Success Is a Decision

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

The most unusual thing about 19-year-old Kyle Maynard isn’t that he’s already in the Wrestling Hall of Fame.

It’s not that he currently holds the world’s record for modified bench press in his division.

And it’s not that he’s being honored as the World’s Strongest Teen.

The most unusual thing about Kyle Maynard is that he’s done all this – and much more – after being born in 1986 with a rare condition called “congenital amputation.”

Typically, this results in a missing finger or toe. But in his case, it is a more unusual and serious case of quadramembral phocomelia. That means he has no hands and no feet. In fact, he has no limbs at all below the elbows and knees.

As a 12-year-old, Kyle decided he wanted to join the school wrestling team, and he found a coach – Cliff Ramos – who gave him an opportunity to try out. Privately, Ramos thought “The poor kid. He wants to wrestle, but he won’t really be able to. And if he does, he will never win a match.”

But after losing every single match his first year and most of his second, Kyle became a very successful varsity wrestler on one of the best teams in the Southeast. In spite of his limitations, he found a way to win, defeating several state place finishers and state champions during his final high school season. He made the varsity lineup and finished with 36 wins and 18 losses. He was regional runner-up and one match away from placing in the state tournament.

Kyle began weight training as a youngster with leather straps and chains attached to his arms. In 2003, he attained the unofficial title of “World’s Strongest Teen” at the GNC Show of Strength competition by doing 23 repetitions of 230 lbs. Not long ago, he set a world record in the modified bench press at the Arnold Fitness Classic with 360 lbs. He can now lift nearly 400 lbs.

When faced with a tough wrestling opponent, Kyle says, “My coach and I developed a strategy. I knew it didn’t matter how much I was afraid, how much I was in pain, or how impossible the situation appeared to me. I knew the obstacles. This was no different from the rest of my life. We all have challenges to face and to overcome. No obstacle would keep me from accomplishing my dreams.”

And Kyle’s accomplishments aren’t limited to the wrestling mat. Using just two elbows, he can type up to 50 words per minute, eat and write without any adaptations, and drive a vehicle that has minimal modifications.

Two weeks ago, Kyle’s book, “No Excuses”, landed on my desk … just as I was in the midst of a personal decision. Compared to the decisions Kyle has had to make, mine was nothing. Still, it was something that had been bothering me for years.

I’d been thinking about joining a gym. But there’s always been some excuse. I’m too busy. I don’t know what I’m doing and it will be embarrassing. I don’t have the physique for a gym rat. Excuse after excuse after excuse … for years and years.

But 24 hours after reading Kyle’s story, I signed up. And now, two weeks later, I feel (ironically) like a huge weight has been lifted off me now that I’ve started lifting weights myself for the first time in my life.

All I needed to do all these years was get over the fear of just getting started.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California and former champion bodybuilder said, “As a champion weightlifter and wrestler, Kyle Maynard is the real deal. But as a champion human being, he is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.”

Continuing his amazing career, Kyle is now wrestling at the University of Georgia and has begun training in Jiu Jitsu and competing in the sport of submission wrestling. He plans to open a fitness center and help motivate people to stay fit.

Kyle’s story inspired me … and I thought it might inspire you too.

Is there something in life you’ve been waiting to do? Perhaps reading Kyle Maynard’s book will be the kick in the pants you need. Because when you think about Kyle, you realize that oftentimes success is nothing more than making a decision, a decision to get started.

As Kyle says, “It’s not what I can do, it’s what I will do.”