The person who changed my life is someone I had never even met

(CNN)If there's anything you should know about me it is that I'm not a conformist. Never have been, never will be. So it is fitting that the person who changed my life is someone I had never even met.

Let me explain.
Besides family members, there have only been a handful of people who have genuinely wanted to see me succeed. The ones who did have my best interests at heart were not always in the same city, let alone the same state to spend any real time with. So, for most of my adult life I've been pretty much a loner, sometimes by choice, but usually out of necessity.
It was during one of the more difficult periods of my life and career that the person who would change my life showed up, and in a big way.
    I was living in Chicago in the early 2000s when everything I had worked for, everything I had dreamed of accomplishing, was in danger of being shattered because I had, once again, refused to conform.
    I had been lured to Chicago from my network news job in New York with the promise of the big stories and the anchor chair. Instead I was sent out to cover shootings, stabbings and fires. When I dared to say no, to stick up for myself, I was publicly taken to task and very nearly fired. It was a low point in my life and career.
    Back then it had been my habit to run daily along the lake in Chicago. Normally I ran to music. But with iPods and iTunes newly becoming prevalent, it became easier to replace the empty pulsating dance, pop or rap music with lectures or motivational speeches.
    It wasn't, however, until one day by happenstance I downloaded a sermon entitled "You Don't Have To Believe In My Dream" from Bishop T.D. Jakes. That's when everything changed. And I mean everything!
    While I was dealing with my work and life crisis, I would run every single day. As I logged mile after mile in heat waves, driving rain or snowstorms, I would listen to that same sermon on "dreams" over and over and over again.
    The central tenet to Jakes' sermon was from the Bible, Romans 3:3-23, which reads, "For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar."
    People not believing in my dream had been a recurring reality in my life. So, it was as if Bishop Jakes was speaking directly to my circumstances and me when he told members of his congregation and everyone listening to turn to the person next to them and say, "Hey neighbor, you don't have to believe in my dream."
    I would turn and shout it to whomever was running next to me or past me on the running path. And if I were alone I would shout it out loud. Within a very short amount of time, my attitude, my outlook and what I thought was important began to change. My life changed!
    I no longer needed approval from anyone, including the people who I had once thought could control my career and what I wanted to accomplish. I realized that I was the only person who was in charge of that. It was liberating.
    I know it sounds strange that the person who was a mentor only in my head had had so much of an impact on my life. But isn't it the person who has our ear often the person who influences us most?
    Years later, long after I left Chicago and was working for CNN, I finally got the chance to interview Bishop Jakes, first by satellite and then in person. He had no idea of the impact he had on my life. He had no idea that, in large part, the reason I had achieved the success that I had was because of him. He had no idea that one of the main reasons I was sitting across from him at the anchor desk, was because of him.
    He had no idea -- until now.
    *If you need some inspiration and would like to hear a portion of the sermon that changed my life, here's a link.