If you had to summarize the entirety of your life in one photograph, which one would you use?
The one with your scrunched up, round little face taken the day you were born?
Or perhaps the one taken on the day you graduated college or when you got married?
For Kim Phuc, a photo that best summarized her life was taken on the worst day of her life. It’s also one of the most important and widely recognized photos ever taken. Let me explain.
Just months before the U.S. pulled out of the Vietnam War, the catastrophic effect on the civilian population was beginning to come into full view. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese citizens died in the war and more than a million were wounded.
There is no picture that more grotesquely and aptly captures the agony of this time than the one of little Kim; so much so that it received a Pulitzer Prize.
The picture shows what remained of a small Vietnamese village immediately after a napalm bombing, with little children running frantically for their lives.
In the middle of this chaos, one little girl stands out. She’s naked, burned, wailing and racing from the fire. It is the type of photograph that reminds us that behind words like “collateral damage” exists individual lives, permanently altered or lost. Although that picture defined her life for decades, it no longer does.
The little girl grew up. She had doubts and struggled physically. She grappled with her scars and wondered if she’d ever find love.
Well, she found love and today, the picture that most aptly defines her life would be the one in which Kim is seated, revealing thick scars on her arms and back, but more importantly, holding her own child in her arms with a look of total joy on her face.
My friends, when we look at our old pictures, it’s easy to see what we used to be and no longer are. Today I invite you to look again and consider seeing something else; not only all you once were, but all you can still be.
Because while it is true our past has led us perfectly to where we are today, it’s also true that our mindset, choices and actions today will lead directly to where we end up tomorrow.
This is one of the most difficult pictures to look at – and one of the most iconic of all time. It helped shape our history and I was lucky enough to talk with Kim Phuc to hear her beautiful perspective years later:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
My friends, we cannot do life alone. We certainly can’t succeed by ourselves, but together? Together, it’s on!
Last week, my dedicated VP Abby Richter and I headed to New York to meet with the leadership team at Penguin Random House. A dozen people sat around dreaming of how we can change lives through our book. We were so floored that their passion for our May 2020 book launch mirrored our own!
From there, our brilliant editor Roger Scholl and super agent Michael Palgon joined Abby and me for lunch across the street to celebrate (shown here).
Can’t wait to share more about the new book. For now, please remember that it takes a village and embrace the support from those you’re doing life with. Thank you team! Thank you friends!
Get ready to not only be on fire, but to live in awe!