When I Was 21 Years Old, I Had a Near-Death Experience

In August 2005, a stranger stabbed me in the chest, puncturing my heart, when I tried to intervene in a fight in downtown Boston, Massachusetts.

My injuries were so severe that I actually died in a cab as I was rushed to the hospital. I’d been dead for seven minutes when the doctors and nurses at the Massachusetts General Hospital revived me.

All of this happened right before I was supposed to start my senior year at Lafayette College. I’d been elected co-captain of the football team, and I was gearing up to lead the team into the fall season. 

When I opened my eyes in my hospital room, I knew immediately that I wanted to recover as soon as possible and get back on the football field.

With the help of my doctors, friends, family, and coaches, I did recover – and I started playing football again two months later. 

It was the greatest comeback we had ever seen.
— Massachusetts General Hospital

My football team went on to win the Patriot League Championship that year – and now I use my near-death experience (and what I learned from it) as one of the foundations of my personal coaching method.



read about my near death experience here:

Four years later... 

...my brother, and best-friend, Chris whispered his last words, “I love you, too” before he passed away peacefully after a battle with cancer. 

Before Chris died, I had asked him what he would have wanted to achieve if he’d had more time. 

Chris replied, “I wanted to make a million dollars in a single year, meet Barack Obama (who was then the President of the United States), and go on a safari in Africa.”

Even as he faced his impending death, Chris never stopped dreaming of a bright future. His dreams gave him purpose, meaning, and peace in his final days.

I assured him that I would make sure that I achieved his dreams for him after he passed away. I wanted him to know that he didn’t dream in vain, and that his vision for the future would go on after he died. 

This gave Chris comfort in his final days, and it gave me purpose in my life as I continued on without him. 

  Chris and his daughter, Emma.

Chris and his daughter, Emma.

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Fighting My Way Back to Health a Second Time

In 2014, I was working at a tech company and juggling a busy family life with my wife and kids. 

Despite living a reasonably healthy lifestyle, my body was showing signs of revolt. I was dealing with an autoimmune condition that limited me physically and effected how I felt about myself, and things didn’t seem to be improving as time went by.

My declining health was stopping me from keeping my promise to my brother Chris, and I was growing more and more frustrated by the day. 

Determined not to let myself, my wife and kids or Chris down, I focused on healing my body through mindset, mindfulness and lifestyle changes. Through a process of trial and error (and lots of hard work), I journeyed my way back to health. 

As my body healed, my mind became more clear, and other things in my life began to shift, too. I knew my career in the technology industry wasn’t helping me grow and become the person I felt I wanted and needed to be. I also started feeling inspired to start helping people as part of my career, so I started exploring other possibilities.

putting it all together

And in those moments of confusion, pain, and even despair at times, Milestone Mind was born.

Now my wife and I run the two businesses in conjunction, and my specialty is coaching with high-performing clients and teams and helping them reach their most meaningful goals.

I love what I do, and every day I appreciate being able to bring together all the pieces of my life into a coherent, inspiring profession.

Let’s get to it.


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Courage. Love. Belief. Strength. Patience. Determination.


Dave's Professional Background

Dave Nelson is the survivor of a near-death experience, as well as an endurance race competitor, former Silicon Valley sales director, and a leadership mindset, mindfulness and human motivation teacher. He’s also a husband and father.

From 2006-2016, Dave worked with companies like EMC, Dell, Nimble Storage, and Rubrik to help them build successful sales teams and build new markets for their products. At Nimble, he helped build the Northeast U.S. and Eastern Canada, taking it from a $2M/year run-rate business, to over a $25M/year run-rate business, building it from 4 team-members to over 25 team-members, leading all sales, marketing, channel and engineering go-to-market strategies.

In 2016, he founded Milestone Mind, which provides leading-edge mindset and mindfulness training for high-growth people and organizations. 

He studied Sociology and Anthropology at Lafayette College, where he served as the Co-Captain of their 2005 championship football team. He's the recipient of the ECAC Award of Valor as well as recipient of the inaugural Lafayette College David Nelson '06 Award of Valor, established at the school after Dave's return to the gridiron after being dead for 7-minutes just two-months prior to the 2005 Championship season.

Dave has received executive business education from Harvard Business School, undertaken deep meditation practice and education training from Kathmandu University's Centre for Buddhist Studies at Rangjung Yeshe Institute, and is a certified ICF NLP Master Practitioner, Life Coach and CMA Meditation Teacher.

These days, Dave is a coach, mentor, podcast host and teacher who understands what individuals and teams need to grow and thrive – and helps individuals and organizations create customized training programs that improves their results and creates undeniable personal satisfaction and team cohesion through that process.

He has had the opportunity to interview and get to know thought-leaders such as Spartan Race Founder, Joe DeSena, Leading Meditation Teacher and Founder of the Insight Meditation Society, Sharon Salzberg, O2X Founder, Adam La Reau, PIVOT Founder, Jenny Blake, Green Beret and Author of Game-Changers, Scott Mann, Ironman™ World Champion and USAT Paratriathlete of the Year, André Kajlich, and many more.

Want to find out more about my coaching practice, and how I can help you?

learn More About My Near-Death Experience Here:

#127 From Dead On Arrival To Championship Athlete

Living For A Purpose with Dave Nelson

025: Survivor, Founder, Speaker & Life Coach Dave Nelson

Don’t let one experience define you; if you were a natural athlete it doesn’t mean you will be a natural in business right away and vice versa

Listen to Dave on the Live Different Podcast

Fitting in is Bullshit: Recognize Who You Are and Break the Mold with Dave Nelson of Milestone Mind

Harvard Business School

HBX Disruptive Strategy Student Profiles / Dave - Meet Dave, an HBX Disruptive Strategy participant who took the course to improve his decision making.

Executive Athletes Podcast Episode #11

Dave Nelson - Near Death Survivor, Ex. Silicon Valley Exec.


Dave Discusses Award of Valor

Former Lafayette football player David Nelson '06, for whom the team's annual Award of Valor is named, shares the story of his near-death experience and subsequent return to the gridiron with LSN's John Leone.