Coach Mikki and Friends

Mark Dean - Resilience and Redefining the Impossible - S4E5

February 13, 2024 Coach Mikki
Coach Mikki and Friends
Mark Dean - Resilience and Redefining the Impossible - S4E5
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When faced with a dire prognosis that would wilt most spirits, Mark Dean chose resilience over resignation. Join us as he narrates his incredible journey from a catastrophic knee injury to martial arts Instructor, proving that the human spirit can be indomitable. He didn't just reclaim his place in the dojo; he swam miles against the current of medical disbelief, emerging not just as a black belt but as a beacon for anyone who's been told they can't.

As we unpack Mark's testament to self-advocacy in healthcare, you'll be moved by the power of persistence and the importance of aligning with professionals who support your goals. The conversation weaves through the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity and the need to critically evaluate the opinions that shape our lives. It's a narrative that will inspire you to challenge the status quo and redefine your own possibilities.

Mark's story extends far beyond his personal triumphs.  Mark imparts lessons of resilience to combat bullying, and we celebrate mentors who foster strength in the youth, shaping a future where each new day is an opportunity for personal betterment. As we close, our gratitude extends to the bravery of military service members and their families, reminding us that the most courageous act is often just being true to oneself.

We look forward to seeing you succeed! - www.KeepOnSharing.com - Code - KOS

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Speaker 1:

Hey, I'm Coach Mickey and I'm so glad that you've joined us and if this is your first time joining us, come on in and make yourself comfortable, and for those of you that joined us on a regular basis, I'm so glad that you do. I really appreciate the fact that you support all of our guests and I love your comments, your questions and your suggestions of having people on, because that's what this YouTube channel is for and this podcast is to bring in real stories from real people that you can identify with and maybe get a little something, something out of it. And today is no different, because I met this gentleman at an event I was in Atlantic City. It was a martial arts event and we started talking and what drew me to him out of a crowd of people was he was in a kilts and I was like love it. Love a person that can stand out and just be who they are as an individual.

Speaker 1:

But then the more that we talked and I heard his story, I was like I've got to have you on my podcast. And what really captured my interest in him and who he is was his quote and I borrow it. I'm going to give him all the credit for it, but I do borrow this quote. He says your approval is not my goal, so welcome with me today, mark Dean. How are you?

Speaker 2:

I'm good. How are you?

Speaker 1:

Doing good. So I want to jump right in right from the beginning. You and I started talking and you pointed out something that had happened with you physically, and your story was so compelling I think it would be really insightful for a lot of people to hear it. So if you wouldn't mind just talking about that, that'd be great.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely Back when I was 19,. I'd started just started in a martial arts in the Tuck window and had a catastrophic knee injury. It was I was visiting a dojo another dojo and I was much younger than the gentleman I was sparring and he purposefully blew through the back of my knee with a very hard roundhouse, completely blew my knee apart, dislocated everything from the knee down 90 degrees inward. My knee cap was halfway up the outside of my knee and the only thing left to touch was the hamstring. When had the typical surgery surgeon told this 19 year old that you'll never do martial arts again? You're going to have about a 40 or 50% recovery, you'll always walk with a lint, probably need a cane and you're looking at knee replacement by the time you're in your 40s. That's a lot for a 19 year old to hear. That water, skis, backpacks, bicycles does you know? My legs were all my life there Just because I was so active. And there's something that I've always kind of kept in my head my whole life that my father taught me in a very young age you can either let a situation define you or develop you, and I decided to let that develop me. I snorkeled two to three miles a day with scuba fins. Before I went back to the doctor he had already released me for PT and such. But I was snorkeling three miles a day, two to three miles a day with the swim team and when I finally went into him he goes oh wow, we don't need to send you to PT. You're doing more on your own than by PT could do.

Speaker 2:

Fast forward. I'm 56 years old. I still teach, compete and study martial arts. I still have all my original parts. That may change here as soon we tend to wear them out, but I'm still walking, I'm still running, I'm still backpacking and you need to be real careful that doctors and big pharma and such does not define your future. They honestly don't know enough about you at that point. You need to interview everyone that's going to be in your life that affects your life. I mean you interview babysitters when they're coming in because your kids are important. Someone house sit. You interview them. Why don't people interview these physicians? And such that you're allowing to cut on you and to put you in a situation that will affect you for the whole rest of your life? Excuse me, I've had other physicians.

