As I watched the procedure on the monitors, the cardiac surgeon inserted a catheter in my wrist, slid it up to my heart, said, "Uh-huh," and placed two stents.
Then he injected more dye, and this time I saw blood flow through the bottom chamber of my heart.
My left anterior descending (LAD) artery had been completely blocked. (A nurse later said their nickname for that kind of heart attack is the "widow maker," displaying a lack of emotional intelligence and showing that while there is a time and a place for everything, it's possible to find neither.)
A month later, my doctor asked how I was feeling emotionally. "Kind of irritated," I said. "I exercise a lot, keep my weight down, eat reasonably well... yet I still had a heart attack."
She smiled. "Think of it this way," he said. "If you hadn't been in such good shape, you'd probably be dead."
All the things that made me less likely to have a heart attack also helped me weather my cardiac storm. I never lost consciousness. I walked into the emergency room under my own power. Since often the first symptom of a heart attack is denial, I argued with the doctors. And I suffered less permanent damage to my heart than might have been expected.
Turns out the best way to deal with the unexpected was to actually be prepared -- even though that had never been my goal.
Hold that thought.
Hand-washing and hand-sanitizing and telecommuting and social distancing aside, it's extremely difficult to control whether or not you get infected with the coronavirus. There are too many variables, too many interactions, too many unknowns.
You could try your absolute best and still get infected.
But what you can control is how healthy you are -- maybe not this time, but the next time something like this happens.
You can start eating healthier. You can start exercising more.
You can take better care of yourself -- not just because there may be a new virus somewhere down the road, but also because health and fitness can play a major role in your professional success. While the physical benefits clearly matter, the mental benefits of improved health and fitness are huge: Mental toughness, perseverance, determination...all are important ingredients for business success. (And all can be developed.)
In short, you can do things that are good for you now... and that might turn out to benefit you later, if something unexpected occurs.
The same is true in many other areas of business and life.
Take work disruptions. Plenty of businesses are scrambling to shift data to the cloud, to set up remote working infrastructures, to create emergency operational structures... yet they could have benefited from those moves all along -- and been more prepared when the unexpected did happen.
Take savings. If there's a recession, those with a little savings put away -- either personal or business -- will be better prepared to deal with short-term dips in earnings or cash flow. And if the worst doesn't happen, they'll be better positioned to act on opportunities where extra capital is required.
Take career. As Jalen Rose says, "Appreciate your position, but plan your promotion." Networking. Planting seeds. Thinking mostly about now... but also about next. Not only is the worst time to start looking for a job when you need a job, the best way to find the next great opportunity is to be constantly be on the lookout. Again: Appreciate your position, but always be planning your "promotion," in whatever form that might take.
Take succession. As Inc. colleague Bill Murphy, Jr. writes, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have a comprehensive succession plan in place. When that someday comes, Buffett says it won't exactly be "... great news for us. But Berkshire shareholders need not worry. Your company is 100 percent prepared for our departure."
Their current operating structure, optimized for today, should also make their succession relatively seamless.
The point? Often the best way to deal with the unexpected... is to have been prepared for something you didn't really set out to prepare for. I didn't worry about having a heart attack; I just wanted to be in decent shape.
But when mine happened, I was much more ready than I would have been.
The same premise applies to health, business, career, personal life....
Do things that are good for you now, and in many cases those things will work to your advantage -- or at the very least, mitigate the downside -- if the unexpected occurs.
That way, you'll be a little better prepared for the worst -- but in a way that makes your life better each and every day along the way.
Can't beat that.