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April 27, 2023

Clint Hatton: Living a Big, Bold, Brave Life in Spite of Tragedy

Clint Hatton: Living a Big, Bold, Brave Life in Spite of Tragedy


Since I first started listening to this very deep, emotional, and moving conversation between Steve and Clint Hatton, a dedicated husband and father of three, these words would not leave my mind again. A whisper in my ear that would eventually turn into a voice, becoming louder and louder, saying, “When have you been brave, lately? What about chasing your big dreams? How much longer do you want to wait to be bold? Instead, you keep wasting your precious lifetime!” They would just stick with me like a monumental warning sign that life can change literally within the blink of an eye.

But why did I feel that way? And what part does the Hatton family play in this?

Well, initially, this interview is about the unimaginable. The incident that no one wishes to happen to any other human being on this planet. It is about the sudden and unexpected loss a beloved family member. A tragedy that struck Clint Hatton, his wife Amáryllis, and their two younger sons out of the blue on September 23, 2019, when they lost their eldest son and older brother, Gabriel, at only 17 years old in a private airplane crash. Unfavorable weather conditions surprised Gabriel, who had just been awarded his pilot license, and lead to spatial disorientation. These are the plain facts.

However, this conversation is about so much more than that! I experienced this episode unlike any other I had previously listened to. The moment that I started tuning in, my entire body would react with chills, and I knew that the conversation I was just about to hear would hold some extraordinary truth for me – some treasures that would help me to understand my own journey in a much deeper way. Some beautiful advice that would inspire me to become more authentic, more giving, more loving, more grateful and – most importantly – more daring!

More daring to get out of my comfort zone again after a long hiatus after the pandemic, more daring to leave the city of Berlin that has not been nourishing my soul for quite some time, more daring to let go of old friends that have not been supportive during tough times, more daring to follow a career that truly makes my heart sing. In short: to be more to follow my true, authentic self, my naturally given talents, my joy, and my heart, more daring to live my purpose and what my soul came here to do! Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Now, why does Clint Hatton´s heart-felt sharing inspire all of us, who are on the cusp of leading more authentic and more purposeful lives, to take a leap of faith and (finally) make a move?

From my perspective, Clint´s example (wrapped in this beautiful conversation) is a powerful and flaming plea for life – choosing to move forward with your lives not only in the face of tragedy, but despite tragedy. It is a story about courage, decisiveness, hope, and leadership when it would be least expected of a human being. It is a story about living big, bold, and brave despite pain, hurt, anger, grief and all the feelings that come with a loss like this.

It is about choosing life in a moment of despair and the remarkable stand that the Hattons took as a family, following the leadership of Clint as father and husband, despite their wounded souls, despite their grief and despite the “crater sized hole” left in their hearts, in their souls and in their family. And, even more amazingly, they made this decision to take a positive approach together, the very next morning right after the incident had happened, right after they knew with certainty that Gabriel would never return.

Clint still remembers vividly how he felt that morning when he and his wife had to bring the devastating news to their two younger sons. He calls it “the impossible conversation” – how could you possibly break this kind of news in a gentle, loving and supportive way? But rather than letting this tragedy define the rest of their lives, Clint rose above himself and made a remarkable point, which he describes as such: “I had a moment of lucidity, just a clear moment of where I recognized what needed to be said.”

And he said the following to his family: “[…] So, there is a second choice and this is what we’re gonna do. We are gonna choose to honor Gabriel by the way he lived. He attacked life. He was living his dream. […] But we just decided that the best way we could honor Gabriel´s life was to live our own the way he lived his, and to pursue our passions, and to just go for it, whatever that meant.

In his moment, through Clint leading the way, the whole family decided that they would honor Gabriel´s life by fully living theirs – BIG BOLD AND BRAVE – like he did. In this moment, they decided in favor of their marriage, in favor of their family, and in favor of life, making sure that grief, pain, anger and other negative emotions would not rip their family bonds apart, becoming the dominant emotions of their daily lives.

Now, this doesn´t mean that they did not allow themselves to grief. On the contrary, another family rule they carved out that it was “ok, not to be okay, but it was not ok, not to okay to be alone”. So, the Hattons felt what needed to be felt and they told each other how they felt. But after feeling the dark feelings of frustration, pain, or anger or some time, they always tried to exchange them for remembering the joyful moments they had with Gabriel, the birthday parties, the vacations, the talks, and laughter, instead of focusing on the void. Clint emphasizes that it really helped him to speak his gratitude out loud, so it became really an embodied energy that would uplift him in dark moments.

