It was a question I was almost too shocked to answer. The adrenaline was still coursing through my system, and even though the night air was cold, I was sweating. Hard. I sat on the side of the road with my head in my hands, as the realization of the event that nearly killed me started to dawn.
After leaving the office at 2 a.m., I fell asleep while driving home and hit an intersection at around 60 mph. Luckily, I wasn’t hurt, and no one else was involved. The car wasn’t so lucky. Looked at in isolation, it was an unfortunate accident caused by fatigue. When looking at the bigger picture, however, it revealed a much deeper pattern that was running my life.
It started when I dropped out of school at 16; being branded a “failure” by the education system made it easy to feel a lack of self-worth. Still, I was determined to prove my way in the world. Showing a flair for entrepreneurship, I started my first business with my last 20 pounds. I was 17 when I began selling toys at markets and handling car boot sales. Five years later, I had a string of successful businesses across a range of industries, dozens of staff and millions of pounds in turnover.
To the outside world, it probably looked like I had ticked the box called “success.” But what people didn’t see behind the Ferraris and champagne was a stressed and unhappy entrepreneur still trying to prove he was good enough. When I maxed out my working capacity at 133 hours a week, it was only a matter of time before fate would realign my views on life … starting with the crash.
As I sat on the side of the road waiting for the tow truck, I realized it was time to start asking myself some honest questions about why I was doing what I was doing. For once, I wasn’t going to be afraid of the answers. The truth was as obvious as it was painful— up to that point, my life, the businesses, cars and toys, it had all been about ME. Me proving I was good enough; me craving the validation that I thought would come with the big house and fat wallet. Me, me, me.
And yet, upon reflection, the happiest times I had experienced had been the rare occasions when I’d focused on doing what mattered most for others. That realization alone was huge, and it led me to see business as a way to add value to the world, not take me on an ego-driven quest for significance. Been there, done that, nearly died. Looking back, the car crash was a blessing in disguise. Today, I have a greater awareness of giving back and a better appreciation for the value of life.
Peter Sage is the principal of Space Energy. E-mail Peter at p.sage@SpaceEnergy.com.