Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Kyle Maynard, a motivational speaker, bestselling author, entrepreneur, and ESPY award-winning mixed martial arts athlete. It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. When interviews last 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!
Listen to the interview here or by selecting any of the options below
Tim Ferriss: Guten tag, ladies and gentlemen. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss Show, where it is my job to deconstruct world class performers of all different types. This episode features Kyle Maynard, and you are going to want to check him out, I promise. On Twitter you can say hello @kylemaynard, K-Y-L-E, M-A-Y-N-A-R-D. People often ask me who inspires you, who do you look up to? One immediate answer is Kyle Maynard.
Despite being born without full arms or legs, he has gone on to achieve feats of athleticism and much more that most people would only dream of. They might not even think of dreaming of these things. This includes being the first quadruple amputee to climb Mount Kilimanjaro without the aid of prosthetics, being inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, as in collegiate wrestling – believe it! – and competing professionally in mixed martial arts.
He is just a phenom. We actually had a chance to do a short wrestling demo with takedowns that almost broke my knee, and then tan arm throw on video which you can see. In this episode we cover many stories that Kyle has never discussed or shared publicly before. The audio comes from my new TV show, Fear(less) and that is Fear less with less in parentheses because it’s about learning to fear less, where I interview world class performers on stage about how they’ve overcome doubt, conquered fear, and made some of their toughest decisions.
You can watch the entire first episode with David Blaine, the illusionist and endurance artist, for free at att.net/fearless. Again, that’s att.net/fearless. And to watch all episodes, there are ten of them, including the episode with Kyle, please visit DIRECTV NOW. So you can just Google DIRECTV NOW. DirecTV with on T, so not Direct TV, but DirecTV.
We recorded three hours of material and only one hour was used for the TV show. This podcast episode is almost entirely new content that did not appear on television. So, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Without further ado, here is the incredible Kyle Maynard.
Tim Ferriss: Welcome to Fear(less). I’m your host Tim Ferriss. And on this stage we’ll be deconstructing world class performers of all types to uncover the specific tactics they’ve used to overcome doubt, tackle hard decisions, and ultimately succeed on their own terms. My guest tonight is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, New York Times bestselling author, and has summitted Mount Kilimanjaro, among others. He inspires audiences around the world with his message and he conquers challenges with his own unique style. Please welcome to the stage athlete, author, and mountaineer Kyle Maynard.
Kyle Maynard: Do a little around the world. What’s up everybody? How’s it going?
Tim Ferriss: How many siblings do you have?
Kyle Maynard: Three sisters.
Tim Ferriss: Three sisters.
Kyle Maynard: Yeah, what doesn’t kill you.
Tim Ferriss: I grew up with one little brother so I was the bastard in that relationship. I’m the, like, “I need to try this wrestling move on you,” like running around the house. “Don’t run away! No, this is gonna be fun!” I was on the inflicting side, unfortunately.
Kyle Maynard: I get it. There are a lot of grown men I’d rather fight than my sisters.
Tim Ferriss: Your dad seems like a tough dude. Not a bad dude but tough, former wrestler.
Kyle Maynard: I’m sure he loves that right now.
Tim Ferriss: He did flip me a 20, so in fairness. But how were your parents’ parenting styles different?
Kyle Maynard: There was a difference for sure, and I think it was a good balance. With wrestling, my dad wanted me to be the finesse wrestler. My mom told me if you put somebody in enough pain on the mat with you, they’ll find a way to get out; they’ll find a way to get off the mat. She had this tenacity.
Tim Ferriss: That’s like a cobra kai.
Kyle Maynard: Exactly.
Tim Ferriss: Take the leg!
Kyle Maynard: It was.
Tim Ferriss: What, Mom?
Kyle Maynard: Thanks, Mom.
Tim Ferriss: When did your grandparents enter the picture in terms of your close relationship with them?
Kyle Maynard: Like hours after I was born. They were there the whole time.
Tim Ferriss: What was your relationship like with your grandparents?
Kyle Maynard: It’s been the best. Without them – they were everything to me. I’ve got to choke back the tears sometimes. My grandma passed last year, and it was really a big moment for me in terms of kind of like that awakener of what is y life about, really.
My grandma, she kind of said this from her experiences in a religious background but I think it can be even like a more universal sense if you apply this. She said Kyle, God doesn’t make mistakes, you know? And I take that to go and mean even like the universe doesn’t make mistakes. And whether or not that’s true, it doesn’t matter but it’s an interesting place to come from. The stoics talk a lot about fate and how we’re on this path and this trajectory, and whether or not that’s true, it doesn’t really matter.
But if we go and act as if it’s so and things are as they should be, it’s just a better place to be, I think. I used to pray every night. When I was a kid, I would like wish that I could wake up and have arms and legs. If I had spent my entire life focused on that, it would have been a different life.
Tim Ferriss: Definitely.