In doing so, the Hattons managed not to break from this tragedy. On the contrary, they did not allow drama to determine their lives and created something very beautiful out of it. Now, how has Clint´s and his wife´s life changed since that memorable day?

The passing of Gabriel caused him and his wife to be much more intentional what they did and with whom they would spend their time with. They regularly evaluated whether they did what they truly wanted to do, and what would cause the biggest ripple effect in their surroundings. They left “no stone unturned” in those first couple of years, trying to be as authentic and true as they could be – both to themselves and also to others. Did they really live their lives in the best possible way, becoming the best versions of themselves, showing up as servant leaders for their family and their community while staying in integrity with their own dreams and desires?

Let me give you some examples what living big, bold, and brave looked like specifically in the life of Clint Hatton since then: Clint, whose vocation used to be a pastor for more than 20 years, had been helping people through mentoring and coaching for quite some time within the set frame of his local church community. Yet, through losing Gabriel he felt that his level of compassion and empathy for people´s pain went to a whole different level, and he got inspired and felt called to help people and to do good on a much greater scale. Consequently, he jumped boldly from a secure employment with a stable salary into the unknown, without a net and double bottom, and started his own personal development coaching company. He wanted to help people on a global scale, independently of their backgrounds and of what kind of pain they had endured. You can guess what the company is called, right? Exactly! – Big. Bold. Brave. 😊

By the way, this is also the title of a book Clint recently stretched himself to write and publish, and the strong message of the family mantra also got under his skin quite literally – as a tattoo that he proudly wears on his arm. While Clint is building a legacy for himself, he is also growing Gabriel´s legacy along the way. And this is only the beginning!

Without any doubt, there are many more gems to be found in this unique conversation about loss, grief, beauty and transformation. While looking at the personal challenges that I have been facing recently, which include the fierce desire to leave my comfort zone and press the reset button in literally any area of my life, I would love to focus particularly on the lessons of successful change – of how to transform your life into something (even) bigger, better, and more meaningful. I hope this resonates with you.

Now, the Hattons provide a truly uplifting example how to rise above tragedy and to take a firm stand for growth and devotion, to serve other people. Yet, a question that I have been pondering for quite some time is why does it seem so hard for the majority of us human beings to create big shifts like that, to leave our comfort zones in order to make meaningful transformations? Why do we often not dare to follow our dreams boldly, to live authentically and to express our true selves, our talents, and our colors?

Why do we accept so many compromises that in my experience have a tendency to stretch indefinitely? Why do we remain in painful mediocrity, accept the standstill, the toxicity in our jobs, the indifference in our relationships even if we know that our inner being is so much bigger than what we are currently expressing? Why do we act as if we lived forever as if our lifetime would not be the most precious good on this earthly plane?

Unfortunately, it usually seems to take some sort of “wake-up call”, some kind of tragedy, like the loss of a loved one, an accident, or a severe dis-ease for us until we seem to be suffering enough or feeling pressured enough to finally take massive action to change things and live our lives fully. Yet, why is it so hard to get out of our comfort zones?

First, one of the reasons I identified for remaining in our current status quo is what Clint calls “unnatural fears”. These are “typically that kind of fear” [that are] “predicting the worst possible outcome. And it causes us to worry, it causes anxiety, it causes us to stir away from courageous decisions in our life that could end up changing our lives forever. An unnatural fear is anything that tries to tell you: you cannot do it. You are not enough. Don´t take any risks”.

In short, these irrational fears nourish the false narratives of lack, limitations, self-doubt and worry that reside in our powerful subconscious mind and often have been picked up during in our childhood. Our commitment to our dreams can fade way too quickly when we get lost in the jungle of these false narratives, often placed upon us by (well meaning) family members and friends, teachers, other caregivers and whoever we spent the most time with when we were little. And when these fears based on limiting beliefs linger in our subconscious mind, it will take a lot of willpower to reach our dreams as our subconscious mind is like a super strong submarine, operating under the surface and pulling us back in the old direction that is no longer serving us.

But what is fear really? It is the anticipation of experiencing pain in the future. It is important to know that these fears are basically a relic from the Stone Age when saber tooth tigers threatened to eat us as soon as we stuck our heads out of our caves. So, any unknown scenario was life threatening to us, and our subconscious mind wants to avoid pain under all conditions and to protect us in the first place.

