Ellen Schwartz

When your heart is split wide open, that is when you see the beauty around you
— Ellen Schwartz

Ellen Schwartz is a teacher, community leader, author, public speaker and advocate for research awareness and screening for neurodegenerative diseases. As founder of Project Give Back she links her decades of teaching together with her personal passion for charitable causes. She is also the Co- Founder of Jacob’s Ladder.

Ellen’s first son Jake was born with a neurodegenerative disease. At only 4 months old – they were told he would never walk, talk and likely only live until 5 years old. Jake lived until 21! Passing away, sadly only 8 months ago.

Ellen has written two books. Lessons from Jacob: A Disabled Son Teaches His Mother About Courage, Hope and the Joy of Living Life to the Fullest and Without One Word Spoken.

In this video, Ellen shares invaluable lessons on how people can live a more fulfilled life, a more purposeful life and how to live more from your heart. She describes how pain can transform us and lead us on a mission to change the world!

Key Takeaways:

  • Ellen’s firstborn son Jake was born with a rare fatal neurodegenerative disease.  At 4 months old – they were told that Jake would never walk, talk, see and would likely live until age 5.

  • Jake defied all odds and lived until 21 years old, passing away only 8 months ago

  • Jake lived every single moment – he was NEVER distracted – he embodied presence, love, and vulnerability

  • If I can spread his message of how to live with purpose, presence, and love – then I can keep helping others

  • He had the ability, because of this vulnerability, to strip everyone he met down to their rawest form – their inner beauty.  All walls were taken down. He gave us perspective every single moment

  • THE MESSAGE OF PAIN If you don’t feel pain – gut-wrenching pain when it’s in front of you – you don’t learn, you don’t grow

  • If we want to grow from pain to make a difference in the world, we have to touch the pain first

  • How can people grow from pain?

  • Be with pain, and take little breaks from it – with things that make you feel good – smile, people that uplift you, a walk, smell flowers, watch a sunset – things that are rewarding

  • Avoid self-destructive things that numb you out (that aggravates pain and does not allow access to the healing)

  • When you are in challenge – give to others, SMILE, GET OUT – CONNECT, GIVE

  • Jacob’s ladder – started only 8 months after Jake was born – the local Starbucks Barista wanted to support Ellen and her family.  This organization has raised over 3 million dollars for neurodegenerative diseases – education, research, and awareness.

  • Project Giveback – teaches children kindness, acceptance tolerance, empathy, community mindedness and how to have a giving spirit.  Ellen started this curriculum and developed it.

  • Jake lives by 3 rules:

  • Rule #1 be positive

  • Rule #2 live in the moment

  • Rule #3 gratitude

  • Purpose of life according to Ellen:

  • Every single person has a mission. You have to figure out your mission.

  • To embody love, kindness, acceptance, and compassion – and to live from that place

  • Find your gift and give it away.  

  • You have to love yourself FIRST in order to love others

  • Some people are so closed and you can’t get to there essence – they need to learn how to open up their hearts again – even after the pain

  • When we come closer to our own self-love, we can then unite in love with everyone else. We can find our mission and live with purpose – the way Jake lived for 21 years.

How to learn more about things mentioned in this episode:



I Rise Above – written with Jacob and many of his talented musical friends

A video of Ellen and Jacob team teaching

Lessons From Jacob: A Disabled Son Teaches His Mother About Courage, Hope and the Joy of Living Life to the Fullest and Without

Without One Word Spoken

Quotes to Fill Your Soul from Ellen:

When your heart is split wide open, that is when you see the beauty around you”

“If we want to use our challenge to grow, we have to touch the pain first”

“Find your mission. Embody love, kindness, acceptance, compassion and live from there”

“When you live a life filled with love, you live a fulfilled life”

“I would so much rather feel, even crushed, then not feel at all”

Were you INSPIRED by this video?! Drop us a comment below.


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Donna Jacobs

    Wonderful, uplifting inspiring video. This is the perfect example of HOW do you want to do a traumatic life changing event. With perspective Ellen turns this into a gift for herself and for others. This is the perfect example of what I talk about in my Self-Integration Model. How to use perspective through our GUIDE filter to turn a challenging life event around. Great job, Jodi and Ellen. Thank you!

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