Kyle Maynard: But she was everything. I think the most powerful lesson she ever taught me was when we used to go around in grocery stores together, just up and down the aisles of the grocery store. Sometimes when we would meet people, she would teach me: as soon as people hear your voice, and they see your face and they shake your hand, they’ll totally forget about the disability. It’s like an embedded, hypnotic command almost. It’s like that’s like so much of my life has been colored by that, and everybody that I meet now, I want to meet them and then 15 minutes after, the disability is not really that big of a deal.
[Applause] Grandma [inaudible]. But now, it’s kind of funny, too because I can read people’s eyes, almost like you can see subtitles going across, right? I go to shake somebody’s hand and 99 percent of the time I get a normal handshake back. And then that 1 percent of the time, or less, maybe one out of a couple hundred, I see just this fear and panic. You go to shake their hand and they’re like, pause, and it’s like guy doesn’t have an arm, what does he want me to do? Oh, my God!
I just hang out and wait and they come in for an awkward elbow bump or something. Like thanks, bro, that was awesome. That was really cool.
Tim Ferriss: I like how you process that. Good work. What about your grandfather?
Kyle Maynard: My grandpa, for one super smart, and I did not inherit those genes. I mean like super smart. He was valedictorian and an engineer; valedictorian at the University of Illinois as an engineer. He and my dad; my dad was an engineer as well and they really were just great and being able to figure out ways to be able to go and adapt different things and the actual tools of what would be helpful.
Tim Ferriss: Problem solvers.
Kyle Maynard: Yeah, totally man.
Tim Ferriss: I didn’t learn to swim, believe it or not, until I was in my 30s. When did you learn to swim?
Kyle Maynard: It’s funny. I was on Howard Stern and he called my dad a dick for this, but my dad basically put me in the middle of a pool, taught me how to float on my back. And as soon as he thought I was good and I got it, he got out of the pool. And he was like: now, figure out how to get out. So I immediately started crying and went straight to the bottom of the pool. But you know, I was probably like 4 years old something like that; 3 or 4.
Tim Ferriss: Wow. If you had writing, eating, swimming, what was the most difficult of those and is there something else that I’m missing, aside from asking girls out, that was particularly difficult for you?
Kyle Maynard: The physical stuff was less taxing to figure out. I kind of had this idea, this belief, that there would always be a way; there would be some tool. Driving in particular was a little bit trickier. I was a little bit older.
Because I wan to be, in terms of the adaptations in the equipment that I use, a lot more sort of Spartan. I want things to be very simple, very mechanical, few points of failure. The first vehicle that this amazing group that helps people with spinal injuries in Atlanta wanted me to drive was this massive Ford van. It was this huge thing, had these touch screen computers. This was back in 2002 or ’03, so using touch screen computers and joy sticks for the gas and the brake, and I’m like this is crazy.
I’m driving in tiny lanes in Atlanta rush hour traffic with this giant death trap. It was just this tank that’s barreling down the highway and I’m like no, never again. I’m not doing that again. You know, like not control, deleting on the highway; there’s no way.
Tim Ferriss: Escape, escape! Literally!
Kyle Maynard: Eject!
Now they have pedals and I drive an SUV and it’s just got basically lifted up and extended pedals. It’s very simple. You could hop in my car and drive it. It’s like just put your legs underneath it. I use my left foot to hit the brake and my right foot to hit the gas, and grab the steering wheel with my arms. My mountain guide friend, actually, who’s done some pretty scary things like climbed Everest and stuff said one of the scariest moments of his life was when he was driving with me the first time and I grabbed my phone to answer it while we were driving. I got the Bluetooth thing going now, so.
Tim Ferriss: I want to talk a little bit about Cub Scouts.
Kyle Maynard: Sweet.
Tim Ferriss: Just in general. Just forget all these people; I want to talk about the Cub Scouts.
Kyle Maynard: Awesome.
Tim Ferriss: Should I join? No. I read a story about caves. Can you talk a little bit about your experience?
Kyle Maynard: Yeah. I think this is where I found my environment, found my homeland like Gimli in Lord of the Rings or something.
In a subterranean environment, I realized it was like this great equalizer. So we went to this cave in Indiana. I was in the Boy Scouts and my dad and my grandpa were there. You’ve got to crawl through these tunnels, and it’s like these tiny, wet, cave tunnels and I was like awesome, just sprinted past everybody, like this is great! I don’t know why it’s so hard for everyone.
Tim Ferriss: What drove you to the athletics, and what came first? Was it street hockey? Was that the first competitive sport? I don’t know.
Kyle Maynard: The first team sport that I played was football, and then wrestling. I always had this interest in sports. I was obsessed and had this delusion that I’d be in the NBA someday. I was a big Atlanta Braves fan and like John Smoltz or [inaudible] Greg Maddux throwing fast balls and changeups and stuff.
And I think the really cool thing was that my parents did let me have this dream. They didn’t squelch it. My mom was a little bit more pragmatic so when I did go to play football, she was telling me you might be the water boy on the team; they’re going to find a place for you.
And in my head, I said I want to be the quarterback. I want to be throwing the spiral touchdowns. It was interesting how those dreams, and I’m sure as you can relate, the dreams that you may have had at a certain point didn’t manifest exactly how you saw them go. But it set you on this path and this journey that then takes you down other turns and corridors and you go into other directions that you never would have imagined before.
