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Expected to die, today he’s inspiring others to truly live.

World-renowned inspirational speaker + national bestselling author John O’Leary wants to help you wake up from accidental living so you can do, be, achieve and impact more through your life.

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  • Every Thursday, John interviews an amazing guest on their story, successes, failures, lessons, and life to help you uncover tips to apply in yours.

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Jul 18, 2019

When I walk on stage to give a keynote, I'm often introduced "expected to die, now teaching others to truly live, John O’Leary.”

Today, I welcome 19-year-old John Smith who just 5 years ago fell into an icy lake, spent 15 minutes trapped below the ice and did not take a breath for over an hour. He was declared dead; yet he is alive and fully recovered today. His miraculous story was recently featured in the major film Breakthrough and today he shares it with us.

If you’re struggling to make sense of your suffering, have lost your personal faith or have stopped believing in miracles, this episode is for you.


  • John was adopted at 5 months old from Mixco, Guatemala.
  • January 19, 2015: John + two friends are playing on a lake when the ice broke. One self-rescued, the other was rescued by emergency personnel. With his life flashing before his eyes, John realized he was going to die.
  • Firefighter Tommy Shine heard a voice, directing him exactly to John's location, pulling him up after being underwater for 15 minutes.
  • The world-renowned doctors spent over an hour doing everything medically + scientifically possible to bring him back to life.
  • John's mother came to pray over his body, the atmosphere + physical temperate in the room the changed. The moment she began to pray, every apparatus on him turned on.
  • Sixteen days later, John left the hospital with no lingering medical issues.
  • With miracles, there are a lot of skeptics but there is science to back up this miracle.
  • DeVon Franklin, the producer of Breakthrough, encouraged John to "stay humble and stay hungry."
  • "God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called."
  • "By the time die, how many people can I influence to take to heaven with me?" - John's pastor Jason Noble inspires him to share his story to inspire others.
  • John's miracle has called him to study becoming a pastor at North Central University this fall.
  • Follow John on Instagram at @JohnASmith25.
  • Breakthrough is now available on DVD and digital download. Get it here.
  • Get a copy of Joyce Smith's book Breakthrough here.

John Smith mentions watching a video about my story. Watch it here.

If you enjoyed today's episode, you'll love Live Inspired Podcast guest Dr. Eben Alexander. Hear how his near-death experience changed his understanding of science, the world we live in today, the life beyond it and what it means in your inspired life. Listen to ep. 123 here.



1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? The Bible specifically the book the John.

2. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today? That loving, caring spirit for each other.

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? Picture of me and my dad from the St. Louis Zoo that signifies our love for each other. My mom has a picture book from my adoption.

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? My parents. They’ve sacrificed so much for me and deserve to see that beautiful beach just like I do.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? DeVon Franklin, producer of Breakthrough: Stay humble. Stay hungry. Remember who you are, where you come from and where you want to go.

6. What advice would you give your 14-year-old self? Remain strong in your faith. It may look bad now, but it will get better. Forgive your birth mom and the weight of the world will be off your shoulders.

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? John Smith impacted the world for Christ.


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