John O’Leary shows us that the world actually isn’t crumbling with a little help from his mom’s transformational wisdom.
“This is just not the life I expected at all. It’s so broken, there is so much wrong with my world. And so much wrong with the world. It’s just so far from the perfect life I once envisioned for myself.”
A friend shared this with me during a phone call last week.
He shared somberly that there is little reason for hope. The economy is struggling globally, fires are raging in the West, storms are pounding the South, and an angry, cynical, divisive tension is enveloping the entire country. Personally, he’s between jobs, the market is bad and despair is growing.
And he’s not alone.
More than 29 million individuals are currently claiming some level of unemployment. Innumerable small businesses have already shuttered or are barely hanging on.
So, how do we respond when life goes in a direction wildly different than the one we expected?
How can we make sense of the chaos that seems to be everywhere?
How do we redefine what our own “perfect” looks like when we are wired to see the world either through negative headlines or the appearance of perfection thanks to Instagram filters?
My solution? Lean into the transformational wisdom my mother uncovered decades ago.
Mom’s transformational wisdom has never been more relevant than during the 2020 pandemic and recession.
Thirty-three years ago, Mom left my hospital room in the middle of the night and walked into a darkened hallway. I had been burned terribly, was tethered to life-support machines and wrapped in bandages. With no one around and little hope ahead, she ventured into an empty waiting room, sat down and wept.
She cried because of the pain I was enduring and because she was terrified I wouldn’t survive. She cried because of the profound changes to the life we once knew and had taken for granted. And my mom cried because she understood that even if I did survive, the world would be a very harsh place to navigate for a little boy with no fingers and scars covering his body.
Her entire world was crumbling. It’s a feeling many of us can relate to today.
Fifteen years later, seated in a very different room, she cried again. This time Mom was seated with hundreds of friends, watching her little boy marry his college sweetheart and they were tears of joy. She wrote about her experiences moving from tragedy to triumph in her book, Overwhelming Odds. In one of my favorite passages, Mom explains:
It was somewhere during these debridement, grafting and release surgeries. Sitting at John’s bedside, walking the halls at night, and begging God for a second chance at life, that I came to redefine, in my heart, what it truly means to be beautiful, normal and desirable.
I came to realize that the world would not come to see John as fitting these categories as before, and I could not share the world’s biased judgement of my little boy.
That realization, years ago, not only freed me from inner struggles, but also has opened my heart profoundly to the inner beauty of others.
Life isn’t perfect and that is okay. This is why.
My friend, many of us today find ourselves in a less than ideal reality. It’s true. But that doesn’t concern me – I’ve endured far worse.
What does concern me is that we are beginning to risk losing the brilliant, galvanizing power of a collective hope in tomorrow.
We’re overlooking our greatest strengths, namely personal accountability, collective diversity and ferocious optimism.
We’ve been distracted by trying to attain “beautiful, normal, successful and desirable” for so long that many of us were exhausted trying to attain these unrealistic standards before the epic untethering of 2020. And now that the world is changing, we feel like we just might be toppled by it.
My friend, the good news is we’ve got the remedy from that transformational wisdom my mom uncovered decades ago: It is our great opportunity to rewrite the script.
Imperfection isn’t something that we must hide, fear, or feel repulsed and divided by. To the contrary, when our flaws are genuinely embraced and authentically shared they can humanize, connect and inspire.
The prayer my mom begged for years ago was granted: Her little boy was blessed with a second chance at life. It was far from easy, extraordinary painful, and not at all what we’d imagined – but with resiliency, love from others and faith that tomorrow’s possibilities might be better than today’s struggles, it became even better than we imagined.
Each day provides you a second chance gift at life. No, this second chance isn’t easy, it’s rarely as you planned and totally imperfect. But the second chance provides you a stunning, remarkable, miraculous gift of your life nonetheless. If you choose to seek it.
Do this to seek the remarkable gift of your life today – despite the chaos.