Tim Ferriss: The GNC’s World’s Strongest Teen; started with ten pounds, got up to 210 each arm; what was that, the World’s Strongest Teen for GNC? That was bench press, right?
Kyle Maynard: Yeah, I was 17, 18 years old. We just kind of picked a weight, 240 pounds, and I just did as many repetitions as I could, sort of like a combine-esque kind of situation. I ended up at that competition, so I did 23 repetitions at that and weighed about 120 pounds at the time. It’s just crazy. I opened a gym about eight years ago and frequently when someone would come into the gym and talk to me, or one of our coaches, they would point at somebody doing something amazing and they would go and say “There’s no way I can do that.” And I hear that all the time.
To me, it’s like you have no idea where that person started. You have no idea the massive amount of failure that went into being able to get to that point where then they were doing something awesome. But the difference was they stuck it out, they did the work, and then that was the result. It’s like I think if I could go back in time and tell that 10-year-old that was really struggle that someday you’ll be able to lift that weight, or travel the world as a speaker, or have businesses and date some amazing girls, or climb some of the highest peaks in the world all of those different experiences; if I could tell that 10-year-old that it would almost seem like a fantasy story.
I think in coming back to that question we talked about about veterans and somebody that’s maybe at a really hard spot, if they could talk to someone, a version of themselves ten or 20 years later after they had really faced some of these fears, then I think they would have their minds blown as to what they’d be able to achieve.
Tim Ferriss: For sure.
Tim Ferriss: You mentioned the gym, which brings this to mind and I’ve already alluded to this; this is like the red door knob in Sixth Sense so I’ll get to my question, which is Georgia; why did you guys move to Georgia?
Kyle Maynard: My grandparents moved down.
Tim Ferriss: This was what, sixth grade?
Kyle Maynard: Sixth grade, yeah. My grandparents moved down. We were in Indiana, and it was like the snow and all that; it was the best thing to happen in doing the move and going to Georgia but at the time it felt like the worst.
I tried to stage a family coup d’état to try to overthrow my dad and go back to Indiana. I now get to sort of quasi mentor and help a lot of kids with disabilities, and I notice that those transitory periods, any time there’s a major transition in someone’s life with a move or say you’re going from middle school to high school, or high school to college, or college to the world; then it’s those periods of transition that are the most difficult. Because it’s like my friends in Indiana saw me as Kyle, saw me as normal and now I’ve got to go and reacclimatize an entire new group of people in Georgia.
Tim Ferriss: I imagine that sports were a huge tool in the tool kit for that, right? You jaw break a few dozen people; I’m good with Kyle. Kyle’s good.
Kyle Maynard: Just bodies everywhere.
Tim Ferriss: It’s like a war movie.
Kyle Maynard: Don’t mess with that guy; you’d better be his friend.
Tim Ferriss: What helped you in that transition, aside from the sports? What was the self talk, or what did your parents or grandparents say to you?
Kyle Maynard: My mom especially, she used to always talk about psychosomatics and all that stuff. She would just talk about kind of mind over matter and just be drilling things in my head of focusing on the positive and all of that. I’m super glad she had that perspective. But it wasn’t always the case; my mind didn’t obviously always go there. Probably one of the most difficult transitions that I faced was when I was a freshman at University of Georgia.
I wrote a book, and as you know when you go and launch a book, it changes your life pretty dramatically with the book tour and all that stuff. I got to be on Oprah and Larry King when I was 19. I went from being a full-time college student to full-time business traveler overnight. In my community, people knew me and they didn’t make the disability that big of an issue. But when I was gone and traveling, especially by myself, many people looked at me very differently.
Of course they want to help and things like that. I’ve had some pretty hilarious events where it was like for sure I’ve learned that one of my bigger challenges was accepting help. But there were sometimes where I knew it would just be better and easier if whatever it was, I did it on my own. One time in the New York airport, LaGuardia, it was a real, super steep jet way. This guy and I get in a little bit of an argument. He works at the airport and he’s telling me he has to push my wheelchair down this jet way. I’m like no, no, it would be better if I did it.
He’s like: no, I have to; it’s a liability. We go back and forth and finally I give in. But this guy was like the tallest human being I’ve ever seen, literally. He goes and takes about three steps down the jet way and he gets his foot caught in the back of my wheelchair and he goes down. So he doesn’t just let go; he just launched me down the jet way. I sped up and I see the people at the bottom with their eyes like: this is it, he’s coming; what do we do?
And I tried to grab the wall to slow myself down and it was like this big streak of blood came down and it was like a big CSI crime scene. I hit the bottom of the ramp and flipped out of the chair, and I was laughing hysterically that I had survived.
Tim Ferriss: You’re like good liability coverage, pal; thanks for that!
Kyle Maynard: I was like dude, it’s all good. Never, ever help me again, please.
Tim Ferriss: Stop helping me!
