Ric Elias was sitting in seat 1D of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 on January 15, 2009 headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, when a flock of Canadian geese collided with the jet, sending the engine into a ball of flames.

"When the pilot said, 'Brace for impact,' I knew my life was over," said Elias, the CEO and co-founder of Red Ventures, a marketing firm in Charlotte, North Carolina. "But I was given a chance."

Of course, as we know now, 57-year-old Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger heroically took the plane down into the Hudson River in what would later be termed the "Miracle on the Hudson."

As Elias recovered from his near-death experience, he knew some things in his life must change. 

"I thought, why do I waste so much energy on the things that do not matter, with the people that mattered the most?" he said.

Now, Elias lives life by these three simple credos:

  • Things can change very fast. Live in the present. 
  • Choose happiness over righteousness. 
  • Above all, find what matters the most.

Elias also knew that things had to change within his company, namely, his fear of failure in trying to scale the company. Since the plane crash, he's more than doubled his staff.

"I needed to let go of the fear of failure," he said. "In every employee meeting, I try to create a global consciousness of how lucky we are. We've become a very happy company."