Speaker 2:

I went in for an elbow issue much later on in life and he saw the scar on my knee and he's oh well, you shouldn't be doing martial arts, that's going to end soon. And I had my green belt in Okinawan a Japanese system at that point. And four years later, when I earned my black belt, earned rank, I made an appointment with this doctor, went in and they said we have to have something wrong with you. So well, no, I just want an appointment with him. And so something has to be wrong.

Speaker 2:

And personality that I am I'm an ENFP personality type you know Robin Williams, george Cardin, stuff I said, well, I got something leaking out my butt. And so I said, okay, well, we're sending in. So I get in there and I have my bag with me and this doctor comes in and he goes. So you got a problem south of the border there. I'm like, yeah, seems there's too many heads stuck up there. And he kind of took him back for a minute and I took out my black belt and I handed it to him. He goes well, what's this? I said four years ago you told me I'd never do martial arts, that that was short lived. Not only have I obtained rank, but the dojo was handed over to me Be careful what you tell people. If people actually believe every word that comes out of your mouth, you're going to squash a lot of dreams.

Speaker 2:

So interview your surgeons, interview your doctors. This surgeon that I have now, he's very athletics driven. He's like I'm not just there to alleviate your pain, I'm there to get your function back so you can do what you enjoy doing. When I had my latest knee surgery, one doctor I went to with one hospital system said I'll be happy with what you've got. Where knee pads, I'm like well, my knee doesn't hurt, I just have lack of function. He goes. Well, there's people out there that can't even walk. Be grateful for what you got. Well, it could have ended there. Guy's in a white coat, wow, okay, I need to believe this guy.

Speaker 2:

So I went to another doctor and got a referral to another surgeon. And this is where ego really comes into play. The first surgeon there, huge ego, you know, trying to shut you down. This doctor let go of the ego and he says I know what's wrong, I know how it needs to be fixed, but it is out of my skill set. I know someone who can, and that's when he introduced me to who I'm seeing now. So interview these doctors, interview these surgeons, and surround yourself with people that have the same goals and the same vision that you have. There's a wonderful picture that you see these lions walking through the snow and that's the quote underneath the. Surround your people with the same vision and the same goals that you have.

Speaker 1:

That is so true. You know, we put a lot of faith into professionals, especially the medical industry, and to have something like that said to you at that age, you know, could have been devastating, and the fact that you were strong enough and willing enough to not accept that as the end, all answer. And then I have to think about how many people doesn't really affect. That has never even contemplated. Maybe there is something different. Maybe this isn't the end of my story, and you know, and the fact that you went out and researched and found and resonated with someone else that was on the same. You said, same vision as you. I got it. So during all this time when you were healing because they were, you know, from what you shared with me they told me you know you won't walk, you won't do this. What was? What was the mindset, what did you have every day that was going through your mind, that kept pushing you forward to not accept this as your reality, of what they told you?

Speaker 2:

Honestly. You know we use the term sensei all the time in martial arts and it means one who has gone before. Well, there's many sensei in your life, and it's not just martial arts. My father before I started martial arts he had already had a quadruple bypass and I saw him downstairs every morning. He ran about three miles a day, 50 feet at a time, back and forth, back and forth in the basement in the cold weather, and then he'd go outside and do it when it got a little bit warmer. So I'm there trying to lift what weights he can to get back in shape, because the doctor said, oh, you need to take it easy. And I mean here's to the point where they said quit watching football and stuff. Your blood pressure gets too high. And here he has this bypass. He was an engineer for GE, which was high stress, and he's down there just pounding the basement floor back and forth. And that was my sensei. The one who came before followed his example. Again, you know, surround yourself with people with the same vision. So I'm like, if I can watch my dad do this, I can do this. I'm trying to fill his shoes. So that was the driving thing. That really. That just stayed in my head every morning and those mornings when I didn't want to get up and go swimming, I'd go downstairs to get breakfast or whatever and my dad would have my scuba fins hanging on the chair. So in there somewhere you're supposed to be and the roles kind of reverse you never know who's watching.

