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J.R. Martinez: From Scars to Dancing with the Stars (ep. 670)

J.R. Martinez

John O’Leary welcomes J.R. Martinez on the Live Inspired Podcast to share a story of pain, triumph, and the beauty of pushing forward.

J.R. Martinez is an Army veteran, burn survivor, actor, New York Times best-selling author, and Dancing with the Stars champion, spreading a message of hope, resilience and optimism.

Today, J.R. shares a story of pain, triumph, and the beauty of pushing forward. Hear the pivotal experiences that shaped his desire to become a cycle-breaker, what he learned while trapped inside a burning Humvee in Iraq, the process he went through to become grateful for his scars and how he rediscovered how to fulfill his purpose of serving others.

My friends, this conversation reminds us that though our paths may differ and the challenges we face may be unique, each of us holds the incredible power to adapt and overcome. And reinforces that each scar, each struggle, and each victory is a steppingstone toward a fuller, more meaningful life.

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  • I smile to invite the blessings. While facing her own adversity, J.R.’s mother reminded him the focus on what you can control.
  • By his mother simply showing up and listening, J.R. saw the profound impact it made and strives to do the same for everyone he meets, specifically after he began to understand how vulnerability felt.
  • April 5, 2003: Seven months after enlisting in the military, J.R. was driving a Humvee in Karbala, Iraq when the front left tire ran over a roadside bomb, ejecting three others but trapping him inside and engulfed in flames.
  • For the five minutes he was trapped inside, J.R. closed his eyes to reconnect with my breath, helping him survive. Today, when he’s overwhelmed in navigating the noise of life, he returns to this practice.
  • Where your focus goes, your energy follows. After a particular difficult morning after learning to grasp a new life, J.R.’s mother asked him to do three things: Have a little bit of faith. Believe that something good will come from this. Be the J.R. that’s the positive kid with a good attitude.
  • When taking a macro approach, J.R. became triggered with the challenges he’d now face to get there. Instead he looked micro and focused on today.
  • “I was able to shed some light on his dark road that he’s on.” Weeks after arriving in the burn hospital in San Antonio, Texas, J.R. began visiting other patients doing something he never thought he’d be able to do again: serving others.
  • Being fixated on trying to recapture a bit of who he was prior to my injury, J.R. endured numerous surgeries but it wasn’t until years later that he became grateful for his scars.
  • In the midst of becoming a world renowned speaker, starring on All My Children for three years, winning season 13 of Dancing with the Stars and chasing money and acknowledgment, J.R. realized he’d gotten away from what brought him into these opportunities in the first place.
  • Too busy that you may lose something meaningful personally? J.R. reminds us to lean into those closest to you because if you lose it all, they’re the ones that you want around.
  • This is not it. When faced with adversity, J.R. encourages to be reminded that there is hope beyond the current struggle, lean in and do the hard work.
  • “Knowledge is power, but knowledge applied is even more powerful.”
  • Get a copy of J.R. Martinez book Full of Heart here.

Did you enjoy today’s episode?

You’ll love my conversation with award-winning actor Gary Sinise. As one of America’s favorite, heart-led leaders Gary shares lessons on gratitude, service, and how his role in Forrest Gump as Lt. Dan led him to celebrate America’s defenders, veterans, and first responders. Listen to Gary Sinise on ep. 128.


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  1. Q. What is the best book you’ve ever read?

    The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

  2. Q. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today?
    A. Fearlessness.
  3. Q. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?
    A. A safe full of files and reflective stuff.
  4. Q. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be?
    A. Michael Jordan.
  5. Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
    A. When it becomes less about you and more about the other people, that's when you're really starting to make an impact.
  6. Q. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
    A. This can't be get. Stay patient. You're going to find your community that you've been looking for your entire life, and it's going to be bigger and stronger than you ever could have freaking imagined. Just lean in and just trust.
  7. Q. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read?
    A. He's a cycle-breaker.