Ashley [9:20 AM]

Ep. 93: Seeing Good in the Darkest Moments with John O’Leary

Jan 20, 2020

Ep. 93: Seeing Good in the Darkest Moments with John O’Leary

The incredible John O’Leary, bestselling author of the book On Fire and motivational speaker, is here to take a deep dive into choosing to see the good even in the darkest moments. And he definitely knows about overcoming darkness and defeating the odds!

At just nine years old, John decided to play with fire—literally. After accidentally setting the garage and himself alight, John’s fear kicked in and he did the worst thing possible: he ran. (That typical childhood training to stop, drop, and roll doesn’t always kick in when you’re terrified for your life!) Luckily, his older brother had the presence of mind to grab a rug and use it to extinguish the three-foot flames leaping out from John before evacuating his other siblings from the burning house and calling 911.

With burns over 100% of his body, young John wasn’t expected to even survive the night. But he did. He made it through months in a hospital bed, dozens of surgeries, and years of therapy. And while I’d like to be able to say that he made a full recovery, real life isn’t always kind; John lost all of his fingers to amputation before his 10th birthday.

John doesn’t want you to feel sorry for him, though! As he explains, this tragedy was actually the beginning, not the ending; it gave him the gift of realizing that no matter what happens to you, you always have the choice of how to respond.

Tune into this episode to hear John’s powerful and inspirational words of wisdom. He shares the incredible story of his first interactions with his parents after the accident (when he expected to be in trouble for setting the house on fire, and instead was met with powerful words of love). You’ll hear about the brilliant strategies that his parents used to empower John and give him the ultimate certainty that he would recover and go home. And we’ll talk about the value of tracking steps to success along the way, how finding specific reasons for gratitude can change your life, and one question that you should be answering every single night.


[00:47] – This episode of Do It Scared is brought to you by Elite Blog Academy! Right now, you can also have a (free!) copy of Ruth’s bestselling book How to Blog for Profit (Without Selling Your Soul).
[01:34] – We hear a brief introduction to who Ruth is before she introduces today’s guest, the motivational speaker John O’Leary.
[04:55] – John shares a bit of his story, telling listeners who he is and how he got to where he is today.
[07:28] – We hear about how John’s emergency changed his older brother’s life as well as his own.
[08:52] – What happened next? Ruth expresses her eagerness to hear the rest of John’s story. In response, John pivots to talking about his parents.
[11:54] – John’s dad’s love that day is what made the journey possible, John explains.
[12:40] – Ruth backs things up a bit, teasing out some of the nitty-gritty details of John’s story, including whether he could feel pain when he was completely burned.
[15:33] – Could John talk on the day when he had his incident despite the burns over 100% of his body? He answers, then shares the meaningful interaction he had with his mom.
[18:09] – John talks about his parents’ perspective and experience during his incident and recovery period.
[20:40] – What helped John stay motivated throughout his ordeal?
[24:47] – We learn about whether there was a point when John felt sorry for himself or just wanted to forget what he had been through.
[26:57] – Most of us have something in the past that we’re not talking about or feel resentful of, Ruth points out.
[31:35] – John has said that if he had the choice, he would do it all over again. He explains why this is the case.
[35:26] – We learn about the concept of an inflection point, why it matters, and how someone might recognize one in their own life.
[37:20] – How did John’s marriage come about? As he answers, his beautiful adoration for his wife shines through.
[41:23] – John shares some words of wisdom for people who have lost a relationship or a marriage.
[42:20] – We hear about John’s thoughts on Ruth’s Fear Assessment, including which fear archetype he got as his result. He and Ruth then chat about the difficulty of taking an assessment accurately.
[45:05] – What’s next for John? What is he working on now?
[46:37] – Ruth was recently doing a coaching session, and explains that she finds that the older we get, the less magic and self-belief we have.
[49:25] – What is the best piece of advice that John has ever received, and why?
[52:05] – John shares some final words, and talks about where people can find him online.
[53:48] – Ruth would love to hear from you with ideas, thoughts, questions, or anything else you want to share! Reach out to her by email at or message her on Instagram. Finally, please take a moment to review this podcast and subscribe on iTunes!