The E Myth

112 – Krystal Cantu-Cuate – The Healing Journey: Facing Traumas and Truths

On this special episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael welcomes his favorite client of all time, Krystal Cantu-Cuate. Like many clients, Michael was introduced to Krystal under difficult circumstances. Krystal was traveling a car that experienced a tire blowout. The blowout resulted in a tragic accident, and the amputation of Kyrstal’s right arm. As is often the case, this was only the beginning of a long and emotional journey.

When she first saw her family members gathered in the hospital waiting room, they were crying and expressing fear and apprehension about her future. In that moment, Krystal decided she was going to be strong for them and defy their fears and worries.

With the driving force to be strong for her family and take control of her situation, Krystal began working tirelessly to achieve and overcome. Within a month of her accident, Krystal was back in the gym resuming her CrossFit training

Behind that incredible tenacity the world saw, a much darker story was playing out. Krystal wasn’t okay. The trauma was silently wearing on her. She admits she was in denial, repressing difficult thoughts, emotions, and feelings about the accident. And, because she was lacking the tools and knowledge to process the trauma she went through, inner struggle, pain, and repressed emotions became her normal. As litigation wore on, and maintaining the Superwoman exterior became more difficult, Krystal’s mental health challenges began to consume her.

While the journey has more bumps than Krystal was willing to admit to herself in the early years, this story has a happy ending. With Michael’s help, Krystal admitted to herself that is was okay not to be okay, made her mental health a priority, and sought out the support she needed to continue her healing journey. 

Join us on this new episode of Trial Lawyer Nation for this emotional story of trauma, bravery, hard truths, and healing with guest Krystal Cantu-Cuate, an ex-CrossFit adaptive athlete and keynote speaker on mental health.

Featured Guest

Name: Krystal Cantu-Cuate

About: Krystal Cantu-Cuate is an ex-CrossFit adaptive athlete, keynote speaker on mental health, part-time bridal stylist, mother, and wife. After a tragic car accident in 2013 that resulted in the amputation of her right arm, Krystal went on to live her life in the face of adversity. Becoming one of the first competitive CrossFit adaptive athletes, Krystal traveled all over the US competing — and inspiring thousands while doing so. In 2016, she gave birth to her son, Joaquin, and left her competitive career. In 2021, Krystal was faced with her biggest challenge yet: mental health. After a traumatic experience with crippling anxiety, Krystal was faced with challenges that called for uncomfortable conversations. Krystal is now a keynote speaker on mental health and its importance. She continues using her own personal experiences to help others who may be struggling.

Connect: LinkedIn | Instagram | Facebook 

Key Points

Top takeaways from this episode 

  • It’s okay to ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak — it actually shows how strong you are. Whether you have a case in litigation or you’re fighting inner battles, it’s important to seek help. Lawyers and experts in the field can guide you through the litigation process and ease your worries. Close friends and family can give you the support needed to work through personal struggles. No matter your circumstance, always remember that you don’t have to go through it alone.   
  • A healing journey requires honesty and bravery. Healing is never easy, and it’s not a linear process. You have your ups, your downs, and everything in between. But what will get you through is honesty and bravery. You must be honest with yourself about where you are and what you need to start healing. Once you understand this, you need the courage to take on whatever challenge comes your way. 
  • Trust yourself. Nobody knows you better than yourself, although it’s easy to forget sometimes. In her darkest days, Krystal’s husband, Daniel, reminded her, “No matter what’s happening in your head right now, don’t forget — don’t forget who you are… Just trust yourself.” Trusting yourself and your strength can help keep you out of a downward spiral.  

Episode Highlights 

[02:06] The tragic story that changed everything: Krystal Cantu-Cuate shares the story of her car accident in 2013 that resulted in the amputation of her arm (and the beginning of her work with Michael Cowen). 

[04:48] The litigation process: Krystal recounts what the litigation process was like, the harsh questions she faced in the deposition room, and what it was like dealing with foreign language and legalese documents. 

[07:39] Knowing your strengths: Despite the severity of the situation, Krystal trusted in Michael, continued her CrossFit training as a form of therapy, and stuck to her strengths. What drove her to take on this superwoman persona?

[13:45] Dealing with the difficulties of the case: Krystal opens up about her fears of facing the memories during the witness preparation.    

[16:18] Using CrossFit to push through: Krystal couldn’t fathom someone telling her she couldn’t do something — so she continued her CrossFit training. She doesn’t regret doing CrossFit because it kept her body healthy and her mind preoccupied.

[20:07] Struggling behind closed doors: Despite her fierce positivity, Krystal lost a lot of confidence in herself and faced a ton of anxiety after the accident.

[22:28] Finding a breakthrough: Krystal shares what finally led her to a breakthrough after a traumatic anxiety spiral. From suicidal thoughts to medication, Krystal faced a turning point that led to her healing journey. 

[33:15] Using therapy in your healing journey: Michael and Krystal discuss their experiences seeing a therapist and why you have to be courageous to get honest. They also dive into the stigma of therapy and their thoughts on removing the stigma. 

[35:31] The truth about intrusive thoughts: Krystal talks about naming her suicidal thoughts, telling her family about them, and why suicidal and intrusive thoughts are more common than you’d think. 

[41:43] Not staying quiet: Instead of holding in her thoughts, feelings, and pain, Krystal speaks up. Whether it’s to her husband or therapist, Krystal shares what she’s feeling — despite how uncomfortable it can be. 

[44:39] Receiving support: Krystal shares how her husband, Daniel, was an essential part of her healing. 

[47:45] Krystal’s speaking initiatives: How is Krystal using her speaking to help others going through a similar situation? She’s sharing all of the details. 

