Some of you have heard me say that it was pregnancy that inspired me to write The Wisdom to Know the Difference. That’s mostly true, but the other thing that got me thinking about the Serenity Prayer was a 60 Minutes episode about Richard Leakey. This deleted bit of the book is one of the first things I wrote, though I later cut it, partly because I found out that Leakey was a more controversial and complex figure than I originally realized, and also because there were so many interesting people whom I got to interview myself. Still, I find his story intriguing:
Discerning what we can and cannot change is one of life’s great challenges. Too often we waste energy complaining about problems that are beyond our control while shying away from the challenges within our reach. I was struck by a 60 Minutes segment that illustrated the wisdom to know the difference. The focus was Richard Leakey, the Kenyan fossil hunter famous for contributing to the study of human origins. When working to stop illegal game poaching in Kenya—a problem many others would have seen as unmanageable—Leakey was fearless and determined, despite the enemies he accumulated with his success. Yet when something happened that he could not change—a 1993 plane crash where he lost the lower half of both his legs—he seemed to accept his loss with remarkable serenity. Although sabotage was the suspected cause of the crash, Leakey did not appear to wallow in bitterness and self-pity (which would have been understandable). Instead, he acquired artificial legs, quickly relearned to walk, and went on with his work. He told 60 Minutes that he no longer had to deal with cramped legs while flying since his prosthetics could fit into the overhead compartment.