The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: The Incredible Kyle Maynard — Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss (#556)

Please enjoy my interview with Kyle Maynard from my 2017 TV show Fear{less}. The “less” is in parentheses because the objective is to teach you to fear less, not to be fearless.

Fear{less} features in-depth, long-form conversations with top performers, focusing on how they’ve overcome fears and made hard decisions, embracing discomfort and thinking big.

It was produced by Wild West Productions, and I worked with them to make both the video and audio available to you for free, my dear listeners. You can find the video of this episode on, and eventually you’ll be able to see all episodes for free at

Spearheaded by actor/producer and past podcast guest Vince Vaughn, Wild West Productions has produced a string of hit movies including The Internship, Couples Retreat, Four Christmases, and The Break-Up.

In 2020, Wild West produced the comedy The Opening Act, starring Jimmy O. Yang and Cedric The Entertainer. In addition to Fear{less}, their television credits include Undeniable with Joe Buck, ESPN’s 30 for 30 episode about the ’85 Bears, and the Netflix animated show F is for Family.

Transcripts may contain a few typos. With many episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

#556: The Incredible Kyle Maynard — Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss


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Tim Ferriss: I’m Tim Ferriss, author, entrepreneur, angel investor, and now TV host. I’ve spent my entire adult life asking questions, then scouring the globe to find the answers. On this show, I’ll share the secrets of pioneers who have faced their own fears. We’ll dig into the hard times, big mistakes, tough decisions, and how they got through it all. The goal isn’t to be fearless. The goal is to learn to fear less.

Welcome to Fear{less}. I’m your host, Tim Ferriss, and on this stage, we’ll be deconstructing world class performers of all types to uncover the specific tactics they’ve used to overcome doubt, tackle hard decisions and ultimately succeed on their own terms. My guest tonight is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, New York Times bestselling author, and has summited Mount Kilimanjaro, among others. He inspires audiences around the world with his message and he conquers challenges with his own unique style. Please welcome to the stage athlete, author, and mountaineer, Kyle Maynard.

Kyle Maynard: What’s up? What’s up everybody? How’s it going?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, good, buddy.

Kyle Maynard: Awesome, man. Thank you.

Tim Ferriss: All right. Are you guys ready to get the show started?

Audience: Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: All right.

Audience: Ooh. Ooh. Yeah. Ooh.

Tim Ferriss: It’s so nice to see you.

Kyle Maynard: You, too. Nice to see you.

Tim Ferriss: It’s been five years. We met a while back up in Napa, had quite the adventure.

Kyle Maynard: It was.

Tim Ferriss: I don’t remember most of it, but I do remember in the flashes of consciousness in between too much wine, everyone being really, really impressed and inspired by you there. I mean, it was such a wonder to behold your effect on people.

Kyle Maynard: Like, “How could that guy be so drunk and still stay in his wheelchair?”

Tim Ferriss: I was like, “How does he remember these one liners? They’re brilliant.” But what I thought we could do since this is Fear{less}, is that we could start not with necessarily the highlight reel. Let’s start with some of the challenges. So we are going to begin with a video and let’s take a look.

Video plays.

Kyle Maynard’s father : Every weekend, we’d go to the tournament and he would get beat. He would lose and we’d go and we’d get up at 6:00 in the morning and drive across the town and go wrestle, and he would get beat. And then I would drive home with him crying because that emotional side of the sport, that was happening that I didn’t want to have happen.

Video ends.

Tim Ferriss: All right. Tell us about your first wrestling season, then we’re going to back into all the rest, but as a former wrestler, I like talking about wrestling. So let’s start there.

Kyle Maynard: Oh, yeah. We could geek out on that. Yeah. I mean, it’s a short story. I was terrible. I mean, basically people were almost saying it was borderline child abuse that my mom and dad were having me do this. It was just crazy. And I think the craziest part of it too is, if my dad were sitting here with us, and he’d been a wrestler, and he’d kind of been the one to encourage me to go and do it, if he were being honest with us, he would say that he didn’t think that I would ever have won a match.

Tim Ferriss: What was your record like the first season?

Kyle Maynard: I lost every match that first season and halfway through my second season. So I still hadn’t won a match.

Tim Ferriss: What was your last season like?

Kyle Maynard: So senior year of high school I had won 36 varsity matches, beat the state champ from Alabama, Louisiana, went to the nationals, and placed one match from being All High School American.

Tim Ferriss: Tremendous. And we are going to dig into a lot of the wrinkles of that, so I don’t want to jump too far ahead, but can you explain for people what congenital amputation is?

Kyle Maynard: Yeah, honestly, I have no idea. Really, doctors don’t know. I’m not even joking when I say that, but when I was born, there was no known cause. And my mom and dad, they were young, they were in their early 20s and really, they kind of thankfully stopped looking for an answer. Maybe there’s some genetic link, but they don’t know.

Tim Ferriss: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Where did you grow up? How would you describe your childhood and in the early [crosstalk 00:04:47]?

Kyle Maynard: In the early days? So I was born at Walter Reed Army Medical. So it’s where so many of our veterans that have gone through an amputation have come back to do the rehabilitation, which is crazy that — I mean, there was no other reason — they had no idea that I was going to be born an amputee. No idea at all. The ultrasounds appeared normal.

So it was a big surprise at first. I say my mom and dad kind of pulled the ultimate — my mom, especially. It’s like this Jedi mind trick where it was like, “You’re not disabled.” And I’m like, “Cool, I’m not disabled.” It was this attitude of normalcy. And I think that they saw that if they saw me as normal that I would see myself that way.

