The morning of September 17, 2004 started like many other days for businessman and entrepreneur Barry Shore. At 55, Barry had just returned from a trip overseas with his 17-year old son. Barry is the Founder and CEO of Dlyte.com and is a successful serial entrepreneur across a variety of industries.
Despite waking up physically strong, by the end of the day, Barry would be a quadriplegic, unable to move anything except his head—left to right.
“I was standing up in the morning, and in the evening, I was in the hospital paralyzed from my neck down,” says Barry. Barry was later diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks the nervous system. The disorder can be so devastating because it strikes without warning—and because there is no specific, singular cause known by doctors at this time. GBS affects about one person in 100,000, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Barry would remain in various hospitals for 4 and a half months. He had a hospital bed in his own home for 2 years. He couldn’t turn over by himself, and he had braces on both legs—from his hips down to his ankles—for more than a year.
But if you saw or heard Barry speak today, you’d be able to tell he’s full of life and just as vibrant and driven as before being diagnosed with GBS.
Barry credits prayer, therapy, and love—PTL as he calls it—and conscious leadership as the factors that have turned his setback into a positive outcome.
Prayer & Positive Thoughts
Prayer has been a foundation that has helped Barry persevere and grow. “Business owners, on a daily basis, are confronting issues that most people know nothing about,” says Barry. “That includes the mundane of payroll and cash flow, and things like that which are always an issue, or the idea and the process of strategizing for not only the next 6 months, and the next year, but the next 5 years.”
“When I talk about ‘prayer,’ we’re talking about focused, positive, powerful thoughts,” says Barry, saying that these are powerful forces that can help anyone bring out their best thinking. It’s about taking the time for introspection or reflection to help you be the best you can, on any given day.
Barry dedicates time (usually 30 to 40 minutes) to prayer in the early morning, typically pre-dawn. His routine consists of meditative ideas, physical stretches, focused breathing, singing, and smiling—all with a voice that proclaims joy. Barry says it helps to “generate loving energy and positive thoughts, both of which are necessary for good deeds.” It helps to connect his thoughts, words, and deeds throughout the day.
Barry says that many of the purpose-driven business owners he deals with find themselves asking questions that include: Where is my business, and the people who work with me, headed? Where does my organization fit into the larger picture? And how are we making a difference, in addition to being in business?
These are questions that every business owner can struggle with, which is why reflection can be such a powerful tool for better living.
Therapy & Incremental Growth
During the years that followed his diagnosis, Barry spent a great deal of time in intense physical therapy, including the 4 years he was in a wheelchair. It was in therapy where he discovered how expensive wheelchairs were, and how so many people were unable to afford a quality one.
Always the problem-solver, Barry found a group that accepted donations for people who were in need of a wheelchair. Asking his wife to help him write a check, which he was still physically unable to do, he donated. Afterward, he gave the entire process more thought.
“I was laying in bed and I said, ‘There must be a better way to give money to people that need it—and without having to make your emotions bubble over.’”
Barry knew there should be a way for people to give money to causes they cared about: as much as they could, at any given time. His concept didn’t end there: he also had the vision that they should be able to do so without having to spend any extra money. “Wouldn't it be great if you could just aggregate 1,000, 2,000, 10,000, a million peoples’ donations? It could be $5, or $10 a month—and it didn't cost anybody a penny?”
Laying in bed, he saw the potential connection between the gift card marketplace (a $100 billion industry), mobile phones, and giving. That’s where the concept of Dlyte was born.
Dlyte, the company he founded based on this idea, is a platform that makes it easy to shop, earn, and give at the same time.
“The goal of Dlyte is to facilitate the giving of $1 Billion over the next five years without costing anyone a penny,” says Barry. Individuals can go to Dlyte.com, buy gift cards, and in the process, give to causes that are important to them. “Every day giving is made easier and people don’t have to spend more money to give to their favorite cause.”
Today 500 of the biggest brands are a part of Dlyte, including Disney, Amazon, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, CVS/pharmacy, The Home Depot, Target, and many more.
