Many times, biographies inspire me or challenge me.

Many times, biographies inspire me or challenge me. Granted, I don’t read a huge number of them, but the ones I do read often get me thinking about my own hard times and challenging circumstances. I can sometimes see where I bravely fought through, and sometimes I consider where I could have done better.

Still, few of them enflame a passion within me—not for simple changes that will lead to a better life, but burn deep, encouraging shifts that will affect both me and those around me. On Fire by John O’Leary makes that short list of books.

Life is not about avoiding death; it’s about choosing to really live.

~John O’Leary, On Fire

On Fire: Description from Amazon

On Fire

In the bestselling tradition of Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and Nick Vujicic’s Life Without Limits comes a rousing 7-step plan for living a life on fire, filled with hope and possibility—from an inspirational speaker who survived a near-fatal fire at the age of nine and now runs a successful business inspiring people all around the world.

When John O’Leary was nine years old, he was almost killed in a devastating house fire. With burns on one hundred percent of his body, O’Leary mustered an almost unimaginable amount of inner strength just to survive the ordeal. The insights he gained through this experience and the heroes who stepped into his life to help him through the journey—his family, the medical staff, and total strangers—changed his life. Now he is committed to living life to the fullest and inspiring others to do the same.

An incredible and emotionally honest account of triumph over tragedy,

On Fire contains O’Leary’s reflections on being that little boy, the life-giving choices made then, and the resulting lessons he learned. O’Leary very clearly shares that without the right people providing the right guidance, at the right time, he never would have made it through those five months in the hospital, let alone the years that followed as he struggled to regain mobility, embrace his story, and ignite clarity of his life’s purpose.

On Fire encourages us to seize the power to choose our path and transform our lives from mundane to extraordinary. Once we stop thinking solely on the big moments in our lives, we can begin to focus on those smaller opportunities that tend to pass us by. These are the events—the inflection points in our lives—that can determine how we feel about life now, where we are headed in the future, and how many lives we can impact along the way. We can’t always choose the path we walk, but we can choose how we walk it. Empowering, inspiring, remarkably honest, and heartfelt, O’Leary’s strength and incredible spirit shine through on every page.

My Thoughts about the Book

Indifference kills.

~John O’Leary, On Fire

After reading a couple of chapters, I stopped to purchase a copy of this book to give to a friend. Now that I’ve finished it, I will recommend it to many more.

It’s one of those books that you highlight and write in, sentences like, “Excuses get you nowhere.” And, “A Single spark can also be harnessed for good.” Phrases that stick with you, like, “I love you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Stories of people I’ve never heard of before, like Jack Buck, but whose simple actions are now becoming a part of how I think.

While inspiring, the author's words went far, burrowing underneath my skin and making me consider what I truly believe.

While inspiring, the author’s words went far, burrowing underneath my skin and making me consider what I truly believe. I questioned where my actions differ from what I think or say. The truths shared within these pages will live with me for a long time, hopefully changing how I behave for the rest of my life.

The Bottom Line – 5 stars

Is this a book for everyone? Of course not. But should it be one you check out? Absolutely.

I’ll be honest and tell you that parts of John’s story are agonizingly hard to read. I can’t imagine how he pressed through some of the healing that had to take place. I can imagine even less his brave parents who loved him well enough to encourage him through or the courageous nurses and therapists who sometimes cried with him as they made him do what was best.

But the truths John learned and faithfully shares are worth learning, worth fighting through the hard pages and heart-wrenching paragraphs.

When we try to stay safe, when we strive to stay comfortable, we miss the great opportunities of life.

~John O’Leary, On Fire

About the Author

John O'Leary

When John O’Leary was 9 years old, he suffered burns over 100% of his body and was expected to die. He is now an inspirational speaker and author, teaching more than 50,000 people around the world each year how to live inspired.

John’s first book, ON FIRE: The Seven Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life published in 2016 by North Star Way, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. John is a contributor for and The Huffington Post. John is a husband and father of four and resides in St. Louis, Missouri.

Learn more at

DISCLOSURE: I purchased this book for myself. The opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by the author or publisher. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” If you want to read more of my reviews, click here

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