Sam Berns’ 2013 TedX Talk, “My Philosophy for a Happy Life,” is on my mind for many reasons.
He was 17 when he spoke, and he lit up the stage with his humor, enthusiasm, descriptions of his challenges, and his approaches to those challenges. Some slices of his life he shared via pictures: he and his closest “goofball” friends, he and his supportive family, a video of him performing with his high school marching band on his specially engineered snare drum, and a snippet of the HBO documentary about him, “Life According to Sam.”
Sam had a rare genetic disorder called progeria.
Progeria (pro-JEER-e-uh), also known as Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome, is an extremely rare, progressive genetic disorder that causes children to age rapidly, starting in their first two years of life. Children with progeria generally appear normal at birth. (Mayo Clinic, Feb 1, 2018)
What is remarkable about Sam is not that he had this condition, but how he chose to live his life. In his TedX talk, his approach to a happy life is a description of how to live life fully, and realistically. Fully because he whole-heartedly pursued his interests and deeply appreciated the friends and family who loved and supported him, realistically because he shared that he sometimes had bad days, and his strategy to move through those difficult times.
What his talk elicited in me wasn’t so much count-my-blessings-that-I-do-not-have-to-cope-with- progeria-in-my-own-life, but rather the feeling of rising to a challenge. In some ways, Sam handed over the playbook of what to do when life throws this or that at you, how to keep marching towards the end zone, staying in the game because you keep playing, because you keep overcoming, because you are clear about what is meaningful in your life and you have the vision that you can do what you set out to do.
Sam Berns’ Philosophy of a Happy Life:
Watch the TedX Talk: Sam Berns - My Philosophy for a Happy Life
Jacqueline Denny, ACC, CHPC, LMT