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A Systematic Approach to Mental Conditioning with Kevin Armentrout

We have Kevin Armentrout as our guest for this episode. If you’re just getting to know Kevin, he is a US Marine Corps combat veteran who in this show blew my mind with the story that he took us to in South Central Ramadi.
I want you to know this about Kevin as well. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for heroic action during combat operations in Iraq.

Ever since departing his service in the Marine Corps, he has been on a whirlwind. He has been in the fitness industry, he launched his own coaching business. He is motivating people and helping them understand how to take the lessons that he learned in service and apply them to everyday life. He is all about relentless and he is all about helping people step into their greatness.

In this episode, what you’re going to discover is amazing storytelling from Kevin about what it’s like to be staring at an RPG pointed at him only twenty feet away. In addition, you’re also going to discover that complacency kills. Most of us are not in combat situations, but you can understand if we get lazy or if we get comfortable, if we get complacent, it doesn’t help us achieve our goals. It doesn’t help us get to that next level. It doesn’t make us a better business person, a family man or a family woman or a great friend.

In this show, it’s going to challenge you a lot. It definitely challenged me and I can’t wait for you to get into it.

Dustin
It’s the toughest battlefield on Earth. It’s 100-plus degrees outside. It’s unusually quiet that day. You find yourself in a Humvee in South Central Ramadi, Iraq. Your intuition tells you to override your orders and lead your unit to the left instead of the right that you were supposed to take. You find yourself down a road starting at twenty armed insurgents with one twenty feet away from you with an RPG, a rocket-propelled grenade, staring you down. What is going through your mind?
Kevin
How did we get to this point so fast, so quick? It’s 2004. It’s the first Democratic elections going on in Iraq and we've been tasked with doing continuous patrols of voting polling sites in the area. The streets are dead quiet. Everybody knows what’s about to happen. There is not a lot of traffic. There is not a lot of people on the streets. We had been nonstop patrolling in vehicles for about a day and a half now. From a tactical standpoint, it’s not always the best thing to do, to constantly be on the street. You are sending the alarm that, “I'm out here.”
Dustin
You are a target.
Kevin
“I am a target all day for you.” At that time, we were patrolling and a junior Marine in my Humvee grabbed by the shoulder and he said, “I saw somebody poke his head over that wall. It looks like he had a mask on. It’s your standard insurgent guard, so we need to go left.” At that time, that left would have pushed me over an imaginary line on the map that separated myself and the Army’s area of operation. Just going with gut and instinct and believe in what he was telling me and the gut feeling that he had, we definitely need to pursue this to the left. Everything was saying to go that direction. We made that call. We moved into the Army’s area of operation. We came around a four-story hotel that was under construction. As we turned into the backside of the alley, there were twenty guys. You can tell that we almost caught them a little off-guard as well.
Dustin
These were armed guys, right?
Kevin
Yes. It looks like they are getting their game plan together. Everybody is in a huddle with weapons and RPGs around. We come around the corner and we were in such close proximity that when the first guy turned around and point an RPG right at the Humvee, everybody gets to that pucker factor and tightens up and the driver punched it. The gunner at the same time gets thrown back and he also drops down in the dirt because gunfire erupts and he lets out a burst but he is not aiming. He has one hand on the trigger. He is ducking down shooting. Rounds are going everywhere from both directions and we are now increasing the speed as fast as we can at this guy. It happened so fast. I love my driver that he went for the gas pedal instead of the brake. As we were driving towards these guys, you are waiting for that thing to get launched any second and it’s going to slam right into us.
Dustin
I want to jump in here because I don’t know what the acceleration is like on a Humvee. Is it quick? We think it’s slow because it’s a massive vehicle.
Kevin
It’s not a sports car but it’s not a semi-truck. At this time, these were also up-armored Humvees so there is a lot of extra weight on them. When they do get rolling, they are a big heavy machine but they are still pretty fast. We are probably 30 to 35 miles an hour. Nothing wildly fast in a big old metal box in a small tight alley that’s about the size of a Humvee.
Dustin
Can a Humvee take an RPG?
Kevin
Up-armored to an extent in certain areas. It’s definitely going to have some shrapnel. Right to the front windshield, I don’t know if that’s something I want to test out. We’ve taken a couple of RPGs. A lot of it has to depend on where it hit and what angle, and what kind of up-armor you are working with. A lot of stuff back then in 2004 and 2005, it was welded on plates on doors. It wasn’t like this manufactured from the factory up-armored vehicle. Luckily enough, he never pulls the trigger. He drops it at the last second and ran down the side alley. We’re going 30 to 35 miles an hour and we hang a right to go down that same alley and we come to a dead stop.That big metal box came to a dead stop immediately. I have a big computer that sits in the driver seat right in front of me that tracks the movement of all kinds of friendly forces and stuff. My face and that computer screen slammed into each other pretty aggressively. It disoriented me at that time and gunfires are erupting. I have three vehicles behind me that are now in a gunfight and a little bit of chaos is starting to ensue. The driver cannot get the vehicle to move. We slammed into the walls when we came around that corner.I opened up the door at this point because we need to now dismount and start getting to the fight.
As I opened up the door and stepped out, I stepped onto the tire of my own vehicle. He had hung a right-hand turn and caught that front right tire on the corner and ripped it clean off. That’s how abrupt this stop became. I'm like, “We’re not going anywhere. Now, it’s a different fight. We are no longer mobile. I have a vehicle that’s down.” The decision-making skills have to kick in quick. We are under fire and the hotel had insurgents in it. We are in this back alley. They can now easily drop grenades out of windows and shoot directly on top of us. We are not in a good position by any means. As I come around the front of the vehicle, the RPG that he has dropped, we are not sitting on top of.The frame of the Humvee that is now on the ground is the frame, an RPG rocket and then the ground. I don’t even have the option to chain this thing up and drag it out of there. That’s a very unsafe move as well. As this is going, this fight is ensuing, I'm still in contact with my command and control center in the back of company battalion and they are sending me assets at that time. We have to hang in that fight while reinforcements are coming. I'm at that point where I'm almost going to kill this computer. It has a switch that can fry it and thermite grenade my own Humvee and burn this thing and call it a loss and get out of this situation because it’s not a good one.