[51:08] Leading through tough situations: Krystal shares advice for attorneys on how to companion people through their difficult journeys.

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In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.

Produced and Sponsored by LawPods.

26 – Jack Zinda – Success by Design

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In this Trial Lawyer Nation podcast, Michael Cowen sits down with an accomplished trial attorney, Jack Zinda, for an inside look at his bustling personal injury law practice. Built from the ground up in a county where seemingly no one wanted to start a law office because the juries are so conservative, Jack has built his practice up to include 3 offices with 63 people on his team, 23 of which are lawyers.

Jack’s humble beginnings working in his father’s restaurant washing dishes and waiting tables, contributed to him becoming a great trial lawyer by teaching him to learn how to talk to people, which he says was “great training.” Michael admits that he actually looks for “waiting tables” on the resumes of his potential lawyers as he understands that such experience comes with being able to deal with people, even when they are being unreasonable, among other reasons.

As they dig in deeper to Jack’s practice, he directly correlates the growth of business to an exercise he did after reading the book “The E Myth” where he laid out a plan for where he wanted his firm to be in the future and worked backward from there in order to develop a plan of action. He also made sure to account for his core values and not giving up practicing law seeing as one of his top motivators for getting into Personal Injury law was to help people, and he never wanted to lose that. Michael and Jack also talk through their views regarding the use of consultants and how egos sometimes get in the way of success in this industry. Jack makes it extremely clear that “none of what [he’s] done is original” and that he’s simply taken what he has learned from others and built upon it to become successful. It also, from Jack’s perspective, comes down to the systems that get put in place and following them consistently; an example being that each lawyer in his firm is highly encouraged to attend two networking events per week in order to continue to build relationships.

As Jack reflects on the continued growth of his practice over the years, one of the most important decisions he discovered was who he hired to work at his firm. To prove his point, he describes the scenario where if you hire the most brilliant and amazing people to work for you in every aspect of your business and you have poor systems in place, chances are that you will likely still be successful. Whereas, even if you have the most robust and well-oiled systems in place, if you hire people who are unmotivated and don’t want to work hard, you are likely to fail. He goes on to say that even experience can be overrated when looking to hire someone. At the core, when looking to add people to your organization, people need to be hungry and driven, they need to be smart and organized, and they need to be hard working. Michael and Jack also talk through their hiring processes to get the “right people” into their firm. Surprisingly, the interview has very little to do with it and sometimes… neither does a candidate’s aspirations of working with your firm!

The conversation shifts to internal systems where Jack has gone so far as to hire a developer to create their case management system to his specifications. And not only has he found it to be a great way to customize his practice to run the way he wants it to but also works as a great training tool for everyone in his firm, even the most seasoned attorneys. Jack points out that even the simplest of things go into the firm’s checklists and procedures such as “read the local rules,” which, as easy as that might sound, he points out that it can be vital when working in as many jurisdictions as his firm does. Jack has also raised the bar on training and development within his firm by creating a position that solely focuses on it. Listening to Jack’s description of how he came up with and implemented this position is likely to deliver shock and awe to anyone who runs a firm, as it did for Michael during this podcast.

Michael wraps up the podcast with the question that is likely on everyone’s mind – How much of a “life” do you get to have, running a firm of this size and as successful as yours? Jack boils it down to really deciding what success means to you, first and foremost. What do you want to get out of the practice (note the sentiment of beginning with the end in mind)?  Jack explains that he sets hard and fast rules on family time and personal time and has become VERY intentional about it, down to the alarm on his phone that goes off at 6 pm that reminds him to “go home.” Michael points out that there is also a difference between being in the room with your kids and being present with your kids. Jack goes on to describe how he turns off his phone when he gets home and puts it in a drawer, making it harder for him to somehow “find” it back in his hands, IE: working when he shouldn’t. “Willpower is overrated. I think you’ve got to set yourself up for success by setting the atmosphere to do what you want to do in order to be successful,” which is certainly a great mantra for us all to take away from this conversation with Jack.

 

John C. (Jack) Zinda is the founder and senior trial lawyer at Zinda Law Group.

Jack has served as lead attorney on a wide range of complex catastrophic injury cases across the United States, including:

  • Fire death cases
  • Gas explosions
  • Wrongful deaths
  • Governmental torts, including wrongful death cases caused by law enforcement
  • Federal tort claims act cases
  • Traumatic brain injury cases
  • Commercial litigation
  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Premises liability
  • Interstate 18-wheeler collisions
  • Product liability

As a trial attorney, Jack takes tremendous pride in giving a voice to individuals and families who need help battling Fortune 500 companies and large insurance conglomerates. His firm balances aggression with a strategy to maximize the outcome for clients, and every case is handled with a focus on getting ready for trial. He also knows the importance of communicating with his clients and ensures that they are part of the process. He is dedicated to always putting the needs of his clients first.

A native Texan, Jack graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business and political science from Southwestern University, where he distinguished himself as president of the Interfraternal Council and as a member of the Student Congress, the Student Judiciary, Phi Delta Theta, and the Pirates basketball team.

Jack went on to earn his Juris Doctorate from the prestigious Baylor University School of Law, which is perennially ranked as one of the top law schools for trial advocacy in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. While there, he was one of the finalists in the Bob and Karen Wortham Practice Court Competition.

Over the years, Jack has earned a reputation as a thought leader in the legal industry, and he has been featured as a speaker for numerous groups across the country, including the Brain Injury Association of Texas, the Williamson County Bar Association, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Jack has also benefited his professional community through leadership positions in a variety of legal organizations. He has served as president of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association, as a member of the board of directors of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, and as a member of the American Association for Justice, the Texas Bar Association, the Austin Bar Association, and WCBA. He is also involved with a number of consumer advocacy organizations.