In Kyle Maynard's experience, reading or hearing motivational material is only as good as what one does with it. The audience that filled A&M-Commerce's Ferguson Auditorium Wednesday night to hear the inspirational life story of 27-year-old Maynard, a two-time ESPY Award-winning athlete, New York Times best-seller and quadruple congenital amputee, are now tasked with choosing what to do with his blueprint for an excuse-free future.
“What is the one biggest excuse in your life … that is keeping you from reaching your highest potential,” Maynard asked.
He said the members of the audience should start the work to remove that barrier “not tomorrow, not next week, but tonight – right now.”
Maynard's own path to “no excuses” came with roadblocks. Beyond learning the adaptation-free ways to do the daily tasks many people may take for granted, such as getting dressed or feeding themselves, Maynard recounted nights of crying himself to sleep as a child, wishing to wake up with arms and legs. He also described sitting in the bleachers as a young wrestler, fielding questions of how he could possibly overtake an opponent. While Maynard admits that it made logical sense that he would be unable to succeed as a wrestler, he went on to become one of the nation's top 12 high school wrestlers. Later, Maynard also excelled in weight-lifting, setting a world record in 2009 when he lifted 420 pounds in a modified bench press.
“We come up with a laundry list of reasons why we can't go and do something, and many of these things are invalid,” Maynard said.
However, during a period of discouragement, Maynard almost abandoned his speaking career. An encounter in an airport with two Iraq War veterans who had been severely burned in combat changed his course. The veterans expressed their thanks to Maynard; they had watched a television special featuring his story and were inspired to persevere.
Maynard decided to recommit to living with no excuses with a quest to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro in 2012 – a way to thank those veterans and others like them while also honoring a vow he made with the mother of fallen soldier Pfc. Corey Johnson.
“She asked me, ‘Would you promise to carry Corey's ashes to the summit?'” said Maynard, recalling meeting Johnson's mother while on a speaking tour. “I looked her back in the eyes, and I said, ‘Yes, I will.'”
After a grueling journey, Maynard finished the 19,340-foot crawl to the summit and fulfilled his promise on Jan. 15, 2012.
Yet Maynard said he did not feel the full magnitude of the feat until he came back down the mountain and visited a local school for the blind in Moshi, Tanzania, to speak with students who had been cast out of their society.
“I'm talking to them about climbing this big mountain in their backyard, and they're getting really excited about it. Then they start chanting something over and over and over again,” Maynard said.
Maynard shared that their headmaster translated the chant for him: “Anything is possible!”
After a standing ovation for Maynard, A&M-Commerce Athletic Director Ryan Ivey presented Maynard with a jersey, deeming him an honorary member of the Lions family. Ivey said that Maynard, who shared future plans that may include sailing around the world, certainly has “what it takes to be a Lion.”