CONTRIBUTORSElite AgentMindset and Personal Development

From tragedy to triumph: A year of unforeseen lessons amid a resilient recovery

My husband was hit by a car in May this year.

Matt was riding his motorbike home from work, when a car turned right in front of him, hit him at speed on his right side, threw him into the air and he landed on the road. 

He broke both legs above the knee, his right leg below the knee, his right foot and his right upper arm, collarbone and shoulder blade. 

He lay on the road for over 90 minutes before being taken to hospital, where he had multiple surgeries, and a seven week stay.

When he finally came home, he was unable to use his legs or right arm, and was confined to a wheelchair for many more weeks.

Ellen Bathgate’s husband Matt was hit by a car in May 2023, breaking bones in his arms and legs.

Six weeks after Matt came home from hospital, while he was still confined to a wheelchair, and I was still engaged in a caring role for him, my dad died. 

He had been unwell for many years, and his passing was peaceful. 

But losing a loved one is still difficult, and very final.

To say it’s been a tough year in our household would be an understatement.

But here’s what you won’t hear me say: You won’t hear me say it was the worst year of my life. 

Not because I’ve had more difficult years, but because this year has gifted me lessons I didn’t expect.

This year has taught me to find meaning in the most difficult times.

This year has led me to gratitude in the most unexpected places.

This year has taught me patience, surrender and trust.

This year has shown me that I can’t control external circumstances, and I can only control my reaction to them.

This year has taught me to be present, in the moment, at the place and with the people I’m with, right now.

And this year has taught me to say the things I need to say, to act in a way I won’t regret, and to realise that nothing lasts forever.

As I look back on 2023, this year has given me three major lessons, and I want to share them with you.

Lesson 1: Controlling the situation vs controlling your reaction to the situation

Picture this: I’m at the hospital, standing by my husband’s side. 

He’s broken in a way I’ve never seen before and we’re both in the dark about how long this stay will be.

Is it going to be four weeks? Six months?

The uncertainty was like a never-ending rollercoaster ride, and we were just trying to hold on.

As Matt started his journey to recovery, I quickly learned that I had zero control here. 

Matt using the wheelchair for the first time.

I couldn’t predict the tough challenges he’d face or how long it would take for him to reach even the tiniest milestones. 

I felt utterly powerless as I watched him in pain, wishing I could do more.

And just when I thought life had dished out its fair share of challenges, it had one more in store. 

My dad’s health deteriorated, and I got news he had been actively palliated.

But here’s the kicker: I couldn’t be by his side. I was stuck being Matt’s full-time caregiver, unable to be there for my dad to say goodbye.

These moments taught me that so little in life is in my control. 

But what is in my control is my reaction. 

I could turn myself into knots trying to figure out Matt’s recovery plan, or resenting the fact that I couldn’t be with dad on his final day. 

Yet neither of these things changed the outcome. 

They just make my life experience much worse. 

But let me assure you, I tied myself in knots at times, and I cried deeply at the thought of dad dying without me there. 

It’s just not where I stayed. 

I eventually emerged and decided to control my reactions, since I had no control over the situations.

Here’s what’s interesting. This lesson isn’t just about life. It’s about business too. 

When you’re prospecting, or creating marketing content, or sitting in a listing presentation, the same principle applies. 

You need to focus on what you can control: the quality of your work, the value you bring to your clients and marketplace, and the relationships you build.

Lesson 2: The value of surrender, patience and trust

I hated the word surrender. I always thought it was weak and a word for quitters. 

And yet, this year, I’ve had to surrender so much. 

For a control – freak like me, surrendering to the unknown wasn’t easy. 

But I quickly realised that fighting against this year’s challenges only exhausted me more. 

Surrender, in this context, is like letting go of the steering wheel and allowing life to take its course. 

It’s not giving up; it’s giving in to the journey and trusting that an outcome will come.

This year, I’ve come to see that patience isn’t just about waiting. 

It’s about finding grace in the waiting. 

It’s about understanding that some things, like my Matt’s recovery, have their own timeline, and I can’t rush them.

But perhaps the most profound lesson was about trust. 

Matt walking with one crutch.

Trusting the medical team who cared for Matt; trusting Matt’s body to mend itself; trusting my friends and family to support me during Matt’s healing; trusting my brothers to be with our father in the hospital while I couldn’t be there, trusting that they would provide the comfort and support he needed and trusting that Dad had found peace.

I’ve been amazed at how much surrender, patience and trust are required in business and career too. 

I’d never really seen it before this year, but there are so many applications.

Patience reminds us that building a rent roll doesn’t happen overnight. 

It’s about trusting the process, nurturing client relationships, and allowing your portfolio to grow steadily, even when faced with market fluctuations.

Surrender in business means recognising that not everything can be controlled or predicted, especially in our industry.

And trust, it feels like that’s the glue that holds it all together. 

Trust in your team, trust in your clients, and trust in your own abilities to provide value and expertise in your market.

Lesson 3: Being present

Matt spent 48 nights in hospital. 

And while hospitals aren’t exactly a romantic setting, we found ways to make it our own. 

Each Tuesday evening, we’d order our favorite Uber Eats, settle in on his hospital bed, and binge-watch a TV show together. 

It was a small escape from the hospital routine, and a way of being present, and in the moment.

Dad’s illness also gave me a lesson in being present. 

Knowing he was unwell meant I knew that every goodbye might be the last. 

This has had a big impact on how I approach all my relationships now. 

I make it a point to express my love and appreciation more openly because I understand that tomorrow is never guaranteed.

So how does this translate to business and rent roll growth?

Firstly, in business, being present means actively engaging with clients and colleagues.

It means listening to their needs, understanding their goals, and seeing each client as the human they are, not just the transaction or KPI they represent.

Secondly, embracing the present in your personal life can significantly impact your business. 

When you find joy outside work, it often translates into increased productivity and creativity on the job. 

The ability to switch off from work when you need to, and fully engage in life, can lead to a more balanced and successful career.

I would never have chosen to have 2023 be the year that it was. 

But I am deeply grateful for the meaning it has given me, the lessons it has imparted, and opportunities it has created. 

And if you do nothing more after reading this article, hug the ones you love a little tighter.

One more thing, because I know you’ll be wondering: Matt is now walking, mostly with crutches, occasionally without crutches. 

His journey certainly isn’t over just yet but he has the most amazing attitude to his recovery, and I can’t wait to see what he achieves in 2024.

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Ellen Bathgate

Ellen Bathgate is the founder of Rent Roll Starter, and helps rent roll owners to start and grow their own rent rolls using affordable growth strategies. For more information visit