Experience Less Traveled By


In May of last year my wife and I welcomed our beautiful daughter, Layla, into this world. Seven weeks later I deployed to Afghanistan and waved goodbye to her from the window of an airplane. Layla’s smile made the sun shine brighter from 7,000 miles away as I Skyped with my family.  

I drooled at pictures of her beautiful dimples daily as I sat in my office day after endless day. Toward the end of my tour, in January of this year, Layla became ill with RSV and Influenza. My unit evacuated me out of Afghanistan and I was by her side within 96 hours.

Her illness went from a typical cold on a Thursday to life threatening within a matter of hours. Days went by and her progress was slow but steady until one day a simple procedure ended all hope of our family being whole and taking Layla home from the hospital.

On February 21st Layla left this world and my perspective on life was changed forever.

War has affected millions of Americans since the founding of our country, but War coupled with the loss of a beautiful innocent child forces a man to rethink his priorities.

I had, what I thought to be, a firm grasp on this when I joined the Army in 2012. I entered the Army as a Second Lieutenant into the Quartermaster Corps and began my training as a logistician. I also developed a passion for writing and knew there was something I had nobody else did. My experience.

Don’t Waste What Is So Precious

It’s no secret our most valuable asset is time. We will never get more of it; only learn how to use it more efficiently. And you can never use it efficiently if you are not intentional about doing so. Our time is consumed with activities we convert to memories, which are in turn experiences.

Why is it so many successful people insist their most productive time is in the wee hours of the morning? It’s not the actual “getting up early” part, it’s the intentionality that comes with doing so. If you make it a habit of getting up early to plan your day, then your day will go more according to plan…

Losing something as precious as a child makes one really think about where they are in life. What was I doing with what I had? And was I taking for granted the things most precious to me? It was a tough set of questions to answer.

If you are wasting the precious time you have then chances are you are also not using your own experiences to the best of their ability. We only get one shot at this crazy thing called life.

Three Ways to Utilize What You Already Have

There may be someone, or several people, who have many of the same experiences I do, but they don’t have all of the same ones. And what makes your experiences so valuable is how they relate to one another and all interact to create the references for future decisions.

Here are three practical ways to utilize your time and experiences to improve your daily life.

  1. Write down the things you experience on a daily basis.

Each day provides something new, sometimes it’s more prolific than others, but there is always something worth holding on to if you dig deep enough. The world is too interactive and too dynamic for you to go through a day and not learn something new. Spend ten minutes before you go to bed and write down what happened. Then review it when you wake up the next day. Maybe it will jog something awesome that happened.

  1. Data mine your life.

If you don’t feel like you can gain any traction in your life, then what do you have to lose? Sit down on a Saturday and spend a few hours taking a hard look at your life. Chronicle the memories that are really important to you, or you feel have made an impact. Spend some time thinking about how those events could apply to situations where you have become frustrated. There will almost always be a parallel between past events and something happening now. After all, history repeats itself.

  1. Consistent reflection

The power of quiet time is incredibly underrated. Take time to look at each day and figure out where you lost time. What unproductive thing did you get caught up in that you could have avoided with a little more planning? It’s generally something simple.

Martin Luther was a man of passion and productivity, he had a great time management/reflection philosophy.

Spend plenty of time thinking about how the previous day went (during exercise is a great time to do this) and gain an understanding of how you can change the next day.

Live Your Life

I could roll over and take what life has given me with a clenched fist. I could be angry for the rest of my life. I could spend days and days wondering why the world hated me. I could wonder if everything in my life was destined to be a miserable failure. But what would I gain from such a mentality? Not much more than a stay at a mental institution and every relationship I have deteriorating.

Life will throw your curve balls, but can’t base your life on how well out hit, or fail to hit, the first one. You will only succeed if you understand your experience and are intentional about learning from them.

About the Author (Guest Post):

Chandler Crawford is an Active Duty Army Officer with a passion for writing and personal development. But most of all he’s a husband and father. He started www.chandlercrawford.com in loving memory of our daughter, Layla. He lives in Clarksville, Tennessee. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Donald

    I don’t know where to begin a response to this. Life has thrown me many curve balls, but most seem to have been of my own doing when I failed to hit them in my reaction to them. I have lost both my parents, both of my wife’s parents, her brother and lost one 16 year old cousin with a brain tumor, but nothing compares to losing a child I’m sure. There are so many thoughts that flood my mind when I try to relate to that loss and I still cannot fathom it, but Jesus told us when He was preparing to leave this life that He would not leave us as orphans, but would send us a comforter. He did so when the Holy Spirit was sent to fulfill that promise.

    • Thank you for sharing. There is rarely a good way to explain things, seeking comfort is sometimes the only answer.

  • Chandler this was such a touching story. I can’t tell you how much your story touched me. I continue to pray for you and your family because we can only guess how that feels. You are such a testament to so many heros in the world that go unnoticed, and I know we don’t do what we do to be noticed, but I am glad that Paul highlighted you on his blog today. Thank you for sharing such an intimate story with us. God Bless!

    • Thank you for your kind words. We never know what will be placed in front of us nor can we control it. We can only control how we respond and writing is the best way I know how to deal with what is present today. Thanks!

  • Chandler, I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter. Thank you for sharing your story, it always amazes me how gracious God is to us during trials and how much we can learn!

    • Caleb, you’re right. If we don’t learn then we will have gone through the experience in vein.

  • What an inspiring story! I am so sorry to hear about your daughter. That in itself is devastating (thank goodness you were able to make it home to be there) but then to have the strength to turn that around and inspire others to start living their lives. That is awesome! Love that. Like you said we can either stay down or rise to the challenge when life throws us curve balls.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read the article. You’re right, it will always throw them at you, and we will only be as successful in life as we are at handling curveballs. Thanks!