For most of us, our moment of change happens after or because of a major event. Our kids move out, we lose a job, or experience death of someone we love. These events force us to look inward and decide we must change.
But what happens if, from birth, change isn’t something you have a choice about, but a way of life? In this Catalyst for Change post, I am highlighting Kyle Manyard. Kyle Maynard’s story is one that will make you believe you can do anything.
I first heard of Kyle Maynard while reading Tribe Of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss. Reading even this short question and answer interview sparked my interest in him and I had to learn more. Learning his story, watching his videos and speeches can help to give you inspiration like it did for me, no matter what obstacles you face in your own life.
We should never shy away from the challenges that face us out of fear of failure or an unwillingness to battle the odds. We should confront our problems head on and make no excuses. – Kyle Maynard, No Excuses
Kyle Maynard and The Challenges He Was Born With
Kyle was born on March 24th, 1986, to Anita and Scott Maynard. He was their firstborn child; a child they knew would be just perfect, who they had hopes and dreams for. Would he be a football player? A doctor? Go into the military?
They just knew like all new parents know their child would be perfect.
After delivery, the doctor wrapped Kyle in a towel and took him out of the room to be examined. Worried and wondering why, his parents would soon learn the reason.
Their first child was born with congenital amputation; a rare birth defect that stunts the growth of limbs while in the mother’s womb. Usually, this is just a finger or one limb. In Kyle’s case, he was born with arms that ended at the elbows and legs that ended below the knees.
For the first few years of his life, his parents did everything for him. Yet his father watched his son fall farther and farther behind the other kids. Kyle couldn’t stand or feed himself; he was helpless.
So Kyle’s father and mother made a crucial decision for him.
The decision? No more special treatment. Kyle would have to learn to walk, to feed himself, and to get dressed. They would treat him like any other child.
This decision proved crucial in his development. He would have to learn different ways of doing everything in life. The first thing Kyle had to learn was how to fail and keep trying. This was probably the most critical lesson he would learn in life. How to fail and keep on trying.
Imagine taking a half-hour to put a sock on. Sweat pouring down your face over one sock. This is what Kyle faced every day. Having to take a half-hour to do something basic we take for granted.
Kyle learned to do it all. Feeding himself with regular silverware, putting his clothes on, and running and playing with the other kids. He may do things a little different than other people, but he learned to do them on his own and in his own way.
This set the stage for the rest of his life. Learning to fail does not make you a failure. It is only when we quit trying that we truly fail.
A Way Forward
His family moved when he was ten. Moving to a new town can be tough on any kid, it was especially hard for Kyle. He left kids he had grown up with and who were comfortable around him. Now he was surrounded by kids who knew nothing of what he was capable of and only judged him on his appearance.
For a short time, Kyle felt sorry for himself. He soon gave that up and decided sports might be the way to go.
When Kyle was 10-years-old, he decided he wanted to play football. After all, the other boys played football, and he wanted to fit in. His parents agreed, not really expecting them to let him play, Anita thought they would make him the waterboy or something similar.
Much to the surprise of his parents, they not only let him play on the team, but they also put him as a nose guard for the quarterback. No one on the opposing team knew how to react to Kyle being there. The first time he played, he went right between the legs of his opponent and tackled the quarterback!
While he enjoyed playing football, Kyle and his parents both soon realized that while the other kids were getting bigger, he would never be as big as the other kids. So he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and try out for wrestling.
Anita called the high school wrestling coach, Cliff Ramos, to ask if Kyle could start the youth wrestling program. She began to explain her son had a physical condition. When he cut her off and said no problem, she went on to explain Kyle had short stubs for arms and small legs.
The coach was taken back for a minute, as wrestling is about grappling and holding your opponent, but he told her to bring him to the school.
When Ramos met Kyle later that night, his first thought was, “The poor kid, he wants to wrestle, but he will never really be able to, and if he does, he will never win a match.”
Despite his initial misgivings Ramos decided to teach Kyle to wrestle himself.
That night was the beginning of a seven-year partnership.
Winners Never Quit
Kyle lost his first match and his second. In fact, he lost his first 36 wrestling matches. His parents began to wonder if they had made a mistake letting him wrestle.
Were their critics right who said they were cruel and bad parents for letting him continue to lose?
Kyle once again showed he had learned his lesson well. You only fail when you quit.