Dustin
You can’t just leave your Humvee and your computer and stuff laying around.
Kevin
If I'm going to do this, it’s very systematic. I'm going to try and get that gun off there, get some of the stuff out of it. I'm going to burn the thing to the ground with a thermite grenade. I'm going to kill that computer and I’d still have to come back and make sure I’ve recovered. I would pull away so that nobody can come and take any of those assets. It was close. It was a time where I was like, “This is my option. This is what I'm going to do.” I thought about even making an entry into the hotel but that would have been not a smart move. We didn’t have enough people. I'm only running a twenty-man force. I got to lead people on the vehicles, drivers, security, and guys outside in the fight. You don’t want to clear a four-story building with four or five guys.
At this point, we are trading rounds waiting for reinforcements. As those guys come down the street, they end up hitting a very large double-stacked IED on both sides of the road. It disabled two of their vehicles. At least now, I do have dismounts. They are now immobile, but we have some more guys in the fight with some extra guns. We end up at least getting the enemy to push back and retreat and get a low on that firefight now as the third set of reinforcement is coming up. When this was all said and done, the reason why so much of this is imperative and how impactful this entire evolution was we ended up walking away with a few wounds, no KIAs, a cool storyand one hell of a firefight to talk about.
As we come up and get a tow truck in there and get the Humvee out and deal with the RPG and everything else, you start piecing everything together at that point. As I was coming down this one street and we saw that individual to the left, which forced us to drive to the left and wrap around this hotel, what I would have done and what I would have been doing that prior day and a half and if I would have followed the guidelines of an invisible line on a map, or if I had a leadership style that didn’t invoke my subordinates to think that they have the ability to think for themselves and drive on their own initiative and speak up when they think things were out place. They had their own ideas.
Who knows if he would have said anything or even had the gumption to not just say something but grab me by the shoulder and almost make a command decision as a young individual? I would have gone right and I would have hit that double-stacked massive IED that the other convoy hit.I would have hit it leaving, which meant that the rear of my vehicle, meaning when the doors open and our vulnerable aspect is because we are opening the doors to the rear now, would have been encountered by a twenty-man ground ambush with RPGs and AK-47s and an elevated position within the hotelbehind us shooting down at us. We would have been completely caught off guard and in that aspect, we’d have disabled vehicles and they would have a much more orchestrated attack and a much more drive that we talked about inwards to fight. What we took from them was the initiative.
What we took from them was their surprise, their violence of action and their speed. We foiled their attack.It would have been a much different outcome in terms of casualties and in terms of the damage that would have been done if we would have gone the opposite way. I love that story because it goes back to the leadership principles and how I have taken a premise from the business world. If you are reading this and you own your own business or you’re an entrepreneur, this is something that is very imperative and it is the mentality of speak last. If you are the CEO or the manager or the leader or even a small team leader within your company, speak last is an ideology that when I come into a room or come into the meeting, I say, “We have a problem, what do you think?” I say my thoughts, opinions and guides to speak last. I want the people under my charge and I want the people that I'm leading to understandthat I want to build thinkers.
I want to build these innovative problem solvers. People that understand how to take initiative and how to analyze things and how to look at things.I can only do that if I don’t put a ceiling over them by my own opinions and thoughts. If I walk into the room and I say, “We have a problem. This is what the cause is and this is how we fix it. What do you think?” I've manipulated that room to agree to the CEO. They might have a couple of wild cards in the bunch that will raise their hand and say, “I disagree.” That’s very rare in the corporate world. At the same time, you are leading this culture within you. You are building that, “What the CEO says goes and I don’t have the right to say anything and step up.”
If I'm preaching that right from the beginning, right from the way I organize my meetings, from the way I do any type of problem-solving or any type of courses. Anything that I'm doing within the structure of my company that I say, “I want to know what you think. I want to know what your opinions are. I value that.”You still have the right as the CEO and the manager to make your own decisions. You don’t have to take that for what it is. What you’re doing is not only are you breedingthe initiative and this independent thinking, but you are also building a character within them that they are allowed to operate within the company on an individual level to make things happen. It will pay dividends for you in terms of productivity. People feel that they have a voice. You’ll see so much more innovation in terms of product development and problem-solving and even on the peer level of not everything is always taken to a managerial level. They learn to communicate and problem solve within themselves.
In terms of combat, that paid dividends for me. I didn’t have to individually place guys. They didn’t think that they had to have my approval or ask me or wait for me to guide them into every situation and to everything. You want independent operators, independent thinkers that know how to work as a cohesive team. Once you’re on the battlefield, it’s too late. That happens six months to a year earlier and how you are grooming the thought process, the thinking abilities and the mindset of the guys that you are leading. That story has a great testament to a young new Marine that’s sitting there with a seasoned combat veteran and felt that he had the right and the privilege and the authority to say, “You need to do this because this is what I saw and this is what I observed. I know you’re going to believe me because you have established that in me through months and months of training that you value my opinion.”That’s what you're spawning in terms of leadership. It saved lives on the battlefield and it will save you dollars in the business or in the corporate boardroom for sure.
Dustin
I want to go back to that decision. You've empowered your unit around you. You've got this young Marine giving you intel but also at the same time, you've got this invisible boundary where you're responsible for this territory and the other battalion or the other unit on the other side, they are responsible and you get this data. How do you come to make that decision where you've got someone in your ear mentally and they say, “You can't go over here, you should not go over here?” Yet you've got your young Marine giving you the advice. It seems like two conflicting pieces of information. Do you ever look back and say there is something special and then how did you come to make that decision?
