Overcome with Justin Wren - Judd Shaw

Overcome with Justin Wren


Judd Shaw


Justin Wren

Episode Summary

In this inspiring “Behind the Armor” episode, Judd Shaw interviews Justin Wren, an MMA fighter turned humanitarian. Discover how Justin’s journey led him to create Fight for the Forgotten, a nonprofit dedicated to uplifting the Pygmy communities in Africa. Explore his path from the ring to making a real-world impact, emphasizing service, transformation, and finding purpose.

Justin Wren discuss his nonprofit, Fight for the Forgotten, and its impact on the Pygmy people in Africa.

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Episode 010

In this heartfelt episode of “Behind the Armor,” host Judd Shaw sits down with Justin Wren, a professional MMA fighter, keynote speaker, author, and founder of the nonprofit organization Fight for the Forgotten. Justin shares his incredible journey from battling personal demons such as depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts to finding profound purpose in helping others. By founding Fight for the Forgotten, Justin has made significant strides in improving the lives of the Pygmy people in West Africa. Join us as we delve into Justin’s story of transformation, the power of service, and the impact of finding one’s true calling.

Lessons From the Episode:

  1. Turn Pain into Purpose: Channel your personal struggles and past traumas into meaningful actions that benefit others, creating a ripple effect of positive impact.
  2. Start Small to Make a Big Difference: Small acts of kindness and service can lead to significant changes. Volunteering at a local level can open doors to larger opportunities for impact.
  3. Find Your Tribe: Surround yourself with a community that shares your values and mission. This sense of belonging and shared purpose can be incredibly powerful and healing.
  4. Embrace Nature for Healing: Spending time in nature, whether through hiking, sunrises, or quiet reflection, can be a profound way to reconnect with yourself and find peace.
  5. Serve with Authenticity: Engage in service that aligns with your true self and passions. Authentic connections and genuine efforts lead to sustainable joy and fulfillment.

Guest This Week:

Justin Wren

Justin is a professional MMA fighter who has competed in the UFC, a keynote speaker, author, podcast host, and founder of The Fight for the Forgotten Charity, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to defending the weak and empowering the voiceless. In today’s episode Justin shares what inspired him to start Fight for the Forgotten after overcoming his own personal battles with suicide, depression and substance abuse.

Show Transcript

Judd Shaw: [00:00:00] Welcome to Behind the Armor, where we deep dive into the heart of what matters. I’m your host, Judd Shaw, adventurer, storyteller, agent of change, and speaker on authenticity and human connection. Join me as we explore the complexities of human connection, featuring theorists, scientists, and speakers. Our mission is simple, to inspire you to reclaim your true self and create genuine connections with others.

Join me as we lay down our armor and live the armor. Hello, you beautiful people, and thanks for tuning in. Today, I’m speaking with Justin Wren. Justin is a professional MMA fighter who has competed in the UFC, a keynote speaker, author, podcast host, and founder of The Fight for the Forgotten, a non profit charity organization that is dedicated to defending the weak.

And empowering the voiceless. In today’s episode, Justin shares what inspired him to start Fight for the Forgotten. [00:01:00] After overcoming his own personal battles with suicide, depression, and substance abuse, Justin has turned his pain into purpose. Now let’s uncover what’s behind the armor. You, my friend, and I share a similar, amazing rollercoaster story, and you have found an incredible awareness on the impact that us humans can make on other people, man.

You, my friend, have found your superpower on the impact. That you have with other people, Justin Wren, welcome to the show.

Justin Wren: Thank you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate being here. And yeah, I think when you say impact, that’s probably going to continue to be my new intro into anytime I speak and keynote or even meet people like what, what meaningful impact would you make?

If you only knew [00:02:00] you could, and I think we all sell ourselves short. And I mean, there’s the cliche stuff, like no act of kindness, no matter how small ever goes wasted or JFK said, one person can make a difference and everyone should try. And man, I found purpose through service and really trying to generate.

And I think that comes from partially in part trying to be a high performer, peak performance, professional, but not having that linked to purpose. I would get my hand raised in the cage in front of millions of people. And I would think, is this it? Is that all got to be something more. And so that’s whenever I kind of went on a transition from fighting against people to fighting for people.

And yeah, combining that. Uh, performance plus purpose, like that’s what generates impact. That’s what I think the recipe is,

Judd Shaw: you know, that so resonates me with me and I really [00:03:00] appreciate that. But before you got to that point,

Justin Wren: right,

Judd Shaw: you had to get to that awareness that you can make that impact. And let’s paint that picture for a minute, right?

You’re a five time. All American wrestler, two time national champion. You’re a winning UFC successful fighter. Um, you are a hall of famer in black belt magazine and you chose the ring as a fighter and myself, uh, I chose the courtroom as my arena, but you and I also at the same time, we were playing champion and winner on the outside.

We both struggle with depression. We both struggled with substance abuse. We both had two real suicide attempts. I did as well. Um, we both suffered from childhood trauma. We both were bullied. We both, uh, you know, we had, I shared these experiences with you [00:04:00] and what I know what it looked like for me. What was that time looking like for you, Justin?

Justin Wren: If you hear any little barks, sorry, I thought my dog was up. But, uh, I am, I’m trying to reflect, you know, I, I didn’t know anything about loving myself. And whenever I was 13 years old, That’s when I chose to become an MMA fighter because I thought these guys, when I picked up the UFC VHS tapes, like old school stuff, right?

Like they weren’t, uh, selling the pay per views on, well, they, they made them illegal. They banned them. So they would sell porn on pay per view, but they wouldn’t sell the UFC fights. And when I picked up those VHS tapes, these guys don’t get bullied. Um, and I really, wanted to do it because of that. I fell in love with the chess match, but the dark times I think really came, I’m getting somewhere because in [00:05:00] this one bullying moment, it was in, it was all premeditated in front of all the popular kids.

