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American Author & Mix Martial Arts Athlete

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[0:00:00] Jay Ruderman: Climbing up Mount Kilimanjaro is an accomplishment not many people in the world will ever accomplish. Now imagine you climb up the 20,000-foot peak by bear crawling up the whole way.

[0:00:18] [All Inclusive, a podcast on inclusion, innovation and social justice with Jay Ruderman.]

[0:00:28] Jay Ruderman: Hi. I’m Jay Ruderman and this is All Inclusive. My guest today is the first person to bear crawl up Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Aconcagua. Kyle Maynard.

Kyle, welcome and I’m sure this is going to be a really interesting discussion. Maybe I can start out by just asking you a little bit about what it was like to grow up with your family and your friends and what was life like from the time you were a toddler to growing into an adult.

[0:01:06] Kyle Maynard: Yeah. To give your audience a little bit more of a perspective on my disability, so it’s congenital amputation and my arms end at the elbow and my legs end at the knee. Being born with it, I’ve never really known any other way. 

[0:01:23] So my family’s attitude growing up was to try to make things as normal as possible and do everything they could to try to – just to help me adapt into a world that wasn’t necessarily fit for me to be able to adapt in as I’m sure many of your listeners can relate to whether they have a disability all throughout their life or something that they – you know, [0:01:46] [Indiscernible] injury or illness. I think that it has taught me that mentality though that every single person on the planet has a disability. It’s probably one of the one big things that unites us and just to not be limited by it.

[0:02:00] So what that looked like growing up, you know, it was just learning how to pick up a spoon and drop it a thousand times until I figured out how to go and feed myself. You know, now hold it just between the ends of my arms and swing it around to go and scoop up the food, to driving a fairly minimally-adapted vehicle, living on my own out in West Coast for five years. You know, 3000 miles away from home and you know, getting to wrestle, compete in jiu-jitsu, football and climb some of the highest mountains in the world.

[0:02:33] So frankly like none of those things I would have ever imagined would have been possible in the beginning and it’s amazing I think what can become possible once we stay focused on the possibilities.

[0:02:48] Jay Ruderman: And your sisters – I guess you have three sisters who seem to have been really just accepting you as their brother and being really supportive of you growing up. I’m sure that was also – you know, that household you grew up in was a very strong household to have your childhood. 

[0:03:11] Kyle Maynard: Yeah. They – to kind of illustrate like a ridiculousness of the point of how – you know, they didn’t try to focus on the disability. Basically so there is a – at home, it just – it wasn’t really something that we put a lot of attention or focus on. We call that like the Jedi mind trick, right? They just try to focus the attention towards something else and it’s almost like perception becomes reality in a certain way.

[0:03:39] Like perception is perception and reality is reality. But like what we perceive is a great deal of like what – you know, what a reality becomes. So my sister, one day she was like at school and there’s a new kid that came to class that was an amputee and she was like, “Mom, mom, this kid came to school. He’s missing an arm. I wonder how he does this. I wonder how he does that,” and my mom told her. She’s like, “You do realize like your brother doesn’t have arms or legs.” She was like, “Whoa! I never even really thought about that.”

[0:04:11] You know, and so it’s kind of a – something that I learned that really changed my life when I learned it was the idea that the map is not the territory. What that means is like when we’re navigating through a specific territory, then our ability to be able to navigate through that territory is only going to be as useful as the map that we actually have and it’s – the map is never going to be the territory itself, right? The territory is infinitely complex. But yet the closer we can get the map to the territory itself, then the better we’re able to go and navigate.

[0:04:42] Jay Ruderman: So you are an athlete and in many ways an extreme athlete and growing up, you really focused on sports in high school and decided to wrestle. In fact you lost your first 36 matches in your senior year but end up becoming 12th in the nation. Where did that drive come from? Was that because of bullying or is that just something inside saying, “I’m going to put my focus into being the best athlete I can”?