Tim Ferriss: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I mean, it’s — I think we’ll talk a lot more about this, but I mean you definitely — child or adult, you sort of conform to the expectations of the people around you.

Kyle Maynard: Right.

Tim Ferriss: So if your parents are presenting you with that image of yourself [crosstalk 00:05:39] — 

Kyle Maynard: That’s why sometimes too, I mean, this is like a small thing, and it’s really not, I hear parents that are like, “Oh, my kid is bad at math.” I’m like, “What?” He’s not — maybe, whatever, he might be lazy. That might be true, but — they say that, like, “My kid is lazy,” or, “My kid is bad at math,” or something like that. They don’t realize how they’re actually, I think in a lot of ways — they’re creating that, right? How they go and see their kids, they’re going to be how the kids see themselves.

Tim Ferriss: Totally. Yeah. Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah. But my mom, I mean, she was the coolest with this where it was like, she wanted me to have friends in the neighborhood and she knew that the socialization aspects of things were going to be the most critical to my development. She’d be out corralling other kids to play like neighborhood street hockey games. She was working as a temp secretary and my dad was in college at the time. They didn’t have money, but they would buy the Super Nintendo, so the newest gaming system, so I’d have friends come over and want to play.

Tim Ferriss: Cool. For instance, just things that I think many people in this audience, probably all of us, take for granted, how did you learn to eat, for instance?

Kyle Maynard: Yeah, so that was an example of where my mom wanted to help. She wanted to go and do it for me. My dad, he knew that there was going to come a time where I would want to be able to go and do that on my own, right? So I used to use a prosthetic spoon and a lot of times we would forget it and leave it at home and I’d be dependent on my mom or my grandma to feed me.

He kind of brought up the point and I kind of say this jokingly now, but it’s true, right? Can you imagine senior prom date or something like that? I’m not going to want my mom or grandma hanging out behind me, like, “Oh, here’s a bite, Kyle.” Like, “Oh, cool.” He got the bigger picture of the fact that the world was not tailored for someone that was born like me, so then I’d have to be able to adapt to go and figure it out.

Tim Ferriss: What was the process like?

Kyle Maynard: I mean, I was two or three years old. I barely have any conscious memory or recollection of this, but I probably dropped the spoon like thousands of times.

Tim Ferriss: And did you ever wear prosthetics or consider prosthetics?

Kyle Maynard: I did. I wore them up until I was in kindergarten and for a little bit, on and off. I hated them. They weren’t natural. They were big, bulky. They slowed me down more than they helped. It was more of a cosmetic reason that I decided to wear them, but it was actually one day, sitting like this in a chair surrounded by my kindergarten classroom, and it was my turn to do show and tell. And I had these big prosthetic arms on and I’m trying to — I’d brought this toy machine gun to school, which wouldn’t really fly nowadays, right? But I’m taking the hooks from the prosthetic and trying to make the sound with the gun.

And I fumbled with it and dropped it on the ground and I couldn’t jump out and grab it. And I was so embarrassed. I wanted to come to school without the arms and legs the next day. And my mom, she called the teacher and just talked to her. And teacher was like, “Yeah, bring Kyle to the second half of school tomorrow, I’ll talk to them in the morning,” the kids, because apparently — I mean, it’s a group of kindergartners, right? So it took like three hours to explain to the class why Kyle had arms and legs yesterday, but he is not going to today. It kind of tripped the kids out a little bit.

Tim Ferriss: That’s a lot to absorb. Yeah.

Kyle Maynard: Totally. And — 

Tim Ferriss: “I know we’re working on letters, but take a second and we’re going to…”

Kyle Maynard: But the kids at the end of the day they told the teacher — they said that they liked me better like that, because I got to jump around, I got to go and play with them and all that. And that was the last time I ever wore them.

Tim Ferriss: When you were growing up, what were you most afraid of? What intimidated you the most or what was harder than you thought it would be?

Kyle Maynard: Definitely girls.

Tim Ferriss: Girls.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah, a hundred percent.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: It seems pretty common.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah. For anybody, right?

Tim Ferriss: But yeah, for anybody. How did you contend with that?

Kyle Maynard: I mean, probably at 10 years old and started to become attracted to girls and stuff, that was a lot of, probably the questioning of, “What is the rest of my life going to go and look like?” That was a big part of it. I know, it’s like with anybody with any type of physical difference, it’s a big thing. It’s like, “Am I going to be able to find or seek companionship?” All that, right?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Kyle Maynard: And probably the most fear-filled moment of my entire life to date was — not like Kilimanjaro or stepping into a cage and fight in MMA. It was asking my senior prom date out. But at the same time too, now fast forward to where life is, it’s like, I’ve had an amazing dating life. I’ve dated some amazing girls. My mom’s ticked off that I haven’t settled down to find the right one yet and give her grandkids, but — 

Tim Ferriss: It sounds like a lot of moms.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah. I remember meeting at the event with you and Neil Strauss was there, right?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Kyle Maynard: And I was thinking — 

Tim Ferriss: So Neil Strauss, he’s written eight New York Times bestselling books, including The Game.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah. He was like, “We should totally have a pick-up seminar for guys in wheelchairs.”

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Kyle Maynard: You know?

Tim Ferriss: Well, I was going to wait until a little bit later to ask this, let’s say, if you meet a vet who’s newly an amputee and they have some of these concerns, right? “What’s the rest of my life going to look like? Am I going to have companionship?” What do you say or do in that situation?

Kyle Maynard: I think it’s really tough because being born the way that I was, yes, in these earlier years there were a lot of those difficult emotions to process, right? There were a lot of painful times. I mean, when I was 10 years old, kind of swirling with a lot of the stuff of like, “What is the future going to be?” I mean, I got to a point where I did not see — I didn’t want to go on living at 10. I was 10 years old. Obviously now, being able to look back, I couldn’t even imagine what life would be.

