Sean Stephenson was broken at birth. Doctors told his parents to prepare for their newborn’s death. Their newborn son had been born with so many broken bones, it was easier to count the unbroken ones. He would never survive, they said.
Luckily, Sean had no idea he was supposed to die, and his parents had no intention of giving up on their baby.
Sean knows it is his parents’ love for him that carried him through dangerous years. “Their greatest gift to me,” he says, “was refusing to lose faith in my survival.”
Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or Brittle Bone Disease, is a daunting, painful condition. This genetic disorder leaves bones vulnerable to breaking with little to no provocation. For Sean, the natural act of being born was enough to crush most of his bones. For years afterwards, it was his parents who encouraged him to think beyond his disabilities, and focus on his abilities instead. When disappointment sank its claws into him, his parents would be right there reminding him there is more than one way to realize a dream.
“Sean,” his father told him, “you’re not going to be on the basketball team but if you work hard enough one day you can own a basketball team.”
If genetics served an unpleasant dish to Sean, it countered with a rich dessert in his parents’ unwavering instinct and commitment to their children. Sean inherited this tendency to ignore the negative predictions, and focus instead on potential. Together, the family found ways to adapt to their challenges by turning them into opportunities.
Confinement to a wheelchair, for instance, created an opportunity to create Halloween costumes that blew ordinary away. The memory still calls forth a huge smile on his face when Sean remembers his Halloweens spent as a tractor, race car, bulldozer, or a coffin.
Costumes were a fun outlet for stress, but not every struggle held that promise. Still, even when faced with the darkest moments, Sean manages to sift through the debris of disability, to locate the gem within.
“Is this going to be a burden or a blessing?”
This is the question his mother posed to Sean, on one of the numerous occasions he found himself writhing in pain on the floor, threatened with the overwhelming pain and futility of his condition.
The question snapped things into focus for him, and Sean learned to assume control of his own response to the life he’s been given.
Pain became his teacher, “and I was a good little student,” Sean Stephenson says.
When a broken bone left him rooted to the very spot of the injury for weeks at a time, Sean taught himself meditation and visualization. When he missed weeks of class, he witnessed the impact of dedicated teachers donating their own time, to come to his home and sit beside him on the floor, as they caught him up on his lessons.
When he meets someone who pities him, or flinches or even expresses disgust at him, he turns the sting of their reaction into a boomerang packed with forgiveness and education.
And as for those who have less kind reactions than pity, Sean accepts the role of their educator. He views these occasions as a responsibility to put his best self forward, helping people enjoy the experience of meeting him, and dispel the misperceptions often bred from ignorance.
It’s tempting to look at Sean now and see only his success, personally and professionally. He’s accomplished so much, it’s as if his disability no longer challenges him.
Dr. Sean Stephenson is a best-selling author, acclaimed international speaker, and highly sought after therapist with a thriving practice. He’s worked on Capitol Hill, had memorable experiences with President Bill Clinton, met the Dalai Lama, and was mentored by Tony Robbins, who wrote the forward for Sean’s book, Get off your “But”: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself
Personally, he’s done just as well. He met and married the love of his life, and the couple is in the process of their own version of living happily ever after.
He’s been on various types of stages in corporate boardrooms and conferences, maximum security prisons, high schools, and convention halls. His serious and powerful message is delivered in meaningful and often hilarious stories and examples of lessons and experiences from his own life, and he’s capable of commanding the attention of each of his audiences.
So how did he do it? How did the little boy who was written off and dismissed by so many, veer away from predications of doom and soar above his physical height, into the top tier of success?
Make no mistake. Dr. Sean Stephenson’s success is not a done deal. He is more aware than anyone, of the vulnerability of his happiness. He emphasizes the fact that he, too, must be constantly wary of depression or even complacency sneaking up on him, and must make a daily decision to commit to joy.
Just as vicious cycles have the power to sweep people away in negativity and destructive paths, so too do positive cycles have the power to move people forward into fulfillment. Sean reinforces the positive each day by doing the work he does. He is as lifted by people who seek him out to thank him or remind him of something he’s done that helped them, as are the people he helps. This is the cycle he chooses to play, over and over.
It’s this very aspect of Dr. Sean Stephenson’s character that makes him so effective in his mission to decimate insecurity which he firmly believes is a principle player in destructive decisions and help people find freedom from their personal prisons that keep them shuttered from leading full lives, whatever their circumstances may be.
Dr. Sean Stephenson is living proof that you don’t have to be tall to be a giant, and you don’t have to be able to walk to step into happiness.