Monday, June 14, 2010

Value - Inside and Out

A few years ago, I saw a motivational speaker, John O'Leary. He has an amazing personal story...

Per his web site www.rising-above.com...
John’s life is proof of the power of the human spirit. As a nine-year-old boy, he was burned on 100% of his body and given less than one percent chance of surviving the first night. He endured months in the hospital, years in therapy, dozens of surgeries, and lost all of his fingers to amputation. Despite the odds, John overcame these challenges and enjoys wonderful success in life.

John sends a regular e-mail message that I often find incredibly thought provoking. Here is one of his recent messages that really resonated with me. Interestingly enough, I think my weight gain helped me to ignore my "cover" more and really learn more about who I am and why I have value as a human being. I got to the point where I was so far being able to pull it together and try to look/feel attractive. I had to get past it and just look at me. Who I was on the inside. Who I wanted to be.

I want to be attractive on the outside again and of course that is part of the reason for having weight loss surgery. But, I think I am finally going to see the good that is behind my appearance - for myself - and appreciate me for all of me. The good and the not so good.

Ignoring the Cover

"Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances." Wayne Dyer

Too often we let our first impression of brands, foods, events and people dictate the way we feel about them going forward. By just seeing the cover, with little real perspective and with limited knowledge we judge, pigeonhole, write-off, and never offer a second chance. In doing so we often miss the opportunity for them to prove us wrong, reveal their real value, and (occasionally) become a significant presence in our life.

Having an early morning presentation the following day in northern Wisconsin, I HAD to make the last flight out of Atlanta, GA. Arriving at the gate as the plane was boarding, the airline attendant shared with me that the flight was oversold by five passengers that evening; it was extremely unlikely I would make it. (Not good!) Shockingly, five potential passengers voluntarily deplaned, agreed to fly out in the morning and left with roundtrip tickets anywhere in the US.

With great joy I boarded the plane last, found my seat, sat down next to a large, goateed man, smiled at him and said, "Man, I bet you were hoping that I was going to sit next to you tonight!" The giant stared back at me without expression and in a deep voice growled, "Actually, I was hoping like hell that no one was going to sit there."

Normally, I would have run and hid or at least sprayed mace in his direction (the cover of this man certainly suggested that would be the right move!), but as we were stuck sharing an armrest for the next 2 hours, I just smiled, nodded and pulled out some work for the coming flight.

Shortly after takeoff the brute spoke again: What happened to your hands? How did the fire happen? Anybody else hurt? How was the recovery? What do you do now? What kind of messages do you deliver? How is business? How is your family?
The colossal man listened deeply as I answered.

His chiseled face became soft as he smiled discussing his own young family: his older boys, the adopted son, the new baby, the beautiful wife. He loved his new company and his new city. The wild grizzly I had feared because of his abrasive cover was, in reality, a tender teddy bear.

About a month ago my new friend, learned of a high school near his new city that had dealt with a recent string of tragedies. A total of four students had committed suicide in the past 12 months. He called me the morning he heard the story and said, "Dude, don't care what it costs, don't care if I have to collect bottle tops, I am bringing you into this community to inspire these kids."

Last Friday, after challenging 1,200 young adults to dream big, act courageously, and impact others' lives through their own, I asked my friend (the former grizzly bear) why he felt the urge to do something.

He replied, "Dude, when you see others suffering, and you don't do something, you become part of the problem. Life is way too precious to not risk a little when there's an opportunity to serve others."

Servant leadership was not on the cover of his book when I first met him. Being forced to sit next to him on a flight, though, offered the gift of reading much more than some superficial cover. After learning more of his story I am reminded of the value in reading past the cover.

My friends, in your life, consider diving into the stories being written all around you. Turn past the ragged cover and expect a beautiful story to unfold.

Celebrate the pages of your relationships, rejoice in your own experiences, demand beneficial growth from even the most difficult challenges you face today. To paraphrase the giant, "Dude, life is way too precious to expect anything other than that."