I recently stared death in the face for the second time in a year (and each event happened on the very same day, May 28th). #BadKarma

I wrote about my first near death experience, and the leadership lessons I learned in an Inc. column I penned in the immediate aftermath.

This time around, I suffered a heart attack at the summit of a 12,000 ft. mountain in New Mexico's Sanitas Mountains.

It occurred because I committed a series of rookie mistakes a seasoned climber like me would never make. But, I did. I survived. And I'm here to share the leadership lessons I learned after shaking hands for a second time with the Grim Reaper.

Lest you think you would never commit a rookie mistake, just think about the egregious errors made by such legendary entrepreneurs as:

  • Yahoo Founder Jerry Yang (who passed up a chance to buy the nascent Google at a bargain basement price)
  • Richard Branson (whose Virgin Atlantic Airline fared poorly in the US)
  • The late Steve Jobs (whose second version of the original Apple computer was a bust as was his second entrepreneurial adventure, NeXT).

Therefore, in the spirit of lifelong learning, I wanted to share the lessons I learned as I fought for my life a scant 15 days ago:

1. Never delegate your strategic plan to someone else without thoroughly reviewing each, and every, line.

The slightest miscalculation can inadvertently put you in harm's way. I adopted a hands-off attitude to the routes selected and very nearly paid the ultimate price.

2. Don't assume your business is the same business it was a year ago.

Market conditions change faster than the internal staff in The West Wing. So, while you think you're primed and ready to do a line extension or test your offering in a new environment, make sure your business remains state-of-the-art and you thoroughly understand what you're committing to. I hadn't climbed at high altitude for a year and just assumed I would breeze through the challenge as I'd always done in the past. Wrong.

3. Know when to say when.

If, after it becomes clear a new product isn't performing or a new market isn't responding, have the courage to say, "Stop! I'm cutting my losses before I spend another nickel." Depleting the coffers is like depleting the heart of blood. Both will shut down sooner than you think. My climbing mistake was not to call it quits after I first began experiencing warning signs of a cardiac event (as cardiologists like to refer to it).

4. Be prepared to die.

I know that's a morose thought, but make sure you have a solid succession plan in place. A 12,000 ft. mountain accident may not claim your life, but a freak cycling accident on a weekend could.

5. Have a plan to live.

Make sure you're properly balancing work with life. And, if not, take immediate steps now to correct any imbalances. It may not be life threatening, but a maniacal commitment to your business could very well jeopardize your health, the health of your personal relationships and the culture of your workplace. Likewise, doing the opposite can quickly leave your organization susceptible to eroding quality and service, poaching of dissatisfied employees by competitors and a one-way ticket to the business graveyard.

6. Do it now.

Tomorrow could be too late. Many entrepreneurs will say they embrace the carpe diem approach to work and life, but do you really? I've had two reminders that things can end in a nanosecond.

7. Study the success-and-failure rates of those who have entered the market before you.

Determine what they did well and raise it a notch. Conversely, learn from their mistakes so you don't veer off course and plummet (along with your business) into the abyss. I made the mistake of not reading reviews of the mountain routes, and blindly agreed to tackle highly technical climbs that were beyond my capabilities.

Vern Law, a formidable pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1950s, once said, "Experience is a difficult teacher. She gives the test first and the lesson last."

I took the test in New Mexico's Sandias Mountains and barely passed (but, now I've learned countless leadership lessons that assure I won't commit the same mistakes in years to come).

How about you? Can you honestly say you've ticked off every single point raised above? If so, good for you. If not, a word to the wise should be sufficient.