On Fire: A Powerful Call to Lead an Inspired Life

By Amanda Mouait

When I first heard of John O’Leary’s book On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life, I had no idea how literal it was going to be. I knew I had to read this book when some of my mentors starting posting about it. I expected the “7 choices” part, but the “on fire” aspect came as a shock.

In this book, O’Leary tells his captivating tale of being burned by self-inflicted fire as a young boy. He uses this experience to challenge readers to open their eyes, take a good look at their life and what they are doing, and why they are doing it. The fire left O’Leary with burns over 100% of his body and a road ahead of him that the vast majority of us can’t even fathom. O’Leary’s accident was the first of many “inflection points” in his life, “pinpointed moments in time that changes everything that follows.” We all have inflection points. In the course of the book, he shows it is the choices you make because of your inflection points that are important.

A key theme of the book is personal responsibility. Through storytelling, O’Leary illustrates that though his personal experience is unique, our ability to choose how we respond to life events is similar. Living a radical inspired life through personal responsibility is the ultimate goal. O’Leary’s defines a radical inspired life as: “you embrace the lessons from your past, actively engage in the miracle of each moment and ignite the limitless possibility of tomorrow.”

Considering the weight of the event that led O’Leary to the day he wrote this book, the tone is light. He has a unique ability to relate to the reader. I found myself inspired, laughing, crying, imagining the unimaginable and reflecting. Because I love a book that can make me check myself, I would say my favourite part was what he has to say about being “all in.” He shares one of his favourite quotes that also resonated with me:

Patanjali (2nd Century BC) writes:

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some

            extraordinary project,

all your thoughts break their bonds.

your mind transcends limitations,

your consciousness expands in every direction,

and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.

Dormant forces, faculties, and talents become alive,

and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far

than you ever dreamed yourself to be.

O’Leary explains that everybody wants to live like this quote. To do so, it all hinges on the first line: “When you are inspired by some great purpose.” That is our reminder to be “all in.” It’s our reminder that we have one life and a personal responsibility to make empowering choices. Every single day we make choices based on inflection points that force us to change the way we see things. This book guides us on how to live an inspired life moving forward from those moments.

At the end of the book, O’Leary includes photos of his life thus far. The photos of him as a 9-year-old boy not expected to survive, to photos of him standing proudly with family and various mentors add a lot of impact. Had his story begun at another time in his life, I’m not sure it would have left the impression that it did. There is something about the courage and perseverance of a young child that speaks to one’s heart.

Whether you are young and trying to navigate your future or settled into something you love already. Perhaps you aren’t sure if what are where you are in life is right. Or maybe you are looking for a little bit of motivation or direction. This book is entertaining and inspirational but also full of how-to’s to navigate life’s challenges. I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone.