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Kyle Carpenter, Courage and Recovery

By December 19, 2019 December 25th, 2019 4 Comments

“If you go through the trial by fire, and if you put your mind to it, you can become better.” – Kyle Carpenter

Mark has a new book coming out in 2020 about the seven commitments of leadership. It is called “Staring Down the Wolf: 7 Leadership Commitments That Forge Elite Teams,” and is available now for pre-order. Commander Divine writes about many of the great leaders he met in SpecOps to give examples of the commitments that one has to make to the 7 key principles of  Courage, Trust, Respect, Growth, Excellence, Resiliency and Alignment.

Kyle Carpenter (@chicksdigscars) is the youngest ever recipient of the Medal of Honor. While fighting in Afghanistan, he was shielding a fellow marine from an enemy hand grenade blast and was severely injured and spent 3 years hospitalized.  He has since written a book called, “You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For.” Today, he talks to Commander Divine about how he was able to come back from the experience and his injuries.

Listen to this episode to learn insights into extraordinary courage. Kyle’s story of honor and courage inspires you beyond to feel like nothing can defeat you.

As you guys know, Mark has been using Halo Sport for the last year and half and he has loved it. Halo Neuroscience revolutionized human performance when it debuted Halo Sport in 2016, the first brain stimulator that accelerates muscle memory development. Halo Sport is now trusted by teams and athletes from the U.S. military, Olympics, MLB, NBA, NFL, NCAA, and more.

Well they just launched Halo Sport 2 – a fully upgraded Halo Sport at a lower price making this revolutionary technology more accessible to all. It’s fully wireless and has excellent sound quality. It also has an upgraded app with new stimulation data and tracking.

It makes neurostimulation accessible for all with its price point in line with other headphones at $279 and available to pre-order now.

You’ve probably already heard Mark extolling the virtues of the PowerDot to help with recovery. The PowerDot is an electrical stimulation device that allows you to increase performance, speed up recovery and overall achieve a deeper mind/body connection. Many stim devices can be clumsy and hard to use. PowerDot achieves simplicity and is well-designed. They put professional level physical therapy in your hands easily and inexpensively. They now have a version 2.0.

Listeners to the podcast can save by using the code UNBEATABLE at checkout for 20% off the regular price.

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Transcript

Hi folks. Welcome back. This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. So stoked to have you here today, really appreciate your time and as you know I do not take it lightly.

Today’s podcast is going to be well worth it. I’m talking with Kyle Carpenter. One of the youngest – or the youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Anyways before I get back into the intro of Kyle and we start chatting it up you may have heard – if you’ve been listening this podcast anyways – that my new book “Staring Down the Wolf” is available for presale. And we have some cool presale offers if you want to take advantage of them, at staringdownthewolf.com.

So that’s the website for the book launch. The book is due out March 2nd, so you won’t get a physical copy just yet. But you can go see what kind of cool things we’re offering. If you wanted to say buy maybe a hundred copies, you might end up with a zoom call with me or something like that.

So at any rate the book is really personal to me, because it’s about my leadership failures… Contrasted against some pretty incredible leadership successes from some of my seal and SOF teammates. And “Staring Down the Wolf” is a reference to the fact that for true leadership, authentic leadership – we really do have to stare down our fears and our shadow that is holding us back. To access really the authentic, true heart-center leadership that’s gonna allow us to connect with trust and respect and courage with our teammates. So that’s staringdownthewolf.com. I appreciate your support there.

Introduction

02:10

So like I said, Kyle Carpenter… Youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor. I’m sure he hears that a lot and he says “well, whatever…” you know? But it’s pretty significant. We’ll talk about what all that means.

He was awarded that for heroism in Afghanistan, after shielding another marine from a grenade blast. He took the brunt of the blast.

And it’s remarkable that Kyle’s alive today. The story is really incredible, and his new book – which came out in October is called “You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For,” which inspires us to become our best selves in spite of the challenges – including getting blown up by a grenade.

