A Conversation with John O'Leary, Author of "On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life"

John O'Leary, author of

John O'Leary, author of "On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life"

Gannon University will welcome author John O’Leary to discuss his book, On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life, at the Warner Theatre on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. as part of the Gannon READS program.

On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life is an “account of triumph over tragedy” following a devastating house fire at the age of nine that led to burns on 100% of O’Leary’s body. O’Leary shares in his book the insights he gained through this tragic experience; the family, medical staff, strangers and other heroes who inspired him to live despite the odds; and his “reflection on the seven life-giving choices he made that ensured his survival and ability to live a radically inspired life.”

O’Leary is an internationally acclaimed speaker, bestselling author, and renowned podcast host, and has motivated hundreds of thousands of people to live inspired. We invited O’Leary to share some thoughts with us.

Q: Why did you say yes to the invitation to visit Gannon University?

A: I am super fortunate to speak at a significant number of events for working professionals. More than a hundred times a year I get to speak with individuals no longer in school at venues from 20,000 at a sales conference to a dozen executives in a boardroom. It’s always a blast and an honor. But I can think of no group more likely to actually change the world than college students. They have passion for life, belief in possibilities, desire to impact, palpable resiliency and a natural network to tap into. They are at a critical point in their life when they have tons of knowledge and wisdom, but aren’t so indoctrinated with preconceived notions or burdened with obligations as to keep them from making a mighty pivot forward in their lives. They are free to live any life they want to and touch as many lives as they dream possible going forward. To have an opportunity to speak with them at Gannon, in Erie, is simply awesome.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the message you will give Tuesday night? 

A: One person can change the world. For the most part, we believe this to be true. Sure, Mother Theresa or Gandhi or Lincoln or MLK changed the world. But I think we frequently miss the reality that we are the ones called to change the world. It starts with the person staring back at you in the mirror. I will be sharing my perspectives on the value of their education, their experiences, their thoughts, their beliefs, and their actions. They are called to be world changers. I get to remind them that it’s possible!  

Q: Why do you want Gannon to hear this message? 

A: I went to a four-year catholic university located on an urban campus in a mid-sized city just a few hours’ drive to other larger, better-known cities. It wasn’t until years after I graduated that I realized how remarkable our community, education, outreach and fellow students actually were. I want those at Gannon University to be incredibly proud and grateful for where they go to school, the opportunities ahead of them, and the limitless possibility within them. With so much negativity in media and social media, I want to remind these students there remains great reason for optimism. 

Q: What excites you about coming to Erie, Pennsylvania?

A: I love the city where I went to school and where I live. But friends who have lived in Erie share that it feels very similar to our own community. Similar history, similar values, similar challenges and similar opportunities. Having been to Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cleveland and all around the Great Lakes, I am excited to land right in the middle of it all and explore all that Erie has to offer. 

Q: After having read your book, what is one thing about you that you think would be surprising to me?

A: Perhaps most surprising… is that I am actually the kind of guy who keep things to himself. I didn’t used to be the kind of guy who raised his hand, who lifted his voice or who shared his heart. But that’s changed dramatically. Now, I don't do a thing to draw attention to me. I share my voice and life in the hopes of reminding readers, podcast listeners or audience members of the power and gift within their stories.

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