John O’Leary is a wanted man (in a good way). He began speaking in 2005 to a total of eight organizations and since then has partnered with more than 850 organizations in 46 states and nine countries.
O’Leary is wanted because his message resonates and impacts, motivates and drives. His personal story is one of overcoming a 100% burned body at nine-years-old to achieve success in sharing a message of will, spirit and determination. Those are also the same attributes he talks to audiences about in their professional lives and how they can attain success and significance.
IAVM is fortunate to have O’Leary as a keynote speaker at VenueConnect in July in New Orleans. In advance of meeting and addressing the IAVM audience, O’Leary spent some time visiting on a number of topics.
Tell us how you came up with the idea of The Victor’s Song, what it is and what it means to people.
We live in a society that broadcasts louder than ever all the negativity we face. The focus in headlines, blogs, financial reports and political debates is always centered on the negative. It’s no surprise, then, that the same negativity appears in our lives. There are high levels of stress, depression, complacency and disengagement. The Victor’s Song celebrates the beautiful choice we have each day to sing a different song; to sing out of hope, possibility and love. It is a choice to live, serve and lead forward as a true victor. It changes lives and businesses around us, but it must begin from within.
Your background is obviously an inspiring one. Share some of that to help us get to know you better.
I’ve been blessed with a truly wonderful life. I am a business owner, hospital chaplain, father and husband. Six years ago, though, my mom and dad wrote a story about an experience we had never shared with anyone. It was the story of how I was burned as a nine-year-old child. It was an experience I had always kind of ignored or hidden from, but after reading their book, their story and coming from their heart, it encouraged me to embrace the scars and share my story, too. I am now fortunate to travel the world sharing the story of the power of one; it’s the freedom we each possess to take back our life, ignite our possibility and change our world.
What is a primary takeaway you like to leave your audiences with?
“The message I want to convey … is that there is reason for great hope”
We live in a world that has never been as safe, as connected, as wealthy or as free. But if you’d follow the news cycles you would be convinced we are just about at the end of the line. The message I want to convey with any audience, and in particular the leaders from IAVM, is that there is reason for great hope. We have an incredible opportunity to stand up and make a difference for others, grow our own businesses and lives, and celebrate the truth the best days remain in front of us, not behind us.
Is there a particular message for our audience?
In addition to what I mentioned, I will be really focused on reminding them of the value of their lives, their business, their leadership and their work. They really do make a difference. We are grateful, and we’ll be celebrating all they do.
Since Hurricane Katrina, there have been several “victor” stories as New Orleans rebuilds. What strikes you about this community and its resolve in adversity?
You’ve likely never heard a great “victory story” from someone who doesn’t face adversity. If Goliath had destroyed little David, we would be talking about the story 2,500 years later! No, it’s when individuals, teams, organizations and entire communities pull together, work together, fight together and overcome that we celebrate their work. New Orleans could have been left for dead after Hurricane Katrina, and no one would have blamed them all for leaving. Instead, they have bounced back in ways unfathomable. It’s truly a beautiful story of love and courage. I can’t wait to be back in New Orleans with IAVM and celebrate together!