5 Lessons I Learned from a Life of Physical Injuries

Where does the ability to authoritatively speak come from? In my opinion, it comes from when its your own direct experience, or 1 degree of separation from someone you personally know.


Living the life I’ve led thus far has afforded me so many great opportunities to explore and experience this great world in all of its tragedy and glory. I have literally experienced the most magnificent of it all, and the most evil of it all. You will never understand the magesty of a 14,000 foot mountain peak until you are there. You will never understand the wretchedness of war, until you are there. You will never know a “thing” until you have journeyed there, felt it, smelled it, gained from it, and lost from it, and then lived with the essence of it since.


Living this type of lifestyle however, has also led me to many physical injuries. Multiple off-road dirt bike accidents in a full combat load, car crashes, hard parachute landings, massive explosions reverberating through my body, sitting for countless hours in torqued and constrained positions  for hours in the back of some random vehicle or box truck being smuggled through some “checkpoint,” and of course trekking across thousands of miles of terrain with half your bodyweight smashing into the back of your head with each forward misstep (the ol’ ruck sack special every SOCOM Selection candidate knows all too well) have all had a compounded and significant impact on my body.


Life has certainly been very rewarding, but very taxing, physically.


As I continue to progress my body to a point of excellence in life I still am faced with the recurrence of many injuries from along the way, however, I have no choice but to still persevere.


Here are 5 lessons I’ve taken away from a lifetime of injuries that I hope can help you in all areas of your life.


  1. Injuries don’t HAVE to happen but probably will: Usually life gets away from me and my disciplined routines falter, or I fail to adapt them to the new conditions in my life. If I was aware enough to recognize that my routines needed to change along with the conditions of my life (not often but periodically), then the injury could have been avoided. Variety in training, flexibility, and nutrition provides you with a versatile and easily adaptable physicality. Apply that to all areas of your life and you can elevate yourself much smoother and with less injury along the way.
  2. Recognize it as a sign: It happened, accept it. Yes, there is a major difference between injured and hurting, but I’m not defining that right now. I’m talking no shit, truly injured. Accept it and take it as a sign. It happened, ok, what is wrong here? Like a warning sign on your car dashboard, you wouldn’t just ignore that and keep pressing on your million-mile road trip. Instead, if you were smart, you’d pull over, bust out the owner’s manual, and figure out what the sign meant. Then you would adjust, tinker, or realize you need to seek the help of a mechanic. Once you see what its telling you, now you can focus on the next step. Resolution. Why are you injured, why can’t you seem to elevate yourself, your business, or relationship with your family? Recognize that disturbance in your momentum as a sign and bust out your owner’s manual through solace and reflection. Alone and in the dark with a notebook. Sit down in the quiet, breathe in deep and focus on the gap between where you are and where you want to go. Let your body tell you what’s hurt, and let your subconscious guide you through that gap to get yourself to the next level.
  3. Focus on the remedy: Ok, so you got the sign and recognized the problem… now get over it and let’s get moving forward. What do you have to do to heal this injury and get back to working out? Take the day, or three, and massage it, ice it, stretch it, hydrate it; take all necessary steps in order to quickly and effectively heal this injury so you can get back to doing what you love to do, grow yourself and accelerate in all areas of your life. Don’t focus on the past too much, in fact, once you recognize the sign, and know where it came from and what to do about it, that’s it. You’re done! Stop focusing on any other moment outside of the absolute immediate moment in front of you. As my great friend and brother Michael Haynes likes to say, “Focus on the six feet in front of you, you mother f**ker.” This is how you stay focused and progressing in life.
  4. Stay Disciplined: Injury is not the time to stop anything other than putting too much physical stress on the area that’s affected. However, you must stay aligned with who you are and what you’re purpose in life is. What you are intending to be, and who you are intending to become is far more important than anything that can ever go wrong with, or to you. In fact, its actually a part of God’s prescribed adversity for you, so, to break your habits and discipline would be greatly disrespectful and you will most likely regress back several steps, or phases in life. If you keep trying to push the injured area, you may permanently disable it. Let your body heal so it can become stronger and better. Honor your challenge, it is helping you to create the person you desire to become, and that moment is now here, you’re there, you made it, all you have to do is maintain it!
  5. Blood flow heals all things: Remember, blood flow carries with it all of the life force and healing properties our bodies need in order to live, excel, and heal. Along with your habitual maintenance, do not stop exercising! When your leg is injured, workout your abs, or your upper body. Be sure to keep moving and stressing the injured area just enough to keep it alive. You’re not attempting to make major progress, but you are attempting to still make progress of some kind with the injured area. This is because even though its torn, or strained, or broken the body will be sending an increased amount of blood and nutrients to the affected area. So in order to maximize the body’s ability to heal and draw out the injury (in the form of proteins and chemicals), we want to get as much blood through there, and as steadily as possible. To not do this will lead to prolonged recovery times, and stiffness. In fact, if we do not keep adequate blood flow to injured parts of our body then we may experience necrosis, or death of the tissue and function. If you’ve injured areas of your personal or business life, keep blood flowing to those areas, do not entirely neglect them. To do so can cause the death of that relationship, or area of your life. No matter how injured it may be, you must maintain blood flow, so you don’t lose the use of it entirely. And even if not entirely, a degraded use. We never seek degraded conditions of any kind in our body, or life. You must maintain blood flow while injured.

