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Breaking Through the Negative to Shape Your Outcome

Most of my blog posts are about healthcare insurance, which makes sense since I’m an employee benefits broker. This month, though, I decided to write about a book that recently inspired me. On Fire is centered on author John O’Leary, who at age nine was playing with fire resulting in an explosion and suffered subsequent burns on over 90% of his body. O’Leary was not expected to live, but after five months in the hospital, he overcame the odds and went home with a new take on life. O’Leary worked hard to recover, going on to graduate from high school and college; work in many challenging fields; and ultimately get married and have kids. As O’Leary says many times in his book, he has lived and continues to live an inspired life.

O’Leary outlines seven choices to ignite a radically inspired life, a couple of which resonated deeply with me. The first is the idea of being a victim versus a victor, in which he poses a simple question: Why me? These two words can be interpreted in vastly different ways, which O’Leary highlights as follows:

“Storms will always rage. As a victim we stare up at the sky, lift our hands in despair, and cry. Why me? We realize clearly that our life is a struggle, that others are evil, that there is no hope, and that the worst days are to come. Or we can choose another way. In the middle of the same storm, we can choose to be a victor. To recognize that a disease is a gift, the walls can’t contain our spirit, the fire has refined and strengthened our character, and the best days are in front us. We lift our hands, feel the rain on our face, and dance. Why me? We know this is leading us somewhere. We know the storm isn’t the end; we’re just waiting for the first sunbeam.“

I see this in my own life and in the lives of many of the people with whom I interact with on a daily basis. While most of us don’t experience life challenges as extreme as O’Leary’s, we frequently let ourselves slip into a rut of self pity. Why me? Why did this happen to me? O’Leary’s story has caused me to pause and reflect during difficult times in my day and life, to leave behind the victim and own the situation to move forward as a victor.

The second choice that resonated with me, particularly at work, is stagnation versus growth. On the one hand, O’Leary states that:

“Anxiety and fear will keep you stagnant. What if I fail?”

On the other hand, he states that:

“Isn’t it time to risk it all in order to build something, inspire another, and become someone great? Isn’t it time to stretch courageously toward the limitless possibility of your life? Isn’t it time you get moving, start dreaming, and begin growing? Growth is the only evidence of life.”

I could apply the choice of growth rather than stagnation to many areas of life, but for this piece, I’m applying it to my professional life.

I will push clients to avoid the status quo and embrace benefit strategies and tactics that support employee and organizational growth. I will push my organization to continue to explore the boundaries of change to remain a leader in a rapidly changing industry, even if such changes feel uncomfortable at times.

I will push my peers and colleagues to avoid being satisfied with what got us here, and instead, to focus on what will get us there, constantly evaluating current skills and ideas and developing new skills and ideas. I will push myself to do all of the above and to lead as an inspired life as possible!

On Fire is a must read for anyone looking for inspiration during difficult times in life, at work, or at home. I hope to use some of his messages to live a more inspired life and to help others feel more inspired in their lives.