The Foundation for Success

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to host a luncheon with a featured
 speaker who shared a message that I will not soon forget. John O’Leary
 delivered a very emotional and powerful talk on the qualities of true 
leadership. It forced us all to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we
 are demonstrating these qualities in our own lives.

As a 9-year-old boy, John was burned on over 98 percent of his body and
 given less than a one percent chance to live. But despite the odds, he 
overcame those challenges to become a college graduate, a business owner, a
 chaplain, the Ambassador for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the first inductee 
into the Energizer “Keep Going” Hall of Fame, an international speaker, a 
husband and a father.

Through it all, John had the eternal support of his family, nurses, friends 
and community leaders who touched his life and made him want to fight to
 survive. He related this unforgettable story to everyone in the audience and
 demonstrated how we can all take these challenges and use them for the
 foundation for success in our personal and professional lives.

While John’s hurdles and setbacks outweigh most of ours, I could certainly
 relate to his story because I have had my fair share of challenges along the
 way, business ventures that didn’t work out, bad economies, illness. you name 
it. But as CEO of a company, it is my job to weather these storms and
 continue to inspire my team to work hard, even when the payoff is hard to
 see. Sometimes the challenge can seem as difficult as learning to walk 
again, but as John has proved, one step at a time is the only way to do it.

At firstPRO, we have always worked from a plan. Not a five year plan, but a 
two year plan. Then we implement those steps. We’ll come to a cross roads and
 then ask, ‘Does this fit into my next two year plan?’ It helps you to not
 veer off course and to stay focused. It makes the bigger plan much more

When I began my career, I really had to sell people on the concept of 
staffing and recruiting because so few people knew about it. I heard a lot
 of people tell me no, and I hit a lot of dead ends, but I wanted it badly 
and I believed in what I was doing. Never underestimate how hard it is to 
build a company or how much time you will have to devote. In a bad market, 
it’s a lot of sacrifices. When it’s your business, you’re the one who has to 
be in the earliest and stay the latest. The challenges are huge, but I
 always knew I would make it to the other side.

John O’Leary reinforced a message that I learned long ago. Nothing 
worthwhile is ever easy. After his accident, all of John’s fingers needed to 
be amputated. When his hero, Jack Buck, heard his story, he sent John an
 autographed baseball from Ozzie Smith. He told John that if he would like
 another one, he must first write a thank you note for the first baseball.
 John persevered and did this until he had over 50 baseballs.

John ended his presentation with two questions we all need to ask ourselves.
‘Who is your “Jack”?’ and ‘Who are you a “Jack” to?’ I challenge you to ask 
yourself those questions today.

 So much is achievable, and you can have it all if you position yourself 
correctly. A true leader knows this and can accomplish this with drive,
 determination and integrity. After 23 years in this business, I know that 
much is true.

By April Fawcett Nagel

Share this Article