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  • Writer's pictureCarole Stizza

The Lessons Life Has Taught me

Updated: May 31, 2021

I have been in 3 car accidents (all stopped and turning left – no joke) and survived stage 3 cancer. I am a survivor who has experienced PTSD, a wonderfully long marriage, and the unknown challenges of parenthood as well as the ups and down of working in a varied career that exposed me to a wealth of wonderful leaders and several dreaded toxic coworkers. The lessons I learned from each car accident have made me a better person.

Here’s a snap shot.

I first learned the power of being relevant and speaking up at the young age of six. I had climbed out of the wreckage of a car accident, one of only three survivors from a family carpool carrying six people. As rescue and recovery efforts went underway, I asked in my small voice for my 3-year-old brother, and the right person heard me; a frantic halt to the tow truck and a renewed search of the car wreckage revealed he had been wedged under the seat, seriously injured but alive.

I feel now, as the only person standing on that roadside, I was meant to speak up for my brother. Had I not spoken up, he would not be here today, as the successfully retired and decorated Marine he is today, father of two great sons, and living a life in beautiful Washington. Keeping that moment in view, I now recognize why I work hard to listen with more heart, care, and a desire hear other people’s story because it reveals natural points of motivation.

Eleven years later, I awoke in intensive care, a survivor of another near-fatal wreck caused by an inexperienced driver, who wasn’t even aware I was on the road. It was then I learned how it must feel to feel invisible and the true importance of feeling Seen. As I regained the ability to walk, eat, and return to life, I committed to paying more attention to those around me, because being Seen—aware, understood, valued, and connected to—is as critical to life as being safe behind the wheel.

At 35, my son and I were on the way to a school program when we were hit by a drunk driver while turning left (I really can’t make this stuff up). We survived, but the injuries still require care and my young son seemed to suffer the most. This was when I learned the power of positive thinking and the role of relevant response. It was one of the most painful lessons, and I realized that sometimes the only thing you can control is how you react to the random nature of life, even as it affects the people you love most.

For the record, every accident occurred while stopped and turning left – so I’m not scared to drive – I just may hate left turns and I’m a very conscientious defensive driver these days. I wish I could say that was the end of it, that I finally was safe and protected in a bubble of fun forever. The reality is, those car accidents are what clued me into what has been (so far) one of the scariest and most awakening moments of my life: A stage-three cancer diagnosis. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t know the power of little voices; I listened to the one that defied the doctors who said I was fine until the right one listened. I wouldn’t have survived the treatment had I not known in my core the importance of positivity and the strength in controlling what you can. And I wouldn’t have pursued education and a career in human potential if I didn’t see the tangible, life-altering, and empowering benefits of making yourself relevant in your own life, your career, and your relationships.

After all the life events I’ve survived, I now look fondly on for what each taught me, and coaching became a passion that could not be ignored. Leading a family through moves, adapting every 2-3 years, continually crafting a career, regardless of location, on top of the life events presented to me, I now know that great leadership (for yourself and in leading others) is key to finding your amazing value in all that you do.

Because if you aren’t positively and actively looking to lead and thrive in all that do you, you are missing out on something amazing.

If you don’t stop pretending – OR – don’t get clear on your gifts – you will continue to be frustrated, feel stressed, feel like an imposter, or feel as if no one sees your potential. I want to change that!

This is why I’m here.

Let’s get to the bigger question: Why are you?

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