In this book, I include some stories about people you might know or may come to know after you read this book. I hope these stories inspire you!
A lady named Sonya
I’d like to tell you a story about a woman who you might not have heard about. She grew up poor, one of twenty-four children, and a minority in Detroit.
She married at thirteen to escape problems at home and it didn’t end well. Her husband was an alcoholic and a bigamist, and he left her with two young boys and no support.
She worked two and three jobs at a time to make ends meet. With no formal education, she cleaned floors, homes, and bathrooms—whatever work she could find.
That was a hard life already. Add the responsibility of two young boys, who would often go unsupervised for hours at a time, in tough neighborhoods. This created a nearly hopeless situation. She was stern with them and made them study and read. They couldn’t turn on the TV until after all their homework was complete.
During that time, she was struck with clinical depression.
Instead of allowing her challenges with depression to drag her and her boys down, she got the help she needed. Family members took care of the boys for a couple of months until she came back home.
She could have let that stigma of mental illness drag her down and keep her there, but she didn’t. She went back to work and instilled the same work ethic and overcoming spirit into her boys. This mom had her sons read books that opened their minds and encouraged them to study hard. She cared about them and worked to make a difference in their lives every day. She did the very best she could.
Her life mattered because she didn’t give up, even when she had to be so tired – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And yet, each day she got up and did all she could one more day. Isn’t that what we are all called to do?
Her story of struggle isn’t unique. Her uncommon courage is. She defied the odds and not only survived but thrived – and so did her boys.
One son worked hard and earned excellent grades. He became a mechanical engineer.
The other son wanted to become a doctor. A brain surgeon, better known as a neurosurgeon. That son earned his Pre-Med degree from Yale and went to the University of Michigan for medical school.
He has now written best-selling books. A movie has been made about his life. He has run for President of the United States and was appointed to be the 17th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson.
His mother’s name was Sonya Carson, and her life mattered.
At any point in her life, she could have given up. Many others have given up, but not Ms. Carson. People throw up their hands every day, and walk away from families, abandoning children. They just quit on life. But not her.
When she battled clinical depression while working three jobs, she might have asked, “Is this all there is?”
But she didn’t let that stop her. I believe her faith allowed her to see, that even during times of great struggles, there was still hope.
That’s how Sonya Carson lived her life. She didn’t know how her boys were going to turn out but she was determined to give them all she had.
She was changing the world by loving her sons.
Each day that she invested in those boys yielded a change in the world for the better.
Her story could be your story too. We each make an impact on this world.
Each day matters. It is a gift.
When I look at people who have unusual last names, I often wonder about where they might be from and how long ago their family immigrated. Then I wonder about their circumstances in the country they left, and what led them to leave. Perhaps they searched for something better but found new and different challenges, including language barriers.
Robin’s family immigrated from India to Canada in search of a better life. Robin grew up in a small town, Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia, Canada, and wanted to be an attorney. He pictured himself arguing important cases before a jury and fighting for justice.
His parents encouraged him to follow his dreams. He received his law degree and went to work for the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and later for the government of Canada, as a staff litigation attorney.
Even though he achieved his dream, he felt empty. He knew there had to be more to life than grinding through the legal briefs and depositions each day. He wanted to write. He felt it as a calling. He wanted his writing to inspire others to have their best life, which he also believed he would find for himself, by writing.
His mother edited his first book, Megaliving: 30 Days to a Perfect Life. Robin self-published it through a local Kinkos. He copied, printed, and bound a hundred copies of his book.
The book sold thirty copies, twenty-eight of which were bought by his own family. Robin did not give up.
Two years later he wrote his second book and self-published it as well, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. While this book was initially self-published, Harper Collins picked it up. It is now an international best-seller, having sold millions of copies in many different languages.
His mission with this book was to walk through his struggles on the pages, coming to a place of inner peace and success defined by his terms and not that of the world. He realized his success by helping others achieve success and peace in their lives.
In this pursuit, Robin has created a life that has made a difference in the world that is beyond quantification. He has gone from selling a few books out of the trunk of his car to working with national leaders and CEOs of some of the largest companies in the world.
What is interesting about Robin Sharma’s story is not his greatness on the stage or the publishing and corporate worlds. It’s how he cares for the people around him.
The other day I listened to one of his coaching sessions. Yes, I subscribe to his coaching program. I was struck by him sharing that in the middle of his busy day, he turned his car around, got out, and helped a homeless man get to a safe place. He gave him warm clothes and enough money to buy something to eat.