And basically I was told by my middle school crush, crushing me, you’re not good enough to come to my party. This was at her party where I got an invitation to go. It was a costume contest. So I dressed up, I get there, no one’s dressed up. It’s only me. Um, and, uh, they took pictures of me. I was hit with flashes of light.

My eyes were adjusting. I didn’t. And I hear laughter and my middle school crush says, you’re not good enough. I can’t believe you thought you were good enough to come to my party. And right next to her, this guy, Tyler has a cool transformation story now, but he’s Reflecting back, hurt people. Hurt people.

And he was going through a lot of stuff. But also at that moment, um, maybe he was feeling a little worthless, uh, or not good enough, but he said, you’re worthless. So I felt that, and the notorious middle school bully that organize the whole thing said, [00:06:00] you should just kill yourself. You should just kill yourself.

And so. You know, 13, you don’t have foresight for the future, um, that things are gonna get better, uh, you know, keep going, keep trying, anything like that. So I ran away from that party. I ended up behind a dairy queen and I threw away my costume and, um, was hugging my, you know, like you’d see in a movie maybe or something where you’re.

Your knees are against your chest, you’re hugging your legs, um, and just weeping. And in my head, it was just, you’re not good enough, you’re worthless, you should just kill yourself. And I think, I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about this publicly, but we all had a classmate named Landon. And I was probably better friends with him, but I remember all those kids from that party attended that funeral, or at least the, the wake, the memorial for him.

And we, he died by suicide, uh, the year before. And so for all of us to lose [00:07:00] a classmate and a friend. to suicide and then for them to be telling me to do the same thing. You know, I mean, it’s pretty heartless now seeing that, but in that moment, like it just felt like, Oh man, I must really not belong. Um, I must really be not good enough, worthless.

Maybe I should, I should. So in those dark moments, I would say, the reason I share that story is because I would have great moments. I would have great moments of success. I poured all myself into one thing thinking that if I get the stuff, materialistic things, the awards, the accolades, the fame, then everything’s going to be good.

Um, maybe I will be invited to the party or maybe it’ll be my after which there was many of those, uh, where people were trying to get in the doors to come see me after a big win, people chanting my name, whether it’s after the fight or in the, in the club and some of those moments, I never felt [00:08:00] more alone, uh, because even with all of the people, um, because they weren’t true, authentic friendships, there wasn’t connection.

I didn’t have real community. Um, and so let’s say I did lose, then all of a sudden, uh, the whole world’s coming down. Uh, or if I didn’t have a perfect, flawless victory, I’m picking out every little, little minor thing, uh, and making it way bigger and saying I’m not good enough because this happened or that happened.

And so I guess I’m not going too deep into the dark times except for, yeah, those, those two suicide attempts were real. Cool. Um, they weren’t half assed. They were, they were like for sure trying to go out. One time the doctor said it was 100 percent a lethal cocktail. Basically, three prescription bottles of Oxycontin.

Um, and Yeah, a full bottle, a handle of [00:09:00] liquor, um, and more. Uh, I could keep going with all the,

Judd Shaw: you know, I, I really appreciate that. And I recognize that, um, not only the pain, but underneath that, the deep need to feel seen, heard, and valued. And, you know, at an early age, like you, I got the message that I wasn’t worthy or that it wasn’t enough.

And so I decided that through, uh, my law firm, I was going to prove that, right? I was going to be so successful in every time I got a new material thing, people must think that I’m important because look at these things that I’ve been able to accumulate. And I resonated with you in the sense that my dark night was also crawled up in a fetal position, crying, feeling broken on the inside.

What I, I [00:10:00] heard in your story was that in one moment when you were wearing a costume, you took that costume off, but for so long, you just put on a different mask.

Justin Wren: Yeah, for sure. Like the guy that can’t get bullied and I’m going to prove it. And in the cage now, I was, I was always a good sport. I was always very appreciative to be there.

But at the same time, like when we’re in there, it’s my time, it’s my time to bully you. It’s my time to make sure I’m not taking a back seat. Um, I’m on, you know, forward pressure, putting the pressure on, willing to take you to deeper waters. And that’s part of being a competitor. But also it came from this deep seated need to show like, Even people that are trying, uh, to, you know, take my head off or whatever.

Um, I’m not going to be bullied by them. Uh, nobody’s going to bully me. Not one single person will. Uh, and you’re right. Like, it was from this need of accumulating [00:11:00] stuff that really, at the end of the day, Didn’t matter.

Judd Shaw: Right. Didn’t matter to me. To my, to my inner voice. But for the moment, when your hand was raised after winning and the applause and the cheers and the raaah, you know, you feed off that, right?

Because it’s like, I’m heard, I’m seen in value. But what you learned, my friend, is that, that external stuff isn’t. Sustainable joy. It’s like me when I get a new car and smell of the leather wore off after 30 days and now what next right? It’s not sustainable. But what is, is this incredible awareness that you had that humans can impact positively others.

And that changed, right? It went from you being, you know, this fighter in the cage to fighting for others. What how did that transformation begin for you?

Justin Wren: The way that [00:12:00] you just framed it really reminded me, it took some other fighters to show me that, um, now it wasn’t real MMA fighters or boxers or wrestlers, anything like that.

It was me volunteering at the children’s hospital and seeing on the oncology unit in Colorado children’s kids fighting these, these fighters that were bigger, stronger, better. Fighters than I thought I was for sure because they were fighting for their lives and somehow yet in many scenarios, they were the most positive one in the room or You know the ones that when they weren’t Still somehow wanted to bring a smile to other people’s faces or you know Just kids being kids and wanting to just be a kid and that almost being robbed from them But then them fighting for it.

And so I guess they’re My first time going to the children’s hospital, I was [00:13:00] invited by a dad for his son, Bryce, and he had a traumatic brain injury. They thought he might not ever be able to walk, talk, eat again on his own. And they were fight fans. And this little boy was 11 years old, I think, um, either 10 or 12 or 11.

