Do you have what it takes to light the fire within yourself?

I am always inspired by the Olympic Games and emotionally moved by the opening ceremonies.

The spirit of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City especially touched my heart.

When they brought in the American flag flying at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, there wasn’t a dry eye in the fifty-thousand-seat stadium.

The lighting of the Olympic flame sent chills up and down my spine. It was one of the most significant experiences of my life.

As an executive coach, I often ask my clients to tap into their inner flame…and consider the time it was ignited.

Consider these flames…

Lighting the Olympic Flame

On February 6, 2002, I was deeply honored to be one of the Olympic torchbearers.

Each runner had been selected because of our stories.

I was so moved by the whole experience that I cried for most of the run.

I’d like to share more of my story, but not here and now…

The stories I wish to share epitomize the power of the flame and define the motto engraved on every torch:

Light the Fire Within.

Lighting the fire within those who have battled

I’m energized every time I step in front of an audience to deliver a keynote speech, but this opportunity was incredible.

On the day of my run, all of us attended an orientation. We were told that when we had our torch ignited by the oncoming torchbearer, their flame was immediately extinguished.

That each of us, for that one moment in time, we would be the keeper of the sacred Olympic flame…


Two young people were overseeing the 65-day relay.

Their job was to make sure every runner showed up at their location, so the relay never missed a beat. If there was a last-minute cancellation, they were equipped in the official van with extra running suits in every size to accommodate a replacement runner.

They were prepared for the unexpected like any good leadership team should be…

The Power of the Olympic Flame, Part One

When one man with cancer received his letter stating that he had been nominated to carry the torch, he immediately put the date on his calendar.

Against his doctor’s advice, he trained to be in shape when the day came. His cancer spread, though, and he fell into a coma.

The person in charge of the relay was notified, and while she was arranging a replacement runner, the man miraculously came out of his two-week coma on the morning of his run!

An ambulance delivered him to the pick-up point. He was assisted onto the road to receive the flame, had his torch ignited and ran his quarter-mile.

Everyone cheered as they witnessed the inner strength he demonstrated…and the spirit and power of the Olympic flame. As soon as the man lit the next runner’s torch and his torch was extinguished, he collapsed on the road and was put back in the ambulance.

He lapsed back into a coma and died, having found the fire within to fulfill his obligation.

The Power of the Olympic Flame, Part Two

On one morning in Houston, Texas, a call came in that an elderly woman would not be able to make it for her relay segment.

Scrambling to find a qualified substitute, the young woman in charge drove the van down the route and passed an elementary school.

She stopped and ran into the building. Frantically, she introduced herself and asked the Principal to help her. Who would she select to carry the Olympic Torch?

The young woman told the Principal,

I need the child in your school who kids make fun of, who doesn’t have many friends and usually sits alone – the student who has a tough home life and struggles with their schoolwork.

The principal’s face lit up like a Christmas tree.

I have just the lad you’re looking for!

The principal introduced the young woman to a tiny, disheveled-looking fourth-grade boy.

He was outfitted in his very own tracksuit, given an orientation, and escorted to the van.

No one in the school knew what was happening, except they were excused from class to assemble on either side of the street in front of their campus…

The relay van pulled up and stopped at the end of the road. The oncoming torchbearer was greeted with cheers from the thousands of spectators on hand.

As he drew near, the van door opened and out into the street – to everyone’s astonishment – stepped that fourth-grader, all decked out in his white suit and holding the torch that was almost as big as he was.

The torchbearer ignited his torch and the little lad began to jog.

The first sounds from his fellow students and faculty members were moans and gasps of disbelief.

Comments quickly turned negative…

How did he get out there?

He must have stolen the torch!

Even though this fellow could hear all the mean-spirited comments, he fought back his tears of pain and insecurity. He kept his head up. He held the torch with pride and dignity.

As he ran, a schoolmate shouted out his name in disgust. But his disgust was quickly turned around. The crowd embraced it and started chanting his name.

No one could believe it, but they were caught up in the excitement…and one by one, they joined in. As he ran past his now encouraging, cheering classmates and ignited the next torchbearer’s torch, the crowd got louder and louder.

You have the power to light the fire within

As his flame was extinguished and he boarded the van to go back, it was explained to the spectators that, for that one moment in time, this little fourth-grader was the official ambassador of world peace.

Two days later, the young woman in charge of the relay received a handwritten FedEx letter from the Principal.

It read,

I trust you already know the power of the flame. I’m confident you already realize the self-fulfilling prophecy of the Olympic motto.

But you have no idea what that one magical torch-running moment did to change the attitudes of my faculty and transform the tolerance level of my students.

This one experience truly did ‘Light the Fire Within.’ Thank you. You have changed our school and our community forever.

So, where will you find your inner flame?

How will you ignite the fire within yourself?

Will you battle adversity, challenge yourself to live a life of significance?

It’s possible. Why don’t you join me on the journey and find your inner flame?

Related reading:

The American Flag Is More Than A Colored Piece Of Cloth
A Rose Among The Thorns: A Lesson About Significance
Forgiveness Is Significance In Action…Are You Ready?

Categories: General


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