[0:05:16] Kyle Maynard: It was a lot of factors. I can’t think that it relates back to any one thing. But I think that – you know, bullying is an interesting thing too, right? Because I mean it’s something that – I can’t say that it didn’t play a factor or role, right? Like the idea – you know, the sports that I specifically got into were very like sort of masculine. You know, like the combat sports, right?

[0:05:45] Like – or like very challenging things, like climbing mountains, things of that nature. So I think that idea of like trying to express myself physically was for sure like a big factor and not wanting to be bullied, you know, and I think the wrestling gave me that ability. When I first got into it though, I hated the sport because in wrestling, like you’re out there all alone. It’s you and your opponent on the mat, right?

[0:06:14] So it’s very different than in football. In a football game, if your teammate drops the ball and you lose the winning touchdown but like you – you played a good game yourself, then like you can walk away and be like, “Oh, OK. You know, I did my best and that was out of my control.”

[0:06:32] Wrestling is very different in a sense that like it was just me and my opponent out there and I was all alone. So there is no ability to be able to go and blame it on anybody else other than myself as to whatever happened. Also it just – the losses like wore on me. Like I don’t want to give anybody the impression that like – you know, that that was an easier time. Like I was like begging my mom and dad to let me quit and hated the sport and I was not having a good time and people at the time were basically saying that it was borderline child abuse that my mom and dad were making me do it.

[0:07:08] So that’s the crazy part and then fast forward to my senior year of high school, there was a different discussion and it – they had a piece on this. It was on HBO Real Sports and part of the piece that’s centered on that was whether or not I had an unfair advantage over the athletes I was competing against. So it’s just quite a juxtaposition from where I started where it was 0 and 35 when I first started out and absolutely hating the sport. Then all of a sudden my senior year of high school, winning 36 varsity matches and getting to go and beat state champions and state placers and compete at a high level.

[0:07:49] Jay Ruderman: So let’s talk about that. First of all, tell me about your coaches because usually coaches play a pivotal role in either encouraging athletes to move forward or deterring them. So my guess is that you are blessed with some really special coaches.

[0:08:07] Kyle Maynard: For sure. I was very blessed with the coaches that I had in my life. My football coach because I started out – football was the first organized team sport that I played and there was even a bit more discussion as to whether or not I should be allowed to play in football. In fact there was a seven-member board that was deciding whether or not I was allowed to play. There were three votes for me, three votes against me and my football coach Tom Schie had to go and lobby and fight for the seventh vote for me to be able to play.

[0:08:39] Had he not done that, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation and the idea was that it was going to be too dangerous, that I would be hurt, liabilities, all of those things and I completely understand that. You know, literally like the way that I was – would tackle people was I would take my helmet and I would smash it into my opponent’s shins as hard as I could. So …

[0:09:03] Jay Ruderman: Sounds painful.

[0:09:05] Kyle Maynard: Yeah, and probably was more for them than for me. But you know, I think – you know, and then the world of like the head injury stuff that we have today in conversation. Like I don’t think that I would be allowed to play, which then begs the question of like is that the right thing for us, for the world, for society.

[0:09:23] Like, you know – because if I hadn’t been allowed to play and been allowed to do that, then it would have turned out as a very different path and my wrestling coach, he would get down with my dad in the first early go-ins. He would stay after practices and like he was the head high school varsity coach and would stay after in the youth program and spend a significant amount of time working with me where he would tuck his arms into his sleeves and try to roll – wrestle from my perspective to go and give me an idea of how to move and, you know, try to come up with moves from my perspective. 

[0:10:01] Jay Ruderman: Well, I recently watched a talk by Arnold Schwarzenegger who said that those people who are successful in life have a goal and that goal drives them. So you obviously had a goal and that goal – you know, despite all the losses to start off with, that goal pushed you to stay with the sport and not to leave. But let’s talk about all – I mean did you have opponents who said listen, I’m not – I don’t want to fight him or did you have people in the crowds who were just heaping abuse on you and how do you deal with that?