And so I went to visit and take pictures with him and his dad and his brothers. But when I got there, I remember at a moment, there was a pastor in the room. There was, um, the nurse and I took pictures of Bryce, mainly, uh, the pictures that, um, people would remember where his dad, his mom, his other brother, because Bryce was just moaning in agony.

And he didn’t know I was there and it, it tore me up to be honest. Like I was like, I’ve seen professional athletes get head injuries and now here’s this young man that got the worst one I’ve ever seen. And when I walked out of that room, I had tears in my eyes [00:14:00] and I don’t know why I said it, but I just said, is he even going to remember?

Or is he, you know, what was that for? You know, he’s not going to remember. I came and the pastor said, don’t be selfish right away. I mean, like he, he, he had a tone. It was a little sharp and he said, what are you doing? Don’t be selfish. You did a good thing here today and you should do it more.

Speaker 3: You should come

Justin Wren: back and you should keep doing this kind of stuff.

And the nurse followed me out and she gave me a pamphlet to come volunteer. So I went through like this night school for a couple weeks and became an official volunteer in the oncology unit. And I just did that for about 11 months, 12 months. And from there, just starting small, making a difference in my community, getting outside of myself, service.

It really opened my eyes up to like probably a deeper need of That I had, but, but what life’s about and then it took me to other places and yeah,

Judd Shaw: is that from that, from that point on Justin, is that [00:15:00] where you then started this incredible nonprofit, um, you know, fight for the forgotten that, uh, helped so many in West Africa, uh, development, uh, Clean water.

Um, you know, tell me about the nonprofit.

Justin Wren: Yeah, sure. So I was fighting and I was going through addiction and I decided to sacrifice a year from fighting. Well, that’s when I started volunteering at the Children’s Hospital, the Denver rescue mission for the homeless, um, an inner city at risk youth group.

And then 11 months in, I get offered my dream fight. It was in an organization called Dream, which used to be Pride Fighting, which was in Japan. Uh, and it was bigger than the UFC. They would have a fight over 100, 000 people on New Year’s Eve, and I was offered that fight.

Judd Shaw: Wow.

Justin Wren: And for me, um, yesterday I was listening to something with Matthew McConaughey and Green Lights.

Like, for me, like, that’s the biggest green light I’ve ever [00:16:00] been given. On paper, because when I was a kid, my number one on the goals list, number three was be a national champion wrestler. Number two is about the UFC. Number one was fight at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, Japan on New Year’s Eve, and it was served up on a silver platter, but some reason, even though on paper, it was a green light in my soul or in my heart, it was like, The red light, yellow light, slow down, there’s something else.

And so I decided to say a prayer and I just threw it out to the universe. And I said, God, what do I do with my life? What do you want me to do with my life? And, um, it can sound out there or whatever. And I, I honestly kind of in today’s age, wish I had psilocybin or ayahuasca to point back to and say that this is what caused it.

Um, that’d be easier. But this was completely sober. And so it’s a little bit even of a mind. Uh, [00:17:00] it’s mind boggling to me, but I had a vision and it was in the forest. I’m awake. I say that prayer, um, we’re in intention and boom, I’m dropped in the rain forest. So the rain forest drops around me and I’m walking down a foot path.

Uh, uh, here, uh, there’s vines and thickets out of the way. Okay. The footpath is barely wide enough for my feet. I mean, it’s, it’s really remote. I’m walking, I am clearing the vines and thickets out of the way. And I hear drumming, I keep walking. I hear singing. I keep walking and I come into a clearing and I see these twig and leaf huts that are domes or like, uh, they’re, they’re small.

They’re like four or five feet tall. Only the, the, the huts. And I see this man and we acknowledge each other and I can see his ribs and I know that he’s hungry, thirsty, poor, sick, oppressed, enslaved, um, that he calls someone else master and that he feels or identifies as forgotten. Um, and I wrote [00:18:00] that down on a piece of paper.

And well, when I came out of the vision before I wrote it down, I cried and I wept and I didn’t know who they were, where they were, anything like that. And three days later, uh, Oh, I decided for those three days, basically adamantly, I’m never going to tell this story. Well, no, I’m telling you,

Judd Shaw: um, and by the way, it does sound like experience experience that I had, but I was on ayahuasca,

Justin Wren: I know, I know, and I, I, I’ve done that as well.

I’ve done basically all the psychedelics and some of them were very, that’s

Judd Shaw: amazing. That’s incredible. Yeah. And then what happened during those three days?

Justin Wren: So I basically was committed to never telling anybody. And then I went to a, your speaker and I’m a speaker now too, but a speaker changed my life. Um, and he was sharing his story about living with a tribe in Vanuatu that invented bungee jumping, um, a, the Maasai tribe.

In Kenya and Tanzania, and that they hunted lions, or just, just telling his stories. I’m like, you know what, [00:19:00] if there’s some wild guy I could probably tell this story to, maybe it’s him. I tell him, and he just smiles. Uh, I was very resistant to telling him at first, but he kind of pulled it out of me. Uh, when we met and then he, he just smiled and said, I know who they are.

And I said, what? He goes, the people, they’re in eight or nine African nations. Um, but they’re in the Congo basin rainforest, uh, from west to central to even parts of East Africa. Um, and he goes in three and a half weeks, I’m going, you’re coming with me. And I was like, wait, what, um, who, where all these things.

And he said, though, that I was going to have to get in his car. Go tell his wife because she just asked him the day before to cancel his trip unless he got a sign. Three days before, when I had the vision, the rebels took over the airport. Um, and no one, no American could, no, no flights could go in. But the U.

S. State Department said no American for any reason go there. They were killing people in the streets, [00:20:00] all sorts of really bad stuff. I could get more graphic, but I won’t. And. So I’m like, Whoa, maybe we don’t need to go right now. Maybe we can delay it. Maybe we can postpone it. You know, maybe we can go when things calm down.

