DAVID LALLY: Welcome to “The Brian Buffini Show” where we explore the mindsets motivation and methodologies of success. My name is David Lally, I’m the producer of the show. I know we may be in challenging times, but that’s just why we’ve been working on shows to keep us upbeat and focused on the good stuff. Let’s listen in.
BRIAN BUFFINI: Top of the morning to you, and welcome to “The Brian Buffini Show.” I’m excited to welcome back to our show today. Our very first guest on the podcast, 220 episodes ago, 9 million downloads ago, we had the great John O’Leary. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to that, I encourage you to go to Episode 2 and hear more of John’s incredible story. There’s a guy that as a nine-year-old boy was burned over 100% of his body. He was given a 1% chance to live, and he’s come back through that and become a profound inspirational character with a great message.
We’ve had him on our stages at Buffini & Company many, many times. We’ve referred them to dozens of organizations we have relationships with when they need someone to really fire up their troops, and really excited to talk about something other than pandemics and setbacks. This is a guy that’s overcome something very, very severe and has lived to tell the tale and troves accordingly and has a great family right there in St. Louis, and a great bunch of kids. He’s just a good man. We’ve been good friends now for a long time.
He’s just written a brand-new book called “In Awe.” John and I were talking offline today, he was like, “What do we want to do here for our audience?” and I go, “I want to talk about something inspiring. I want to talk about something encouraging. I want to talk about something other than politics, media, pandemics, economics. I want to talk about something that really makes life go.” That’s what this is all about. What really brought about the inspiration for writing the book? Where did that come from?
JOHN O’LEARY: Brian, outside of being in your household and being on your stage, what I find with the majority of adult listeners and learners, is that they struggle in life. They endure the day. They find it to be taxing and exhausting. They do more and more with less and less. They feel beat up every single day and that’s by lunch hour. They wait for vacations that don’t come for the next 11 and a half months. It’s like they’re always waiting for life to occur. They’re not living present in the moment. Then, I would leave the stages, leave these arenas, leave these ballrooms and these boardrooms, walk into school buildings. When I’m on the road, and I don’t like room service. I like to work, and I love to be in front of kids.
What I would see in front of these kids, first graders, second graders was unbridled joy. They would skip into the room. They would smile more frequently. They would laugh more easily. When I would ask them questions, their hands would all go up. Usually, before I was done asking the question. They were completely on fire lit up with the possibility of their lives. They were optimistic, Brian. They really did believe that life was good, and the best days were in front of them. Seeing the dichotomy between kids who we all were and adults and many of us are, I wondered what is it that they have? Why do we lose it? How do we return to it?
BUFFINI: Obviously, it is a very interesting position. Many people desire the life of a public speaker without knowing all the costs and challenges involved. One of the hidden challenges, I’ve always believed, is when you’re looking into the eyes of an audience member that so desperately needs what you have. As much as they want to go where you’re going, you know that for many of them, they’re going right back to where they were before. Sometimes, it can be a haunting experience where you know, “My gosh, I know I could help that person but whether I couldn’t reach them, or they just weren’t ready. I don’t know what it is.”
Then you would go and do whether it was these YMCA gigs or these schools or whatever else, and you’d have this contrast between these high-powered corporate meetings with all the AV and giant corporations and all the money behind this, yet, you go into the simple platform with the school and you see something radically different. Here’s the thing, all the people in the ballroom used to be those kids in the school. All the people in the ballroom looking at you arms-folded who want to give it to you but don’t seem to be able to give it to you, they used to be those kids who’d raise their hands before the question was asked.
I would imagine it’s quite a contrast that ultimately, you’d come off your success with your book “On Fire,” and you’ve seen how you could reach people that way too. We were very excited to be part of that launch of that best-selling book. Was “In Awe” this way of, “Hey, I found this other way to reach people. I have this lesson to share. I’m seeing all these young people get lit up. I want to help folks that may be a little burned out, a little frustrated, Henry David Thoreau, “People living quiet lives of desperation.” How can I reintroduce them to that sense of wonder and awe, that childlike faith we often talk about?
O’LEARY: Brian, you’re exactly right. We would hear from older friends who really enjoy these days with your kids because they’re fleeting, pretty soon, they’re going to be gone, not just gone from your house, but gone from your heart. They’re going to pull back. They’re going to raise their hand less frequently. They’re going to smile less often. They’re going to engage less often. I wrote this book not only for the audiences around the world. To be totally candid with you, I wrote it for my four children so that they would remember again as they age who they once were. It’s like the inside of a tree. You can tell what a tree went through when you cut it down, look at the rings.
