'No Excuses' Lesson Delivered on GW Student-Athlete Leadership Day
Kyle Maynard Motivates 2013-14 Colonials With Inspirational Message
Sept. 17, 2013
A nose tackle on the football field. A high school wrestler who nearly achieved All-America status. A cage fighter. A mountain climber who reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. A man with no arms and no legs. All of those describe the same man, Kyle Maynard, who inspired and moved GW student-athletes, coaches and administrators on Sunday afternoon at the Charles E. Smith Center.
"Everyone has a disability," said Maynard. "Some people's you just can't see." Maynard, for one, doesn't see his disability as an excuse. A man who from birth was treated by his parents like any other kid, sees his parents' treatment of him and his disability as "the greatest gift I've ever been given." The best-selling author of No Excuses motivated, regaled and moved his audience to laughter and tears when discussing his incredible life journey.
On Student-Athlete Leadership Day at the George Washington University, after the members of all 23 GW Athletics varsity teams participated in team building, leadership testing and group bonding activities on the National Mall, Maynard took center stage to provide the day's ultimate lesson.
With his disarming humor on full display, Maynard shared that his parents had a rule that if somebody asked him what happened to his arms and legs six times then at that point he could make up whatever he wanted. Though born without arms and legs, Maynard, at 10 years-old, told one man that he lost his limbs in Vietnam. Another persistent person looked on in horror when he said that his Dad threw him into a tiger cage at the zoo because he was misbehaving.
Beyond the laughter from the audience, however, was a profound sense of enlightenment as the student-athletes were urged by Maynard to set aside all excuses and become more than they ever thought they could be. "What is the one thing that keeps you from reaching your highest potential?" he asked.
As he spoke, Maynard also shared. The first time he put on a sock, using a homemade device rigged out of paperclips, it took an hour. The next sock took 30 minutes. Now, as he demonstrated to the captive audience, he slides on his socks as easily as anyone.
"Find your `why?' Why are you here?" Maynard urged the gathering to look deep inside themselves. "You get to decide which direction your life is going."
"The moment my life took a different direction is when I brought a flyer home from school and told my Mom that I want to play football," said Maynard. Though his mother did tell his coach on the phone before the first practice that her son has a disability, she never mentioned what it was, letting Kyle's play speak for itself. On the football field, in a one-on-one confrontation on the line of scrimmage, the lower one usually wins. "No one was getting lower than me," he joked. "On the first play, I got a sack."
In his journey from youth football player, to high school wrestling star, to MMA fighter, to best-selling author, motivational speaker, and proud member of the few that climbed to Africa's highest point, Maynard offered no excuses when he had every reason in the world to offer the most obvious.
"Not Dead; Can't Quit." That was Maynard's mantra as he took the path that only one percent of climbers take to the summit of Kilimanjaro - the Western Breach - a 12-hour stretch of the trek virtually straight up to the "roof of Africa." That same mantra will surely play over and over in the minds of GW student-athletes in 2013-14. No excuses.