Principles of Success in TBI: The 4 Ps by William C. Jarvis, Ed.D.

How can you succeed after a brain injury?

Bill Jarvis knows how hard the journey is.

Bill Jarvis knows how hard the journey is.

Many have successfully improved after their TBI. Often there are common threads to their  success. These common threads are the same ones I have used throughout life. Success is defined not in terms of 100% healing, but in terms of inner peace in your accomplishments. I have used these principles in my professional career and more recently in my rehabilitation from a debilitating car collision in 2000. I was in a coma for five weeks, broke all my ribs, fractured C1-C4 vertebrae, punctured a lung, and had a lacerated liver. I wore a halo on my head for several weeks. These injuries also resulted in a Traumatic Brain Injury. I was in hospitals one and a half years and then went home for a very long recovery. The road to recovery has been a long journey with many discouraging moments along the way. Thirteen years later, I can walk slowly, drive a car around town, and participate in life.


The first principle that has stood by me is perseverance.  The greatest difficulty is to get through all the hard days. The effects of a TBI are so overwhelming that it is easy to feel hopeless and give up. I remember when I came home after a long time in the hospital. I could barely walk and everything was in my way. I could not even get out of bed without my wife pulling me up! I truly felt like the old Bill Jarvis was not there and things were hopeless. I persevered through the days, weeks, and months. I began to go to the gym’s pool and practice walking in the water. Then I used various machines to work on strength and endurance. This was very difficult and I often cried but I persevered and did this for three years. My quest to improve took me back to my employment at the University to teach one course for three years at no salary. Life continued to be very difficult, but I kept pushing forward. Now, thirteen years later life is much better. Even when things appear dim and hopeless, you will find perseverance is the key.

“By perseverance the snail reached the ark.”  Charles Spurgeon

The snail had determination.  This leads me into my second principle, productivity!


In the process of persevering towards your goal, be productive in use of time, inter-personal relationships, and the accomplishment of smaller goals along the way. Use time and resources wisely and set meaningful mini goals on the way to achieving your main goal. My main goal was to become engaged in life. There were many intermediary steps to achieve independence. I wanted to walk better, fatigue was an issue, and cognition was challenging for verbal expression as well as thinking. I was careful to be deliberative in achieving abilities in each dimension of an independent life; that is, social, cognitive, physical, and psychological areas. I developed specific strategies for each dimension in order to be productive. As a result, I developed a Traumatic Brain Injury Method for improvement to create internal motivation to improve. I used my knowledge of motivation from teaching and psychology to produce a manual. A dear friend helped provide guidance and encouragement in this process. I also published a book, Snail to the Finish – Leaning on Faith, developed a web site for my method, and co-lead the local TBI Support Group. All this greatly helped my cognition. In addition, I began speaking at rehab facilities, conferences, and conventions about my ideas.  Eventually, my mind was clear. To improve cognition a person must do cognitive activities. I was productive! Productivity is also necessary for a feeling of self-worth.  It is feeling good about your accomplishments that maintain the intensity and foundation for future success.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”    Paul J. Meyer


There are internal rewards and motivation if you have a purpose in working on a goal. The purpose should more than financial reasons. This is always best when it affects others in a positive way. When you feel a positive personal purpose in your efforts, it creates an optimistic foundation as you push forward. My purpose of helping others with Traumatic Brain Injury helped me more than others. It seems we are hard wired to experience this. I had felt a purpose in the many things that helped other people with Traumatic Brain injury. This was often very difficult for me to do; however, doing it maximized my improvement. If you feel a sense of a purpose in your life’s vocation, you will perform your job better, be motivated each day, and forge wonderful relationships with co-workers in the process.

Success demands singleness of purpose.   Vince Lombardi

Your purpose will create a continual, clear vision of what is being accomplished and maintain a clear direction for getting there!

Prayer and Reflection

Reflect on your blessings.

Reflect on your blessings.

All three of the preceding principles need to be held together to work effectively. The last principle is the one that gives inner strength. Prayer and reflection will summon strength and courage to continue.  Every person relies on a spiritual affirmation that holds him together in tough times. My prayer and reflection centered in Christianity. I found comfort and assurance in God’s word. When depressed and discouraged, it was this reflection that brought me out of it. Your discouragement never completely stops, but a firm religious foundation is necessary. It is this inner strength that Winston Churchill referred to when he said: “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal.  It is the courage to continue that counts.”


These are the four things that will help you improve after a TBI:

  1. Persevere through the difficult times,
  2. Be productive during rehabilitation strategies, and
  3. Have an inner purpose to guide your efforts, and
  4. Seek inner strength through prayer as well as reflection.

It is the synergistic interactions of all these principles that will insure success to maximize improvement!

6 responses to “Principles of Success in TBI: The 4 Ps by William C. Jarvis, Ed.D.”

  1. cali minich says:

    Today is a great day to thank God for my second chance to life.

  2. cali minich says:

    another thought for the day: I feel grateful when I am feeling good. I feel graceful when I am feeling bad. I have hope through my Lord’s resurrection that I will have eternal life this Easter!

  3. Lesssia Malloy says:

    great stuff..My accident was 3 years ago…I have done well…I drive and take care of a home. Short term memory is often an issue but its getting better with time and I have made adjustments to not overloading myself with information or motion. I drive even moving to an entirely new state. I don’t go far but I go. With some determination and knowing myself better than the doctors and therapist, I have managed to rebuild my life from the bottom up. I never accepted what they told me for a final answer. With a good hair cut..most people never realize I have a cracked skull. I was 51 at the time of the accident as well. I never took NO for a final answer before and saw no reason to start.

  4. betty testerman says:

    broken mind book, how can I get it?

  5. Like Thomas Hartmann, EdD says, I’d also like to add something about Alt. Med. I was a pedestrian hit by a tortilla truck in Belize, 1985 (while serving there in the Peace Corps). After being in a head-injury hospital for 18 months, I returned to Belize as a P.C. volunteer. I met the only Chiropractor in the country in 1988, and he made such a profound difference in my life, I went to Chiropractic School. After as severe a head injury as mine, graduate school was not easy, but I persisted. I also discovered Upper Cervical Chiropractic which made a profound impact on my life. As my husband and I tell people, it’s impossible to be in an impact like that and not mess up the joints of your neck.

  6. Thank you, Bill, for your words of wisdom. I’ve been there: my TBI occurred in the early 1990’s, when the car I was driving was T-boned by a tractor-trailer. I lost my wife, my sanity (the accident worsened a pre-existing bipolar disorder), my ability to read, and my gait. I would add a fifth recommendation to your four excellent ideas: Think outside the box. Sure, thinking is hard enough inside the box when you have a brain injury, but the fact remains that very little is understood about the brain by conventional physicians. I believe the problem is that the brain itself is not entirely material, but also energetic. This calls for using energy medicine in order to recover. That’s one aspect of thinking outside of the box. Energy medicine includes homeopathy, Acupuncture for the Mind, and low-energy neurofeedback (LENS). Using these techniques broadens the horizons of TBI survivors: they can look forward not just to surviving, but to recovering completely and resuming their normal lives. I know, because it has happened to me, and it’s not a miracle. It’s the result of persistent effort using alternative medicine. My book Broken Mind, Persistent Hope (Mustang: Tate, 2014) describes my unusual story. Coming soon: attractive blue Broken Mind, Persistent Hope T-shirts, for you and all of your survivor friends!

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