These kids have joy. They have optimism. They have faithfulness. They have connectivity to themselves and to one another. They don’t have ego. They don’t have a whole lot of stress. They don’t have a whole lot of anxiety. Yet, the days are coming when all that they don’t have, they will have, and all that they currently have, they will lose. I want to make sure they know, and anyone else who cares to find out what remains possible in all of our lives.
BUFFINI: Nice. You talk about five senses in the book, wonder, expectancy, immersion, belonging, and freedom. As it seems to me, the five observations you made of these people who were living in awe. Maybe we could take a few minutes if you have to just– I’d love to go through it. I liked the teaching aspect, as you know. Talk to me about wonder and what you discovered.
O’LEARY: Wonder is probably my favorite. They’re all my favorites. It’s like your kids, which one’s your favorite? The one that’s in front of you who’s asking the question. Wonder is an incredible sense. Wonder, it’s really two-part. One is this idea of first time living. For those of you who either have children, have seen children, or maybe you once worked with a child. Remember the first time you saw a butterfly, or a firefly, or the Pacific Ocean, or a rainbow, or an earthworm.
It doesn’t have to be the big stuff. It’s the little stuff they find profound wonder in all of it. Remember the first time for those of us who have ever stood on an altar, you said the words, “I do.” and the sacredness, the gift of that moment. You believed it. After the honeymoon, after a couple of weeks and a couple of months, it’s, “Honey, I have to.” Remember your first job, how excited you are around that. Then, you lose that sense of wonder, that sense of first-time experience.
I invite our readers back in the book In Awe to remember what it’s like to see something for the first time with a sense of profound gratitude and sacredness for what is in front of you, which then lends itself to the second part, which is asking questions about it. I think we learn in school, Brian, not to ask questions, not to raise your hands high. We actually learned the opposite, that there is one answer to the question. There is no A, B, C, and D put your hand down and answer it. Those who answer right move forward in the class. Those who raise their hand and say, “Where’s E? Why do I have to draw within the line?” are sent principal’s office.
We learn that on the bench in softball. We learn it at home at the dinner table. We learn in life to stop asking questions, stop being full of wonder, and stop to be so inquisitive around why things are the way they are. Is there a better way to operate?
BUFFINI: When you think about it in our recent pandemic, one of the things that was removed was so much of our conveniences, conveniences that we took for granted that we didn’t give a second thought to, presumptions we make. I was driving down the freeway three weeks into the staying at home orders. My bride and I have a van full of groceries. We’re driving down the freeway. There’s no one on the road. Then, these two truckers are on either side of us, loaded to the gills, heading to a grocery store. Man, I was somewhere between a kid and a redneck at a NASCAR race. I started laying into the horn. I roll the window down. I start doing the international symbol for honking the horn. Both of these truckers are pulling the horns down.
It was the first time in my life where I was like, “Man, these trucks are on the road. These cars are too big. They’re kind of dangerous when you drive next to them.” I was filled with this sense of I was so appreciative these dudes are out there getting it done, allowing people to stay at home. They’re delivering groceries so people can get fed. They probably drove all night. When the convenience is removed, wonder can increase. Now is a chance for us to actually instead of where my fast food isn’t fast enough, and the service line is too long. What’s going on? Now, it’s like, “Oh, my gosh, the restaurant’s open.”
Here I was looking at these folks on the freeway. I went to the grocery store that day and I was talking to one of the cashiers. They said, “You know what? It’s been the best time ever to work at a grocery store because normally, you’re the invisible person. You’re just, you’re here, can you get my shopping out of here as quick as I can and swipe my card?”
This one guy said, “I’ve been in the grocery business for 28 years. I’ve heard more thank you’s in the last few weeks than I’ve heard in the last 28 years.” I think the timing is perfect. I think the timing for the book right now is perfect because I think we need a little more wonder. We need to understand the joy of the simple things of life, and to remember those things. As convenience is stripped away, to get back to that state of just being genuinely delighted with something that’s simple.
O’LEARY: Brian, we used to look at the guys on the athletic field and cheer for her, and cheer for him, and cheer for them as the heroes. Those folks have been chased away from the courts and from the fields. Now, you see people quite literally lining up six feet apart outside of hospitals to give health care workers stand ovations. You see people lining up as the truck pulled into the station to applaud the driver, then the person that’s going to unload that into the stores for the work that they do as essential employees, as essential servant, as leaders in life.
It’s so cool that we are redefining now appropriately what real heroism looks like. It’s the right approach. As you know Brian, I got burned 33 years ago. I saw heroes in my life 24 hours a day for five and a half months in the hospital. They weren’t usually the highest-paid ones in the room. It was the custodial workers. It was Lavelle. It was Roy the nurse. It was these ordinary people who were extraordinary. Through their efforts, my life was far better.