Kyle Maynard: My coach used to stay after at practice and he would literally tuck his arms into his sleeves and wrestle from my perspective for hours, just trying to figure out moves I could go and do. I think a lot of times, too, we looked at things and we’d forget. We’d looked at one person who’s achieved something great and we’re like oh, man, that person. We don’t see the massive amount of people, the hundreds or thousands of people that have poured their lives into trying to help that person.
Tim Ferriss: For sure. I read an essay by Arnold Schwarzenegger recently which was “I am Not a Self-made Man.” He basically made the same point. He’s like, people ask me all the time, as a self made man; he’s like: let me stop you right there. Because you don’t see all of these other people, all the other input.
Did jiu-jitsu come into the picture first, or the opening of the gym?
Kyle Maynard: The jiu-jitsu came in because I saw some Gracie videos and I was like, I want to try this stuff.
Tim Ferriss: Gracies in Action?
Kyle Maynard: Yeah, there were some Gracies in Action.
Tim Ferriss: The footage of the cheetahs catching the wild –
Kyle Maynard: Right!
Tim Ferriss: This is like VHS ‘90s.
Kyle Maynard: This was like ’88, exactly.
Tim Ferriss: The early days.
Kyle Maynard: Yeah, the early days. I saw those videos and I was like, whoa; a human is able to do this to another human? I have to learn! I went in and I got choked out by a girl, and I was like super quick, too. She triangle choked me, slapped around and I was out. I was like wrestling club level but still preparing to go to the nationals in good shape.
Tim Ferriss: Wrestlers love to get caught in triangles.
Kyle Maynard: Totally. It’s the worst, you know? It teaches all the bad habits.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, God I really want to demo a triangle choke now, but we’re going to save that. We just got our ads all done. We just got done. So the jiu-jitsu, I need to do that to another human being. Choke people? Yes, must do that.
Kyle Maynard: I saw this chick do this to a guy. This girl, she did it to a guy that was like 200 pounds.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, it’s amazing.
Kyle Maynard: And I was like, how could this be, you know?
Tim Ferriss: Did the jiu-jitsu then, did you get bitten by that bug before opening the gym? Was it concurrently? What was the timeline on that?
Kyle Maynard: It was a little bit before. I had been training for a few years and then opened the gym, and actually shoe to pursue a fight in MMA within a couple of months.
Tim Ferriss: That’s fast; ambitious.
Kyle Maynard: I had tried to do an MMA fight before in 2007 and got denied.
Tim Ferriss: The state wouldn’t commission it, or the Athletic Commission wouldn’t sanction it?
Kyle Maynard: Yeah, the head commissioner, he was in a wheelchair, actually. He told me: I think it’s amazing what you’re doing here for people with disabilities and we support you doing it. Then they had a commission meeting. Won’t be a problem to get your license. This was an amateur fight in Georgia. And then a couple of weeks before the fight, I don’t know. There was a big outcry on the internet. A lot of people had opinions about things and said some pretty gnarly stuff.
My sisters were crying reading some of this stuff. People saying “Kyle’s a limbless freak show, doing this to get back on TV.” And “Come take a chainsaw and cut off my arms and legs so I can get on TV, too.”
You know, the super classy YouTube comments. So yeah, and it was kind of my first time doing something that was very polarizing like that. It was a unique experience and it was also coupled around the time I had just opened the gym and did some training for the fight, and some nights sleeping at the gym. I had opened it up and I was coaching all the classes; I’m the CEO, I’m also the janitor so when somebody goes and pukes during a workout, I’ve got to go clean the toilet.
So all those things are going on simultaneously while I’m trying to prepare for this fight, which is one of the biggest events of my life. It was a wild experience. But I look back on that; it was amazing. Some of my best friends, actually one of them is here who produced a documentary on it that ESPN bought, and now it’s on Netflix. It was an amazing journey.
Tim Ferriss: What’s the doc called?
Kyle Maynard: It’s called A Fighting Chance.
Tim Ferriss: So that was your first time being thrown to the internet wolves, in a sense?
Kyle Maynard: Yeah. You know a thing or two.
Tim Ferriss: They’re hungry. Oh, I do know a thing or two about that.
What did you learn from that? What did you take away from that. That was, no matter what, a really difficult experience. But you have your family reading these things; what did you learn from that? Actually, I could phrase it a different way and you can tackle it however you’d like; if you were to give yourself advice just before getting into that situation, what would you have said?
Kyle Maynard: Have compassion for them. Have some empathy for them and understand all they’re doing is projecting my capabilities based on their own experiences. And imaging if I were in Kyle’s shoes, then of course I wouldn’t be able to go do this or that. And if you don’t have any experience, like if I’ve never trained with you or whatever, then it would make sense. A guy going into a fight, punching and kicking is allowed, chocking is allowed; all of that stuff. It seems like crazy and ridiculous until we train together and I can change your perspective.
In their map of the world, in their understanding, it was like I get it; it makes perfect sense. And at the same time in the cage, I got to sit in there and be the first time in there looking out, not as a spectator but as a participant and it was like such a cool view, man. It was like wow, like 99.99 percent of the people who said those things would never have that view because they’re so busy talking shit that they don’t live their lives to then have that experience. There’s a Teddy Roosevelt quote from a speech that he gave with this excerpt called Man in the Arena. I really encourage everyone here to go and check that out. It made a huge impact on me.
