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Keynote Speaker J.R. Martinez Shares His Personal Mission to Adapt & Overcome


The IMS team was honored to welcome J.R. Martinez—an Army veteran, burn survivor, actor, New York Times best-selling author, motivational speaker, and advocate—as the keynote speaker for the 2021 All Employee Meeting on December 9.

While J.R.’s story is decidedly unique, his message is universal: change does not have to be bad if you are willing to adapt. To J.R., your path in life is decided by your own ability to Adapt & Overcome℠.

J.R.’s resilience and optimism inspired all of us. To pay it forward, we’d like to share the valuable lessons we learned from Mr. Martinez.

Lessons in Resilience

Get Comfortable With Discomfort

J.R. is living proof that resilience is built by surviving. But the power to pull through can also grow from the simple act of enduring something uncomfortable. He presented a thoughtful question to consider when facing a difficult situation: “Are you willing to be open to the idea that it could be a sign redirecting and rerouting you?”

By sitting in the discomfort and learning to breathe through it, you realize what you are capable of overcoming. When you narrow your perspective from a macro to micro view and focus on getting through the next day—or even just the next hour—you may find something incredible waiting for you on the other side.

Break Out of the Box

J.R. also made a relevant analogy about our collective tendency to categorize the people we meet. Just like on a Zoom screen, we’re all put into a box. This helps others understand who we are, what we bring to the table, and how to communicate with us, but there are limitations to this practice.

It is upon opening these boxes and mingling what's inside that we begin to unlock the aspects of ourselves that make us unique. Not only do we need to think outside the box—sometimes we have to break out altogether.

We even create boxes for ourselves, and there is power in this internal categorization. Our inner dialogue and the things we tell ourselves, both positively and negatively, have the power to manifest in our lives. When something happens that challenges how we view ourselves or alters our planned course, the ability to adapt is crucial.

To effectively move forward and break out of these boxes, we must be able to change our perspective and move past previously established definitions of success. What if our plans don’t work out? How will we pivot and keep pushing?

J.R. received valuable advice from his mother during his extensive recovery from horrific burns. She said, “Believe something good will come from this, have faith, and try to be positive.” This simple yet powerful message changed his perspective and, subsequently, his life.

Look Beyond the Surface

On J.R.’s website you’ll see the quote, “Scars are like tattoos with better stories.” Knowing that we live in a visual world, J.R. proudly wears his scars and shares his struggles. He knows and accepts that the outside world can see his service on his face and body.

But each person has different wounds, and they aren’t always visible. There are countless individuals who look “normal” but carry their scars on the inside. We don’t always know what others are going through or what they’ve experienced. However, the physical proof of such hardships can affect how we view people and “assign” them to specific boxes.

Our experiences shape our perspectives, and our perspectives shape our actions. Recognizing that we all have more underneath the surface can lead to deeper appreciation and understanding—and help us move away from automatically categorizing others based only on what we see.

Lead By Listening

When recalling his time in the Army, J.R. spoke of his exposure to different types of leaders and the effect they had on his motivation and satisfaction. The positive leaders fostered collaboration and communication and made him want to follow them and be on their team for the rest of his life.

The negative leaders, however, were just focused on getting the job done. They did not seek to listen, guide, or teach. They did not make J.R. feel as though he mattered as an individual.

So how can we develop as positive leaders? By listening to each other—not just to respond, but to understand.

Find Your "Why"

Relating to the point he raised about life directing us down different paths, J.R. encouraged us to be part of something bigger than ourselves. When we are part of something greater, we inherently expand our view. We see real-life examples of how our actions impact others and how other perspectives impact us. We see the power of collaboration.

And when searching for our why, J.R. reminded us that we can create it ourselves. To find your purpose, be open to the signs that will guide you there.

Show Up for Others

It’s safe to say we’re all in a different place in life and society compared to two years ago, and this “new normal” is here to stay. Now, more than ever, it’s essential for us to help each other adapt and overcome—to show up for others. As J.R. said, it’s all about people.

We cannot underestimate the importance of making someone feel as though they belong, and that they matter. If we show up for each other, and for our team, then everything else should fall into place. We need to mean it when we ask, “How are you doing?” and truly listen to the response. It can be that simple.

Messages of Appreciation

We are incredibly grateful to J.R. Martinez for sharing his inspiring story with the IMS team. Thank you, J.R., for reminding us how important it is to face challenges with positivity, break the mold, have faith, dig deeper, listen with purpose, and look beyond ourselves.

These lessons truly illustrate why our core value to Operate as One is so important. We are stronger together—and together, we win.

Guided by our internal core values, IMS provides an inclusive work environment where we motivate and inspire each other. Visit our Careers page to learn more.