Trauma at Catalina Island

IMPORTANT follow up to “Hello from Beautiful Catalina Island” (MAKE SURE TO READ THIS … IT IS A VERY “DRAMATIC” HAPPINESS LEARNING EXPERIENCE)

Yesterday I posted a blog message “from beautiful Catalina Island”, which was the setting for delivering a strategic point about creating more happiness in our lives by making a “playbook” for happiness.

IMPORTANT NOTE: for the best happiness learning experience possible, if you haven’t read yesterday’s (Nov 7, 2008) blog post “from beautiful Catalina Island”, please stop reading this post right now and read that one first. It will put things in much better perspective and we’ll all learn more from the dramatic and traumatic event my family experienced yesterday. Click here to read that story, then come back to this page to read this one.

OK, so you read the other blog post, right? I hope you got a few proactive happiness pointers from it and have written your external happiness list, because that message was meant to stand on it’s own as a great, simple strategy for keeping us as happy as possible. Now, here’s a real-life learning experience from Catalina Island (just about 12 hours after I wrote the other piece) which is very dramatic…

After arriving at Catalina Island, we secured our boat to our assigned mooring in the harbor and proceeded to begin what we expected to be the usual fun, relaxing weekend.

While sitting on the back of the boat enjoying a drink, the harbor patrol stopped by and told us we had to move to a different mooring since the one they had put us on had just gotten reserved for the owner of the mooring. They told us we could wait until morning to move, so we decided to wait since we had already had a couple of cocktails.

The next morning we awoke to the beautiful Catalina Island sunrise on the right (this is a picture of the actual sunrise from today, November 8, 2008 – the day I wrote this blog post) and then proceeded to move the boat (something we have done hundreds of times before). But this time was different – and the next 10 minutes were even more dramatic than what we might see in a movie.

Just as we were picking up the next mooring, our boat – for some unknown reason – accelerated uncontrollably forward. Now, I probably can’t describe the next few minutes as dramatically as it actually occurred, but here’s what happened:

As I mentioned, the boat started accelerating uncontrollably forward (the engines would not shut down – although I put the throttle in neutral and reverse, and even tried turning the engines off repeatedly). Because of this, we plowed right through the back of one yacht, crashed broadside into a second yacht, turned 90 degrees and were heading toward the rocks of the island, when we hit a third boat, ripping off the whole front (anchor and all), which turned us again.

By this time I had run down into the engine room trying frantically to get the engines to stop since nothing was working above. My wife, Jill, was screaming, my 2-year old daughter, Joie, was crying, and we couldn’t find our dog Sunny anywhere

I was finally able to bring the boat to a stop by putting the manual throttles in the engine room on idle and shutting off the fuel valves. We had hit a total of 6 boats, doing what I estimate to be $1 million to $1.5 million dollars worth of damage. Here’s a picture of the front of our boat taken by a local newspaper:

Pretty traumatic, don’t you think? My wife couldn’t stop crying for over an hour. I was shaking like a leaf (and I must admit, I cried a few times during the next few hours also). We finally found our dog Sunny stuck in the back of the boat (we thought he had been thrown overboard) and Jill had managed to get our baby daughter into a life jacket during the crashes and onto a harbor patrol boat who had been trying to help stop us during the ordeal.

If you know boating – and probably even if you don’t – you can understand that this was a major disaster. It’s something I never thought I would have to live through – something I would never have wanted to live through - and something that could change my whole perspective on boating, going to Catalina Island (which I love, as you know from my previous blog post), and even the happiness I cherish so much.

So, I really had to “practice what I preach” today – and will have to do so for quite a while as a result of this accident. I had to do many of the things I talk about on this website and in my book to keep a positive perspective (some of which comes natural to me since I do it often).

Things like:

- Be grateful for what I have
- Put the financial implications in perspective
- Use the event - and it's potential consequences - as a motivator
- Make this a learning experience
- And many other peace-of-mind and happiness strategies

Let me address some of these in more detail.