Kevin
I don't know if I want to say there's something very special at that moment. I definitely had a persona about myself that I flew by my own rules in a lot of ways and a lot of shapes. You can translate that into any entrepreneurial life, any business life or even in your personal life is that there's a big difference between guidelines and laws. There are war crimes and certain aspects of rules of engagement that those are laws and you follow them to the tee because that's criminal behavior, and they're there for a reason. That’s the structure of combat and war and how it all works. Then there are guidelines. Those guidelines maybe an invisible line on a map that you should understand that that's what you should operate by.There are going to be circumstances that make you push those boundaries, maybe the block, which was what it was for me. In business, there is definitely a set of guidelines that you should run your business by.
There are also the people that step out of that box who are the innovative thinkers, the new product developers, the people that don't per se operate within the guidelines of what this company or organization or even genre or market should operate in. Those are the guys that step around separate things. Then there are laws. There are these ethical and moral codes that you don't cross in terms of business because they are there for a reason. Anytime you look at something, where is it a special moment or how do you make that decision is, “If I'm pushing this boundary, is it beneficial to me? If I'm pushing this boundary, am I taking away the risk and creating a safety net?Am I doing things better or for the company, for the organization, for my family? Am I crossing a law? Am I breaking a moral ethical code or an actual law?” That's how you differentiate and how you make that decision. I will always abide by my morals and my ethics and the law of the land. I'm also not going to abide by simple guidelines or simple premises set out by a general understanding of the way things are supposed to operate because that's what somebody said, especially when my life's on the line.
Dustin
Lieutenant Colonel Eric Dougherty said, “You're one of the bravest men I've seen on the battlefield. Through the most challenging of times, he was the inspiration for our fighting spirit.” Why do you think he said that about you?
Kevin
I absolutely love that guy. For one, he is a rock star. He is now a colonel and he will probably be one of the youngest generals in the Marine Corps. It was a privilege to serve with that guy and have him as a mentor and a guiding factor. For me at the time, it's because of a little bit of the persona that I carried with myself and also my rank. I was a sergeant at the time. In terms of rank structure within the military and the Marine Corps, the sergeant is the highest of an NCO before you go into a staff NCO position. Meaning the next rank is then staff sergeant. I am right at that position to where I'm high enough to where I'm still relatable to junior Marines on a much more personal level, but also at a high enough to rank to where I could take on a lot of responsibility. Technically running a QRF, that should've been a lieutenant or a staff sergeant or a gunnery sergeant.That was my job for seven months. We were the only ones to run it for the entire seven-month deployment. There were no rotations, no other guidance or anyone stepping in. As becoming that spirit of the company is that a lot of junior Marines could look to me as like I was close enough that I could be them, but still at a position of authority to where I could still lead Marines successfully. It’s the right time, right place, right rank and the right age to associate with the entire company of nineteen to twenty-year-old guys.
Dustin
I go back to childhood. You're a good old boy from Lakeland, Florida. Did you grow up military?
Kevin
Not at all. My dad was a Polk County Sheriff for most of my life, K-9 cop ERT, which is like a Polk County SWAT team. He did some narcotics work and other things, but not military. I only have a few uncles and both grandfathers are dead at that timeframe. They were World War II veterans.
Dustin
What got you into the surface then?
Kevin
I was one of those rare cases. When I joined the military, it was so weird. I didn't know anything about the Marine Corps. I was a troublesome teen. I did some stuff that I wasn't proud of. I knew that I'm being in Lakeland was not going to be a good thing for me. I was a very intelligent kid but did not excel in high school out of sheer laziness and the work ethic. I didn't think of college as a route. I honestly one day walked into a recruiter's office and said, “I'm going to join the Marine Corps and I need you to not talk because I don't want you to screw this up. Just tell me where to sign and what I’ve got to do.”He was like, “Okay.” I was seventeen. I hadn't graduated from high school. To show you how fast it went down, my father was a football coach and my mom was a public school teacher and a cheerleading coach. We drove to the school and they were getting off a bus from an away game and we met at a sports bar that night, so my parents could sign my life away. It all happened in one night.
Dustin
You’re adamant and your parents knew or did they try to talk you out?
Kevin
My dad stepped off a bus as a football coach. He looked over in the parking lot and saw me standing there with a Marine recruiter and he's like, “Yes. What do I got to do?We won, so it's going to be a quick speech. How about we go to Touchdown Eddie's? Is that good?” He's like, “I'll grab your mother.” My recruiter turnaround to me and he is like, “You have to be the easiest kid I've ever gotten in my entire life.” We walked in there and my dad and I are talking. My mom's looking at me like, “What in the world are you doing?” My dad looked at her and said, “Sign the papers, woman.” It's one of those things that I would never regret. The Marine Corps absolutely gave me a foundation and the structure that I carry still to this day.
Dustin
I want to get into mental conditioning, but I would be remiss if I didn't ask you this especially for some of the boys. You were a Marine Corps Assault Breacher, which means you blew up some stuff to gain entry to some places. What's the coolest thing you blew up or what are some unique places that you had to figure out how to get into?
Kevin
I was on a CQB team. It was close quarters battle of the military versus the SWAT team for the majority of my first four or five years in my career. I was the assault breacher for them, which is exactly the guy that blows up the doors as you see in the movies on SWAT Teams-type stuff. I was on a nuclear weapon space up in Washington for three and a half years on this team and I happened to be there at a right time. We were tasked by SWFPAC, which is Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific and the naval base to see if an enemy could have the ability to breach a small ordinance magazine that holds nuclear weapons or the whole of a fast attack submarine.We got this endless budget to buy whatever explosives we want and all this stuff that not even the military uses.
