Is there purpose to our pain?

John O’Leary was 9 years old when he was forced to choose life or death. With over 90% of his body scorched in a gasoline accident, medical staff gave him a 1% chance at recovery. Wrapped in bandages and unable to move due to the extent of his injuries, John remembers when his mom knelt by the hospital bed and asked if he wanted to live. 

He chose yes.

Now, as an adult, John has made it his mission to teach others how to live. “It’s our calling,” he says, “to use the adversity in front of us to become a far better version of ourselves. Not just for ourselves, but for those we’re called to serve.” John remembers his 17 year old brother, an unlikely hero, coming to his aid just seconds after the flames engulfed him. This experience has become a core message of John’s platform; even ordinary people can do extraordinary things. We all have the propensity to be a force of good. 

But it isn’t easy. 

Sometimes life delivers the unexpected. A prime example would be 2020, a year of Covid lockdowns, job loss, and the world forced to come to terms with a new normal. John’s story has become more than what happened the day he lit a gasoline can on fire, but how he daily embraces the life given to him. 

John candidly shares that he once relied on alcohol, performance and accolades to cope with pain and prove himself despite his differences. His life changed when he realized the battle his family fought to keep him alive. It showed him that no one is without struggle. A life without pain is impossible, but out of the struggle some of our best stories are written. His life is a worthy illustration. 

To hear more of his story, check out Episode 20 of Despite the Odds: Finding Purpose From Your Pain: John O’Leary was burned on 90% of his body in 1987, where I interview John about what gave him the strength to persevere and launch his incredible platform that encourages thousands to not give up, and embrace the life they have. 


  • Mark V

    Podcast Host and Speaker

    Despite The Odds Podcast

    Mark V is the host of the Despite The Odds podcast. He features guests that have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. These stories are shared to provide hope and inspiration to others, to prove there is no obstacle too big to overcome. He is also a professional speaker and travels the country to share a message of "dream big and fail forward" to college students. "The view from the bottom to the top is much more beautiful than the view from the top, if that is where you started." - Mark V