Behind the Book: Meet Shay Eskew
Meet Shay Eskew, author of What the Fire Ignited.
- National Keynote Speaker with the Healthcare Financial Management Association and the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Managers
- Newton Running Ambassador and IRONMAN Foundation Ambassador
- Completed nearly seventy triathlons across four continents
No one knows what it means to persevere more than Shay Eskew. While we will all face hardships in our life, not everyone has the tenacity and resilience to break through their roadblocks and inspire others to do the same.
When Shay’s roadblock—a splash of gasoline and a lit match that set his body ablaze—occurred as a child, he had the choice to either succumb to his injuries or to rise above them. In What the Fire Ignited: How Life’s Worst Helped Me Achieve My Best, Shay shares the trials and tribulations he was forced to face as he reclaimed his life as a burn survivor, an athlete, and a motivational speaker.
Born into a blue-collar, low-income environment, Shay was brought up with an inherent belief in using relentless grit, determination, and a bit of humor to surmount any setback. Speaking on his use of comedy as catharsis, Shay believes “Many have trouble comprehending my ability to make light of my circumstances, but I learned early on that if you can’t laugh at yourself, life is pretty miserable. Symbolism, humor, and clarity are always there if you look for them. You’ll see these patterns demonstrated throughout my journey.”
After being told to give up sports due to the severity of his burns, Shay forged his own path forward as a world-class triathlete and often finds that he thrives when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges: “Through the many setbacks I’ve experienced for more than forty years, what I’ve learned is that every obstacle is a
“I’VE EXPERIENCED FIRSTHAND
HOW GRIT, PERSEVERANCE,
RAW DETERMINATION, AND
THE REFUSAL TO QUIT CAN
BURY ANY OBSTACLE.”
great opportunity in disguise. Adversity defines champions. I’ve experienced firsthand how grit, perseverance, raw determination, and the refusal to quit can bury any obstacle. When situations get challenging and on the verge of a crisis, this is when I shine … I constantly look for people to tell me I can’t do something so I can prove them wrong.” Told through anecdotes of Shay’s grueling IRONMAN and triathlon competitions as well as his childhood and adolescence, What the Fire Ignited showcases Shay as an inspiration to all who cross his path. As one of the six Kona Inspired winners—a contest to grant the most inspiring and influential athletes participation in the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii—Shay rallied the forces of friends, family, and local celebrities to endorse his incredible life journey.
Shay is currently a motivational and keynote speaker at healthcare conferences and leadership retreats. By sharing his story, Shay hopes to help those struggling with life to realize the greatest tragedies are often our greatest blessings if they have the faith to stay the course. He believes that his book is for anyone and everyone and who has encountered a challenge and says to his readers: “I hope you realize you have the strength inside you to rejoice in your sufferings, even in the most unimaginable ones.”
We are all facing something; we all have the odds stacked against us in some way. In What the Fire Ignited, readers should take comfort in knowing others have been there and not only survived, but thrived.
5 FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT SHAY ESKEW
1. Survived a childhood burn that required over thirty-five surgeries and left 65 percent of his body
covered in scar tissue
2. Lost an ear due to the trauma from the fi re and now wears a prosthetic in its place
3. Is a four-time IRONMAN, four-time member of Team USA, and ranked in the top 1 percent of
4. Competed in nine triathlon world championships including the IRONMAN World Championship
in Kona, Hawaii
5. Once worked as a bear research biologist