The Commerce Journal

August 30, 2013

Living a life with no excuses

By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — There are no excuses big enough to keep you from achieving your goals, according to ESPY Award winner and quadruple-amputee Kyle Maynard.

Maynard was born with a severe form of the rare condition, congenital amputation, where he was born with missing portions of his arms and legs.

Maynard shared how he was able to overcome his struggles by not giving into his excuses as he spoke to the crowd gathered Wednesday inside the Ferguson Auditorium at Texas A&M University-Commerce

Maynard said people hold onto excuses because they are afraid of trying to reach their goals in life.

“These excuses keep us from reaching our goals,” he said.

When Maynard was born on March 24, 1986, his parents had no idea he had the condition while in the womb. But they decided they would try and teach him how to live as normal a life as possible.

When Maynard was young, he had problems doing things most people take for granted, including holding utensils and putting on socks.

“When I was growing up, my childhood would have been much different if my parents had focused on what was wrong with me,” he said, adding he remembers a time when holding a spoon or typing on a keyboard was difficult. “There are not that many different things. I use a normal razor and live life with little adaptations.”

Maynard was ridiculed some in school, and children constantly asked him what happened to him.

His parents said to be respectful to their questions up to a point, but if children kept badgering him as to why he had no arms or legs Maynard said his parents let him make up any reason he wanted.

“I told one kid I was bad at a zoo and my dad threw me in with the tigers,” he said.

Maynard’s hardest struggles came when he was younger and wanted desperately to be like other children.

“I would cry myself to sleep at night wanting to wake up with arms and legs,” he said. “That was probably the hardest part of my life.”

Things began to change when he wanted to play football in the sixth grade.

His mother called the coach and asked if he would allow her son, who had a disability, could try out for the team.

She didn’t tell the coach her son’s specific disability.

Maynard remembered trying out and making the team.

Maynard said his coach treated him as a normal kid and put him at nose guard, a position he had never heard of before.

On the first play, Maynard’s coach told him to follow the ball.

That he did.

Maynard ran between the legs of the center and tackled the quarterback on the first play.

“The point of blocking is to get lower than the other person, and who could get lower than me,” he said. “After I made that first tackle, that changed my life. I didn’t focus on my disability any more.”

After that, Maynard didn’t let his disability get in the way of a normal life.

Maynard went on to pursue weight-lifting and wrestling, setting a world record of 420 pounds in modified bench press and becoming a top 12 in the nation wrestler in high school.

“We come up with this laundry-list of excuses and many of these things are invalid,” he said.

There were a few times Maynard said he wanted to give up while doing his speaking tours, but something always happened to revive his courage to keep going.

Maynard remembered one time in particular, when he said he was not living his “No excuses” lifestyle and wanted to give up while waiting for his next speaking event in an airport.

Two Iraq veterans, who had been badly burned in combat, walked up to him and said they saw his story and it inspired them not to give up.

“They wanted to say ‘thank you,’” he said, adding that he knew he couldn’t give up.

It was that, coupled with a promise to a mother he met on his speaking tour to carry the remains of her fallen son, Pfc. Corey Johnson, and a mantra he learned from a Navy Seal “Not dead, can’t quit” that led him to crawl to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

“On Jan. 15, 2012, I got to touch the roof of Africa,” he said. “I had that time to pay tribute to Corey.”

Maynard said everyone needs to find why they were put on the earth and to pursue it for the good of their fellow man.

“It’s your own self-achievement coupled with the common good,” he said. “What would happen if everyone in this community gave up one excuse?”