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The important lesson John learned on a recent trip to Sin City.

Ever heard the expression, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?”

Yeah, me too!

An experience last week, however, reminded me that it is not always true. Sometimes what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay there. Sometimes, it absolutely remains with us when we return home. Let me explain.

Whether basking in the bright lights on a big stage at a massive arena in Las Vegas or speaking on a gym floor with fluorescent ceiling lights dimly shinning down in a middle school, my favorite aspect of speaking has never been the time on the stage nor the collective audience laughs and cries and gasps and cheers as we progress through the program.

For me, the best part of speaking has always occurred after wrapping up, walking off stage and heading to the back of the room. It’s the opportunity to meet with individuals. It’s the honor of hearing their stories. It’s the chance to learn how our message positively impacted their life.

Off stage and in the back of the room, after the initial fist bump or hug, individual audience members generally hand me a book to sign. I’ll ask their name and what their main takeaway was from the keynote. As I get ready to sign, I often ask: “When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?” I want to know about them. Not the buttoned-up professional in front of me, but the reason why we do the work in first place.

These new friends immediately open up.

They’ll share about heartache growing up, difficulties in their finances, an unwanted diagnosis or a recent loss. They’ll talk about the inability to have kids, or getting pregnant seemingly too early in life or taking in someone else’s kids after a tragic accident. They’ll talk about their faith, their doubt, their addictions, their aspirations. In other words, they just honesty share their life.

It’s humbling, it’s inspiring, and it’s ultimately not only the best part of what I do, it’s why I do the work in the first place.

A similar experience happened last week in Las Vegas. As a line of more than 100 individuals formed to have their books signed, I got to hear each of their stories. Every conversation was meaningful, every person touched my heart. And although all the words they shared moved me, it was the acute silence in one of my conversations that moved me to tears.

He approached in a wheelchair. His assistant handed me his phone and shared that Steve had ALS and was unable to speak, but wanted me to know something.

I read what he’d typed.

Today.

You reminded me.

That my life still had value.

Thank you.

I knelt beside his wheelchair and hugged him. We just stayed like that, this long embrace, both of us crying.

With the help of his daughter-in-law and his trusty phone, we discussed his pain, his tingling in his hands, how quickly this disease progressed in the past 12 months. And we talked about the power of prayer, the possibility of miracles and the hope that tomorrow may somehow be even better than today.

My friends, I don’t remember what hotel I stayed while in Las Vegas last week.

I don’t recall if I rented a car or took an Uber. I didn’t have any interest in gaming or going out; I didn’t have time for meals or shows. In other words, so much of my experience in Las Vegas is already a blur further validating the slogan that what happens there, stays there.

But I do remember Steve.

I do remember that powerful encounter, the words he shared, the joyful courage he exuded, and the tears we both cried. And I remember coming home changed, different and better.

Because as a man who often looks in the mirror and isn’t thrilled with what I see staring back at me, I was reminded that it’s good enough, even miraculous. As a person who gets homesick on the road and sometimes wonders if my work matters, I was reminded that it does.

So, I wanted to type something to Steve this Monday:

Today.

You reminded me.

That my life still had value.

Thank you.

Steve profoundly inspired me while we were together. His vibrancy remains with me today. And his words will inform how I show up for others tomorrow.

My friends, this is your day. Live Inspired.

14 replies on “What Happens in Vegas”

John, you are the best! I needed this so much today, because it has been a struggle lately to see the meaning in my life… “Invisible” disabilities like depression, mental fog and chronic fatigue make me feel almost useless sometimes. But our primary purpose is not to be productive. Our primary purpose is simply to BE.

Thank you for the story and sharing your experience. My oldest son is a wild land firefighter and is finishing up in Oregon. He met a family while camping last spring and saw the license plate from Oregon. They were so grateful to meet one of the firefighters as they lost their home in 2020. He said the experience moved every one to tears as they all understood the experience. He knew that his long days away from home are appreciated

It’s been 14 years. 14 years since watching my grandpa take care of my grandma who had recently broke her hip. Her broken hip had gone undiagnosed for several weeks. My grandpa all the while taking care of his beloved wife. Soon after my grandma started to heal and get better my grandpa started having some strange symptoms… the one that sticks out in my memory is what they called “flop foot” Soon after this happened he started having numbness and tingly in his hands and feet. It took a few months for us to get a diagnosis, but when we did we were absolutely devastated. ALS. I hadn’t really heard of ALS before this day. I began took look up what it was.
I couldn’t imagine watching my hero go through the things I read about. Why would God do this to him? We watched my 6’2 strong in all things..strong in his beliefs… his religion… strong bodied…strong for his family become so fragile in body… not in mind though. His heart and his mind continued to work as his body failed him. He chose not to prolong his life. This was hard for me. Hard for me to accept. Hard to not be angry at God for what he was letting one of his most faithful followers go through. Before he could no longer speak I asked him how to not be angry at God. He told me “Tiff before I came to earth I chose this plan. God handed me this and I will not let him down.
ALS has touched my life as I took my grandpa from me way to soon. I to believe that every life has meaning. Sometimes we just need to be reminded what our purpose is. I miss my grandpa every day. I see him in older men I come across. I am reminded of him when I smell Irish spring soap or see a school bus. My grandpa’s purpose was to teach me and my family to be strong. One of my greatest purposes is to make sure my grandpa is never forgotten. I miss you grandpa.
Thanks for sharing this great story and reminding all of us that we have purpose. ♡

Steve is my brother. It has been heartbreaking to watch this vibrant, larger than life man become dependent on his wife and others, but so inspiring to watch him accept what life has given him with grace and honor. Thank you for sharing this insight into him..

Such a pleasure to have heard you speak and now sharing this story.. We are all more blessed than we take the time to realize.. Thanks for all you do. I look forward to continuing to receive your emails.

John, you and your stories are an inspiration. I’m thankful and blessed be reminded… What more can I do today.

How beautiful. And impactful. I think This story will stay with me for a long while. Thanks for doing what you do and thanks for sharing with us.

Oh boy! How I can relate to Steve. My late husband, also, had ALS. As a wife and caregiver, so hard to watch, stay strong and to tell that person every single day, yes, your life matters. Even if it is a month, a week or one more day. I will pray for Steve and his family. And my hope is that his son, daughter-in-law and family keep his light and vibrancy shining not only through the rest of this disease, but long after.

Great story John
I met you at a similar event at Nj CPA conference in Atlantic City probably five years ago or so . I have been reading your posts following you since . You are definitely making a difference . I belong to a small Catholic mens group my friend started 10 years ago
We call ourselves the Men of St Joseph , we meet every week before Church to study scripture and most importantly have a fraternity of other men of faith . We have other get togethers, Holy hours , dinners , outings with our wives and families . We have created great friendships . We are in Pompton plains New Jersey my friend Glen moved to North Carolina but the group continues on
Anyway will keep following you , keep up the good work , you are an inspiration
God Bless
Bob

And again, on a Monday, I start my week in tears. Reminded that there is hope. To keep trying. We can all look for the good in any situation. It is there. God is ALWAYS with us in every single circumstance. Always.
Thank you for sharing and simply caring. I have followed you for many years. So grateful to have your weekly emails now to continue to help me Live Inspired.
Christie

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Live Inspired Together is a community of friends changing the world together, starting with their own. In a world that often focuses on negativity, John O’Leary - Live Inspired shares the other side of the story through his member-supported channels (essays, Live Inspired Podcast, video, webcasts, social platforms) to connect our community and share inspiration and actions to live it. Support now.