They would get us the actual steel used on the submarines and we'd put out these big steel frames and weld them all in. Then they would set up these massive 360 cameras for slow-mo. All these Styrofoam so that they could see what's called the patterns, like fragmentation patterns and everything else. They did the same thing for smaller magazines and it was hilarious. You use 2,400 grains ECT, explosive cutting tape, which is usually we're using a couple of hundreds of grains and this stuff was like an anaconda. It is massive.It was a fun time to be like a young nineteen or twenty-year-old kid and blowing stuff up and it almost felt like you're in this unique little elite unit because we got to do so much cool testing on things. It was a fun time and it shaped a lot of my career. I owe a lot to that time of my Marine Corps. That's where the mindset and conditioning all started.
Dustin
Thank you for your service. I want to talk about the mental conditioning and I want to invest a lot of time here. Coming out of the Corps, you've been conditioned and there are things there that have benefited and yet you've done your own research and you work with clients. I want to start with mental conditioning. How do you define what that is?
Kevin
Mental conditioning 100% is preparing your mind for the possible acceptance of the pitfalls or the hurdles or the road barriers that are whatever you are endeavoring to do. With combat, that's preparing your mental capacity to understand the casualties, chaos and fog of war. All that is going to be a part of it, and you're trying to build a mental conditioning base and platform to understand that these things are acceptable areas of this endeavor that I'm in. Whether I'm in business or whatever it is, for combat, that's what it is. It's the big difference between developing an acceptance and an understanding of the possibilities, versus the expectations of it. That's what mental conditioning is for. You are not focusing on all the negatives that are a part of that business. You're accepting that those negatives exist and you're preparing yourself mentally to deal with them if they arise, not when they arise. It’s a big mental shift there.
In that unit, that's where that mental conditioning started because in any CQB SWAT team environment, the casualty rate for the entry team is extremely high. If there are armed terrorists in a building and you have to blow up a door and go inside, the odds of you getting wounded are high. To be successful in that, you have to prepare yourself mentally that that's a fact. If the odds of people being wounded are high and the only way that you can continue and eliminate that target and gain that structure and dominate that space, I have to be prepared. If you go to the door before me and you get shot and fall down right in front of me, I have to step right over your body and continue on.That's a mental mindset because stopping to pick you upmeans I'm getting shot and we're both going to die. I need to step over your body, eliminate the threat that shot you, and then we can render aid to you once we have secured the house. That is a mental conditioning piece that's huge and that's where that all started for me at such a young age of preparing your mind that when you make an entry, you're going to get shot at.
When you make entry, it's going to be loud. It's going to be chaotic. You're not going to go left from right a lot of times. There's going to be tac lights going in every direction. It's dark and there's smoke. You're conditioning your body for this over and over and over and understanding that this is the mental capacity that you need to have to operate in this environment. That doesn't change in any way, shape or form in terms of life, weight loss, entrepreneurship and business.You need to go, “What are the pitfalls and what are the negatives that can happen in this industry?” You prepare yourself mentally and you condition yourself to understand that response. The distinguishing factor is differentiating the difference between accepting those things as a part of it and expecting those things to happen to you. That's the fine line between what mental conditioning is and what anxiety is.
Dustin
I want to make this tactical. Let's say I'm reading this blog. I'm going to go out and I'm going to write down all the threats to my business, to my investments or maybe my family life. How do I condition now? Do I read these as mantras? Do I write these out every day? I see it and I have it on paper, but is there another step to it? Where does the conditioning come in? Awareness is one thing but conditioning, I'm lacking right now. How do I condition myself?
Kevin
What you're doing is you're conditioning the response. That's where training strategies and everything else come into play. What I'm doing as I'm mental conditioning is the mental part is the awareness, it’s understanding it. The conditioning part is I conditioned the response to those things. For me, the same thing is we talked about from a combat mindset is if I know that you are going to get shot, I'm conditioning myself with the responses is that I understand that. I've accepted that. When you fall, I step over your body and eliminate the threat and I move on through the house.If I haven't conditioned that response, I may pause, hesitate and go, “I can't believe that just happened. I want to render aid to you immediately,” and now we're both dead. I'm conditioning. In terms of business, if I look at it and I say, “This is a possible pitfall that could happen and this is a possible threat to my business. What would I do if that happened? How would I mentally perceive it? How would I mitigate it? How would I move past it? Are there steps I can take to prevent it?” I build all those into my plan and then I push them aside. I take this profound stance that I know that I am now skilled and have a conditioned response for that. I don't need to technically have an ongoing worry about it.
I'm not saying that you need to forget about it, but this is where you've accepted that that's a possibility, but you expect it to never happen. I'm mentally prepared if that arises, not when. If that arises, I am so conditioned for it and I'm so ready in strategic operations to understand it that I have a conditioned response. I already have the mindset prepared for it. How this has this trickledown effect is that you're not going to be able to receive every single threat to your business. You're not going to be able to perceive, especially in life. Things will come out of left and right, but you have a comfort zone per se. This is why stepping outside of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to these extra limits is always big. Every time you expand that comfort zone, your ability to deal with adversity grows. Just in general adversity, it doesn't have to be specific. If I go through this mental preparation, this mental conditioning, and understanding how to condition a response to threats, to pitfalls, to barriers, I'm conditioning myself to any barrier, to any response. The mental preparation, even though the response may be different, the mental preparation is very similar. It’s,“Something happened to me. This is adversity. There's a lesson here to be learned. There's an opportunity to be discovered and I move forward.” Whether that is executed differently, each one is irrelevant.
Dustin
You work with athletes, execs and high performers. Are you telling them anything different than you would share on a podcast or share with the common folk?
Kevin
I don't think anything different. Maybe more specific to their genre, more specific to their unique aspects and needs. We all operate on these basic human needs and understanding people's behaviors and people's actions are driven by those needs will have me tailor how I speak to them or how I plan their strategies out, or some of their conditioning aspects because I'm catering to their specific personalities. That would be the only difference.
