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“Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance ourselves. And only through working on ourselves can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.” – HG Lerner [Tweet this] | [Share on Facebook]

Have you ever met someone you expected to be completely different from you, but soon discovered you had great similarities and a deep sense of connectedness?

I had this experience recently. Despite our different backgrounds, the more we conversed, it was clear that what united us was much more significant than anything that separated us. Let me explain.

Laila is an African American female who has faced and overcome racism and sexism. I’m a white male who has had so much privilege that I can’t fully grasp the struggles people of other genders, ethnicities, and races face.

Laila grew up in a very public life with a very famous father. I grew up in middle America.

Laila’s parents divorced when she was little. I grew up in a traditional home with two parents, five siblings and one golden retriever.

Laila, as a rebellious adolescent, spent time in juvenile detention for stealing her mother’s car, shoplifting, credit card fraud and fighting. She used this experience as fuel to steadfastly rebuild her life. I, as the result of an unpaid parking ticket, once spent an afternoon in a holding cell. I had to pay $100 in court costs and ended up watching football with the officers.

Laila is a vegetarian and extremely health-conscience. I’ve been known on occasion to eat vegetables on my pizza.

And yet, when looking for what connects rather than what separates, we discovered:

  • Our relationships with our families are critically important to us.
  • Our reliance on faith makes us strong not weak.
  • Our work doesn’t define us, but deeply motivates us.
  • We strive every day to become the best version of ourselves.
  • Our admiration of our fathers. Both fought Parkinson’s disease with hearts of champions. My dad, Denny O’Leary, continues to fight. Her father, the great Muhammad Ali, passed after a long battle. Neither man ever allowing a disease to define him.
  • Our certainty that every individual matters, is powerful and is capable of profoundly impacting others.

(Listen to my conversation with Laila Ali – fitness & wellness guru, podcaster, author, undefeated 4-time boxing champion, guest on Dancing with the Stars, Apprentice and Chopped, and daughter of Muhammad Ali – on my Live Inspired Podcast. You’ll find her story compelling, passion contagious, relationship with her famous father surprising, forthrightness refreshing and zest for life inspiring. Tune in here.)

Laila strives to be a powerhouse in life. A light for young women to choose a different path, a guide for others to realize what’s possible in their lives and an example to a world that gets suffocated with negativity to embrace the limitless possibility within their lives.

In the face of so much negativity and divisiveness, it’s emphatically important to remember that what unites us has always and remains much more significant than anything that divides us.

Be a powerhouse for unity. Look for what connects.

Today is your day. Live Inspired.

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