We go tell his wife and Jess is there that his name was Caleb and Caleb goes, tell Jess and she’s pregnant and she’s got a toddler. And I’m like, uh, I don’t know if there is. Yeah. But I, but I, but I tell him and the wildest thing, it’s like, they became into almost like, Amazing humanitarian missions, like coach, life coach mode.

If you don’t go, you’ll never know. Caleb, you got to take this guy. Um, you always wonder what should have, could have, would have happened. Um, it seems like right now is the perfect time to go. And I’m just like, whoa, this is insane. This is crazy. We ended up going, we find a pilot in Uganda. That’s willing to take us to the Congo.

First. [00:21:00] One, at least the first pilot said no. And, but they put us in contact with someone else. I think there was a second that might’ve said no, but then we found someone that would take us land on a grass runway that they’re clearing with machetes as we circle it so that we can land. That’s their like lawnmower.

And it’s like 40 people running out with machetes from these huts. And I’m like, what’s going on? And actually they’re just mowing the grass. Um, but we land, we drive like six hours. We get in on motorcycles through the rainforest. I’ve never been on a motorcycle in my life. Now I’m on a motorcycle in Congo driving by trees.

Um, I, I couldn’t even drive it. Someone else had to drive it. And, uh, I’m on the back and wow. Then we go in a canoe, uh, that’s not big pygmy size. It’s, uh, almost taking on water. Uh, but there’s crocodiles and hippos in the water. I’m like, what are we doing? Where are we at? This is insane. And we get across and we hike for about 30, 45 [00:22:00] minutes, and then we hear drumming.

Then we are singing and we come into a clearing. First guy we meet that acknowledges us, you can see his ribs. He’s coughing, we find out it’s tuberculosis. It’s not just similar to the guy. He is the guy from the vision. And I got so weak in my knees. Like they were shaking at first. Felt like I was going to fall over.

I felt dizzy. It was, it was You know, a day or two ago, my fiance, we were talking and we’re at the sink and we’re cleaning the dishes and stuff. And she goes, Whoa. And she just looks at me with these big eyes. She’s like, this is just, this is a big David deja vu moment. Well, all I can say is that moment for me, uh, in the forest was like that times a thousand.

Um, because part of me was like, is this real life? Is this actually happening? Like, uh, I hope this isn’t. Uh, it might be a psychedelic [00:23:00] reactivation, but I really hope it’s not a psychotic episode like him, him, disillusioned, like what’s, what’s going on, but I literally had to take a knee and Caleb and Colin, both my friends are who, by the way, I just met are, are grabbing my traps saying, this is your vision.

This is your vision. Like they knew it, I’d written it down. It was in my backpack on my back. We stayed for a couple of weeks, the poverty and, and the suffering and oppression. Like it was so overwhelming. The most biggest culture shock I’ve ever experienced. People without clean water, slave masters coming up to us saying, what do you do with my property?

I own these people. We’re calling them less than human, all sorts of terrible things. And I just felt like. One, I had the vision, I knew it came true, but two, still trying to reconcile that in my mind. Um, because that’s still a process, even now, I don’t know if you can hear, like, [00:24:00] I’m still like, reflecting back, like, that actually happened, but it’s still wild.

And, something outside myself, or my highest self, or something greater than me, definitely like, dropped that in on me. And, um, Yeah, the last day I told Caleb, I’m like, because he asked, he said, what are you going to do? And I said, What am I going to do? What are you talking about? Like I’m, I’m way too small.

This thing’s way too big. These problems are insurmountable. They’re asking for land. Never bought land for myself. Asking for homes and food and water. Like I turn on a spigot, um, like, uh, or turn a faucet. What do you mean? What am I going to do? Like, uh, I don’t, I don’t have the skills, the ability, anything.

I wouldn’t know the first place to start. And. He got a little frustrated saying like, you got, you had a vision. I’m like, okay, Caleb, I get it. But also I could spend [00:25:00] the visual I get after having this vision is if I spent my whole life dedicated to this. I’m pouring everything I could like trying to empty the ocean with an eyedropper.

Like would they notice? Would I notice? Would anyone notice? Would, would it help? Would it actually make a dent? Um, it was just this moment where it’s just like, like, I can’t do this. And Caleb, kind of like that pastor, kind of with a sharp tone, kind, but also like, hey, reality check. Um, he said, dude, you have the wrong perspective.

Every single one of those drops represents a human heart, a person’s name. Someone’s life and these people right here, right here, like, yes, it matters every single one. And I was like, Oh, okay. He’s like, what do you need? What more, what more could you possibly ask for than a vision coming true? I was like, I don’t [00:26:00] know.

But if I, if I could get something practical, I could actually help with. And another sign just as confirmation, which he got mad about saying that, uh, he’s like, dude, he had a vision. I was like, man, if there’s something like that, that I can hang my hat on, then I’ll dedicate my life to this. Uh, like there’s no looking back.

And so we kind of sat there prayerfully with intention, meditating and just praying, like asking for something. And the next day before we left, um, the chief came up to us and said, Hey, everyone else calls us the forest people. But we call ourselves the forgotten. Boom. The thing that I underlined at the top of the piece of paper, there’s the sign for me, might not be as big as a vision coming true, but like it was connected to it and underlined it and bold, like bold.

And then he said, we don’t have a voice. Can you help us have one? Caleb and Colin are standing with me, but he’s only looking at me and motioning towards me. [00:27:00] And having some sort of platform, I mean, being an American with free speech is, is, is already like a huge win in comparison. But having an athletic platform, having friends with big podcasts, like other things I knew, I knew I could come back and do that one thing.

And so that’s where it originated or the origin story. But I came back and it was sleepless nights and it was going to tons of trainings and research. And just like I threw myself at studying and devouring. The UFC VHS tapes. I went back and found anthropologist and books and, uh, videos from the 1930s and forties of, of them building bridges and hunting elephants.

