This weekend, I attended the Georgia School Board Association annual meeting. (Now, that is a party.) And I had the opportunity to hear a great motivational speaker, Kyle Maynard. Kyle was born with arms that ended at the elbows and legs near the knees. Yet he has wrestled for one of the best teams in the Southeast, set records in weightlifting, fought in mixed martial arts, and most recently became the first man to crawl on his own to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.
Kyle is a very down-to-earth speaker who seems to just tell you what’s on his heart. He has obviously had some tough obstacles and keeps a good attitude about it. He seems to be very wise and has a lot to give to everyone he meets, even though he only 26 years old.
The lessons he talked about really resonated with me as he pointed out that many of us tend to focus too much on what’s wrong and too much on our problems. We all have the inclination to concentrate our efforts and our energies on the reasons that we can’t obtain everything we want. He encouraged us to look past what’s wrong to what’s possible.
Kyle told the story of how he lost all of his early wrestling matches. He wanted to quit, but his parents enforced the family rule that if you begin a sport you must finish the season. So he kept going, kept trying new moves, learning from mistakes and kept losing. Finally, he won and the obstacle was crossed. No longer was his disability a barrier to victory and he began winning.
He shared with the audience stories about the people who felt sorry for him and wanted him to quit. These were people who cared about him, felt sorry for him and wanted to protect him from more failure, to guard hem from more embarrassment. He talked about how he is now very aware of people always trying to project limitations on others, often with the best of intentions.
He told stories of his struggles and triumphs and how he often felt ready to give up. He spoke about having a successful motivational speaking career and griping about the aggravation that comes from that same success. Kyle learned that you have to put energy into taking care of yourself before you help others, before you can lead.
I realized that we consistently make excuses to protect ourselves (and others) from failure. “It’s too risky, it’s too expensive, it’s not the right time or it won’t work here.” I wish I had a nickel for every doctor I have heard say, “I could never get my staff to do that.”
Kyle made me see that as a leader, I sometimes try to change others when it is me and my attitude that needs to change first. I need to grow before I can effectively bring about positive change in others. Do you ever do that?
Kyle has written a book titled No Excusesthat is on the New York Times Best Seller list. He has been on Oprah Winfrey and Larry King. I had the chance to meet him after his presentation and got two signed copies of his book.
It is time to start thinking about a theme for the upcoming year. “No Excuses” is sounding pretty good to me right now.
Have a great week,