Speaker 2:

My dad then developed cancer later on in life in his leg. They removed his leg from just above the knee down. He couldn't sit for long periods of time. But when I had my black belt test they rolled a big fluffy desk chair out on the examination floor and allowed him to sit there. Who's the first one to ever sit through our test? And he used to tell me all the time why do you do this to yourself? You know, when I come, when I go up to visit after training, you know a black guy or a bloody nose or my lips swallowing. How do you do this to yourself at this age? He watched through the whole test and at the end of the test I went over and bowed to him and gave him my brown belt and then thought oh, I hope I don't have to take that back. I hope I did actually got my black belt and he stopped and he shook my hand. He got up, you know wobbly, and says I understand this is I understand why you do it. And he took that brown belt around his neck Every time he went to PT and said if my son can go through that, I can go through that. So the same thing I was saying about watching him that pushed me when I was younger pushed him through PT way later in life. So there's always somebody watching and sometimes your roles will reverse. I'm trying to fill my son's boots. Now he's a staff sergeant in the Air Force, used to be. You know he was looking up to me, now I'm looking up to him. So you've got to let that ego go, but don't let that confidence of I can do this go.

Speaker 2:

The one of the most important things you can ever ask yourself on any situation is what you, why, why are you doing this? You know, when I'm swimming laps, why am I going through this? Well, because I want to walk again. Why am I going through martial arts? Why am I getting pounded? Because I can do this. I want to be better than I was last time. You know, if you ask yourself what you, why, and you're like, well, because I want this certain person. It's like no, no, do this to develop yourself. Your biggest competitor is yourself. You don't need other people's approval to drive you. There's a quote that I have written on the wall downstairs that says those people that tell you you can't are not showing you your limits, they're showing you theirs. And that's something I try to remember is when someone's really trying to down you, they're typically uncomfortable with what you're doing because it's holding a mirror up in front of them.

Speaker 2:

I don't know if you've ever gone crabbing before, but one of my favorite analogies is if you ever go crabbing over here on the East Coast, catch one crab. You got to put a lid on that bucket. It's going to crawl out every time. He'll be motivated, he'll get out. You catch three or four crabs. You can leave the lid off because those other crabs, instead of following that one crab's examples, will reach up and grab that crab and pull him back down every time, and they'll just keep doing that. They would much rather pull the other crab down than to follow his example, and all of them are capable of getting out, but they can't because they're too busy pulling the other guy down. And people are like that and the people really need to watch out for that kind of toxicity.

Speaker 1:

Wow, I just learned something. I love that analogy and you are so right. You are so right. People will voice their opinions, they'll project what Yuckie said, their beliefs, on you and we just sometimes we just accept it instead of just being there on our own. I always tell my kids the only person you're competing with is yourself. Be better than you were yesterday. That's all you have to do. I said I'm not asking you to be like anybody else, I'm asking you to be you and just be better than you were yesterday. And again, do one small thing that's gonna get you closer to where you wanna be and your goals.

Speaker 1:

But I love that about the crabs and you were absolutely so right, and I know you're an instructor and I know you're still in between teaching, but I can bet and I bet you'll want you on it I guarantee your kids probably evolved and their lives changed so much just based on taking your martial arts experience, or really whatever you were doing, and then implementing these two life skills. Because I think we miss that, we don't teach kids that and a lot of adults don't even get that. So I mean that's pretty powerful and it's very profound. Thank you for sharing that.

Speaker 2:

A big problem with society nowadays is they have broken apart the family structure and when you still have like a better term and complete family, a lot of the males say males in the family wanna be their son's best friend or gaming partner, not their father. My son will tell you that he came one day and said dad, your job was not to make my life easy, it was to prepare me. And he goes in. My life was not easy every time, but you did prepare me, which is why he's such a successful officer in the Air Force. Again, your sons, your daughters are watching. You need to prepare them. You can still be friends with them, but you need to prepare them. He comes back and tells me all the time he goes dad, that one day that you spent with me teaching me how to change my own breaks is why I'm now a crew chief on multi-million dollar jets.

