ep. 43 - Kyle Maynard: Inspirational Athlete, Entrepreneur & Author of 'No Excuses'
Kyle Maynard is a motivational speaker, best selling author, entrepreneur, award-winning extreme athlete, and the first man to crawl to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Despite being born with a rare condition known as congenital amputation, that has left him with arms that end at the elbows and legs that end near his knees, he learned early on, to live life independently and without prosthetics. Kyle thrives on physical challenges and is a champion wrestler, CrossFit Certified Instructor and gym owner, competitive Mixed Martial Arts/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter, world record-setting weightlifter, and skilled mountaineer.
ep. 43 - Kyle Maynard: Inspirational Athlete, Entrepreneur & Author of 'No Excuses'
Kyle Davis: Okay, with us today on GDA Podcast is the man, the myth, the legend. This is part two, because we messed up the audio. By we I mean me. With that being said, Kyle Maynard, welcome to GDA [00:01:00] Podcast. How are you?
Kyle Maynard: Hey, thanks, man. Thank you. No, I'm pumped for part two. It's going to be even 10 X better already. I can tell.
Kyle Davis: It's going to be 10 X better. The coffee is kicking in.
Kyle Maynard: You had to give that time to seep in the system. It's a recipe for a good podcast, good speed and all that.
Kyle Davis: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm a big fan of all the other podcasters who suck down the Joe, so why not? We were just [00:01:30] talking about, and this is for the listeners who don't know who you are, but you were born a quad amputee who's just lived an amazing life. For anybody who's met you, they see past that. They don't see you as anything other than just an awesome person. For people who have no earthly idea who you are, who like I said in part one, who are just oblivious because they're not on social media, they don't watch the Olympics, and they don't read [00:02:00] books, or they haven't heard of Oprah, let them know who you are.
Kyle Maynard: Sure. Yeah. It's interesting you bring that up, because there's an idea that I think about a lot, before I jump into this to get a little geeky here for a sec, but it's called "the map is not the territory". I think about this all the time. The idea is I think when people look at me and they see, basically to give people a visual, it's my arms end at the elbows, my legs and at the knees. It's a very physically, visually obvious [00:02:30] disability, right? We all walk around with our own mental maps and sort of project out what somebody else is. Somebody else, they might not necessarily realize the territory, which is whatever reality is. Then for me is I grew up, had awesome parents, taught me I could do anything. Grew up as a wrestler, football player, and then fought in MMA, got to break world records in weight lifting, started businesses, and now get to travel around the world as a speaker, and also [00:03:00] getting to climb some of the highest peaks in the world.
I think when people see me for the first time, they don't automatically think, "Oh yeah, clearly that guy is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro." They're thinking, "He would have trouble maybe getting in and out of a chair," which in a lot of ways is a bigger thing that I try to go and just realize that none of us have the accurate map of the world. We all have the different ways that we go and see the world. It's not actually the world. It's just the way that we see [00:03:30] it. Frankly, that too is a muscle, just like the muscle that you would work out and go into the gym. I think it's learning to go and control those perceptions and to see a bigger picture, see more capability in our own lives and not limitations I think is a muscle, too.
Kyle Davis: What was it like on your end? You touched on this, but what was it on your end that allowed you to look past what are [00:04:00] visually obvious differences between you and a "normal" or "typical" person? What was it like growing up? I know we mentioned this in the part one, which will be in the vault and no one will be able to listen to it.
Kyle Maynard: We should just hold that part one and just tease that for years. No one's every going to know what happened in part one.
Kyle Davis: No one will ever know. Then we should sell it to the highest bidder, like the Wu-Tang Clan. [00:04:30] Growing up, you wrestled, and you played football, and your dad really kind of pushed you to do that. I'm just curious as to what was it that let you know what the territory and what your map was like?
Kyle Maynard: Yeah. As I was a kid, I just wanted to be a typical kid. I wanted to play with other kids and just have the normal friendships and all that stuff, and just have a normal life. Really my mom and dad, their attitude [00:05:00] was, as difficult as it was, to go and treat me as normal as possible and that I would see myself the same way. I think that they kind of intuitively knew that if they saw me as "disabled" or made that too big of a deal, then I would see myself that same way, too. I wish there was some bigger answer that I had some great discovery or something like that. Honestly, frankly, it was just I wanted to be a normal kid. I think that for sure there was an element of [00:05:30] maybe realizing that internal determination and drive was going to be the bigger differentiator for me, and I think deep down I knew that was the case.
I remember the first moment of having a taste of that was my grandmother had this incredibly, frustratingly difficult sugar jar that she had where it was basically this green sugar jar that was sitting on top of her counter. I could only fit one of my [00:06:00] arms inside. I was maybe three or four years old. She would ask me to go and scoop out the sugar inside here. I really couldn't fit both of my arms inside to come to a point and grab the sugar scooper. I would just have to precariously balance the sugar scooper on one arm to go and pull the stupid thing out. Then I got to pull the sugar out and spill it all over the counter.
Then of course as a three or four year old, that was the greatest thing ever. It was like instantly hooked to that idea of even though I have to fail hundreds or thousands of times to scoop this thing out, the it felt so good when I finally [00:06:30] did. I don't think that that's dissimilar from a lot of things that we experience in life that we go through. It sucks at first, and then kind of it's almost that ratio of how badly it sucks at first that how good the payoff is going to be at the end.
Kyle Davis: There's a phrase that I like, "Embrace the suck."
Kyle Maynard: Right. I love that.
Kyle Davis: I think your boy-
Kyle Maynard: It sounds very-
Kyle Davis: Very Jocko.
Kyle Maynard: Jocko-esque. [inaudible 00:06:58] exactly. [00:07:00] Sounds like Jocko.
Kyle Davis: Yeah. Sounds like Jocko and all the boys of his realm.
Kyle Maynard: Jocko, for friends that don't know, is a 6'6", 280 pound Navy SEAL jiu-jitsu black belt who's one of the nicest people I've ever met until he's not.
Kyle Davis: Yeah. Look him up, Jocko Willink. We'll give him credit. We'll tweet at him, and we'll get him to publish this for us.
