The Transformational Power of Traumatic Events - My Instruction Manual

The Transformational Power of Traumatic Events

I’m fascinated at how tragedy can be positive force for change, how traumatic events can lead people to live their lives to the fullest.

Over the past few years, I’ve experienced multiple traumatic events.

First, my second son was born with a rare genetic condition which makes it hard for him to walk and talk. As a parent, this was devastating.

A few years later, I lost my dad to cancer.

And then a year ago, I learned that my kidneys were failing. But I got a second chance at life when my little sister donated one of her kidneys to me.

This generous gift made me want to live my life to the fullest. And now I want to help others live better lives too.

The good news is you don’t need to wait for a life-changing event to change your life. You can learn from what others have gone through.

I’m reading two books now which tell stories of people who decided to make it their life’s work to help others after going through traumatic events.

On Fire by John O’Leary

John O’Leary was just nine-years old when he accidentally exploded a gas canister that resulted in second degree burns on nearly every inch of his body. Doctors thought it would be impossible for him to survive, but somehow he did.

In his book On Fire, O’Leary recounts this story and talks about how this incident shaped the rest of his life. As an adult, he spends his days helping others change their lives through public speaking.

How Would Love Respond by Kurek Ashley

In How Would Love Respond, former Hollywood actor Kurek Ashley writes about working as a stuntman for the movie Delta Force 2. He got $400 in danger pay each time he went up in a helicopter while filming in the Philippines.

He made dozens of trips in the chopper over a few weeks of filming. Then one time he was told to stay on the ground because he wasn’t needed in the shot. The helicopter went up without him, and then crashed into a valley, killing five colleagues including one of his best friends.

The trauma made him a suicidal cocaine addict, but he came out the other side stronger. Now he works in Australia leading sessions to help other people to change their lives for the better.

I chatted with Kurek last night for an interview for the soon-to-be-launched My Instruction Manual podcast. He’s a great storyteller and you won’t want to miss our chat.

The first episodes of the podcast are going live in the next few days.

Please sign up for my mailing list to be the first to know when the show goes live and to get some behind-the-scenes info about the podcast and other things I’m working on. As a thank you, for signing up, I’ll also send you my Ten-Step Happiness Checklist.

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  1. What an inspirational post! Thank you for sharing. I’m so glad to have not only met you but to see that you are doing well and happy in your life amid are the obstacles. You said it best: people shouldn’t have to realize the fragility of life only when something happens – they can cherish it vicariously through others. I went through a rough summer myself but it was more to do with financial strains and then I recently found out that a close family friend had been diagnosed with cancer around the same time in the summer that I was worrying about money. Just really put things in perspective for me. Thank you for suggesting those two books, I will look into them and share them on my social media feeds as well.

    • It’s true Sarah… no matter how bad things get, there’s always someone who has it worse. Good for you to find some perspective even though your own stresses must have been very difficult!

  2. I agree with Sarah, this is really inspirational. You are very correct – people don’t need to wait for a traumatic event in their life in order to get motivation to life more ‘full’ and make positive changes

  3. Inspiring post! It is indeed rather sad that most people wait for this event to happen in their lives to make a change. I guess getting through bad times just makes you realize all the great things you already have and can still achieve.

    • Very true Emma! Before my kidney transplant, I felt like an old man. I was so sick and tired I could imagine personal growth. Now I feel so much younger and feel like I have so much room to grow!

  4. Last night I got a devastating phone call… my best friend suddenly lost her dad–he was on a tropical vacation and drowned. My heart instantly broke and right now I just can’t seem to find the words to console her.

    The things is, we became best friends by bonding over both our fathers when we realised they were very similar. We’d talk about our dads constantly. His sudden passing and her reaction made me realise how much more I need to make time and cherish the loved ones in my life.

    You’re right, traumatic experiences do change the way we see life. Great post.
    I am absolutely looking forward to your podcast and being a part of it.

    • Candace, I’m so sorry to hear about your friend’s father. But yes, these huge losses can help us remember what we have.

  5. I enjoyed reading this, and I have heard of one of the books you mentioned. I feel as though people don’t recognize the traumatic experiences they may go through, especially when people perceive trauma differently. I am sorry for your loss and about your son, but I believe that you will be able to still be a great father nonetheless. I too have had trauma in my life, and it took a while but I learned to live with it and work through it in order to better myself.
    Good luck with your podcast I look forward to it!

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