J.R. Martinez: Dream big, have a plan, hold yourself to a high standard

U.S. Army veteran, best-selling author, "Dancing with the Stars" champion and motivational speaker J.R. Martinez delivered the keynote address at The Plexus Groupe's 2017 Team Building Event. Here's a recap of some of the wisdom he imparted: → Dream big, but your dreams are your responsibility. As a teenager, the 33-year-old Martinez wanted to be a professional football player. He determined playing high school ball in one of three football hotbeds -- Texas, Florida or Georgia -- would give him the best shot. So before his senior year, he convinced his mother to move from Arkansas to Dalton, Georgia. The catch? He had to get a summer job -- and to succeed in that job -- for her to move. He followed through on his end of the bargain, quickly finding work in Dalton, which is known as the "Carpet Capital of the World" for its many mills.

"I just knew there was a whole world out there," Martinez said of wanting to move. "It was up to me."

Be ready and willing to change on the fly. With academic requirements leaving Martinez two years to wait before playing college football, he went back to Dalton to work and plot his next move. It's here the U.S. Army became an option for him. He enlisted, and in his training, he began to learn the value of teamwork, of being a cog in a collective effort. "I was introduced to service," Martinez said.

Before he knew it, Martinez was on his way to fight in the second Gulf War.

After adversity, tighten your focus on the day in front of you. After running over a roadside bomb in Kuwait, Martinez was left with burns over a third of his body. During a lengthy hospital stay, Martinez had to come to terms with his physical and mental pain. He was miserable. "I was a victim in the full sense of the word," he said.

A breakthrough came after a long conversation with his mother, who implored him to be more positive. He began to focus on daily goals, not five, 10- or 20-year plans.

"What I did, mentally, was turn the page," Martinez said.

When your mind is open, opportunity knocks. During his hospital stay, Martinez was asked to counsel another burn patient on what to expect throughout the recovery process. He quickly found his calling speaking to others about what he had learned -- and how those lessons could be applied to anyone's lives.

"What I found again was purpose," Martinez said. "I was part of something bigger than myself."

His speaking and advocacy career took off. Later, a friend told him of an opportunity to audition for the soap opera "All My Children." Though he had no acting experience, he read for the role, and he won it. That three-year stint helped him get a shot on "Dancing with the Stars" in 2011, and he went on to win the competition, opening a whole new series of doors for him.

"We're all still young," Martinez said. He pointed to his head. "It's all up here that we're old."

→ Accountability is an organizational responsibility. Martinez finished with simple but powerful advice.

"Accountability is everything," Martinez said. "Set a goal for yourself. Hold yourself accountable."

To managers and executives, he advised: "Hold yourself to the same standard as the people underneath you."

The Plexus Groupe wishes to thank its many valued partners for helping to make our 2017 Team Building Event so special. For more on J.R. Martinez, including speaker booking information, visit his website, JRMartinez.com.