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
Thank you for reading this
John O'Leary
John O'Leary
January 27, 2020
Stop thinking of gratitude as a byproduct of your circumstances and start thinking of it as a world view.– Bryan ...
Live Inspired Podcast: Share Your Story (Monday Moments ep. 223)
John O'Leary
John O'Leary
January 27, 2020
On this week’s Live Inspired Podcast Monday Moment segment, John O’Leary shares ...
Live Inspired Podcast: Escaping Modern Slavery: Rebecca Bender's Resilient Journey (ep. 222)
John O'Leary
John O'Leary
January 23, 2020
John O’Leary welcomes human trafficking survivor ...
Thank you for reading this
Stop thinking of gratitude as a byproduct of your circumstances and start thinking of it as a world view.– Bryan Robles Remember when you were little and getting the mail was actually exciting? Remember skipping from the mailbox, letter held high, anticipation building? Within the envelope existed the possibility of a note from a grandparent wit...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Share Your Story (Monday Moments ep. 223)
On this week’s Live Inspired Podcast Monday Moment segment, John O’Leary shares the story of a Holocaust survivor.Join me every Monday for a quick burst of inspiration on our "Monday Moment" segment.Subscribe & listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, iHeartRadio or listen here:Today I share the amazing story and life of a ...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Escaping Modern Slavery: Rebecca Bender's Resilient Journey (ep. 222)
John O’Leary welcomes human trafficking survivor Rebecca Bender to the Live Inspired Podcast to share her triumphant + resilient journey.Human trafficking is a massive, worldwide problem. It’s estimated that between 20 and 40 million people are in this form for modern slavery, and our communities are not exempt.Today I welcome survivor Rebecca B...
Read More
IN STUDIO - Webcast #33 THE BLUEPRINT OF SUCCESS
IN STUDIO - Webcast #33 THE BLUEPRINT OF SUCCESS: Utilizing the promise of your life to build something bigger than your life Our next webcast #34 is on Monday, February 10 (one week early!) at 10:30 AM CST. If you are unable to attend, you can access the video & ongoing discussions here 24/7. Need […] To access this post, you must purchase...
Read More
Martin Luther King Jr. and his courage to step up
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.– Martin Luther King Jr. One entire wall in my office is covered with pictures of family and friends. On another wall are photographs of individuals I've interviewed, who make a difference, and who I respect. And there is a wall of historically important individuals: These ar...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: How Martin Luther King Jr. Inspires Me (Monday Moments ep. 221)
On this week’sLive Inspired Podcast Monday Moment segment, John O’Leary shares how Martin Luther King Jr. inspires him.Join me every Monday for a quick burst of inspiration on our "Monday Moment" segment."I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Subscribe & listen onApple Podcasts, S...
Read More
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