What has been your favorite experience – ever?
For some reason, that question has been intriguing me.
Did you know it while it was happening?
Or did you only realize its significance by reflecting on it afterwards?
Is there one factor at the heart of all your favorite experiences?
Or is there a unique combination?
If you knew the answer, could you create more of your favorite experiences?
When I asked my friend Chris Chianese, what his favorite experience of all-time was, he shared an answer I never expected.
“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The best day of my life was when my wife Elaine and I didn’t drown in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to death in my life. And at the end of that day, I felt so fortunate. It’s the best I’ve felt in my whole life. And what I’ve done since then is…I refer back to that day whenever I’m in a down mood, or if anything doesn’t seem to be going right…I recall that day, and it completely uplifts me.”
“Wow,” I said. “Can you take me back to that day? What happened?”
“Sure,” he said, “We were very young, and we didn’t know at the time that Elaine was actually pregnant with Loretta, our first and only child. All we knew was that the sun was shining, and the water was warm. It was in September. There were no lifeguards around. But it was a beautiful day, so we decided to go for a little swim. And everything seemed perfect. We were feeling relaxed. And just enjoying the day. It was wonderful. Then the ripe tide came in, and decided to take us out to sea. It all happened so quickly. The next thing we knew, we were really far from shore. The people on the beach looked like tiny ants.”
“Whew,” is all I could say. “I can’t imagine what you must have been feeling.”
“Yes. It seemed like it happened in an instant. At one point we were on a sandbar. Then we got pulled way out. The ocean was tossing us around and doing whatever it wanted to do with us. We tried fighting it. But it didn’t matter. The ocean just kept taking us out. Further and further. And we could see red lights flashing on the beach. Someone had called for help, we were told later. So the police and ambulance came. But they didn’t have a boat. So, they couldn’t come out to get us.”
“Oh my God,” I sighed.
“The waves were so high. And the water was so deep. Our bodies became so numb, and tired. And our hearts were beating so quickly. All we could do was hold on to each other – and to a small, little flotation ring.”
“Geez,” I said, taking a long exhale.
“Then what happened was…the ocean took us back. It brought us back to shore. Just as quickly as it took us out. And we couldn’t believe our eyes. Then, as we got close enough, the rescue crew shot lines out to us. And they pulled us in. Then they put us under blankets and everything. And from that point on, the feeling of exhilaration that day was like…Wow! I’m alive! It is so great to be alive!”
“Thank you for sharing that, Chris,” I said.
“Not drowning was a wonderful experience! I come back to that experience from time-to-time. Whenever I need it. And it grounds me. It reminds me that nothing is really that bad. And my whole mindset changes. I start feeling grateful all over again, and thanking this world, and thanking God for everything. For everything in my life. So, now, whenever I need to change my outlook, that’s what I remember. And it takes me right back. And it shifts my perspective. And brings me forward.”
Chris’s answer to my question about his favorite experience was the last thing I expected to hear.
It certainly caught me off guard.
But I am so glad I asked him.
What has been your favorite experience?
I’d love to know.
If you are interested in sharing, send me a note – and I’ll be in touch.
In the meantime, I hope this new year brings experiences that help you see yourself with a renewed sense of awe and wonder.