So whatever hurdles you find in life, boy, probably won’t compare to that…

So, at any rate, super-stoked… Kyle thanks for joining me today from Charlotte, North Carolina. Really appreciate it brother.

Kyle. Hey thanks, Mark. I appreciate this opportunity, and it’s always an honor to spend some time with a fellow brother-in-arms.

Mark. I appreciate that. Hooyah.

So first of all, thanks for your service. And you’ve sacrificed a lot for this country and we all don’t take that lightly – we appreciate that.

And I wanted to talk… I always like to just get right to who are we dealing with in terms of like formative experiences? Now you’re from Jackson, Mississippi. Saw a picture in your book, you as a kid with like a little sharpie “superman” logo on your chest. It seemed like you were just like an all-around American kid. Just running around, building tree forts.

So tell us about your childhood influences. What were your mom and dad like? What was life growing up? And why were you inspired to join the Marine Corps at 17 or 18?

Kyle. Yeah, so growing up for me was… Kind of like my entire journey up until this point even after the military, it was a journey of somewhat unexpected twists and turns. My dad was in business and sales. And so just kind of always improving and moving up the ladder in that respect.

I moved around a lot. Bounced around the southeast growing up. Spending a few years in Mississippi, and Tennessee, and even Alabama for some time. But about 12 years ago, my family and I landed in Lexington, South Carolina.

And yes, now I am in Charlotte and I was born in Mississippi, but we’ve been in South Carolina for some time and you know it’s definitely home.

Mark. Okay, so when you think back upon your maybe idyllic childhood, what were some of the themes or the ethos that your parents kind of instilled in you? That kind of made you – or are a big part of who you are still today?

Kyle. So my parents – which I talk about extensively in the book. And I could never say enough. They have been there from the moment I was born, until the moment that I woke up again to this bonus round that I’m living now in the hospital.

They’ve been there every single moment since. And growing up, I truly believe that they gave me the foundation and the tools that eventually evolved into allowing me to be molded by those drill instructors and become the best marine. And always striving to improve, but the best version of myself.

And along with just loving and supporting us, they encouraged us, and reminded us, and helped us to believe that as long as you strive to be a good person, you work hard, and you always show gratitude – that not only will you be successful, but that is kind of the best way, and I guess the most fruitful way to live your life.

Mark. Mm-hmm. That’s nice.

You know, I was with the seals last week or two weeks ago. And we were talking about character development and buds training and mental development – and stuff like this. And one of the facts came up that this is actually related to the air force special ops training – but 50% of the kids showing up these days have either no parents, or a single parent. And it just really struck me. Because I grew up you know similar to you, with two parents who love each other and you know were there for me. Even though it wasn’t always perfect. We had a lot of chaos in our family. But most people do.

But just having two parents who are there for you all the time… And knowing that they’re there, and knowing that you always have a home to go to is not as common anymore. But it’s so powerful…

Kyle. You’re exactly right. And I’m really thankful that you brought this point up, because that actually was one of the few struggles that I encountered writing this book.

And I struggled with talking about my parents, and my family, and all of those positive things that they gave me and showed me growing up. Because exactly what you just said -not only just I think us knowing that everyone is not born into the best family, or most fortunate circumstances. I think we just learn that from life, but especially after you join the military – like you just said – your fellow seals, marines I served with that came from broken homes. The former gang members who are now some of the best marines that I’ve ever had the privilege and honor to serve with.

So I’ve struggled writing about that, because I wrote this book to try to touch everyone. And not turn anyone off. And make it to where it can relate to everyone.