[0:10:43] Kyle Maynard: Not so much in wrestling. In wrestling, it didn’t seem to be that much of an issue. There was debate. I think mostly among the parents, the kids that I beat, that they were trying to come up with things where they were like – absurd, ridiculous things where they’re like, “Kyle can’t put his hands above the starting line,” in like a very like legalistic interpretation of the rules to try to like deter me from actually doing it.

[0:11:13] So I think my coach went to a rules meeting, had conversations with the referees and they were able to move past that. In MMA, it’s a bit of a different scenario. I did have a number of opponents who backed out until I actually got my opponent that I fought, Brian Fry, in the fight and then I give him a tremendous amount of credit for taking that fight because it was just – I think at the time I had been on Oprah and Larry King and had received a lot of this bigger media attention. When we did that fight, I think like six times more people had Googled my name than even when I was on Oprah. So there was a lot of attention on it. We had camera crews and – from ESPN, all the major like MMA networks and all that stuff who were covering it.

[0:12:11] So it was just like a very big special and frankly he was an amateur fighter as well. I think he had had like four or five amateur fights at that point. So this all of a sudden turned into like a – you know, not quite the level of like a Conor McGregor title fight. But approaching that as far as the amateur skill goes and – but he did it anyway and stepped in and fought. You know, without him, I wouldn’t have had that chance to be able to do it.

[0:12:37] Jay Ruderman: So what – I mean it sounds a little crazy. Like what possessed you to want to do to enter an MMA match? MMA, I’m not an aficionado but I understand that it’s a caged match and there’s a lot more that goes into it than a regular wrestling match. So why does Kyle decide, you know, “I want to try to be an MMA fighter”?

[0:13:05] Kyle Maynard: Good question. I think I’ve always loved like the tests and the challenges for sure and there’s a purity inside of – especially in martial arts, right? That there’s an artistry that exists that is hard to experience outside of it.

[0:13:28] Andrew and I were talking about this yesterday. It’s when you hold someone down or someone is holding you down or it – like there’s a different level of fight that comes out of you that – like you can’t experience otherwise. You know, it’s like – I’ve pushed myself really, really hard in CrossFit workouts and mountain climbing and all that kind of stuff and it’s not the same thing as when you’re in there.

[0:13:53] So, you know, if you’re locked in the cage of somebody else, it does sound like a crazy thing and I think for 99.9 percent of people, that might be the case. But, you know, for me, it’s something I – I was a huge fan of the sport and getting to be in there and to experience it, it was absolutely wild. You know, I mean wrestling matches too are like really – you know, jiu-jitsu, they’re – like your adrenaline is going. You know, it’s a really heightened experience. But at the same time, it’s different. 

[0:14:26] I remember when I was hit for the first time. I thought, whoa, I’m not in a wrestling match anymore. You know, I don’t know. It was just a different kind of feeling came out. I still was not able to execute my game plan. Mike Tyson says, he’s like, “Everybody has got a plan until you get punched in the face.”

[0:14:44] Jay Ruderman: Right.

[0:14:44] Kyle Maynard: That was the truth. I was like, “Wow, you know, I felt that.” Yeah, and then all of the fight too, to go and to get to that point as well. There was a tremendous fight with the Athletic Commission in Georgia and the head commissioner himself is in a wheelchair. He was an off-duty police officer that was shot in the spine. So he told me face to face. You know, looked me in the eye and said like, “I will be there cage side when you do this. I think it’s a really inspiring thing that you’re helping people with disabilities,” you know, and changing the perception.

[0:15:16] Then all of a sudden, like due to the public pressure and the sort of outcry that it was ridiculous that I was doing it, then his attitude changed completely. It was the unanimous decision to deny me. So that’s why we ended up going to Alabama to do the fight there because there’s significantly less government regulation and I’ve joked – you know, half-jokingly, half-serious that if I wanted to fight like a pack of hyenas in Alabama, they probably would let me. You know, but that in truth though, it like allowed me to have that opportunity to do it and again I don’t know if that’s something that would even be possible today.

