100. Resilience Through Connection with Michael O’Brien & Cornell Thomas

The Do a Day Podcast from Bryan Falchuk

This is a huge milestone for Do a Day – the 100th episode! Rather than doing a retrospective or solo episode, I wanted to bring in people from past episodes who have continued to be part of my life and continued to have an impact on how I think about things on a daily basis.
With that intention, I am SO honored to get to bring my friends Cornell Thomas and Michael O’Brien back on the show. We use the term “friends” loosely often, but these are two men I would genuinely consider friends for the personal connection we’ve made, and the impact we’ve had on each others’ lives.
I strongly suggest you go back to each of their episodes to hear their brilliance, and learn more about their stories. Cornell was on Episode 41 and Michael was on Episode 62.
Key Points from the Episode with Cornell Thomas & Michael O’Brien:
  • Cornell Thomas joined again after appearing on Episode 41, which you have to listen to.
  • He speaks on mindset, including overcoming adversity and callous the mind to become stronger from the problems we endure growing up.
  • Cornell is also the founder of the Positivity Summit, which is a global series of events to bring together people to talk about how to build and live a positive mindset.
  • Michael O’Brien joins us after being on Episode 62, which was a moving and inspiring conversation.
  • Michael prevents bad moments from turning into a bad day (or longer).
  • As Michael says, where we are now as a planet is a bad moment, to be sure.
  • This is a point where there will be pain and suffering, but also a moment we can come out of stronger if we are willing to learn from it, and decide the way show up in these moments and on the back of them.
  • Both Michael and Cornell have lived through very extreme moments that felt like their lives were over (for Michael, that took a literal meaning on top of the figurative one).
  • This gives them perspective on what we face today, where lives are at risk for many, but how we live our lives is impacted for everyone.
  • Michael said we are allowed to have two thoughts in our head, positive and negative. Cornell went deeper on this.
  • You can have the moment thinking, “this is it, everything is ruined.” And you can have the thought of, “I can come out of this, regardless of the struggle.”
  • The key is recognize the choice here rather than curling up and feeling like you can’t do anything.
  • Choice can be tough to exercise, but it is a power we have.
  • Neither Cornell nor Michael had any advanced warning in their stories, which not only shocks and surprises you, but creates a great deal of uncertainty.
  • That uncertainty is a big part of what we are all struggling with now.
  • Uncertainty creates a lot of difficulty, including potential questions of our identity – who are we if we don’t have our job or our role in our family?
  • Michael reminds us we can’t find our true or new identity without taking steps, even small ones.
  • There are positive messages around us right now.
  • The fact that the virus is able to spread means that we all must be so connected and intertwined, which is a fact we can use positively when we’re able to come back together.
  • Cornell reminded us that need to focus on acceptance. We can’t change anything without acceptance.
  • We have been through so much as a people already, so we will get through this.
  • This becomes an opportunity for us to get to things we haven’t done because of how busy we all are.
  • One change can be the tone we have been seeing of late, with the negativity in the political scene globally.
  • Michael brings up how the way we shape this situation defines what will come from it. The way we write this narrative defines the outcome.
  • The idea of getting back to the way things were is something that none of the three of us hopes happens. We need to build something better rather than just going back to what we were.
  • We talked about the butterfly effect of every moment and choice in our lives, even the seemingly tough ones.
  • Cornell would not have his family or the impact he has today if he hadn’t gotten injured and had gone to Europe to play professional basketball.
  • Michael has no regrets about what he has experienced, including his accident. He’s gotten to a place where he loves every scar on his body because of what he’s built as a result of them.
  • Michael used the idea of Japanese Kintsuge pottery, which is made from joining up broken pieces using gold or other precious metals, and the new creation is far more beautiful than the original thing that had to be broken for the new version to exist.
  • This is moment for creativity, where Cornell reminds us that thinking outside the box from a place of empathy for what people are going through can lead to new ideas that move us forward.
  • If you have been through something before, you can either use it to build your shield or let those things crack it.
  • But Cornell raises that we have been through all of these things before, or we wouldn’t be here, so we should recognize that we can do it.
  • Michael asks a great reminder question for us all – share a time when you’ve faced something really hard and got through it. How did you do that? What lessons can we take from that today?
  • There is a risk that the socio-economic divide we’ve already had will deepen if we don’t take specific action to address it.
  • Cornell talked about the moments to find purpose, which ties to his life-long pain of not understanding why he didn’t have a dad (who died when he was just a toddler), and it did not become clear to him until he became a dad himself.
  • We have to have faith and understand that as long as we have breath in our bodies, we can change our situation.
  • Michael shared three ideas that can help especially in a moment like this with the challenges we face right now:
    • When you feel the stress percolating, focus on your breath to slow everything down.
    • Everything in our life is neutral until we label them, as Michael learned during his recovery from his accident. Nothing has meaning until we give it meaning, and we tend to be quick to do that with labels like good or bad.
    • Through gratitude, we can see what we still have and can still do rather than just seeing what we have lost.
  • We all have a daily responsibility to see good in the world, and these can be the building blocks for something much bigger.
  • We can all do even little things to make people’s lives better, like letting someone merge in front of us, getting groceries for our neighbor, or whatever else we can do to help someone.


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