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ORLANDO, FLA.--Looking at his list of accomplishments to date, it’s hard to imagine that, as a 10-year-old boy, Kyle Maynard worried whether he’d ever be able to get a job when he grew up. For Maynard, who was born with a congenital condition that has left him with arms that end at the elbows and legs that end near his knees, a lifetime of unemployment could have been a distinct possibility but for the encouragement he drew from his family throughout his life.
“Things would be so different for me now had I been raised with a different perspective,” said Maynard, speaker, author, athlete and owner of Kyle Maynard Motivation, addressing attendees at the 2014 Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference & Exposition. “When I was a kid wondering why this happened to me, my parents told me that everyone was born with some kind of disability. No one’s perfect; in fact, the excuses we make about why we can’t do something are themselves disabilities for many people.”
Maynard told attendees that no matter how challenging their difficulties may seem, everyone has the ability to overcome. “Don’t let circumstances keep you from living the life you’re meant to live.”
Regaling the audience with his many triumphs, he said it’s hard sometimes for him to avoid falling into the victim’s mentality that holds so many people down. But he has a system for getting back on track.
“You’ll be better at what you do—taking care of people—if you focus on yourself first,” he said. “Being a little bit selfish is one of the most selfless things you can do.”
He shared two times in particular when he had to take his own advice. The first was when he was starting out on the speaking circuit, where he most often traveled alone, ate alone and was by himself nearly all the time he wasn’t in front of an audience. “I was this depressed motivational speaker who had to eat his own dog food,” he joked.
So he began competing in CrossFit training competitions, and eventually he and some friends decided they would try to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.
The challenge was way beyond his comfort level; he admitted that there were two points in the journey when he wanted to give up. But he was carrying the ashes of a soldier killed in combat whose mother asked him to leave them at the summit in honor of her son who loved to travel.
“Something happened to me then, and I quit questioning whether I’d continue,” he said. Instead he began chanting the mantra of his friend, a Marine: “not dead; can’t quit.”
When he reached the summit, which he said had seemed like a different world to him when he started the ascent, he looked back to see how far he’d come in such a short time.
“Western cultures always look ahead to the next quarter, the next graduation, the next job,” he said. “We never look back to see how far we’ve come.
“We all immediately accept lies about our abilities, rather than work to meet our true potential,” he said. “From an HR perspective, this has massive implications” in terms of, among other things, engagement, turnover and burnout. “If you want to change the culture of your organization, look [employees] right in the eye and recognize the gifts they have. It’s a truly transformative experience.”
In closing, Maynard issued a challenge to the audience: “Before you return home, pick one or two of the excuses that hold you back, and come up with a way to change and get past them. Ask: ‘Why am I here on this earth?’ Find your truth and anything is possible.”
Theresa Minton-Eversole is an editor/manager for SHRM Online.
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