007: The art of living well after traumatic loss with Aaron McHugh

Aaron McHugh is a writer, podcaster, adventurer, and author of the best-selling book, Fire Your Boss: A Manifesto to Rethink How You Think About Work. He is mastering the art of living a sustainable work-life balance that constantly interweaves rhythms of play and adventure. That includes road trips in their 1974 VW Bus, aka The Joy Bus, catapulting them into many father-daughter adventures together.

Aaron works as an Affiliate Advisor for Aberkyn, a division of McKinsey & Co as a facilitator of transformation. He also works with Moving Performance, facilitating leadership change through the power of music.

He and his wife Leith live in Colorado Springs, CO. They are celebrating twenty-five years of marriage in December. Their marriage has survived the death of their twelve-year-old daughter Hadley in 2011. Their twenty-two-year-old son Holden lives in Costa Mesa and is thriving in recovery three years clean and sober. Their youngest daughter lives at home still.

In 2015 they rebooted their lives, sold their house and all of their belongings to reboot their life and start their life over again. It hasn’t been easy, but they would do it again. They love traveling, drinking box wine and spending time with their creative, hilarious and courageous kids.

In this episode, Aaron shares about the transition of creating a new life worth living after surviving the death of their daughter, Hadley. Join us as we discuss:


  • What it means to thriving after trauma versus surviving and mending
  • Being an integrated human vs. managing life in categories
  • Mastering the art of living a life that happens concurrently
  • The challenge of raising a child with a severe medical condition and grieving her death at 12 years old
  • The shared unity all humans encounter in the disappointments of life as plans go awry
  • Seeing how trauma that gets “stored” in the physical space of a home
  • Considering a new question on a blank page post-catastrophe: What would my life look like if I were thriving?
  • “What DON’T we want life to look like?” vs. “What DO we want life to look like?”
  • Our two primary anchors to orient choices around: God is good and life is meant to be well lived
  • Congruence Exercise: How do your actions and behaviors line up with what you say are your deepest values?
  • Letting go of “my demands for life” and the guiding narratives that are inherit or given to us by culture
  • Making a heart-centric shift in perspective: moving away from the fear of prevention (keeping troubles away) and a life of scarcity, and choosing a new perspective of, “There is always enough.”
  • 7 steps for restoring balance
  • Choose a new start line for the day: create 5 minutes a day of quiet “white space” in your life
  • What’s a joy bucket?
  • To the cynic: “I’m with you. I was, too.”
  • Tilting your heart toward the big, dangerous idea of believing in a “big giant story” and looking for evidence of it
  • The greater loss after a tragedy: missing the rest of your life
  • Taking a “timeout” on life, selling everything and leaving our work
  • Facing the tradeoffs that come with hard decisions as temporary inconveniences
  • Consider this as you take risks: what if you believe in yourself? What if it goes great?


Social Media:

Twitter: @aarondmchugh

Facebook: @worklifeplay

Instagram: @aarondmchugh

Recommended Resources:

Free E-Course: 7 Steps for Restoring Balance by Aaron McHugh

Free E-Book: 99 Ways to Navigate Your Best Life by Aaron McHugh



You can subscribe to Aaron McHugh’s podcast here: Work Life Play or in itunes


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