Dustin
Let's say you're working with an athlete. I want to make sure people understand this. This idea that anything can happen in life, would you walk a high-performing athlete to get them to understand that an injury is very likely to occur and what are you going to do about it, even before they can be in perfect shape? Is that an area that's a little negative and a little slippery?
Kevin
I don't know if I'd go injury with somebody because now you're talking about possible career-ending stuff. With an athlete, it's like the Aaron Rodgers aspect of it. Anybody can come out, score the first touchdown, maintain the lead and go through four quarters. That's the easy part. That's the textbook. That's what the plan was in the game room. The real question of where your mental conditioning and drive through adversity is, is what do you do when you're down fourteen points with three minutes to go and it's the fourth quarter? Do you have the mental capacity and the mental conditioning? When you look at Aaron Rodgers face, it's deadpan. There is not a single amount of emotion. He walks out onto the field with two minutes and he's down fourteen points and he goes, “I can do this.” That's because he's prepared himself mentally to be at that level. He understands that this is a part of the game. He understands that this is not the end of the world. This is something that he can do.
With a comfort zone, every time he does it, it expands his comfort zone of, “I can do it again. I've been here. This is not something new to me. It is very achievable.” Every time he does something that doesn't make sense, how did he do that? He's building that comfort zone and building that resilience in his mind that, “I've been here. I can do this again.” Every time that you take on adversity, any adversity, you're going to move past it and you're going to grow that comfort zone bigger and bigger to be able to handle other adversities. With an athlete, I would say that I would walk them through that fourth quarter down by fourteen scenarios, “Where's your mind at now? Where do you go to? Where do you find your confidence? Where do you assert yourself?” A big thing in anything you're doing is what are you focusing on and what is the language you're talking in your head about? That's the big part of that acceptance versus expectations. When you go into a combat mindset, the difference in combat mindsets versus the fine line that changes to anxiety is focusing on the danger remedies versus the dangers themselves.  
If I continuously put my focus in, how do I get out of this danger? How do I fix this threat? How do I mitigate this problem? Then the focus is always going to be on the results and the language in your brain is there. If you shift the focus on the danger itself and not the remedy, your focus is going to be on that.Where focus goes, energy flows. Your energy is going to start flowing in a negative manner to the danger and the language in your head is going to change completely.“This is ruining my business. This is going to put me in bankruptcy.” It's all that negative talk and that's where the focus and the brain works. If I go into the mitigation of it, “This was a big hit to the business, what's the first financial thing I need to get myself out of this? How do we take measures to have to put ourselves and give ourselves a safety net? What are all the factors involved in this threat?” Your focus is on the remedy not on the action that puts you there.
Dustin
You seemed detached from it. You make it sound like detachment and when something's emotional or close to you, like your livelihood or your life, how does one detach? Let's say we're not in a combat situation. Let's say it's a blow to the business or I put all my money in this stock and it blew up in a negative way. How does one detach? What's your advice for detachment?
Kevin
Detachment I guess is the right word, but it's called emotional intelligence. You have to understand from an intelligence standpoint, looking at yourself, how much of my actions, how much of my behaviors as being driven right now by emotion. Going back into that focus on language, your physical body has so much to do with that. If you are in a physical state that is a depressed state, that is rounded shoulders, shallow breathing, slumped head, your focus in language is 100% going to be driven into an emotional depression. Which means that your thoughts, your actions and everything else are going to be that emotion.By changing your physiology, whether that would be through exercise, through a state change or through anything else, you can change your focus in your language. It's very hard to operate in a negative emotion with fear and anxiety when you're in this state of excitement and gratitude and grace and everything else. That's why you hear so many successful people talk about gratitude. It's so that they don't operate in an emotional manner from a negativity standpoint. It's the very thing that you have to be emotionally intelligent.
When you take that boat of the business that you're like, “That's rough. What am I supposed to do?” You start to get emotional about it. That's why you have to shift and go, “I had the opportunity to start a business. I still have my life. I still have my family. I still have my kids. There are all these things that I can be grateful for. There are all these things I can have this gratitude for.”I need to take myself out of that emotional cycle, that emotional loop that I'm in, break that pattern, change my physiology and change my focus in language. You can now start to operate in a more positive light because you've taken it out. It's a very intense emotional intelligence thing. You have to understand when you're in that pattern, when you're in that loop and what are the things I can do to quickly get me out of it.
Dustin
It’s interesting because I see you branded as the relentless guy. You’ve got a book, Relentless State of Mind. You created a course for us here at WealthFit, Relentless Power. I hear gratitude and I hear powerand I hear relentless. They are very masculine words. Let's define it first. What do you mean by a relentless state of mind or relentless power?
Kevin
I honestly believe that a relentless state of mind, especially from my life and from where I've been at is that there has to be an element to you that refuses failure. Failure is a part of the business. Failure is a part of life, but it's the stagnant failure. It's the one where you finally stopped. You can fail and try a new venture. You can fail and overcome that hurdle and continue to another one. It's when you stop in life and go, “I'm done. I'm done growing. I'm done contributing. I'm done trying to better myself. I'm done leading my family.” I feel so many people right now in society, the way we have this very content and almost complacent life to themselves. In combat we talk complacency kills. You cannot be complacent in a combat zone.You have to constantly be vigilant. You have to constantly be improving yourself. Complacency is the death of you. That's no different in life. If you are complacent and if your business isn't growing, I guarantee you, it's dying. That's a big problem when people start to get on top. They hit a level and they go, “Our business is where it needs to be.” They stopped putting that drive and effort and all of a sudden, competitors or markets have shifted or things have changed. You're not innovative anymore and now we're in big trouble.