Tim Ferriss: Man in the Arena; definitely check it out. I was in the middle of getting dragged through the mud at one point for some minor infraction on the universe; I don’t remember what it was but just like getting stoned to death on the internet by some minor contingent of rabble rousers.
I was just really down on myself and I watched Ratatouille and the Anton ego review at the end; I’m going to probably take us back on track but check it out.
Kyle Maynard: That’s awesome. Teddy Roosevelt and [inaudible] –
Tim Ferriss: I’m going to class it up by bringing Ratatouille in the picture. But Man in the Arena, for sure a must read. So you’re in the octagon, or the cage; what was going through your head, whatever stands out in your memory when you’re warming up and getting ready, going towards it, or getting in it; what’s going through your mind?
Kyle Maynard: I started before this. In wrestling, I had overwhelming competitive anxiety, pre-match anxiety. I would be overtaken by it to the point where I eventually wanted to know nothing about my opponents.
I remember I beat a kid that was super tough and afterwards the coach was like: did you know he was a two-time state champ? And if I had known going into it, I probably would have lost. so really going in this fight, I did so much visualization and it sounds kind of like woo-woo but it was so much visualization.
I told my instructor, Paul Kraton, my jiu-jitsu coach at the time, I told him “I feel like I’ve been here like ten times, like this is my 10th or 12th fight” because I had visualized it so much that when I finally got there, I was able to be calm enough to be able to enjoy that moment.
Tim Ferriss: What happened in the fight?
Kyle Maynard: It wasn’t the most exciting fight in the world. My goal, my strategy was I wanted to go and cut the cage corners off. It was a square cage that we were fighting in. I wanted to be able to go and then work the angles to then hit the lowest angle or whatever it was to be able to go and drive him against the cage and take him down. I’m not much of a kick boxer, if you can imagine. In the first round I was kind of baiting him to come to me.
It was kind of uneventful. But by the second round I was like press the action. I’m pressing him, trying to cut the corners and all that. Didn’t get him down, ate some jabs. Probably the hardest shot I ate was maybe in the second round. In the third round I was like screw this, reckless abandon. I come chasing this guy as hard and fast as I can, like 90 seconds and even the announcer is like: well this guy’s on his treadmill, now. It was more like a track event than it was an MMA fight. I’m like, I’m gonna go out there.
And eventually it was like screw this; if he’s not gonna come and engage I’m gonna force the action. I went and laid in the middle of the cage on my back, and he came and just crushed me on the liver. And I was like oh, bad idea; get back up!
Tim Ferriss: Like alright, plan B.
Kyle Maynard: But on the internet it was funny. So many people said Kyle’s definitely gonna die. Definitely gonna die. I’m gonna turn on the TV and it’s gonna be the first televised death.
I was training Forest Griffin at the time. Forest, before he was going to fight Shogun who’s like a legendary MMA fighter, and they were like: Forest is definitely gonna die against Shogun. He ended up beating them but it was like Forest is gonna die, Kyle’s gonna die; this camp is going to provide the first two MMA deaths. But whatever, I didn’t die. Unless I did and actually this is the afterlife.
Tim Ferriss: I didn’t want to have to be the one to tell you.
Kyle Maynard: Yeah, that’s awkward.
Tim Ferriss: It’s a little awkward. This is going to be a private conversation. So the training for the public exposure, the fight itself –?
Kyle Maynard: By far the most valuable thing is that it’s okay to have people pissed off at me or mad at me, or saying things about me, like whatever. It hurt at first. I read that, I read all the stuff and I don’t want to say that it didn’t frustrate me. I remember I wrote this post on the underground and it just got buried and nobody even replied to it.
It was like this whole wave just kind of kept going of people talking about stuff that was out of my control. And I was like they don’t know; I want to go and show them. After it was done, the experience of it was like screw that; I don’t need to convince everyone. There are plenty of people that I don’t need to go and convince. We all walk around with this idea, myself included; we all do it. but I try to remind myself all the time that I don’t have a freaking clue what reality is. I don’t know. I don’t know, and I want to be out in the world and try and figure that out.
And just give up my assumptions and beliefs and whatever those things are, and not be tied to any one thing. And we go and see stuff right now, with like the election and how polarized everybody gets and we go and get so gripped to these beliefs on one side or another. And it’s not that one side or the other is better; to me it’s both the same thing. It’s like we have to sometimes be able to go and see that it’s just our own perception. It has nothing to do with reality.
Tim Ferriss: A piece of advice that was given to me at one point when I was getting very frustrated was it’s not about the people who don’t get it; it’s about the people who do get it. Don’t worry about the first group.
Kyle Maynard: Totally.
Tim Ferriss: Everybody has to read Man in the Arena. It is very important reading. It goes well with the serenity prayer. I’m not a religious guy but they actually go really well together.
