Millennials Rising — Shaun Redford

woman-carrying-world-earthYou’ve likely heard the stereotypes about millennials: They’re a generation of entitled misfits. They lack a strong work ethic. They’re only interested in activities that offer immediate gratification.

You want the truth? This generation isn’t going to wreck the world. They’re going to save it.

If millennials feel entitled to anything, it’s the opportunity to be passionately engaged in a vision they can pour their entire heart and soul into. Show them what success looks like, then get out of the way and watch what awesome looks like.

I’d like to introduce you to Shaun Redford, one of nine millennials I interviewed who have faced and overcome significant obstacles that stood in the way of their goals and dreams. It’s a privilege to share their inspiring life stories with you here.

Click here to see all the Millennials Rising stories.


Shaun Redford

Shaun Redford, born in 1980, is an attorney and shareholder at Olson, Lucas & Redford, a Minneapolis real estate and business boutique law firm. He is also an adjunct instructor at the University of Minnesota Law School, teaching a legal writing course to first-year law students.

I met my wife, Darbie, in college in September and we were married by May. Two years later, in mid-June, we learned we were expecting twins at the end of October. We were a little shocked but had no time to process it. Right after seeing the sonogram, Darbie headed off to work and I drove to campus to take the LSAT.

We couldn’t wait to welcome our new babies. Turns out we didn’t have to. A month later, Darbie went into labor at twenty-four weeks. The doctor told me on the phone, “Get to the hospital right now!” I did the classic “hop in the car, pedal to the metal, run through red lights” routine. Darbie delivered the twins via emergency C-section on July 17, 2004.

Brittan and Corbin each weighed about a pound and a half at birth. Brittan was stabilized first, then was transported via helicopter from the hospital in Orem, Utah, across town to the Neonatal ICU in Provo. Corbin followed shortly thereafter via ambulance. Two weeks later, they both needed surgical procedures that required even more expertise so they were transferred to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, about fifty miles north of Provo.

You get a crash course in neonatal medicine when you have premature babies. Corbin got the worst of it. Within a few days of his birth, doctors noticed a brain hemorrhage beginning to form. It rapidly developed into a Grade IV intraventricular bilateral hemorrhage—intraventricular meaning that blood got into the brain ventricles, and bilateral meaning affecting both sides of his brain. A brain injury like that would wipe out an adult, but a baby’s body is so amazing it can learn to rewire and remap itself. The prognosis was, “Well, we know he’s going to have significant issues, but we don’t know what they’re going to be.”

Any time you’re dealing with the brain, it scares you a lot. But that was only one of Corbin’s issues. He also had a PDA ligation, meaning a valve between his lungs and heart never closed; and ROP (retinopathy of prematurity), which causes abnormal vessel growth in the eyes and can lead to blindness. Brittan had some scares early on, too. She had a resistant blood infection that required a medical team to surgically implant a Broviac line in her chest to administer a stronger dose of medication.

For the first few weeks, everything was touch and go. More than a few times, we’d be sitting in their hospital room reading when an alarm would go off, which meant that one of their breathing tubes was clogged up. Nurses would run in to reintubate them right there in front of us. Our hearts would be in our throats, watching one of our babies turn purple as their oxygen saturation percentage dropped. We’d go to bed every night wondering if we were going to get a call telling us that one or both of them had passed away. If they had been born ten years earlier, they likely wouldn’t have survived.

At first, we were only permitted to hold our babies for a few seconds while they were being weighed. It seemed like they were weightless, as if it was the weight of the blankets we were feeling. The first time we held Brittan was the first time she opened her eyes. When you meet your significant other, I don’t know if it’s love at first sight, but with a child it’s instantaneous. You love that child and want to protect it from everything bad in the world.

Love and Logistics
With the twins in Salt Lake and us in Provo, we’d drive an hour each way every day to go see them. This was the summer before my last semester of college, and I was working full time in a telemarketing call center. When school started, I was still working part time and Darbie was working full time for the insurance benefits.

Our days were: go to work and school, come home, eat dinner, hop in the car. Darbie would drive to the hospital while I did my homework in the passenger seat, and I’d continue to do homework in the hospital room. We’d stay until late, come back, fall into bed, and start the whole thing over again. Weirdly enough, it was my second-best semester GPA-wise. I guess when you don’t have any time to waste, you get good at using the time you’ve got.