And I want them, for someone that if they were a veteran or if they went through some type of accident or injury, to be able to see that hope in that future, right? But at the same time, have to go and realize that right then for them in that moment, it’s way hard and it’s a thousand times harder, in my opinion, to go through if you lived 20 or 30 or 40 years with arms and legs, and then you lose them. Your brain and all of its neurology, it’s hardwired to — when you go to pick up a coffee cup, they go to pick it up with their hand, right?

I’ve never had that programming. So all of my motor development, all of everything was developed around what I have currently since it was congenital. And now they’re also dealing with all of the emotional processing side of things too. But I really want them to know that they are capable of living whatever life it is that they set out, that they can still create the life that they want to, right? It’s not going to be easy, not going to be — they don’t have to process some of this stuff and deal with some of this stuff.

But just like the topic of the show, fear is ubiquitous. I mean, everybody experiences it all the time. The difference is the people I think that have a great life versus someone that’s sort of just getting by or struggling is, they think at some point maybe the fear is just going to go away and then they’ll be able to start or something like that. I think you just have to be able to jump in and find a way to be able to live your life now, you know?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. What kept you going? I mean, 10, that’s not only a sensitive period but a really early age at which to have — 

Kyle Maynard: A lot of that stuff.

Tim Ferriss: — that type of darkness, right? What inspired you to keep going or how did you come out of that?

Kyle Maynard: I think if I had to pick a moment in time, it was making my first tackle in football.

Tim Ferriss: Okay. Let’s talk about it. Tell us about it.

Kyle Maynard: I was convinced I was going to be the quarterback on the team. I was like, “No question. They’re going to make me the quarterback.” And they told me to line up as a nose guard. It’s a defensive line. And first day of practice, we weren’t even in full pads, but just wearing helmets and stuff. And the center went to go and snap the ball between his legs and I’m lined up right across from him.

They told me my job was to like follow the ball. And he basically just stood straight up. And so I just dove under his legs and smashed my helmet at the quarterback’s legs, knocked him over at first play, got the sack, came home that night and called my dad. He was out of town on a business trip and I was like, “I think we’re done with youth football. I’m going straight to the NFL.” And — 

Tim Ferriss: So there is a good photo.

Kyle Maynard: Right?

Tim Ferriss: So that was one of the moments?

Kyle Maynard: Big time, because it was like at that moment, it was like this moment of achieving something I never thought that I could before and being a part of the team and the camaraderie and all that, right? So it was all of these psychological studies and books on like engagement and flow and all that, right? When you are in that flow state, then it’s like you aren’t thinking about anything else, right? That’s why I love jiu-jitsu or mountain climbing, that kind of stuff now, because it’s like, when I’m doing that if I think about like, “Oh, man, I’ve got to go and do my taxes,” then I get choked, right?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, right. There’s an immediate penalty.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah. Big time. So — 

Tim Ferriss: You’re not just sitting on a couch meditating, trying to get into the zone. There’s an immediate repercussion.

Kyle Maynard: Immediate repercussion.Well, like in that moment it was like, I wasn’t worried about, “Am I going to have to live at home with my mom and dad forever? Am I ever going to have a girlfriend?” All those fears and doubts and those questions, it started to loosen the grip on that.

Tim Ferriss: And your dad suggested the wrestling? Is that how that started?

Kyle Maynard: Yeah. He basically tricked me into coming out. So the rule is that, for me or my sisters, if we sign up for any type of sport or activity, we had to finish it. Or at least just finish the season. We didn’t have to sign up and do it again, but you had to like sign up and finish that season. So I did sixth grade, didn’t want to ever do it again. I was done. And seventh grade signups came up and my dad was like, “Yeah, maybe you should try it again, blah, blah.” And I’m like, “No, absolutely not.”

And he said, “I want to tell you something I never really talked to you about. I didn’t win a single match my first year either.” I knew that he’d become a really good wrestler in high school and college and stuff later on. I was like, “Wow, really?” And he’s like, “Yeah, nobody ever wins a match their first year in wrestling. It’s actually really common. But everybody wins a match their second season because you’ll find somebody who is there for a season and you’ll beat up on them, right?” So I was like, “Awesome. Sign me up.”

And to make a long story short, I was interviewing my dad’s dad, my grandpa, for my book when I was writing it and I was asking him, I was like, “When my dad was losing all his matches his first year, did he want to quit too? Because I did. I begged to quit all the time and they would drag me out to these tournaments.” And he had no idea what I was talking about because that whole story had been a complete lie. So I based my entire life off of that lie, right?

And so then the first kid that I beat, I see this — before the match started, I had him beat. I’m like, “Oh, that kid’s a first-year wrestler? He’s pretty scrawny. He’s not even warming up the right way. Look at him jumping around.” We shook hands. I was like, “He got a weak handshake.” Took the kid down and landed on top of him. I was like, “Whoa, this is awesome.” I was more shocked than he was, like, “I’m just going to keep doing it.”

Tim Ferriss: So let’s pull up a video of one of your wins. Let’s take a look.

[Video of one of Kyle Maynard’s wrestling wins with people cheering him on.]

Tim Ferriss: So we also have some photos and when they have a chance, I want them to pull up a photo of a low leg attack. I was really impressed when I saw this photo. So — 

Kyle Maynard: May we demonstrate one right here, if you want.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Let’s do it. Yeah, yeah. Let’s do it.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah. Let’s do it.

Tim Ferriss: All right.