The trouble was never within the business. The trouble was never within the dynamics of it. It was that they stopped growing. They became complacent with what they did.Your relationship, we could talk about marriage all day. If you are not putting into your marriage any type of growth, an effort, come tell me how it looks in ten years. It's not going to be pretty. If your relationships are not growing, they're dying. If you, as a person, are not physically active, pushing yourself, pushing boundaries or everything else, there’s our obesity epidemic. People don't challenge themselves in terms of personal development and that's on every level. Being relentless means it doesn't matter where you're at in life. It doesn't even matter what it is. It means that you have to keep fighting in a different direction. That's all. As I get older, I may not be able to do some of the physical things I do but it doesn't mean I'm done working out. It doesn't mean I'm done pushing myself physically. It means I’d find a different direction. I’d find a new challenge, a new thing that I can pursue and better myself.
Dustin
I'm curious, I know you have a kid. What has changed about your state of mind or your attitude about life since having a bambino?
Kevin
It’s absolutely mind-blowing. It’s a game -hanger for sure for me. I'm more purpose-driven. There’s so much about who I am as a person, who I am as a man. Oddly enough, having my daughter has made me a better husband. I wrote a blog not too long ago that it was impactful. It got a lot of traction on it. It’s titled,My Daughter Comes Second. It’s a title that’s slightly intriguing. The idea is a lot of fathers make a mistake and this is from experience that they fall in love with their daughters. Rightfully and naturally so, their daughters fall in love with them.The difference in terms of relationships of howyou're setting up your daughter to fail in that premise is my love knows no bounds for so her. Her entire life, she knows that no matter what she does, my love is never going to change. It's always going to be there and no one is ever going to love her like her father did. If she creates this relationship with me, that is a very almost dynamic relationship of a male to female relationship, which is very common with almost a princess mentality with their daughters. They can do no wrong. They do anything else and daddy is prince charming.
You're setting them up to get let down in relationships later in life because no one's ever going to match the love of their father and no man out there is going to allow them to do whatever they want. That love never changes or shift in any way, which is what the father brings to it.In my idea of how I'm going to raise her and how I already do is I want her to see memake sure that she knows that her mother comes first in my life, not her. It doesn't mean I push her to the side. It's just that she knows that in terms of love, that loves are different and I love her mother in a certain way. I love her mother and in a way that she knows that she is our child and second best in terms of how she ranks on the scale of love with me and her. The easiest way to put this is that at the end of the day, I want my daughter to not want to marry a man like her father. I want her to marry a man like her mom's husband. That's the difference. I want her to understand that that is how a man treats a woman. That is how a man loves a woman. That's how a man respects a woman. When he sees my dynamic with her mom, not with her. If I can get that clear distinction between the two and understand that premise and how I move forward, then I'm setting her up for great success. I can only imagine what the dating scene is going to look like in 2030.
Dustin
I saw your video on the tactical baby carrier. How did you come up with creating the site? Break down the video a little bit and then how did you come up with the idea to shoot this one?
Kevin
It's a company that reached out to me on Instagram. It’s pretty awesome. They made a baby carrier that looks like a tac vest. It’s very similar to the one I wore in combat. It's like your simple a Coyote olive drab or black plate carrier with MOLLE gear layout attachment, but it's a baby carrier. It would take all your MOLLE gear. If you wanted, you could put a weapon and magazine pouches on it.They have a day pack that they run and some other stuff and it's called Mission Critical. They have parody videos of tactical-looking dads. They reached out to me and said, “We know that you're a veteran and you just had a baby. Would you be able to maybe do a product video for us?” They sent me out some gear and it was awesome. I had a good time with it. I still own it. A couple of my buddies that are law enforcement have the black version. It’s a funny unique product,because what are dads supposed to wear? I'm not wrapping my baby in a sarong with a flower pattern. It's a cool conversation piece on the same side. You walk around and you’ve got a baby in a tac vest.
Dustin
I love the video. You brought up the gun thing there and he left it open in the video of whether you should put a gun with your tactical baby carrier, that's up to you. Did you catch heat for that? I thought you did.
Kevin
I was saying, “It will take gear,” and I was like, “You could take magazines.Here's where do you draw the lines on whether you put a weapon on your baby?” I figured that any logical, prudent person would be like, “He's being funny.” If you are unfamiliar with any social media in the tactical world, the tactical armchair quarterbacks are amazing, “Let's be serious here. A baby is the last thing you want to wear in a tactical carrier. You're putting the baby at the front to the threat.” I was like, “These guys are unreal.” I took a lot of heat of that. I was tactically retarded for anything else like that and I didn't know what I was talking about and who would bring a baby to a gunfight. I'm like, “How do you get this out of that?” I leave them up there or whatever.
Dustin
I'm curious how you came to know Tony Robbins.
Kevin
At the time, I was still doing fitness competitions. I was still pretty heavy in the fitness industry and there is a guy in Vegas named Tim Larkin. If you are ever in the realm of self-defense and want to know practical defense, that is good. Tim Larkin is one of your top experts. He has a system called Target Focus Training. He runs out of Vegas. He is one of Tony Robbins’ personal self-defense instructors. A lot of people don't know that Tony was a big martial arts guy. He used to do Karate and all kinds of other stuff. He does one of his biggest seminars called Date With Destiny. He does it twice a year. One is in Florida and one is in Australia. That's his most immersive six-day course I know. All-in, eighteen-hour days, a total personal development.
There is an element in there where he previously had used a military person as an extra motivational speaker for one of the processes that he does throughout the day. He reached out to Tim Larkin and said, “I'm looking for a Marine, someone who is big into fitness.” Tim Larkin knew a good friend of mine that was in that CQB Team with me, who is a metro cop in Las Vegas said, “You’re a Marine. Do you know a guy in the fitness industry?” He was like, “I know exactly the guy.” He reached out to me and hesaid, “Do you know who Tony Robbins is?” I was like, “Who doesn't?” He's like, “Would you want to do some fitness and motivation work for him?” I was like, “Absolutely. I'm in.” Coming this December will be my fifth Date with Destiny with Tony Robbins and being a part of that team. It has been an absolutely life-changing experience being a part of that family and having somebody of that stature to be an influence and mentor in your life.