And I mean, just everything I could possibly consume. Until I said, I’m going to go live there for a year. That didn’t happen the first time because I contacted probably the foremost expert of the pygmy people. He lived with them since the year I was born. And he’s an [00:28:00] incredible man from the Congo and he’s become like a second father to me.

But I reached out and said, I’m coming for a year. He goes, no, you’re not. You gotta, you gotta make sure you can survive. So just come out for like six weeks. And, but first you have to send me your goals. What are at least four objectives? And he does community development, like actual stuff that practically helps.

And so the next six week trip, I just said, my four goals were live with, listen to learn from love them. Like I understand that I can read about it and forget about it, or I can hear it. And, and they go in one ear and out the other, but I just want to experience it, live with them again, ask them what they really need and come back.

And then I’ll set up the year. Um, so yeah, so I learned how to drill wells, went to how to drill your own well. com, uh, and it’s, uh, it won’t work in Africa, the, the method. Um, but I was going to Home Depot Lowe’s trying to figure out how to drill these wells. And everything [00:29:00] was breaking on me. And I guess I should say the second trip, where I stayed there for six weeks, I really got integrated into the culture, with the people, and it was beautiful.

I fell in love with them. They named me F. A. O. S. A., which means, from the F. A. pygmy people, that means the man that loves us, which I cherish that name. Um, the Mabuti named me Mabuti Malangbo, and that means the big pygmy. Uh, and, uh, I just received another name in Uganda in December. But, that second trip, I buried a one and a half year old boy.

I held him when he died. Uh, he died of dirty water. And that’s where I was blindsided or kicked in the teeth by The world’s water crisis and I came back on a mission to like how do we knock out the water crisis for My pygmy family, the people that adopted me in. So yeah, that we’ve, we’ve been on that route and road and it takes longer [00:30:00] than uh, I would like to, but we’ve drilled 85 wells providing clean water to over 50, 000 people.

We’ve seen more than 1, 800 people transition out of a life of slavery and into a life of freedom. We’ve bought back over 3000 acres of land for them that they own legally on the local, state and national level. Um, and it’s just been really great. We’re building. We built, uh, at least 35 families homes, started four sustainable farms, replanted tens of thousands of trees, helped them become beekeepers, uh, with beehives and growing honey.

We’re about to do a fish pond, uh, that will produce tens of thousands of fish. And we are really excited for the hospital and school that’s, uh, that’s to come. It’s going to be one of the most beautiful things in Uganda, on the Congo border. And, um, one of the reasons, uh, we’re doing this is to make sure they’re not denied hospital treatment just because of discrimination.[00:31:00]

Um, oftentimes they are. Uh, they’ve been told we won’t waste medicine on you. That’s why, that’s why I dug the grave for Andy Bowe. I bought the shovel. It was 6. The casket was 30. Um, the pills were 1. Uh, the shot was 3. They had, they didn’t get paid a money, but they begged. They got three and a half dollars.

They had a chicken, they had charcoal, they had firewood, they had, uh, other goods tried to get to the hospital. And they said, we won’t told his mom the first time you’re too dirty to come in here. Second time they told her we won’t waste our medicine on a pygmy animal and turned Andy Boe and his mother away.

So for me, 12 years later, it’s too long, but also like it’s been a long time coming. And we’re making sure that this is built in the honor of Andy Boe and to make sure that, you know, no one’s, no one’s denied hospital treatment again. That, that it’s open to all, but that it’s especially making sure that [00:32:00] they’re, they’re given care.

Just like anyone would.

Judd Shaw: That’s amazing. That really is so incredible. The impact that you’re making, and I want to unravel some of that.

Justin Wren: Sure. First of

Judd Shaw: all, you know, the universe is amazing, right? You know, when you give to it, it gives so back, you’re coming from the highest frequency of gratitude of deep service, you know, and so your vision, your At least to me, it’s not surprising, some call it, you know, spiritual awakening, conscious awareness and understanding, whatever you may call it.

But my friend, you had that, right? And what it sounds like is I always use the term, find your tribe, right? The people where You share values and our community care and compassion and forgiveness and you feel heard and you feel seen and you felt [00:33:00] valued and it sounds like when you put your hand up in the ring and you heard the applause, you know, you knew inside that they were just applauding you.

Like a whole veneer of you, it wasn’t even authentically you, and then you go and you get down and dirty literally and figuratively with, you know, these people who deeply need your and everyone else’s help and you go, wow. This is authentic, right? This feels like I found it’s that’s the sustainable joy.

It sounds like for you, when you went away for the first time in your life, you felt

like a person like heard valued like everything you wanted from that moment when you went to that party in your costume and this time [00:34:00] you could show up as you real and raw.

Justin Wren: Yeah, I would say, yes, thank you for that, like, reflection. But also, man, like, I’ve been to the Super Bowl when my friends are playing.

I’ve been to the NBA when I’m on the court or in the box. I’ve been to the NBA Finals, the World Series. Um, normally because I’m an athlete, I know the athletes and other things like that. Been to the biggest boxing fights, UFC 100, 200, gonna go to UFC 300. And the thing is that a small community of a hundred, 200, 300 people getting access to water for the very first time.

Being able to see clean water, taste clean water, have clean water, it belongs to them. That crowd drowns out [00:35:00] the sound of us. When the water comes out, it splashes, whether it’s hitting the ground, filling up a cup, someone taking a sip. I have some pictures I could show you. And the dancing that happens, I mean, the celebration, you know, like, uh, my buddy, Chris Long and John Dorenbos, they, they, they won the super bowl with the Eagles.

I remember the parade they had. It’s awesome. The whole city’s lit up, but it’s just different. It’s so different. Whenever a community gets access to clean water, like. That’s not, that’s not the sound of like a lineman hitting the ground or a tackle, you know, like it’s the sound of Goliath hitting the dirt,

Judd Shaw: right?