Kyle Maynard: I mean, I knew at some point this was going to happen, all right?

Tim Ferriss: Please do not break my knee.

Kyle Maynard: All right. We’ll go through it, slow.

Tim Ferriss: All right. So how do you want to do this?

Kyle Maynard: So a normal wrestling match starts, we come out, and we shake hands, right? And a lot of times guys would push on my head and kind of like, “Stay away,” right?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Kyle Maynard: So my strategy was to be able to close the distance down. And — 

Tim Ferriss: That was good. That was awesome.

Kyle Maynard: So — 

Tim Ferriss: Very John Smith. Very John Smith.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah, yeah, little John Smith. That’s good.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, yeah.

Kyle Maynard: Totally.

Tim Ferriss: I don’t know how many more of those I want to do. So — 

Kyle Maynard: We’re getting old. We need to be careful, right?

Tim Ferriss: No, no. But I was going to — yeah. My heart rate got — okay. Two seconds. This is probably going to apply to like 0.001 percent of you, but I want to ask, what were your go-to moves other than that?

Kyle Maynard: So I did a lot of, kind of duck under type positions and so — 

Tim Ferriss: We’ll show you guys what a duck under is. 

Kyle Maynard: So if you come in — a lot of guys would go and wrestle me down on their knees, right?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, yeah.

Kyle Maynard: So then if he reaches over the top, I can boom, shoot across here, come around and take him down or — one of my favorite takedowns to this day is like, a Jap whizzer. So — 

Tim Ferriss: Oh, God.

Kyle Maynard: We’ll go slow.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, God.

Kyle Maynard: But if he’s on top of me — we can start here, right?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Kyle Maynard: So if he starts, so he goes — 

Tim Ferriss: — [crosstalk] your position.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah. Exactly. So he goes over top here, then I’ll just tuck — 

Tim Ferriss: Oh, God.

Kyle Maynard: — and be able to roll.

Tim Ferriss: All right. I think it’s time for water. All right.

Kyle Maynard: We definitely — the biggest go-to, I won’t — I don’t think it’s a good idea to demonstrate.

Tim Ferriss: What was this?

Kyle Maynard: But my biggest go-to technique was called the jawbreaker, but basically would take someone’s jaw line like that and use kind of a front headlock position and just crank on the jaw until — 

Tim Ferriss: Oh, God.

Kyle Maynard: — they just turned over on their back. Boom, pin me. So that was — 

Tim Ferriss: The jawbreaker. Oh, my God. I’m really glad we did a little demo.

Kyle Maynard: You don’t wrestle with all your guests? Is that — 

Tim Ferriss: No, this is new.

Kyle Maynard: Okay.

Tim Ferriss: I mean, maybe I should.

Kyle Maynard: I’m glad I could be your first.

Tim Ferriss: But I’m not going to pick you. Yeah. No. Of all the people I’m going to pick. So you were inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. That’s a big deal. That’s a big deal. I mean, my heroes are in that Hall of Fame.

Kyle Maynard: Totally. Mine too.

Tim Ferriss: How did that feel? How did that happen?

Kyle Maynard: I mean, in contrast to how bad I was when I started, it was really just a cool moment to be able to reflect and look back and see just how — I mean, how far we got in the [inaudible 00:24:25]. It was really pretty wild. There was a big argument when I was competing in wrestling and in jiu-jitsu as to whether or not I was unfairly advantaged, which is an interesting juxtaposition of how bad I was, like I talked about, when I first started to then later people were saying, “Yeah, he’s unfairly advantaged.”

Because I was competing against — in high school I weighed 103 pounds, many moons ago and I’m going up against these 103-pound kids. Weren’t huge kids, right? And I had a bigger upper torso than the kids I was going up against. And you know, probably some of the similar people that were saying that like, “Oh, man, this is child abuse that his parents are making him doing this,” they’re now saying like, “He’s got an unfair advantage over my kid.”

Tim Ferriss: “Wait a minute! He just pinned my son.”

Kyle Maynard: Yeah, exactly.

Tim Ferriss: “I’ve changed my mind.”

Kyle Maynard: And it happened quick. It was really interesting. But to me, I think, in a lot of ways, I think that with the wrestling and all that in particular, it was a cultivated advantage and you’re all about, those advantages that you cultivate give you an edge.

Tim Ferriss: What was the most valuable thing that you took from that whole experience?

Kyle Maynard: It wasn’t until pretty recently within the last two or so years of doing some deeper self-reflection that I realized I could kind of summarize my biggest fear was being seen as helpless. And you can imagine, as a kid, of course it was just like, if other kids were laughing or joking or making fun of me, I would want to prove to them that I wasn’t helpless. So, wrestling, mountain climbing, those are sports that, I mean, have a little bit of a bent of like, “I’m going to show you that I’m not helpless,” right?

Tim Ferriss: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kyle Maynard: But I think that now acknowledging that, I’m so grateful for that too, but I don’t have to be driven by that. It doesn’t have to be the thing that’s running the show. And I think that if we have these experiences and these fears that are outside of our awareness, then it can start to go and run the show. I’ve met billionaires that there’s some moment in time that it was running the show for them. And maybe it was from a time when they were six or seven years old.

Tim Ferriss: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I heard someone ask an ultra runner once, they said, “Well, what are you running from?” And it’s that switch, not everyone makes it going from running away from something to running towards something. How did you develop that awareness so that you could use it as a tool, maybe, when you choose, but not to have it use you? How did you develop that awareness?