Dustin
It's one thing to go to the seminar, now to be a part of it and be backstage and be planning and working with the team. I'm very curious as to what are some of the most impactful things in your personal life that you've learned being part of the crew or the team there?
Kevin
I drove the new direction in my life. There was so much I was already doing on an intuitive basis with clients. They took a lot of the things that I knew I was doing and put it to a process and put it to an actual step-by-step understanding. It was like, “I do that, but I didn't shape it in this way or I didn't even realize why I was doing it and what's the meaning behind it.” They opened my eyes to how strategic and how deliberate you can be in coaching and mentoring and everything else like that. There is a science to it. There is a process. To be a good coach, you have to have a bit of intuition with you and understanding and reading people. More than anything, you have to care. That's the biggest thing. If you're in it for the money or in it for your own significance, it's never going to work.
People will see right through it and honestly, you're not going to be able to help people. If you genuinely have a heart that you are trying to better and bring value to people's lives, that comes across in everything you do. It helps you understand and be there for people because it's not about you. It's 100% about them. You're more in tune with the person you're with. When you see the level of professionalism that a team can have for 7,000 people, they know everything about every person.You would think that in a sea of people that big, that people would get lost and pushed to the side. There’s not a single one. I'm blown away to see what's going on in the back end behind those seminars, how many private one-on-one visits are happening, how many team meetings and, “This person is a possible risk.” It's the most professional thing I've ever seen from a coaching seminar. It may look like hype on the surface to an outsider, but that is the most caring, detail-oriented team I've ever seen that is generally out to help people right from the start.
Dustin
What do you think Tony's learned from you or what would you like to think that he's learned from you?
Kevin
I don't think that he would learn anything from me.
Dustin
Or learned about you or discovered?
Kevin
I know that through my book, I've had some pretty impactful moments that veterans have reached out to me. We had a good conversation a year or so right after I had released the book. He is impacting veterans more than he possibly knows because he's impacted me and I'm passing on so much of what he's given me in my book to other people. I've had quite a few people that have reached out to me and have been right on the ledge of taking their own life. It's a big problem with veterans and more than one that, “I don't know why, but I got your book and it sat on my shelf for two months and I was pretty much at the end.” I said, ‘Screw it. I'm going to give this book a try.” I'm two chapters in it crying, “You saved my life and this and that.”It’s weird to get those messages. It's everything that you wanted out of a book, but then it's also this weird humbling experience at the same time. I hope that he would understand that and that he got that for me, is that his trickledown effect of what he does is so beyond the people in the seminars and people that he's coached. That's the ultimate influencer is when you don't even have to be present and you're impacting people.
Dustin
I want to move us into the WealthFit round, a rapid-fire round here. What's been your most worthwhile investment?
Kevin
The moment that I stopped putting other people first because there are a lot of times that you can have this, “I need to contribute,” factor. The moment I realized that I needed to go through personal development to contribute to people,that's the biggest thing. You may have meant this in financial terms but I'm telling you that the moment you take time to invest in yourself and personal development, everywhere you want to give back and you want to invest is going to go tenfold. That's the true 10X plan.
Dustin
What's your guilty pleasure or spend? The thing that you splurge on?
Kevin
Jeep stuff. We have a Rubicon. We keep tweaking it out more. We’re trying to make it into a frontier thing. The plan is to have onboard water, onboard air and onboard fridge. We have a roof tent. The ideas is to be able to pack up, drive anywhere, camp and move on.
Dustin
Talk to us about your morning ritual. What's your routine?
Kevin
My morning ritual is pretty regimented, and I like to describe it as the example that I want my life to be because it's a play on words with the ex and example. It's exercise, experience and excitement. The first thing in the morning, it's all about getting the heart rate and blood flow. It's exercise. The home I previously had had a pool. I get up at 5:00 AM, the first thing right to the pool. Even in Vegas, it's freezing. You get that jolt. You get that cold water immersion. I swim hard as I could. In the winter, I would immerse something myself in and out. Building up that body hardening, resilience, your heart rate, blood flow, all that stuff is going. A cold shower will do the same thing for you. Ice cold shower, I jump right in and first thing in the morning. If that doesn't work for you, jump on a treadmill or do your exercise program. Anything that you can get that's going to immediately change your physical state.
Exercise is so important and it's been proven in research over and over. It's not about exercise in terms of physical health, which it does but you're talking about cognitive function, executive function, planning, organization. All those things rapidly increase when you do that. That's the beginning portion.Then to your standard bathroom routine. I come out and I'm all about then creating an experience. What the experience is those things in life that we say we don't have time for or I wished I would have spent more time with that. Those things that pass us by all too fast.
Right now for me, it's the little one. I’ve got a one-year-old and I want to savor those moments with her as much as possible. She's an early bird like me. Watching her play with her books, play with her toys, enjoying this little one-on-one time when it's dead silent. There are no distractions. There are no computer, phones or anything. I make it an adamant decision to stay away from social media, from emails and from phone calls.I won't even turn on the news because I look at what my morning routine should be as under my control. I can't control outside factors. If I turn on the news and there are negative stories that are impacting my thoughts, my emotions, my state, and everything. I have no effect or no control over what stories coming out of that news.
The only thing I can control is the turn it off. I don't want what I'm doing, this priming that I'm sending my body through to be affected by anything on the outside. Because you open up that email that the business is crashing right now, that's all your focus is going to go to. Give yourself ten minutes. The business will still be there in ten to twenty minutes. You have that time. For me, it's that time.I tell people, “Have coffee with your spouse where you don't talk about your day. You talk about each other. You talk about anything else. Don’t just, ‘What do you have on the schedule for the day?’” You're still talking about your working or plans. Make it about each other. Maybe you don't talk at all. Just sit on there, your wife's head on your shoulder and you have a cup of coffee. Make breakfast with your kids. Let them help, let them get messy. Have an experience. It’s not just everybody gets a lunch shoved in their face off to the car and here we go. If that means you’ve got to get up twenty minutes earlier, get up twenty minutes earlier. It’s going to be so valuable to what you're doing but create an experience.