BUFFINI: You were given something that forced you to be aware. A very famous friend of mine, he’s a religious leader and he said, “Somewhere inside the infinite love of God, there’s a place for suffering. Somewhere inside that suffering and difficulties, things get stripped away, things get removed, and we get to see the beauty of what is. We get to see the wonder.” I’ll be candid with you. The more successful we’d become or affluent we’d become, the less easy it is to find wonder in anything. What would be a tip for somebody who’s sitting here and hasn’t felt that sense of wonder in a while? What would be something that could help somebody experience that sense of wonder?
O’LEARY: Brian, last time I was in your house we looked west and we saw this body of water. It blew me away. I have a feeling that you and your family, and this is not me judging, it’s just me predicting, we may overlook that frequently when we see it out our window every day. For those of you listening from the mountains, we take for granted what is closest to us almost always whether that’s family, health, freedom, citizenship, wealth, work, pick your trade, man. What is closest to us we often take for granted most frequently.
My highest and best advice around this topic would be to wake up tomorrow morning about an hour earlier than you’re used to, for most of you, that’s going to be around 8:45, nine o’clock. Listen, get up before the sun is up, is the point, get up before the kids are up, get up before the trucks are driving by, and the phone is ringing, and the emails are popping and CNN is broadcasting the bad news of the day. Get up before it all, go out to the porch, look east, and then watch in bewilderment again as the light cuts through the darkness.
We ought to be moved with every sunrise. I think we sleep in, we miss it. If you can sit on your deck with a coffee or tea in hand and watch that light come through the darkness again, and ask yourself the question, “Why me?” Sit there in that silence and as the birds are chirping and God is speaking, write down what you’re hearing, “Why me?” Then, answer it with the words, “I am grateful for my health, my freedom, the ability to hear these birdies singing and that sight lighting into my eyes.” Write down what you’re grateful for, and then take an inventory of what you have, you’re more likely to multiply the very things that matter most.
BUFFINI: Beautiful, by the way, every night our family goes out to watch the sunset, just so you know. We still live in wonder of that. It’s pretty neat. Expectancy, talk to me about expectancy and how does that work?
O’LEARY: There’s a book you’ve read, I’m sure, and many of us have read or heard of, and some of us probably believe in called “The Secret.” The secret is if you shut your eyes and think of something, it happens, and that’s just not true, but here’s what is true, when you shut your eyes and you dream of something, and you start talking about something, you start making phone calls differently and writing thank you letters differently, moving in different directions, and working out, what you thought might happen actually begins to happen in front of you.
That’s not a secret. It’s called movement. Movement is highly underrated. Expectancy is about moving in the direction of the things that you want to see happen. Pharmaceuticals have a tough time with this because whether they put an actual chemical drug out there on the marketplace or a sugar pill, what they find is, in both cases patients get better. That’s the placebo effect, man. Whether you’re taking sugar or you’re taking an actual pill, you’re going to get a little bit better because you’re going to think that it’s going to happen, you’re going to pray that it’s going to happen, you’re going to dream that it’s going to happen, you’re going to start dieting differently, working out differently.
We’re stepping into life completely differently. Kids, this is where it comes back to children and then and how it applies to us. Kids expect beauty all day long. They just expect greatness. They expect today’s going to be Christmas again. Like my son Henry, and right before I was writing this book, and he said, “Dad, How many more days until Christmas? It was December 28th. I’m like, “Oh, brother. It’s like 364, man, 363.” or whatever it is. He goes, “Awesome. Can we make a countdown?” This little man still has wrapping paper tape on his fingers from Christmas morning. He’s still got eggnog on his lips from Christmas morning and he’s already getting ready to do the countdown for the next Christmas morning.
That’s how kids expect great things in their life. What are you expecting that’s great? Because If you’re watching the news right now, you’re expecting death for yourself, for your loved ones, for your family, for your business, and for everybody else around you. I’m begging you right now. Don’t be an expert in the news. They’re there primarily to sell you a bill of lies, keep you paying attention, sell you two minutes of commercials, and then having you hooked in and sunk for the next round.
Listen, life is better seen through your own lens, the lens of truth. Look East, watch that sunrise as Brian and his family do each night, watch it set, and expect great things in your life and in the lives of those you serve, and you love. Just don’t be surprised when you actually move in the direction of making it so.
BUFFINI: That’s great. I love how you say in the book, “Kids bring their baseball glove to the game, and even though there’s thousands of people in the stands, they actually expect they’re going to catch a ball.” Here’s the point. Are we even bringing our glove to the game? Are we even bringing our gloves to the game? Do we have an expectancy that this year could be better than that year, that we can improve, that we can grow, that we can be successful, that we can have that innovation, that we can take our business to the next level, that the marriage can be better, that our relationships can be restored and built with our families.