Kyle Maynard: I think that one of the competitive advantages that I have is that the disability from a physical side got me to ask some bigger philosophical questions at a younger age. I know that, that kind of started to generate some, just deeper questioning of like, “What is this about? What is this experience about? What is this life about? Why did this happen? What is the larger context here?” All of these sort of things. And then like, “What did people thousands of years ago think about this?” And even before that.

I think that we’re all sort of in this inquiry in some level, but then we kind of — we get stuck in our day-to-day and whatever. The physical disability, I think, sometimes it’s a little bit of an access in that. It kind of forces you to — maybe for some kids, to look at some of those things at a younger age. For me, I could summarize it in a recurring dream that I had. It wasn’t until two years ago that I had an experience of remembering this dream. And when I remembered it, I just started crying and I could see all of my successes and all of my failures.

And it was just like — it was like these buildings that I built just crumbling down. And the dream was, I was in the backseat of my dad’s car and he had this e-brake that he would go and pull. So you’d push it with your thumb and he’d pull it up. It was like a parking brake, right? So the parking brake on this hill and all of a sudden in the dream I’d be in the car by myself and the parking brake would come off. And I would try to do whatever I could to grab it and I couldn’t pull it up. And I couldn’t stop the car.

And then the car would just pick up speed, and then eventually I would just wake up and have this fear, that kind of falling feeling, right? And it was just this intense fear and this intense feeling of helplessness. That was from the time I was maybe five or six to like middle school. Had that dream a couple of times a year. It was pretty intense. And I think now, if I’m in the airport traveling, sometimes they’ll pull up the gate and the gate agent will have different responses.

Sometimes they’re totally cool and I’ll tell them I’ll jump out of my chair and I’ll go and walk to the plane. Sometimes they won’t believe me and sometimes it’s like, “You can’t do it.” And I’m like, “Can I…” It would trigger some of that stuff where it would be like some of those helpless feelings and I’d have this thought that’d be there of like, “Man, you don’t have any idea of the places that I’ve been you probably couldn’t go. You probably couldn’t be able to climb Aconcagua,” or something like that.

I had that thought and I’m like, “Oh, man, that’s a stupid thought.” Because I think if you have awareness of something it pops up into my head and I’m like, “Well, that’s just my own fear. It’s my own insecurity.” And then it can go away. But if it’s just behind the scenes, running the show, it’s — I think a lot of us, I mean, human beings, we’re wired that for whatever reason, we kind of make these decisions up about ourselves.

Tim Ferriss: I think also human beings just evolutionarily speaking, we’re wired for survival not for happiness. It’s not what your genes are optimized for necessarily. So it’s something you have to — at least something I have to work on. It’s like, I can go dark really fast for whatever reason. It’s been a trend.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: And — 

Kyle Maynard: But I love that you share that though. You’re real. And I want people to know for me, I’ve had periods of time of feeling like a fraud in front of groups of people, where I’m like, “Man, I’m really struggling with X, Y, or Z. How do I have any right to go and tell anybody here, anything?”

But then now — and I’m sure you’ve maybe had similar experiences, but I’ve gotten to be around enough people where I can see that it’s almost the people that don’t share that, that those are the ones that I’m like, “Ugh.” I want to stay away from because it’s like, they don’t acknowledge that, because it’s everybody. We all have that stuff, right? We all do.

Tim Ferriss: Let’s pull up a video of you doing some speaking.

Video plays.

Video voiceover of Kyle Maynard at a speaking engagement: I would say my purpose in life, at least from my perspective, would be to help show other people their purpose.

That other people and what they think is totally irrelevant. For me, inside my heart, this is what I’m capable of doing. This is what I deserve. They’re thinking about, if I were in your shoes and I were running your business, I could not do it. That is a lie. You decide. You decide what you’re capable of and believe and deserve.

Video ends.

Tim Ferriss: Why do you do your speaking 200 days on the road? That’s a lot of days on the road, man. Why the speaking? What drives that?

Kyle Maynard: To me, there’s again, so many different whys that are interconnected with that. It’s a form of artistry for me. I think that a speech is something that I can bring that creativity to. But I’m not that one thing. I’m not a speaker. I’m not an author. I’m not any one thing. I’m not even an entrepreneur. I don’t care. I don’t care to have any label, I’m not an amputee or a wrestler or whatever.

I want to not know what I am, right? So I can go and find and be curious and figure it out. If I had to pick one defining quote for my life, Emerson said, “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Tim Ferriss: I applaud you, man. We are going to go to some audience questions. If you had to pick the most inspiring religious or spiritual leader, who would it be and why?

Kyle Maynard: I would say Emerson for sure. I’ve read all of his works. I mean, it’s had a profound impact on me. Joseph Campbell is another one. But yeah. I mean, I’m just constantly — I geek out on that stuff hard. The thing I’m obsessed with currently is the Upanishads. It’s just like thousands of years old, a lot of these ideas, right? We kind of like to go and put different wrappers on things and think that we’ve got different smart ways to figure stuff out.

It’s really just like this knowledge of life and this inquiry is so old. And it cracks me up now. I’m also a big fan of Martin Seligman and positive psychology and Albert Bandura, in the research side of things. But it cracks me up. I told you I did an interview with Mark Divine today, Navy SEAL commander, and we were just joking that researchers will be like, “New headline. Smile: it makes you happier.” It’s like, “Wow.”

Tim Ferriss: Thanks. That’s where my tax dollars are going.

Kyle Maynard: Right.

Tim Ferriss: Great.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah. It’s like, it was like 10,000 years ago, right?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Kyle Maynard: Somebody — “Hey, smile and you’ll feel better.”