He kept coming back for more, continued learning, and kept pushing himself to be better. It paid off. Kyle started to win his wrestling matches. Winning so much, those same people that said his parents were cruel for letting him wrestle, began to complain he had an unfair advantage!
Seven years after he started wrestling, Kyle won 35 matches his senior year on the varsity wrestling team and went on to compete in the state wrestling competition, finishing in the top-eight.
No ExcusesThe more he won, the more inspiring his story was to others, and more and more people wanted to hear about it. So at 19 years old, Kyle decided to write his story. No Excuses was published in 2005 and soon became a New York Times bestseller.
Kyle’s story was now out for the entire world to take notice and take notice they did.
Calls started coming in. Larry King, the host of CNN’s Larry King Live, read his book and asked for Kyle to do an interview with him. After the interview, Larry said, “When I interviewed Kyle Maynard, he touched the hearts of more viewers than perhaps any other interviews I’ve done.”
Celebrities, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and professional sports figures like, Troy Aikman, Joseph Smoltz, and even Wayne Gretzky had nothing but praise for this young man that made no excuses for not trying.
All this attention culminated in Kyle and his family being invited by Oprah to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show and tell his story.
While attending college, Kyle kept getting requests to go and speak at different businesses and events.
He had found his calling in life, he was going to be a motivational speaker, traveling the world and inspiring others to push themselves beyond their limits. To show people that no matter their circumstances, they could be more than they ever thought possible if they only applied themselves.
The trouble with this was, Kyle says he felt like a fraud. He was traveling all the time, had put on weight, and felt like he was just saying a bunch of things he was no longer living.
It wasn’t until he got on a plane on the way to a speaking job that he was able to see how his story affected people. Kyle met two veterans on the flight that had been badly burned in a fire while serving in Iraq.
These two young men had made a suicide pact, they felt because they were so severely injured; their lives no longer had value. The first chance they got they were going to kill themselves. But then they saw a video of Kyle speaking, and his story inspired them not to give up.
Kyle could finally see his story wasn’t just words but had a real-world impact on people’s lives.
Did Kyle stop there? Hell no! He opened his own Crossfit Gym, aptly called No Excuses
He also began training to enter his first MMA fight. Kyle faced lots of criticism for his decision to fight in the octagon. But he persisted in his efforts to be allowed the opportunity to see what he could do.
It took him four years to finally get his chance, and in 2009 he fought in his first and only MMA fight. Even though he lost the match by a unanimous judge’s decision, Kyle never gave up in chasing his dream of fighting in an MMA fight. This journey is told in a documentary called A Fighting Chance.
We all have our own mountain to climb, but in Kyles case, it is not a metaphorical mountain, but a literal mountain.
You see, he decided his next challenge was going to be bigger than any other he had faced before.
Kyle set his mind to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano in the country of Tanzania and has the distinction of being the highest mountain in Africa at 19,341 feet above sea level.
Training for over a year, he faced and overcame many obstacles. From people saying he was going to get his climbing team killed to learning how to climb.
One of the biggest obstacles was how to protect his limbs during the climb. At first, he tried duct taping bicycle tires to his limbs! Orthotic Specialists, a company run by Barb and Brett Boutin, heard of Kyle’s challenge and made him custom covers for his limbs.
In 2012 he and his team started the ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro. They gave themselves 16-days to reach the summit, as Kyle’s way of climbing is more of a bear crawl and goes much slower.
He once again showed his determination and drive and completed the climb in ten days, making Kyle the first quadruple amputee to climb Mount Kilimanjaro without the use of prosthetics.
Four years later, he successfully climbed Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, which has an elevation of 22,837 feet. This lead to him being featured in a Nike commercial which was aired at the 2016 Olympics.
Kyle is living proof you can do anything you put your mind to
Kyle has spent his entire life facing each challenge life throws at him and overcoming them all. Suffering and failure have been a part of his life since birth, and yet he offers no excuses for giving up, he simply does not give up on what he wants to accomplish.
Each day for Kyle is not a curse, or something to dread, in his own words.
I view being born this way as by far the greatest gift I’ve ever been given.
Living your life to the best of your potential, knowing your limits but never stop trying to push those limits higher and higher. Those are the lessons Kyle Maynard is trying to teach us.
Do you have the strength to look deep inside yourself and say? I can do anything I put my mind to.