Are you bringing your glove to the game? I think that’s part of being in awe of life. Nothing makes you appreciate life more than death. When you go to a funeral and you see, “This is it.” It just puts things in perspective. One of the dynamics is, bring your glove to the game, bring your glove to the game of life, show up, and who knows? Somebody’s going to catch a fly ball, it might as well be you. Why not?
O’LEARY: I write in the book a little bit it about Brian, but my son Patrick is the biggest baseball fan I personally know. He’s also the most joyful human being I’ve ever met. The fact that I get to raise him is mind-blowing. He’s an amazing little boy, but as you have the honor of doing, I do as well, which means I get to travel around the country and around the world, and Patrick and all the kids get to choose every summer where they want to go with that. They pick the trip, they book the hotel, they book the museums, they book everything we deal with when we’re on the road, what restaurants we go to, when we go to the pool, when we come back and watch a movie, they book it all.
He always books the city where dad is speaking, and the Cardinals happen to be playing. This is a true story. You can come to my house and talk you through this on the screened porch when you’re ready. Three consecutive years, he’s picked Kansas City, year one, Pittsburgh year too, and Cincinnati last year, year three. Three consecutive years, we’ve driven to these places. Three consecutive years, he’s worn his glove for the entire ride to these stadiums and three consecutive years, I’m not kidding, he has caught a foul ball.
O’LEARY: Now, look, you can say that the greatest luck story of all time, but I’m telling you this. If you don’t bring a glove, it’s less likely you’re going to catch it. If you’re not watching every pitch, it’s less likely you’ll see a ball when it’s racing your way. When the balls come my way, Brian, I duck. There’s my leadership. When the ball comes our way Patrick stands, reaches his glove high, and catches it. Whether you’re in real estate, you’re leading a business for your family, like Brian’s encouraged me, bring your glove. Just don’t be surprised when the ball ends up inside of it.
BUFFINI: Right. Don’t be shocked. The third sense you talked about is immersion. Talk to me about this a little bit.
O’LEARY: Henry, he’s just an amazing boy. He’s got more energy than I will in a million lifetimes. I came home for the book launch two days ago. All of the kids had a special surprise for dad based on one sense. One of them did expectancy, and one of them did wonder, and Henry had immersion, but he couldn’t remember the word. Then he goes, “Wait a second, wait a second. It begins with an E. It begins with an E, immersion. Got it, immersion”
For those who aren’t laughing, immersion begins with an I. Don’t judge the O’Learys with the way we’ve taught our kids how to spell, he got the word right. What immersion ultimately means is being fully engaged in the moment. We think in real estate, we think in business, we think as a family leader that the more things we do, the more we multitask, the more we can get done, but all research points in the opposite direction, that when you are laser-focused, you get far more done.
When you keep your phone off, you get far more done. When you stay focused with the one in front of you, you get far more accomplished. That chapter is a bit about being focused on the thing and the things that actually matter. Going through the process when you were at work, work like a dog, when you’re at home, play like a puppy, and don’t forget to time to rest.
BUFFINI: I love that.
O’LEARY: I think we should be unapologetic when we are having fun, when we are playing, when you and your bride are up walking in the Pacific, watching that sunset, Brian. We should also decide that when we’re at work, we’re not at home, and we’re not with our friends, and we’re not at happy hour. Really laser-focused on seeing how much you can possibly get accomplished during that time, which kids do. When they’re in science, they’re in science, when the bell rings, they go out to recess and they’re playing. They’re not thinking about science. Then, they come back in and they do English and they work hard in English. Then, the bell rings and they eat lunch. Then, they take nappy time.
It’s important that we not try to multitask, but we be focused on the day that matters on the task that matters. Then, ultimately, Brian, making sure that the ladder you’re climbing is leaning up against the right wall. Man, there’d be nothing more miserable to get to the end of your life and realize that you were successful in things that ultimately don’t matter.
BUFFINI: I love it. “Work like a dog. Play like a puppy.” No doubt. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in that area in my life. As you’re an immigrant, you come here with nothing fighting through recessions and setbacks and six kids and all of that stuff, a high sense of drive to start with, and I’ve really had to learn. For me, I’ve had to learn the discipline of play, and just that I have to set it aside. I have to carve it out. What I’ve learned, it’s funny, you talk about immersion, is what I’ve learned when I enjoy my kids most is when I’m into them, so whatever they’re into.