What habits do you have, practices, routines, traditions, anything to keep yourself positive? Because at least in our interactions, you’re one of the most consistently positive and enabling people for other folks. How do you keep that going? What are things that you find help to develop that or maintain it? Because for me, it’s like I have to have those things. It’s like going to the gym. It’s like you read one book and you’re done. It’s not anything like that.
Kyle Maynard: I think right now that’s probably the biggest thing I’m struggling with in my life. I travel close to 200 days a year and I’m just beat up by that. So it’s different all the time. That routine and structure is definitely something I want to have more consistently. And right now I’m taking actions towards creating that in my life. I would say the one thing that makes a difference for me is I can fake extroversion well, but I’m not.
Tim Ferriss: I’m the same. I won’t get it, but I’ll need 20 hours of sleep after this.
Kyle Maynard: Totally.
Tim Ferriss: Unfortunately, not in the cards.
Kyle Maynard: You know, and sometimes you get up and you do it anyway, even when you don’t feel like doing it. And that’s I think the difference with a performer; someone who’s a high performer. You have to do it, even when you don’t feel like it. There are plenty of times when I’m at speeches and stuff like that where I don’t feel like giving a speech that day, but get up and do it anyway.
The biggest habit I think that I’ve been conscious of lately, there’s so much discussion and I talk about this in the speeches too, but it’s the idea of why. That’s a big discussion. But I think the missing link we have with that is there are hundreds of whys that are occurring simultaneously for any given moment of why you’re going to go and do anything; maybe thousands, but at least hundreds. Right now you could come up with a hundred whys on the spot if you had ten minutes to think about it, of like why you’re doing this TV show.
And not to have judgment over those things; some things might be business-related. Some things might be making an impact on people. It might be just so many different inner things connected with that. And really what I’ve noticed is that’s okay. And I get to go then at that point and select what is the one that’s going to be the most empowering place to come from with this, in this example. I was a young entrepreneur reading your books and looking up to you.
So if I come at it from this perspective of one of the whys of me being here would be like I want to do a good job for Tim. But that’ not the most empowering why. IT can be part of it, and you can coexist with the fact that there may be some people in this room right now that are struggling with things that are way more difficult than anything you or I have ever faced.
And if one thing either you or I could say could make one bit of difference with that person or people, then that to me matters way more than anything else. And I know that all the other stuff of like look good on TV, or do a good job for Tim, that that would be taken care of doesn’t even matter. But if my awareness is there, that’s what matters.
In so many instances I’ve been profoundly impacted by veterans that also were in some really rough spots. I desperately wanted to serve. I wanted to go. When 9/11 happened and you aw the planes go in the towers, I was like, I want to go, bad; send me.
And I would have done anything to go. I was in high school, testosterone and all of that. I’ve got so many friends who are in the military now; some of my closest friends, active duty. Some retired, some injured, some not; anybody that’s ever put on that uniform I have a tremendous respect for.
[Applause] On several instances and times I’ve been feeling sorry for myself, and I hate this word but motivational speakers, they have bad days, too. You have moments where you don’t feel like motivating but then I’d go and meet some veterans and just have these powerful experiences and things that really reshaped the way I go and think about stuff. I remember I was just sharing with some friends today about how I went in a couple years ago, a trip just back to Walter Reed.
I got to go and visit – we actually played the documentary, A Fighting Chance, and we had a viewing at Walter Reed and spent about an hour in this hospital room with this one kid who had recently been blown up pretty badly. He was 19, 20 years old and he was sitting there with his dad. It was fairly recent that it had happened. I invited him to come down and watch the movie with me. We had maybe an intimate kind of thing; 30 or 40 people in the room watching the film.
And seeing their reactions, too, when people would go and say the things they said about me in an A fight and it was powerful. Some of them wanted to just like strap up and go after those guys. I’m like: whoa, you guys need to chill. So this one kid, I remember 15 minutes after the movie started. He was in his chair, and he had been blown up really, really high and lost both legs.
It was really high, and they said it was one of the first times he got to come out of his room, like one of the first times ever since he had been there. Stuff like that, it put a different feeling and perspective on it because it took away this idea that I needed to go and serve with a rifle; there would be other ways I can serve now. I still with every fiber of my being want to go and find ways to help those who have been over there to defend us.
Tim Ferriss: This is from Ryan Minnick: No Excuses; the book was published a decade ago. Is there anything about the book you wish you could revise, and I would just tag onto that, or add or remove for that matter; is there anything you would change?
Kyle Maynard: I don’t think we have time for that.
I can answer and summarize that with it’s a perfect snapshot in time of who Kyle Maynard was at 19 years old. It’s not a big weakness that I’ve had and it kind of connected to what you had said about why speaking; why am I doing that? Well, a lot it, frankly, I don’t have a good answer for that because it’s what I have always done. In many regards, I think that the struggle sometimes that I have now is that someone will read my book and have me come in and speak to their group, and that’s awesome.
But it’s also like their map of who Kyle is is the 19-year-old version. And I might not even talk about wrestling; there’s a lot of other stuff to talk about. So yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Do you have plans to write more books?
Kyle Maynard: I do, and I can’t give you BS excuses to why I haven’t. I think the big reason of why I haven’t; I’m kind of glad that I haven’t.
