Why Scars are worth more than degrees

Shay Eskew
October 18, 2014

Shay Eskew

Childhood Burn Survivor, Ranked Top 1% Ironman Triathlete, Best-Selling Author and Motivational Speaker

It has always been said life is our greatest teacher. I'm a believer scars tell a story. I was fortunate enough to earn a Doctorate from the School of Hard Knocks in 1982 at the age of 8. With burns and burn related scarring over 65% of my body, the life of a normal kid was not a reality. The severity of the burns resulted in my right arm being melted to my side, physically impossible to lift my arm over my head. I had to learn how to write left handed to resume my school responsibilities as a 3rd grader. My neck was permanently stuck at a 45 degree angle, impossible to hold my head up straight or turn to the left. To remedy the initial scarring, skin was harvested from both my legs (half my left leg and my complete right leg, all the way around). As I continued to grow and the burn scar contractures worsened over the years, more skin was harvested from my back, buttocks and my stomach and sewn into my neck and arm. I had to wear custom plastic braces on my face, neck and chest as well as a full-body compression suit that went from my ankles to my neck to my wrists for 3 years, 22 hours a day. As you can imagine, I was quite a site. Everywhere I went, kids as well as adults, stared, commented and often turned their head in disgust from the scars with the occasional "ewww gross, look at him."

As I resumed school, kids affectionately began calling me Freddie Krueger, the burnt serial killer who attacked his victims in their dreams. Little did I know they were helping me become a confident man who didn't rely on the affirmation of others for self worth. Daily actions like getting dressed or combing my hair required assistance - not to mention my right ear had been amputated due to gangrene. Doctors had already told me I'd never be competitive in sports again. Little did I know they were giving me the motivation to become an All American Triathlete 30 years later. The scars on my face and neck made dating impossible and made the thought of marriage and fatherhood just a fairly tale. Little did I know it was only preparing me to find the perfect woman who'd see me for the person God wanted me to become, not to mention blessing me with 5 beautiful and healthy kids.

32 years later as I see my scars in the mirror daily, I am reminded these scars will never go away but nor do I want them too. I am reminded daily that adversity is my friend. He is the teacher of life who doesn't accept resumes or transcripts, but rather personally seeks you out based on your unique qualifications and purpose in life. I am reminded that physical beauty fades with time, but integrity, work ethic and compassion last a lifetime. Although the School of Hard Knocks doesn't give you a diploma to hang on your wall, it does give you the daily satisfaction that "Anything is Possible" with hard work and sacrifice.

As a father of 5, including an 8yr old girl, I remind myself not to remove their struggles in life. I try to reinforce that their struggles are minuscule in comparison to others and to always be thankful. I remind myself it's ok for them to fail, because they only truly fail if they don't pick themselves up and try again. Although I pray they never endure what I've faced, I pray they understand our greatest disappointments in life often bring the bring the greatest joys but...we must have the patience and determination to continue on our journey until those blessings come to fruition.


Source: LinkedIn

Shay Eskew

Want Shay Eskew for your next event?

Find out more information, including fees and availability.
Find Out More
Keep Reading
What the Fire Ignited: Inspiring father of 10
Shay Eskew
Shay Eskew
January 01, 2019
Let 2019 be the year of opening your heart to new challenges: mental, physical and spiritual. ...
What the Fire Ignited: Man to be admired
Shay Eskew
Shay Eskew
December 31, 2018
"He who has a why to live can bear almost any how." I learned this from my dad. He grew up hard and ...
The power of changing ONE HABIT.
Shay Eskew
Shay Eskew
September 08, 2015
Situation:30 pounds overweight, working 60 hours/week, 1 income and job in jeopardy, 2 kids under 2, barely ...
What the Fire Ignited: Inspiring father of 10
Let 2019 be the year of opening your heart to new challenges: mental, physical and spiritual. This week's book recipient defines meeting an unfathomable challenge - adopting 7 siblings 2-12 years of age. Wilson Kanaday knew from an early age God wanted him to raise a big family...he never dreamed raising 10 kids was the plan. After having their ...
Read More
What the Fire Ignited: Man to be admired
"He who has a why to live can bear almost any how." I learned this from my dad. He grew up hard and extremely poor - lived in 1st government housing project in the US, even slept in a school bus with his brother (Uncle Steve) one winter. By the age of 9 he was working to support the family. He never complained "life's not fair"; he simply did wh...
Read More
The power of changing ONE HABIT.
Situation:30 pounds overweight, working 60 hours/week, 1 income and job in jeopardy, 2 kids under 2, barely "making ends meet";, stress extremely high, "too busy"; to work out and often feeling overwhelmed. Situation sound familiar? What if changingONE HABITcould alter your life forever...in a good way? What if by changing one habit you could t...
Read More
5 steps to confidence… Burn survivor to top 5% ranked Ironman Athlete
One of the greatest gifts you can give a child or anyone for that matter is confidence. It's not easily bestowed. It is acquired through years of experience, both successes and failures. I'm a believer there is no better life teacher than losing. Trust me, I've done my share of losing and absolutely hate it. I'm a gracious loser but I will go ...
Read More
Why Scars are worth more than degrees
It has always been said life is our greatest teacher. I'm a believer scars tell a story. I was fortunate enough to earn a Doctorate from the School of Hard Knocks in 1982 at the age of 8. With burns and burn related scarring over 65% of my body, the life of a normal kid was not a reality. The severity of the burns resulted in my right arm being ...
Read More