There is always a new summit ahead for this adventurer
By Christine Stossel
This past June, at Copper Mountain, Colorado, Kyle Maynard joined more than 800 adventurers from across the nation for the 2016 No Barriers Summit, where he served as emcee for the first time. The four-day event features inspirational speakers, a film festival, and dozens of adaptive activities, all built in support of the No Barriers life philosophy that “What’s within in you is stronger than what’s in your way.”
Kyle Maynard understands that message as well as anyone, and that’s why he is a perfect ambassador for the non-profit No Barriers USA. Maynard is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, bestselling author, and champion athlete. Born with congenital amputation, a rare condition that caused Kyle to be born with arms that end at the elbows and legs near the knees, Kyle defied the odds. He has wrestled for one of the best teams in the Southeast, set records in weightlifting, fought in mixed martial arts, and, in 2008, opened his own fitness center. He’s the first man to crawl on his own to the summits of both Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, and Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America.
“I’ve always believed that anyone can achieve their dreams, regardless. I’ve always had this attitude about no excuses. A belief that I can go on and do what I need to do. To go on, to succeed, regardless.”
“No excuses” is not only his motto—it’s also the title of his 2006 New York Times bestselling book. “Know your limits but never stop trying to break them,” Maynard urges in his book. It’s one of his mantras, and spreading that message has helped him dramatically change the perspectives, and the lives, of many people who needed to hear his story. Some of those are people who also live with a physical condition that makes them different from the mainstream, people who share a challenge similar to Kyle’s.
Others who have been motivated by Maynard have challenges you can’t see: overwhelmed by circumstances beyond their control, they feel paralyzed to make positive change in their lives. Maynard reminds them that “only we can put limits on ourselves—no one else can do that … that is, of course, unless we let them.” It’s a point he drives home in his speeches, in his book, and in his life. “The biggest challenge is with ourselves,” says Kyle. “If someone says ‘you can’t’ or tries to impede you, it comes down to whether you accept that.”
Kyle reaches many of these people through No Barriers USA—which, by way of outdoor adventures, experiential education, and a community of guidance and encouragement, helps people with disabilities discover what they are capable of and live a “no barriers” life. The organization, along with Maynard, believes and teaches that “What’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way.” Maynard is an ambassador for No Barriers USA and regularly participates, instructs and inspires on its annual mountain climbing treks.
Many people have tried and failed to put limits on Kyle. His parents, Scott and Anita, had no idea their firstborn son would be born with a disability, but they made a critical decision early on to drive him to be as independent as possible—beginning what Kyle calls his “pursuit of normalcy.” And consequently, with basically two elbows he can type up to 50 words per minute on a normal keyboard, eat and write without any adaptations, and drive a vehicle with very little modification.
At age 11, Kyle wanted to wrestle and, thankfully, he had a coach willing to let him try. After losing every single match his first year and most during his second, Maynard found a way to win 36 varsity matches his senior year. He defeated several state place finishers and state champions during his final season. Maynard also began weight training at the same age, and after a very modest start, he attained the title “GNC’s World’s Strongest Teen” by bench pressing 23 repetitions of 240 lb. In February of 2009, with leather straps and chains attached to his arms, he successfully lifted 420 lb.
Today, Maynard is a two-time ESPY Award winner, taking home the award for Best Athlete with a Disability in both 2004 and 2012. In 2005, he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. In 2007, he was elected by the U.S. Jaycees as one of the Top Ten Outstanding Young Americans. In 2008, he received the Highest Recognition Award of the Secretary of Health and Human Services for his efforts as a life role model, motivational speaker and humanitarian.
How is he so driven? What motivates Maynard to push himself to these limits, to achieve so much? “I am motivated by the deep, gut-level commitment to those things that I want to accomplish,” Kyle told listeners in a video for the Total Health fitness community. “And that commitment has to be bigger than whatever factors are in my way.”
Through his entire life, he’s never let anything stand in his way.
Maynard is also certified as a CrossFit instructor and, in 2008, he opened his first fitness center, No Excuses CrossFit. In April of 2009, he became the first quadruple amputee to compete as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter, another of his passions. He’s currently in his 11th year studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, training as often as he can with Renzo Gracie black belt Paul Creighton.
When asked about the wide array of activities he’s challenged himself with, Kyle says, “When you specialize in one thing, you’re forced to give up other things. I want to experience as much as I can instead of being the best at one thing.”
For the past 10 years, Maynard has traveled to five continents speaking for corporate meetings, grade schools, universities, and programs supporting injured American veterans. He’s shared the stage with the world’s greatest minds in business, politics, sports, and motivation. Whether he’s in front of a middle school classroom or thousands in a convention hall, Kyle says his life’s deepest passion is helping each audience member on their path toward reaching their highest human potential.
In 2012, Kyle became the first man to ever hike on all fours to reach the roof of Africa—bear-crawling to Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, a 19,340-ft. peak. Joining Kyle was former Marine officer Chris Hadsall and Army staff sergeant Sandra Ambotaite, who battled through incredible adversity of their own to reach the peak. The purpose of their quest? To send a message to the veteran community and kids with disabilities around the world that no obstacle is too great to be overcome. It was that year that Maynard won his second ESPY award.
Four years later, Kyle hiked to the 22,838-ft. summit of Aconcagua in South America, another first. Maynard says he never set out to break records. “I just think of it all as an adventure,” he explains. Aconcagua is his second of the “seven summits”—the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Summiting all of them is regarded as a mountaineering challenge, and it’s a challenge that Kyle Maynard is taking on. No peak is too high for Kyle, no climb too difficult, as long as he can carve out his own unique adventure.
“It’s not what I can do; it’s what I will do. If you wake up and try to help one person and change that person’s life, every obstacle you face in front of you is worth it.”
Compiled with contributions from No Barriers USA