For many, the actor who epitomized the character “Superman" is Christopher Reeve, and as millions know, at the height of his career he suffered a tragic accident that left him totally paralyzed, unable to care for himself or, initially, even to breathe unassisted.
With the support of his wife, Dana, Chris persevered and battled back, becoming a vigorous advocate and the public face for research that develops treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders. The foundation that now bears his name has awarded over $55 million in research grants to the world's best neuroscientists and Quality of Life grants worth over $7 million to nonprofit organizations that help improve the daily lives of people living with paralysis, particularly spinal cord injuries.
Christopher Reeve redefined courage and hope. His strength, determination, and compassion inspired the world, but what I think is the superhuman part of the story has not been fully told. There's more to this story for me and greater lessons for us all-in fact, 10 of them.
It was my distinct privilege to produce Chris's last public appearance in New Jersey, where he filled a baseball stadium. I'll never forget it-or him. He died 10 days later. He is my hero.
Chris Reeve taught me 10 lessons on that day. I know that they apply to you, and when you decide to take them to heart and act on them, they will change your life, too.
1. Empower yourself first! The only way to truly connect with another human is to connect with yourself first. Compassion, rapport, and caring all come from allowing, understanding, and knowing yourself first.
Action Idea: Take time out of each day (even if by self-appointment) to reflect on the day, week, month, or year, evaluate the words you chose to speak and the actions you chose to take, and ask yourself the critical question, “Am I being congruent with what I truly believe and value?"
2. Refuse absolutes. There are no absolutes! Anyone who says “that will never happen" doesn't understand faith, persistence, and belief. The world was once thought to be flat; Christopher Columbus debunked that myth and created a paradigm shift for mankind. Christopher Reeve should not have survived as long as he did and accomplished as much as he did after his accident.
Action Idea: Have you embraced false absolutes with “security thinking, " believing that absolutes actually exist? Remove all self-imposed limitations and boundaries that you or someone else have placed in your mind.
3. Become a respected and feared competitor. Both are equally important. Have the respect of your peers, but be sure that they are aware that you are playing to win every time!
Action Idea: Get close to your competitors, and let them get close to you-but only in physical proximity! Treat them with kindness and respect, but keep your eye on the prize.
4. Get moving as soon as possible. There is never time to get ready. When you set a goal, make a decision, or experience adversity, get moving on it immediately! Christopher's tragedy was something for which he could not have prepared. Chris knew that if he didn't take action immediately to find a cure and to move toward walking again, he might begin to think that death was a better alternative.
Action Idea: Decide! Once you make up your mind to achieve a desired outcome or goal, never let anything or anyone stop you.
5. You have more talent and gifts than you realize. You possess all of the resources to lead an extraordinary life. Accept the gifts, and use them to serve. Action Idea: Ask “what if" questions. “What if I could discover the cure for AIDS?" “What if I could run a three-minute mile?" “What if I give love first without expecting anything in return?"
6. Give yourself a chance-you are worthy. Let the people who love you, love you. Share your dreams and desires with those who can, will, and want to help you. Don't beat yourself up when you fail or create an undesirable outcome.
Action Idea: Everything is an experience, not a test. The events that take place in our lives are not a thermometer to gauge our self-worth. The most important opinion you must possess in your life is the opinion you have of you!
7. Nothing is impossible-use your personal power, and have faith that you can overcome and achieve anything you set your mind to. The phrase “nothing is impossible" is a mind-set each of us should embrace.
Action Idea: Faith equals persistence. If you believe you can, you can. Walt Disney said, “You will see it when you believe it. "
8. Ignore your own feelings of inadequacy. There is always someone doing better than you are. What's more important is what you are doing and what your goals are. The grass always looks greener on the other side, and it is almost always a false assumption. If you honor self-promises and stick to your dreams and goals, your time will come. Beware of negative self-talk and negative thinking. The real truth is that the glass is always half full, and it is always partly sunny. These small distinctions can pay huge dividends in your life.
Action Idea: Protect your mind and your body and what you allow to enter it; they are your most prized possessions.
9. Negativity will kill empowerment. Avoid negativity at all costs: negative people, negative news, negative thoughts, and all the things and people in your life that are dream-stealers. You are a leader. Become a leader in your life first.
Action Idea: Just as empowerment begins with you, positivism in your world begins with you as well. Negativity drains energy, diminishes hope, blocks creativity, and steals faith and one's ability to persist. Surround yourself with everything and everyone that makes you feel good. Life is too short not to be happy.
10. Giving up is not an option. After Dana told Chris, “I still love you, you are still you, " his giving up was not an option. He knew that he had only one choice and one life to leave his legacy. Quitting does last forever-quitters never win, and winners never quit. You are not automatically entitled to everything in this life, but you are entitled to become your personal best. What will your legacy be? What will you create? What is your purpose for being here?
Action Idea: If you have yet to discover your calling, get excited! It is about to be discovered. If you know your calling, go there with passion and serve!
Those, in a nutshell, are the 10 life and leadership lessons I learned from Superman-my real-life hero, Christopher Reeve. I strive to live them every day.
There's one more quote from Chris that takes a bit of thinking to understand, but I'd like you to consider it.
If there is no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.
Now, go forward!
Eric Taylor's Empowerment Group's mission is to enrich the lives of its clients and prospects by providing extraordinary personal and professional development seminars, business training, resources, and relationship-building opportunities. Eric Taylor, known as “Mr. Energy, " is frequently called upon for motivational speaking, training, and consulting. He walks his talk every day, speaking to business professionals in corporations, organizations, and associations on the topics about which he is most passionate-sales, leadership, presentation skills, and personal development. For more information, visit http://www.empowermentgroup.com .
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