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Hal Bradley: “Don’t panic”

Don’t panic. Assess your options. Act on those options. Complete anything that you start that will help in a positive way. Take an acquired knowledge of that experience to benefit you in some other capacity All of the above lessons come from my time in Tigerland. Although it was a 12-week camp, it taught me a […]

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Don’t panic. Assess your options. Act on those options. Complete anything that you start that will help in a positive way. Take an acquired knowledge of that experience to benefit you in some other capacity

All of the above lessons come from my time in Tigerland. Although it was a 12-week camp, it taught me a lot that I’ve been able to take with me throughout my life, especially in times of crisis. It taught me how to approach pain and panic. I needed to follow orders specifically and exactly as they were told to me. They trained us as if we were going into Vietnam because the people training us had just left that situation. We were pushed beyond what we could do and it was hard. But the lessons I learned there, including the 5 I mentioned above, all came from this experience.


In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of dealing with crisis and how to adapt and overcome. The context of this series is the physical and financial fallout that resulted from the COVID 19 pandemic. Crisis management is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Hal Bradley. He is a pastor with a Ph.D. in pastoral counseling and a passion for helping the homeless and those in distress. Before becoming a pastor, he served in the U.S. military as a paratrooper in Germany from November 1971 to March 1974. He now lives a quiet life focused on working with the homeless, the afflicted, and people with broken souls with the hospice ministry — all of it at the same time — over the past 17 years.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I was born into a Christian home and remember going to church with my family. At age 15 I went to Durango, Mexico to a mining camp owned by a family friend and stayed there for over a year. It was in this village that my life irrevocably changed through friendships acquired.

And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?

I’ve been a pastor for 17 years, ordained for 23 years and have literally fed hundreds of people. I bring them food to campsites along the riverbanks and out in the flats, in addition to houses where people could come to a specific site. I also do wellness checks. Although we have food banks, we have a lot of people out there who are either mentally challenged or are afflicted from drug and alcohol abuse who simply can’t make it to a food bank. I will continue this work as long as there is a need for it.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

I entered the US army in 1971, 2 weeks after my 17th birthday. I was stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training then went to Louisiana for infantry training. I was in a camp that they called Tigerland. This was a specialized training camp that was being led by people who one month prior were fighting in Vietnam.It was so intense that after I graduated they actually closed this down. Tigerland taught me how to control the fear of anything in the moment. I learned coping skills that were meant to completely separate yourself from emotions and pain. In war, you needed to be able to control pain in the moment and not drift away from the main mission. I went through 12 weeks of this, and once it was over, I went to Georgia. Here, I went to airborne school to get my jump wings. From there, I went to Germany, right outside of Frankfurt as a paratrooper. As part of this training, I jumped out of planes twice a week. I would also go to the Czech border point, record the military information about what they were driving, and weapons they were using. We’d try and establish how the mines were laid on the border. At any time they could have done an infiltration on the site.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

One time when I was in Northern Italy, I was in a night parachute fall. I looked down and saw a river. I looked at my options in a split second and released the chute and held onto the riser straps, so that when I hit the water, I wouldn’t tangle in my chute and drown. This is what they always taught you in case this happened. As I got closer, I realized it wasn’t water, it was actually a shining paved road and I hit the road very hard. I had broken bones from that fall and was lucky that nothing worse happened. One takeaway I have from this experience is to look at the environment you’re in before making an action. If you analyze where you are, you can make better decisions.

We are interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.

When you’re in the military, there are a lot of heroes, but experiencing first-hand someone’s willingness to put it all on the line for their country and fellow soldiers is the ultimate hero. One story which really impacted me was one my brother told me. There was a medal of honor recipient of the marine corps and the reverence and respect that each and every person gave to this man showed and exemplified how much of a hero he was. Although I wasn’t there for his ceremony, I was able to meet him. It was an honor to meet such a great man.

Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?

A hero to me is someone who is trained and disciplined to stand for themselves. When you’re involved in life and death situations, it’s hard to make that split-second decision that will change everyone’s lives. However, in that moment, someone who has confidence in themselves and is willing to go above and beyond is a true hero.

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership? Can you explain?