[0:15:58] Jay Ruderman: So Kyle, you do a tremendous amount of public speaking and on the story on the ESPN, you said that you are happy for the 45 minutes while you were doing the public speaking. But then for the 23 hours and 15 minutes afterwards, you were depressed. Can you talk a little bit about mental health and how that has impacted you? I mean we’re going through a time now when there’s a tremendous amount of people dealing with mental health on all different levels. That maybe you can – if you share about your own mental health and how you’ve dealt with it.

[0:16:33] Kyle Maynard: Yeah. I’ve always said some of the most challenging disabilities are ones that you can’t necessarily see on the outside. We think we can be close to people that we’re around but we can never really truly know what somebody else is enduring and going through. For me, especially in that period, was – you know, I went from being a fulltime high school student, freshman in college at UGA where I got to go and released my book.

[0:17:00] So I went from literally just high school wrestler, early college wrestler, athlete, hanging out with friends. You know, to now all of a sudden like New York Times bestselling book, traveling the world, all of this crazy stuff. This is a whirlwind transition and that was really challenging. I was alone for a significant amount of it and my friends were back at home having fun, continuing to go to school and I was off traveling. I was speaking for different groups and I wasn’t eating my own dog food. I was not practicing the message that I was talking to other people about of the like no-excuses message, right?

[0:17:47] And I got very discouraged and was ready to quit and had a chance meeting with a couple of service members, army service members who had been through some really, really hard times and injuries themselves who told me that my story had helped them like get back on their feet and that made an interesting and enormous difference to me and made me realize that like the – you know, the work that I was doing was important and I remember after that happened, I came home and I went to my hotel room and I just cried.

[0:18:24] I had a dream to want to be in the military growing up and my dad was in the army and I – the drive would have done anything. They told me I could be a chaplain. I was like, “Oh, that’s cool. Does he get a gun?” Oh, and wanted to be out there in the frontlines and you know, there is a different plan in place. But at the same time, I don’t know, I – it just woke me up to realize that like OK, this – you know, this is what matters and you know, like – you know, I want to like make a difference in the lives of other people instead of just going out there and like collecting a check from the speaking engagements that I was doing.

[0:19:03] That was a tough period and not just that. You know, I mean that’s one point in time at a younger age. I was at a point in time with my life and disability where I was ready to give up in my life. Like it was just like too much. At 10 years old, I tried to end my life. There was a lot of pain in different points in time throughout and even more recently, in the past like six to eight months, it has been a time to kind of like really like stop and reflect and to stop and to slow down and just be grateful for the little things and for family, for just waking up another day.

[0:19:51] Jay Ruderman: Well, I think that none of us know who we’re touching and sometimes it can be a small act or a small interaction and you can have a huge impact on someone’s life. But I think also – I mean talking about like the small steps and, you know, now having an appreciation for taking the time and looking at the small steps. I mean you’ve done some really challenging things. I mean you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and Aconcagua in Argentina and I mean I remember watching the video of you saying, “Listen. At some point, I’m just looking three feet ahead and that’s my goal. I just want to get three feet ahead and that’s what’s motivating me.”

[0:20:44] First of all, what led you – and I saw in the videos, I mean you had to have special fittings on your limbs in order to walk over rocks and dirt and snow and ice and you’re doing a bear crawl which for those of us that work out, a bear crawl across a room is excruciating. But to do it for miles up a mountain, why did you do it? What possessed you to do those climbs?

[0:21:20] Kyle Maynard: I would say the initial position occurred because I wanted to go places that my wheelchair couldn’t take me. There are no handicap ramps in Kilimanjaro. You know, there’s not going to be a tram line that gets you to the top and frankly even if there was, it’s a very different experience. Like there’s a mountain Atlanta called Stone Mountain that – you know, it’s – I think it’s technically the largest continuous hunk of granite in the world.

[0:21:50] Jay Ruderman: Right. I know it well. It’s very controversial in today’s day.

