How Almost Dying Taught Me To Live

Almost Dying

Can almost dying teach you to live? When I was in college I loved to go to the beach. One day, due to a storm off the coast, the waves were particularly big. I loved to swim and body surf, so it looked like fun to me. I heaed out and swam through the big waves. It was really cool. After a while I got a little tired and decided to swim in. But things didn’t go as planned. How many times does this happen in our lives?

I swam hard but ended up no closer to the shore. At this point I knew I needed to do something. “I am a great swimmer”, I reasoned to myself, “I’ll just swim harder”. And I did. At this point I was swimming as hard as I could. I gave it everything that I had until I couldn’t swim anymore. I looked up expecting to have arrived at the shore. I hadn’t gone anywhere!

At this point my mindset changed, this wasn’t very much fun anymore, this was serious. The waves began crashing down on my head. Each wave pushing me under and I would swim back up. I would barely get some air when another wave would hit me. This was survival.

My thoughts began to go in a different direction. I began thinking of a person I had a attended school with who had drowned a year after he graduated. They had a beautiful ceremony at the school filled with sadness of what might have been.   This individual had so much potential and was truly a great person. He had achieved so much and yet was still so young.

Not me, not today, I thought. Oh they could have had a ceremony for me, I could see it. Craig was so kind, so happy. A good friend. Just a wonderful individual. The problem was I wasn’t. I still had a lot to do. I tried my best to be a good person, but I was nowhere near my potential. I could have been kinder, happier, a better friend, a better person. No one was going to tell my story but me.

Not realizing that the best way to escape the current was swimming parallel to the shore, I was still attempting to fight the current. I loved to body surf and I saw a wave coming. With the little bit of energy I decided to catch that wave and let it take me in. There was no plan B at this point, I was getting this wave or….. There was no “or”, I HAD to get this wave. As it approached, I began to swim, timing the wave. I swam hard right as it broke and hoped for the best.

The wave grabbed me, like the hand of God. It carried me fast towards the shore. It threw me down much closer than I had been but not all the way. I felt the sand on the bottom. I could now push myself up to get air. I breathed like I had never breathed before. I pushed ahead and found my footing. I saw my friend Will and called out to him to make sure I got in. He came to give me a hand but I was safe.

I walked up to the sand and collapsed on the beach with exhaustion. I lied there for a second when I heard a voice. “Are you alright?” It was the lifeguard! He had seen me struggling. I could have been annoyed, but I wasn’t. “I am now”, I said, “I’m just glad that you saw me”. I didn’t blame him at all, apparently he had been out helping someone else.

Almost dying taught me a lot this day, but a few lessons really stuck.

#1. Love each day, each moment, each step, each breath

You just never know what will happen next. Your feet are probably touch the ground right now, appreciate that. You are in control of your life. You may feel you have problems, but they aren’t as big as you make them out to be.

#2. Take chances, hit your potential

Is this as good as you are going to get? Would you be satisfied if your legacy was already written? If not, what’s stopping you? Why don’t you go after what you want and be the person you were meant to be? So what if people think you’re great, be great!

#3. Be prepared, effort can be useless without knowledge

I was using all the effort I could to swim my way back. I was planning on outswimming my stupidity. As good of a swimmer as I was, I was doing it all wrong. There is a way to escape a current. It requires effort, but only in the right direction. Keep learning and make sure that you are swimming in the right direction. The old phrase,  “Don’t just work harder, work smarter”, would have paid off for me that day.

#4. Never give up

Forget plan B. Go for what you want. If you could want anything as much as I wanted to touch that dry sand, you will get it. Go for it with all you have because you never know when something might come to take you over the top. Only by swimming hard can you catch a wave.

#5. Don’t blame others

It would have been nice if that life guard would have got to me earlier. But I would have missed out on this story and probably just been embarrassed. As it was, I was happy that I wasn’t completely alone, perhaps he would have saved me, but I’ll never know. You’re life is in your hands, save yourself.

Almost dying is not necessary to having a great life. You have a story to write. A great story that only you can live and only you can tell. The world will push you in many directions but you must be the hero of your story. You will overcome challenges, you will learn lessons and you will dream. You are the star. The best story of your life is the one you write.

Have you ever had a moment that changed your life? Tell me about it in the comments. Thanks for reading. If you liked this, share it. Write your story, as only you can!

I’m a business owner from California now living my dream in Brazil. I’m passionate about using business to help others. If you’d like to connect, send me an e-mail at craigrohlfing@gmail.com. I answer all e-mails and it would be a pleasure to hear from you. Many thanks, Craig.

  • Wow! Nice one… there’s really nothing else I can think of that more powerfully reminds me of this planet’s strength and my own frailty as a human guest here than the ocean. Thanks for sharing this article, and I see by the titles there’s much more I’ll be checking out, starting with 7 tips on remembering names. Craig, if there’s anything I can do for you, just ask.

  • Jesse, thank you so much for the kind words. I’ve gotten away from my blog recently and didn’t see your comment. However you’ve inspired me to get back at it. Check back soon. Have a great day.