Struggle is something we all deal with throughout our lives. It tests us in every way imaginable and can drive us past our physical and mental limits. But few can argue that they have gone through as much as Sean Stephenson.
When Sean was born, he was quickly diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta; the condition is commonly known as “brittle bone disease”. This pretty much means that he was born with incredibly weak bones that would break even at the softest touch. Because of this, most of his bones were broken during his delivery. Doctors concluded that he would not live very long but fortunately, he survived. However, he spent most of his life growing up in pain as his body grew stunted. By the time he was 18, he had fractured over two-hundred bones.
But Sean didn’t let all these obstacles destroy him. With positive influences particularly from his mother, he became a motivational speaker at 17. He was able to work alongside the likes of Tony Robbins and Bill Clinton. Since then, he has became a successful author and speaker, with his ideologies reaching people like Richard Branson, the Dalai Lama, Paula Abdul, and more. On top of that, he just got married to an amazing woman (Mindie Kniss) two years ago.
Sean Stephenson is the definition of “anything is possible,” and he uses his own personal struggles to teach others how to improve every aspect of their life and block out the things that hold them back from success and development. He is the perfect inspiration for anyone who is bitching about the bad things that are going on in their lives. Here is a guy that literally has every excuse to fail, but he doesn’t let that get to him and has accomplished more than most could dream of.
I recently had the pleasure to interviewing Sean during his trip to L.A. Here, we discuss dealing with struggles, what people in their 20’s need to be focused on, and finding the right partners in life.
We began our conversation with Sean by asking what he’s been up to these days and he responded by telling us about the three hats he wears.
“I am mostly a professional speaker, I always get an invitation or two it’s so effective… I’ve been going into companies and organizations and speaking on stages since 1996 so it’s been my income and main focus all these years and that’s one hat I wear. I also am a therapist. So I say half the time I’m a professional speaker and half the time I’m a professional listener… And then the other third, it’s not a really perfect third it’s more like the tenth of my time, is being a content producer in social media through books and video products and courses.”
Sean definitely didn’t get to where he is now very easily, referring to the condition he was born with. Despite such hardship, Sean learned early on how to handle a condition that would defeat most.
“…My inside joke in the medical community is that it’s been thirty four years later and all those doctors are dead and I’m still here, so sometimes you don’t want to believe the experts. And you know with this condition, it’s stunted the growth of my bones as you can see in my height. I’m also using a wheelchair for my mobility because my legs don’t support the strength to walk so I grew up with a lot of bone fractures. Something as simple as sneezing could break a collarbone and stepping can break a femur… By the time I was eighteen I fractured over two hundred times and had numerous surgeries that tried to straighten my bones because the muscles will be stronger than bones over time.”
Sean then told us a well known story of a Halloween during his childhood that changed his entire outlook on life.
“When I was in fourth grade, my favourite day of the year was always Halloween because I always have been sticking out my whole life and unlike most people on this planet. I wanted nothing more then to blend in, to blend in those scenarios. So while most people wanted to be getting attention, I wanted to disappear for a while because that’s what I can’t do every day. On Halloween that was possible because everybody’s dressing up in costumes and a little boy in a wheelchair doesn’t stick out anymore so I love Halloween for that reason. Well one morning before school I was moving around in my wheelchair in a corridor and I caught my left leg at the corner of the door and I bent it back and I snapped my femur. It was devastating because now I went through tremendous surgical pain but I also knew that I was going to miss my favourite day of the year and I was angry at God. I was angry at life and I just couldn’t understand. My mom came in the room and she tried to calm me down and she asked me a simple question. She said, “Is this going to be a gift or a burden in your life?,” this being my disability, my condition. And I already knew that if it’s a gift only if you’re going to see the good in it. Or is it going to be a burden, are you going to complain and feel bitte, are you going to use this as an excuse for the rest of your life? And you know, something happened that day where my life shifted. I loved my life as a child, still do up to this day. But I still have developed a lot of pain and I learned as time went on, it started in that moment that maybe the purpose to why I was put into this inconvenience is to teach other humans in this planet how to love their lives amidst their pains because everybody fractures.”
We then went on to ask Sean about his younger years where he candidly shared what his interests were in his 20s.
