My Greatest Life Lesson to Date

John O'Leary

John O'Leary

Inspiring Story of Overcoming Challenges

John O'Leary's greatest life lesson learned from an elderly family member.

How to choose love over fear, an excerpt from John O’Leary’s #1 National Bestselling book ON FIRE

My greatest life lesson to date – the one that impacts everything I do, every relationship I have, every choice I makeis this:

Fear and love are the two great motivators. While fear suffocates, love liberates. [Tweet this.] | [Share on Facebook.]

Today, I’m sharing about a time when I learned how and WHY to choose LOVE over fear. No, not sappy, Hallmark-card love. And actually, not even romantic love. Just pure, unabashed love - for your neighbor, child, spouse, friend, colleague, barista, fellow man. Love, the greatest motivator in life.

This is an excerpt from my #1 National Bestselling book ON FIRE:


An important life lesson learned while meeting Beth’s family for the first time.

The first time I met Beth's family, I received advice I'll never forget.

It was nearly Christmas and we were ushering in the holidays with a large family party.

Beth and I had been dating for just a couple months, and it was time to meet her family.

There were several dozen uncles, aunts, and cousins. The gathering was loud, full of laughter, food, drink, and good cheer. I felt at home immediately.

Near the end of the party I met one of Beth’s uncles. Though an older man, he still had a square jaw, buzz cut, large, powerful hands, and a spark of mischief in his eyes.

We were standing in his house, near the kitchen table, laden with food.

He leaned over to grab another cookie, took a bite, then said, "Do you know what I do when I meet someone for the first time, John?"

No, sir. Tell me. "Well, John, I always turn sideways."

He turned sideways.

"I cock my left hand."

He made a tight fist.

"That way I am ready in case the person tries to swing at me. I can swing, hit him first, and drop him."

There was an awkward silence.

"Do you understand?"

He kept eating the cookie as I nodded yes. Eyeing that left fist of his, I asked. So, you're saying, sir, that every time you meet someone for the first time you're ready for a fight?

"That's right. And I'd drop him to the ground. There would be nothing he could do about it. Just nothing he could do about it."

If we dwell in a place of fear, we’ll never go anywhere.

Now he wasn't sharing this statement as a way to intimidate me, but instead as some advice he considered valuable.

He was an amazing man and we miss his sweetness and idiosyncrasies.

But he grew up in a tough neighborhood, lived during the Depression, had fought in a war, and the residue of those experiences shaped every new encounter he faced.

Can you imagine going through life that way? Can you imagine every time you meet someone making a fist getting ready to throw down? Can you imagine every time you shake someone's hand you have your left hand clinched ready to swing?

It's outrageous.

But while we may laugh at this story, most of us are more like him than we'd like to admit.

We occasionally start our day with our fists clinched ready to throw down. We sometimes greet others with our shields up, masks on, prepared for war. We can become used to greeting adversity and opportunity, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the sunshine and the rainstorms--not with an open heart on fire with love, but with one frozen shut by fear.

Now, fear can be a good thing.

We should fear touching something hot, letting someone down, a hungry lion. In my faith, even the fear of God is a good thing as it propels believers away from something destructive and toward something life-giving.

Fear is part of our human experience and necessary for our survival. The goal, though, is not to stay in a fear-based mentality. If we dwell in a place of fear, we'll never get anywhere…



Let me reiterate that last line: If we dwell in a place of fear, we'll never get anywhere. Want an actionable way to choose LOVE over fear in your life today? Listen to my most recent Live Inspired Podcast #125 here to get practical tips on how to choose love and strengthen your relationships with keen insights from psychologist, professor and co-founder of eHarmony Dr. Les Parrott.

Sometimes we greet others with shields up, prepared for war. Today, choose instead to greet adversity and opportunity, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the sunshine and the rainstorms with an open heart on fire with love.

What is your greatest life lesson? Please share in the comments!

The post My Greatest Life Lesson to Date appeared first on John O'Leary.

Live Inspired Podcast: Ask John (Monday Moments ep. 151)
John O'Leary answers a Live Inspired community member’s question on Live Inspired Podcast’s Monday Moments.Join me every Monday for a quick burst of inspiration on our "Monday Moments" segments.Subscribe & listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, iHeartRadio or listen here:Today’s question was submitted by Live Inspired com...
Read More
What Makes Someone the Most Influential Photographer on the Internet?
John introduces us to the most influential photographer in the world Jeremy Cowart and his amazing work – photographing the Obama’s and Taylor Swift, and more inspiring: using photography for social good.Recently a friend recommended a guest I should have on my Live Inspired Podcast. He said, “Jeremy Cowart is themost influential photographer in...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Most Influential Photographer on the Internet (Jeremy Cowart ep. 150)
Named the “Most Influential Photographer on the Internet”, Jeremy Cowart shares astonishing stories behind his life-changing work with John O’Leary on the Live Inspired Podcast.Jeremy Cowart is the most influential photographer on the internet by Huffington Post. His photographs of Sting, the Obamas and Taylor Swift are fantastic, but what's tru...
Read More
Why Not Both?
John shares how one man is living inspired by choosing to wear both a uniform and a cape. Learn what this meant for his kids… and what it means for you in your life.[Share on Facebook.] | [Tweet this.]One of my very favorite groups to partner with is Focus Marines.They serve wounded veterans struggling with PTSD from every branch of military. Th...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Mother's Day: A Tribute (Monday Moments ep. 149)
John O'Leary reflects on Mother’s Day and the important role his mother, Susan O’Leary has played on the Live Inspired Podcast.Join me every Monday for a quick burst of inspiration on our "Monday Moments" segments.Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed. – Linda WootenMy ...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: What Drives Happiness? (How to 'Hygge' ep. 148)
Meik Wiking of The Happiness Research Institute joins John O’Leary on the Live Inspired Podcast to share fascinating insights and practical steps to live a happier, more inspired life today.What drives happiness? Actually, what is happiness?It sounds so vague, like "puppy dogs and rainbows," doesn't it? Well, today, we’re going to define it, get...
Read More
Have You Said It?
John shares the amazing, inspired story behind Walker Haye’s hit song “Craig” – which has John asking the question: Have you said it?How do you thank someone who made a profound difference in your life?We've all been elevated through the manner in which she raised us, the encouragement he gave us, the example they provided us. But how do you ack...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Mission to Find Happiness (Monday Moments ep. 147)
John O'Leary previews Thursday’s Live Inspired Podcast guest Meik Wiking.We’ve been producing these Live Inspired Podcast Monday Moment segments for two months. I hope they’re giving you a quick burst of inspiration to start your week ON FIRE.Today I share a preview of this Thursday’s guest Meik Wiking, founder + CEO of The Happiness Research In...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Country Music Star Walker Hayes on Being a "Craig" (ep. 146)
John O’Leary welcomes country music singer-songwriter Walker Hayes to share his unlikely path to the top of the music charts on the Live Inspired Podcast.Singer-songwriter Walker Hayes shares his unlikely path to the top of the Country Music Billboard charts. You'll hear the stories behind the songs on his latest album, boom., like platinum-hit ...
Read More
5 Ways to Manage Your Terrible, Horrible Day
John O’Leary shares 5 ways to manage your terrible, horrible days that he learned from bestselling author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Judith Viorst.My friend, have you ever had a day where it seems every little thing that could go wrong did go wrong?The alarm clock forgot to ring.The milk was expired at breakfa...
Read More