Justin Wren: A giant of named E. coli or cholera or intestinal amoebas, parasites, bacterias, whatever. Um, Shigella, like it’s, it’s like hitting the dirt and it’s done, it’s finished. And now this is a life giving victory. I [00:36:00] mean, whenever. Um, yes, I, I came alive because I got to help and serve, but man, they helped me in such a, probably a deeper, more meaningful way.

I know water really, really means a

Speaker 3: lot, but

Justin Wren: at the same time, like they didn’t just change my life. I’d say they saved my life and purpose and, and acceptance and belonging and community. When you say tribe. Like I found my tribe. I don’t know if I was part of the pigment tribe in a past life. Someone was joking with me the other day and said, definitely.

Maybe a Viking, vanilla gorilla, albino, rhino, able to look like Some

Judd Shaw: spirit guide of yours is there.

Justin Wren: Right, but I, I, I come alive when I go there. I come alive, and on my last trip, uh, you know, we’ve been working with the Batois and the King for a long time, um, but this time was different, and they got the land titles that we’ve been working for years to get them back, and they have their homes and their farms and their water.[00:37:00]

But the king was like, I’d really like to take you to my father’s grave. King Inzito is his name. And, uh, the king, the father, the father of the king was named Olingama. Well, they decided to take me there whenever they got the land titles. Cause they wanted to give the land a new name. They wanted to name it Olingama after the king’s father, because he would have wanted this for them, which was awesome.

It was beautiful. We go down there and instead of leaving flowers on the grave, We ended up leaving meat. So hunter gathers what’s really important and vital to them as the bush meat and other things. So we left meat, uh, in, in a, in a clay pot that was literally made from the time his father was alive.

Just beautiful. We sat down and ate around the grave. Uh, we went to the throne that was in the forest and basically it’s a tree and you can still see where he sat, his elder sat in the buttressing roots, which is just I mean, it feels like something out of like a, uh, a superhero [00:38:00] movie or something. It’s so cool.

And then they, they scooped up some of the dirt from the King did from his father’s grave. We went back that night. They wanted to show the kids how to build their traditional huts. So we brought back leafs and the sticks and we built these dome huts, which I lived in for a year, right? Um, I’ve been going back and forth the last 12 years.

But that was my home for a year and I slept on the dirt and the fire was my blanket. And, um, you know, I didn’t have running water or a toilet or anything like that. And so when they built that, I was just like, Oh yes. Like sweet. We built these great big, nice homes, which they love. They’re protected. And they’re, they’re safer and healthier and all that other stuff.

Um, and they wanted it, but I want to sleep there tonight. And so I went and grabbed my bag and threw it in and set up camp for the night in the next few nights. And King goes, are you sleeping there? Like, yeah, of course. So he went and grabbed his stuff from basically like, uh, the King’s [00:39:00] castle is what they kind of call it.

And he put his stuff in my, our, our hut together. Um, the elders came and they decided they were going to stay too. And then that night they waited for everyone to go to sleep and they asked me to stay up and I did. And it was just a beautiful moment. Um, and they, we set a fire, we sit around it, tell stories, but then they start mixing the ash into the dirt from the Uh, the king’s, uh, father’s grave, and that basically they paint me on my head, uh, my lips, my nose, my cheeks, my chest, my arms, uh, my hands.

And they adopted me in as family and initiated me in as one of the hunters. And, and they gave me the name Olin Gamma, uh, and Wow. So it was just, it was just this moment of connection where it’s like, yeah, we’re from two different worlds and we might look. I mean, the king is maybe four foot three. The average height for the pygmy men is four foot six [00:40:00] and he’s on the shorter side.

So, you know, we’re, we’re possibly, um, as different as two human beings can be externally. But, um, we’re so like hearted and connected and, um, you know, we’re, we’re, there’s this bond, this common bond for life. And so that was just an honor that like, I don’t take lightly. And now it’s like, okay, perfect. Um,

Judd Shaw: You know, I want to, I want to, I want to connect with you for a moment on this because I have an observation and I hope that you rewatch this episode when it airs because the energy that you give off the joy, the smile in your face that it just radiates and that’s important on the subject because while you’re helping so many others.

Really for a lot of people, it’s also self healing, you know, [00:41:00] it, it, it, it shows me like me when I got out of the courtroom and chose to move my fight from, from that arena to serving others. Right. Uh, like you, this deep passion, this purpose, it’s. So sustainable, it’s deeply joyful and impactful. I mean, you are telling the story like you are, like your inner child running through the village as a teenager, you know, and I want you to, and that’s important because that’s the difference, right?

That’s the part for guys like you and I, and for gals and others out there that reached their dark night of the soul, that passion and purpose that impact on others that, you know, uh, Drives survivor mode.

Justin Wren: I agree. Thank you. I’m taking that all in. So I receive it. But [00:42:00] also I would say that just you’re right. The, I think all of us became kids again, uh, that evening because we danced until the sun came up and they, started singing songs. So half of their community, um, just basically went through the forest following the animals and got cut off in Uganda.

Um, so they couldn’t go back home. So they went into singing some songs from the Congo and I lived in the Congo for a year and with their, uh, cousins and, and things like that. And so when they started in on the first song after naming me Olangama, I was like, Oh, and I’m just listening to it for 10, 20, 30 seconds.

And then I just come into it with them singing the same song and they all just like, we’ll start looking around. Then they went into the second song and I come in on it with them. Third song, fourth song, fifth song. Like I knew them all. And then it was like, get up on our feet. Let’s dance. Let’s keep going.

Let’s laugh. Let’s play. Um, [00:43:00] and these guys are in their sixties, fifties and sixties. And we just danced the night away. Um, until at least 4 35 in the morning and went to bed sweaty with smiles on her face as my cheeks were hurting, falling asleep. And, uh, that’s not, you know, normally when you’re sweaty and going to turn the dirt into mud, when you lay down, you, you’d probably want to shower first or you want to dry off or, you know, uh, somehow calm down.