Kyle Maynard: Oh [00:07:30] boy.
Kyle Davis: Growing up, your dad had you wrestling. In the teaser, yet to be unreleased version one of this podcast, you mentioned that your dad really pushed you and encouraged you to continue wrestling. That was the first sport that you had started. The beginning probably was tough, and I want you to talk about that, but at the end, something brilliantly crazy came [00:08:00] out of it.
Kyle Maynard: Yeah. In the early goings of wrestling, I'd just come from playing football. There had actually been a decent amount of media coverage with that I was 11 years old, and got to do a live interview on CNN. The short story is with that, I would play nose guard, defense line. I would take my helmet and smash into people's legs as hard as I could, which kind of explains some of the brain injury stuff maybe nowadays going on with me.
Basically [00:08:30] with wrestling, I lost the first 35 matches I competed in and lost every single match for the first year. We revised the goal. The goal went from being able to win a match at first, my dad realized that wasn't going to happen any time soon, so the goal became just not to be pinned. I spent a lot of that year with one shoulder pressed down on the mat fighting not to be pinned. Managed to make it through the year, though, not getting pinned. Then [00:09:00] the next year my dad convinced me to sign up again. He tricked me into signing up. Basically told me that everybody loses their first year in wrestling. It's not uncommon that you won't win a match your first year in wrestling. Basically said that everybody wins a match their second year, because you're just going to beat somebody who it's their first year now.
That belief became embedded in me, and then I found that first kid that I beat. It's sort of an element of confirmation bias. We look for the things that we believe, and I found this first kid that I beat. I [00:09:30] heard that he's a first year wrestler, and instantly I was like, "Boom. That's my kid." I'm looking for all the evidence as to why that's the case. He's kind of scrawny. He's going to warm up the wrong way or whatever. It was like, "Oh man," I just had this kid beat mentally before I ever stepped out on the mat. We shook hands. He's got a weak handshake. Then all of a sudden I took him down and landed on top of him. I was like, "Whoa, this is awesome."
Ended up beating this kid by a mercy rule, so it's a tech fall. It's I just took him down enough times where they stopped [00:10:00] the math due to the mercy rule. Then all of a sudden I kept winning a bunch after that, realized it was just may more of the mental thing than anything else. Then all the time, by the time I was a senior in high school, I was wrestling varsity for one of the top teams in the south east. It was an amazing experience, and I beat a lot of state champions and state placers, many state placers in my home state of Georgia. Beat the state champion of Alabama, the state champion in Louisiana, [00:10:30] into overtime with the state champ in Tennessee. I ended up placing top 12 in the nationals in my weight class.
At that point, it became an interesting debate and discussion. The media sort of came back around again and got to do an interview on HBO, Real Sports. It wasn't the central theme or topic, but really one of the questions at that point was whether or not I was unfairly advantaged over all the other kids without the pesky arm and leg weight.
Kyle Davis: When you [00:11:00] look at, I guess, another salient example, this would be Oscar Pistorius, we'll leave his personal life out of it, but you look at somebody who kind of similar situation if I remember correctly. He was born without was it one leg or two legs or something like that I think?
Kyle Maynard: Believe missing both, yeah.
Kyle Davis: Yeah, and Blade Runner was the name, and everybody's looking at the tech in his legs and saying he has an unfair advantage. It blows my [00:11:30] mind, because I'm looking at it and going, "Yeah, he has this cool launch pad slingshot thing, but his running form is not the same as everybody else. He's adapting to the environment. He's adapting to the situation. He's just as fast. He's not going to beat Usain Bolt or anybody, but he's crushing it.
Kyle Maynard: Yeah, no. It's an interesting debate, too. I actually see both sides of it. I want to look [00:12:00] at things as pragmatically as possible. I think that there's going to come a time, and it's already sort of here, but in the not too distant future where many biological implants are actually significantly better than whatever you would have had genetically that you're born with. It's not going to be too long, not to go too futurist or whatever, but before you could have your eyes or a portion of your eye transplanted and [00:12:30] have binocular vision and have some sort of Google glasses as an implant or something like that. The world that we're living into is going to be very interesting in that regard. I think that in the world of prosthetics, it's also an interesting one.
I also too, I totally see the valid point that people said of when I was competing in wresting or jiu-jitsu, take jiu-jitsu for instance, I fought two years in a row in the jiu-jitsu world championships [00:13:00] and made it to the quarter finals, lost in a referee decision on the quarter finals. A lot of people said, "Okay, Kyle can't be arm barred, typically." That's true. I've only been arm barred by one guy in my life, and that was Forest Griffin who is more of a gorilla than he is a human. It's definitely there is an advantage there. I also, too, think that there's a difference between a mechanical advantage and one that's [00:13:30] sort of a cultivated physical advantage.
For me, I tell people they weren't really around to see those first 35 matches and how abysmal I was. There's a lot of advantages other people use to kind of exploit. I do lack the reach, so if someone wants to go in, when I fought in MMA, it was a lot easier for my opponent to keep me at the end of his jab than, say, someone that had the arm or leg length that could close the distance and clenched to then work for a take down. I don't [00:14:00] know. I try to look at things at both sides. I think you can make an argument both ways.
Kyle Davis: Yeah, I think it's interesting. I have some friends that I went to school with. I went to one of those smart kid schools, apparently. One of my really-
Kyle Maynard: You were in one of those?
Kyle Davis: Yeah, I know. Crazy. A lot of money. There's a larger population of students there on the autism spectrum, for instance, than [00:14:30] there is in normal society. It's interesting to see how the parallels, whether it be mental or physical, the adaptation process. Those who can adapt and utilize what is a perceived deficiency or handicap, if we're going to use that word, to really exploit it and make it something that's exponentially better than what other "normal" people have.
