Kyle Maynard motivates students to find their “why”


Kyle Maynard, born without arms and legs, spoke to Kent students about overcoming obstacles and accomplishing goals on November 8, 2012 in the Cartwright Auditorium. Photo by MELANIE NESTERUK.

Matt North

Kyle Maynard, a congenital amputee who recently became the first person to crawl to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, spoke to students in Cartwright Hall Thursday night about finding their drive to accomplish goals despite their own disabilities.

The words “impossible is nothing” opened up the night during a short introduction video which highlighted all of Maynard’s athletic accomplishments despite his disability.

Maynard then crawled up the stairs and across the stage to a standing ovation in order to deliver his first message of the night.

“My message is a simple one, but it’s a hard one to speak about and even harder to live,” he said. “The message is there are no good excuses.”

Maynard spoke to the crowd of about 200 students, many who where athletes, about how he learned to overcome his limitations and pursue a normal life.

Maynard said he struggled at first to do basic tasks like eating and dressing himself, but he said his family’s encouragement helped him learn to figure things out.

Today, Maynard says the only adaptation in his house is a stool in the bathroom because his dad continually stressed that the world would not cater to his every need and he would have to learn stuff on his own.

“Disability is an excuse,” he said. “I wanted to grow up and pursue normalcy.”

Maynard then transitioned into talking about his desire to change the way people saw him because he said the emotional challenges were tougher than the physical ones.

“It was tough for me. I always worried about the what – my future, my job and the paycheck,” he said. “Sometimes you get caught up with the what and you just have to find your why.”

“Finding your why” was a recurring theme in Maynard’s speech, a thought he began to consider after his appearance on Larry King Live in 2004. Maynard said King looked at him right before they went on air and asked “why are you here?”

“I had no idea what to say that,” Maynard said. “No one had ever asked me that before.”

After his interview, Maynard said he received over 4,000 e-mails, including one from a viewer who was in the process of drafting his suicide note. The e-mail said thank you for convincing me to stop.

“It was then when I realized there was a deeper meaning, a deeper purpose that I could be pursuing,” Maynard said.

Maynard then continued to preach to the crowd about finding that one thing they wanted to change in their lives.

“Ghandi said ‘be the change you wish to see in the world,’” Maynard said. “It’s become kind of a cliché, but it’s really true. There’s probably an excuse stopping you from that change. What if you said today that excuse dies in my seat? What would happen?”

Junior architecture major Andy Hotz attended the speech and said Maynard’s words resonated well within him, especially his words about having a purpose.

“Everything you do, do with distinction,” Hotz said. “Even the little things – getting up and going to class when you don’t want to. That’s why we are here to get our degree. We shouldn’t be making excuses.”

Maynard finished his speech by sharing the incredible story of his 10-day trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and how he was propelled by a promise to continue on. His promise was with a mother of a deceased Marine who wanted Maynard to spread her veteran son’s ashes at the summit.

“On the fourth day, I was in pain … but I looked at the ashes and I said to myself ‘there’s no way I’m breaking this promise,’’ he said. “I couldn’t have done it without finding my why.”

Contact Matt North at [email protected].