[0:21:55] Kyle Maynard: Yeah, it is and it has also been a really special place for me to – where I started my climbing. I literally – when I started climbing, I had bath towels wrapped around my arms and my feet that my friends had helped duct tape on to hike it. So it’s about 900 feet above ground and I had been to Stone Mountain with my family a bunch of times growing up whenever somebody would come into town and we would go and we would take pictures and it’s a cool experience when I hiked it for the first time.

[0:22:32] I literally like tore all the skin off my arms. I was brutalized from the experience. It was a CrossFit competition. The first workout was a 1000-meter run and a sprint up Stone Mountain. I did it in leather welding sleeves and it was just a really painful thing. Literally it took an hour and 40 something minutes. I think an hour and 46 minutes maybe. Most people finish that workout in 25 minutes and I got to the top and it was like wow, this is like totally different. Like it’s actually like really beautiful.

[0:23:09] So I’ve been to the top before and then all of a sudden when I got to the top after climbing it on my own steam, then it was just a totally different experience.

[0:23:20]Jay Ruderman: So you’re climbing Kilimanjaro and you reached a point – I don’t know how far up but miles up and it’s just excruciating and you’re telling yourself and your fellow climbers, “I just don’t know if I can do this,” and a decision is made to climb a much more difficult route called the “Western Breach,” which is very rocky and you know, in the video, you’re like let’s do it. I’m going to do it. Can you talk about that decision? Like what – you know, put your – you’re all the way up there and you put yourself in an even more dangerous situation.

[0:24:06] Kyle Maynard: Yeah. I knew that going the Western Breach route would shave off five days of the total trip time. So I was looking at like a longer slow death. Basically like I had like a pebble inside of – it wasn’t like a pebble. It was sort of like a – there’s a part of my right arm socket that was like a princess and a pea kind of like thing that was just grinding into my arm. It was creating some of the most intense pain I’ve ever felt.

[0:24:37] I was at like a breaking point and knew that like five more days of that was just not going to work. But I knew that I could get through one day of anything. I mean like, you know, one day, I can get through anything. I knew as long as my guide determined that it was safe in that we could go – we ultimately had a team meeting and presented the option to everybody and said that we can split into two groups. One group can continue to go on the original path if people choose to do that and the other group can go up and everybody decided to just stay, which I’m almost going to get like emotional thinking about it because we ended up relying on each other a lot there to do it and really that one day was a brutal day.

[0:25:39] There was – you know, it was a steeper path, rock fall, and it was – you know, that was – it was a really just special day because that was the first day that I recall touching ice and once we were in – like hit the ice and were sitting in the tundra and I could look back and I could see the rainforest that we had started out in. It was just one of the – that night was probably – we slept inside of the crater rim in the tundra and it was one of the coldest nights of my life. 

[0:26:14] My guide who has been on the top of most major mountains around the world, he had the same thing too and it was one of the coldest nights in his life and it was just another – with that next morning, we got up and had another 900 feet to go to hit the summit and after the Western Breach and I thought it was kind of symbolic because I mean it’s almost the exact distance of a single stone mountain.

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[0:26:58] Jay Ruderman: And you were carrying the remains of a fallen service member. Is it someone that you knew or – you know, because it seemed to be a very symbolic – you know, to get to the top, to be able to disperse the ashes on the top was something very important to you. Can you talk a little bit about that?

[0:27:22] Kyle Maynard: Yeah. I met Corey’s mom. Corey Johnson was the name of the soldier. I met his mom in a jam in Arizona before we left and she had lost him I think five months prior and he had a wife. He had two little girls. I believe his wife was pregnant with their third daughter when he left on his final appointment and on the fortnight of the climb, when I was read to quit, a thought ran through my head that it was almost like a – I don’t even know how to describe it. Like the word is almost like indignation. 

[0:28:06] It’s like the fact that like I knew that he wouldn’t have the opportunity to go in and be on that climb with his girls and that I was there and that I was choosing to be there and to – like I still had like choice to be alive and continue to push to the top and I felt like a presence there with me. I felt like I had him. He’s like our 10th teammate in addition to all of the – we had nine Americans on the team.

