While at the end of the day students may come home flustered and down, people like Kyle Maynard make the average person’s daily struggles seem insignificant, and yet, he makes “no excuses.”
Maynard was born a quadruple amputee. On March 24, which was Maynard’s twenty-fifth birthday, he spoke to a group of students, which filled the Grande Ballroom to two-thirds capacity.
“As long as you don’t fear any challenge, you can accomplish anything,” Maynard said.
Maynard has appeared in several television interviews, including one with Oprah, who referred to him as “one of the most inspiring men you will ever hear about.”
It took Maynard several years to realize he was different than the other kids around him, as his parents tried to maintain a normal childhood for him. It was with their help and the help of his grandma that pushed Maynard away from making excuses and quitting.
When Maynard would go shopping with his grandmother, people would often stare, but she taught Maynard to reach out to them and help them to not be afraid.
“Once people hear your voice and they see your face, then nothing else will matter, the rest will fade away and they will see you,” Maynard’s grandmother said to him as a child.
Maynard continues to this day to reach out and inspire those around him.
“I may have this seemingly obvious disability, but it’s not going to affect my relationship with others, because it doesn’t affect my life,” Maynard said. “We all have a disability or obstacle to overcome.”
Not allowing adversity to hold him back, Maynard became involved in football at the age of 11. When he was in sixth grade he began weight lifting. He also began wrestling.
During his first year of wrestling he lost 35 out of 35 matches.
Maynard described that experience as one of the most challenging experiences of his life. He wanted God to take the fear out of him.
“That prayer was answered,” Maynard said. “I made eye contact with my opponent and I realized he was just as scared as I was, and that took the fear out of me.”
Maynard won that match.
As he got older, his dream was to become a mixed martial arts fighter, so Maynard began training hard, but was met with opposition from all sides.
All across the Internet people expressed doubt, and hatred.
“People said I was going to be picked up and punted out of the cage,” Maynard said. “People said that I was doing it as a freak show, that I was just doing it as an attention seeker … people said that I was going to be bloody and unconscious in 15 seconds. There was someone who literally said, ‘why don’t I get a chainsaw and cut off my arms and legs, so I can get some attention too’.”
In 2007, Maynard was set to fight, however, three weeks before the match, things fell through, when the athletic commission denied him his opportunity to fight.
“There will always be people telling you can’t do something,” Maynard said. “We make our own realities based on what we choose to do in our hearts.”
After losing his chance to fight, and having so many around him doubt, Maynard was crushed. He said he even quit training for a time, though still traveling the country speaking.
“A depressed motivational speaker doesn’t really work out too well,” Maynard said.
One day while in the airport, Maynard met and spoke with two soldiers who had suffered severe burns during their time in Iraq. They expressed their gratitude for Maynard and their joy at the inspiration he was to so many people.
This got Maynard to wake up.
He began training again and in April of 2009 he stepped in the cage, and became the first quadruple amputee to do so, and to participate in a mixed martial arts fight.
Maynard encouraged students to use their ability to inspire those around them, to give them hope. He also suggested that students not allow obstacles and excuses hold them back.
“You choose what you are capable of,” Maynard said.
While some may view Maynard as disabled, he seeks out challenges, to overcome, and to become stronger.
“[There are people] that will never experience a moment that’s new, there is something they love so much, but they are too afraid to try it. That has to be one of the worst disabilities imaginable,” Maynard said. “It is far more disabling than me not having arms and legs. I want you to not be someone who criticizes other people … but to do something worth criticizing, I challenge you.”