Speaker 2:

He goes that lit a fire. So it can be some very what you think is a small act. Donny's breaks all my life. It's no big deal for me, but to him it was huge and it set his career going. So where doctors and other people and even fathers saying the wrong thing can really put out that light. A small little actor, a small little word can really light a fire as well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, what we say, what we say to our kids, is really important because they take that to heart. You know, and probably more than than people realize, and you're right, as you know, as a parent, you, you're a mentor, you know and, again, you're giving them the tools and the guidance. You know my son's in college now and my daughter is long grown and I've got, you know, grandkids. But I, you know, I was look at that. You know he'll come to me and he'll say, well, what about this? And I'm like, well, what do you think? You know, I can just give you the tools to guide you, but in the end the choice is yours. I can't tell you what to do.

Speaker 1:

You, you know. You you're at that point now where you evolve, where you know, you know what the right choice is to make and if it, you know, if it's something that just doesn't work out, then you know, you move on and you use it and you utilize and you learn from it and you go on to do the next best thing. And you're right, we're there to be mentors and guides and not be there, not be their best friends. I see that too often. And then you see what the product of that is, you know, just by the people they may become.

Speaker 2:

Right and we become a lot of times in the dojo. The men and women in the dojo, not just the instructor, but the older people in the dojo sometimes feel that role of father or mother to some of these kids and teenagers that are missing them. Now, I was bullied really bad growing up. In high school. I was a band geek and computer nerd when computers were first coming out at a very athletic driven high school, and again, developing versus defining. I was not going to be defined when I graduated.

Speaker 2:

Hey, you remember Mark, the kid that everybody used to pick on. I let it develop me and some of the people that were adversaries in high school, some of my best friends now. And so in martial arts you'll see a lot of schools and you hear officers say this as well. We love the fact that you are the people between these kids and them having to deal with us and us deal with them. I try to catch these kids before they either become bullies or teach them how not to be victims. Martial arts benefits both of them. So, yeah, we tend to forget that we feel that role as well and sometimes it's placed on us by those kids and that's part of the responsibility I believe being a martial artist is being able to fulfill that role as well.

Speaker 1:

Oh, you're right. I mean, whatever career that you pick, whether it's, like I said, being a martial arts instructor or, in my case, also being a coach it's a huge responsibility working with these kids each and every day, because you learn their story, you learn their family life and some of them is not really pretty and you're like, oh man, so you step in as that person. At least you can go home and feel as though they've got one person in their life that they could trust or look up to or feel safe with and guide them. And if any of you that are listening that are in those roles of teacher, coach, even as a parent, your job is to create these incredible individuals as they're growing up and they're looking to you for answers because they're like little sponges and whatever you say will stick. Go ahead, and bad they will stick. They will remember that.

Speaker 2:

I'm sure you've seen that, especially with martial artists and such, after a while we would come this cornucopia of phrases and cliches and quotes. I heard one the other day that really stuck with me and this kind of paraphrases it and says live in the discomfort of growth, not in the comfort of doing nothing. Disruption always follows intention. You will feel worse before better, weaker before stronger. So there's mornings when I'm ready to give up on. You know, I train. Every morning it's like, ah, I'm done, I'm sweating, already I've worked. It's like I look at that board and it's like, no, if you look at my shoes, I wear these Chuck Taylors when I work out, and it has one written on one toe and more on the other. Because when you get tired and you're ready to give up, your head starts dropping and you see one more. So, all right, one more rep, one more squat, one more block, I can run. You know, anyone can do just one more. So it is a constant reminder of yeah, I can push one more out.

Speaker 1:

And you're right, because that's when you really shine is when you're at that point of where you want to just stop or give up. And I don't say give up because we don't really. When you're pushing yourself, you know, the only time you fails when you don't try, you don't do anything, you know. But I do like that fact of pushing yourself because we can and I think we surprise ourselves. You do one more, you know, and you're like okay, well, you know what was I thinking? You know why didn't I do it to begin with? But you're right to have that self motivation and that's very powerful too, because I think we surprise ourselves sometimes when we do things that we didn't expect that we could do.

Speaker 1:

You know, especially in your case, I mean coming and evolving from what happened to you you know you physically, and then becoming who you are, and getting past all of that, you know, takes a lot of mental strength and also willingness, but also drive. You know drive is so important when you are trying to do something and you cannot allow obstacles to get in your way, whether it's you know someone's opinions, or you know something that was said or something that you know, even something you know Because would you find that too, martha. Sometimes you have a belief and you're like why in the world was I believing that to begin with? And then, all of a sudden, you snap out of it and you're like what was I thinking? You know that, that, that untrue thing that you keep telling yourself over and over again like a recording.