Whereas Dlyte gets closer to its goal thanks to incremental giving, Barry shares that “incremental action” is also what has helped him to overcome daily struggles.
During rehabilitation, Barry was looking for more ways to exercise. “On dry land, gravity is unkind to me,” he says, laughing, but aquatic therapy was an option. “Within a couple of years after getting in the water, I was able to begin swimming,” shares Barry. After a few years of rehab, he hit a major milestone: he was able to swim a mile on his back without stopping.
“I had floaties on my legs so they wouldn't sink. I had floaties on my tummy, and I had to wear adaptive swimming gloves because I can't close my hands,” shares Barry. Once he was able to swim a mile, he set out to swim a mile twice a week.
“I started swimming a mile, twice a week, and I liked that so much, after a few months, I said, ‘I’m going to swim a mile, 3 times a week. And then I went to 4 times a week. And then 5 times. And then 6 times.”
Over the past ten years, Barry has swam more than 6,000 miles—equal to the distance from Venice, California (where he lives) to Seoul, Korea.
“ It's the idea of incremental growth—and just never giving up, being resilient, and always moving forward ,” says Barry. “It’s analogous to how money is raised with Dlyte: it doesn’t matter if you’re only giving $5, $10, or $15 a month by just doing your regular shopping. When you bring a lot of people together, you get power and strength.”
It’s the same thing with any business where you’re going after a vision or goal, he says. “The change you’re seeking doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes time. It takes energy. It takes focus. It takes a team.”
Love & Showing Gratitude
Another powerful factor for Barry has been love—both receiving and giving love. It may seem counterintuitive for application in the business world, but leading with love is one of the key ways to overcome challenges, both individually and for teams.
“It's about respect. It's about appreciation. In my humble opinion, appreciation and recognition are two powerful, real, human actions that one being can do for another,” says Barry, adding that gratitude “colors my entire being and is the focus of life.”
Applied to personal and professional challenges, leading with love helps leaders:
- Better manage emotions and outcomes in difficult scenarios;
- Deliver more heartfelt praise and appreciation;
- Demonstrate and cultivate trust;
- Practice servant leadership.
“What a Wonderful World”
One of Barry’s aphorisms is “WWW” which stands for “what a wonderful world.” It’s reflective of a conscious decision Barry makes to manage his energy so that he can do his best each day, and help others advance to their potential, too. “People think ‘world wide web’ when they hear ‘WWW,’ but this is about reframing; it really stands for ‘what a wonderful world.’ When you think, speak, and act that way, that's what happens in your world,” says Barry.
“You spend a lot of waking hours with your business, and often times, it evolves slowly. And the ability to think clearly in the mode of ‘WWW’ helps you energize your business and be involved each day.”
Prior to 2004, Barry received a card from a friend. On the front of the card, it had two words: “Keep Smiling.” On the back of the card, it talked about the power and the science of smiling.
Barry found out the cards were from The Daily Smile, a company with the goal of fostering, promoting, and living with joy, happiness, peace, and love.
“Just before I was diagnosed, I printed 100,000 Keep Smiling cards to pay it forward. We had already given out over 100,000 cards before I became a quadriplegic. I had also printed them in 4 other languages,” explains Barry. “And then, when I was in the hospital, and I couldn’t move, I didn’t want to lose the conduit of good that came out of the Keep Smiling movement,” says Barry.
To continue the simple gesture that promotes connection, positivity, and love, Barry asked his attendants to hand out the Keep Smiling cards throughout the hospital. He didn’t stop there—and the movement only continued to grow in the years since then. Today the cards are available in more than 24 different languages and people continue to “pay it forward” as the movement continues to grow. More than a million cards have been shared to date. “Our next goal is 10 million by 2020,” says Barry.
“Spreading joy, happiness, peace and love in this way has been integral and very important in my blossoming and recovery.”
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A verson of this post originally appeared on Forbes.com.