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“All things can be taken from us but the last great human right: to choose ones path.” – Vicktor Frankl

Father Walking To School With Children On Way To WorkHow do you respond when adversity emerges in your life? [Tweet this.]

Whether insignificant events or massive tragedy, the way we move forward not only impacts our life, but those we touch through it. Let me share a powerful example you can apply as you choose your path forward.

Howard Lutnick is the chairman of Cantor Fitzgerald.

Cantor Fitzgerald is the financial firm that lost all 658 employees in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The only reason Lutnick survived that morning is he took his son, Kyle, to his first day of kindergarten. It was a stunning coincidence that saved his life, but left him wondering how to carry forward the weight of so much grief, so much loss.


These were his coworkers, partners, and family members. These were people he had worked with, planned with and grown with and loved over the past two decades.

And none survived.

So how do you take difficult events and transform them into opportunities to positively influence? How do you pivot tragic dates from yesterday into moments of incredible grace that impact tomorrow? OLEARY_WEB_600x75

Lutnic resolved to rebuild his business – not to simply stay busy or make money, but to support the families of his employees who died. A business previously focused on making money became laser focused on a higher calling: making a difference.

Although he could not alleviate the loss of his employees’ families, he could help shoulder their financial burden. Diligently growing the business over the next five years, he gave almost $200 million dollars in profits to support the families of his fallen coworkers.

Even the anniversary of September 11th became something to not just remember and mourn, but a date to serve and impact. His company takes all employees’ pay and revenue collected on the anniversary and contributes it to various charities. In 2014, more than $12 million dollars were donated.

A date intended to strike fear, sadness and anger in the hearts of the people affected has been transformed into one that provides hope, love and generosity.

As Howard Lutnick says, “We’ve turned the most difficult day into something beautiful.”

My friends, we, too, can turn the difficult into the beautiful. It’s a choice to refuse living as a victim to circumstances and instead thriving as a victor over them. [Tweet this.]

As we all know, all things can be taken from us. The business can be destroyed. The wealth can disappear. The relationship can fall apart. The children can disappoint.

But know this: no difficulty, no bad day, no tragedy, no terrorist can remove the last great human right: your amazing ability in each moment to choose your path, choose your direction, and choose to make a difference. [Tweet this.]

Choose to stay on fire for life and know that the best is yet to come.

0 replies on “Would You Rebuild?”

John, I too heard you in San Diego at Mastermind. What an absolute inspiration. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog, with each one I am encouraged. Thank you for sharing your story.
Lynchburg, Virginia

“Noblesse oblige,” or the obligation of the nobility, is the French concept that “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Not only did Lutnick rebuild, he gave back over and over again. I have asked my spouse, a humanitarian, what keeps alive his spirit of giving. He always replies “noblesse oblige.” What I find most amazing is how he and others like Lutnick keep giving with such internal intensity, when there is seeming so little external support.

John, you continue to move me to tears and leave me speechless. “I got nuthin” to have a pity party over when I read your stories. Thank you for reminding me to always remember, “it could be worse” and to be thankful for my blessings. Ottawa Hills, Ohio

In the aftermath of 9-11, Cantor Fitzgerald was offered office space in Rockefeller Center. My spouse and I volunteered to drive down from Connecticut and help them in any way that we could for a few weeks. We found rooms that were lined with tables and on these tables were hundreds of notebooks, each representing a life gone. I only met Mr. Lutnick and his sister a few times (they were also grieving the loss of their own brother), but I was stunned at the generosity, compassion and humanity that permeated the entire space were this shattered company had come to try to make sense of the totality of their losses and utter grief. The stories of giving and consoling are too numerous to detail, but suffice to say that I was very privileged to be even a small, very brief part of what the Lutnick Cantor Fitzgerald families accomplished in those weeks….and they have not forgotten. Truly inspiring and humbling.

Hi John,

I heard you speak that Mastermind in San Diego and I was moved by your words at that time. You are an absolute inspiration and I have been following your blogs ever since. Everyone has a story and you inspire me to do better, be better and live better. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Whitby, Ontario Canada

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