Speaker 2:

Right, the conformity is a dangerous word and I had a senior director at this Fortune 500 company I was working for on a conference call he and I are great friends now, but at the time it was meant as a dig. He said, mark, conforming to society's expectations is just not your strong suit and I said thank you very much. That's about as accurate as an observation as anyone has ever made of me. So don't let digs and stuff that people were throwing at you bring you down. Sometimes that can be your mantra. Everyone needs to develop that mantra to drive them, that that voice in their head over and over, to drown out the negativity of no, I can't do it. They said I can't do it. No, get you a mantra and chant that thing. So conformity is like yeah, I'm a huge non-conformist, I don't sugarcoat anything. Sometimes it doesn't make me any friends, but I'm me and I did not conform to somebody else's expectation of what they want to be, to be, to make them feel comfortable.

Speaker 1:

And you're right, that's. That really is what society does. It's like fill, fill the, like you said, fill what the expectations are. And and I think that goes a long way with a lot of choices that people make because they'll say, oh, you know, well, I really should do this, or I need and I'm like, well, why, who wrote that guideline? You know children don't come with them annual. I don't see anywhere on page. You know 527, it says you must do this. You know it's. It comes down to what do you really want? And I think more people should think that way and do that way, instead of trying to filter in with the cattle and do what's, you know, like society expects them to do. You know, on the good note, on the good stuff, you know, you know being being you and doing things that are beneficial is always a good thing.

Speaker 2:

So if you want to really make the naysayers and those telling you you can't uncomfortable, ask this question. You know, hey, you need to be doing this. I do blah, blah, blah. And you look at him and you go so how is working out for you? You know, I have one guy plays a lot of video games and I've got nothing against gamers, it's not my thing. But he's like man, you're 56 years old, you're in here limping from all of this. You know why don't you just take it easy? You know, sit back, relax at night. And I look at him. I'm like how's that working out for you? And he talks his head. I'm like 350 pounds, you know, how's that working out for you? And said now, if you want to move, let me know. I'll be your biggest cheerleader. I said, but no, it's not for me. How's that working out for you? That one question can make a lot of people uncomfortable when you throw it back on them.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, because they don't know what to do with it, you know it's like you said, it's so easy to project. You know your, your opinions and your thoughts on other people, but when you have to face yourself, you know, that's when, all of a sudden, you just see all this, the haywire, you see all this sparks going off in their head.

Speaker 1:

Well, it has been so much fun having you on. Is there anything else you want to share or talk about? We got a few minutes and I could sit here and talk all day with you, because I love your insight and I love who you are and your outlook on life. I think it is. It's amazing, and I am so glad that you had time and an opportunity to come on and share all this. I'm going to call on Markisms because I love it. I love everything that you talk about and who you stand for and what you do. I really think you're an incredible person.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much, thank you.

Speaker 1:

But is there anything else you'd like to share? Sure.

Speaker 2:

One. It's funny calling Markisms that's what my girlfriend calls them, and she writes them down. She has a little book of Markisms. I saw this quote the other day that really rings true is success is determined by the judgment of others. Satisfaction is determined by you. I live in an old farmhouse and I don't see how you can live that way. Well, it's my satisfaction. I'm happy doing it. My success in life why don't you have this degree or why don't you have this? This is other people placing judgment of my success on their ideals. Your satisfaction is far more important than the judgment of your success by others, and that's what I would leave with. People is be satisfied, be happy.

Speaker 1:

Thank you, thank you so much. Well, and also I would like you to thank your son for serving I'm. You know, that is that, that's my heart, and my heart strings.

Speaker 2:

I appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

But it's in the military, so please thank him for that and thank you for being such a good dad and raising such an amazing person that's doing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so are you guys. Thank you so much for being with us. I know you got a lot out of this today and please, please, please, take a lot of this to heart. Think about it. You know this is good information. You know we can all use this and, again, the most courageous thing you can do is be yourself, and I will look forward to seeing you again. Until then, see you.

Speaker 2:

Thank you very much.

Overcoming a Devastating Knee Injury
Overcoming Adversity in Martial Arts
Crabbing Analogy and Parental Responsibility
Gratitude for Service in the Military