I have a son who’s mad into “Star Wars.” A couple of years ago, we went to London for the Star Wars Celebration, they call it. It’s 4:00 in the morning. We’re sitting on concrete, the whole family. I’m like, I said to my bride, I go, “Beverly, Jesus is the only person I’d get up at 4:00 in the morning and sit on concrete for, and here we are.” You know why? Because we’re into what our kids are into, we had a great time, we had a great connection.
I’m into whatever my kids are into. I find that that immersion creates a sense of intimacy with my family and loved ones. This sense of awe, this dynamic that you’re talking about, this childlike awe, it’s funny, when I was reading all the notes and preparing for our conversation today, it dawned on me. I built a company that coaches and trains people. Along the way, I had an investment business that owns a lot of commercial real estate. This is a strength of mine. This is something I know about. I’ve made a lot of money in this area, but I named the company Teknon and Teknon is the Greek word for child.
The reason being is that I didn’t want to reside on my own strength. I didn’t want it to be my own pride. I wanted to have childlike faith as I went into each transaction and as I looked at it. Obviously, I wanted to build an inheritance that also would benefit my children. Just a couple of days ago, my second grandchild was born. That was that dynamic, but it was interesting having this document around called Teknon. It just reminded me all the time to have this childlike faith, this childlike attitude, even in the area of strength, or knowledge, or wisdom because at the end of the day, we don’t know what’s going to happen.
You don’t know what’s coming down the road. You don’t know when there’s going to be a recession. You don’t know when there’s going to be a war. You don’t know when there’s going to be a virus. We miss out on a lot of life because we’re too busy working like a dog, and we need to immerse ourselves in life and play like a puppy. I love that. This fourth one now, I want you to really dig this out for me a little bit because I feel like this is a big answer for where our culture is struggling today.
The fourth sense here was belonging, and that when you’re living in awe, you have this sense of belonging. It’s interesting. People have been staying at home. We’re looking at divorce rates are spiking up. Australia just produced its suicide rate is up 50%. There’s all of these things coming down. I think When all the datas show clues for all kinds of people, we’re going to see how much damage was done far beyond a virus here. One of the things that I think people are really struggling with is this sense of belonging. They can’t go to their sports teams. They can’t connect that way. Talk about this very, very important principle called belonging in the context of In Awe
O’LEARY: Brian, in 2018, Harvard Business Review did a study on media. 94% of news stories were negative. This was during a time when the stock market was at a historic high, and unemployment was at historic low, and markets around the world with real estate were just crushing it. 94% of news stories were negative. What’s the result of this? It’s a great question. Here it is. 1.5 million Americans last year attempted suicide during one of the most successful periods of time in the history of the world, 1.5 million Americans no longer saw value in them taking the next step forward in their life.
More than half of us feel that we’re doing life by ourselves according to Signa. This is before the pandemic. This is before the recession. This is before we turned in every night to see how bad the world is now. If that was happening when I was writing the book, it pains me to think about what’s happening right now, not just with Australia, around the country, around the world. This is the true pandemic. The mental pandemic of what is happening, the cancer that is spreading that it’s telling us our lives are not worthy and the best days are behind us, not in front of us.
For six consecutive years as a nation, we’ve had a negative outlook on where we think we’re going next. For those of you who hate Trump, fine, we also had it when President Obama was in office. For those of you who hate President Obama, fine. We also have it now that President Trump is in office. This is not a political thing. This is a societal issue, societal issue.
Part of it is based on the sense of belonging, this sense of knowing who you are, whose you are, how you feel about yourself when you look in the mirror, and how you connect authentically to those around you, regardless of income, regardless of race, regardless of passports, regardless of market conditions. None of it ought to be dependent upon these things. This idea of belonging was really important to me as I was writing this book, you’re in a period of profound prosperity, but it’s ironic. I think appropriately that it’s probably the most needed sense right now we have, Brian, the idea of truly belonging.
BUFFINI: How can a person develop that in an authentic way? Because there’s so much belonging is done in artificial ways. We’ve seen the studies in LA of kids becoming gang members. We see people who check out to their life. You’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, Jack Buck was one of the great heroes in your early life that championed you to live again and championed you. I still hope the Jack Buck movie gets made. When they make the Jack Buck movie, you will be in that. Your story as a kid will be in that. It’s sensational and life-changing. You’re a fanatical St. Louis Cardinals fan and Cardinal Red and all that good stuff, but there’s a deeper belonging.
I feel like sometimes, and I’m a sports guy. You know this. I played sports. I married an athlete. All our kids are sportspeople. We say, when it comes to academics, we’re great athletes. I have four college athletes right now. I have one gal pursuing the Olympics, and I have a kid who played college football. All six were athletes. I understand that whole thing about belonging in that way, but I think it’s artificial, and I think it’s not nearly as deep.