At 19 years old, I jumped into the wood carving business when I enrolled in college. This was when I opened my own wood sign carving store. I always learned in the military that when you start something, you finish it. You don’t just finish something to finish it though, you finish it to come out with a higher capability of self. Paratrooper school and Tigerland taught me this. When you have a 60-pound parachute on your back, you have to finish your hike or whatever you’re doing. That’s what differentiates someone with wings and without. And I took this into my business.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are a couple of people who helped me achieve success along the way. One in particular is Victor Mojica. This is the man who loaned me money to write my first book. He has been without question, one of the most impressionable people to me. I’d go to him with questions about anything I needed, and he is making my new dream come true by providing his insight to make this book. He knew there was something different about me, and he admired it. If I traveled for work, he’d come too and do his own work. He never judged me or discredited me in any way. He saw the goodness in me and is always there for anything I need.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out how to survive and thrive in crisis. How would you define a crisis?

A crisis is something you find yourself involved in that is out of your immediate control. Oftentimes, it can be a life-threatening circumstance. One example of a crisis is this pandemic. People who haven’t been out of their comfort zone are being forced to make decisions that will make an impact on their lives and those around them too.

Before a crisis strikes, what should business owners and leaders think about and how should they plan?

If you’re a business owner, you’re aware of the environment of what you do and the clientele of who your business attracts. If you start recognizing any abnormal change, you need to focus on that to find out what’s making you feel that something is off. Then you need to confirm your suspicions to find how to come out of this crisis event. This is a non-emotional approach to recovery and salvaging yourself confronted with in the moment. Find the information relevant to you at that moment and focus on it.

There are opportunities to make the best of every situation and it’s usually based on how you frame it. In your opinion or experience, what’s the first thing people should do when they first realize they are in a crisis situation? What should they do next?

First thing to do in a crisis is to assimilate yourself in the moment based on whatever it is that’s tipped your responses. At that moment, I started thinking of my resources to tap into. You need to be able to read people who are coming at you and why. Reading a room is so important in knowing how to respond and what to do next. How you perceive a threat and assess it starts with reading your environment. If someone else can help who has similar experiences, tap into them as a resource to help too.

What do you believe are the characteristics or traits needed to survive a crisis?

Never panic, always enter a situation with an open mind, remove emotions, and focus on the facts.

When you think of those traits, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Again, Victor. He was always a man who would sit back in the background, but be studious. He would examine an environment and tell me what he thinks of where I am. He was able to tune in to people’s auras and share what he felt with me. He showed calmness in times of crisis, and definitely embodies what others should do during these times.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

One big setback was when I went to prison. This separated me from my family, but I made the decision that I wanted to take every moment I had in there to make good of it. This is the ultimate sin to redemption scenario. It was a turning point in my life. I started seminarial studies and after 2.5 years I was ordained. I also worked with other prisoners in hospice and took inmates through the dying process. I’d sit in the room and talk with them. Throughout my time doing this, I took 24 men through this transition in life. It was a blessing to help them. My greatest triumph was when I was in my last year and decided to go into the education system. I helped people get their GEDs. Then, as a certified Hospice course instructor I spent 10, four-week cycles studying and I helped them through the caretaking session ultimately leading to their certification. Some of these men working to get their GED’s were in hospice training themselves. My last night in prison, they took me downstairs and had a party because they knew I was leaving as someone who would go out and do good in the world, not come back into the system. I was deeply touched that I was able to do everything I could there and they knew I was going to come out a winner.

Here is the main question of our discussion. Crises not only have the potential to jeopardize and infiltrate your work, but they also threaten your emotional stability and relationships. Based on your military experience, what are 5 steps that someone can take to survive and thrive in these situations? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Assess your options
  3. Act on those options
  4. Complete anything that you start that will help in a positive way
  5. Take an acquired knowledge of that experience to benefit you in some other capacity

All of the above lessons come from my time in Tigerland. Although it was a 12-week camp, it taught me a lot that I’ve been able to take with me throughout my life, especially in times of crisis. It taught me how to approach pain and panic. I needed to follow orders specifically and exactly as they were told to me. They trained us as if we were going into Vietnam because the people training us had just left that situation. We were pushed beyond what we could do and it was hard. But the lessons I learned there, including the 5 I mentioned above, all came from this experience.

Ok. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d love to end the division and help unify one and all, for the purpose of self peace. I am a strong advocate for that. I pray on this every single day. The greatest thing that we can do within our lifetime is to become one with all. You truly cannot heal through anger or any negative approach to anything. I strongly believe in this. I’ve seen very angry people who have turned to serve humankind, I myself am one of those people. The person I was 30 years ago today is certainly not who I am today and I wish I could inspire this movement to bring everyone on board together.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I’d love to have a private meal with the US customs agent that I met in 1993. He had the faith and endurance to stand by me through everything I went through. I’d love to sit with him and thank him, and show him that as a result of his decisions, I’ve grown and manifested into the person I am now who helps so many people on a daily basis.

How can our readers follow you online?

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.

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