And so I didn’t want anyone to read that, that had come from an unfortunate background, or only one parent or no parents, and put the book down. But as I thought about it and through this two years of writing process, I tried to start thinking of it as “okay, good or bad no one can help the circumstances they’re born into. So I just tried to think of it as for those that didn’t have the two parents or the greatest circumstances, maybe instead of turning people off, I can show people not only how much you can love as a person, as a parent – but also as a parent, what you can go through to hold your family together. To be there for your loved ones, who might be physically, mentally, or emotionally suffering. Or recovering from a hand grenade in Afghanistan.

Mark. Mm-hmm. Right. No, I’m glad you did, and that was well said. And our lives are created by our minds, and our external circumstances. So if the external circumstances aren’t optimal, then with our minds we can create an optimal internal circumstance. And so I think by people having the mental imagery of you describing what your parents were like, and having how they were there for you, then they can kind of create that sense inside themselves that that’s possible, right? And that they can find some aspect of that even without having had that.

I don’t know if that makes any sense…

Kyle. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely.

Mark. It’s kind of like I’ve done so much work with teammates with visualization and one of the things we like to do is have you visualize your team mentally with you all the time, right? Even when you’re alone.

And so whether the teammates are your parents and direct family or someone who are surrogates, right? Who have the same or similar energy.

Then that could be really powerful support for anybody going through challenging times.

Kyle. Absolutely. I agree.

Mark. So tell me what about siblings? I think you had some brothers and what were they like? And what was your relationship like? What was your kind of role in the family?

Kyle. Well, it was traditional older brother/younger brother… Them trying to beat me up, me beating them up, us picking on each other, and loving each other and figuring out life together.

But they’re amazing. They’re six years younger than me. And shout out guys – it was their birthday yesterday – but my brothers…

Mark. Twins?

Kyle. Yeah, twins. Yep.

Unfortunately they graduated from Clemson, so we’re a house divided… Me going to South Carolina.

But they’re awesome human beings, and great brothers and I appreciate you asking about them also because – as you know – military life is an entire family commitment in a life of service. And many times a life of the unknown.

And my brothers, as middle-schoolers, not only had to stand around that answering machine at home and hear what potentially killed me, or, you know, that I’m barely hanging on.

Not only did they have to hear that as young teenagers, but then they had to come to Walter Reed and see me unrecognizably wheeled through those front doors. And see me trying to hang on to life, and struggle for every breath through that breathing tube and that trach.

And not only that, I was injured roughly a month before Christmas, and so right around the time I woke up, it was Christmas-time about five weeks later. And my brothers – being middle-schoolers spent their Christmas in my hospital room, opening up gifts.

And my mom having to be away for their birthday.

And so they’ve never once complained. Never once been annoyed or frustrated that the attention for years was diverted to me. And just helping me regain my physical, mental and emotional life that I’m living now.

And so I’m very thankful for them and their patience and understanding through what was very… At times beautiful… But many times very challenging moments for my family and I.

Mark. That’s amazing. Have either of them expressed interest in the Marine Corps? Or the military?

Kyle. No. And just, I think people might hear that and say “oh, of course. If that happened to my older brother, I probably wouldn’t either.”

But it’s never been discussed by them. And they’ve always been very interested about the military side of my life. They’ve always loved story time.

But it’s never been expressed, and it’s just not really their personality. So I love that we’ve all kind of done our own thing. And we’re all very individual, but when we get together it’s not the military brother, or my agricultural mechanism brother – who was in the middle of nowhere, Kansas… It’s just some guys and brothers hanging out.

Mark. Right. I love that.

So tell us how did you get interested in the marines? And tell us about your training and your early service. Before the “incident” so to speak.

Kyle. So I had encountered two marines, I guess through childhood and kind of getting into adulthood, and in the later stages of high school.

One was a Vietnam veteran by the name of Cleve McCleary.

And ironically, now – fast forward, many years later and we have almost the exact same injuries. Just on opposite sides of our body.

But he came and spoke at my high school. And I wasn’t in awe of the fact that he was a marine that he had been to combat, or got injured as severely as he was.

