My car suddenly sinks into the ground – I can feel the metal and parts of the underside grinding the highway pavement at 110km/hr.
Cars around me are moving around frantically.
Time slows down.
I have only seconds to make it to the shoulder lane and stop my car before I spin out and flip.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see a single tire veering off into the embankment lining the highway—it was MY tire!
SHIT. SHIT. SHIT.
By the time the panic and adrenaline settles, I’m staring back at a car that’s been utterly destroyed.
I’m sitting on the highway shoulder lane and waiting for the tow truck. I had been driving home to Calgary to complete my licensing exam to become a pharmacist.
This exam would be my finale to 8 long years of university. A lot was riding on this exam, so I was bombing it down the highway to squeeze in some last minute studying.
That never happened. In fact, I was so shook up after the accident, I failed the exam.
My misfortunes didn’t end there.
I got fired from my secured 4 year contract from London Drugs for failing the exam (even getting escorted out by security), was deep in student loan debt, and I was 25 years old still living in my parent’s basement.
While I had my life flash before my eyes and for some time afterwards I went through a dramatic shift in my life.
My near-death experience ultimately drove me to a more purpose driven life and supercharged my motivation.
Fast forward 5 years.
I’m pioneering my province’s first women’s & children’s health hospital pharmacist team, traveling the world meeting athletes and interesting people, competing in kettlebell sport, happily living independently on my own home, and running my own company helping people quit smoking successfully.
I can confidently say that I am living ,y most purpose driven life… a life that was brought on by my near-death accident..
I’ll share with you three important lessons that will help kickstart your own life and enable you to find and live the purpose you’ve been searching for.
1. Do the work to find your community.
Growing up and throughout my years of university, I was really disappointed in myself and was never able to meet people who shared the same social vision I had.
While I was volunteering, going to gymnastics and salsa dancing, my classmates would be frantically studying to beat the curve, ignoring my invites to try out that new restaurant or event I organized.
This left me feeling pretty depressed thinking this was as good as it was going to get.
Deep down, I wanted to be around people who were pursuing REAL things – not for the sake of having good grades, to construct impressive resumes, or to indulge in the expectations others put on them.
I wanted to be around more people who were not afraid of embracing challenges and constantly pursuing personal discovery and growth to live the life they truly wanted.
My accident was a true wake-up call. I had to stop complaining about my social circumstances and really do something about it.
I had to take charge of my life.
I started by reflecting on the things I liked to do.
One of my big passions is fitness and health. I love learning training methods, the science of getting stronger, mental psychology – you name it!
Searching one night on Facebook and YouTube, I discovered some really cool kettlebell videos by Shawn Mozen of Agatsu in Montreal. I was so fascinated by his unique training style that I fired him a message on Facebook curious about kettlebell and gymnastics training, and we were able to keep in touch for a year.
A year later, I’m in Montreal for a bachelor party, so I fired Shawn a message to connect for handstand private lessons and we finally meet in person. Having only chatted over the internet, this was a surreal experience and also an awesome one.
Fast forward to now, I see Shawn and Sara at least once a year for an Agatsu training camp or course– sometimes even traveling to international destinations to train with high level athletes and trainers (for example, this year, I’m traveling to Iceland to train a week with world-famous strongman Magnus von Magnusson).
Looking back, all this happened because I took the initiative to connect with people and communities who shared my passion for learning and experiencing the possibilities that life can offer.
Things will never magically land on your doorstep (or the chances are extremely low).
Take charge of your own life’s narrative.
2. Embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.
I was devastated after the car accident.
I had no job, was in a pile of debt, and I felt like an outsider watching my classmates relish in the glory of moving onto their next life chapter as pharmacists.
It sucks to fail.
After wallowing in self-pity and frustration, I knew I had to snap out of it—there was a retest in 3 months.
So I pulled myself together and started reflecting on what went wrong the first time.
Even without a car accident, my knowledge was built on a bad habit of cramming and regurgitating information, never really understanding the material—I had to fix this.
I also needed to train my mental muscle to adjust and adapt on the fly and deal with stress.
This was probably one of the biggest reasons why I failed the exam—it was a screaming weakness that limited my resourcefulness and creativity. I needed to work in a pharmacy to ‘train’ so I begged pharmacist owners to hire me to get the experience and practice.
Some could only hire me as a volunteer—but you know what? I took it. Any opportunity was better than doing nothing.
The more time I spent in the pharmacy, the more confident I became with my skills. I started to rediscover my curiosity and love for pharmacy and the fascinating science of drugs and their effects on the body.
I also hired a social dynamics coach during that time to challenge me with uncomfortable social situations—‘exercises’ included approaching groups of strangers at the mall or striking up conversations at the bar, all with the purpose of decreasing my anxiety and social awkwardness with strangers and help me develop my focus and conversational acuity.
The hard work over those 3 months paid off—I became licensed in January 2012.
Looking back, a lot of really good things came out of the experience.
Because I had been so hardworking and driven to not fail again, the pharmacist owners I worked for helped connect me with other pharmacist owners. As a result, I had consistent work for 6 months and was able to clear all my debt, bought a home and moved out, and then landed a full-time pharmacist position working at the newest hospitals in the province.
3. Take responsibility of your own sh*t.
Growing up, I relied heavily on the advice of my father to guide my actions, but after the accident, a really big rift formed between us.
In my mind, I blamed him for the accident–for not ensuring my safety in telling me to get a torque wrench when we installed the summer tires.
I built so much negative emotion towards him, where at the breaking point I ended up sobbing one night in my room, listening to Cats & the Cradle. I knew deep down I had been wrong all this time trying to put the expectations of my own responsibility onto him.
I knew this problem went beyond my relationship with my father. Growing up, I was always blaming others for not being there for me, but this was based on expectations I put on people, when instead I should be blaming myself for not taking responsibility in the first place.
I stopped blaming my father, took responsibility of my automobile fears and went to Canadian Tire, bought a torque wrench.
It takes little effort to prevent future catastrophic accidents.
Taking responsibility over my own life has also allowed me to make my biggest leaps in personal growth and independence, including going to the Mayo Clinic to become a tobacco treatment specialist and becoming a Certified Tobacco Educator, to elevate my knowledge in tobacco addictions treatment to the next level to help smokers trying to quit.
Discovering your purpose is one thing, but getting it off the ground shouldn’t have to involve a close brush with death to push you to take action.
If you are unhappy, take time to reflect on what is making you unhappy.
Not finding the friends you want? Find communities that will help support your growth.
Stop taking failure so personally and instead see the moments where you’re not getting the results you want, as opportunities to learn and adjust going forward.
Finally, be accountable to yourself—to truly live the life you truly want, you need to bunker down, do the work, and claim the life you want for yourself.
You only have one life to live. It’s precious.
What amazing things will you do with it?