Kyle Maynard: Totally. It's [00:15:00] fascinating that you bring that up, too, because you look at something that would be in the automatically perceived disadvantage, and that there are certain huge disadvantages that are associated with something like autism, certain challenges or what have you. I don't really get hung up on the words disability or whatever, whatever the word is that somebody wants to go and call that. There's also the flip side of it is there are huge advantages to that. It's a whole scale and spectrum. A [00:15:30] lot of psychologists put ADD on that scale. Frankly, I would definitely classify myself as that, but I see it as my secret superpower. It's where all the creativity comes from. It's where all the sort of non-linear thinking and thinking about just different ways to do things, and approach things, and problem solve, and all of that.
That's really for anybody at any point in time. I'll give you, for instance, probably one of the main groups that I get to speak for [00:16:00] is the financial services world. You've got two different types of financial advisors when the market's going to go south. You've got the financial advisor, and I think this is the typical sort of norm, maybe 90% or more that the market tanks, and it's like the Chicken Little, "Oh man, the sky is falling. The world's never going to be the same," blah blah blah, all that stuff. They kind of get caught up in that victim mentality without remembering the fact that everybody is going through the same thing right now. [00:16:30] Yes, your clients are pissed off at you for reasons that are outside of your control. Right now, there's more money in motion like at the bottom of the market in 2008 than there ever was in human history.
The smart financial advisors there would be able to go and seek those high valued clients, and could triple our quadruple their business by the time the market comes back in a couple years, because they were focused on this is my advantage. This is the time [00:17:00] to be able to grow, not focused on the sort of more victim mentality. There's that saying that the rich get richer in those moments, because I think it's just a mindset thing where it's like if something goes wrong, now how can I look for and see the advantage inside of this.
Kyle Davis: I think that's an interesting point that you bring up, and especially when you're talking about the audiences of [00:17:30] the people that you speak to and what you're trying to convey. You have the fight or flight kind of fear responses that are just ingrained in all of us. Unless you've been through the crucible before, more often than not you're going to try to run away from something that's rather challenging, versus finding the opportunity and fighting through it.
Kyle Maynard: Totally. That's a natural response, right? One of my best friends, [00:18:00] best friend like Jeff, like one of my two closest friends and business partner now, speaking of ADD, we're starting a Brazilian Swimwear company together. We've got that going on, too.
He's getting out of the Navy coming up in just a couple of months, but through him I've gotten to be very close to the Navy SEAL community, which has been amazing. I think it's kind of a very fascinating group of people that have sort of [00:18:30] been able to study the mindset of just resilience and overcoming. They're arguable the most elite special forces group in the world. That takes a special mindset.
As a crazy side note statistic, actually, I don't know if people would realize this, but you look at the special forces community, there are more army special forces, they used to be called Green Berets, but now just sort of the special forces community, there are more active duty army special forces today than there [00:19:00] have ever been Navy SEAL since pre-Vietnam. It's a really small group of people that have made a profound difference on history.
There's a lot of really cool SEAL quotes and wisdoms and things like that. One of my favorites that Jeff was taught was by one of his original mentors. This guy, Master Chief [Giled 00:19:23]. Master Chief Giled said, "You are not your first thought." It's like you have that monkey [00:19:30] mind inside, and the monkey mind meaning sort of your brain's just going to go all over the place. If you're doing something that's really hard, say I'm climbing a mountain, and frankly 90 to 95% of the time when I'm climbing a mountain, I'm bear crawling down in the dirt. I've got some custom adapted shoes, but literally started climbing with bath towels rapped around my arms and my feet duct taped on.
I'm starting at the rocks, staring at the dirt, staring at the ice, whatever terrain I'm on, and become very familiar with that. It's not the most breathtaking [00:20:00] view in the world. I'm thinking in my head a lot of the time, "Man, this sucks. What am I doing here?" I think it's not dissimilar from a lot of people that have that sort of mindset of just what ... If you're doing something that's difficult, if you're doing something that's challenging, you want to go and quit. You want to give up, but you are not that first thought. You are way more your second thought, the third thought, the fourth thought. You are the thoughts about [00:20:30] that thought. You might have that impulsive thought that's like, "Whoa, that's a crazy thought. No, I'm not going to go and quit." Then that thought about the thought I think is a trainable, learnable skill.
That kind of fits in that "no excuses" kind of vein, because it's like at that point, we can't control that first thought. It's an impulse, and it's never going to be able to be controlled. Developing that mental lasso, so to speak, I stole [00:21:00] that from my buddy Mario, but it's literally like the thought goes out there, and you got to throw that lasso out to go grab hold of it and rail it back in. I think it's a big part of what allows someone to be more mindful, to be more resourceful in those more challenging moments.
Kyle Davis: When you're talking about this mindful and intention filled way of navigating life, [00:21:30] being reactionary versus contemplative, the default is just react and go. Sometimes maybe that's the best decision, but more often than not, having the ability to contemplate on things and to really think things through can yield better results. I'm wondering if while you're bear climbing up a mountain and you don't really [00:22:00] have the opportunity to take in the views, because you're just focused on putting the next foot forward, so to speak, is it for you better when you come up and say, "This is everything that I've accomplished, because I was grinding it," versus taking that breath and stopping and just looking around?
Kyle Maynard: That's an interesting thought and question. I guess the short answer is I don't really know, because I don't really have the other perspective. I [00:22:30] think about that sometimes. It's not like I'm not a complete just total masochist that I can only do things that are terrible and that I definitely enjoy [crosstalk 00:22:45].
Kyle Davis: Come on, we're trying to build this myth. We're trying to build this myth up, man. We're trying to build the myth up.
Kyle Maynard: Totally. Okay. Yeah, totally. I only do things that are super painful and not fun at all. Never have binged on Netflix or anything like that.
Kyle Davis: Never.
Kyle Maynard: [00:23:00] No, so I think an easier example maybe that people could go and relate to would be any type of physical exertion or activity, it's like if you go into the gym and you have a day where you're like, "I'm going to do a set of this and spend five minutes on my phone, and then I'm going to do a set of that, and then five minutes on my phone, and then maybe I'll do one more thing, and I'm going to do a couple crunches and then leave." All [00:23:30] right. You went to the gym, but was it really going to the gym? Was it really that satisfying, or it's like you go there and you have that intention, and you work hard, and you push yourself, and you sweat, and you physically exert yourself, and you minimize the time texting in between sets.