Tim Ferriss: Extreme pain in writing is always my excuse.
Kyle Maynard: Yeah, right, totally. I actually see some of your posts and I’m like, that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. It takes a lot out of you. But at the same time, I’m like a book is a very permanent sort of medium. I don’t know if someday I’ll have kids or not. I have a niece and nephew, and someday they’ll have kids and their kids. So way after I’m gone and way after you’re gone, those books will still be around as sort of a way for people to know who you were.
Tim Ferriss: I always tell p when they’re like: yeah, I really want to write a book, maybe in my spare time. And I’m like – a mediocre book is more of a liability than a help; trust me.
Kyle Maynard: Big time.
Tim Ferriss: Can’t pull that one. Can’t put the toothpaste back in the toothpaste tube on that. That’s a really messy operation; it’s not going to work.
When you’re traveling, what does a workout look like for you? The pain cave; how do you create that on the road?
Kyle Maynard: I know that just with my body alone I can make a lot of different things happen; different body weight things. If I have one dumbbell or something like that, I can go and use it. It helps for me to have a little bit of a mat or something like that, a yoga mat or something to brace off of. But generally there’s some form, or even any type of object. If I need to pick up this chair and go move around really fast a bunch, it might look really weird for anybody that comes in on that but –
Tim Ferriss: I’m just imagining the cleaning lady; like what is happening right now? Am I on drugs? I gotta get out of here.
Kyle Maynard: Totally. This guy is definitely on drugs. And I don’t want whatever he’s got. They’ll just make me move a bunch of chairs everywhere.
Tim Ferriss: Worst recreational trip ever! If you had to give a TED Talk on something you’re not known for, do you have any pet obsessions, things you geek out on that you’d present on?
Kyle Maynard: It’s a little bit different but I’d probably give a TED Talk on parenting. I don’t have any kids so who am I to give a talk on that? But like seeing my sister as a parent is really special. My niece was diagnosed with Type I diabetes and some days are really hard with that. That’s a disability that you can’t necessarily always see, unless you see maybe a glucose monitor on someone or an insulin pump. But my sister is just, I don’t know, she’s just awesome with that. It just is really special.
The other day, she was at this birthday party and this little girl came up to her and could see that she had a glucose monitor on the back of her arm. It was this princess-themed birthday party, and this little girl was like, “You can’t be a princess because you have one of those.” My immediate response was like “You can’t be a princess because you’re the Devil.”
Tim Ferriss: I think that’s a fair response. Just head butt her ass, right?
Kyle Maynard: That’s right, the little girl. Oh, no, the person got it on YouTube!
Tim Ferriss: Don’t make me break your [inaudible] give me the phone! So how did your sister handle that?
Kyle Maynard: She’ll talk to her about it and just in this open, loving way, and like yeah, it sucks and dealing with the reality of it. But she won’t let her be consumed with this identity around the type I diabetes. And teaching her even at a young age, like yeah, if you want to do something some day to be able to make a difference with this, you can. She’s like 4 years old and she’s the sweetest girl in my life. I think that, too, in her being around me has kind of given her a level of indifference about the disability, which I think is a really good thing.
Indifference there is like zero separation; it’s just like normal. The only time my niece has ever said anything, we were coloring together and it was this Elsa Nonna thing we were coloring and she looked at at me and she said, “Ky-ky, you don’t have have hands.” And I was like, “Yeah, I don’t.” She was like, “Huh.” And we went back to coloring.
Tim Ferriss: That’s amazing.
Kyle Maynard: I love Tool Maynard James Keenan in Tool. He’s the man. I love him. He’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu, wrestled in the Army.
Tim Ferriss: I didn’t know that.
Kyle Maynard: Yeah. I saw a guy that tried to get on stage with him one time; got past security. The guy went to go give him a hug and Maynard went to give him a hug and he head tossed him, took the guy’s back, rear naked choke. The guy’s like rocking out and Maynard starts singing again, and then the guy’s hand just drops. Like bad stage [inaudible].
Tim Ferriss: I just wanted a hug!
Kyle Maynard: So Maynard goes and gives up his music career, and he’s still doing but he’s had this super successful career in music, completely gives it up and recreates himself as a wine maker.
Tim Ferriss: I didn’t know that.
Kyle Maynard: You didn’t know that?
Tim Ferriss: No.
Kyle Maynard: Dude, you’re like the wine guy.
Tim Ferriss: I’m an avid consumer.
Kyle Maynard: I’ve drank my body weight many times over because of you. I thought for sure you would know that.
Tim Ferriss: No, I mean look – I am gung-ho in my drinking capacities.
Kyle Maynard: A consumer. Got it. You know in wine; it’s a a brutal business.
Tim Ferriss: It’s super brutal. I have a buddy who owns a bunch of bars and I asked him why he didn’t do restaurants; like why don’t you have food on your menu?
And he points to a window and he’s like, “I would rather put my hands behind my back, jump through that window face first, take all of my money and light it on fire in the street than start a restaurant,” and he explained it.
