Happiness Comes From Helping Others

Mark Suster wrote a great post yesterday called “Life is 10% How You Make It and 90% How you Take It” and it’s definitely worth a read for anyone doing the entrepreneurial thing.

He talks about how “happiness has to be a state of mind” and how “you need to constantly remind yourself to be happy whatever your life’s circumstances.”

I was thinking about this a lot over the past two days. The idea of “happiness” and what it really takes to be “happy” – a sort of corollary to Mark’s post. And I couldn’t help think about one of my most serious rescue incidents on Ski Patrol.

It was my first year “cut loose” on mount snow’s ski patrol, which meant I was able to go out on codes (which are reports of an injury or incident) and provide emergency medical care to guests. I didn’t have to shadow any of the seasoned ski patrollers. I had passed my certifications, was approved by senior patrollers to respond to codes, and was now ready to handle situations on my own.

It was Saturday. Sunny, blue skies, with a temp of about 35 degrees. I was wearing my new, fresh, red ski patrol jacket with a white cross on the back, had all my medical equipment in a pack strapped around my waist, and was sporting my new Burton snowboard. I decided to take a run down the front side of the mountain on the “Standard” trail (this ski trail runs directly under one of the main ski lifts). About half way down the trail and towards the top of the ski lift, I approached a group of people huddling around what seemed to be a small person laying on the ground. I quickly sped up on my snowboard and as I got closer, I could see that there was a person in a blue jacket performing CPR on a young boy who was about 12 years old. There were about 10 other people huddling around the boy and meanwhile, there were hundreds of people passing above us from the chairlift, with their eyes now peeled on the ski patroller and the boy on the ground.

The person in the blue jacket quickly identified himself as a doctor (ironically enough, many doctors are never fully trained as first responders and never get experience with emergency situations. This doctor was one of them). Witnesses told me the boy tried jumping off of a log unsuccessfully, fell back, and hit his head on the log. He was not wearing a helmet, became unconscious and stopped breathing.

Within seconds of my arrival, the boy began breathing again but was still unconscious. I performed a quick assessment, took his vitals and stabilized his neck. I radioed in (as a code 3 – the most serious of codes) for additional personnel and equipment, specifically needing a backboard, neck collars, oxygen, and suction (in case the boy started to throw up while still unconscious). I requested a helicopter to transport him to a hospital and within minutes, a helicopter was put in the air en route to the mount snow airport.

About 1 minute after I called for extra hands and equipment, 3 more patrollers were on the scene helping me package, stabilize and transport the boy off the hill. We put him in a sled and I quickly snowboarded him down the mountain and into the doctor’s office. As soon as we got him off the mountain, we put him in an ambulance that was already waiting for us, shut the doors, and watched the ambulance take off to meet the helicopter for transport.

The boy’s fate was now out of my control. I had no idea what was going to happen to him and didn’t know if my actions helped or hurt his chances of survival. That night was tough for me and I can’t imagine how tough it must have been for his parents.

The next day, I returned to the mountain to patrol and at about 1:00pm I got a phone call at the summit rescue building.

It was the doctor who treated the boy on his way out with the ambulance. He said that the boy had suffered major head trauma and that his fate could have gone either way, but as a result of my actions and that of my team, the boy was going to be ok.

I realized at that moment that true happiness comes from helping others. The bigger impact you make on someone else’s life, the happier you will be, and the happier they will be.

Win, win.

Picture of me and my daughter, Michaela.