If you're a single person or whatever, maybe it's just you, a book, a cup of coffee, or the sunrise, whatever it is. It should be a valuable moment that you don't spend enough time in and it brings you legitimate joy. That's what you're trying to build in and it's a ten-minute experience. That's priming you in a way that you want all that negative energy out and you don't want anything else out of your control. You're building this priming aspect to them to go to what I call excitement, which is this is your more regimented meditation aspect. You do a guided meditation to where you're taking ten minutes. You're doing three minutes of a rapid breathing exercise to change your physical state. Get your heart rate into the right motion, into a real connection between mind and body. You can get your brainwaves and heart rate on the same pattern.Then you go into a three-minute phase of gratitude. This is where you're going to take three things and you're going to spend a minute on each word. It's true gratitude. That gratitude is a feeling of that gratitude at the moment.
Three things that you could be grateful for if you had to, that you can express real gratitude for in your life and you're trying to step as deep into those moments so that you can refill that emotion and feel that gratitude. That’s why I'm not a big fan of gratitude journals. It becomes more of a list and less about the emotion and feeling it invokes. I want to envision it and step into that moment. Then the last three things are my visions for the day, “What are three things I want to accomplish?” Usually, the first two are near future. Maybe that day or that week and then one is a little bit further out down the road of a goal. I don't think about them and I don't see them. I step into them in the first-person point of view and I want to see them completed and accomplished. I'm looking more at like, “What are the emotions that are invoking in me? What are the faces of the people I care about around me? What did they look like?” I'm seeing myself complete.
I sat here and I watched me and you from a first-person perspective to have a podcast. A successful podcast and one that I saw going well and a good dynamic and a good ebb and flow into the conversation. I see it from me sitting here in this point, not like I'm a third-party looking in and the joy that it will bring me in how that feels and how that looks. I had to go further out to something that I want to accomplish that’s a little bit bigger. You can do three goals ten years from now. It's whatever you want. It's what do you want to happen and that's priming your day. It’s setting you up for that mental conditioning and that thought pattern and that right focus and that right language in your head to then now you're ready. You have exercised. You have primed yourself, you're ready to go. You've got a great experience that brought you some real joy and you are so in tune with your body and your mind and focused. Now, you can turn on social media, emails, TV and go at it. You set yourself up for success.
Dustin
Kevin, looking back over your life, what's been your biggest defining moment? I'm talking about a moment where you chose something and you knew or at least now looking back, you know. You chose something that completely altered the course of your life. What's that moment for you?
Kevin
First and foremost is joining the Marine Corps. That would probably be the biggest factor that changed everything. If I go down that same road, I reenlisted in 2002 because I knew that we were about to go to conflict. That definitely changed the entire dramatic life. I could've got out, went home to Florida and started a different life and gone to college. Who knows what would have happened then? I chose to reenlist and spend another four years or so in the Marine Corps and do multiple combat deployments.Then at that point, I chose to get out, which is also a very big a thing at that point. I was at nine years of change and I knew if I stayed in, it was twenty years or get out now. I got out now and that was the right choice for me at that timetoo. I'd probably say the biggest decision that I've probably made that was the most successful in terms of life and happiness and joy was I continued to contract in the military on camp. I was an instructor for quite some time.
In late 2016, almost 2017, I decided to walk away from all that. A very cushy salary, a job that I'm more than capable of fulfilling and familiar with. Being a part of training and environments and the environment in Camp Pendleton and being around marines all the time. It was a very big pay cut to walk away. It was a very unsure avenue of where I was going next. At the time, I was very unfulfilled in what I was doing. I lacked purpose even though I felt I was giving back to the Marine Corps and doing all this stuff. A lot of my personal views and political views have changed at the time. I knew that the biggest factor for me at this time was to walk away. It was the best thing for me because, at a time where I thought I was on point and on game, this is why growth mindset and personal development so important is I was successful.I was making money. I was happy with where I was. I had climbed somewhat the corporate ladder within the contracting world and I felt very empty in a lot of ways.
Leaving all that behind had let me focus on myself and realize like, “There's so much more I have to do for me. The more that I then invested in myself, I was able to give back in much bigger ways to much more meaningful things to where I was trying to put the Marine Corps and young Marines and other things first. It wasn't there for me because I was neglecting a lot of my own stuff. I wasn't growing. I was stagnant in a job that I was very capable of doing. I was competent. Where's the growth in that? I wasn't doing it. When I walked away from that, it definitely opened up my eyes that, “Here you go. Now you have to grow because you're in a whole new venture and you're trying new things and you have to build a business and financial stability in your life.” I'd probably say that the most impactful thing was walking away from almost a twenty-year career of doing one thing since I was seventeen years old and at almost 36, 37 years old, to go, “Now what?” It’s the best decision of my life.
Dustin
Kevin, thank you so much for sharing the stories and the wisdom. I'm super excited for the course that's coming out, Relentless Power. If folks want to keep tabs with you, where can they find out more about what you're up to?
Kevin
I'm pretty much your standard social media guy. Kevin Armentrout is what I go by. There are not too many Armentrouts out there. On Instagram, it’s Kevin Armentrout. On Facebook is Kevin Armentrout. I usually try to keep myself updated on that. If you want to know more about personal development or coaching or I also do leadership training for corporate events, you can go to KevinArmentrout.com.
Dustin
Kevin, I want to say thanks for your service and thanks for being on the show.
Kevin
Thank you so much. It was great.

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