Then at that point, what's going to be more fulfilling when you walk out of it? In that moment, it's definitely a lot easier to just [00:24:00] walk into the gym and kind of take 5, 10 minutes in between sets and talk to people and blah blah blah. It's when you leave, I think, that at that point you can walk out of the gym knowing that you went in and you busted it. It's one of the stories that comes to mind for me was the first thing I ever climbed was a little 900 foot peak called Stone Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia. Stone Mountain, [00:24:30] it's so random, but it's this large protruding granite face. It's the largest continuous granite piece in the world to get a little geeky on the geology.
Stone Mountain, there's this tram that would go and take you to the top. Growing up in Atlanta, we used to do that all the time. We'd take the tram to the top, you get off the tram, and we'd take a photo, and we'd look at Atalanta and say like, "Oh, it's so pretty." You get off the tram, and then six months later when a new group of relatives or friends would come into town, then we'd go there. We'd go to the top of Stone Mountain. [00:25:00] We'd take a picture and then go back. I've been to the top of Stone Mountain maybe a dozen, a baker's dozen times. Really it wasn't my favorite place to go, because I was just kind of over it. Just kind of you stand in line, you go to take this tram and see the same view, and then you leave.
Then the opportunity came up to do a crossfit competition in 2010. I signed up 24 hours before. I decided to try to ... The first workout and event that they announced was you have to do a thousand meter row on a rowing machine and then sprint [00:25:30] up Stone Mountain and do the hiking trail. Everybody else did the sprint, and maybe 25 or so, 30 minutes, and it took me an hour and 47 minutes. I tore all the skin off of the ends of my arms, used these leather welding sleeves to try to protect my skin, realized that was a bad idea, because the leather was a decent amount tougher than my skin. Got to the top, and after that it was just breathtakingly beautiful. At that moment, I [00:26:00] took an hour and 47 minute block of time in my life. It was the worst physical exertion that I'd ever experienced. I got to the top of the mountain that night, and I looked and I saw a completely different view of Atlanta than I'd ever seen before. I think it was only because of that exertion.
I came home that night and told my friend I wanted to do Mt. Kilimanjaro, and she said, "You're freaking crazy. How are you going to do that?" I said, "I don't know, but I want to. We're going to figure it out." [00:26:30] It's also, too, kind of not knowing where the limits lie I think is really a big thing that I think about all the time is how do we actually really figure out where those limits exist, as opposed to just the theoretical?
Kyle Davis: Should we hit him with the Jocko-ism?
Kyle Maynard: Oh man, let's bring it.
Kyle Davis: I'm not going to fake the Jocko voice. I can't do it. You were just mentioning his go-to, which is discipline [00:27:00] equals freedom.
Kyle Maynard: Yep. So true. It's so true. It's so true, right? I don't have the same level of discipline that Jocko does. The guy wakes up at 4:30 in the morning, and he's posting 4:30 A.M. workout posts. It's insane. It's awesome, but yet discipline equals freedom, it's so true, though. You have many more choices, I think, once you cultivate [00:27:30] that.
Kyle Davis: We've talked about the Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling. We've talked about climbing and everything from there. You do your first mountain, if you want to call this giant granite slab in Atlanta a mountain. You do that, and then you want to start going to climb other stuff. You said the next adventure is going to be Mt. Kilimanjaro. [00:28:00] I just know that that's tough. I've never done it. I have some friends who've climbed it. I'm just curious as to what the preparation was. I know that you have some special equipment that you climb with as well.
Kyle Maynard: Yeah. It was a fascinating process, because first of all, I kind of had to find somebody that was crazy enough to take us. Thankfully, my buddy Dan, who's equally, probably way more delusional [00:28:30] in terms of goal setting than I am. He was an undersized 5'9, 5'10 middle linebacker that ended up setting the NCAA college unassisted tackle record in a game, like 21 unassisted tackles in a game or something crazy like that. Dan and I partnered together, and he was like, "Dude, we're going to do this. We're going to find a way to go." We went and sought out a friend and mentor, Erik Weihenmayer, who's the only blind climber to every ascend Everest and climb [00:29:00] all seven summits, the highest peak on each continent. Erik actually just kayaked, solo kayaked the length of the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon, which is freaking mind blowing and blind.
Anyways, we sought out Erik and went to something called the No Barriers Summit. It's an amazing sort of event for people with disabilities and just to experience the outdoors. It was really a jumping off point. Erik introduced us to our guide Kevin. [00:29:30] That's really where things started to come together. Kevin is a mountaineer. He was a base camp manager for Erik. He led a group of blind climbers to the summit of Kilimanjaro. He's probably summited a thousand times himself or something crazy. By a thousand, I mean like 40, but a lot. I think he's led more climbers to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro than any American guide.
Kevin Cherilla is his name, that we'd partner [00:30:00] with them and their non-profit, which I'm not a board member of to drop that, name drop that, but it's the K2 Adventure Foundation. We help kids around the world to experience the outdoors, experience a normal life, help them with adaptive equipment. There's an orphanage that we sponsor at the base of Kilimanjaro for kids with disabilities. It was really meeting that group that then things became possible. They introduced us to people that made my gear, went from the bath towels and the leather welding sleeves to [00:30:30] this carbon fiber shoe system, assembling the team and getting people on board that believed in it and were willing to be patient enough and qualified. It was absolutely everything.
It kind of fits in ... We haven't really talked about much the business side of things, but I kind of feel the same way inside of business. It's entirely like the team around you. We talked about the Navy SEAL thing a couple times. That's also [00:31:00] they call it the teams. It's literally the teams. Nobody does anything alone in isolation. We're so much stronger together. That was just by far the first and most important and crucial step of getting there was getting that team assembled.
Kyle Davis: In talking about kind of getting a team assembled and switching to the business side, one of the things that is a thread that kind of carries through the podcast that we're recorded, especially in talking to [00:31:30] other business leaders and thought leaders and the like is that putting together the right team, putting together the right culture, having 100% buy-in and future selling, all those things are incredibly important. I'm curious as to what happens when you put together a team? What are you looking for, and then what are you advising people, and what are you talking about when you give your talks [00:32:00] to leaders?
