Austin Hatch’s story is one of tragedy, incomprehensible loss, and triumph. On Labor Day of 2003, Austin and his family were flying from Northern Michigan to Fort Wayne, IN. As they were preparing to land, the aircraft crashed and burst into flames.
Austin’s dad threw him out of the plane to save his life and ran back into the plane to get his mom and siblings. Tragically, Austin and his dad were the only survivors. They grieved the loss of their family and pushed on, which is what they would’ve wanted. Eventually, his dad remarried a woman with three children and they formed a wonderful blended family.
Austin saw success as a basketball player and got a full scholarship to the University of Michigan. Just nine days later, tragedy struck again. Austin was flying with his dad to Northern Michigan when they experienced another tragic plane crash. This time Austin was the only survivor.
Austin suffered severe injuries and was in a coma for two months. He had to relearn how to walk, talk, and live. But with the help of many incredible doctors, therapists, family, and friends, he made it to Michigan.
Now, Austin is a full-time motivational speaker who shares a message about grit and thriving in the midst of adversity. Listen to this episode to hear how Austin has taken incredible tragedy and loss and used it to help others overcome challenges using G.R.I.T.
You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in…
- Austin’s heartbreaking and courageous story [4:09]
- What it meant to Austin to wear the Michigan jersey [8:24]
- “Husband to Abby and Hudson’s dad” [12:18]
- The four key components to G.R.I.T. [15:43]
- Why basketball was the best therapy for Austin [21:43]
- What Austin’s parents would be the most proud of [23:48]
- What young people chasing the college athletics dream need to know [26:42]
- Austin’s strategy for developing a growth mindset [28:19]
- What Austin hopes people take away from his story [32:15]
- What Austin did today that put him in the right mindset for success [36:06]
What is a grit mindset?
Austin believes that grit is a mindset. Many things had to happen for Austin to overcome the tragedies he faced. It took grit.
Angela Duckworth—a professor at Wharton Business School— wrote a New York Times best-selling book on the topic of grit. She defines grit as “Passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” For Austin, grit was living every single day. Getting to the University of Michigan was his long-term goal. But to get there, he had to win one day at a time.
Austin also firmly believes that grit is driven by a greater purpose. We need to work for something bigger than ourselves to drive us to achieve our goals. If it’s just for yourself and your benefit, is it worth the time, effort, and sacrifice that it will take? Will you prioritize it? Austin emphasizes that we would easily do whatever it takes for our families.
The four key components of G.R.I.T.
Austin believes that there are four key components to G.R.I.T.:
- Growth mindset: Adversity is opportunity. Without adversity, there’s nothing to overcome. When challenges come, it’s more effective to shift your focus to the opportunity in the event.
- Resilient: You have to decide to be resilient. That doesn’t mean bouncing back and achieving your goals. Austin believes that you’re resilient if you take action. Overcoming challenges is a byproduct of being resilient.
- Integrity: This includes following through on your commitments, especially when circumstances change. Commit and stay true to it. Consistent integrity leads to winning. It’s more effective to make commitments to achieve goals.
- Team-first mentality: Austin couldn’t play basketball, but he took pride in the role he could fill. He was an encouragement to his teammates and worked hard to be the best he could in his role.
Austin embraces the G.R.I.T. mentality every day and coaches others to do the same.
Austin’s strategy for developing a growth mindset
A growth mindset is embracing the belief that you’re born with potential but reaching that potential is up to you. A fixed mindset is the belief that your talents are innate, your skills are your skills, and your abilities are your abilities. A growth mindset can be learned.
When you lose, it’s a learning opportunity. Austin’s coach would come into the locker room and say “We’re going to watch the film of the game and find a way to get better.” Look at your mistakes to set yourself up for success down the road. If you have a growth mindset, you will achieve your goals. It’s just about being consistent.
You don’t want to lose because of something you can control. You don’t want to lose because you didn’t give your best. Contribute and add value to whatever situation you’re a part of. Austin believes that contributing to something bigger than yourself is where fulfillment in life comes from.
What Austin hopes people take away from his story
Austin’s goal is to help others face and overcome their challenges. He believes part of his purpose in life is to help people thrive in the midst of challenges. Secondly, he hopes that his story gives people perspective. Most people think “If he can overcome his challenges, why can’t I?”
They can approach the challenge with a growth mindset and look for the opportunity in it. It’s only negative if you fold in the face of the challenge. But if you find the opportunity, you can make yourself better. There are always opportunities to correct, improve and succeed.
Resources & People Mentioned
Connect with Austin Hatch
My story is one of tragedy, incomprehensible loss and triumph.
On Labor Day of 2003, my family and I were flying from northern Michigan to Ft. Wayne, Indiana. As we were preparing to land, the aircraft crashed and burst into flames. My dad threw me out of the plane to save my life. He went back into the flames to get my mom, Julie, my sister, Lindsay, and brother, Ian, but tragically, was unable to. My mom, sister and brother did not survive.
My dad and I grieved the loss of our family members but we found ways to keep living in the midst of the incomprehensible pain. We pushed each other to overcome, as we knew my mom, sister and brother would’ve wanted.
Eventually, my dad met a lovely woman named Kimberley, who had three kids of her own. They got married and together, we formed a wonderful blended family. I worked hard on my basketball skills and began to have success on the court. My dream was to play for The University of Michigan. On June 15, 2011, Coach Beilein offered me a full scholarship to play basketball for The University of Michigan, which I accepted. It was a dream come true.
Nine days later, on June 24th, 2011, my dad and “second mom” were flying to Northern Michigan to have a weekend of celebration. As we were preparing to land, the aircraft crashed, and my dad and second mom were killed on impact. I suffered severe injuries and was nearly killed myself. After being in a coma for over two months, I had to relearn how to walk, talk and basically how to live my life. With the help of many incredible doctors, therapists, my family and friends, I found a way to make it to Michigan.
Eleven years later, I am a graduate of The University of Michigan and am a full time motivational speaker with a message about Grit & Thriving in the midst of adversity. I feel very blessed to be in a position to add value to organizations across the country. My message is about my journey from a coma, to a wheelchair to playing for Michigan.
Yes a lot of things had to happen to overcome the adversity and achieve my goal, and I’m so grateful for everyone who helped me along the way. But, more than anything, it took some Grit. It has been said that Grit is working hard for a long period of time. Grit is about consistency over the long term, not just intensity in the short term. That’s true, but I think Grit is more specific than working hard for the long term goal. It takes Grit every day to put our ourselves in position to achieve our goal.
There are four key components to Grit, but I believe Grit is driven by having a Greater Purpose for why we do what we do. If we are working just for ourselves, it is very likely that we will eventually face some form of adversity that will cause us to give up because we don’t have a driving force for why we do what we do. We need to find something that we’re willing to sacrifice for. If we are working for something bigger than ourselves, I believe we will always do what it takes to get the job done, no matter the task and no matter the circumstances. Our Purpose drives Grit.
We all face challenges every day, and I believe part of my purpose in life is to help others find ways to thrive in the midst of them.
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