But I remember just sitting there listening to him, completely in awe that a human being could go through what he went through – and you know to hear it’s funny now – but at the time, to hear that he was in the hospital a little over a year and a half… I could not fathom a wrap my mind around that.

And I was just in complete awe that a person could go through that and get knocked down that hard, and have such devastating injuries… And he was also blind and he’s missing one of his arms… Which I would have been if we were still at that stage in medical advances in Vietnam… And so but I just remember thinking “wow, like that is truly something special, and an incredible person to be able…” to not only make it through that, but make it through that and still be smiling and helping people on the other side.

So Cleve planted the seed… Fast-forward a couple years, I was working… My dad is in the business of the poultry industry, and I worked for two summers through high school and my boss was also a former infantry marine.

And again, it wasn’t necessarily the fact that he was a marine, but the way he carried himself. The way he led those under him in the workplace. Things that he did to better communicate. And communicate more effectively with those around him really stood out to me.

And so Cleve and Rodney – who I both mention in the book – but they both planted the seeds, which evolved into… As it got a year out and closer to high school graduation I decided that I was going to join. But I did, because I wanted to join the military just in general. Because I wanted to be a part of something, and earn being a part of something greater than myself or any one individual.

And I joined the Marine Corps specifically, because throughout my entire life I’ve always welcomed and even if I wasn’t successful… Thrived on challenge. And so I knew my limits… At least at that point in time.

But I joined the marine corps because I wanted something that would not only give me that sense that I was a part of something greater, and contributing my path and my body to something more special than I could have done just on my own, but I wanted something that would push me to my new physical, mental, and emotional limits. And that would make me look deep down inside myself and find the person and the marine that I could become.

Mark. Right. I think it’s amazing that the first marine you met showed you about sacrifice and grace through healing. That’s incredible.

Because then you would have to go through that same journey later on. I mean that’s amazing the way the world works that way.

And then Rodney like what your description of Rodney basically was like a brief treatise on leadership. The way I heard you.

And that’s what we’re looking for in terms of leaders today and the Marine Corps is probably the best leadership training in the world, I think. Or military in general. But marines are particularly good at it.

Kyle. Absolutely. I would agree. His leadership and again some things you just can’t adequately describe. But just the way he carried himself. Maybe as a good marine, a good salty former sergeant – a little rough around the edges, maybe a little too much confidence and swagger at times – but, no, he’s a good person.

But, yeah, you’re exactly right. A great example of leadership and again… Planted that seed to allow me to see and realize that if you go through the trial by fire. And if you put your mind to it as a physical, mental and emotional human being, you can become better. And you can not only become better, but you can truly be special for those – not only under your leadership, but everyone within your sphere of influence.

Afghanistan

22:32

Mark. So let’s shift focus a little bit. You were in Afghanistan. In a way that’s appropriate for you, tell us about the incident that changed the course of your life.

Kyle. Yeah, absolutely. It was my second deployment. I was with 2nd battalion, 9th marines out of camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

First combat deployment. And I went to boot camp march of 2009, and we left for Afghanistan July of 2010. And I was four months into our seven-month deployment in Marjah, Afghanistan and Helmand province. And for those four months – every single day we were there – as you are aware with your background – was extremely kinetic. It was from sunup to sundown, a constant and vicious fight for survival.

And there’s always the big political reasons we’re in places, but the way I saw it, and how it was on the ground – we were there trying to help an oppressed and struggling people. And human population. And we were trying to disrupt vital supply and monetary lines that were helping bad people, do bad things.

And so it was November 21st – the day that I was injured – and myself and a fellow marine, fellow lance corporal, and a best friend who I was so honored and privileged to have served with. We were on top of a roof. And we were on as we know “standing post,” but for anyone listening not familiar with military terminology, we were on an elevated position standing guard. Providing over watch for the marines inside this mud compound.

Mark. Was it an FOB, or were you guys on patrol? Or what was the situation…?

