Quadruple Amputee Kyle Maynard Is a Photographer, Wrestler, and Inspiration Machine

Life advice is awesome under one condition only: when it’s being given by someone who has truly lived. That’s Kyle Maynard defined. At 26 years old, Maynard became the first quadruple amputee to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro without the aid of prosthetics. He’s an award-winning mixed martial arts athlete, best-selling author, and Arnold freakin’ Schwarzenegger has described him as “the real deal.” But Maynard didn’t always believe he would have a life like this. He talks us through two key moments in his youth where he felt a sense of hopelessness, and shares how he shook fear and doubt, and found the mindset that has been his path to success. Kyle Maynard is the author of No Excuses: The True Story of a Congenital Amputee Who Became a Champion in Wrestling and in Life. This video is part of a collaborative series with the Hope & Optimism initiative, which supports interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. The three-year initiative will provide over $2 million for philosophers, philosophers of religion, and social scientists to generate original, high-quality, collaborative research on topics related to optimism and hopefulness. Discover the public components of the Hope & Optimism project, and how you can contribute, at


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Transcript: Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” He said, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you that wouldn’t have open for anyone else, and doors will open where there were previously only walls.” To me that is like a big part of the way that I want to live my life now, is to follow my bliss. And if you don’t have something that makes you feel blissful I think that you have to go and take your eyes and look for ways in which you either are passionate about something or that you can make a difference in somebody else’s life.

And I think the times that those things intersect are the times for me that are the best. So if I’m doing something that’s going to go and make a difference for somebody else but it’s also something that I care about a lot myself then I’m most excited for that.

Right now people have been asking me, “What’s your next mountain? What are you going to climb?” I tell them photography, because I want to learn that. And it’s challenging to figure out how can I use a camera and adapt it to me.

And sometimes I’ve had some embarrassing moments—I’m at such an amateur level right now, and just because I’ve gotten to meet some amazing photographers and videographers and I go and talk to them about this stuff, and I’m like elementary school student right now with it.

I think a lot of what loosened the grip on that hopelessness was—I can look at two particular moments and sports helped with that. It was making my first tackle in football, and it was winning my first wrestling match.

In football the guy who went to go and block me had no idea how to block me, and I had no idea how he was going to go and do it, so he just stood straight up and I dove under his legs and tackled the quarterback. First play I got the sack. So I told my dad that night, “I think I’m done with youth football I’m going straight to the NFL now!”

And then in wrestling I lost every single wrestling match for a year and a half, so I lost 35 matches in a row. I hated it. My mom and dad were kind of dragging me out to wrestling practices, dragging me out to matches, and I wanted to go and give up, I wanted to quit.

And even if you asked my dad if he thought that I would have ever won a match, he had been a wrestler and he would have told you no. But he continued to kind of push me to stick with it.

Anyway my dad said, “Everybody loses their first year in wrestling. Everybody loses every match their first year,” he said, “but everybody wins at least one match their second season because you’ll find somebody who it’s their first season, so you’ll beat them.”

And that moment in time certainly started to loosen the grip on some of the fear and doubt that I had about my future, of what life was going to go and look like for me as quad-amputee in the future, and I would have had no idea that life could have turned out to be as amazing as it had.

But that’s what I think a lot about now: What drives me is to go and reach those ten-year-olds who are currently lacking hope?



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