I’m not a doctor, not do I claim to be, however, I FORTUNATELY have a lot of experience with physical injury. It has taught me a lot about my body, and my life. It has allowed me to completely manifest the physical form that I have intended to create thus far, both within me, and around me.


 Remember these 5 important lessons when you get injured, and I bet they will help carry you on in life, just like they have helped me.


Whatever you’re going after in life, you’ve got this…


Don’t quit.

In the world of personal safety, sharp instincts and acute situational awareness aren’t just important; they’re lifesavers. While training and experience play a role, there’s a neural guardian, quietly and consistently working in the background, that deserves our attention: the Reticular Activating System or RAS.


The Neuroscience in Brief

Imagine a bustling airport. Hundreds of announcements blare over the intercom, travelers chat, and footsteps echo. But amidst this cacophony, when the last call for your flight is announced, your ears magically pick it out. That selective attention? Thank the RAS.

Our brains are bombarded with sensory information every second. The RAS, nestled within the brainstem, acts as a vigilant gatekeeper, deciding what gets our attention and what remains background noise. Think of it as the brain’s radar, finely tuned to pick up on relevant stimuli.

Illustrative Example: A Marine on patrol in unfamiliar territory doesn’t just scan the landscape. He is tuned into specific cues – a rustling bush, an odd footprint, or the unusual silence of birds. His RAS, shaped by training, primes him to detect these anomalies, ensuring his safety.


A Story of Keen Awareness

Meet Maya. A college student, she often studies late at the library. One evening, as she walked back to her dorm, she felt an eerie stillness. The regular evening sounds seemed muted. Many would attribute this to mere intuition, but it was her RAS at work.

Two days prior, Maya had attended a personal safety workshop where she learned about being more observant of her surroundings. This training had unintentionally “programmed” her RAS to be more attuned to environmental anomalies.

Walking past an alley, she caught a faint shadow moving against the dim light. It was irregular, unlike the usual dance of tree branches. Her heightened RAS signaled this as important, pushing it to her conscious awareness. Instead of dismissing it, Maya chose to change her route, later learning that another student had been mugged in that very alley shortly after she’d passed.

It wasn’t just luck that saved Maya. Her RAS, fine-tuned by recent safety training, played a pivotal role.


Tying it all together

In the high-stakes world of a Special Operations Marine, a sharp RAS is indispensable. But even in our daily lives, understanding and honing our RAS can make the difference between obliviousness and keen awareness, between danger and safety. Every experience, every piece of knowledge, contributes to programming our RAS. So, invest in your safety; feed your RAS the right information. Like the most advanced radar system, it will watch over you.


Priming the RAS – Cultivating Awareness Without Fear


Understanding the RAS is only half the battle. Now, let’s delve into how to prime it effectively, ensuring it works for us, not against us. The goal is to cultivate an alert yet calm mind.


Step 1: Educate Yourself

Awareness starts with knowledge. Attend personal safety workshops, read books on body language, and learn the basics of human psychology. This knowledge becomes the data your RAS uses to identify potential threats.


Illustrative Example: Knowing that someone frequently touching their face or avoiding eye contact might be signs of deceit can prompt your RAS to alert you when it happens in real-time.


Step 2: Environmental Scanning

Regularly scan your surroundings. It’s not about being suspicious of every person or thing, but more about understanding the norm so anomalies stand out.


Step 3: Role-playing

Mentally or with a group, simulate scenarios and work on your responses. Over time, this ‘rehearsal’ refines your RAS, making your reactions to real situations swifter.


Step 4: Mindfulness Meditation

Engage in mindfulness exercises. These train you to stay present, making your RAS more effective in sifting through current sensory data.


Step 5: Reflect and Debrief

Review situations where you felt uneasy or where your RAS was triggered. Was there a genuine concern? Why? Reflecting helps you recognize patterns and calibrates your RAS more finely.


Awareness vs. Paranoia

Now, an important distinction: Priming the RAS for safety isn’t about inducing paranoia. Instead, it’s the difference between walking through a garden and knowing which plants are poisonous versus fearing every plant you see.


A well-tuned RAS provides peace of mind. You’ll trust your ability to detect anomalies, which inherently calms the subconscious. The body’s autonomic nervous system, responsible for our fight-or-flight response, is soothed when the mind is confident in its ability to discern threats. With trust in your tuned RAS, the autonomic system doesn’t need to be in a constant state of high alert.


In Conclusion

Life is a balance of vigilance and relaxation. With a properly primed RAS, we can stride confidently, knowing our internal radar is ever-watchful, but only raising the alarm when

necessary. Far from inducing fear, a sharpened RAS grants us the serenity of preparedness.


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