But I, I just fell asleep in complete joy.

Judd Shaw: You know, for you and I, we don’t, we, we didn’t need the sir. We didn’t need the accolades, the awards, the trophies material. We needed a sense of belonging. That was the real validation because that’s inward because now you feel like a champion on the outside when you dig those wells and provide pure water.

But you also know that you’re feeling, um, authentically you on the inside, you feel like that. Like, yeah. [00:44:00] Right.

Speaker 3: You

Judd Shaw: don’t just, and your service to others doesn’t even end there. You’re, you’re actually a podcast host yourself, right? You have overcoming with Justin Wren and I, I love the concept, which is, and it would say that we’re all fighting battles that none of us are really talking about, right?

And your podcast sort of flushes that out and says it, you know, dresses that elephant in the room. Like, Hey, we’re all, we all have battles. We all fight our, our own demons or whatever, and overcoming those is the important thing. Tell me about the podcast.

Justin Wren: Yeah, so we’re redoing it now because we’re going to launch it around sauna in cold.

So cold plunging and saunas. We’re with guests. We’ll do that because I take so many pro athletes and other people through my practice and their practice. And we bond over it. And afterwards everyone’s like, Oh, I wish we had a mic. And this was recorded as a podcast. What a great conversation, you know, the dopamine’s at an all time high and everything.

And so we’re about to do that, but we’ll go [00:45:00] deep and. Yeah, I think overcome is, you know, you, me, we have overcome 100 percent of our darkest days,

Speaker 3: um,

Justin Wren: no matter who we are. We, we just have, if we’re still here, we still have breath in our lungs. Let’s be grateful for it. Beating heart in our chest. Let’s be grateful for it.

But also let’s, let’s talk about life. Life is a beautiful dance. But sometimes life is a fight and we have to win this fight called life. And there’s some real tactics and tools and techniques. Um, and, and often it comes from, I started this podcast by saying, I didn’t know how to love myself, but I’ve been on this journey now.

Um, From loving others to now allowing myself to love me and others. And I truly believe you have to love yourself. Like your life depends on it. Why? Because it just does, it actually does. Whenever we decide to face it all and feel it all like that’s, that’s where the magic happens. And when we decide to.

Love ourself [00:46:00] like our life depends on it, dude, that’s where that’s the birthplace of miracles and in our life and the lives of others. And so I think when you love yourself, you’re able to love others so much more. And I used to, I used to more be like a funnel, um, not a funnel, but a, I don’t know what I call it, a gutter where instead of accepting any of that love, whenever that would come in, I would just.

Push it, redirect it and, and, and, and try to give it away. Um, but now I realize like I need that to be charged up because that source of love is a, is a mighty effing river and it can flow through me and onto others. And so why neglect myself while trying to give it away? Like let’s, let’s do both. Let’s have it and give it.

And the more you give it, the more you have it. Um, and it’s just, it’s just this beautiful circle.

Judd Shaw: Such a beautiful human being. You know, when I was leaving, uh, [00:47:00] recovery in 2020, uh, from our center, they, uh, they let you go with sort of like a quote and a song and, you know, inspiration and the one they, they had.

Given me was Teddy Roosevelt’s speech, the man in the arena. And, you know, I think about you when I hear your story, you know, I just think about you as being the guy who’s marred and dusted and, uh, but you know, but you’re on that field, but the, but, but in the, but in the real arena, right. Of impacting others.

Um, so, and I was hoping to see you by the way, uh, we’re both keynote speakers and I was hoping to see you in this. Community we’re involved in, in December, uh, last December out in Arizona. But I was, I was there and, and you were in Egypt and, you know, and of course, you know, Justin Wren being Justin Wren comes in to receive his, you know, award virtual from, [00:48:00] you know, uh, from the pyramids and I get to find out that you just got engaged.

Justin Wren: I did. I did. I just got engaged and I’m so in love. I really am so grateful for it because I didn’t know, man, uh, we both have been divorced and we both were hoping to find a true love, real love. That’s deep love that will continue and grow and, uh, always grow. Uh, and so what’s been really cool is, um, she is, has such a growth mindset.

Many of the things that I said today, I’m repeating her, uh, because she lives in it and inspires me on a daily basis. Um, so man, I would say, uh, if you’re in that dating mode, uh, find that, find that because I wake up every day and I’m truly actually inspired by the person I’m with. And man, there’s, there’s no replacing that when I’m, when my tank is low, um, oftentimes hers is full.

[00:49:00] Uh, and, and it just is something that I would, I would go even further to say, she’s not just so good to me. She’s so good for me and the difference, right? Like there can be the codependent stuff and she’s good to me. Um, and she does this or does that or whatever. No, she, her daily practices are bad ass and, and she’s on it more than I am.

And I want to be more like her. And so it’s, it’s been really cool. I went straight from Uganda to meet her there and she didn’t know it was coming. And luckily I found someone, uh, through a really close friend, that 28 year archaeologist and he, um, is a Cairo University professor and, uh, discovered this incredible find in Egypt, uh, the biggest find ever by an Egyptian team.

So I told him what I wanted to do. He was like, wait, we’ve got to do it this way instead. So before the park opened, he took us [00:50:00] into the Sphinx. We go behind four closed gates and we’ve gone there before, but we couldn’t even get close to it. And right in the heart, by the heart of the Sphinx and the hug of the Sphinx, I got to ask her to marry me.

And, you know, now she’s coming alongside on this journey with me. I wouldn’t say, It’s underneath Fight for the Forgotten. I would say it’s alongside Fight for the Forgotten and it’s going to be called Fight for Her. And it’s going to be a women’s initiative within the hospital and the school for the women and the girls, the maternity ward, the pediatrics unit, uh, the school age girls, and really going to try to empower them.

So yeah, man, it’s, it’s been all really, And we look at each other still with like those eyes of like googly eyes or the heart emoji eyes. It’s like, man, I love you even more. And I didn’t know this could still continue to grow and it does. And there’s always a deeper well and more love. So yeah. That’s

Judd Shaw: amazing.

