Kelly Hager’s Journey from Coma to CEO


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Not everyone gets a near death experience. I was one of the lucky ones.

On July 1, 2010, I had one foot in the grave. While the rest of the world was focused on the BP oil spill disaster, I didn’t know it, but I was about to be in for the fight of my life.

Fast forward to late August and you could have started shoveling dirt on me and I would have been none the wiser. I was in ICU, comatose with my organs shutting down.

I had always been told you were supposed to see God at moments like that.

Didn’t happen.

Huge disappointment.

Maybe that’s why I’m still here. Like my dad, I have high expectations and assume people will step up in moments of crisis, God included. So maybe I was too pissed off to die. Of course, that’s just a guess.. Like I said… comatose.

Not long after I finally came around, my husband told me he wanted a divorce.

Still, I had survived. This my friends and family could celebrate. But no one expected me to thrive. I had to learn to focus again, see again, walk again, read again and become a single mom for the first time.

I was helpless – and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Just what the doctor ordered, or should have ordered.

For up to that point, I was Kelly Mittelman Hager, a driven and successful entrepreneur and real estate agent, but neither an entirely happy nor an entirely whole person.

Today I am both all in and all here. I am more successful professionally than I have ever been. But even more importantly, I have found my place and my purpose in the world. And you can, too, if you can learn from my experience.

Finding your place and real happiness is a process that starts with being helpless and recognizing that the only thing that you will ever really do alone is die. The rest is all part of a big collaboration, at first with your parents who bring you into the world and show you how it goes, then increasingly it’s with others.

At this writing, I am 43. If all goes according to the actuarial tables, I’m half-baked, parboiled. So the first half was all about learning, experimenting, succeeding somewhat, but missing the point.

The second half is all about getting the point, recognizing what it takes and going there. And the point is this: You can have it all. But you cannot do it alone. Oh, and by the way, did I mention you have to have the guts to do it? Anything worth fighting for is never easy.

Over the last three years, post-coma, and with a very large group effort, we have taken our real estate business from $10 million to $50 million in annual sales. We have been recognized by a number of organizations for the work we do. We’ve won the Wall Street Journal Real Trends Top 250 in 2014, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran’s Award of Excellence for Real Estate Services for the past three years and St. Louis Magazine’s Top Real Estate Agents in Client Satisfaction every year since 2006.

But building this type of team takes work. We came across a word from a local marketing company and used it with our staff; I said I wanted to empowergize them. I wanted them to accept my vision and feed off of my passion, but also give them the opportunity to implement the strategies and deliver against the vision. And they have.

The beginning of our success came during one of the most difficult real estate markets in recent times (and the market still isn’t perfect). So I’ve just got to say, it pays to be helpless, at least for a minute.

Despite our success, I’m not going to pretend my story is the answer to your prayers. I’m not a billionaire. Nor am I an oracle.

You work hard. You are smart. You are creative. And you are an unfinished bit of business.

And here’s what I hope you are thinking: If someone like Kelly can emerge from a coma and find financial success and happiness, then maybe I – coherent and sitting upright at this moment – can do even better.

At this time in your life, you may feel lost and confused. Even worse, you may be feeling satisfied and content.

Whenever I found myself in those places, my dad, a firebreather, would notice. He would bark at me, “Put your war paint on, Kelly. Get busy.”

I hope you will be doing just that.

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