First, I had to look at the positives and be grateful for what I have: NOBODY WAS HURT!! That was the obvious first big positive. We can’t even believe that nobody was injured, much less killed. We were very, very lucky. Many people could have lost their lives in this tragic incident – including – God forbid - my wife and little baby daughter. So, first, I am unbelievably GRATEFUL that they are alive and unharmed. When I think about that – and really feel the emotional gratitude inside of me for the safety of my wife and daughter – nothing much else really matters. I am just so happy they are safe.

We also learned over the next several hours that everyone on the 6 boats we had hit were alright, too. There were some cuts and bruises (including me), but nothing serious. In the boat we hit broadside (the second boat hit) there was an older couple enjoying their breakfast when this happened. They luckily saw us coming a few seconds before we rammed them and dove to the ground. We went right through the side of their boat and tore out their entire “living room” (many of their bar glasses remain on the front of our boat as I write this). But they were unharmed – a bit shaken, but unharmed. Here’s a picture of the side of their boat from the newspaper. Again, I am so grateful there was no one hurt – or worse. Boats can be replaced, people cannot.

Put the financial implications in perspective: the next thing I had to address was the financial side of things. This incidence could “wipe us out” financially. Yes, we have insurance, but the damage is extensive – I’m guessing well over a million dollars (perhaps closer to $1.5 million) worth of damage. And I don’t know right now what it will all mean to us financially. With the financial situation our country is in right now and my current career transition from biotech to this website mission, this was perfectly bad timing since I have no income. So, I must remain focused on my mission, which will allow me to deal with the financial implications – whatever they are – as well as deal with the emotional pain of the incident. Fortunately, we should be mostly covered by our insurance, and I plan to continue to build this website for the income we’ll need to survive this traumatic event.

Use the potential consequences as a motivator: Based on the potential financial implications of this event, I am even more motivated to make this website successful – helping thousands of people everyday and generating an income for my family. It’s why I’m writing this on the very day of the event – even though I don’t really feel like doing anything right now.

Make this a learning experience: You’ve heard the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I know this event has strengthened me in many ways. As you might expect, I have run this event through my mind many times since it happened. And although this was an unavoidable and unexpected event, I still can’t help doing the “woulda-shoulda” thing. I should have done this, I would have done that. I can’t keep doing this. I must just know that I will be better prepared to do things that should minimize the chances of this kind of thing happening again – and if it were to happen, to be able to deal with it even more effectively.

So, first, by being grateful for what we have, we can all be happier. For me, when I think of what could have happened in this terrible incident, I am incredibly grateful and start feeling very good. For you, think about everything you have right now - your home, your job, your friends, your family, your car, etc. Now what if all these things were suddenly taken away from you? How would you feel? Pretty terrible, right? Now think about how you would feel if all those things were given back. The same home, the same job, the same car – everything returned. Now how would you feel? You can probably imagine – sitting there right now – how grateful you would feel having the very things you have right now, but perhaps take for granted. Be grateful. Be grateful now.

I assume - and sincerely hope - that those of you reading this blog post have not experienced this kind of event. But if you have – or especially if you’ve experienced something even worse - there is a lot more you’ll need to do (like me) to put things into perspective and remain happy, regardless of life’s circumstances. If you have experienced a traumatic event, are living through a tough time, or have had to deal with major adversity in your life, I’d appreciate the contribution of your story so we can all help others to deal with their life’s challenges. To submit your story, click on the “Handling Adversity” button on the NavBar at the top left of this page and, once you're on that page, go down to the bottom where you can write out your story and submit it for inclusion in our site. It would certainly be a great contribution to help others in painful circumstances to cope with the tough realities of life.

For me - I need to continue to have this “Catalina Crisis” motivate me even more to build this website as my new career and help as many people as possible to be happier and more grateful in life. I must also do as many of the things on the list I wrote about on my last blog post (my "playlist") to help me through this trauma.

Thanks for listening and for participating in the mission of this website to help people be happier.

BeHappy! my friends