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My new friend James McCracken drops these words of wisdom.

It’s been a seven-year journey.

Constant challenges and significant setbacks.

An amazing community of friends showing up right on time with their financial investments, their connections, their ideas, their prayers and their encouragement to propel the effort forward.

Today, at 9 a.m., on the set of the forthcoming feature film On Fire, Director Sean McNamara will bark out for the first time the words, “And………Action!”

My friends, from financing to filming, every part of this has been a wild ride—some of which I have shared, much I have not. But nothing has been as surreal as selecting actors to play real life characters. Roles required for the movie include a Hall-of-Fame announcer named Jack Buck, two incredible parents, a brilliant physician, passionate nurses, and an important custodial member.  We filled roles for my siblings and friends, baseball players and fire fighters, bartenders and inmates. (Yeah, you gotta see the movie). Dozens of roles had to be filled.

So, which role yielded the most auditions?

With more than 800 submissions, the most desired role was …. little John O’Leary.

Yup, little John.  We had amazing boys from all over the world read for this role. Many of these actors are already in movies, active on daytime television, and are known for the outstanding work they do. Of the 800, who did we choose?

A kid who has never been to Hollywood, had participated in only one television program and a couple smaller parts in movies, but also a kid who compared to the 800 other amazing actors, was clearly made for playing this role.

I sat with little John O’Leary last week (his former name, and the one he’ll return to once filming wraps in six weeks, is James McCracken).

I asked James his audition secret to bringing out the mischievousness, the precociousness, the joy, the agony and the determination of the character he was hoping to portray.

He smiled sweetly, looked away, gathered his answer and then said to me that right before the camera started rolling his dad gave him some advice.

What was it?

“My dad told me to, ‘Be yourself. Be perfectly you.’ So, that’s what I did.”

My friends, I love this kid.  Love his heart. Love his parents. Love everything about him. (Well everything except that he’s a Cubs fan.) 

What has taken me a lifetime to learn is what got James McCracken an important role in a movie.

More importantly, though, the simple challenge his dad offered him is one we all need to be reminded of in whatever roles we assume in life: Be yourself. Be perfectly you.

That will be enough.


Today is your day. Live Inspired.


12 replies on “Be Yourself. Be Perfectly You.”

My brother Frank Merwald is working on Post Production of this film. He shared your incredible story and how you have inspired so many others. I will be reading your book as I await the production of the movie. Young James is an inspiration as well. Thank you for sharing his wise words and all the best to you!

I love this! I all too often struggle with trying to be “just right” – “perfect” – “what others want me to be.” — This is a good reminder that I can be perfectly me, even with my imperfections (Wabi-Sabi). Or, as I heard about this past summer from a certain movie – I am “Ken-nough”

Good luck with the film! Action!!!!

Congratulations to James. I am sure he will do a great job! Blessings on the whole project, John. Prayers for good weather here in St Louis and for all involved in this movie. I am sure they will walk away from making the movie….Inspired!

Be yourself that’s your superpower that a little rockstar and so authentic —Ahhw the picture too congrats such a huge role and his heart is where it is! Like JO. 🔥✨

Very inspiring. To have the ability and the strength to take what his dad advised at his age is amazing. Great job James. Can not wait to see you on screen.

Being myself means being true to myself and my beliefs, values, etc. So excited to watch your new friend portray you as a child and watch the story unfold.

Thank you for the reminder. To continue share inspiration and motivation. Be yourself. Be perfectly you. With everything around, and many things presented in the world and through many social media outlets. Where some days may seem little more chaotic than others, this is a great reminder to step back and not to get wrapped up in comparisons of others. But to be yourself.
Congratulations to James and the many others that will begin to portray John’s life (and the support of so many around him) on the Big Screen. Looking forward to seeing it when it is wrapped up, and finally being shown on the big screens.

This is good news! I’m excited that “On Fire” will soon be a movie! Was wondering, is there a projected date when it will be out?
Many Prayers and Love for a great filming!
Wendy Shackley
Sun City, Arizona

How exciting that a movie is going to tell your story! I encourage everyone I know to read about you and to read the wisdom you share every Monday! Can’t wait to get tickets to see your story on the big screen.

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