Kyle. We had just established… So we had been in a specific village, and a patrol base for the entire four month deployment.

But we were over the halfway mark of the deployment… We knew in a couple months a new unit was going to be coming in to relieve us, so we could go home. So when that time comes – just like with everything in life, I believe – you should leave things and the Marine Corps believes, you should leave things better than you found it. So anticipating that new unit coming in, you want to expand your area of operation. And that area of stability bigger than when you first got there.

And I guess the idea behind that is you keep doing that, and eventually you’re going to slowly cover and kind of take over, and create stability throughout the whole region.

Well, on November 19th – two days before I was injured – myself and just a single squad of infantry marines, with a few Afghanistan national army members attached, we hiked south from that village and patrol base where we had been living and operating. And our job simply put was to take over a new compound, in a new village to the south of our position.

Put our foot on the ground and establish what was going to hopefully become the beginning stages, steps and foundation of a new patrol base in that area. It was an enemy stronghold. Any time we went anywhere near these villages throughout the deployment, the fighting only intensified.

And so we knew it was going to potentially be rough. We knew we were going to potentially take casualties. But as you can never kind of assume, or guess how things will go – especially in the fog of war and chaos of combat – we couldn’t have guessed it was going to be as bad as it was though.

So almost immediately, after taking over the compound the first grenade attack came. And we had seen 203’s, we had thrown grenades a few times throughout that four months. But unlike the urban kind of environment for most of Iraq, in the cities throughout that country, Afghanistan – specifically where we were in Marjah, and anybody that wants a better mental image just get on google maps – but where we were, we were wading through water canals every day. We were trudging through agricultural fields, and fighting through tree lines and across people’s backyards.

Mark. Interesting. Definitely not the image that most people have…

Kyle. Yeah, absolutely…

Mark. Nor me. I’ve never been to Afghanistan – you think of this open, rugged, mountains in the distance – you know, you’re on kind of like desertified tundra…

Kyle. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And so… We got pre-deployment briefs, and we knew what we were headed into, as far as terrain and environment – but it was even more kind of lush and green… Almost like a mild Vietnam compared to – you’re right, the kind of common idea or mental image about Afghanistan.

But with that said, with that type of fighting environment, it’s a lot more rare to have hand grenades and be in that close proximity, to be able to throw those. So to have those raining over the walls of the compound, and us having injuries and taking casualties without ever even leaving the four walls of this base. Being completely surrounded in this new village was eye-opening.

And so fast-forward to November 21st – two days later – and I only remember two things about the entire day. The first is around 7:45 that morning, our base started getting attacked – ak-47s, the alarm clock – and I remember hearing it, and rolling over in my sleeping bag, and as I unzip my sleeping bag I was thinking “here we go again. Another day in Afghanistan.”

Fast-forward to that afternoon. Mid-afternoon, and myself and Nick Eufrazio were on top of that roof. Everything I’m about to go through was concluded from a very extensive and thorough, two year and over 250 page investigation. Using not only eyewitness testimony, but Marine Corps explosive ordnance disposal teams to analyze my gear and the forensics on top of the roof to determine what exactly occurred with the blast.

Mark. Can I pause there? I’m curious why that was necessary? Like why put all the resources into two years of investigating an incident?

Kyle. Well, the main reason is for the military and marine corps to be sure before they award a Medal of Honor. But also, and maybe even more importantly, because of how hard I was rocked, and the amount of blood I lost. And how quickly I went unconscious after the blast – it was just me and nick on the roof – we were both injured. I could not contribute eyewitness testimony.

Mark. You don’t have any recollection of it…

Kyle. Correct. And so this investigation had to be done to put together many pieces. And there was solid eyewitnesses, but supplemental evidence… The hole in the roof that can still actually be seen from on google earth, because my body weight and body armor sandwiching that grenade in between the roof – the roof was weaker, and with physics and like anything – a blast will take the path of least resistance.