Tim Ferriss: Put two and two together. I read this and I was like, “Of course,” just because we’ve spent a little bit of time together. It was like, “Known for having nice handwriting,” and I was like, “Okay. Yeah, of course. Of course you’ve got better handwriting than I do,” which you do. So I wanted to actually pull up an example of your handwriting as much for the content as the handwriting itself.

“I know there are many people who, whether they admit it or not, view disabled people as inferior. We are ‘broken’ in their eyes. We are of no use, no value, and we are just running out the string on life. But I believe that we are all disabled in one way or another, including disabilities of character and personality. My disability just happens to be more visual than some.”

When I read that, it really impacted me because it’s true. I mean, that sounds maybe a simplistic way to put it, but it’s really profound, right? You have people walking around with — everybody has their own wounds. They’re all battling their own demons. And I remember I was really bent out of shape about some personal flaw or weakness. And I think it was like an aunt, because I think I’d had too much to drink and she said, “Don’t worry. People are like Swiss cheese.”

And I was like, “What?” And she said, “No, we all have holes.” We all have those gaps. So this is from Twitter: “What specific things do you tell yourself when the thought of quitting enters your mind?”

Kyle Maynard: I think a lot of it is, I try to examine just, what is that coming from? Because sometimes I think that — and this is one of the things that’s kind of changed and a shift, right? I used to talk about like, “Oh, never, ever give up.” Now I’m like, “Giving up is super important.” And you should give up a lot of things a lot quicker. A job that you hate, a relationship that sucks, give it up immediately, right?

But there’s other instances where too, it’s like, that’s a gray area and I know it’s something that we’ll probably talk about, it was like the mountain climbing.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Sure.

Kyle Maynard: But for a little taster of that, a lot of my experience with mountain climbing has gotten to the point where I’m like, “How far is too far.” Yeah, I can go and have — I can push myself, but will there be irreparable harm? So of course, probably 95 percent of any climb that I’ve ever done, I’m wanting to quit and the five percent that I’m not it’s like, I’m either hanging out with my friends or looking around at how beautiful this is, but it’s like a lot of the time I have that thought going through my head.

And the most brutal parts of either climb Aconcagua or Kilimanjaro that I took on were the last day that I could have paid extra for a helicopter evac. And I realized, because I had that option and that choice to get that evac, it made the suffering way worse.

Tim Ferriss: So I want to pull up a photo of you, I believe it might be in your gym. It could be elsewhere, but working out on rings. So it looks like you’re having a pretty pleasant afternoon.

Kyle Maynard: Pretty good time. Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: What role has building physical strength played in overcoming mental, emotional, and social challenges for you?

Kyle Maynard: I think easily that the physical is the easiest and first access to — I think just gaining some type of inner awareness. I mean, that is a baseline. It’s an awesome place to start, but I think it just doesn’t stop there. I think sometimes if you have people that they aren’t able to really contextualize what they’re doing and see how the physical can map into everything, right? It’s kind of all the same stuff. So the same lessons you’re going to go and learn there, are the things that are going to help you in business. The same things are going to help you in your relationships or your passions and all that.

It’s just realizing that it’s kind of all the same and nothing happens quick. So it does take a lot of time and frankly a lot of suffering and a lot of failure, and a lot of stuff that nobody really wants to do. It’s more of like, I want to take this pill and get this effect. I want to go and have this thing. You know what I mean? I love a lot of the biohacking stuff, but I feel like the thing that we go and do by cheapening the process is we skip a lot of steps along the way.

Tim Ferriss: I think a lot of people forget that they’re supplements for a reason.

Kyle Maynard: Right. Totally.

Tim Ferriss: It’s not primary. And just to underscore something that you mentioned or looking at it maybe a slightly different way, but this is how I’ve thought about it a lot is, when I’m in dark periods, the most fruitless thing that I can do personally, I’m not saying this applies to everybody, but is to try to think my way out of it.

And so people say, mind over matter. I think you can also go the other direction. I think you can have matter over mind and using your kinesthetic body rather than viewing things through this lens of like — it’s like Cartesian duality of mind and body. Your brain is an organ. That stuff is completely intertwined.

Kyle Maynard: Big time.

Tim Ferriss: So using the physical as a way to develop mastery over the mental has always been my default when I’m feeling — 

Kyle Maynard: It’s a good place to go. I mean, because it’s like that immediate sort of access. Yeah. I mean, go to the pain cave, man, right? Figure stuff out real quick.

Tim Ferriss: Figure your shit out.

Kyle Maynard: But to that point too, something just popped in my head, I had an amazing meeting a couple weeks ago. I got to have a meeting with the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon and talked to him about some of these veteran issues, and why is it that 22 veterans a day are committing suicide? And it’s staggering. I wanted to know what are they doing about that.

But one of the things that he said really stood out and I think it’s helpful in the sense. He said, whenever he gets to that place of being really stuck, he knows that one of two things are happening, probably both but one, he’s trying to do it all by himself. And the other is, he’s just not asking for help.

Tim Ferriss: What advice would you give to someone who has the tendency, and I do it quite frankly, to isolate myself? It’s the worst instinct. So I’m like, “Let me just sit down and figure this out on my own.” And it’s just like — 

Kyle Maynard: Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: “How many times do I have to do this before I learn my lesson?” But what advice would you give to someone who has a tendency to do that?

Kyle Maynard: That’s me. I totally would agree. I’m the same way, but it’s really — lately I’ve been like, “Nah, screw that.” I mean really, what’s running the show there? I think it’s a big part of it. Is it my own ego? Is it my own sense of, I can’t go and have support or help from other people. I need to go and do it on my own or no one’s going to go and do it as good as me or whatever where those kind of stories are. It’s all BS. And just, if it’s made up in my head, that’s just like, I can go and unmake it up, right?

