Tag Archives: survivor

What Matters Most: Choosing to Prevail

“It’s not how will we survive, but how will we prevail.” 

As a little boy he would often cry himself to sleep at night. In the 6th grade at a boarding school in England, he struggled painfully with his studies and was hopelessly failing. During recess, he would run into the woods and hide because the other boys would relentlessly tease him. They said he had a head that was too big!

Finally, one day the school master sent a note home to his mother. It simply read, “Your boy shows a conspicuous lack of success.” His mother used it as a tool for motivation instead of humiliation.

Years later this little boy had grown into Sir Winston Churchill. He waved that very same note as he was sworn in as Prime Minister of the British people twice (1940-1945 and 1951-1955).

He became the “Voice of Hope” and a great world leader who took on Hitler and the evils of Nazi Germany. In one of his great speeches he said, “Everyone is asking on the streets, ‘How will the British people survive?’ We are asking the wrong question. It’s not how will we survive, but how will we prevail?”

He taught the British people to have a prevailing spirit!

What about your personal leadership?
• Has someone tried to pin a note on you like “a conspicuous lack of success?”
• Has a so-called failing or setback in your business or relationship convinced you to devalue your personal worth?


It is time to shift!

Simply put, let those “small voices” fire you up. Shift from surviving to prevailing! Churchill hit the pinnacle of leadership in his 60’s and 70’s. It is not too late for you or for me!

I remember over 25 years ago when I was about to move my little family to Seattle to start my life over. I had a leader I respected deeply tell me “Steve, you are making a big mistake. It is too risky. Don’t do it.” He chuckled as he told me I would be a “casualty.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear! It fired me up! There were some tough and turbulent times. We didn’t know a soul and we were lonely. But years later, Seattle is home and we love it. I am grateful to have established a prevailing leadership company teaching other organizations to prevail! I have new life-long friends and scores of great memories with plenty more to be made! The leader who gave me the negative advice has since passed away. But I still owe him a lot. That was my Churchill moment.

You can have one too!

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is courage to continue that counts.”

Playing Big Part 4: We’re NOT Victims, We’re Survivors!

“Excuse me, Steve, we are not burn victims, we are survivors!

I don’t know where it comes from because for the most part I have a wonderful life. Not a Jimmy Stewart, Wonderful Life, but a darn good one. Which makes it even more perplexing and even downright frustrating that I find myself having pity parties. Poor me. Too much work. Too little recreation. I invite me, myself, and I into a little room of pity.

About a year ago, I was in one of these pity-parties and it lasted nearly a month! At the end of that month I had been invited to go on a river rafting trip with a non-profit group. Their inspiring mission was to take at-risk or disadvantaged teens on a “four day experience” to discover adventure and be inspired. They asked if I would lead the group through a series of topics on personal vision, life dreams and how to set stretch goals. I agreed. But when I arrived in the parking lot to board the bus, I was startled to find out that instead of at-risk or disadvantaged teens, I was traveling on a trip with burn victims. Burn victims… I had never been around burn victims. I watched one-by-one as these people arrived. Some of these beautiful people had been physically transformed by their burn wounds. Some had 30% burns over their body. Some had scars covering 90-95%.

That Sunday morning in August finally ended my little “play small” pity party.

The next four days were breath-taking. Defining. Inspiring. The first day together, I spoke to them about discovering “their inspiring vision.” I mentioned how inspired and moved I was as I witnessed their courage and strength on the river and in the trip. I referred to them as “burn victims.” Right as I said this, a young man in his twenties raised his hand and said:

“Excuse me, Steve, we are not victims. We are survivors!”

I was taken back, “survivors,” “survivors.” Suddenly, I realized, he was right! No matter what the trauma, tragedy, or turbulence in our lives we have a choice. We can be either victims, which forever binds us to the event, removes our energy, and prevents us from forward movement. Or we can be survivors: people who have conquered the event, who have chosen to be bigger than event, and move forward with their life after the event. Playing Big is about being a survivor! It is about taking control of your life in times of hardship and choosing to move forward. Playing Big is refusing to allow the event to be your life, but rather recognizing it as a part of your life.

Here are a few lessons I learned from those extraordinary Burn Survivors who are choosing to PLAY BIG:

  1. Playing Small is choosing to be the “victim”
  2. Playing Big is choosing to be the “survivor”
  3. Playing Small is saying “I can’t”
  4. Playing Big is saying “I will”
  5. Playing Small is having negative self-talk
  6. Playing Big is having optimism and a strong voice

Playing Big begins with a mindset. A mindset that even when we’ve been burned or hurt or failed, we can continue on. We can turn scars into stars. It builds an emotional and spiritual capacity to play at our best and enables us to shake ourselves from a victim mentality. One of the natural leaders in the group, Rob, flies down each month to a military burn unit in San Antonio and meets with young soldiers who have been burned in combat. He encourages them. He listens to them. He weeps with them. He prays with them. He inspires them to be survivors.

We should all be Play Big Survivors!

Playing Big Tips:

  • Practice Appreciation
  • Look at your “defining moments” as not a time where you were lessened but as a time where you were recast for greatness
  • Thank God for health
  • Look to light the spirit within someone today
  • Remember giving is special and it also begins the receiving process