Kyle Maynard: I think I definitely have got ... It's a lot to learn. I think it's for sure the area that I'm most intrigued about learning is how to best develop that team, but I think one thing that happens kind of organically when you get the right people in the right place, though, is that one [00:32:30] of my favorite quotes was Henry Ford said 90% of all management is hiring. It's really when you get the right person in the right place, I take that to mean that whether it's hiring, training, and development, however it is, investing in, taking the time to get the right person in the right place is absolutely critical, because we all have our own strengths.
In business, I have [00:33:00] kind of my right hand guys. I have my friend Brandon, who runs my crossfit gym. I opened a crossfit gym in 2008. It was right as the market tanked. I signed the lease for that. All my friends were like, "You're crazy." I'm like, "Yeah, I know, but we're going to do it anyway." Now we've got a 12,000 square foot building, and the gym is more profitable than when I was there running it on a day to day. I realized I was definitely the biggest limiting factor to it. All I had to do [00:33:30] is leave and move to San Diego. Now it's doing awesome.
It's primarily because of the team there. It's because Brandon has just done a phenomenal job of managing it, organizing the culture. It's such a huge thing, and it's such a difficult thing to get a grip around is that idea of culture. I think there's a contagious element of culture. It does sort of percolate [00:34:00] and trickle from leadership and leadership at all levels that I think for one, getting people to go and take personal responsibility for the fact that everybody is going to be able to contribute to this and really determining where do people see that those lines of responsibility? How invested are they in the success or growth of the organization, how excited are they to show up? It's [00:34:30] going to show up inside of their actions. You only truly, I think, know someone's character I think when you get tested. You don't see that true character when things are going good, when they're easy, when they're fine. You find that true character when people are really brought to their knees and dealt with an extreme challenge.
I know we've got kind of a mutual friend in Nando Parrado, the [00:35:00] ultimate survival story in the world. Nando crashed in the Andes Mountains. It was the rugby team that then survived in the Andes for 60 days and then hiked out Nando and another gentleman hiked out for 12 days after that. It's the most amazing story. We just don't know what we have inside of us until we are tested and have to deal with something. That's where, I guess, I would start [00:35:30] is kind of interview process looking at, "Okay, what kind of level of responsibility would somebody take for their life and their level of investment in this, but also beyond that? What's going to happen when they are pushed and they are tested? How's somebody going to react and respond then?"
It's the primary reason I think that the speaking business in general exists is because it's an element to introduce and interject different ideas and different [00:36:00] spirits and different themes into cultures inside of companies. Abraham Lincoln said, "If I've got seven hours to chop down a tree, I'm going to spend the first four sharpening my ax." I think that that's what this is.
Kyle Davis: Yeah, I would agree. I think the great benefit to the speaking industry and being able to have somebody who is an outsider who has different views, different history, different ideas, [00:36:30] different concepts, and bringing them in allows you as an organization or as an individual to change the way you're thinking, whether you agree or disagree. You can test it. Then to expand on kind of the trial by fire, the crucible, if you will, you don't know how something is going to work until it is tested. That's why cars go through so much stress testing before they ever hit the road. It's an important [00:37:00] element to everything else, so why shouldn't it be an important element to a business or to culture?
Kyle Maynard: Totally. The thing that kind of frustrates me I guess on a macro scale is they just don't really teach this stuff in schools either of how to use your mind, how to when our thoughts are racing and it feels out of control, how do we go and bring that back down to a more manageable level? I [00:37:30] think a lot of that training technology exists. It exists in different forms, different fashions, but it's really just engaging with something I think that allows us to look a little bit deeper. Sometimes if we don't take that time to sit down and sharpen the ax, then we're just going to spend the full seven hours chopping down the tree with a blunt ax. Not [00:38:00] going to be nearly as efficient as we could otherwise. Just investing that first four hours in sharpening the ax, it might seem like a poor return on investment for that first tree, but by tree number 10, you're going to be grateful that you did.
I think about that in my own personal growth and development all the time. I try to look for areas in my life where I feel like my personal choices are constrained. If there's a constraint in those choices, then that means that effectively [00:38:30] I can look at it as a potential area for growth. Not saying that I want to go and be open to all those different possibilities that might exist with something, but I can look at that as a possibility to go and look and see why is it that I'm constrained in the way that I feel about this?
I was literally having a conversation with my girlfriend this morning about that, certain areas in my business where I currently have kind of felt constrained. I [00:39:00] want to go and get to the root of it and see what is it that's really going on there? I feel like that is an element of sort of sharpening the ax, and then having the tools to then be able to do something about it.
Kyle Davis: Yeah. One of the things that I'm now thinking of, and I want to bring it back to, especially when you were talking about the wrestling and how your first season out you lost or you failed 35 times. I think what's a big trend in my background in the startup world and everything [00:39:30] else is learning to fail and failing fast, and then learning from your failures so that you can improve upon something. I think kind of what you were just hinting at there was when you're figuring out what's constraining you or what you've done in your failures is how do you learn from that? How do you bounce back? How do you pivot into something else?
Kyle Maynard: Yeah. I think a huge part of failure has a lot to do with the expectation. Sometimes if we have that expectation [00:40:00] that we should be good at something right away, then frankly, it's just a crappy expectation that we need to go and re-examine and do away with. I think through the different failures in my life, I've learned now to expect to be really bad at something when I first start, which allows me the patients to then figure it out. I'm not saying I've got that mastered by any means. There's a long way to go, but a lot of my life has kind of had to been forced to deal with that.
The wrestling example of losing [00:40:30] the first 35 matches in a row is one of the bigger ones for sure, because I felt like getting my butt kicked by other guys, but in a general life sense, being born as a quad amputee, feeling very different, sort of separated from other kids at times, not all the time, but definitely elements of it. There were nights where I would cry myself to sleep and wish and dream and pray that I would wake up and just have arms and legs. Now there's nothing in the world that you could give me that would make me go back and live life in a different way, in that sense. I think it's [00:41:00] the greatest gift I've ever been given.
