The following is part one of a three-part blog series based on the legendary inspirational speaker John O’Leary and bestselling author of ON FIRE: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life who was the keynote speaker at Ultimate Software’s Connections 2018 conference in March.
Although Kenny Chesney would take the same stage later in the day, there is no doubt that the most powerful musical performance at the Wynn Las Vegas took place at approximately 9:45 a.m., March 15. As John O’Leary softly played a verse of Coldplay’s The Scientist on a lone electronic piano, tears ran, noses sniffled and a few of the 3,600 guests at Ultimate Software’s Connections Conference even had to step into the hall to compose themselves.
Make no mistake about it, O’Leary’s story is a powerful one; at just nine years of age, he barely survived a fire that burned 100% of his body, mostly in the form of third degree burns. Although he was not expected to survive the night, O’Leary persevered through months of hospital recovery, years of excruciating rehabilitation and a lifetime of challenges.
From the moment O’Leary walked onto stage at the conference, it was clear that he is doing so much more than simply surviving his injuries; he is thriving as a result of them. I immediately asked myself “How can someone who has been through so much have such a positive outlook on life? How can he be so happy? So motivated? So successful?”
Fortunately, O’Leary’s message to us was exactly how to do just that…
Have you ever seen something from afar, or from an obscure angle, then changed your perspective only to reveal you saw everything all wrong? That, O’Leary states, is the foundation of moving forward. He suggests we take three of the most common questions we ask ourselves when the going gets tough, and look at them differently. He challenged us to change our perspective.
Question 1: Why Me?
O’Leary started with some trivia. He asked “What is the most common question people ask themselves when misfortune strikes them?” As if rehearsed, the crowd said in unison “Why me?”
“We are each at the center of our own universe,” O’Leary elaborated. We tend to hyper-focus on things that cross our paths and, even then, focus on the negatives. O’Leary challenged us to change our perspective by taking a step back and looking at our lives, focusing on the positive things.
What exactly are the positive things? It varies from person to person, O’Leary argued. Perhaps for you it is spending time with family, going on a hike, playing with your dog or cuddling up with a great book. Even if you are struggling to find something positive in your life, O’Leary reminded the audience that just having the opportunity to wake up in the morning is a blessing.
O’Leary expanded, claiming the only time we should ask “Why me?” is when we are asking why we have been given the blessing to be alive; to have the opportunity to experience this day when so many others have not.
Whether you're on a vegetation management crew or working in a corporate support position, it's a powerful thing for all of us to ask ourselves right now: why me?