I can go and surround myself with amazing people that are way smarter than I am. Some of my best friends and business partners have the exact opposite strengths that I have. As soon as we partnered together, then it was like things just shot up through the roof, right? And you put the right people in the right places. That’s the whole special forces mentality. That one person inside of an environment can go and change the whole landscape. And I think it’s so true in business.

The whole idea of being the solopreneur and grinding it on your own and the late nights, it’s like, yeah, that can be a good place to go and get started when you don’t have a team and access to people, but even then, it’s kind of an excuse. Because you have a community of people that you could tap into in your friends and family and other people like that, that are going to be willing to champion your cause.

Tim Ferriss: The one thing that’s helped me quite a bit, you guys can check this out, the musician, Amanda Palmer, has a TED Talk on asking for help. And I remember watching it and then I read her book and I was like, “Yeah, dummy.” If you’re suffering, call one of your friends who has already figured it out and ask them for help. It was just such a, kind of in retrospect, hilarious epiphany for me. And it’s always been really hard for me to do that. But — 

Kyle Maynard: In those deeper moments of suffering, I think that’s the last thing you want to do.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. So you mentioned Emerson. What books have you gifted the most to other people, if any? Or if you were to gift books to other people.

Kyle Maynard: A [inaudible 00:42:55] is an article that I know that you’ve recommended a bunch that I’ve gifted to all my entrepreneur friends is 1,000 True Fans.

Tim Ferriss: 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly.

Kyle Maynard: Yep.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, yeah.

Kyle Maynard: And that’s made a huge difference for me because I’m like, you know what? Frankly, it’s like, “Is it my own ego that tells me like, ‘Oh, I need to have an audience the size of Tony Robbins or Tim Ferriss,'” right? It’s like, “Not necessarily. I need to really be able to communicate and tap into who is my tribe.” And I’m in the process right now of — literally, I’m finally balls out, I’m creating it. And the wrapper that I want to go and use for that brand is the Mountain Movement.

But the whole idea is, I want people to go and get over this idea of knowing that they have all the right answers and that their beliefs are the right way. And any belief, right? I challenge any belief in that. I’m not talking about one thing. It’s like a mountain. It does not care what race you are, what gender you are, whether you’re in a wheelchair or not. It doesn’t give a shit, right?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Kyle Maynard: Mountain’s like, “Zero Fs given.” I mean, a hundred percent. It’s kind of, in that, it’s beautiful in its indifference, I think. And at the same time, it’s like, I think, I want to go and empower people to go in their own metaphorical mountains. How they go and climb those things and how they go and build that team to ultimately leave the world better than they found it. Because right now it’s insane. You know what I mean? Just the polarity and all that stuff that we’re experiencing and seeing it’s — I don’t know.

And I mean, I’m guilty of it too, right? We all have our assumptions and beliefs and judgements and it’s just impossible to see somebody else’s perspective with that. And when you look at me or if someone looks at me for the first time, if you haven’t seen the videos and stuff like that, it doesn’t automatically occur to someone like, “Oh, that guy’s clearly an MMA fighter or a mountain climber.” It’d be true.

There’s a quip that has been profoundly impactful in my life. It was called, “The map is not the territory.” And basically we all walk around as these mental cryptographers, as if the maps that we go and create are reality, are the territory, and they’re not. They’re just maps. And any map that you go and create can get outdated, it can get — you need to do that software update, right?

Tim Ferriss: For sure.

Kyle Maynard: And update your map.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. And it strikes me what I’ve really tried hard to do in the last couple of years myself, in part to get to correct this faulty software or buggy software that needs updating, it’s really simple. I mean, I was told at one point, so some advice I got on conflict resolution, they just said, “Say less.” Two words. Say less. It’s like, “Okay.” 

Kyle Maynard: Wow.

Tim Ferriss: It wasn’t directed at me, but it certainly applied to me. And I was like, “Yeah. How many problems would be solved in this country and around the world if it was just like, before you can state a strong opinion, you have to ask three questions and listen to the answers?”

Kyle Maynard: And actually listen.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Kyle Maynard: Actually listen.

Tim Ferriss: A lot of things would resolve themselves. What is something you’ve changed your mind on in the last few years?

Kyle Maynard: I think I grew up, I mean, in a sort of — and not really something I’ve talked about at all publicly, but I grew up with very sort of Baptist views and all that. And then I went for several years privately as a period of full-blown atheism. And kind of secretly harbored some sort a degree of spirituality. And really it was after like a trip to Thailand and became interested in sort of Eastern thought and things like that, that I expanded that view to a lot more things, but then also too have come back to Christianity and seeing the beauty of the message that Christ taught.

And I think that now, I think, I would still — I mean, I identify myself as a Christian, of someone who’s a follower of Christ, but at the same time, I’m not religious, but I think it’s a more broad, inclusive view of spirituality. And I think that sometimes too, I think that we think that we’re so smart. We’ve got all the answers for this stuff. And sometimes, especially now, I mean with the interesting things, it’s like stuff gets spooky at certain levels. And it’s like, there’s some other interesting answers and implications there that are fascinating.

Stuff that Buddha talked about, stuff that Lao Tzu and all these teachers or Campbell — I mean, Campbell was the biggest one. Joseph Campbell talked about this monomyth and how these different creation stories occurred with very similar structures around the world at different times. But as human beings we get so — again, coming back to this idea, we get so locked into our beliefs that we’ll start wars over these things. We will literally kill millions of people off of a lot of this stuff that we hold onto.

And that’s why I want to, I mean, bring this idea that really kind of not knowing, I think, is the better place to come from. The entirety of my life was not knowing, but we’re going to figure it out.

