John O’Leary is an internationally acclaimed speaker, the #1 bestselling author of On Fire, and the host of the renowned Live Inspired podcast, where he inspires hundreds of thousands of people to truly live.
Below, John shares 5 key insights from his new book, In Awe: Rediscover Your Childlike Wonder to Unleash Inspiration, Meaning, and Joy. Download the Next Big Idea App to enjoy more audio “Book Bites,” plus Ideas of the Day, ad-free podcast episodes, and more.
1. Reclaim a sense of wonder.
At age nine, I was caught in a house fire and sustained third-degree burns on 87% of my body. As a result, doctors had to amputate my fingers—and yet, five months later, my mom invited our piano teacher back into the house, and I still learned to play the piano. To children, everything seems possible because they approach the world with a sense of wonder. They are experiencing life for the first time, so they have tons of questions: Why not? What if? Is there a better way? By showing us the power of this mindset, children teach us not only that their lives are ripe with opportunity and optimism, but that ours can be as well.
2. To change your results, change your expectations.
As a young man, Andre Norman was sentenced to 25 years in prison for armed robbery. He had made every bad decision in the book—but while in solitary confinement, Andre had a vision that he would learn to read, get out of prison, and one day teach at Harvard. Many years later, that’s exactly what happened. In our own lives, we tend to focus solely on results—our company’s P&L, our waistline, how much money we’re saving. But we must recognize that what we think will happen will go on to influence our words and our actions. Indeed, a change in outcome begins with a change in beliefs and expectations.
“When you are working, work. When you are playing, play. When you are resting, rest. Be fully immersed in your life.”
3. Fully immerse yourself in your life.
When kids are at school, the ring of a bell tells them when to leave one class and move on to another. They have distinct spatial and temporal boundaries between tasks, whereas adults spend a lot of their time multitasking. They think that the more things they have in front of them, the more they can get accomplished—but all the research shows that the more we try to multitask, the less effective we are at doing what matters most. So when you are working, work. When you are playing, play. When you are resting, rest. Be fully immersed in your life.
4. Inspire a sense of belonging.
On her first day of kindergarten, my daughter Grace walked up to me with one of her new little friends. This friend looked at me with great concern, and she asked Grace, “What’s wrong with your dad’s hands? They look like puppy dog hands.” Grace replied, “He was burned when he was a little boy, but he’s all better now.” This little girl then looked into my eyes and said, “I’m glad you’re all better now.” In moments like this, children remind us that yes, there are differences between us. But we must not hide from them—call them out, then connect with them and move forward together. While society often measures value based on one’s bank account or number of followers, the gift of belonging—the ability to authentically, lovingly, and effectively connect to those around us—is far more important.
5. Embrace your freedom.
Just a year after the house fire, and still barely able to stand and jog, my childhood soccer coach called me off the bench for the final shot of a game. I kicked the ball with everything I had, somehow scored, and won the game for my team—but that’s not the important part. Victory came when the coach redefined what victory looked like. While every other coach might have gone for the simple win, he was striving for a far greater success—a little boy, barely able to support his own weight, making his way onto the field. So embrace the freedom that comes with redefining what success and significance look like. That freedom will set you apart, and will ensure that your best days remain ahead of you.
For more Book Bites, download the Next Big Idea App today: