I came across the miraculous story of John Diaz this week as I was doing some research for my podcast. John’s incredible story inspired me to think more deeply about how, as humans, we pursue meaning and purpose in our lives.
John’s story also made me contemplate the importance of taking action in our own life in a way that allows us to access the natural strengths, gifts, and talents we all possess. In doing so, we positively impact the world around us and leave our own mark on humanity.
On October 31st, 2000, John Diaz was one of 179 people aboard Singapore Airlines Flight 006. Despite typhoon-like conditions, the plane still took off. Due to near zero visibility, the pilots accidentally tried taking off from the wrong runway which was much shorter than the actual runway they should’ve taken off from.
John Diaz remembers feeling a slight bump which was the plane running through a small concrete barricade near the end of the runway. This was followed by a much harder bump as the plane smashed into a backhoe that was parked at the far end of the runway. John remembers his first-class seat being torn away from its base and being violently thrown around the first class cabin as the plane spun wildly out of control and tumbled to a halt. John was still conscious and knew he needed to exit as quickly as possible. The situation was dire as different sections of the plane were engulfed in fire.
Before jumping out, he looked back at the economy class cabin. He described it as looking like Dante’s inferno with people still strapped to their seats and just burning. As the fire swept through the cabin, it seemed to John that there was a light coming from the top of each passenger’s head. He would later describe this light as an aura leaving their bodies with some lights brighter than others.
Although not a religious man, this experience forever changed John Diaz and gave him a new kind of spirituality. After this tragic accident, he genuinely came to believe that the brightness and dimness of the auras he had seen on the burning plane were a representation of how one lives their life while on earth.
John would go on to say:
“I want to now live my life so my aura, when it leaves, is one of the brightest ones.”
John first told this story on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2006. This story also changed Oprah. It made her think much more deeply about ‘how one lives a meaningful life’ and that the purpose of our lives should be to become the very best version of ourselves possible.
In Oprah’s own words she says:
“I want to grow myself into the best of myself.”
I recently had a few discussions with a good friend. This person believes that they have gotten off track in their own life. As a result, they want to commit themself to doing whatever it takes to find greater meaning and purpose in their life.
Although this person is already a high achiever who has built a good life for their family, they know that deep within themself, they want to find much more meaning and fulfillment. It is very brave of them to take on the challenge of becoming a better version of themself and to seek deeper levels of well-being.
In the process, they will not only be a better spouse, parent, and friend, but the internal work they do to seek deeper fulfillment in their life will probably also have a very positive impact on their professional life as well. They know with full certainty that this entire process begins within themself.
As Oscar award winning actor Denzel Washington says:
“At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished….. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.”
When hearing John Diaz’s story, what comes up for you?
To what extent are you living your life in a way that moves you closer to being your best self?
When you reflect on your words and actions, can you say, with confidence, that you are leading yourself down the right path?
How bright is your aura?
What do you need to do to create even a brighter aura in your life?
Whether you believe John's story or not is irrelevant as this story serves more as a metaphor for the importance of living the most meaningful life possible. In becoming the very best version of ourselves possible, we honor who we are and the gifts we've been blessed with. And we lift up and buoy those around us to do the same.
As always, thanks for reading and for sharing these posts with anyone who you feel will benefit from reading them too.
Shine on folks.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.