Tim Ferriss: And, when I think to the best doctors I know and how they distinguish themselves, there’s an expression — there are a lot of funny expressions in medicine that doctors have. So one is, P equals MD. Pass equals MD. So just like any industry, just like any trade, you have people who are at the bottom of the class, people at the top of the class. So the people at the top of the class, I think, generally have another expression which is, “We know that 50 percent of what we think we know is wrong. We just don’t know which 50 percent.”

Kyle Maynard: Wow.

Tim Ferriss: So I think if more people walked around — 

Kyle Maynard: I love that.

Tim Ferriss: — keeping that in mind — 

Kyle Maynard: Wow.

Tim Ferriss: — it would lead them to ask more questions as opposed to seek to antagonize, seek to prove themselves right, right off the bat.

Kyle Maynard: Right.

Tim Ferriss: So I want to talk about mountain climbing. Let’s say Kilimanjaro. How did that come into the picture?

Kyle Maynard: Total ADD. It’s the best explanation I have for it. I did a CrossFit sectional workout. The first workout was a thousand meter row and then sprint up this like 900-foot stone mountain and tore the skin up on my arms to get up there. But I got to the top in an hour and 46 minutes. I was destroyed, but got there. I was like, “Wow, this is beautiful.” My friend, we were sitting there and we were talking, and I told her, I was like, “I want to do Kilimanjaro.”

She was like, “You’re freaking crazy. You just tore skin off your arms doing a 900-foot stone mountain and this Kilimanjaro is like 20 or 21 stone mountains stacked on top of each other.” And I was like, “I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but want to figure it out.” I mean, that was just a brutal beat down from the universe on every level after that to get to that point.

Tim Ferriss: Now, what did you do — all right. So you have this stone mountain, was it?

Kyle Maynard: Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: Took all the skin off of your arms and legs. So what was the gear?

Kyle Maynard: So with that, we used leather welding sleeves. And I was like, “Yeah, this will protect my arms,” until I realized the leather welding sleeve was a lot tougher than my skin.

Tim Ferriss: So it was the leather that ripped it off.

Kyle Maynard: Yeah. It wasn’t the stone, but we tried bath towels and duct tape and thankfully I’ve got these amazing friends that were sitting and just duct taping stuff on my arms and my feet for hours. And we tried oven mitts, cooking oven mitts and several of them stacked up. And we tried knee pads, all these different things. We’d finally got smart and took a mountain bike tire and cut that into pieces and then wrap it around and give some traction and created this prototype shoe. So I used that to get up the mountain and we didn’t get the final gear set complete until two and a half weeks before we left for the climb.

Tim Ferriss: What was driving it? That’s a big commitment, right? And you presumably have other stuff going on. That takes a lot of focus.

Kyle Maynard: Big time.

Tim Ferriss: What did you hope to get out of it?

Kyle Maynard: The biggest driver there was for me personally and it’s hard to understand unless you’ve spent a significant portion of your time and your life in a wheelchair.

Tim Ferriss: Okay.

Kyle Maynard: Because you don’t necessarily realize how many places you can’t get to in the wheelchair. In America, I think that we have the greatest country that I’ve experienced, in terms of accessibility. Part of it is because, I think, we’re a fairly new country, right? But it’s like, in terms of the world there are many places that are off limits and that was — when my friends would go and run off into the woods, I couldn’t go and follow them.

And so, when I was a kid I wanted to, and I wanted to go and have a way to go and do it, unless I was like riding on a buddy’s back and we wouldn’t get very far doing that. But it was like, that was my access into the woods for a long time or in the mountains. And I wanted to go to nature. I wanted to experience it. I wanted to go and see these places that I’d read about in some poem or something. I’m like, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro, I want to see that.”

Video plays.

Video narrator [during video montage of Kyle Maynard on Kilimanjaro with his support team]: As the ever-present threat of deadly avalanches looms, scree and dust make movement difficult for Kyle. Spikes are attached so he can navigate the icy slope and Kyle’s will to succeed is clear. Nothing will stop him. As day breaks, Kyle Maynard pushes ahead, a beacon of will and determination showing the world that no matter what, there is a way to the top.

Various support team members encouraging Kyle as he approaches—and then reaches—the summit: [inaudible 00:52:54] [cheering]

Support team member 1: Oy, oy, oy!

Support team member 2: Love you, man.

Kyle Maynard : Love you.

Support team member 3: Let’s all gather ‘round. We’ve got to grab all – [continues under voiceover, inaudible]

Video narrator: Once he’s reached the summit, Kyle Maynard’s mission is complete and he can pay tribute to the men and women who’ve inspired him. Who choose to live to the fullest because there are no excuses.

Video ends.

Tim Ferriss: If you had a gigantic billboard and you could put out a short message, few words, whatever it might be to a huge audience to the world, what would you put on that billboard?

Kyle Maynard: I think this time I’m going to switch it up and go with a Campbell quote where he said — he was asking the purpose of life. And I think you could have a debate with this, but really, I think there’s some beauty of it where he said, it’s “to follow your bliss” and that “doors will open where there were previously only walls.”

If I’m attached to this idea of like, “Oh, I have to be the speaker guy,” then I don’t necessarily get it. And that sometimes maybe that could be the most empowering thing to go and give up everything and go and pursue a different path. And I respect people that are willing to go and to do that and completely recreate themselves.

Tim Ferriss: Well, I would just want to thank you, Kyle, for honestly, showing everyone that they can do more than they think they’re capable of doing. It’s a huge gift to the world. Ladies and gentlemen, Kyle Maynard.

Audience: Ooh.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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