Skip to content

“What meaningful impact would you make if you only knew you could?”

That was the question MMA fighter and author Justin Wren posed to Convention attendees in a lively presentation during today’s General Session. Through a series of events both tragic and triumphant, Wren found himself on a journey of self-discovery that would lead him to what has become his life’s work.

A target of bullying as a child, Wren credits his parents for helping him find his passion in wrestling. He noted a side benefit to pursuing the sport: “Wrestlers don’t get bullied.” Wren would become a champion wrestler in high school and went to the Olympic training center right after graduation. A freak injury in 2005 ended his Olympic dreams and ultimately set him on a path of drugs and despair that culminated in a failed suicide attempt in a hotel in Mexico. Wren woke up from that suicide attempt shocked that was he still alive. At that moment, he said, what he called a “whisper in [his] soul” told him to get in the water. As Wren knelt in the ocean, with the waves rolling over him, he began to fight his way back. “Something changed,” he said. “I watched the most majestic sunrise of my life and in that moment, I decided to get clean.”

As he began what he called “the bonus round of life,” Wren was determined to find what he wanted to do with that life. A vision of himself in a rainforest, serving as the voice of the voiceless, led him to the Democratic Republic of Congo. After a life of fighting against people, Wren decided it was time to fight for people. When he saw a young boy die of an eminently preventable waterborne illness, Wren began his mission to knock out the water crisis.

After researching how to drill wells on YouTube and Google, but not meeting with any success, Wren sought the counsel of an engineer. The engineer determined what Wren had been doing wrong and pointed him in the right direction. Using this tweaked technique (which Wren demonstrated with ACEC Chair Gary Raba to the great amusement of attendees) fresh water began to flow. This would be the first time the people of village had ever seen safe water. “It was like Mother Earth was rewarding us for our efforts,” Wren said.

Wren closed his presentation by showing a photo of himself playing tug of war with a group of children from the village. “I thought I’d pull them a bit, let them pull me, pull them back, and then let them win,” he said. “That’s not what happened.” It took nearly a dozen children to win, but they did win. And in that victory, Wren said, there is a larger lesson.

“When we come together, we can move mountains.”

Engineering Influence Podcast Ad

May 15, 2024



Scroll To Top