Wednesday 15th June 2016. The most traumatic day of my life so far. And the luckiest by far.
The trip started at 7.30am in East Gippsland, on my way to Canberra for a few days. A new client and a chance to catch up with family awaited. I was excited.
The first car accident occurred at 9.15am, 160 kms from home. It was a silver Ford that came around the corner in the opposite direction. Then it continued to veer across the road into my lane, just in front of me, and hit a tree head on. I just had enough time to stop my car, and pull up near the smoking engine.
The second car accident occurred 120kms further on at 2.20pm. This one was like something off a road safety ad campaign. A head-on collision, involving the car towing a caravan directly in front of me (in a twist of fate, I knew the female passenger in that car) and two other cars. This time my breaks were slammed on, just saving me from being a part of the carnage. Two men’s lives were lost in an instant.
In the time that followed both accidents, I contemplated how precious life is. These are the lessons I learnt, and the questions I pose for you to consider.
1. Leadership Skills Are In Demand Everywhere
Crisis situations will bring out a person’s leadership skills. The people who stop to help, the ones who jump in and take on a role. Until the ‘official’ leaders arrive (Police and Ambulance) others will automatically step up.
Leaders are self-aware enough to know their skills. For example, I know I can remain calm under pressure so I took on the role of phoning emergency services at both accidents. Others were the right ones to be attending to the injured (definitely not my strength). Some people take on the role of on-the-spot decision makers, orchestrating what needs to happen, by whom, and in what order. In both accidents leaders appeared and took on each of these roles. No job titles necessary.
2. Strangers Are Kind
I am amazed and encouraged by the kindness of complete strangers. Those who came together to assist the elderly man in the first accident. It was his moment of greatest need. I saw compassion and love in action from people who had never met, and probably never will again.
Above and beyond those who were on the scene of the second accident providing assistance, I met two wonderful women. Seeing how shaken up I was (and in no state to continue driving) they offered to take me the rest of my journey. One drove me, and her friend drove my car, the next 200kms to my final destination. The start of a new friendship has begun.
3. There Is An Abundance Of Support Around Us
With modern technology, we are all connected instantly. Driving on alone after the first accident, my thoughts were scattered in many different directions. I stopped for a bite to eat and wrote a Facebook post. Within moments, I felt the warmth and love of friends and family, supporting from afar. And as the rest of the day unfolded, more messages, phone calls and texts came through letting me know how much I was loved.
There is never a reason to feel alone and distressed. All we need to do is reach out to our tribe to feel united. Tribes are all around us – our family, our friends, our community, the groups we belong to. It’s up to us to ask for help. It will come to us in leaps and bounds.
4. Life Is Too Precious To Be Unhappy
I often listen to others talk about what they don’t like about their lives – their job, their relationship, their friendships. They come up with convenient excuses as to why they cannot live their dreams – there’s not enough money to do anything. They got knocked back in an interview so they make it mean they can’t try again. They stay in a toxic relationship because it’s ‘too hard to be alone’. And they choose to do nothing to influence it. Instead they just continue to complain about it.
Life can be removed in a second. There is no more compelling reason to spend your time doing what you love, with people supporting you on your journey. Who wants to live life in fear? Unfortunately, it seems, too many people.
5. When You Love Someone, Hold On To Them. Tightly.
Driving away from my children for three days when all I wanted to do was turn back and hug them, tugged at my heart. (I have since been lucky enough to do exactly that.) They are such a huge important part of my life. And I let them know every day how much I love them. Even when they are being ‘teenagers’!
Whilst it’s important to move away from toxic relationships, the contrast is to hang on tight to those we truly love. The ones who enrich our lives, give lovingly to support us and encourage us. Don’t let them go. Fight to hang on to those people.
Today I am grateful to be alive. What are you grateful for?
Tags: leadership leadership coaching life lessons