Your Heart Rate At Gunpoint

Recently my friend Aleksandar Vukasinovic, Founder of Emozia, was robbed at gunpoint while walking home from work. Luckily, I can confirm Aleks is alright. Also, it turns out that during the encounter he was wearing some wearable technology. I felt there are some profound lessons about technology and the meaningfulness of life in his story, so I wanted to make sure I share it with you. Here is Alek's story in his own words: 

It’s a beautiful evening, albeit a little cold. I’m heading home after a long day. I’m walking down a familiar street. I feel safe, I feel happy.

Two guys are walking in my direction. Nothing unusual about them.

As we are about to pass each other, one of them bumbs into me. He grabs my hand and shoves a gun into my rib. He instructs me not to speak or move. His accomplice covers my other side. I am cornered.

My first thought is “Is this seriously happening to me?” I look down at the gun — yes, yes it is. “Should I run, should I fight, should I scream?” I though. In a split second, I decide to fully cooperate. I don’t want to get shot.

They showed me into an ally off the main street. There is no one around. No one can see us.

And then it really hit me: they could kill me right there. No one would see. No one would know what happened. My fear turned into horror. What was I going to die for? I want to experience life, I want to help people, build companies, have a family. I was going to be denied that, for what? Because of what? I felt pure horror as I realized that my time to experience life and use my skills to build a better world might be up.

The guys told me to empty my pockets. They instructed me to unlock my phone and other personal accounts. I did everything they asked me to do. They backed away with my belongings pointing the gun at me. The guy with the gun told me to stay put and then they ran and disappeared form sight.

A few days later, once the ordeal was over and I was able to process what had happened, I began analyzing wearable sensor data form the event. Unbeknown to the perpetrators, I study wearable and mobile sensor data as part of my work. Luckily, I had a bunch of wearables on me that I was testing that day. One of them captured my heart rate through the ordeal.

My usual resting heart rate is 58bpm. My heart rate right before the confrontation was 80bpm. When the perpetrator pushed the gun into my ribs, my heart rate spiked to 130 bpm. When I began thinking about my death, my heart rate rose to 164bpm. When they took my belongings and started backing away, my heart rate decreased to 118bpm.

I found the data fascinating. To me, it suggested that the most stressful part of the ordeal was not getting assaulted or seeing a gun. The most stressful part was realizing that I was out of time to live through the experiences I wanted to have and to make the contributions I wanted to to my family and community.

The more I thought about the heart rate variations and the thoughts that went though my head about my mortality, the more I looked at the experience as a blessing in disguise. I kind of got to experience how I would feel before I am about to die practically at the start of my life. And I don’t want to feel that I didn’t experience everything I wanted to, that I didn’t contribute everything I could, that I didn’t leave the world a better place than I found it.

The event drastically changed my outlook on life. It motivated me to doubly pursue my goals, to mold my life into what I want it to become and fight for what I believe is right. In a weird way, I not only forgive the perpetrators but also feel thankful for the perspective that I got from the experience.

If you want to find out why I had the wearables on me — check out emozia. I hope that sharing this experience inspires you to live your life in a way that makes you and others smile!