I worked with Michael Oher on his New York Times best-selling book, I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond, published in 2011. On balance, Oher knows that saying he beat the odds is no exaggeration. On the one hand, he has enjoyed some unexpected highs in his life: a college degree, a happy marriage, two beautiful children, selection in the first round of the NFL draft, and a Super Bowl victory.
However, he has also run up against some pretty daunting walls, including poverty, hunger, homelessness, struggles in school, bullying, brain injury, anxiety and depression. Now that he has retired from professional sports and out of some of the limelight that his career placed on him, he has dedicated himself to helping other young people avoid, or least cope, with the turmoil he had to surmount as a child.
Our second book together, When Your Back’s Against the Wall, hit the shelves this week and offers encouragement and instruction on how to get back up—again, and again, and again. I’m proud to have worked with Oher on this project, which coincides with this next phase in his remarkable and inspirational life.
Oher has dedicated himself to using his now-famous story to impact young people through the Oher Foundation, which provides scholarships and school-based mentoring programs for disadvantaged kids. “I liked being different from other kids,” Oher explained in the podcast. “I went to school and worked and brought money home for food, but I wished I’d had Michael Oher sitting across the table and assuring me I was doing the right things. It would have helped me with a lot of my doubts.”
Thanks to Oher, many more young people will have access to mentors who know what they are experiencing and can advise them wisely. And what would such advice look like? Oher offers several foundational elements for living wisely – beginning with healing yourself.
“You can be healthy and still be unhealed,” noted Oher in the podcast. “Healing yourself is really about making sure you’re delivering and presenting yourself as a person of character in every opportunity.” In the podcast, Oher lays down the foundations of such a healing process. These include:
• Why the path to greater wisdom begins with making yourself uncomfortable.
• Four questions to ask yourself every morning when you look in the mirror.
• Reinforcing good habits and losing bad habits on a regular basis.
“We all have lots of flaws,” Oher admitted. The secret to leading others is, first, to recognize these flaws and learn to lead yourself. Then, by all means go out there and pour into other people. “I just think you have to have a sense of duty, a sense of something that’s bigger than you,” Oher explained. “For me, it is being there for generations who are really hopeless and don’t have anyone to turn to. That’s the legacy I want to leave.”