Actor, motivational speaker, army veteran and author J.R. Martinez kicked off day two of Family Reunion, sharing his story and the lessons he’s learned to overcome difficult challenges both in life and business.
“Life changes things all the time,” he stated. “It will change your plans, constantly. It’s about being able to adapt and overcome all that.”
Martinez was raised by his mother in Hope, Ark., later moving to Dalton, Ga. where he loved playing football and had aspirations of becoming a pro-football star. After high school he joined the army.
Martinez was proud to serve, as a way to give something back to a country that had already given so much to him and his family. In March of 2003, he was deployed to Iraq. On April 5, less than a month into his deployment, the left tire of the Humvee he was driving hit a roadside bomb. Three other soldiers with him were ejected from the burning vehicle, but he was trapped inside and suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to 34 percent of his body.
Three weeks after the explosion, Martinez woke up to an unfamiliar man’s voice and a room full of people. “He told me he’d come back the next morning after I’d rested and tell me about the ‘new plan,” Martinez shared. “Can you imagine? I remember thinking: here is this stranger, telling me what ‘the plan’ was going to be for MY life; here he was changing MY plans.”
He went on to share that he struggled with a lot of depression and anger for some time, infuriated by the question of “why?” this had happened to him. “Finally one day I had to make a decision. I decided that I am going to wake up every day and be as positive as I can be. I didn’t know what the purpose of my life was going to be but I decided I was going to have some faith.”
“Life is also about comfort zones,” he continued. “You can find yourself kind of in a box at times, where you are fenced in; and we have a tendency to get comfortable in that space, that area. But then life happens and things change. You are put into a new zone and then what? That’s the thing about life: You will find yourself outside your comfort zone, in a new fenced-in area. You make it work. Adapt.”
He finished up his session with a challenge to attendees to have the endurance to stick through the curves life throws at them:
“Don’t be afraid of the learning curves. At the end of the curve, guess what – there’s a straight away. When you’re introduced to something new, entertain it because you never know where that route will lead you. Every single one of you has what it takes to individually and collectively be able to adapt when things don’t go your way. Maintain that positive attitude and that outlook and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in life.”