“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain
That’s where this journey began. The journey of discovering “why I was born.”
Back then I ran a real estate development company. I liked the smell of freshly cut wood, the sound of pounding hammers and the camaraderie of a construction crew. I was married. Loved life and never spoke about the fire I was in as a child that left me visibly scarred. Not even to many of my dearest friends.
Add that I was not overly extroverted: I could not have been farther from being a professional speaker sharing on living inspired and overcoming adversity.
That changed when my mom and dad wrote a book about our fire and printed 200 copies to give as a thank you to all of the people who helped us on that journey.
After one woman read Overwhelming Odds, she asked me to speak to her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. She wanted me to share what I learned about overcoming challenges in life.
I was surprised by the invitation and really didn’t want to accept. But, I did accept it and a few weeks later walked into a classroom sweating profusely. I spent the following 15 minutes staring at my notes, never looking up and generally rambling about lessons I learned from Abraham Lincoln about overcoming failures.
She asked me to speak on how I overcame challenges. I shared instead how Lincoln did it.
That year I accepted a few more invitations to speak. The following year, I accepted a few more.
And in the years that followed, I’ve been fortunate to realize that I was born to share a message encouraging others to overcome adversity, discover personal purpose, achieve true significance and lead radically inspired lives.
I no longer work in construction. And although I loved that, it couldn’t compete with inspiring the hundreds of thousands of people around the world over the last few years.
During the early years of sharing my story, I still hid a little behind the podium. I still didn’t want the story to be about me. I still didn’t want people to fully know me, the real me. I still felt a little too broken, too undeserving, too scarred, too scared.
Never feeling worthy of the attention, I kept myself from doing things that could have touched more lives, more profoundly. That’s why I started with Lincoln’s story instead of my own. That’s why I waited so long to write my own book (you can pre-order it today!). And that’s why for the first few years, I wanted my speaking career to point back to my organization, Rising Above, rather than to myself.
On this journey, I’ve discovered that after I speak people remember the stories of Jack, and Roy, and Mom, and Dad. They remember the way it made them feel about their family, friends, work and life. They get reignited with the miracle of each moment and the limitless possibility of their life. And they remember who inspired them not as a company, but as a person – and as a friend.
So it is with great humility – and with excitement – that I’ve finally embraced who I really am and the power of my scars, my story and my life.
This week my team and I are launching a new brand, our new website, our new promotional video, and our new Spark! program all as: John O’Leary – Live Inspired. And we do it not to direct more attention and light to me, but to reflect and remind others of the opportunity one story, one life, every life, has to positively impact those around us. [Tweet this.]
My friends, this is our moment to embrace the gift of our stories, the power of our scars and the strength of character forged through challenge. This is our time to realize not only the amazing gift of simply being born, but of also discovering the reasons why.
I’m John O’Leary.
And this is your day. Live inspired.
Share about “why you were born” in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear from you!