In wrestling, obviously, it turned out to be a lot better. I ended up one of the top wrestlers in the weight class in the nation. Even an example of putting on my socks, my mom and dad would encourage me to go and do most things on my own, but there were some things that it was just easier for them to help with. Putting on a pair of socks took 45 minutes the first time I did it. I used a paperclip that I reshaped in my mouth to go and form a fishing hook. I used that to [00:41:30] put on my socks for the first time. Thankfully it doesn't take my 45 minutes to put on my socks anymore. Now it takes maybe 20, 30 seconds. I don't have to use a paperclip anymore. I just use my arms to go and pull the sock on. It's that initial period that I knew would be really tough.
Fast forward to present day, I think we got into this a little bit in part one, to kind of continue teasing that, people [00:42:00] have asked me, "Okay, what's the next mountain you're climbing?" I tell them, "Photography or videography," because I have an interest in doing that. I think that the world is moving in this digital direction, and those photography and videography provide many different ways to go and share that, my story or other things more artistically in that regard. That being said, I know that I've had to take a lot of photos and videos over the last 8 to 10 weeks that [00:42:30] I'm not going to do anything with, because frankly, they were just really bad photos and videos.
Now the stuff that I've gotten to produce and shoot over the last even week has been exponentially better than the stuff that I shot 10 weeks ago. The difference is, I think, when I started there, I guess I set that expectation that for this first couple weeks, months [00:43:00] of doing it, I was going to be really bad. I was going to have to go and shoot a bunch of stuff that would be unusable. Now I feel pretty good about the direction that I'm going and the stuff that I'm maybe able to put out in the next couple of weeks. I think that that process, no matter what industry we're in, no matter what hobbies we have, no matter what our passions are, I think we can kind of apply that same logic that you're just going to suck at first, and there's no way around it. [00:43:30] Just suck as much and as fast as possible, and then eventually you'll get better.
Kyle Davis: I like the fact that you mention it as being a process and kind of coming to grips in terms of the fact that coming off the block that you're not going to be the greatest. That happens, but the frequency with which that happens is so rare that you should put that out of your mind. You should really kind of go in there, kind of like you said, with a process of, "This is going to [00:44:00] suck." Grind it and just hone your craft and hone your edge and what you're doing. Just work it and work it and work it. Eventually, like you just said, the photos and the videos that you're taking today are exponentially better than you took a couple weeks ago.
Kyle Maynard: Totally. It kind of reminds me of I read a story about Pixar, the film studio. When you said processes, [00:44:30] sort of triggered that in my mind. Basically it was like when Pixar comes up with a script, and I think they have 14 movies in a row that were the number one box office grossing movie when it came out, it basically they put up a script. I think it's like they know it's going to be about a year and a half process, something like that. Maybe two years. I'm not [00:45:00] sure the exact details, but they know that whatever the script is initially, then it's going to suck. You have to start somewhere, right? You have to get that initial thing out there to then be able to work and iterate and change and figure out how to make it better.
I think that that's kind of what keeps us in our comfort zone and keeps us sort of doing the same old, same old a lot is the fact that we don't get started. We don't [00:45:30] start with a process. If I had chosen just to not shoot those terabytes worth of data of photos and videos that were unusable at first, and if I just get discouraged, I'm like, "Ah, you know, it's just because, I don't know, blame it on something like the disability. It's too hard to carry the camera." I use kind of a typical unadapted Canon camera. I've got a Panasonic camera, [00:46:00] use different stuff, but basically unadapted [inaudible 00:46:05] stuff, right?
I don't ever really kind of go into that mindset though of this is bad because of some external factor. I just know it's bad only because I haven't done it enough. As soon as I do it enough, I know it'll eventually get to the point where it's going to work. Sometimes I think that life shows up differently. It shows up better when we're learning things. It shows up [00:46:30] just we become more creative and just more engaged with life in general if we are on that path of growth and learning something. All the research is going to go and support the fact that it's just generally a better idea to go and do.
I think the thing that a lot of companies and business leaders right now are facing is this world of massive change, that things are changing so fast. I think it's easy [00:47:00] ... Later today I've got a couple of calls for events that I have coming up. Generally one of the things I want to go and talk to some of the business leaders about, one of the questions that I always ask are kind of get them to tell me about the differences between your top 5% people and your sort of middle of the pack 50%. I want to know what makes the 5% top tier inside of a company. What makes them higher performing? What makes them tick?
[00:47:30] One of the more common things that I hear is this idea of just they're a little bit paranoid that they're going to go away, they're going to become irrelevant. I kind of refer to it as a healthy paranoia. I kind of feel the same. I think that massive changes are coming to every industry, especially including the speaking [00:48:00] industry and things of that nature. If I'm booked for X number of events right now in the future, and there's however many tens of thousands of professional speakers in the world, then that too would potentially, that number is going to go and shrink when speakers can show up and give a speech in VR in 5 to 10 years where everybody's wearing a VR headset. You don't really know if the speaker's there in person or not. You could do that speech from ... People could do that wherever they are. I don't think the live event [00:48:30] thing is ever going to go away completely, but I do think it's going to shrink a lot. It's going to change. In [crosstalk 00:48:36].
Kyle Davis: By the way, there are speakers already doing that.
Kyle Maynard: Yeah. See? Look, I'm already behind the curve. I'm screwed.
Kyle Davis: Yeah.
Kyle Maynard: No, it's like either you get on board with it or you engage, or you can go and lament the fact that there aren't going to be the same frequency of live events or whatever else. Blah blah blah. Woe is me, and then you just go [00:49:00] away. It's super ironic, but literally I've said in presentations before, and I have to go and change this now, but I've said don't be Kodak. Then two days ago I met the CEO of Kodak, who is an awesome guy. He's only been the CEO for the last three years, and has come in, and he's really revitalized a lot of the brand. There's that vintage appeal to the brand. [00:49:30] He's using that disadvantage as an advantage, right? It's also, too, it's like the idea behind that is if we rest on our laurels and we sit back, then we're not going to exist.