[0:28:38] You know, Corey is sort of our honorary tenth teammate and that moment of getting to leave Corey’s ashes there on the summit on Kilimanjaro was absolutely – I’ve described it as the biggest honor of my life and I believe that to be the case.

[0:28:56] Jay Ruderman: It’s extremely emotional and I would urge anyone to watch a clip of your final ascent to the summit. When you summited Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, in some ways I think you said that was even more difficult because of the conditions. 

[0:29:19] Kyle Maynard: The conditions, the altitude. So the difference between Kilimanjaro is 19,341 feet, Aconcagua is 22,800 and I think 809, something like that. So the difference between 19,000 feet and almost 23,000 feet, that doesn’t seem like a ton. But it’s not a linear increase. It becomes like a – almost not quite exponential difference. But it becomes like a significant, like a geometric kind of curve, parabolic. 

[0:29:52] Like once you’re going up that high, like we spent maybe four, five nights above the altitude in the summit on Kilimanjaro. So your body is just in a state of decay and really like pushed to the limit there and it I think was just – there was also too a bit of like what I believe to be like divine intervention and like celestial alignment. Like literally like the heavens opened. It was the most perfect summit day. Everything – and we were still – like I hit the summit at 4:15 PM, which was 15 minutes past our turnaround time which our – my guide gave me as a grace period and thankfully we had some issues. But it was just – it was a really, really intense day.

[0:30:47] There is a – you know, and psychologically too. So it was really – it was difficult as well. There is an American climber that we knew that was 24 hours ahead of us that had fallen down from a stroke and hit his head and had died and they had just brought his body down like right as we had gotten there. I was thinking to myself like the same thing. Like my body was in a full shutdown mode. Like do I continue to go and push forward for the summit or like is that going to go and cost me my life? Yeah, that was …

[0:31:23] Jay Ruderman: Certainly not for everyone and, you know, I got to give you a lot of credit that you pushed yourself to your limits. Why don’t we talk a little bit about hidden disabilities? You mentioned to me in the past that you have ADHD and maybe you can talk about that and what impact it has had on your life and how it shaped your life.

[0:31:48] Kyle Maynard: Yeah. I mean so for starters, it’s not really something that I have talked about a ton. So it was kind of new to me. But I know it’s something that like would probably have been more beneficial to like to bring up earlier. I know a ton of people battle the same or similar challenges.

[0:32:08] I think that like – you know, for starters, one of the things that comes to mind was signing books for kids where the – you know, I would be writing an inscription and that the parent would go and tell me like oh, my child has ADD or ADHD. Then I would have like a big conversation and dialogue with them and go and tell them like basically like hey, I got the same thing too. You know, it’s like maybe I didn’t say that in the speech. But like it has definitely been a challenge in my life. But I’ve always called it like my secret super power too because I think that like – you know, like we’ve talked about before with disabilities, it’s kind of like both sides of the coin, right?

[0:32:44] There’s the adversity that we would face from it but it also shapes us and molds us and helps build us to who we are and also just statistically and empirically I know we know tons of people with ADHD do pretty incredible things with their life, whether it’s like becoming first responders or special operations in the military. You know, entrepreneurs. I think that people are like 300 percent more likely to be an entrepreneur with ADD or ADHD than without.

[0:33:14] So sometimes like we get caught in like I think that – like diagnosing something as – you know, like kind of like put in that box and that characteristic around it and create the limitations around what something could be as opposed to like seeing it for the beauty that it’s going to be. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have enormous challenges and consequences too, right? Like I think the internal aspect of the disability that I face, the one that you can’t see on the outside is probably as hard or harder than the physical nature of the disability too, right?

[0:33:50] So like people can go and see – you know, if your listeners are called from like – you know, I was talking before. Like basically I was born a congenital amputee. So my arms end at the elbows and legs end at the knees and that has obviously presented other challenges, other opportunities too.