You don’t see many people in the corporate power circuit doing that. but Robin is different. He then encouraged each of us, to open our eyes to the challenges of the people around us. We could spend a few minutes and a couple of dollars to make a difference in someone’s life.
I mentioned in a previous chapter that he routinely buys a bottle of wine at a restaurant. He only takes one big glass of it and then gives the remaining portion of the bottle, to the kitchen staff for their wonderful work.
This has inspired others to do the same. He has also inspired some of those he has helped, to change their lives and begin to pursue their dreams. I learned from Robin that when you take the time to care for those around you, you are making the world a better place, one kind act at a time.
Erin and Ben Napier
Many have heard of Erin and Ben Napier from the hit HGTV show, Hometown. Erin posted on Instagram while they were in the process of renovating their 1925 Craftsman cottage dream home on a budget.
But this isn’t about stardom and how you get there. It’s about how we matter. What they did in their hometown of Laurel, Mississippi, changed the world for many people in that town. Laurel, not that many years ago was pretty rundown, like many small towns in America today. Locals had moved out, industries relocated, and the town was withering on the vine.
Ben and Erin, along with several friends and relatives decided they were going to do something about it and they did. Taking on one house or building at a time, they transformed much of their town into something pretty special. What’s even more extraordinary is how the changes they started have cascaded into an economic boom for the whole town.
My wife and I traveled there recently, and we were blown away to see it all. We were there in the middle of the week and all of the restaurants were busy, some with waiting lines outside. The shops were busy. The main street was shining like a new dime. A lot of work was still in progress, but you could see that tremendous change had taken place and it was only growing. It was inspiring, to say the least.
A couple of things to note here, as the Ben & Erin company name grew, they kept as much of their product and order fulfillment local as possible. They employ over fifty locals, not including film and production crews from HGTV. They’ve created good jobs for people, providing a boost to the local economy and the economic base of the area.
If they had farmed it out overseas, it would have helped their pocketbooks but not helped the community. This people over profit mentality tells me that these people are special. They would rather make less and impact more.
This also tells me they value people. You and me. I also see it in the homes they choose to renovate and show on TV. It’s most often the affordable home that they are working on and not the super expensive. Now don’t get me wrong, once or twice a season, you will see a higher-end home thrown in there but even then, it is still not extravagant.
I am not here to make Ben and Erin heroes. I’m saying the lives of the people in Laurel and the surrounding areas matter to them. They do a lot for the people of this area. They give. This is a testament to me of what one couple can do if they care for others in a real, tangible way.
I recently read an article about one of the houses that they renovated on their show. The couple who lived there are moving away as part of a work advancement and the house is for sale. The realtor who has the home listed told the reporter that he gets calls nearly every day from people looking to move there from all over the country because they want to be a part of what is going on in Laurel, MS.
I wonder how you and I might do this where we are today? I wonder if we helped a neighbor or got involved in our local town revitalization efforts what difference could it make. How many people it could lift? We would tell them “Your Life Matters” without ever saying the words, just showing them by our actions. I think this might just change the world.
His life started in a pretty tough environment with an abusive, even violent home life. When his mom left her husband, Tony’s life got better.
She remarried and the new husband adopted Tony as his son. They didn’t make a lot of money. Tony worked as a night janitor while he was in school so that they could pay for food and electricity. When he turned eighteen, he left home but stayed at the same job. His work skills didn’t allow for much else.
Then he met someone who recommended this self-improvement workshop by a guy named Jim Rhone. It cost around $50.00 to attend. Tony managed to scrape up the money and went.
It changed his life.
He went on to promote Jim Rhone conferences and Jim took Tony under his wing, mentoring him. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tony Robbins became wildly successful, but I don’t want to focus on that. I want to look at someone who started with nothing, became something, and now spends most of his time working to help others. Too many times, we only focus on the “overnight success” part of the story. A person got a break that we didn’t get.
When the truth is, Tony cleaned toilets for a living to eat until his breakthrough came. He worked hard and did the thankless work that many in America do as well. He did not allow his circumstances to dictate who he was or what his potential could be. He didn’t allow his socio-economic status to determine his value or his future.
Now fast forward forty years, Tony is very successful. Yet, to me, what makes him worth writing about, is not the money he has made or the businesses he has built, but how much he has given to help those in most dire need.