In the three months the twins were in Salt Lake, I only missed two days of seeing them. Once because I had a group school project that was due the next day; I felt really guilty about that. The other time I was sick and wouldn’t have been allowed to be near them. Darbie didn’t miss a single day.

Even though Darbie and I spent every minute together and couldn’t have been more dedicated to the twins, we had two very different approaches. I’m a typical guy; I like to fix things. I felt completely helpless sitting beside their hospital bed knowing that I couldn’t do anything to help them get better. I spent a lot of hours on my knees praying to God for strength, understanding, and peace of mind.

Darbie felt like she was responsible for the crisis because her body went into pre-term labor. The doctors said she had an incompetent cervix; it was too weak to maintain the pressure of the babies being in there. She heard the term incompetent cervix and heard incompetent mother. So she feels like it was her fault, which of course it wasn’t.

As a guy, I was also worried about the medical bills. While Darbie focused on being with the babies, I was on the phone constantly with the insurance company. They would regularly deny the six-figure claims being made, and I would have to yell at them and fight through the red tape. The insurance company ultimately did step up and things were covered. It’s a good thing, too, because they were each million-dollar babies.

Hundreds of Tiny Hands
I liked to think of myself as self-reliant and not needing help from others, but we couldn’t have made it through without the help we got from family and friends. Each night when we got home from school and work, we would go to a friend’s house for dinner before heading to the hospital. They were part of our church congregation. They insisted on feeding us dinner every single night so it would be one less thing we’d have to do. That might not sound like a big deal, but it was. They had their own crazy household with small children. They didn’t give us a choice; it was more of a demand. They said, “No, you are coming over. We are doing this for you.”

My parents, my wife’s parents, and all of our friends through church were so supportive. In the Mormon church, we practice fasting—going without food and water—coupled with prayer. Three different congregations participated in group fasts specifically for the twins. You can’t convince me that that didn’t help, that that didn’t strengthen us. We felt like there were hundreds of tiny little hands holding us up.

We often prayed that angels would watch over our babies when we couldn’t be there by their bedside. Sometimes in the hospital they would look up toward the corner of the room like babies sometimes do. We like to think that one of our deceased relatives was looking over them. I know that sounds silly but we like to think it was possible.

When Brittan and Corbin finally came home at the end of October, which was their original due date, they were both still on oxygen. We had two large oxygen tanks in the corner of our little basement apartment and the oxygen lines would frequently get tangled up. We also had portable tanks that we had to carry with us any time we left the house with the twins.

We have video of Brittan on her first birthday eating a chocolate cupcake in her high chair with an oxygen tube hooked up to her nose. She had developed a form of emphysema when she was in the hospital and her lungs had been damaged from excessive time on a ventilator. She finally got off the oxygen shortly after turning one. She was deemed to have chronic lung disease until she was cleared at the age of four. Looking at her today, you would never know that she was born so premature.

The damage to Corbin’s brain tissue because of the hemorrhage has caused significant learning disabilities and physical limitations. It resulted in cerebral palsy, which has affected mostly his legs, so he has spastic diplegia. He walks on his toes a lot, but he walks, which is amazing in itself. He started walking when he was three after lots of therapy. He doesn’t so much walk as run nowadays; he just gets up on those toes and takes off.

Corbin is also legally blind. He can see with a fair amount of detail when things are right in front of him, but his vision is limited. At the time he was born, he underwent laser surgery that burned thousands of little vessels around the perimeter of his eyes to stop the progress of the ROP. The procedure resulted in near-sightedness, but it saved his vision and prevented the retina from detaching. He wears thick prescription lenses, but he will only wear them at school. He knows where everything is at home and can get around just fine.

We’re told by doctors that Corbin operates at a four-year-old level, but I don’t think you can cleanly and neatly classify him like that. In some ways, he’s more advanced; in others, he’s not. For example, he’s still in diapers, although he’s getting closer to being potty-trained. He does require hand-feeding beyond eating goldfish crackers and drinking water. At dinner, we have to blend up his food and spoon-feed him because he doesn’t have the dexterity to use utensils.

Overall, it’s tough to gauge exactly where he is, because he inputs a lot better than he can express. At one point he used ten to fifteen simple words but then he regressed; now he only speaks a few words and doesn’t write at all, although he is learning to type some words. He’ll grab my hand, pull me toward what he wants, and put my hand on top of it. Fortunately, Brittan can often explain to us what he wants when we can’t figure it out.

