The AnMed Foundation recently introduced the inspiring author John O’Leary to Anderson. Everyone who had the pleasure of meeting O’Leary is instantly his friend. He has two books that made the #1 spot on the national bestseller list. He hosts an enlightening podcast and is a coveted speaker for Fortune 500 companies and special forces military units.
He made a whirlwind tour of Anderson on August 23 and 24. It was surreal for him to speak at an event without mandatory attendance. He joked that the audience chose to be there.
Carol and William Kenley spearheaded the charge of Anderson on Fire. William is the CEO of AnMed. In the three years that the Kenleys have been Andersonians, they have been a blessing to our community. This event serves as a pinnacle. O’Leary started his adventure in Anderson at a private party for him at the Kenley’s home. The next day he spoke to the leadership team at AnMed, a community leaders’ luncheon at Tucker’s, and then a packed house at Second Chances Church.
I had the privilege of attending both the luncheon and the main event. O’Leary has the unique ability to connect to his audience. Those rooms had tears, laughter, hope, and, most importantly, a call to action.
You see, O’Leary experienced burns over 100% of his body. He was not supposed to survive! However, O’Leary did much more than survive. The fire he lived through ignited the principles to live a radical, inspired life. His challenge is that we all awake, live our best lives, and tell our stories. We all embrace a victor, not victim, attitude regarding our personal “burns.” He implores us not to settle.
He speaks of us living a life that makes a difference in the world. We are lucky in Anderson to have so many leaders who are living that difference-making lifestyle. O’Leary is the type of person that feeds our spirit. He says the things we know are true. That is the reason there were so many tears in the room.
He implores us first to speak with loving honesty. He cautions us that being authentic, impacting someone’s life, and making a difference can’t always come with fluffy feel-good words. Honesty can be brutal because what we need to hear is usually not what we want to hear. We almost always must be pushed out of our comfort zones to grow. That is true love. Those words can be hard to hear. He says there are times when we need these sentences. “I love you, and there is nothing you can do about it. This is going to be hard. Welcome to life, and we can do it together.”
Secondly, he seeks for us to understand that all always remain possible together. We are called to help each other. We are called not to give up on each other. We must look and ask how can I help? Each of us has a purpose if our heart is beating. We have only to be present in the moment and have our eyes open to see how we can be a blessing each day. How many opportunities do we miss? Were our unique gifts what was needed? Were we the only ones who could make a difference in this situation? It is crucial for us to be awake.
Next, we must embrace a never-quit mindset! What are you holding on to that is your safety net? We must say yes to opportunities, to the unknown, and to risk because they all lead to growth. We can hold on and try to hide our scars, or we can let go, connect, and move toward greatness. We must always choose to be the victor, never the victim. No matter the challenge we face, we have only to remember. The foundation is firm. God is still God. The best is yet to come.
He paints a picture of when we fail. It looks like the end. We are face down on the mat of life. We think. Why me? Who cares? What more can I do? He states that, sadly, the desire to want out is prevalent in our world. We must rise and turn those questions around for ourselves and others!
Why me? You have a heartbeat in that chest for a reason. So instead of why is this happening to me? We think, why am I faced with this challenge? How will it change my life for the better? How can it bless others? What am I grateful for today? We all need grace that is not earned. Our hearts tell us to take action. To get up off that mat and move toward our best lives. Why me, sounds different now. It is about second chances, gratitude, and actions.
Who cares? There is always someone who cares. We can be that someone. Our heartbeats have value. We are in the game as long as our heartbeats. We can make a difference. We become like the people we do life with. So, we must surround ourselves well. We must listen through love, hope, and faithfulness. We must all care.
What more can I do? We can all make tomorrow better than today. The best is yet to come. No matter our obstacles or mistakes, today is the day to start to make it better. We must find time to slow down and listen to our inner voice. We change the world one life at a time. Our second chance is waiting for us. Our best life is right there for us to take. We only have to wake up and claim it. This life again is yours.
These are just a few highlights from the amazing Anderson on Fire Event. Over 700 people were inspired that day. I know each one was happy they chose to attend. I had the pleasure of meeting John at the luncheon and can call him my friend. He listens and hugs you. He says I want to hear more of your story. He certainly personally inspired me to seek my best life, to be present, and to seek to do more consistently.
Carol and William Kenley, Tim Self, and the AnMed Foundation thank you for the vision to bring John O’Leary to bless Anderson. He gave each of us a battle cry to wake up and fight for ourselves and others. Be sure to grab a copy of his books On Fire and In Awe.