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Article by Mark Susnow June 27, 2016

The Deer in the Headlights
The Deer in the Headlights

Most of us are familiar with the phrase in the titleâthat moment when you freeze, that moment when youâre unable to respond. Itâs usually not an actual deer in the road, although sometimes it is, but a form of communication that lets you know that your life wonât be the same.

The Deer in the Headlights

I wasn’t sure what to call this story. You’ll see why in a minute. Most of us are familiar with the phrase in the title—that moment when you freeze, that moment when you’re unable to respond. It’s usually not an actual deer in the road, although sometimes it is, but a form of communication that lets you know that your life won’t be the same.

Some of those moments might be the ending of a relationship, a health diagnosis, or a financial disappointment. You know the list. When you first get the news, you’re in shock like that deer in the highlights. Silent for a moment letting it all sink in, you try to get a few words out of your mouth, but they have a hard time making it out.

What makes matters more challenging is that in today’s world our lives are changing faster than they ever have before, including the rules and values that at one time seemed sacred. Those of us who have created an inner technology to help us navigate these challenges, have a greater likelihood of not only surviving, but of thriving.

In the realm of business and commerce, a concern of many with whom I work, a familiar refrain has become, “Sorry, we no longer need you.” At times it might be the disappointment you feel when you don’t get that call back regarding the new position or opportunity you were hoping would come your way.

And I know a few who have lost their key customer or key client. It’s painful for sure. Your business model had been structured to serve them. You’re not sure how you can fill the void.

If you have been a reader of Letters on Life you probably have noticed certain themes emerge. Yes life is uncertain for sure. Quite often we despair over where that uncertainty might take us.

When we pause to take a deep breath we usually find that the likelihood of that worst-case scenario occurring is slight.

What I’ve seen in my own life and in the lives of the many people I work with, is that life quite often turns out better than you ever imagined. When you’re at the base of the mountain, it’s impossible to have the same vision as you do from the pinnacle.

When I spoke with Glenn Stasky a few days ago, I was reminded that life is full of unexpected twists and turns, some of which have the potential to magically transform your life.

Always fascinated by sounds and music, Glenn followed his passion and became a pioneer in the audio speaker business.

He built and created a thriving company, shipping products throughout the US. His client list became a who’s who in the audio speaker industry. He designed products to the standards and specifications of his biggest client, a company in Memphis who comprised 70% of his business.

It was just about nine years ago when the following sequence of events occurred. Along with a shipment comprising the latest innovations in speaker technology, Glenn, an avid motorcycle enthusiast, shipped his motorcycle in the truck that delivered the products to the company.

He made the trip to train the company’s technicians in the emerging technology. In his mind the training, as always, was a huge success. There was a buzz in the air regarding the new technology.

After the completion of the training, as he was thanking the president of the company, he was shocked by the first headlights. After 10 years of loyal service, the company decided to take their product line to China and have it copied there. This was their last order.

“It felt as if my heart fell out of my chest,” was how Stasky described it to me.

His whole world imploded. What was he going to do? Could his company stay afloat? How was he going to tell his loyal 25 employees, many of whom felt like family, that they no longer had jobs?

With a tear in his eye, he got on his motorcycle and left Memphis as the rains enveloped the city.

Even in the midst of the sadness and confusion he was feeling, for the next three days wandering through the Colorado mountains on those curvy and lonely roads, felt like a marvelous adventure.

As it was getting dark on the last day of the mountain part of the trip, he noticed a car on the horizon flash its headlights at him. The next few seconds changed Stasky’s life.

He is so far away, my lights cannot be bothering him that much, he thought. The high beam lights on Stasky’s bike had auxillary lights wired to them that increased the visibility. Because the flashing continued, Stasky turned off his high beams, which also turned off the high power auxiliary lights. Thrust into darkness, the oncoming lights kept flashing at him until the vehicle went past him.

He immediately turned back on his lights and waited for the auxillary lights to reignite. TOO LATE! He wasn’t able to see the dead deer in the road.

You might say it was a miracle. After hitting the dead deer, the bike became airborne, then bounced and bucked and landed safely on its wheels, as Glenn held on for dear life.

Gathering himself he quickly pulled over to the side of the road. He looked up toward the sky and gave thanks to the higher power he believed in, for his precious life. His faith had been passed onto him from the strong spiritual convictions of his mother.

There are times when we wonder about the significance of certain events that occur in our lives. Although we never know for sure, often we have a strong sense of the why. It was at that moment it came to him.

For the next two days as he traveled back to California, he thought of nothing else but how he could design a "better" motorcycle lighting system, — a light that would come back on instantly, instead of taking multiple seconds to reignite, so that others would not suffer the same fate he had almost suffered.

When Stasky experienced those first headlights he had just turned 50. Now almost broke, he embarked upon his new path.

He drew upon his background in audio, using a similar technology to design and create a lighting system that would solve the problem of the inefficient igniting system. After many, many prototypes, his new company Clearwater Lights was birthed to create an innovative lighting system that since that day has saved many lives. But his story doesn’t end there.

An incorrigible adventurer, he also raced cars. The racetracks had a similar problem— an antiquated warning system that was inadequate to warn other racecar drivers of hazards. It was when Stasky witnessed two drivers, friends of his, killed because of this faulty warning system, that he made another vow—create a state of the art warning system.

Within the year he presented a prototype system at Daytona to the racetrack safety committee and his design was enthusiastically adopted as the new standard.

There is more good to the story. It was at Daytona where Stasky met the woman who became his future wife.

I hope you have been inspired by Glenn Stasky’s story. I know I have.

©2016 Mark Susnow

Mark Susnow is a life coach and advisor, speaker to many prestigious organizations, and the author of the soon to be released the Soul of Uncertainty. He integrates what it takes to be successful in today’s world with wisdom revealed to him through years of meditation and yoga.