Only I think it's like 48% percent of the companies that were in the Fortune 500 in 2001 even still exist today. Things are changing so fast. It's either we can go and make excuses about all the reasons why we can't change, too, or we get stoked about that change. We use that change [00:50:00] to become an unfair advantage. We're able to actually become better for it.
Kyle Davis: Speaking of excuses, you have a book called "No Excuses".
Kyle Maynard: Dude, thanks for the drop.
Kyle Davis: Hey, you're welcome for the softball set up. I think ... I say that word "I think". I really need to change my filler words. When it comes to having this healthy paranoia and keeping your [00:50:30] eye on the horizon as to what's going to come and being adaptable and being able to change your environment, instead of having your environment change you, I think it kind of comes back to, to use the title of the book, not having excuses, not saying that, "Hey, it was this outside force pushing in on me. I had to change to it." Instead of seeing that it's coming or at least having the idea that that might happen or something similar might occur and being able to just [00:51:00] do a mental jiu-jitsu, just to get out of the way or to take that situation and use the leverage to your advantage.
Kyle Maynard: Man, I like that. I actually just filed the trademark for mental jiu-jitsu when you said that, in case anybody tries to steal it.
Kyle Davis: Darn, darn, darn, darn. The whole resting on your laurels thing, it's the same thing. If we're going to talk about speakers giving it from the VR, it's kind of [00:51:30] like at Coachella a couple years ago when they had the Tupac.
Kyle Maynard: Oh, totally.
Kyle Davis: As great as that is to have somebody come on stage, whether it be a robot or VR, you don't know if Mark Zuckerberg's in the audience or not, having that ability to be able to then connect with somebody like yourself and having that off-hand, off-the-cuff conversation, that little side bar, five minutes over here really it changes the entire [00:52:00] dynamic. I think having somebody like yourself, and I mentioned this, too, which is for most people in your situation and having your story, their story would stop. It would be, "I was born no arms, no legs. This is my story," or, "I went and became this amazing wrestler," but that's my story. The great thing about you is that your story is constantly evolving and constantly changing. You're continuing to grow.
Kyle Maynard: It's mostly just because my [00:52:30] nightmare would be to tell the same story for 30 years in a row. I feel like that would just be crazy to ... No, I kind of jest, and I appreciate you saying that. I think that I want to have ... We're both kind of mutual fans of Tim Ferriss. One of the things that I've gotten to learn from Tim was the idea of having a diversified portfolio [00:53:00] in your life. I just want to have a number of different things going on. I have things like in my work. I have things in my hobbies and relationships and family and travel. If there's a number of different things going on, maybe not everything is going great in one area, but yet it sort of is offset by some of those other things that are happening. I think that's a big [00:53:30] sort of side note to what we were talking about.
The other side of it is adaptability is, frankly, it's kind of like a frame of mind and a choice in a lot of ways. I don't mean that in a sense that theoretically, and I've gotten to argue this point with a couple of people, but the easy example is no matter how strong I am mentally, I'm probably never [00:54:00] going to be able to beat Michael Jordan or Lebron James in a one-on-one basketball game in their prime if they're actually trying. There are kind of real limits that exist. Maybe I'm like the anti-motivational motivational speaker, but I kind of hate it when I hear, and I used to say this, but anything is possible. I like the spirit of that, but it's like anything is possible, okay, cool. Go bench press 10,000 pounds.
I [00:54:30] think a better way to put it is to know your limits, but never stop trying to break them in the extent to which you can tell the truth to yourself about the current limits that you're facing, I think is the extent to which you can actually do something about them. It's having a very real look at where the limits exist in physical time and space right now for you, and then examining what are some of these things that I could go and do differently with that? If I had spent my entire life wishing, dreaming, [00:55:00] praying, hoping that I would just wake up and have arms and legs, then it never would have happened. Not only that, but it's like it would have been a very disappointing life. Thankfully, I didn't really make this choice, but just had parents that I was lucky enough that showed me that I could go and do these other things, that they believed in me enough, and coaches, and teachers, and other people that gave me those opportunities.
Sometimes it's like we [00:55:30] blur the lines, I think, between the limits that actually exist versus where the excuses lie. It's not really a black or white thing. There's some gray area. There's some subjectivity. It's like nature versus nurture. It's not an either/or, it's and. Both are existing simultaneously, so it's like where does that line exist? I think the only way to determine where that line actually exists is to continually try to push the bounds and examine in real world experience where those limits [00:56:00] are.
Kyle Davis: While the limits may be, let's say, physical or technological in nature, the will, and thank you for setting this up for another softball quip and remark to show your awesomeness, but you were the star of a Nike commercial entitled "Unlimited Will". Talk about it. I love this new NPR way of interviewing.
Kyle Maynard: I love it. [00:56:30] It was an awesome opportunity. It was really cool to get to go and work with Nike, Wieden Kennedy, also their ad agency, and then Pretty Bird was the production company that shot it. The really cool thing, I thought, and really my friend Joey and Kevin and I, we just had to show up and shoot it. They did most of the hard work and the actual production of it. It was really cool to see that it won [00:57:00] an ad week award for the most remembered commercial of the Olympics, which was really neat.
Strangely, as a side note when the commercial first played, it was awesome. It was playing during prime time and the Olympics. We were climbing on a side of the mountain in Mammoth. I think the narrator was like, "Here's Kyle Maynard working hard, pushing his limits," blah blah blah. Then they were like, "Wait, dude. You don't have arms and legs." I was like, "Oh really? I must have left them at home." That's kind of the punch line. That's [00:57:30] pretty much it, and then it just zooms out to show the mountain that we're on.
We did that. Commercial plays. I was coming back from a speaking event in Salt Lake City and landed in San Diego. Turned on my phone, and immediately got blasted with about 250 text messages from friends that I hadn't talked to since high school graduation. It was pretty fun to see the response from that. [00:58:00] I think that the looks of all the other passengers that were around me on the plane when I turned my phone off of airplane mode was probably the best part of, "What the heck is your phone doing right now?"
Kyle Davis: [crosstalk 00:58:15]. Yeah.