So, turn off the news. Step away from your social feeds. Pay attention to the little things. Count your breaths and your blessings. The difficulties replete in the current struggles don’t mean we have to lose our joy for this day or our hope for tomorrow.
My friend, let’s redefine what beautiful, normal, desirable and successful mean. Let’s do the hard work of seeking those enduring qualities in ourselves and inspiring others to discover these qualities in themselves. And in a marketplace too often glancing toward all that’s wrong, let’s choose instead to seek the limitless possibilities of tomorrow in the imperfect beauty today.
Start with the reflection in the mirror.
Today is your day. Live Inspired.
24 replies on “The Whole World is Crumbling; Or Is It?”
I think your message this week is not only timely given the struggles of 2020, but also timeless in reminding us how life-giving it is to appreciate the greatness that surrounds us. Thanks, John, for keeping this year in perspective and keeping us inspired!
Your words are always inspirational John. Thank you for always reaching out to others and sharing these great stories and experiences.
Thank you for this beautiful reminder! I am a breast cancer survivor and thankful for every day of life. Meeting you in ST Louis was a blessing and such a powerful testimony. Thank you for inspiring us daily through your life, podcasts, emails and social media!
John, how did you know this was the message that I needed this morning? There are so many people hurting right now, and the compassion fatigue compounded by isolation are real. “Untethered” is an apt description of where we find ourselves, and it is up to us to try to put Humpty Dumpty back together again – one day, one person at a time. Starting with ourselves. Thank you as always for the inspiration.
Thanks for the uplifting message! Turn off the news, step away from the social feeds, and truly see your surroundings and realize how different your outlook will be.
Seriously what I needed today…Not often do I feel sorry for myself or what is happening but today was one of those mornings…The what do we have to look forward to is getting slimmer and slimmer by the day as the intolerance increases. I pray everyday for hope, guidance, patience and to calm anxious behaviors.
This so confirmed what I had just read in a really good book this morning….these disappointments are divine appointments to see things in our lives in a whole new way!
John, Thank you so much for your heartfelt and inspirational words. It is hard to stay positive and optimistic in today’s crazy world. I appreciate all the help I can get to redirect me toward the good and the hope. The news is off and I’m looking at the sun. Thank you!
I had to read this one to my husband so we can start another week off together with a heaping helping of O’Leary inspiration. 😉
Thank you for always keeping it real & keeping us all on a positive outlook as we Try to live a beautiful life in harmony.
Profound wisdom from you and your Mom. Thank you for sharing! The lesson here is very applicable to my thoughts and feelings as I head into this week. Hope lives!
Thank you so much for awakening in me what is real in life.
Thanks for this one, John.
Thanks John! We all need this message!
Nile, YOU, my brother, LIVE this message. Thanks for reminding us we are not alone, that God still cares, and that the best is yet to come -=-
You are welcome, JTM!
This was the perfect message I needed to hear today. Thank you for inspiring me today and always!
Thanks Lori – Keep living it!
The world is so much better with you in it! Thanks for choosing to live, and sharing your journey with us!
“The only person we are destined to become is the person we choose to be” Emerson …. Cheryl — let’s keep choosing to be examples of love, joy and life … pretty sure the world needs the reminder! J
Thank you John, This came at the perfect time. Our family has lost 5 key members in 2020, (none from COVID 19 just for the record). And somehow we choose to carry on, and find the good, and beautiful things our precious life has to offer. As I remember from your keynote Presentation at the Keystone resort, you had said “the best has yet to come” I’m holding on to that for dear life right now, So thank you for all you do, you are truly a blessing for all of us. And yes, turn off the news!
Man, I can not imagine the agony of losing 5 family members in a shortened timespan. Lance, I am sorry for your losses — and if we can support you and your family during this epically painfully period, please let us know. We are here to do life, together. …. and, even now, I remain convinced the best IS yet to come — J
Thank you so much for being there, and just knowing you and your team are there it really does help more than you know. Blessings to all of you!
Lived this-Thank you so much! All true
Thanks Sue for living it … and for sharing it today …. It matters …. and so do you — J