From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Extraordinary Teens
BY: Motivational Expert and Author of Get Off Your But
It's never too late, or too soon, to get off your "BUT" and stand.
- Born with a rare condition called, osteogenesis imperfecta, a.k.a. brittle bones disorder
- Authored 3 books by age 21
- Has traveled to 47 states and 6 countries to speak to audiences since 1996
- Has appeared on WGN News, CBS News, CNN News, C-SPAN, the Discovery Health Channel, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Oprah Winfrey Show and many more
- Sean graduated with High Honors from DePaul University
- Board certified therapist
- The youngest individual to ever be invited on the Board of Directors of The National Association for Self-Esteem
When I was born the doctors told my parents that I had about twenty-four hours to live. I was diagnosed with a rare condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, otherwise known as brittle bone disorder. At birth, almost every bone in my body was broken and the medical complications that accompanied such a condition were daunting. The prognosis was grim and it was very unlikely that I would survive... but that was thirty years ago! I'm happy to say that I've come a long way since then.
I've authored four books, I've traveled to and given talks in forty-seven states and six different countries; I've spoken at the U.S. Senate, hospitals, universities, prisons and Fortune 500 companies; and I've been invited on numerous television shows. Quite frankly, I didn't even know all of this was possible! But all of this "success" has been the result of a gradual evolutionary process for me. You just don't get on big shows and do big things at the age of five! I've had a lot of different challenges to deal with.
For me, this ongoing physical pain, these circumstances, are all I know and have known -- it's not like I got into a devastating motorcycle accident at age eighteen! From a very young age I had to choose to be alive and choose to be positive. I somehow learned to say to myself, "Hey, I get to be on this planet." This life is a fragile gift -- literally! Even by doing something as simple as putting on a pair of pants, I could break a leg, or when something as simple as sneeze comes along I could fracture a rib.
By the time I was in the fourth grade, I already had 200 fractures. I realized that there were certain things I could not do. Activities like playing dodge ball were out of the question because they would cause terrible injuries. Fortunately, my parents did an awesome job of raising me, and they did a lot for me when they said, "Yes, there's a lot you can't do on this planet, but there's a MILLION things that you can do."
I'm willing and able to do a million other things that many other, more able-bodied, people could do, but don't, because they are too lazy or they simply doubt they can even accomplish their dreams. When I was in grade school I had suffered from a serious fractured leg and I was going to have to recover on the living room floor for four to six weeks. To make it worse, this was during Halloween. I was so mad that I was going to miss out on all the candy and parties.
As I was letting my frustrations be known, my mother came over to me and asked a very pivotal question. She said, (after calming me down) "Sean, is this going to be a gift or is it going to be a burden?" At that moment, so many feelings rushed through my mind and I realized that maybe I was put into this body of mine for a reason.
I LOVE my life! And I like being alive, even when there's the possibility of being in excruciating pain at any moment. Every single person alive deals with pain, problems, and distractions. But there is so much that can be accomplished in one's life if they can just focus their attention. Controlling our attention is what ultimately creates the emotions we feel, and thus the actions we take. And we need to recognize that everyone is at different stages in the process of living and I'm the kind of person who likes to know exactly where they're at. That being said, I can pretty much guarantee that people are where they are because of the choices they've made.
Once people take responsibility and ownership (not blame or complain) for their choices and their current position in life, they can then take positive steps forward. I like the statement, Energy flows where attention goes. I found that if I focused on what stinks in my life, then I would always get more of what stinks. And if I focused on what I could do and wanted to do, then my personal world would begin to change in a positive direction. Good things show up in the lives of those who focus on what is good in life. Believe me, this isn't a woo-woo-crazy concept. It works! But remember, once you're in the right place mentally, you must take action -- you actually have to do something.
One of my favorite statements is, "It's time to stand!" Basically, this means that people need to get off their "BUT" and activate themselves -- that's the only way to get to the next level of performance. We all have "buts" in our lives in the form of our fears. For example: "But what if I fail?" "But there's not enough time!" "But I'm not pretty or smart enough." We all deal with these "buts" (or fears) and the longer we talk about them and think about them, the more comfortable we become with doing nothing.
So how do you get off the buts? Well first you have to be clear about what you want. If you have small goals, you're going to have a small amount of inspiration. You have to say it like you mean it and show up like you want it. The first thing I had to do was get clear about what I wanted so I could determine whether or not I was on or off track. I mean, how can you take a stand if you don't know what you stand for? And we can all do this at any age -- in fact, the earlier the better!
I tell people you need to have a high G.P.A. In other words, you first need a "goal" that defines what you want on this planet. Second, you need to have a "purpose" as in, "Why do you want it? Finally, you'll need a plan of "action" or a to-do list. The next action steps (or the "how") will practically show up on your doorstep once you've secured the goals and the purpose.
Then you must put yourself in an environment that helps you succeed. So many people put themselves in poor environments either physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally and then wonder why they feel confused, frustrated, and depressed. My life changed dramatically once I spent more time around people who got me excited about life and my goals. I'm not saying it's easy, sometimes we need to make tough decisions about our friends.
But this is really important because you become your environment. And don't think that your own willpower can always overcome the social influence, because long term it cannot. In your weakest moment, if you turn to a peer group who wallow on their "buts," they're going to be the first ones to celebrate your low state. For example, they'll be the ones who hand you a cigarette and then with time, you'll become a smoker.
I came up with a simple strategy that helped me a lot. I recognized there were three groups of people: The "A" friends, "B" friends, and "C" friends.
The "A" friends are those you want to be with as much as possible. You can count on them and they will always do what is best for you. These friends are the hard-to-find kind but they can be found in perhaps a neighbor, a teacher, a parent, or even in a book written by a famous person who has long since passed away.
Skipping ahead, the "C" friends are those you want to say, "C YOU LATER" to because they work tirelessly to try and knock you down. They're the types who will say mean things and suck the energy right out of you. Around these people you will feel so drained, and they'll manipulate you into taking physical, emotional, and spiritual risks. Basically, the quality of your life takes a nosedive.
And finally, the "B" group is made up of those you want to Beeeeeeee careful of. These people constitute the largest group of the three, because they are those that haven't made up their minds about whether they are an A or C friend.
I'm not telling you to open up your cell phone and start labeling everyone you know. Simply try to avoid anyone or anything in your life that detracts from your internal drive to persevere. Will you have weak moments? Yes. Will you have times when you're not at the top of your game? Sure! We all have bad days. When I was young and having a pity party for myself, my mom would set a timer and tell me I had fifteen minutes to "get over it." Looking back, it was a really effective technique. It's okay to feel bad, but set a time limit and then get on with your life.
We have a choice to look at situations in our life as a gift or a burden. Two people can go through exactly the same experience and come out feeling completely different. It's all about your interpretation.
Always focus on what you can do and create opportunities that allow your talents to flourish.
My purpose here on earth, I believe, is that I have to show others how to have the kind of love for life that I have. I want others to know that anything is possible. I work daily to help people realize their heartfelt dreams... and that has made a life worth STANDING for.