Ric Elias: A new perspective after near-death experience

You might not think that something as horrific as a plane crash could offer a lesson that can help you succeed in life, but for one survivor it has done just that.

Ric Elias, the co-founder and CEO of Red Ventures, a leading digital consumer choice platform headquartered in the Charlotte, N.C., area., had a front-row seat on Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009. What went through his mind as the doomed plane went down? During his TEDx talk, he tells his story publicly for the first time.

On Jan. 15, 2009, pilots Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles glided Flight 1549 to a ditching in the Hudson River off Midtown Manhattan. All 155 people aboard the flight were rescued by nearby boats and there were few serious injuries. The accident came to be known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

Elias learned three things that day, including the fragility of life. He realized as he watched the water of the river get closer that time is fleeting.

“It all changes in an instant,” he said. “I thought about all of the things I wanted to do.”

Elias pointed out that the near-death experience changed how he lives. He no longer saves his best wine for later and doesn’t put off his bucket-list items. And that urgency and purpose he learned has changed his life. Nothing is taken for granted.

However, as the water came even closer, Elias said he was hit with one regret.

“In my humanity, I allowed my ego to get in the way,” he explained. “I regretted the time I’d wasted on the things that did not matter.”

And Elias resolved later to eliminate negative energy from his life.

“I no longer try to be right,” he said. “I try to be happy.”

Third, he learned that dying wasn’t scary. He recounts wishing, in the last 90 seconds before the plane touched down on the surface of the Hudson, that he could see his children grow up.

“It was very sad,” he said. “I only wished for one thing, to see my kids grow up.”

The emergency landing also changed his business philosophy. Elias decided he would not sell Red Ventures or bring the company public after Flight 1549.

“I was given the gift of not dying that day,” he said.  “Don’t put things off because you think you have time.”