Brittan is just an angel for Corbin. She’s a soft-hearted kid. I don’t know if she was born that way or it’s from interacting with a brother who has so many special needs. She watches over him and is very protective of him. If Corbin needs something, he often goes to her and she comes to us. They still sleep in the same room together, along with five-year-old Kason, our third child; we also have two-year-old Logan now.

One Clever Kid
In spite of Corbin’s challenges, he’s a smart kid. He’s a real good problem solver. He figured out how to go up and down the stairs before his twin sister did, who didn’t have near the complications he did.

We bought our home in 2009 primarily because it had a fence in the backyard for Corbin. We never anticipated that he would escape through a hole under the fence. He got out two different times and was literally stopping cars in the middle of the street until a neighbor recognized him and brought him home. Of course, we were shocked and mortified.

He just likes to explore. We’ve removed the handle piece of the deadbolt on the front door to keep him from unlocking the door and wandering down the street. Because he would do that. He’s not shy about anything or around anyone.

Corbin loves technology. From early on, he preferred interacting with toys that had buttons and would light up. He loves his iPad; he uses a communication app to tap on words and play them to communicate his wants, like, “I want to eat goldfish crackers.”

At his elementary school, there’s a smart board in every classroom. It’s like a whiteboard that doubles as a projector screen. You can connect a laptop or iPad to it and wirelessly stream whatever you’re looking at up to the smart board for all the classes to see because all the smart boards in his school are on the same network. He somehow hacked into the school smart board system with his iPad and live-streamed a video of himself to every classroom in the school. My daughter was sitting in her class, looked up, and saw her brother laughing. That’s how smart he is.

Blessed and Stressed
I was sitting in my office one day and suddenly had a hard time breathing. I had pneumonia the year before so I was worried that my lungs were damaged. Thankfully, when I went to the doctor, he said my lungs were fine. Then he sat me down and said, ‘What’s going on in your life right now?’ I laughed and said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Tell me. What’s going on?’

I said, ‘I just turned thirty. I work as an attorney. I’m pretty busy, working hard and trying to impress people. I just bought a house and passed the bar a few months ago. I have three kids, including a special needs child and a newborn. I’m busy with volunteering at church.’ He said, ‘Huh, that’s a lot.’ And it dawned on me that maybe I was just overwhelmed. He said, ‘I think you’re showing signs of anxiety. Have you ever thought about remediating it in some way?’ I was really surprised. I wasn’t even aware I was overwhelmed.

I guess it was instilled in me when I was young that you do what you have to do, keep a positive attitude, and keep moving forward. My anxiety diagnosis was a wake-up call: if I didn’t take care of myself, I wouldn’t be able to take care of the people I loved. I’ve been able to manage my anxiety with a mild, low-dose medication, with exercise, and by being consciously aware of when I start feeling overwhelmed. I learned that it’s okay to acknowledge that you can’t do it all on your own.

That’s why I’m even more amazed by my wife. She grew up on a small dairy farm and has an amazing work ethic. Nothing fazes her; you can’t knock her off her game. She’s definitely the stronger of the two of us.

Patient and Proud
I think people understand that Corbin is a lot of work. He requires constant supervision, considerable financial resources, some of our sanity, and some of my hair line. But he has such a sweet nature and it’s so rewarding to be his dad. The first time he learned to walk at age three, it was so powerful and made me so proud. He’s got a great sense of humor and he’s so crafty. He likes to wrestle with me, which is a lot of fun.

To be his father is an honor. He’s taught me so many lessons. I’m a more patient and understanding person because I’ve embraced the responsibility of treating him at all times with kindness and compassion. My personal belief is that those with disabilities have a special spirit and will have a reserved place in heaven.

When I was growing up, the special ed kids were in their own separate part of the school. My friends and I would occasionally notice them on the playground. They were kind of odd and we’d kind of snicker at some of the weird things they did. Now that my son is one of those kids, it’s completely changed my perspective and softened my heart. How could it not? He’s just so sweet and pure and innocent. It’s impossible to spend time with him and not love him.


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Who will benefit from reading Through God’s Eyes?
Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to be.
Anyone who loves life, or wants to learn how to.
Anyone who is happy, or wants to be happier.

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Just click on the link below to download your free PDF sampler!

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