As his career took off, he began The Tony Robbins Foundation to help youth in crisis, the homeless, the hungry, the elderly, and those in prison. In 2014 he donated the proceeds of his books, Money, Master the Game, and Unshakable, to Feeding America.
Above and beyond the book royalties, he donated more money to the charity out of his pocket. In addition, Tony works with an organization called Spring Health to provide much-needed clean drinking water to rural parts of India. He is also involved with a non-profit called, Operation Underground Railroad, which is focused on ending human trafficking. His work is not just changing lives but saving lives.
I find these missions incredible. But in all of this, what you don’t see is that behind the scenes, even from his earliest days, Tony focused on helping those that couldn’t help themselves. When someone was in need, and he could help, he helped. His life mattered to many, even before he had what the world would call “wealth.” After he obtained wealth, he continued his mission of helping those who were in dire need.
While that is remarkable, I also see that he often gave when he was at his lowest, either financially or emotionally. Like most people, he battled with depression at times. He discovered that by helping others, his mental health improved.
Isn’t it funny that our greatest challenges can lead us to a place of healing, as we turn to help others? This just seems to round out the message that our lives—wherever we are—matter.
We don’t have to be a Tony Robbins to change the world. We can do it from wherever we are, one person at a time. In fact, we are probably already doing it and don’t even realize it.
What would you think if I told you about someone who grew up in an abusive home where she was sexually molested from the age of five until she left her house upon graduation from high school? How do you think her story turned out?
What if I were to tell you that this young lady, to escape the sexual abuse, moved out and married the first guy who showed any interest in her? This part-time used car salesman convinced his new bride to steal from the company she worked from so that they could go on vacations to California.
Sounds like a woman on a fast track to prison, right? Add to that, they frequented bars and drank heavily. The husband, during all of his free time, cheated on his wife.
After five years of this, she had caught him one too many times. She walked out and they divorced.
She knew she needed a different life and went to church. As she became involved, she ended up teaching a women’s Bible study. She met a man at church, and they dated for a year or so before they married.
Her life headed in a new direction. Her Bible study grew popular, and after a few years, she became the associate pastor of the growing church. She was asked to do a daily fifteen-minute inspirational radio spot.
Letters and notes came from people who commented on how her message and teaching was exactly what they had needed to hear at that moment. Some wrote from broken homes and broken marriages. Others were writing from the brink of suicide and sharing that her messages had saved their lives.
She eventually started an independent ministry with the radio program and it went to radio stations all over that part of the country. When that happened, she stepped down from the church to focus on this full-time ministry. She sold tapes of her messages at different churches where she spoke and wrote a book that became popular.
One day her husband commented, “You should start a TV program. I bet that would help a lot of people.”
WGN in Chicago picked up her show, Enjoying Everyday Living, with Joyce Meyers.
She went from someone who suffered abuse as a child for a very long time, to someone traveling and ministering around the globe. Her books have sold millions of copies. Her fans will tell you that her message is relatable and personal. Some mention that her stories of abuse, ugly marriage, and then total transformation by Christ, have helped them through some of the toughest times in their lives, in some cases, literally saving their lives.
This is more than a rags to riches story. Her story is to inspire those who are going through really tough times right now. You may be thinking that there is no hope. You may believe that the things you have done, are beyond redemption.
You would be wrong.
You may be thinking you don’t know where to begin. Well, here are some ideas.
Remember my story about going to Wal-Mart and buying a plant or flowers for someone, anyone? What did Joyce do that turned her life around?
She got involved with something that lifted her and inspired her to give to others. She didn’t know she was going to end up where she is today, but knowing she needed something different, she took that step of faith to a new place—a positive step that changed everything about her life.
It could have the same result for you. Get involved with a cause, maybe several. Go back to school. Find a church. Do something positive and affirming and see where it leads you. Make sure you are giving to those around you as you go, When you do that, you’re planting seeds for your future.
You do not know when or where the harvest will come, but rest assured it will come and it will be life-changing for you and all who know you, not to mention all of those that you gave to along the way.
This is the last excerpt from the book that I will share… unless you tell me you want more here. I believe that if you are looking to change your life – change your world, this book can help. But the most important ingredient in making a change is you – you deciding that today, I want more; today I am going to believe; today I am going to live; today I am going to trust the voice of God in my life that says – I am His Masterpiece!
Dr Cliff Robertson Jr