[0:34:08] But the hidden things, the unseen disabilities like – you know, like that I face there, like it’s a totally different world, totally different set of challenges and I went and resorted to try to like medicate for a long time. You know, especially like with caffeine and to like prescription medication and Ritalin and Adderall and other types of stimulants and sought kind of anything that I could to try to like help make it better. You know, even recreational drug use at points for escapism.

[0:34:53] I never would have – like wouldn’t have considered it like full blown addiction to things other than like stimulants and caffeine in particular but like I know it could become a big issue, right? Like we rely upon on something that – you know, I don’t know where to go and compensate and overcome and then every single person on the planet has like those hidden disabilities too, right? Like I can’t necessarily look at you and know what yours are. That’s the crazy part about it too. So it’s like what do you do with that? Like I figured, you know, that would just – it would be interesting to have this conversation with you and open up and like – and share about something I never really shared about before.

[0:35:30] Jay Ruderman: Right. Yeah, I have a son with ADHD who – you know, I can just tell he’s going to be a great entrepreneur and is part of who he is and I think with – especially with mental health issues, a lot of us don’t want to talk about it and there’s a tremendous amount of stigma around it. But you’re a very visible person and you’ve been very outspoken about what you can do and what you’ve accomplished as a person with a disability. There are so many different people who are great athletes who are speaking out. I think it’s going to do wonders for our kids.

[0:36:10] Kyle Maynard: Yeah, I’m hopeful for that too. I mean I think that like if I put myself in like in your son’s shoes, for instance, right? Like if I got diagnosed with something that most people would go and look at and think of it as this like really negative thing, but then I go and see other people that have done successful – like lived a great life and achieved great things and had the same thing.

[0:36:34] It completely kind of like reframes and shifts the disability. It would make me more proud of it in that way, right? Like I would want to embrace it and I don’t want to downplay or diminish like the difficulty that something is, especially with ADD, right? Like it’s, you know – but then at the same time, it’s like the positive side of that too though. Like I realize that like wow, like that’s actually like a huge gift and a super power to be able to go and see different threats or things like that or other things that other people wouldn’t necessarily realize or respond to.

[0:37:06] ADD people too respond to fear in a different way. That’s why like most people – so like, you know, it’s like first responders and oftentimes you have military and like I’m sure – maybe frontline workers  [0:37:20] [Indiscernible] right now that like have to deal with like that response to fear, you know, and going in to scary situations. You know, entrepreneurship in and of itself is like a scary thing, right? You’re taking like an unproven concept and you’re trying to go and make something work with it and trying to like adapt it and you don’t necessarily know if it’s going to work, right?

[0:37:44] But then at the same time, like if you never know, you know, if you don’t try, you never know. You don’t get to have like a company, like an Uber appear overnight and completely like change the entire like world, right? Like without somebody that has like that kind of thinking of like – just, you know, thinking it in a totally different way. So I think that that’s a –

[0:38:05] Jay Ruderman: I mean I think there are so many people in history that have probably had mental health issues that we just don’t know about. But it was part of who they were and – or who they are and it made them great entrepreneurs, great artists, great athletes and it’s something that – I totally get you. I mean the traditional classroom for someone who has ADHD or ADD is not the best environment. But it doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence. It doesn’t have anything to do with your abilities to succeed and I think we have to blow those stigmas away in order to allow people to feel good about who they are and what they can do in our world.

[0:38:55] Kyle Maynard: Yeah. You know, not only is it like – is the traditional classroom not set up for people in that. It’s almost like the exact opposite, right? Like it’s – there’s that latent aspect of our DNA and our like biology that we’re suppressing, especially among like this specific group of people who are potentially some of the most important people in our society, in our culture that are effectively at times just being punished because, you know, you can’t sit still and listen to a lecture or whatever. You know, but at the same time, they could go out and solve enormous problems and be great leaders in so many other ways, in so many other industries.