I think a lot of people check out into belonging to Red Sox Nation and Yankee Nation or whatever it is. This true sense of belonging, what does it really mean to you and how can folks listening to this may be feeling isolated or lonely? The worst feeling in the world is to be in a crowd full of people feeling alone. How can people have a deeper sense of belonging?
O’LEARY: Brian, I think we’re just speaking through exactly how all of us are feeling right now. This desire to fully connect and fit in. Maybe the best way to begin answering that question is to share a personal story from about nine years ago. I was in the restroom shaving, my pants were on, my shirt was off. For those who have never seen me physically, I have scars that cover me from my neck all the way down to my toes and into my fingers on both hands.
That’s me in the restroom shaving early in the morning, getting ready for the day in front of me, and to my right is a four-year-old little boy named Jack. Jack Ryan O’Leary, my oldest, he’s a precious little guy. He’s got the cover on the razor. He’s got the cream on his face, then he’s shaving next too right next to his daddy. Then, he stops shaving, he looks over at me and he starts with his index finger tracking one of the scars on my stomach.
I have pitch scars all over my body but the thickest by far are on my belly, they’re just thick red scars in bands, and they’re embarrassing, and they bind me. They’re painful. They remind me of all that I’ve lost in some regard, so I see him tracking this scar and I see his little index finger rubbing up and down it. I see him set his shaver down, I see him look up at his dad and he goes, “Dadd, your tummy is red. It is bumpy, and it is ridgy.”
Now, Brian, my ego is saying, “Oh, I got to prepare myself to let him know. Don’t be scared, your daddy got burned when he was a kid, but he’s all right. He can still love you.” and all of this bull, man. It’s my ego. Then, before I can start explaining away the situation to him and reminding him, “I belong. I’m okay. I’ve got friends on Facebook. I belong.” What he says to me is this, “Daddy, I love it. I just love your red, bumpy, ridgy tummy.” The way a child sees life is the way– We got to get this right.
The way a child sees life is the way we must again see the reflection in the mirror. We are still freaking focused on the wrinkles, and what we don’t have, and how we don’t measure up, and how our parents were right that we’d never be successful, and all this garbage that we carry forward. We need to be reminded we are a sacred treasure. The likelihood of you being– I share this by the way, with my kids in our– We were out in the backroads of Ireland and going to [unintelligible 00:29:45] I believe. They were like, “What’s the chance of us being here?” We started talking about the math.
The math works out this way. The likelihood of your mother and your father coming together at the right moment and we’re going to have an after-hours conversation with Brian Buffini and John O’Leary on Biology 101 for those of you interested. We’ll do a high level right now. The mathematical odds of you being here in this life alive as you are with what you have is 1 in 400 trillion. The very fact that Brian Buffini is in that house is shocking and we’re worried about gray hair. The very fact that John O’Leary is in this room is less than 1 in 400 trillion and I’m worried about scars on my tummy. Kids aren’t. Their ego is not developed.
They see it all with this lens of grandiose awe. That changes what they see. It changes how they interact. It changes how they connect. It changes how they love. It changes what they build. It changes the lives they live, and you don’t need to be five to do it. I’m sorry. I could tell I’m animated. I really care about this. This is a life and death issue. It’s really important to think this stuff through and get it right.
BUFFINI: Especially now. I guarantee a lot of people are encouraged right now because, in our faith tradition, both you and I are Christian men and Christ used to say, “Let the children come to me.” You had to have the faith like a child. This is why. It wasn’t some flimsy statement. There’s immense strength in that. There’s immense joy in that, and it’s profound. That little Jack O’Leary what a character and what a Crusader for what is good and what is pure and what is loving.
Again, what do we do? As we get older, we just see the crack in the Liberty Bell. We forget about the Liberty Bell, and we forget about liberty. That’s the final point I want to talk to you about here. It’s a hot topic in our world today. A lot of people are confused about what this looks like, and especially in America. What does this mean today? I’ve had conversations with attorney generals. I’ve asked some very direct questions, and there’s a lot of folks today are very confused on freedom and what does freedom mean, and the value of it, and the virtue of it. I’m curious in the context of living in awe, what does freedom mean in this context?
O’LEARY: I think most of us think we’re free, but then are you really? Are you free of the memories from yesterday? Are you free from the anxieties of tomorrow? Are you free from the way that when she says that one thing it gets under your skin every single time? Are you free of debt? Are you free of all these concerns that bind you to who you’re not and how you don’t stack up?
