Sharlee Jeter and Dr. Sampson Davis sought out 15 people who overcame tragedy to find out what motivates them

By Jason Duaine Hahn
October 11, 2017 01:00 PM
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Credit: Sam Maller

If you have ever come across a story that left you in awe of how someone overcame a seemingly insurmountable challenge, Dr. Sampson Davis and Sharlee Jeter — a cancer survivor and Yankee great Derek Jeter‘s “feisty” little sister — want to help you know that you have the same potential to overcome your hardships, too.

After a discussion about the inspirational stories they have come across, the two authors ventured out to talk to a collection of people who faced extreme misfortune but still found ways to survive and thrive. Their goal was to find out what these people all shared in common with each other, and Davis and Jeter documented their findings in their book, The Stuff: Unlock Your Power to Overcome Challenges, Soar, and Succeed, which is up for pre-order before its May 2018 release.

“It became a journey, a kind of treasure hunt, to find these amazing individuals who have been through hardships and unpredictable circumstances and find out what it is that gave them the energy and focus to succeed,” Davis, an ER physician, motivational speaker and author, tells PEOPLE. “We wanted to collect these individuals, and tease out the elements, unroofing them and letting them shine.”

The results led them to distill these common traits down to the “11 Elements of the Stuff,” which they detail one-by-one through the chapters of their book. Davis and Jeter reached out to a variety of people — from different walks of life and parts of the world — leading them to focus on 15 individuals they feel readers can relate to.

“The elements are things people could walk away with, learn from and tap into, and they’re things that we all have within us,” Jeter, president of her brother’s Turn 2 Foundation promoting healthy lifestyle choices for kids, tells PEOPLE. “We really wanted to showcase different circumstances and people to find the common thread between all of them. ”

The people featured in The Stuff might have gone through extreme tragedy (such as one person who was horrifically burned all over his body), but Davis and Jeter want readers to recognize that the ingredients behind what drove these people to succeed are within each and every person.

“These individuals had their own tragedies and roadblocks in life that could have defeated them, but they found it within themselves to move beyond that,” Davis says. “Our goal for the average reader is when they pick the book up, they feel that if these guys can find a way to forge forward, so can I.”

The authors had a team of four psychologists (including Jeter’s father, Charles Jeter) who researched studies to back up the elements they uncovered with science.

“These are human elements we all have that we can tap into to live our best at all times,” Jeter adds.

2017 Derek Jeter Celebrity Invitational Gala
Credit: David Becker/Getty

Davis and Jeter are no strangers to overcoming difficult circumstance. Davis has written about his own life’s struggles, such as growing up around crime and drugs, in his books The Pact and The Bond.

Jeter was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in her senior year of college at Spelman College in Atlanta, and underwent chemo treatment while finishing school to graduate in 2001. (She says being an aunt to her Hannah and Derek Jeter’s new daughter, Bella Raine, is “awesome.”)

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”Our family is not immune to anything that goes on in society,” Derek Jeter told The New York Times in 2001 after Sharlee’s cancer was in remission. ”We never expect nothing like this to hit our family. It’s just one of those things you have to deal with and, fortunately, it’s over with.”

As a part of their book, Davis and Sharlee Jeter are inviting people around the country to share stories or nominate people who have inspirational stories as a part of their “The Stuff Movement.” People can submit their stories and nominations on their dedicated website.

The authors stress that The Stuff isn’t a “self-help” book — they want readers to experience it as a journey through the prism of other people’s lives in the hopes that it will shine a light on their own strengths and potential.

“What makes it beautiful is that you don’t have to go out and search for the elements to The Stuff, it’s within you,” Davis continues. “It’s not a situation where you had to go out to a store to find it, it’s there on the shelf and all you have to do is unleash it.”