Kyle Maynard: He’s kind of indifferent to it.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it’s just like magazines, newspapers, restaurants; you probably should just light your money on fire. And then wineries, with the exception of a handful of people, very hard to make work; brutal, brutal. And you’re at the whim of acts of God. If you have a bad season, you have a bad season.
Kyle Maynard: I think wine makers are some of the most interesting people. In Argentina in this last climb when we were in the land at Malbec and spent time with this guy, the wine was Ellen Amigo and had this super masculine half scorpion/half man on the label. But it said: at the end there’s only one battle you remember, and it’s the battle within.” Of course I’m like, this could be terrible but I’m going to love it.
Tim Ferriss: Get me a case of that!
Kyle Maynard: Yeah, but the guy was like testing limits and testing assumptions where he was growing grapes at altitudes that people said you couldn’t do it, and I love that. It’s like I love that you can go and test those assumptions. It’s in medicine, it’s in everything. I just got to give a speech with Pfizer and I talked about the treatment that my grandma went through with cancer. Oncology treatment products are some of the things they make. The polarity that occurred and the tension that occurred inside of our family and how that treatment should go was really intense.
Finally she was dealing with oncologists that had gone to school maybe 40 or 50 years ago, and they’re at the very tail end of their careers and they’re not updating the map. There are so many things, like even fasting has demonstrated profound effects on radiation and chemo treatments.
Tim Ferriss: Oh yeah, it’s incredible.
Dominic D’Agostino, who I’ve interviewed a few times, is an incredible scientist and has looked at the effects. It’s not effective for all types of cancer; it’s not suitable for all patients. But there are published studies looking at how it can sensitize cancer cells to different types of treatments while protecting healthy cells. It’s very, very fascinating stuff. I just want to mention one thing. You were talking about how everyone’s like Swiss cheese; we all have our disabilities. Just some are more visible than others, perhaps.
So Malbec, and this may be an exaggeration; that’s also common in Argentina. Very passionate people; they love telling stories. But Malbec was not really well known in the world before Argentina, but it was brought from Europe. And my understanding is it was basically treated like a garbage grape. Then the immigrants brought it to Buenos Aries and it’s turned into this world famous wine that was discarded, effectively.
So you never know where you’re going to find the strength.
Kyle Maynard: The garbage grape; man, maybe that’s a book right there. Seriously, I think about this. Every one of my favorite societies to go study like the Spartans and the Vikings and these weird cultures; they would have left me to die. Take this one and throw him over the edge. Like the beginning of The 300 where they’re throwing the babies off; that would have been me, clearly.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, my God, so many amazing images coming up today.
Kyle Maynard: [Inaudible].
Tim Ferriss: I’m still thinking about you on coke moving your furniture around.
Kyle Maynard: Well, the night is young.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, the night is young. It would be a hell of a party.
Kyle Maynard: What time have you got to film tomorrow?
Tim Ferriss: [Inaudible] the chandelier! I’m on it!
From when you had the initial idea to do Kilimanjaro to the point where you were actually suited up, geared, and about to start the climb; how much time elapsed?
Kyle Maynard: So sitting in the bathtub, I had the idea. That was fall of 2010. I met my friend Dan in April of 2011 and we started this project together. Then by January 3, 2012 we were on the plane flying to Africa.
Tim Ferriss: You had to figure out a lot of stuff, right?
Kyle Maynard: First it was getting somebody who was crazy enough to take us, seriously.
Tim Ferriss: How did you convince someone to do it?
Kyle Maynard: It was rough. One of my friends and mentors, this guy named Eric Weinemeyer who is the first blind mountaineer to climb Mt. Everest and every high peak in the world. He actually just rafted the entire length of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Not rafting like on a raft; he was kayaking blind.
Tim Ferriss: Wow.
Kyle Maynard: Not like you can peek through when you put a blindfold on; it’s crazy to think about that.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, that’s wild.
Kyle Maynard: He’s insane; he’s amazing. I sought him out and my friend Dan, who helped me co-create the mission, Dan was the first one who was crazy enough to go along with me. He’d been a record setting middle linebacker. He was like five foot nine or something like that and had 21 unassisted tackles in a game. He was just a passionate, esoteric guy that I could connect with on that level. I almost burnt my house down; totally random story but he microwaved an aluminum coffee mug.
I was doing some emails and there’s flame shooting down my [inaudible]. I’m like, bro! I hope he sees this. But he’s this kind of guy who would go and run through a brick wall, and I needed that person to have that belief with me.
From there, we sought out Eric. Eric introduced us to our guide, Kevin Shrilla. Kevin had managed Eric’s base camp of his Everest climb, this base camp manager. He’s led more climbers up Kilimanjaro than I think any American, and many with disabilities. He led a guy almost to the true summit in a hand-cranked bike. He led a group of eight blind climbers up Kilimanjaro. So with Kevin, he and his partner Christen, they kind of made it happen.
Tim Ferriss: I just want to thank you, Kyle, for honestly showing everyone that they can do more than they think they’re capable of doing. It’s a huge gift to the world. Ladies and gentlemen, Kyle Maynard.
Posted on: May 30, 2018.
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