“In my twenties the most important thing to me was getting laid. I mean that was more important than making money, than eating food, sleeping… As shallow as that may sound it was my life in my twenties because ultimately what I wouldn’t admit to my buddies is that as I was on those conquests, I was really wanting to meet a woman along the way it was amazing. But I didn’t know that at that time. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized what I was ultimately seeking. I wasn’t looking for gratification purely for animalistic purposes… Well that was a part of that, but ultimately I wanted to find love. I wanted to find somebody who would fill three roles in my life as my lover, as my friend, and as my partner and my teammate. That’s what it comes down to, you know, attraction, friendship and commitment.”
Then we asked Sean what he thinks 20 somethings should be doing with their life now.
“So here’s my biased opinion. This is not my expert advice. This is my advice, my personal opinion. Do not get married in your twenties. Do not buy a house in your twenties. Do not settle into something for the rest of your life in your twenties. Make a bunch of mistakes in your twenties. Date the wrong people, go through all the drama, get it out of your system. You know, try things that maybe aren’t always the safest. Take risks and do things that are fun in your twenties. Find out what you don’t like and what you do like. Think about your preferences. Travel the world. Have wonderful physical relations with as many people as you feel safe and comfortable being with. Get out there. Try your luck, in your twenties because you have the rest of your life to settle in and get comfortable… The people that I know that are the happiest, they’re not the people with the most stuff. They’re the people that think what they have is enough. You know I mean, I think that we are a culture that thinks that they’ll be happy when “dot-dot-dot”… I’ll be happy when I find the love of my life. I’ll be happy when I make that big money. I’ll be happy when I get more famous. I’ll be happy when I’m in better shape. And you set yourself up to fail at that because when you think you’re gonna be happy because of something external it will greatly disappoint you because when you get there you look around you go, “Is this all there is? Why don’t I feel amazing? Why is this not enough for me?… There’s a comedian I’m trying to remember his name… George Carlin, and he said “If fame and happiness is going to come from outside, it’s like stapling sandwiches to your body when you think you would be hungry.”
Sean then went on to tell us an interesting story about working as a life coach for Paula Abdul and how much care he puts into protecting his friends as they work on improving their lives. Afterwards, Sean shared some insight on what many people, young and old, struggle with in a business lifestyle.
“I struggle with the balance between relaxing and working. Most people would probably think that I’m a workaholic because I’ve done so many things. The truth is that I am a “relaxaholic.” I love having many days in a row of doing absolutely nothing, just sitting out by my pool, playing my PlayStation, hanging out with my buddies, you know, making love to my wife, not doing anything but eating cereals, walking around naked in my house… I love doing absolutely nothing and no one gets paid for that. Okay, no one knocks at my door and is like, “Mr. Stephenson, here is your check for eating Lucky Charms and having sex with your wife.” I wish that would happen, that would be awesome! But the truth is I struggle with tightening down the screws and getting the ship down… I still struggle with the fact that I equate success with money. Even though I don’t want to, intellectually that’s not all I want it to be. On some level I think that I have conditioned myself that when I hear the word success I look at it in terms of cash flow and assets.”
Someone as amazing as Sean is bound to attract and meet other amazing people. Being as humble as he is, he told us that,
“…the biggest thing that I have accomplished is probably spending time with the Dalai Lama. That was insanely awesome. But on my bucket list, on my vision board, I have a picture of the Dalai Lama and what I was thinking was that I want to spend some more time alone with the guy… I also put on my list to meet Richard Branson and within a period of like two months, I had done both. It all kind of synchronized for me and aligned and a really big part of meeting with Richard Branson, meeting the Dalai Lama, was just telling people that I want to meet with Richard Brandson and the Dalai Lama.”
Lastly, Sean shared with us a bit about his current online radio show.
“So I just started a radio show called “Recharge with Sean Stephenson” and people can subscribe to that. It’s free of charge on my website, SeanStephenson.com and it’s a labor of love that I’ve been looking forward to doing for a long time. It’s me sitting down once a week on a Monday and I record it and the show’s unedited so if I clear my throat or if I have to go pee, I have to run and come back. It’s real, it’s live and I love it. So I would recommend everybody follow that radio program if they have learned anything from me today because basically it’s like they’re getting a free audio book every week. That’s the biggest project I’m putting my attention on right now.“
Photography by Melly Lee