“This time last year, I was close to ending my life, until kindness saved it.”
Storytelling and kindness are a huge part of my life. As I sit here and reflect on the last year, I get shivers down my spine. Kindness has completely changed my life. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s saved my life. This time last year a gentleman I didn’t know, Marc Winn, from a little island I’d never heard of, Guernsey, U.K., got in touch to ask me if I would speak about what I’d done with Suspended Coffees, and also to tell some of my own personal story.
At this point, I wasn’t in the best of places personally. I’d had my electric switched off yet again. I had zero belief in myself. I was struggling to put food on the table for my family. My own wife was in a really bad space with her mental health and I was extremely lost and depressed. That, coupled with the fact that I’d never spoken in public and didn’t really understand how it worked, left me feeling scared to death, and I was terrified of accepting his offer. I remember the conversation with my wife. I said to Erin, ”I can’t do this.” She said, “But you have to. We’ve nothing to lose.”
I landed in Guernsey was October 22, which holds a big significance that I’ll share later. I landed completely in the unknown. I was terrified and convinced Marc had gotten it horribly wrong in bringing me over. He asked me to prepare a 20 minute talk. I thought there would be a few speakers. It was only 90 minutes before the talk when Marc and I were walking around Guernsey that he told me the talk needed to be an hour long. He also told me I was the only speaker, and to really compound my nerves, told me that he had a cover charge of £15.50 for people to hear me speak. I nearly fainted. I asked him how in the world I could do this, and I even told him, “You’ve gotten it terribly wrong.” He simply smiled and said, “You’ll be fine, do what you do best … talk.”
I rushed back to my hotel, phoned my wife and said I couldn’t do it. I told her I was going to hide in the hotel. Erin was watching the telly at the time and started to give out to me. She said I had no choice but to do it, that I’d be fine, and to please get off the phone because she was missing her weekly soap. She also said something that really struck me, and still gives me the confidence to speak at events to date- “John, all we have to our name is our story, we’ve nothing else, we’ve nothing to lose.”
Still terrified, I decided to return to the event and tell a room full of strangers my story … the good, bad, the ugly. I went for it and told them everything. Over 90 people came to hear me speak. The talk itself is still a blur, but I spoke for just over 1 ½ hours. People laughed and cried, and after my talk they came up to me saying how inspired they were by my story. They told me I was an amazing human, something I really struggled to believe, but I quickly realized my story was something that was much greater than I ever dreamed or dared to believe. I realized that I was something much greater than I ever dreamed or dared to believe!
During my talk, I spoke a lot about the “pay it forward” concept. I’d also gotten creative and placed a little money under 5 chairs, and I asked everyone who found the money to gift it to 5 people in the room they didn’t know. After hearing my story, I asked those people to think about the biggest impact they could have with that money, and find the best way to pay it forward. After my talk, they showed the film “Pay it Forward”, which is an incredible film. Another bit of irony you’ll understand shortly.
As I sat in my hotel room after everyone had gone, I cried for over an hour. It hurt because I was made to believe I was worthless, and I had no value or worth, but that talk changed everything. It changed me. I realized everything I went through growing up wasn’t my fault. The abuse and bullying I faced – none of it was my fault. How had I let these people dictate my life? I promised myself in that room, that I was going to make a stand. No longer was I going to let people put me down and not believe in myself. I swore I was going to use the ‘pay it forward’ concept and kindness to completely change my life. I didn’t know how. I just knew I was going to make it the core of all I do.
Fast forward to today. I think about this amazing year and the crazy things that have happened. I’ve spoken at 20+ events including TEDx, people are flying me all over the world to speak, I’ve gotten qualified as a Coach, I’ve surrounded myself with only beautiful people who lift me up, people who love me for me. Every action I take is with kindness in mind. Life is still hard. People still try to bully me and put me and my work down. I still get sad. But now I believe in myself in a way I never dreamed possible. I do it to inspire others because I have to. It’s the reason I was put on this earth. I now realize storytelling and kindness are critical. I know because it’s been my life for the last year, and I want to share the impact with the world. I want to share how it’s saved my life and how I know it will save many others, too.
This time last year, I was close to ending my life, until kindness saved it. On October 22nd, 2014 I landed in Guernsey to tell my story. This year on October 22nd my partners and I are hosting an event which will be the first of its kind. It strikes me that the dates are more than a coincidence. I only realized this when I went back to check my dates to tell this story. But that’s not the most amazing coincidence. The very first person I confirmed as a speaker is none other than an incredible lady and author by the name of Catherine Ryan Hyde, who wrote a book called “Pay it Forward”, the very same book that the film was based on. The film they played at the end of my talk in Guernsey.
Visit GenKind24 to learn more about GenKind24 LIVE, register, and find other ways you can participate in this global day of kindness. Founders of The Wellness Universe Anna Pereira and Shari Alyse will be LIVE at 2pm EST talking about kindness.