A Date That Changed Your Life

John O'Leary
August 26, 2019

John O'Leary

#1 National Bestselling Author & Speaker Expected to Die. Now Teaching Others How to Truly Live.
Bethany Hamilton Soul Surfer

Photo Credit: Mike Coots

What You Do Next Matters

"No matter what sort of difficulties, or how painful the experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster." -Dalai Lama XIV

Earlier this summer I shared an essay about how we all endure moments that drastically change everything that happens after it.

A date that pivots dramatically from the life you planned to the life that will be.

So, what's your date?

The time the phone rang with an unexpected diagnosis or the soft, grave tone of a friend asking, "Have you heard?" The date your marriage ended, a parent passed away, or you endured the indescribable loss of a child. It's a date that changed your life forever.

For Bethany Hamilton, it's October 31, 2003.

The Date that Changed Life for Bethany Hamilton

On that date, at age 13, avid surfer Bethany was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark. The shark surfaced, clasped onto Bethany's shoulder and tore off the young girl's arm.

Through the heroic actions of a friend's father, a perfect link up with EMT, a speedy trip to a hospital and an operating room waiting for her, Bethany survived. She lost 60% of her blood, her left arm, and what seemed like any realistic hope of ever surfing professionally.

Soon after that day, local news stories began covering the brutal attack of the young girl and her courageous recovery. In one interview, recorded just a week after the tiger shark took her left arm, the irrepressible character of this young woman revealed itself.

The interviewer sat across from Bethany, whose blonde hair framed eyes full of hope and a big, expectant smile. Beneath that smile, though, remained intense physical pain and the new reality that she'd never have use of her left arm again. The interviewer asked if she thought she'd ever surf again?

In one of my favorite candid moments captured on film, Bethany looks at him, surprised, indignant, confident, and lovingly responds:

"Do I think? I know!"

Just four weeks after losing her arm, she was back in the water. Four months later she was surfing competitively. Within two years, Bethany Hamilton had won the national competition.

The loss of her arm and the courage she revealed in getting back in the water drew attention not only in surfing circles but around the world. Letters poured in thanking her for giving others hope. She was invited onto Oprah, 20/20 and Good Morning America.

She won the ESPY Award for Best Comeback Athlete and the Courage Teen Choice Award. And Hollywood captured her story in the film Soul Surfer.

What We Can Learn from Bethany Hamilton's Example

My friends, we all have a date that dramatically and tragically alters our lives.

More important than that date, though, is the decision to not be defeated and defined by that date, that loss, that tragedy.

It wasn't surfing that made Bethany famous. It also wasn't a shark attack. No, it was the decision that what had happened to her didn’t have to define what happened next.

And it's a decision we all have the right, the opportunity and the invitation to make in our lives, too.

My friends, no matter what sort of difficulties, or how painful the experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.

And once we tap into that hope, we are liberated to not only get back onto a surfboard but to remind the rest of the world watching that they can do it, too.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

I recently had an opportunity to visit with Bethany on the Live Inspired Podcast. We talked about the shark attack, her recovery and how she fought through the challenges with hope in her heart. We chatted about her mission work, faith, role as a mother, and what she's working on next. It's a terrific conversation with an amazing woman and I encourage you to check it out.


To book John O'Leary for your next event, visit https://premierespeakers.com/john-olearyJohn’s most recent book title is On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life.

To order copies in bulk for your event, please visit BulkBooks.com.

The post A Date That Changed Your Life appeared first on John O'Leary.

John O'Leary

Want John O'Leary for your next event?

Find out more information, including fees and availability.
Find Out More
Keep Reading
Live Inspired Podcast: Five-time Grammy Winner + Iconic Music Producer Rudy Perez (ep. 220)
John O'Leary
John O'Leary
January 16, 2020
John O’Leary welcomes five-time Grammy winner Rudy ...
Paying it forward
John O'Leary
John O'Leary
January 13, 2020
"I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw ...
Live Inspired Podcast: Bridge Towards Acceptance (Monday Moments ep. 219)
John O'Leary
John O'Leary
January 13, 2020
On this week’s Live Inspired Podcast Monday Moment segment, John O’ ...
Live Inspired Podcast: Five-time Grammy Winner + Iconic Music Producer Rudy Perez (ep. 220)
John O’Leary welcomes five-time Grammy winner Rudy Perez to the Live Inspired Podcast to share behind-the-scenes stories of his unprecedented career.Rudy Perez is the definition of a music legend and has earned international success by shining the spotlight on others. He’s written + produced hundreds of chart-topping songs for superstars like Be...
Read More
Paying it forward
"I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back." – Maya Angelou[Click to tweet.] "License and registration."Words none of us want to hear on the side of a road when police lights are flashing behind us and an officer standing next to us with a flashlight in our f...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Bridge Towards Acceptance (Monday Moments ep. 219)
On this week’s Live Inspired Podcast Monday Moment segment, John O’Leary answers a community member’s question about acceptance.Join me every Monday for a quick burst of inspiration on our "Monday Moment" segment.Today’s question was submitted by Live Inspired community member Robert. Subscribe & listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher,...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: NASCAR's Kenny Wallace: Striving Towards Excessive Happiness (ep. 218)
John O’Leary welcomes NASCAR legend Kenny Wallace to the Live Inspired Podcast to share how he strives every day to be his iconic, happy, fun-loving self.In his three-decade-long NASCAR career, Kenny Wallace has competed in over 900 races, earned nine wins, and was named Most Popular Driver three times. Yet, he hasn’t let this hard-earned succes...
Read More
No more excuses
"Never make excuses. Your friends don't need them and your foes won't believe them."– John WoodenBig plans for big improvements: That was my expectation on the dawn of 2020. Goals were set to improve finances, grow spiritually, respond relationally with love and to take my health more seriously. By the end of the very first day of 2020, I h...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Post-Holiday Hangover (Monday Moments ep. 217)
On this week’s Live Inspired Podcast Monday Moment segment, John O’Leary shares advice from his grandmother.Join me every Monday for a quick burst of inspiration on our "Monday Moment" segment."It's not only the scenery you miss by going fast. You also miss the sense of where you are going and why." - Eddie CantorSubscribe & listen on Apple...
Read More
Is That All?
"To be content with little is difficult; to be content with much, impossible." Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach "Is that all?"It's an innocent enough question. Unless it's being asked by one of your kids on Christmas morning.The holidays are said to be the most wonderful time of the year. They can also be incredibly busy and stressful. Several years a...
Read More
Which wolf are you feeding?
"Whatever you pay attention to and focus on, gets bigger. Attend to what you want, not what you fear or despise."After a speaking event last week, an audience member shared that over the past few months her son had simply lost passion for his life. We chatted about her son, what he used to like, how he's acting today and the various reasons why...
Read More
A Tool for Fighting Indifference
"Why do we have to go?" Not naming names, but this question was whined out by one of my four little angels as we prepared to leave for church early yesterday morning. I know, shocking. So to those of us who believe in a higher power: Why do we go? Why does an active spiritual life matter for any of us? Well, the goal of faith is to ...
Read More
Which One Would You Choose?
A New Lens for Old Photos "When I look at my old pictures, all I can see is what I used to be but am no longer. I think: What I can see is what I am not." Aleksandar Hemon If you had to summarize the entirety of your life in one photograph, which one would you use? The one with your scrunched up, round little face taken the day...
Read More