Thriving After the 'Big Boom'

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"Dream, and dream big, because it's free and no one can take it away from you." - J.R. Martinez

As the United States and its coalition partners mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, this seems like a good time to draw some inspiration from one of the heroes who emerged from that conflict.

Less than month after the war began, U.S. Army soldier J.R. Martinez was badly burned on more than 40 percent of his body after his Humvee struck a land-mine in Iraq. The Louisiana native and football standout ended up spending nearly three years in the hospital and underwent 33 surgeries before his recovery was complete. In the video below, a compilation of speeches given by Martinez, he talks about how his injury was the "big boom" that changed everything in his life. He could have retreated from the world. Instead, Martinez found the will to thrive.

During his time in recovery, a nurse asked him to speak to a burn patient, who had just seen his own body for the first time and had become withdrawn. After visiting for about an hour, the patient opened the curtain, letting light in his room and his heart. Martinez then understood the impact he had on this patient and decided to use his experience to help others, visiting with several of the patients in the hospital, sharing his story and listening to theirs. He went on to become a sought after motivational speaker. He also launched an acting career by appearing on the ABC soap "All My Children." Then, in 2011, Martinez gained international acclaim when he took the championship trophy in the 13th season of "Dancing With the Stars."

Though it's unlikely to be as violent and physically scarring as what happened to Martinez, we all face "big booms" that threaten to derail our lives. Martinez offers unique lessons about how to push through. We sometimes forget that the simple act of picking up our heads, taking the next step and avoiding the next land-mine can be all it takes to thrive. We live in a jaded age that rejects old fashioned inspiration. Nobody can claim that Martinez's experience is anything less than legitimate. I'll take the word of anyone who goes through that and develops into the kind of person Martinez has become.

Martinez is going to be a keynote speaker at IAAP's EFAM 2013 conference July 27-31 in Anaheim, Calif. If you're inspired by his words, please consider registering today so you can get more in person.