Senator Omer Rains climbing another summit

When you face a challenge in your life, do you keep going? Or do you just give up?

So many people just give up. Or they look for excuses for their failure.

“No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities – always see them, for they’re always there.” ~Norman Vincent Peale

At those times when I face a major challenge, I learn from others and look for examples of how others have dealt with such challenges.

Today, I am delighted to bring to you the story of a man who has conquered many challenges and is taking on even more.

I have just finished reading “Back to the Summit” a story of how one man defied death and paralysis to once again lead a full life of service to others.

Senator Omer Rains of California had been a politician on the global stage, a power-broking lawyer of A-list celebrities, and conqueror of some of the highest mountains in the world.

However, a paralysing brain aneurysm and stroke hit him at the age of 61 and he became more helpless than a small child.

In his book “Back to the Summit” (Amazon USA /Amazon UK), Senator Rains takes readers on a courageous journey toward recovery, both physical and spiritual. He takes the reader through his journey and reflects on what gave him the strength to dare to walk again. As he says:-

“Get up from every fall, no matter how great or far, and continue to live fully”

His story will give hope to anyone who has suffered physical trauma in their life. And anyone who has ever faced a mountain of a setback will be inspired to keep on fighting to live again.

Did I tell you I liked this book!?

I had the opportunity to ask Senator Rains some questions and to learn from his amazing life. This is what he had to say:-

1. Senator Rains, your story is so inspiring! Thanks for your wonderful book – it’s going to inspire a lot of people around the world.

What inspires YOU?

I am inspired by ordinary people, every day, doing extraordinary things.

From my Grandpa Cochran about whom I write in my book to the impoverished villagers of Ullon Gram, India, who have built the magnificent Oceanic Library, a sparkling gem of learning where children can get access to their first and only books—to a young, severely disabled and disfigured artist I met on a side trip near Halong Bay, Vietnam.

I see his artwork hanging prominently in my home when I rise to start each day, and I think, “My God, if this terribly hunchbacked young boy with only the most limited use of his hands could create this vibrant and extremely intricate work of art that looks like colourful brush strokes, but is in fact made of woven silk, what can the rest of us do with a little effort, discipline and talent?”

2. So many other people have faced mental and physical challenges a lot less severe than yours. And yet unlike them, you just refused to give up.

What helps you keep going? What advice can you offer those people who just give up?

When I was lying in my bed after my aneurysm and associated haemorrhagic stroke, with legs that felt no sensation and only one arm that even marginally moved, I could have been totally depressed.

Instead, I had a vision. I told myself, “If I ever am sufficiently blessed to return to a quasi-normal life, I will spend that life working to help others.”

That vision gave me all the motivation and energy I needed to keep trying to get better.  But I knew I couldn’t do everything all at once.

Before I could walk, I had to take a single step. And that is what I say to others faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge. All you have to do is take one step. And then one more. And then one more.

Eventually, you will get where you need to go.  But the key, in my opinion, is to never, never, never, give up—no matter how difficult the challenge.

3. What’s the single one thing that you believe stops people from making the most of their life?

Based on life experiences and observations, I sense that some people give up on themselves too soon. 

I believe in setting goals and striving to reach them, no matter how great the challenge—and not allowing setbacks (for we all suffer them) to side-track one from achieving those goals.

When I was dealing with my own paralysis brought on by the aneurysm and stroke, and with the doctors telling me I’d never walk again, I did not once feel self-pity.

Believe me, if I thought it would have helped to feel sorry for myself, I would have! But I knew that doing so would just be wasted energy and counter-productive.

So instead, I set goals for myself—the first of which was to walk in thirty days—and I focused on that goal with dogged determination. Instead of self-pity or regret, I funnelled all my energy into getting well again and that started with moving but one limb and eventually taking but one step. 

The other goals followed one at a time until I was finally “Back to the Summit”. (Amazon USA /Amazon UK)

4. What 3 tips can you offer for any young person starting off on their life journey today so that they too can one day climb the summit?

First, I would say, try to come to terms with the fact that life will be challenging. It is for all of us, no matter how privileged.  

Air-brushed ads, glossy reality TV shows, and fast-paced technology today often makes life look far easier than it is in reality. The sooner you understand that life is full of challenges and even hardships, the sooner you can get busy really living it, rather than being disappointed in it.

Yes, life is hard, messy untidy, and chaotic. So what?

Take another step.

Do another push up.  Get in shape.  Be positive.  Be present. Believe in yourself.  Get ready for the unexpected for, most assuredly, it will come sooner or later.

Second, get out and enjoy nature! Regardless of your religious beliefs or spiritual outlook, the natural world is there to inspire and energize you.

Lastly, take care of yourself and your family, but don’t forget to serve others too. In truth, the world is your family. We are all connected.

You will get the most joy in your life not by climbing Everest but by helping someone else to climb Everest with you.  And if you don’t make it to the top, that’s okay too.  After all, the most important aspect of such a quest is in the journey.

5. Maybe not everyone wants to consciously lead a life of full service to others. But I do believe that everyone deep down wants to make a difference to others.

What suggestions can you offer to those people who are reluctant to serve others in some way?

First, I would say that they are missing an important part of life!

I would encourage them to start small. You don’t have to over-commit yourself. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to do more, and then more.

And follow your heart too. I’ve always pursued causes that inspire me, whether it be building orphanages or helping to bring literacy here at home or in various parts of the developing world.

I’ve never lost interest because I truly care about the people involved and what it is that I’m trying to do for or with them.

6. There is a rapidly growing awareness about the need for change and equality in the world. What are your hopes for your future? How can my readers here climb their own summits and change the world?

I hope that in the not-too-distant future, we see more and more communities like those in Ullon Gram, which have found a way to build a shining future for their young people through vision, ingenuity, determination, and plain old hard work.

Funding helps – and we need more humanitarian organizations like READ offering to help these communities get started. 

However, the magic of villages like Ullon goes well beyond money.  It goes to vision and heart.

For example, in the village of Ullon, its visionary leader, Kapilanda Mondal, brought people together to believe in something far beyond what seemed possible, and that I believe is what made the difference for them – far, far more than anything I ever did for them. 

Become a leader like Kapilanda Mondal and it will inspire others to follow.

Just imagine the amazing accomplishments we could all achieve if we just joined together with a clear determination to not just solve an immediate problem, but to create a happy, healthy, sustainable future for all.

If you want to change the world, have a vision.

Then get others to believe in it. That’s what it means to be a leader.

7. Finally, what’s next for you? What new summits do you intend to climb now?

I am always considering my next project; my next way to give back to this world that has blessed me so much in so many ways.

Right now I’m in conversation with leading scientists to help bring about a revolutionary technology that would allow paralyzed people to use a computer by simply blinking their eyes or with minor twitching of the face.

I also expect within the next few months to return to a country I know well, South Africa, to help with the development of job creation projects, especially for women and disadvantaged minorities. 

Other summits will no doubt follow, and I will be the richer for it.

Thanks very much, Senator Rains for sharing all your wisdom, courage and inspiration. I wish you all the best with climbing your next summit – and the one after that…

I can assure you that after this interview, many of the Make It Happen readers will be fired up also climb their own summits and change the world:-)

Readers –  you can check out Senator Rains book on Amazon USA /Amazon UK.

Footnote:- Readers should also check out this related post from my blog:-

Feel the Fear and Change the World Anyway

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