Kyle Maynard: It was kind of a fun thing to go and do. It was fun they actually decided to go and do it on a mountain. They were going to do it in a studio in LA, which I'm sure would have been interesting, too, but the fact [00:58:30] that we actually got to go and do a climb for it was pretty neat.
Kyle Davis: You are a climber. We talked about a lot of other fun stuff. This has been one of your passions, and I know that you're going also to photography and videography. You've climbed a few mountains, if I remember correctly. I think the big one as of late was, what, Mt. Aconcagua?
Kyle Maynard: That's right. Hey, you did pretty good with that pronunciation.
Kyle Davis: I try. I try, man.
Kyle Maynard: Kudos. Props, man. That is not [00:59:00] an easy one. It took me a couple months to get it right.
Kyle Davis: Listening is key.
Kyle Maynard: Yeah, effectively Kilimanjaro was like the first really big climb that we did. I had only had maybe 12 hikes in my entire life before we did that one, just because it would take so long to duct tape the gear onto me, and then have the final carbon fiber gear set about two weeks before we left. The difference between Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro, [00:59:30] Aconcagua, the main difference is nobody's every heard of Aconcagua, even though it's the highest peak in the world outside of the Himalaya. It's almost 7,000 meters tall, which is 22,800 feet. Kilimanjaro is like 19,300. It is breathtakingly beautiful in the Andes chain in South America.
The primary [01:00:00] physical difference though is that Kilimanjaro is a 25 or a 30 mile trail. Aconcagua is only maybe a three or four maybe five mile trail once you're at the base camp of the mountain. Then from that point, it's just straight up. I was dealing a lot with the loose rock, the scree, and you slide. I'd feel like I was on an inverted treadmill just literally moving down the mountain faster [01:00:30] than I was climbing up it at times. I remember probably the hardest, roughest day on the mountain, other than our summit day, but psychologically the hardest day I think was our fourth day in. Had to climb through these things called penitentes, which to give people a little picture is you just have to Google these things. Penitentes in Argentina and Aconcagua. They're just these ice [01:01:00] spikes and towers. Some of them are maybe three or four feet. Some of them are upwards of 8 or 9, 10 feet. Try to climb over the small ones and around the big ones.
I did a thousand pull ups that day and just got to the top of this ice field after going about a thousand vertical feet and had a watermelon sized boulder shoot past my head going 60 miles an hour that went by. It was like a foot and a half away. It got me questioning of why the heck am I doing this? What am I trying to prove? I was really kind of mad [01:01:30] at myself, because it was like you kind of forgot. Kilimanjaro was amazing. It was beautiful. It was an unbelievable experience, but there were elements of it that sucked, that were really hard. I kind of promised myself I wasn't going to go back and do another one. Then I was like a couple years later on Aconcagua. I'm like, "Dude, you did it to yourself again. What are you thinking?"
I was only a couple hundred meters from camp that [01:02:00] day. It was a flat, the mountain at that point just kind of flattened out. I had to lay in the dirt and just turn my head and cry. My guide came and sat next to me and laid next to me for a while. I didn't want him to see the tears streaming down my face. It was at that moment, though, that it was a pretty big gut check to continue to move forward. That was the last day that I could have paid extra to opt [01:02:30] to take a helicopter out. I was thinking, "Maybe I should," because it was like, "Maybe I shouldn't be here," but decided not to. Really Aconcagua for me was a bigger awakener.
I had just lost my grandmother, who was everything to me growing up. I had mentioned that sugar jar. She was the one that taught me to reach out and shake people's [01:03:00] hands and just tell people. She said, "When people hear your voice, they see your face, they shake your hand, the disability will fade away." She was the most amazing grandma ever. When she passed, it really set me on this sort of path and this search of what is my life about? A big realization was, look, do this. You can tough it out. Not dead, can't quit, one of the mantras that my friend Richard Machowicz would always say. [01:03:30] I would just keep that in my head, "Not dead, can't quit. Not dead, can't quit." Then by being there, it allows me not to go and continue to bring grandma Betty to so many other kids and adults around the world.
Even the Nike commercial, it was a consequence of getting to have that experience. Not everybody wants to be a mountaineer, but I [01:04:00] have a firm belief that everybody has a mountain or mountains in their life that they wanted to take on that maybe they put on the back burner. My hope is that maybe some people that are listening to this now examine that and actually do something about it. They book the ticket, they start the business, they buy the camera, they start shooting and using it, whatever it is that it is for them. I hope that they do, because I think that [01:04:30] once you sort of start on that journey, you cross whatever threshold you have to go and be on your path. Then that's half the battle alone is just committing to that first step. Then the subsequent steps you commit to after that I think, and then all of a sudden you're there.
Kyle Davis: I think that is a beautiful place for us to wrap. Thank you, Kyle. If you all are interested in booking Kyle Maynard for your event, [01:05:00] you can do so by contacting GDA Speakers at 214-420-1999, or by visiting gdaspeakers.com. If you want to read today's transcript, buy Kyle's book, watch an awesome YouTube video from Nike, you can do so by going to gdapodcast.com.
Kyle Maynard: You're hired.
Kyle Davis: Thank you. I'm like the freelance social media guy for you.
Kyle Maynard: Joey is done for.
Kyle Davis: No, I like Joey. Joey's great.
Kyle Maynard: Oh yeah, that's true. Yeah. I wouldn't be able to function without Joey. [01:05:30] I would not fit in normal world. Joey, I say, is like the human who helps me as the 8,000 year old vampire function in normal society.
Kyle Davis: By the way, I wanted Joey on this, but I guess he, when I was talking to him prior to this, I guess he was just going to be busy today.
Kyle Maynard: Yeah. He had something come up, but part three. That could be [crosstalk 01:05:50].
Kyle Davis: Part three, yes. We're not going to even talk about part one anymore. It's going to be part three.
Kyle Maynard: Right. Awesome.
Kyle Davis: Okay, Kyle. Hey, dude, thank you so much. I really appreciate [01:06:00] talking to you today.
Kyle Maynard: Thanks, man. Appreciate you.
Kyle Davis: All right, have a good one.