“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by Kelly Clarkson is blaring out the radio and I am reminded that 10 years ago this week I was almost killed. This anniversary caused me to step back and review the last decade to see seek for the truth in that lyric. How I have become stronger? What lessons did that “experience” teach me?

The cause of my near death experience was a plane. My husband is a small plane pilot and for a number of years we had been flying around with our young son, in a 4-seater Cessna 185. We had some great trips as a family, flying over Lake Tahoe, landing at the rim of the Grand Canyon and fly-camping in the Idaho back-country.

That all abruptly came to an end when we were flying back to Seattle after a week-end trip. We lost power to our engine 1800ft up in the air over a major urban area. Luckily, my husband had recently been on a flight training course, where they had said if your engine stalls just “fly the plane”. What they meant was don’t lose concentration – stay focused and maintain the right glide angle and you can survive. Spoiler alert – I am here writing this tale, so we did survive. As soon as the engine went out, I flipped the switch on the radio, so my husband couldn’t be distracted by my son crying “I don’t want to die” while I tried to reassure him that we will be alright. (What was I thinking?).

To cut a long story short – we crash landed into a lake and miraculously were unscathed – then we started sinking and couldn’t get the plane doors open due to the water pressure. So again, my husband – already the hero of the day – week – year – decade, decided to open the window and let the water in until the point where the water pressure both in and outside the plane reached a state of equilibrium. Now, that was a real test of patience! So, as the plane filled fast, my life didn’t flash before me, but I was left thinking that I had a wonderful life, but felt terrible for the situation I had left my parents in and the situation I had out our young son in. Then, at the last possible moment the door opened and we were able to float to the surface of the lake – second miracle of the day!

People always ask me – so did it change your life? Here are the lessons I learned from that experience:

1. Stay focused – fly the plane: when all around you is crazy hold on to the one goal or direction that can help create the momentum to make progress
2. Know who you are – I learned that I am confident in my strengths, one of which is being calm under pressure and that has been a core part of who I am at home or work
3. Wake up calls are good – they can help you get out of the routines and habits that can prevent you from your own growth and development
4. Be present – making sure you engage fully in what and who is presented to you is central to leading a life of meaning
5. Be persistent – whether it’s about getting out of a sinking plane, making a case for a new project or building a small business, never give up trying
6. Gratitude – remembering that the gift of life is a privilege, so don’t sweat the small stuff and tackle daily issues in a positive way

-Anita Bhasin

Anita is the founder and CEO of Sage Ways. Connect with Anita at anita@sagewaysconsulting.com.