[0:39:38] Jay Ruderman: Right. So I will tell you something about my son. He has been diagnosed and doctors have said listen, if you are going to succeed in a classroom environment, you have to take some medication to handle your executive functioning and be able to sit in a classroom and keep up the work and he’s like, “I’m not doing it. I’m not taking medication. I will not do that.”

[0:40:02] We’re like, “All right. That’s your choice. But this may be difficult.” He’s like, “No. I don’t feel myself,” and he’s like, “I have friends who do take it. I have friends that don’t take it and I don’t want to take it. I want to feel myself and I’m going to do fine in school.”

[0:40:19] So there’s no one formula. I know people feel strongly on different ends of the spectrum about medication or no medication. But I don’t think that – you know, whether he is successful in a traditional environment or whether he’s not successful, he’s going to reflect on his ultimate success in life.

[0:40:42] I mean I can just tell from his personality that he will be a successful person. So I totally get it. I really appreciate you speaking out and you talking about this aspect of yourself because it’s in us all. There’s no one who is completely perfect. I don’t think perfect is meant to exist or what perfect actually is. But we’re all – we all have a role and I think that we should be proud of ourselves and love ourselves.

[0:41:17] Let me just ask you, what does the future hold for you? I mean you’re an athlete. Where does your athletics take you? What’s the next challenge for you? And I would also ask you to give – you know, for all of those listeners, especially younger listeners, what piece of advice would you like to depart to them?

[0:41:39] Kyle Maynard: I think right now, I’m kind of in that process of recreating and re-dreaming like who I am and what I want to go and take on and do next and there’s a million different things and directions. It’s almost narrated down as the difficulty because all of us have 24 hours in a day and there’s only so many different things that we can go and do and take on.

[0:42:10] You know, at the same time, like I said, really like the – and I don’t say this to be completely absurd – cliché. But like the biggest lesson that I’m learning right now and I think the lesson that I will impart to others is like really to stop and smell the roses and in the world right now, like it’s just – it’s crazy, what’s – you know, the – I think a lot of it is the – you know, the 24-hour news cycle focuses so much on the negative side of things, right? 

[0:42:45] And then especially we’re inside and connected to our devices and that we’re having more of like digital communication interactions with each other. Then it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there’s still so much good in the world and that like as a species, as a – you know, just global community, we’ve come a long way and there’s still a long way to go.

[0:43:13] But at the same time, I think if there’s one unifying thing that would matter to me in terms of leadership and my contribution – and I think that you’re right. I think you made an interesting point there. I will retract what I said of like not seeing myself as a leader inside of the community because what I do in terms of my own path and leadership is my own path and leadership.

[0:43:36] But what you do inside of yours is yours and that they’re both critical, that they’re both important. But I think in terms of going forward, I learned recently that the word “prosperity” actually means towards hope and I think that that’s the direction that I feel aligned with most is continue to go and help drive myself and hopefully those around me and that those I interact with, you know, towards hope that the future can be better than it is today.

[0:44:08] Jay Ruderman: Well, Kyle, I really want to thank you. This has been an interesting conversation. I’ve learned so much from you not only from our discussion but from seeing you in action on film, which I would urge people to Google you and to – and to see what you’ve done and also to read your book No Excuses. You know, I want to wish you the best of luck. I know these are trying times. But things are going to get better and you have so much energy to depart to this world. So thank you so much for being my guest today.

[0:44:45] Kyle Maynard: Thank you, Jay. I appreciate you.

[0:44:48] Jay Ruderman: Great, and I hope we get to see each other in person one day.

[0:44:51] Kyle Maynard: Absolutely. Let’s do it.

[0:44:53] Jay Ruderman: All right. Take care. Thank you.

[0:44:55] Kyle Maynard: Thank you.

[0:45:00] [All Inclusive is a production of the Ruderman Family Foundation. Our key mission is the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society. You can find All Inclusive on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher. To view the show notes, transcripts or to learn more, go to Have an idea for a podcast? Be sure to tweet @jayruderman.


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Transcript by Prexie Magallanes as Trans-Expert at