And so just looking at my gear, and the hole in the roof. And where the seat of the blast and that hole was positioned under my chest.

And so three grenades were thrown to initiate this daylight attack. The fourth grenade was thrown and landed on the roof in very close proximity to myself and my fellow marine. Who were laying behind sandbags. I do not remember seeing the grenade, hearing it… I vaguely remember getting on my knees and falling forward.

But again, it’s strange because at the time I didn’t know why I was doing that. Almost like a body going through muscle memory, but without cognitively thinking about it.

But again, I don’t remember the grenade. All I remember is physically how I felt after it detonated.

And my first thought was just severe confusion and disorientation. And I immediately tried to kind of shake it off, and push myself up. And at that moment I realized that I couldn’t feel either one of my arms from the shoulders down. And so that put maybe a slight seed of panic in my mind, but at the same time I was so confused, I didn’t even know I had been injured.

And so I know this all sounds very strange, but I think just being hit that hard trying to kind of real from it in those first initial moments, at least for me, was impossible – and so as I struggled through those disoriented pieces, that was interrupted by what I thought was – and this was just allude to marine’s wonderful humor with each other – but I thought “wait I feel warm water being poured all over me.”

And I’m thinking “really guys? In this banged up state I’m in, you’re still messing with me here right now?”

Then I realized though, in a very surreal way, that what I was feeling was not warm water, that it was blood. And I was profusely bleeding out.

And so at that moment with how I felt, I couldn’t see or hear anything except for the ringing in my ears – which is still going on right now – and so that feeling along with the medical training we received before deploying. And with the casualties I had unfortunately seen so far on that deployment, I knew that my time was inevitably limited. So I thought about my family, my mother specifically, and how devastated she was going to be that I did not survive to make it home. And I said a quick and final prayer for forgiveness and anything I had done wrong in my life. And a tiredness consumed me. And I faded from consciousness in the world, for what I thought was going to be the last time.

And I woke up. After being resuscitated three times, I woke up roughly five weeks later. And there was snow outside of my hospital room window. I was on the other side of the world, at a military hospital in Washington, DC. And my first sight was slowly opening the only eye I had left to seeing Christmas stockings hanging on my hospital room wall, that my mom had hung decorating my hospital room for the holidays.

Mark. Right. I mean it truly was like a rebirth. I mean you did die and nobody really probably on the battlefield expected to see you like this, right? Like you are today.

So you had this rebirth. And to be reborn into that room with your family – that must have been a pretty incredible moment. Do you recall having like immediate recognition that this was real and this was your family and you’re back? Or, you know, what was that…?

Kyle. So I woke up twice. And the first time, I don’t really count, because it wasn’t me or my mind I think through the injuries and the medication, the first time I woke up in ICU, it was in between very intense life-saving type surgeries.

So with all of that combined, I woke up and I had a period of just a few hours in real time, but what seemed like months or years to me. But I had a very severe period of intense and terrifying hallucinations.

But after I got put back under, they brought me out of that. When I really woke up for that first time, and saw Christmas stockings, I was able to comprehend not where I was by any means, but my family and that no matter what shape I was in, I actually woke up. And even though I didn’t know what had happened, how I was injured – somehow I was alive. And really the only other thing that I knew was my life and body had been drastically altered.

Mark. So at that point your mind reconstructed Kyle Carpenter, and recognized you. The “youness” of who you were. But you just couldn’t construct the memory of why or how you got there?

Kyle. Correct. Yeah that was that was the beginning stages of what has been many years of a physical and mental evolution.

Mark. Right.

Recovery

39:27

Mark. So let’s talk about how you found strength… The mindset of recovery, that type of thing… What was it that allowed you to pull yourself through to make a near full recovery? Minus the loss of your eyesight and probably a little functionality? But it’s just an extraordinary story. Walk us through a little bit about the mindset, and how you kind of had to rebuild your sense of what it meant to be Kyle Carpenter. And your meaning and all that kind of stuff.

