Nearly fifteen years ago, on a hot July afternoon, I was having a frustrating day at work (yes, even estate planning attorneys have bad days at the office!), so I took off a little early, deciding to ride my bike down to the Sanibel causeway. At the time, construction of the new spans was in progress.
Having pedaled from my south Fort Myers home to the toll plaza at Punta Rassa, I paused, looking at the orange cones wondering whether I should continue across the causeway to the island before making the trek back home.
At that moment I heard a loud CRACK, causing me to turn around. I saw flashes of lightning with dark, ominous clouds heading towards me. As most of you know, our summer thunderstorms mostly build in the east then head towards the coast and can be quite dangerous.
Realizing that I had thirteen miles heading directly into the storm to get home, I amped it up. On the Summerlin bike path I remember looking down at my Garmin bike computer mounted on my handlebars–that registered 23 mph–as I crossed in front of the Siesta Bay RV Resort.
That’s when it happened.
I don’t remember much, only waking up with paramedics hovering over me.
I’d been hit by a car and was seriously injured. It was a hit and run, apparently, but someone must have noticed me lying unconscious just off the bike path and called 911. A medevac helicopter landed on Summerlin Road to transport me to Lee Memorial’s trauma center downtown.
Luckily, I survived, despite having skull fractures (my helmet saved my life) and problems with my neck and spine that would require neurosurgery. To this day, titanium pin and screws hold my neck in place.
None of us knows when our time will come, or how it will come. I was only forty years old at the time of my near-death experience.
I’m reminded of the quote “when death comes knocking, look busy…” out of a scene from Woody Allen’s movie, “Love and Death” where Boris, the lead character played by Allen, encourages us to “not think of death as an end, but think of it more as a very effective way of cutting down on your expenses.”
As my friend Brian Kurtz of Titan Marketing writes about his recent brush with death, “while that might have been nice, I’ll take life plus the expenses, thank you very much.”
Since my accident, it’s been my priority to ensure that I’m always working on something big in my life and encouraging others around me to strive similarly…even after we’ve achieved great things. “Big” is a relative term, yet we all need something to constantly strive for, or we risk no longer looking busy, inviting the grim reaper to our doorstep.
Dan Sullivan, the top coach for entrepreneurs worldwide, has many stories and examples about famous people who set a huge goal in their lives, but, once attained, left too much room to not be busy.
Sullivan points to the curious tale when Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within five hours of one another on July 4, 1826, fifty years to the day after the signing of The Declaration of Independence. Both had a goal of seeing the new republic survive its first 50 years. Having met the goal, they both quickly perished.
You can say that both men should have had some other milestone planned after that. We can cut Jefferson and Adams some slack since they lived in an era where life expectancies got the luckiest of average Americans to their 40s. Jefferson was 82 and Adams 90 when they died.
Yet this story illustrates how important it is to have something to live for, despite your age. Sullivan speaks of the dangers of “retirement” as letting oneself be “put out to pasture” waiting for the slaughterhouse. “Retire from the things you don’t like doing, retire from the things you don’t do well, and retire from people who drain you and don’t make you bigger and stronger,” he advises.
Sullivan goes on to say that once you remove the passion to achieve the next great thing in your life, you leave an opening to “cut down on your expenses.”
I’ve represented several clients who have cashed out of their careers in a big way, but once they were on the “other side” with nothing to do, they wilted and died both figuratively, and then literally.
So always plan your next achievement. Keep death at bay.
And don’t worry about those expenses.
© 2019 Craig R. Hersch. Originally published in the Sanibel Island Sun.