Becoming Fearless, Living Large
Sean Stephenson: Building Strength from Life's Challenges
Sean Stephenson, Lucra®
“Don't believe in a prediction that doesn't empower you.” - Sean Stephenson
By the time Sean was born, he had already fractured numerous bones. He was immediately rushed to a children’s hospital, where he was diagnosed with Osteogenesis imperfecta, otherwise known as brittle bone disease. This condition is characterized by bones that don't develop normally and can break easily from actions as routine as sneezing. Doctors didn't expect him to make it through his first night, but he survived, defying expectations as he would continue doing.
During one particular painful injury, he described his mother as first comforting him and then posing the question: “Sean is this going to be a gift or a burden in your life?” Still in his youth, he not only chose to gradually forge meaning from his illness, but he used humor about his circumstances to break the ice and connect with others. Driven by a strong sense of purpose, Sean would eventually go on to have a highly successful career as both a licensed therapist and motivational speaker, touching the lives of thousands of people.
“I realized that I had a lot of pain and I realized that the pain wasn't going to go away, but I still loved my life and maybe the purpose to this container, to this condition, was to teach other people how to love their life amidst their pain, because we all fracture, don't we?”- Sean Stephenson
In conversation with the co-founder of Disability Horizons, Sean shared that his style of social change was not through protest, but through empathy founded in friendship. As a college student, he had difficulty entering buildings due to a lack of accessible doorways on campus. Instead of petitioning his school, he chose to pursue a connection with his college's president. One afternoon as the two were passing through campus together, Sean challenged his friend to consider entering the building from his position in a wheelchair. The obstacle became immediately clear. Without further discussion, accessible entryways were quickly established on campus.
Similarly, when applying for employment, he once again hit roadblocks. Employers routinely rejected him despite his credentials. His friends encouraged him to sue, but he wasn't convinced that was the best tactic—start work the Monday after a successful lawsuit the week before?
Sean Stephenson, Lucra®
Instead he turned to sharing his story publicly, building his professional network to include his hero Tony Robbins among many other inspirational leaders. Sean turned perceived weaknesses like his short stature and wheelchair into a business strategy, remarking that nobody ever forgot meeting him. Marketing gold! By his mid-thirties, he was married and running a thriving coaching business. He not only built a fulfilling career from scratch, but one much more lucrative than what anyone would have ever expected of him. In the process, he inspired countless other people with health issues to believe that they could fashion their own paths to a meaningful life.
Despite the physical risks of an active life, Sean pursued his dreams, traveling the country and sharing the stage with US presidents, billionaires, celebrities, and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. His life purpose, as he put it in his 2014 TEDx talk, was “to rid this world of insecurity.” Although Sean passed away from an accidental head injury in 2019, he continues to touch people with his words through his writings and videos.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”- Nelson Mandela
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Disability Horizons, Video interview: Sean Stephenson on succeeding as a disabled entrepreneur, Accessed 11/23/21 from: https://disabilityhorizons.com/2018/01/video-interview-sean-stephenson-on-succeeding-as-a-disabled-entrepreneur/
Dr. Sean Stephenson, Accessed 11/23/21 from: https://seanstephenson.com/
Entrepreneur On Fire, Sean Stephenson: 3 Foot Giant, Accessed 11/23/21 from: https://www.eofire.com/podcast/seanstephenson/
Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, South Korea, Sean Stephenson International Documentary, Accessed 11/23/21 from: https://youtu.be/-HJ9ufxrUks
TEDx Talks, The Prison of your mind, Sean Stephenson, TEDxIronwoodStatePrison, Accessed 11/23/21 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaRO5-V1uK0