I met a person recently who made the decision to turn a horrifying experience into an opportunity for growth. With his permission, I share his story here.
He looks like Buddha in quiet repose … serene, calm, quiet, gentle. Nothing ruffles him, but he wasn’t always like this. His outlook on life changed completely after an accident almost claimed his life.
He works as a commercial fisherman. Several years ago, he was working in the Bering Sea on a small fishing boat with a four-man crew. The boat was a “catcher” boat, one that caught fish in a net and turned the catch over to a processing boat. On this particular day, his boat was towing a net filled with several ton of fish. The boat started to turn but did so too slowly, and the heavy net sank toward the bottom. The engines tried to pull the boat forward but the net became an anchor, and the boat flipped over in seconds.
It happened so quickly, the men didn’t have time to grab emergency gear. A raft was set to deploy automatically if the boat overturned, but three of the men found themselves trapped underneath the boat, in a pocket of air.
After a frantic few moments, the men realized that to survive this, they had to leave the safety of the air pocket and swim down, underwater, to get out from under the boat. They were terrified, but they had to do it to survive.
He has no idea how long he was in the water—it could have been one minute or 30 minutes. Thankfully, all three men made it to the raft and were rescued by another nearby boat. The three men lived, but the fourth man, the captain, did not survive.
He returned home a changed man. He looked around his hometown and saw people filling their days with anger and strife, men who were sitting on the same bar stools they’d been sitting on when he left—a way of life he no longer wanted.
His close encounter with death, his fight to survive, put everything into perspective. He had learned life can change in an instant. The things people do or say or how they act that once would have bothered him no longer mattered. Today, he values people, relationships, love. His advice? If it doesn’t bring happiness, it doesn’t matter … it’s not worth your time. His catastrophe gave him the ability to realize what really mattered to him and to release what wasn’t important.
Just like him, we each get to decide what really matters to us, what we want to invite into our lives. Let’s not wait for a life-changing catastrophe to realize what we really love and want to embrace in our life. Let’s do it now.