Brian, one of the stories I share in the book and it’s the first time I’ve ever shared it, so it was kind of hard to get it out there. It was my therapy in sharing. It was the story of Jack Buck, which you’ve heard million different times. You’re the one that’s going to be cast in the role of Jack Buck. You’ll need to lose Jack and you’d be a perfect character for it.
Jack Buck poured his life into me. Not only for the five months I was in hospital, but for the decade and a half that followed. He just kept investing the best of what he had in a little boy named John O’Leary slowly grew up. Of age 24, I was, he’s 79. He gets sick with not only Parkinson’s disease but with cancer. He’s going to spend the final five months in the hospital, Brian. It’s the exact same amount of time as a little boy that I spent in the hospital. Could there be a better offer than that? Here’s the time for O’Leary to make amends as those of us who’ve gone through AA have done.
I have a chance to make it meant and be the friend for him that he was for me for all these years. I get to visit him daily for five months as he did for me for the five months I was in hospital. Now the question is so, John, as a free man, who’s an author and a speaker and now, a father and all these things, how many times did you visit that man in the hospital? The answer pains me, but it is zero. You’re talking to a man who thought he was free, but I visited Jack Buck zero times in hospital, not because I was busy or too successful, but because I was unworthy. I was never, ever once worthy in my mind of the love and the grace and the gifts that he showered upon me.
If you’re not worthy to receive something, you’re also not worthy to give it back, Brian. I was never once worthy in his life of being the friend to him that he was to me, which just is brutal. Then, his son called and asked me to go to his funeral. I’m going to step up at the end of the day to be the hero, ride in man on the horse and show up at the funeral, so I do. I pull into the funeral, that packed church. I’m tidying my little tie right before I walk in. I look in the mirror of the car and I see the ownership team for the St. Louis Cardinals walking past my car. They’re probably popping out of a really nice, beautiful car. I’m popping out of beatdown Jeep.
Then, I look to my left and there’s a Hall of Famer getting out to my left, and football player over to my right. I realize, even in the funeral parlor, I don’t belong. Even in this parking lot, I don’t fit in. That little boy who was free, the world thought, was far from it. Brian, I turn the car back on. I pull over that driveway, pull away from that church, made it about three miles down the road, pulled over, and had ugly cry that you don’t frequently have as a man. I wept bitter tears, man. They were tears, the kind of tears where you use the right sleeve to get it for a while, and then you got to switch to the left sleeve too. You don’t have enough on that sleeve.
After about 45 minutes of this, I stopped crying and realized I had lost the opportunity to be there at his funeral. I’d lost the opportunity to be there at the end of his life, but I was not going to lose the opportunity to live this life going forward for others. I was at a church right up on my grandma and grandpa’s, so I swung by their house for the first time uninvited. I’ve been to their house a million times, but never just stopping by to say, “I love you.”
Then, you would’ve thought it was Publishers Clearing House with Ed McMahon showing up with a $13 million check for grandma and grandpa. They were blown away that their son, their grandson would make time for them in the business of this day and I walked in and I just hugged them. We spent a couple hours. We talked about the great depression, and how they’ve met each other in the war.
Following that, I took my parents out to dinner. I shared words with them that I’d never shared, and the words were, Thank you. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for guiding me through the difficult time in hospital. Thank you for seeing a future far greater than the one that I had for myself. Thank you for being my steadfast encouragers in my life going forward. Thank you for sharing your faith with me and making sure it was part of my journey.” Then, did something I’d never done either, Brian, I learned how to become a hospital chaplain. I had promised myself to never ever go back into a hospital.
Once you leave, it’s like leaving the prison. You and I have been there, man. You don’t want to go back, so you make that commitment not to go back. I never went back to a hospital until after Jack Buck died, and I realized where he met me is where I may be called to meet others. I spent three years working with kids, just trying to be a steady positive presence in their life, encourage them to take the next step forward, and to see beyond the struggle that they have right now. I took his wife, Carole, his widow now, out to lunch and over tears, I told her that I love her, I loved her husband and I wanted to thank her for being part of this great man’s life, and she appreciated that.
I took Joe, the hall of fame announcer himself, this is the surviving son out to lunch. I read a love letter that I wrote his dad. The words begin of that letter, “Dear Jack,” Brian, you teach people how to write letters. I wrote a five-page letter to Jack Buck because he was no longer able to hear it. I read it to Joe and we both had tears coming down our cheeks in the Starbucks in St. Louis.
When I was old enough to finally have my own children, we named our first son after someone I wanted him to become just like, and it’s not John, not Brian, although I love Brian Buffini. I named our first son after a great man named Jack Buck. Listen, I got life so wrong for 24 years. I told myself I was free, but I was the farthest thing from being free indeed. That was what finally woke me up to what I had been missing and what I was called to do next. For me, freedom is being available to show up and be fully present to those in your life that matter. Sometimes, that is indeed the reflection in the mirror.