And [00:51:00] I, and I love. The mission that’s growing out of that as well. And if there’s any way I can support you and give you love and energy on my end, please let me know, you know, Justin, I always really sort of love to wrap up the podcast with a question, which I think is completely. Uh, dead on for you, which is with somebody who does so much for so many others, how do you best connect authentically with yourself?

Justin Wren: This might go back to maybe potentially, I don’t know for sure if there’s past lives, but, but, but maybe there is. And for me, it’s, it’s always been in nature. Um, and quiet, uh, actually maybe not quiet. The forest is never asleep. Um, but you know, going on a hike and kind of alone with my thoughts. And, [00:52:00] um, so it’s me and it’s that kind of mother nature energy or that, that father, God energy where it’s just like, wow, you know, like this is, this is epic.

One. One of the things that happened after my second suicide attempt was I went and I got in the ocean, um, and I watched the sunrise and I didn’t know the sunrise was about to happen. I just almost overdosed. I was asleep for 16 or 18 hours. And when I came back, it was like, holy shit, I’m alive. Fuck. I’m still here.

And sorry to cuss, but that’s, that’s what went on in my mind. And I went out, got on my knees and my clothes in the water. And it was darkish. And, uh, that’s whenever something said, be grateful for that breath in your lungs, be grateful for that beating heart in your chest. And I just had a moment where my heart felt like it was going to explode.

Um, but I was just like, you know, I’m grateful for this beating heart in my chest, grateful for the breath in my lungs. Something, a [00:53:00] whisper in my soul, spirit, mind said, open your eyes. And right when I did, I saw the sun pop up on the horizon, like a half second after I opened them and I watched the most epic, most epic masterpiece of a sunrise being painted right before my eyes.

And I was like, Whoa, this happens every day. This happens twice a day, happens for everyone all around the world, like whoa, why have I never truly sat here in deep gratitude and appreciation and witnessed this majesty and, um, It was, it was life changing. So, uh, yeah, now we watch the sunrise most every night, um, and, uh, or sunset most every night and it’s just, it’s awesome.

So get up and watch that sunrise and get some of that morning sun in your eyes and go on a hike and, uh, connect with those sunsets and, yeah, it’s awesome. Be grateful to be

Judd Shaw: alive. I love that because, you know, I know you, the ice dunks and the ice baths and things like that, but I [00:54:00] actually did force bathing once and, uh, where you really go in and now you’re just like sitting with the nature and all around it.

What a great experience.

Justin Wren: Yeah, absolutely. There’s nothing like it. Like I come alive whenever I get back there, I’m just like, Whoa, now I go on a hike most every day. It’s on. It’s my goal to go on a hike every day.

Judd Shaw: My dear friend, we have had a lot of darkness in the past, but with that comes the lightness and there is so much beautiful, uh, light.

Coming your way and because of how much you’ve put out there. I think you are incredible. I’m thank you so much for coming on my show. I’m so grateful. Justin Ren. Thanks again, buddy.

Justin Wren: Thank you so much.

Judd Shaw: Yeah. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to you. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please follow us on your favorite platform, or share this episode with a friend.You can also follow me on [00:55:00] Instagram at Judd Shaw Official. A special thank you to personal injury law firm, Judd Shaw Injury Law, for their support in helping us bring this podcast to life. Remember friends, authenticity isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being real. It’s about embracing our vulnerabilities, celebrating our strengths.

And owning our stories. Until next time.

Orange Star

Behind the Armor:
Judd Shaw

Hey, there. I’m Judd Shaw—a lifelong adventurer, storyteller, and emotional intelligence speaker. Growing up, I grappled with feelings of inadequacy, tirelessly driving me to prove my worth in every aspect of my life. As a successful attorney, I reached the top of my field, but success came at a cost. Pursuing perfection left me emotionally drained and disconnected from my true self. It took a global pandemic and the breakdown of my marriage to shake me awake.

Amid the chaos, I embarked on a profound journey inward, delving into mental health, trauma, and the power of authentic human connection. Through therapy and inner work, I learned to regulate my emotions and cultivate a deep sense of self-love. I’m on a mission to share my story and inspire others to embrace their authenticity.

Orange Star

Behind the Armor:
Judd Shaw

I’m Judd Shaw—an adventurer, storyteller, and EQ speaker. Raised in adversity, I internalized a belief that I wasn’t good enough—a belief that drove me to chase success at any cost. As a workaholic attorney, I climbed the ladder of achievement, but a deep sense of emptiness lay beneath the façade of success.

It took a series of personal setbacks, including the upheaval of COVID-19 and the dissolution of my marriage, to jolt me out of my complacency. In the wake of chaos, I embarked on a soul-searching journey, diving into my psyche’s depths to uncover authenticity’s true meaning. Through therapy and introspection, I learned to confront my inner demons and embrace my true self with open arms. Now, as a leading speaker on authenticity, an award-winning author of the children’s book series Sterling the Knight, and a podcast host, I’m dedicated to helping others break free from the limits of perfectionism and live life on their terms.

Orange Star

Behind the Armor:
Judd Shaw

Hi, I’m Judd Shaw—a speaker on human connection and authenticity. From a young age, I battled feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Determined to prove my worth, I threw myself into my career as an attorney, striving for success with unwavering determination.

As the accolades piled, I felt increasingly disconnected from my true self. The relentless pursuit of perfection took its toll, leaving me emotionally exhausted and yearning for something more. It took a global pandemic and the breakdown of my marriage to finally shake me out of my complacency and set me on a new path.

Through therapy and self-reflection, I began to peel back the layers of my persona, uncovering the power of authenticity in forging deep, meaningful connections. As a leading speaker on authenticity, an award-winning author of the children’s book series Sterling the Knight, and a podcast host, I’m on a mission to inspire others to embrace their true selves.


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