“Have a spirit of adventure, the desire to learn something new, be an explorer and never get too comfortable.”

“Imagine this room is filling up with poisonous gas,” Tim said. He’s looking straight at me. “There’s two doors behind me, one window and one to either side.” He points exactly where everything is, even though he’s still looking straight at me.

“We have several choices,” he said, “I can pick the locks of one of the doors. I can break down the doors. I can smash one of the windows and we can climb out. We have three minutes until we die. What do we do?”

Tim is aware of everything around him. Which is probably why I started off the podcast with:

“We have nothing in common.”

“We’re 30 seconds into the interview and we’re already disagreeing,” he said.

It’s a creative challenge to figure out how to relate with each person I meet… He’s a US Army Special Forces sniper. He’s been to Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s an MMA fighter. And has multiple black belts.

I have zero black belts. I have negative black belts. I haven’t been to war. And I’m not trained to kill people. I can’t shove someone without looking funny.

So we have different instincts.

“I remember every moment of every gunfight I’ve ever been in,” he said. “And there are things that wake me up at night.”

“Like what?”

“In the movies, saving your friends and killing a bad guy is a high-five moment, right? No. You just took a human life. That is something that echoes with you through eternity.”

He told me about the decisions he had to make every day. And how his dad’s words rang in the back of his head, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

There were four people in Tim’s unit. Each had a different job: communications, medicine, explosives, tactics. Tim was tactics. “Weapons tactic expert,” that was his job title.

He constantly had to assess whether or not to fire. Because the situation was never clear. Innocent people could be in the same room as the man with the machine gun.

“He was shooting at my teammates. He had a machine gun in the window.” And Tim didn’t know what (or who else) was on the other side…

Then he asked me, “Do you throw the grenade?”

I didn’t know. My instinct is to run.

“Run? The bullets are 175 grain and travel at 2,800 feet per second. Do you run 2,800 feet per second?”

He threw the grenade.

“Did you ever find out what was behind that window?”

“Yeah… the moment the grenade goes off and all you hear are women and children screaming and crying. I stayed up for a week with the women and kids that were in that room. We fight until the fight is over. But then we revisit and give them the best medical care that we can in the field and transport them to the best hospitals that we have access to. That’s the most beautiful thing about US Army Special Forces, ‘The Green Berets.’ We want to do everything by, with and through the indigenous people.”

I can’t imagine.

And not being able to imagine, is what we have in common. It’s when you try to find the bridge where two people can meet that I learn the most about the people around me.

Here’s what we talked about:


[12:20] – We talked about his childhood. I wanted to know if fighting is inherent. He says it wasn’t. Although, he did learn how to fight when he was young. His brother and friends always threw him in the pool. “Were you traumatized?” I asked. Tim had the mindset that he could get stronger. And he planned to throw them in the pool someday. All nine of them. But in between sports and horsing around, Tim’s Mom brought in balance. She enrolled him in piano lessons. I didn’t ask if he still plays piano. I don’t know if he still has this balance. But it’s worthwhile to try to create it in your own life. To lose your stresses in the concentration of a new art, a new practice.


[27:12] – “War is horrible. Period. It’s where we see the most unimaginable horrors,” Tim said. So I asked him why he initially signed up to go to war. And he told me this, “Evil will prevail if good men stand back and do nothing.” He had to take action. I asked him another question. This is happening all over the world. We didn’t take action in Rwanda until it was too late. At what point do you start to take action against evil?


[39:20] – Tim’s made mistakes. Mistakes that wake him up at night or prevent him from going to sleep. War takes a toll. He set up a scenario for me. A machine gun being stuck out a window, pointed at him and his team. Shooting. He throws a grenade through the window the machine gun is in. The grenade goes off. The moment it goes off he can hear the women and children screaming and crying. He had no idea who was in the building, but does he risk his own life to save the lives of the women and children inside? Listen for what happens after the smoke clears.


[49:00] – “You don’t get to see who a person really is until you strip them down,” Tim said. He’s talking about the Army Special Forces selection process. It’s one month of breaking the candidates down before the real training even begins. You don’t have a name. Just a number. You have no identity, no resume. They deprive you of sleep and your calorie intake is substantially inadequate. Then they find out who you really are at your core…


[53:00] – Tim said, “Once you understand humanity, you understand right and wrong, you understand just and unjust. These are things that transcend language”. Tim was an expert at transcending language. It was part of his job. Because he had to adapt and assimilate into cultures around the world. So I asked him, “What are the tools? How do you become a “warrior ambassador?”


[58:00] – I didn’t realize how much our army gets involved in all the world’s issues. They stop poachers, save animals from going endangered, they try to stop human trafficking and anything that touches the black market. I wanted to learn more about human trafficking. I know it’s a very real problem in the world, but I didn’t know enough. What does it mean? Are little girls being kidnapped and sold into slavery? And does that happen all over the place? “Yes,” Tim said, “It happens here in the United States, here in Austin, TX.” Then he told me how this black market industry is supporting terrorism all over the world.  Listen here for Tim’s explanation of how we are trying to put it to an end.


[1:08:50] – I asked Tim about mastery. He’s a peak performer in all areas of combat and martial arts. He also owns several businesses. So I asked, “How did you master all of these areas?” But he said, “There’s no such thing as mastery.” So I asked him what he thinks of learning. He told me this, “Have a spirit of adventure, the desire to learn something new, be an explorer and never get too comfortable.” Listen to our conversation to learn Tim’s perspective on how to regain your sense of exploration.

“Be an explorer and never get too comfortable.” Tim Kennedy via @jaltucher (Click to Tweet!)

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.