BUFFINI: Wow. Amazing. It turns out old Jack had one more lesson to teach you Johno. How amazing is that? For those of you not as familiar with Jack Buck’s work, like I say, voice of the Cardinals, NFL. He was a great announcer. My favorite Jack Buck experienced, and I check in, about every six months, I watch this. They should rebroadcast it now, was when Jack Buck spoke on the open mic down on the field, which was never his band. He was never down on the field. When he spoke to the St. Louis Cardinals fans following 9/11 in this gravelly voice, “Should we play? Of course, we should.” It was just like if God was a smoker, that’s what it should sound like. It’s this the greatest voice of all time and an inspiration.
You want to get goosebumps? Go on YouTube Jack Buck post 9/11. It’s a speech we need today. Here’s the thing, the good news is, you have the freedom to tell that story today. You have the freedom to go use the lessons today. You have the freedom to go and share with Joe Buck and Jack’s widow and the freedom to go be a chaplain in the hospital. That’s the beautiful thing is that it can take a long time and we can talk about government freedoms and we can talk about societal freedoms, but the truth of the matter is most us living in a prison of our own making, and that freedom’s available, and that freedom’s available to all of us.
I really commend you on this book. I’m going to read a quote. I rarely do this. Our good friend, our mutual friend, Mel Robbins, wrote an endorsement for your book, John. I just think it’s powerful. It says, “In a world full of negativity, John O’Leary will remind you that you always have a choice. Life is still good, and the best days remain ahead. This is a must-read. You’ll be in awe at how John changes your outlook and the possibilities you’ll see to still present yourself in your life. In Awe, rediscover your childlike wonder to unleash inspiration, meaning, and joy.”
You can pick it up anywhere that great books are sold. It is a great book, John O’Leary, I got to say this to you, we’ve known each other a long time, and you’ve been in the Advanced Brian Buffini Coaching Program, the belt sander of love, which is you got to come and spend some time and hear a bunch of very hard to hear, offstage direct lines. I challenged you, I challenged you to tell more than just your story when you’re a kid. I challenged you to be an inspiration. I challenged you to dig deeper and to bring more of who you were and what you’d learned to the table.
Hearing your voice, I’ll be candid with you, the guy that sit in front of me today, and the guy I interviewed 200 episodes ago, it’s inspiring and it’s inspiring for me, it should be inspiring for everybody, that no matter who we are or where we are, there’s still so much more in who we can be. This is a very powerful work. I wish you absolute God’s blessing. I hope that this book becomes a positive virus that spreads around the country, and the culture, and the world. I’m glad you’ve gotten the chance to be at home off the speaking circuit for the past couple of months here and spend time with the fam. I’m sure it’ll be a time you never forget.
Thank you for blessing our audience today. Thank you for your words of wisdom. Thanks for writing the book that I think is more needed right at this minute than definitely when you even had it in mind, and God does things like that. You write it, but He releases it. I’m glad we could be a part of it today to get the ball rolling. I would encourage everyone listening to this, go get a copy of this book. Go live it, go learn it, and go live a life where you’re rediscovering your childlike wonder and live in awe. I’m certainly inspired by this today. John O’Leary, thanks for coming on the call. I appreciate the podcast today. You’re a blessing.
O’LEARY: Brian, I must add, my friend, that Chapter 22 includes a story about a man who came over from Ireland with his grandfather’s wisdom. Brian, can you put your name on it? Can you put your name on, lad? The idea of working well to such a degree that you are proud to sign your name at the end of each day on whatever you touch. You didn’t tell me that story when we first met, but you challenged me to be bold enough in my life to be able to put my name on whatever I touched. I will never forget your guidance, your mentorship, your friendship and your willingness to see far over the horizon, what I was currently seeing for myself, so brother, I love you, I appreciate you, and Beverly. You’re phenomenal parents. You’re even better people, and you’re an awesome example for me and Beth.
BUFFINI: Thank you, bro, appreciate it. Thanks again for blessing so many people today. I wish everyone would go and take full advantage of that opportunity to go get the copy of “In Awe.” That was great, re-interviewing the great John O’Leary, excited that, I believe, initially, all the proceeds of the sale of this book are going to the Boys & Girls Club, which I know he’s a board member of.
I just really appreciate it being on there with John today. Let me leave you with a little blessing. May the roads rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the rain fall soft upon your fields and the sunshine warm upon your face. Until we meet again, as God holds you in the hollow of His hand, you’re sitting there, you’re resting in God’s hand and you’re in awe. We’ll see you next time.