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Wrongfully Imprisoned in Syria | Sam Goodwin (ep. 658)

Sam Goodwin

John O’Leary welcomes Sam Goodwin to the Live Inspired Podcast to share about embracing uncertainty and the resilience of the human spirit.

Sam Goodwin is an entrepreneur, author and thought leader on embracing uncertainty and the resilience of the human spirit.

In 2019, during a quest to travel to all 193 UN-recognized sovereign states, he was wrongfully imprisoned in Syria on false charges of espionage.

Today, Sam will share how his connections and coincidence were central to his release from one of the most notoriously brutal prison systems in the world, and he’ll recount the lessons he’s learned from this experience.

My friends, this remarkable conversation reveals the miraculous potential for love to liberate us from our most isolating and agonizing situations.

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  • While playing Division 1 hockey at Niagara University, Sam suffered a concussion that caused post-concussion syndrome and left him with a persistent headache for eight months.
  • When one door closes, another one opens. Having to leave his dream of playing hockey professionally, Sam started working at a tech start-up in Singapore which launched a thriving career and the wanderlust of travel.
  • After six years, Sam realized he had travelled to 120 of the 193 UN-recognized sovereign states. Over a ten year period, Sam travelled to every country in the world.
  • Sam was invited into North Korea to coach their hockey team and saw it as an incredible opportunity to use sports to build a culture bridge.
  • “Travel was the priority. I love developing a deeper understanding of the world.”
  • Being some of the most religiously, historically, culturally significant places in the world, Sam credits the Middle East to some of his best travel experiences.
  • May 25, 2019: Traveling from Iraq into the northeast region of Syria, Sam was accused espionage, taken into custody and detained at a notorious Syrian military intelligence prison known as Branch 215.
  • For 27 days, Sam was in solitary confinement where his only human interaction was for a few seconds in the morning and evening when the guards brought him bread, boiled potatoes and water.
  • “Prisoners count down, hostages count up.”
  • Sam found strength in several ways:
    • Perspectives developed from traveling which provoke gratitude for the basic food and water he was given.
    • Skills developed from being a competitive athlete like mental toughness, critical thinking, resilience.
    • Belief that he had a purpose in life.
  • “We’re never less alone than when we are totally alone with God.”
  • “Forgiveness is not a feeling. It’s a choice.”
  • “I don’t feel as much survivors guilt. I feel survivor’s responsibility.”
  • “We could be held hostage by anything, alcohol, drugs, illness, relationships, or finances, but the way that we embrace and manage those challenges, defines who we become.”
  • “When we feel the most lost, we often have the best chance for a huge breakthrough.”
  • Pre-order a copy of Sam Goodwin’s book Saving Sam here.

Did you enjoy today’s episode? 

You’ll love my conversation with Captain Charlie Plumb. As a former Navy fighter pilot, Charlie is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. Scheduled to be his 75th and final mission in Vietnam, Charlie’s F-4 Phantom Jet was shot down + captured. He’d spend the next 2,103 days isolated + tortured in North Vietnamese Prisoner of War camps. Hear how purpose provides the strength to endure the unthinkable and how despite the headwinds we may face, the best is yet to come. Listen to Charlie Plumb on ep. 31.


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  1. Q. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
    A. Into the Wild by John Krakauer.
  2. Q. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today?
    A. Curiosity.
  3. Q. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?
    A. The hard drive with all the pictures and videos that I've ever taken in my life.
  4. Q. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be?
    A. Jesus, and then Adolf Hitler because I just don't understand how someone can be that evil. I wonder if by better understanding it can help us to eradicate that and better address it in our society today.
  5. Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
    A. The quickest way to be unhappy is to live our lives and make decisions based on other people's judgments.
  6. Q. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
    A. It gets better.
  7. Q. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read?
    A. I hope to be remembered as someone who had a story to tell and had a positive impact on the people around them.