Kyle. Yeah, so I will say it is tough – maybe is an understatement – and very daunting to hear from doctors while you’re still in the later stages of still clinging on and trying to fight for every bit of life and breath that you can. To be told that you have two if not three years left before the doctors can do everything that they need to, to get you back to your new 100%.

And so with the end goal being “I can get out of hospital and get on with my life” that’s just kind of the more obvious, external kind of motivator.

But… And maybe in a way to compartmentalize that. And not get too overwhelmed with it, how many surgeries you have, or that time frame… Maybe because I wanted to, maybe because I was forced, but I started taking or attempting to take the smallest steps, and making the smallest of goals.

When I first woke up, my arms were tied up from swelling… Again, I couldn’t breathe on my own. I couldn’t do anything.

So my first goal, I want to sit up in the bed and I mean these goals that I’m about to go through were almost insurmountable at the time. Because when the body and mind are unconscious and still for… One week, just a few days – much less a month or more -everything atrophies. Mentally and physically.

And so I wanted to sit up in the bed, but that was a challenge then. I knew if I could sit up, I could maybe hang my feet off the edge of my bed. If I could do that, I could stand. If I could stand, I could try to take a step and walk. Then maybe one day, you know, run.

And in my lowest point in the hospital, I decided to make at the time – could be considered a completely unrealistic goal – but one day, I wanted to run a marathon, or attempt a marathon.

Mark. Wow. From zero to hero…

Kyle. Yeah. And so but I did that with the specific reasoning of not just wanting to do a marathon, but I thought “okay, what’s not only something that I didn’t do when I was healthy? Before I was injured?”

“But what is something I can do that will show me that I’m not only back, but that I’m better and even stronger than I was before? And it’s okay if you get knocked down and you you’re physically, mentally or emotionally different because of it.”

But that was the reason for the marathon. And years later – a few months after getting out of that three years in the hospital – I crossed that finish line and through the years it was the smallest of steps.

And at times, again, I was forced to search through the darkness and find those silver linings. And those faint glimmers of hope and optimism. And so through the years it was almost like I was trying to sell myself on all of these – not only little goals, but things that I was trying… Like mantras I was trying to teach and prove to myself.

And so that day when I crossed the first finish line out of the three marathons I’ve done now, I’m glad I had sunglasses on, because I really teared up hard. Because after years of not only just grinding for every inch and every breath, but also the pain, the journey of service, of sacrifice and the burden of a recovery that my parents and family went through with me. All the thousands – tens of thousands of people – that not only put their healing hands on me to keep me alive, to help me become better – but the marine corps all of the wounded warriors that I was recovering with. Those that didn’t make it back.

Just everything that the uniform, that a wounded warrior represents, and not only the military side of it but just… I wrote this in the book and that journey of just proving to myself not what Kyle Carpenter can go through, not what a marine can go through, but what the human spirit can go through.

So when I crossed that finish line, and I proved all of those things to myself. And I crossed that finish line for everyone that has been a part of my journey, that has picked me up when I stumbled, that has helped me reclaim and helped me love the life that I’m living now – it was an amazing goal.

But to summarize my recovery it was really the smallest of steps eventually completes the grandest of journeys.

Mark. Hmmm. Yeah, I love that. You did it for them and that was what the marathon represented, right? You did it for everybody and for yourself. That’s so cool.

I mean, you summarized a multi-year, very painful, arduous process succinctly. And there were a lot of points where you failed. And you felt like a failure, probably.

How did you learn to deal with failure? And to always be able to pick yourself back up again? Just move on to the next goal?

Kyle. Yeah, that’s a good question. And through writing this book for the past two years – and I always try to strive… If not stay in a state of deep thought and self-reflection. Because, as you know, the mind can be your greatest ally or your greatest villain.