Thus, before we can experience real change on the outside, we need to do the inner work first.

The truth is that these fears will always be there as anything that is a new experience and, therefore, unknown to our subconscious mind is considered to be a potential thread for our survival. So, the only way to deal with these fears is to go through them and act in spite of them.

A second reason why we might not leave our comfort zone brings me to the environment we choose. I have referred to it in my last blog: particularly when we are little, for the first 7 years roughly, we absorb everything we experience like a sponge. We learn how life works from observing our surroundings, from listening to conversations, from getting the feeling tone of how people interact with each other, and how they behave around each other.

Now, the way we are treated during this time determines our level of self-worth and self-esteem as adults to a great extent. So, I would love to raise the awareness of all parents to that special period. Your loving example is key for your children to believe in themselves or to back up from challenges. For example, my parents were raised during World War II and, of course, their most important value in life is security as they were fighting for survival during their upbringing. And this is what they taught me. And even though I had entrepreneurial ideas from an early age, they would not take them seriously and would always tell me about the risks as this was simply just not part of their mental landscape.

Gabriel was blessed on these terms: since he got passionate about flying at the age of 8 years old, he fiercely pursued his dream and did all that it took to make it happen. Kudos to his parents who supported him unconditionally, who never tried to impose a false narrative on Gabriel by trying to talk him out of it, and, of course, they did realize that flying was risky. But as Clint puts it, “breathing on this planet is risky, it is always gonna be risky!” Thus, the only thing that mattered to them was Gabriel being passionate, fulfilled and happy, which is just a beautiful way of letting your child know he is loved unconditionally and that you have his back.

Therefore, when we grow up and can choose the people we surround ourselves with, it is paramount that we choose an uplifting and encouraging environment that supports us in following our dreams.

In my coaching training, we frequently use one question as an example to identify your tribe of people: If you told your pals that you would like to build the highest building on the planet, what would they do? Would they tell you that you are crazy or be excited and thinking of joining? I would certainly prefer the latter category to be around 😊, but in real life we are often surrounded by people that don´t want us to change as they are afraid to lose us after our transformation. I know from my own experience that it takes a lot of strength to stand by yourself and your own truth, and that it takes a lot of courage to choose a different path than anybody else in your surroundings.

A third reason why we often get stuck way too long in unhelpful situations is that we cling on to (alleged) security. Yet, life has shown me again just recently by the rapid passing of someone close to my family (he passed within four weeks from receiving his diagnosis) that the only security there is is the security that can be found in ourselves. Security in life is an illusion. Period. Why?

Think about it: If tomorrow is never granted (and even though we tend to ignore it, this is the truth), then life is risky. How could we possibly hold on to things, places or relationships that are supposed to make us feel secure, while the nature of life itself is insecurity? This feels almost a bit ironic to me. Honestly, if we take that in, there is no more reason to hold ourselves back!

Just lately, I asked my guides how can I regain my courage after a period of health struggles and job turbulences and get back into a mode of massive action? One of the answers was: move fearlessly towards your goals and dreams and live any day as if it was your last. Boom! They are so much smarter than me!

Now, Clint Hatton´s massive shift in his own life is such a beautiful example of once you make the decision to fully LIVE, everything can and will change. And it is an important reminder that what is possible for one of us, is possible for all of us.

The simple truth is that at this point in time this planet needs all of us and, as Clint beautifully puts it, “you were uniquely created to have an impact on this planet”, and “you have an inherent value”. The earth needs us to rise into our power, to express our gifts and talents to increase the frequency of our beautiful mother Gaia. By being our true, authentic self and sharing our unique skill sets, we contribute to serving the greater good. In fact, I feel that we deny our divine spark if we don´t share our gifts.

Wayne Dyer once said, “Don´t die with your music still inside you”.

And if we choose to remember that fear and security are only illusions, and that our next day is never guaranteed, then it will become a lot easier to step fully into our power and pursue the life of our dreams like the Hatton family: big, bold, and brave.

About Petra

Petra Nikol is a Berlin-based writer and coach with a background in management science. One of her greatest passions is to uplift readers and listeners around the globe by spreading positive vibes. Petra loves dancing, travelling and any kind of adventure, yet her most favorite pastime is to connect with kind souls from all over the planet to learn, grow and heal together.