My name is John O’Leary.
I’m 43 years old. I’m married to my beautiful wife, Beth, and we’re raising four wonderful kids together. I’m a college graduate. I own a business that’s taken me all over the world doing a job I love.
But at one time, none of that seemed likely.
A curious boy
When I was a nine-year-old boy, I was burned on 100% of my body. I was in my garage playing with matches and gasoline—just like I had seen the older boys on my block do. A fire exploded, consuming my garage, sending me flying back against the wall and turning my whole world upside down.
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I woke up in a hospital bed where doctors had given me a 1% chance to live. Through all the pain, I remember hearing my mom’s voice and asking her if I would be okay. My mom had the courage not to comfort me with a lie, but to instead ask: “John, do you want to die? It’s your choice, not mine.” I thought for a moment and answered:
“Mom, I don’t want to die.
I want to live.”
That was the start of the rest of my life. I spent five months in the hospital, endured dozens of surgeries and underwent years of physical therapy. I survived. And when life finally settled back into normal, all I wanted was for it to stay that way.
A tiny spark
For years, my family and I kept that chapter of our lives private. We didn’t discuss the fire, what we had endured or all we had learned.
That changed 20 years later when my parents decided to write a book. They called it Overwhelming Odds and it told the story of our family’s experience. We printed 100 copies and gave them out to family and friends who supported us during our long journey of healing.
As it turned out, our friends and family started telling their friends and family about our little book and its message of hope. Before we knew it, we had to print more copies. And more after that. To this day, Overwhelming Odds has sold nearly 100,000 copies.
A newfound voice
Like most things, my speaking career began with a seemingly insignificant first step. I gave my inaugural keynote to a group of third-grade Girl Scouts. There were only three members, but that was enough to make me sick with nerves in the parking lot. I had never told anyone my story and I was intensely afraid of public speaking. Still, I found the courage to take that first step.
Over the dozen or so years since that inauspicious beginning, I’ve spoken to more than a million people across 49 states and 17 countries. In March 2016, I published my first book, On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life, which became an instant #1 national bestseller. My second book, In Awe: Rediscover Your Childlike Wonder to Unleash Inspiration, Meaning and Joy, was also an instant #1 national bestseller when published in May 2020.
A global movement
I spent decades hiding from my story. Now, I travel the world inspiring others to harness the power within theirs. With every keynote, podcast and book, I share my perspective to wake you up from accidental living and invite you to embrace three simple truths:
Our life is a sacred, awesome gift.
We get to choose our mindset in every situation, no matter how bleak it seems.
Together, we can change the world. Starting with our own.