Guys and Gals, there’s just too much that I can possibly write in one blog post with this next unbelievable human, Kirstie Ennis, so I’m going to shorten it to the most powerful lesson that I learned from her- True Grit. She’s about 10,000 kinds of bad ass and an example we can all follow.
As we were sitting around a campfire, Kirstie started in on her story. To be honest, I didn’t know much about her and boy was I in for a HUGE surprise. It didn’t take long before there wasn’t a sound other than the crackling of the fire and her voice. All movement and other events ceased as everyone zeroed in their focus. I’ll let her story speak for itself.
As a Marine Corps Sergeant (she joined at 17, both of her parents were marines) in Afghanistan, 2013 serving as a door gunner and an airframes mechanic on the CH-53 helicopter, the helicopter she was in crashed while on a mission. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, full facial trauma, bilateral shoulder damage, cervical and lumbar spine injuries, and severe left leg wounds. Her jaw was destroyed, and due to the severe leg wounds, Kirstie’s left leg was amputated below the knee. One month later, she underwent an amputation above the knee where she allowed cameras into the hospital to film her amputation ordeal for an inspired short film produced by Cosmopolitan magazine.
In the process of undergoing more than 40 surgeries over three years, and the amputation of her leg first below and then above the knee after a life-threatening infection, she came to a realization that she had to make a decision; either this would define her, or she would define it. She damn sure chose the latter!
Lesson 3 | Kirstie Ennis – True Grit
What is grit? Being a gritty person means that the one sticks to their goals despite numerous issues, problems, setbacks and failures. The person has firmness of mind and unyielding courage. The synonyms of grit are fortitude, determination, backbone, courage, strength of character and will, moral fiber and so on. An alternate definition, as you will see, is Kirstie Ennis.
Just a brief list of accomplishments AFTER her amputation:
- Appeared in ESPN The Magazine‘s 2017 Body Issue along with other great athletes.
- Honored by People Magazine as Annual Body Image Hero
- Recently won the 2019 Pat Tillman Award at the ESPYS – speech here.
- Walked 1,000 miles throughout England, Scotland, and Wales in honor of 25 Marines who are no longer with us; also to raise awareness for British non-profit, Walking with the Wounded. She did this LESS THAN A YEAR after her amputation.
- Summited Mt Kilimanjaro (at 19,341-feet it’s the highest point in Africa) to support the non-profit The Waterboys; then successfully climbed Carstenzs, the highest point in Oceania, for The Heroes Project; and then conquered Iliniza Norte, a 16,818-foot peak in Ecuador. She has attempted Cotopaxi, the highest peak in Ecuador, got turned around by weather on Denali, summited Aconcagua, and made it to the South Summit of Everest. She hopes to complete the Seven Summits by climbing the highest peak on every continent by 2021.
- Completed three Master’s degrees (Human Behavior, Business Administration and Public Administration) and is currently working to complete her doctorate in Education.
- Earned the NATO Medal, Combat Action Wings with three gold stars, National Defense Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Air Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan National Campaign Medal, two Letters of Appreciation, Certificate of Commendation, and a Certificate of Appreciation.
- Worked as a stuntwoman on “Patriots Day” starring Mark Wahlberg in 2016.
- She’s a motivational speaker and appeared on stage at Madison Square Garden in 2015 during the New York Comedy Arts Festival for the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s 9th Annual Stand Up for Heroes Event.
- She’s an entrepreneur and businesswoman who launched a t-shirt apparel company, HeadCase, and opened her first business, the Chapter One Hair and Body Lab in Oceanside, California in 2017.
- She recently earned her license as a real estate broker for Engel & Volkers in Aspen, Colorado.
Oh yea, and she’s 28 years old…And it’s prudent to note that all of these accomplishments have come with extreme difficulty, pain, insecurity, vulnerability, sacrifice and encouragement. She says over and over again, with great humility, that ‘without those around her, she wouldn’t even be here and definitely wouldn’t have accomplished what she has today.’
Sitting there listening to her give her account of the crash, the deep and dark ensuing personal struggles, and then all of the amazing accomplishments that came after, I couldn’t help but wonder what is driving her. But as I listened, she gave more insight into her fiber. She has a couple of areas and mindsets where she focuses. These are paraphrased from what I heard and what I’ve read from her:
- Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t. You can only change what you can control.
- Set lofty goals and push yourself towards them. Stay as busy as you can working on those goals.
- Reflect on who you are and what you have. Give more than what you get.
- Rest a moment less and endure a moment longer.
We are the only real limit to what we can achieve. We either simply do or don’t. There’s really no in-between. We are either growing or dying and whichever direction we are going, it’s gains speed exponentially. So if you’re going downhill, the farther you go, the faster you go. And the inverse is equally true. So what are you goals? What do you want to change? What are you doing to get there?
If you don’t know where to start or don’t know what you want, find someone who can help you. Reach out to me. I can help. I want to help! We’re all in this together and we all help one another to the next level.
GO, DO and GROW!