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"I remember as a boy having dreams of being chased by something and being frozen, paralyzed by fear. This was my worst dream realized......I am unable to move and beyond terrified"    

Takeaways from Ed Andrew talking to Marcus Aurelius Anderson 

Marcus Aurelius Anderson is a former US soldier, TEDx speaker and author of the Gift of Adversity. Injured before deployment aged 40 he was paralysed from the neck down and remained so for three months, severely depressed and suicidal he drew upon his years of martial arts training, a lifetime of his learnings of stoicism and Daoism, his knowledge of the human body as a trainee chiropractor he changed his mindset and set about an amazing recovery to repair his body and regain full movement of his limbs, to be able to walk again.


He had a chance encounter with law earlier in his life when considering studying criminal justice but this episode is all about humanity, understanding stress, when to seek help and how to overcome physical injury and the mental side of serious trauma. We discuss his mentors, his insatiable quest for knowledge, how not to repeat the mistakes of the past, meditation, Chinese philosophy, positivity and the daily rituals he has found to help both himself and others.  

  • Just before deploying to Afghanistan aged 40 he suffered a neck injury, paralysing him from the neck down. He was told he would never recover but after three months decided to change his mindset and embark on a journey of healing his mind and body.  His injury was to the same disc that permanently disabled Christopher Reeve. 

  • Even with all of his knowledge of stress and the human body he pushed himself competing against 18 and 19 yo which led to his compression injury, he did not listen to his body and just hoped he would get better. 


  • Before joining the infantry aged 38 he was studying a doctorate course to be a chiropractor intending to serve in the Army and return to completing his course. Although he has a near full recovery he has permanent nerve damage in his hands and feet preventing him from doing so.


  • He picked up Lao Tzu's the Lao Te Ching aged 13 having tried to understand his namesake's Meditations although way over his head it made him curious.

  • He practised many forms of martial arts from childhood which gave him his inner sense of calm which he lost as an adult and then recovered post injury.


  • At 40 he had the most clarity ever had in life, a moment of enlightenment, but he thought he may be ever able to put them into practice due to the injury.


  • He believes he was accruing all his knowledge for this point in his life to recover and help others, finding purpose as a result of his accident.


  • He now teaches private students his chosen discipline which Bruce Lee made famous - Jeet Kune Do. The endless repetition to perfection was the same in chiropractic school, a similar mentality to practice and excellence. 

  • He lives by the mantra "I absorb what is useful and I discard what is useless and try to add what is specifically my own"


  • He is inspired by the Chinese philosophers and follows the principles that "one teaches and two learn" - the master learns from the student.


  • His injury caused depression and he admits he would have taken his own life if he was capable of it. He was incredibly angry at himself and everyone else.


  • All of his education and life led him to believe that he needed to reverse the anger with gratitude. After a week of practising gratitude he began to have feeling again in the tips of his fingers. He build upon the foundations of being grateful for not being deployed and exposing his fellow soldiers to greater danger had he been injured on the battlefield. 

  • As men we tend to ignore the warning signs - prevention is the key for everything. We have the choice to change the story and we are only as strong as the adversity we overcome.


  • How to ensure we do not repeat the mistake of the past by keeping a tether to it - to keep him accountable and honest.


  • To be ever cognisant of the lesson we learned.


  • Daily rituals of 3 gratitudes and 3 small adversities each day, can be tiny as getting out of bed on a bad day.


  • Using visualisation and internalisation techniques 


  • think of 3 things each day:


  1. presence 

  2. goals try to accomplish that day

    3. actions to be engaged to do those things


  • Mentors - Greg Swanson the Warrior Mindset coach, Bob Choat in California. 

  • Tries to absorb knowledge regardless of source, as we may not like the person who said the message.


  • Thick Face Black Heart by Chin-Ning Chu reads it once a year, 10 years later different parts of the book mean different things now.


  • How to apply for TED talks and how to prepare.


  • Adversity is omnipresent and inevitable


  • His Zazen meditation practice and how electronic gadgets interfere with the practice.


To contact Marcus please use the links below. His book the Gift of Adversity is available on Amazon and you can watch his inspirational TEDx talk here.

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