A Celebration of Susan O’Leary on her 75th Birthday.
“He has put fire and water before you; you can stretch out your hand for whichever you choose. Life and death are in front of human beings; and they will be granted whichever they please.” – Sirach, 200 B.C.
Do you remember when one of the most popular shows on network television was Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Host Regis Philbin asked a question and provided a few choices to the contestant. After they provided an answer, Regis would dramatically pause to build suspense, give a serious look and ask another question: “Final answer?”
What all great teachers and dynamic leaders know is sometimes the best way to answer a question is to ask another one.
Most don’t do it to build suspense for a television audience. It’s a tool used to ensure the individual answering deepens their belief and takes total ownership. That’s important for game shows. But it’s critically important in all of our lives.
When I was just nine-years-old laying on what was expected to be my deathbed after a house fire, my mother guided me with this same approach. Her question changed the trajectory of my life.
Mom came into the emergency room that morning, pulled back the curtain, and saw me laying in a hospital bed, burned and dying. She walked without hesitating, took my hand in hers, and told me she loved me.
I remember looking into her eyes and asking a simple question, “Mom, am I going to die?”
My hope was to have her take away my fear; to comfort me and give me reassurance. I expected her to answer by telling me they’d get me out of here tonight and we’d get milkshakes on the way home!
Instead, she clasped my hand gently in hers, brushed back my bangs, looked into my eyes, paused for a moment and asked: “John, do you want to die? It’s your choice, not mine.”
She served as a wonderful reminder to me of what we must all know: whether fighting to avoid death, enduring an expected challenge, achieving a worthy goal, or vibrantly leading our lives, we must be ALL-IN.
There is no middle ground, no passive participant, no do-over. We must assume total accountability for our actions in life and no one can do this for us.
Mom challenged me to do exactly this.
I remember being stunned by my mom’s question. I looked back at her and said, “No, Mom. I don’t want to die. I want to live.”
She responded, “Then, John, you need to fight like you’ve never fought before, you need to take the hand of God, and you need to walk this journey with Him. Race forward with everything you have. Daddy and I will be with you every step of the way. But John, listen to me: you need to fight.”
That day we made a commitment to faithfully, courageously and collectively fight on. We had no idea of what tomorrow might hold. All we knew was the fight was on.
My friend, like Mom, I offer no milkshake promises. Life is packed with difficulties professionally, challenges relationally, and diagnosis personally.
But in holding yourself accountable, focusing on what is important in your life, elevating personal relationships, growing intentionally and not making excuses – you will be liberated to take back your life, ignite your possibility and change your world.
Each day, “fire and water are before you; you can stretch out your hand for whichever you choose. Life….or death.”
So, do you want to really live?
This is your day. Live Inspired.