You’re right though – I failed many times – and the failures could be seen as big – the third marathon that I ran that I actually really trained for, I did by far the absolute worst in. And I’d really like set my mind to it. And actually trained, and did everything you were supposed to.

So that could be seen as a big failure. But the small failures are what made me mentally strong. And during them, broke me down the most mentally. And those small failures, every day “hey, try to get two inches of wrist flexion or supination.” and I could only get a half an inch.

Or “hey try to lift this 15 pound weight,” and I could only get 10 pounds. And not only just to not be able to do it, but also nerves are a very frustrating thing. I might have had the muscle mass, or I might have had you know the fixed back to strong skeletal structure, but if there’s a missing portion of the road, you can’t drive across it. If there’s a missing portion of your nerve – no matter how hard you think about it, no matter how hard you want it – which is counterintuitive to a warrior mindset and everything you experience in life – no matter what you do, temporarily, in that moment, you can’t fix it.

But months of training, thinking about it, getting stronger, regrowing that connection you can accomplish it – but there were many small and great victories, but just as many failures also.

But I had to realize – and I’m thankful I did, and I hope everyone does when they really think about it and look in the mirror – but just like the chapter titles in my book you are going to fail. And that’s okay. You are going to fail when you’re least expecting it. You are going to fail, when you think you’re going to succeed. When you’re the most confident.

You’re going to fail when you do everything correct and prepare as much as possible. No scenario is ever perfect. You’re never gonna be perfect. And people have to understand that not only is it okay to fail, but through our failures that’s when you become better. That’s when you learn. You acquire the mental, physical and emotional tools to become better for yourself for those around you. And, most importantly, for your life.

And just think back – and obviously, not just you mark – but just anyone listening – think back to those times where you’ve got knocked down in life the hardest. To where you failed the most. Where you’ve been the most down and out.

And think about how much stronger that made you and what it taught you to get back up, to make it through that adversity, and to learn how to handle that better. So you don’t get knocked down as hard or as far the next time.

That is inevitable to happen. Whether it’s a year, or ten years down the road – you’re gonna fail and that’s okay.

Mark. Wow. Failure is inevitable and that’s okay. Kyle thanks so much my friend you were amazing.

I have to disclose here that failure is inevitable, because right at that last statement our tech went down. And I haven’t been able to connect with Kyle now for ten minutes so we are going to call it at that and maybe we’ll do a redo sometime.

But what an incredible conversation, what an incredible human being… Kyle, thanks so much for your example, for your service, for representing what a Medal of Honor means to the rest of us in America.

Kyle’s book “You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For.” It is a must read. It is outstanding. So please go check that out.

And Kyle thanks for doing what you do, and hopefully we’ll hear from you again.

And thanks everybody for listening to the Unbeatable Mind podcast, and dealing with our own challenges and our own failures. We’ll continue to improve and iterate and bring you amazing, insightful guests like Kyle Carpenter.

Hooyah. Stay focused. And don’t be afraid to fall down seven times get up eight.

Divine out.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • James Cruce says:

    What an incredible story Kyle shared. I too served, however I was never in combat. However I have many friends who did, including my brother in law. He came home , luckily, with two purple hearts and two bronze stars. I had another friend that reacted like Kyle and jumped on a grenade to save his patrol. He didn’t make it home. He was also awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery. Like Kyle, he was the most unassuming person I knew. Just a good guy al around. I am close to a few men that came home, but, really didn’t. Both of you know what I mean. Thank you for sharing this story with us.

  • Still, I am thankful. May you be blessed with love and the truth.

  • Clint says:

    Awesome thank you very much

  • Holg says:

    That is realy a story of honor. It is very sympatic of Kyle to thank all people and cross the finish-line for them and Kyle himself.
    I can’t allow myself to say something about this hard way of coming back into life. The transformation from this way into the personal way is interesting.
    I wish all the best and thank you both for this conversation.

    Best regards from Germany

    Holg

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