcoming documentary Charged.
Do you have inspiring insights to share? Please contact me directly to explore the possibility of doing a future article together.