Kyle Maynard was born with a rare condition known as congenital amputation. This has left him with arms that end at the elbows and legs that end near his knees. From a young age he has learnt how to live life independently and without prosthetics.
In 2012, Kyle became the first quadruple amputee to climb – actually bearcrawl – the 19,340 feet to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro without the aid of prosthetics. His 10-day ascent was widely covered by the press, followed on social media, and raised money and awareness for wounded veterans as well as Tanzanian schoolchildren. Upon his return, Kyle won his second ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) award for Best Male Athlete with a Disability.
The 3 minute video below gives a short insight into his life and attitude to handling challenges:
Kyle thrives on physical challenges and following a few rough middle school football seasons; he went on to become a champion wrestler, CrossFit Certified Instructor and gym owner, competitive MMA/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter, world record-setting weightlifter, and skilled mountaineer. Each of those are for anybody no small achievements! But for someone without arms and legs that is truly amazing. How is that possible for someone with so much in the way of apparent limitations and setbacks?
From the video we get a glimpse into Kyle’s thinking and mindset to achieve something so extraordinary. Here is what he says:
“I said I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I was like how the heck are we going to? Three words: I don’t know. Those three words are three of the most important words of my life. All discoveries happen from I don’t know.
I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I can’t. But I do know that I want to try and figure it out. I want to go and find a way to get up there.”
I don’t currently have any ambitions to climb Mount Kilimanjaro (although it looks exciting!). Maybe you don’t have either. But we all have dreams and ambitions that we want to achieve with our lives. So often those dreams and ambitions can feel as daunting and impossible as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with no functioning arms and legs. Because of that many people give up on those dreams and settle for a life of mediocrity, or as Thoreau is quoted as saying, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation and die with their song still inside them.”
There is something about life that means we have to learn to step out not knowing all the answers, being willing to fail and make mistakes – even look foolish and incompetent for a period of time. And that is what holds so many people back. Because I don’t know how something is going to work it is so easy for me (and maybe you) to not try at all.
And maybe that is the greatest tragedy – to not have stepped out into the unknown and taken the risk of failure.
When I say that I am not talking about comparing yourself to other people or wishing you had their lifestyle or gifts. Instead I am referring to the deep divinely inspired longings and yearnings of your heart that come from spiritual maturity. In that case other people are not a source of envy or jealousy, but an encouragement, inspiration and wonder as to to what could be possible. (For more on this see How Do You Handle People Stronger And Better Than You?)
And like Kyle Maynard what we learn is the courage to take the next step even though we can’t see how to climb the whole mountain.
Here is how one of our fellow blog readers, Rod commented in 2014 on the subject of How To Fail and Lose Well:
“I am now nearly seventy-four years old. I think I was set up to expect failure. Throughout my life any success was a surprise, and always seemed unmerited, undeserved.
The death of a much older sibling during war, at age four, had induced a feeling of guilt………..was I responsible, and was it my duty to console my mother, who was so devastated?
Six years later my father was killed in a work accident. This may have re-enforced the script. I learnt to avoid responsibility, perhaps so that things could not go wrong. I did not attempt great things, and take risks, for the same reasons. I under achieved at school, and avoided sport, and competition.
Amazingly, through the unconditional love of friends, and my own children and grandchildren, recent years have brought a measure of healing, and with it an entirely new ability to enjoy my life, and to take risks, especially in reaching out to others. Even in the past year there has been a late flowering of creativity, and with it a deep thankfulness for the wonderful gift of life. ‘Counting my blessings’ has become part of my conscious thought life, and can help to turn round negative thinking. I try to do this when I am at my lowest.
As a child I escaped, alone, into the natural world of plants and small creatures; now I think these are more a joy than an escape, cause of wonder.”
So wherever you feel stuck in your life there is real hope and possibility way beyond where you may have thought possible!
For more on this subject also see:
7 Lessons From A Passport for a personal story of when I didn’t know what to do next.
What have you found helpful when you have felt stuck in your life and not sure what to do next?