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Kyle Maynard and taking determination to new heights

By November 30, 2016 August 2nd, 2020 One Comment

“We are just this little speck and this infinitesimal thing, but like, that’s beautiful, because now I can go do whatever I want, you know?” –Kyle Maynard

Kyle Maynard is an ESPY Award winning mixed martial arts athlete, a MMA fighter, owner of a Crossfit gym and world speaker.  He is also known for becoming the first quadruple amputee to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro without the aid of prosthetics. He was born a “congenital amputee,” which means that neither his legs nor arms developed. Kyle shares with us the mindset and philosophy that allow him to achieve in spite of his challenges. In fact, he achieves, at least in part, because of physical challenges. In a free-ranging discussion with Commander Divine he tells us how his unique childhood and approach have helped him achieve results that would make him extraordinary under any circumstances, let alone with the kind of extreme physical challenges that he faces.  He’s a true inspiration, and you don’t want to miss this interview.

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Other episodes of our podcast that you might be interested in are  Jeremy McGhee  and Andy Walshe.

Transcript & Shownotes

“We are just this little speck in this infinitesimal thing, but like, that’s beautiful, because now I can go do whatever I want, you know?”

Hey folks, Mark Divine here with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks so much for coming back and joining us. I am super, super, super excited to have dear friend Kyle Maynard with me today. Before we get started, let me remind you please go rate this podcast on iTunes and if you start to the right–that’s where you’re supposed to start–where you click on number 5. Don’t have to worry about anything else. Just click on number 5, give it 5 stars. Good to go. Hooyah.
Kyle Maynard: Except this episode maybe.
Mark: No this episode would get a 6, so we’ve already petitioned Apple to give us one extra star for this episode, cause it’s going to rock.
So thank you very much, and thanks for your support. We don’t take it lightly.


[1:08] Kyle, man, I first met Kyle I think it was 4 years ago, 3 to 4 years ago down in San Antonio, Texas. And we did a 20x with a group called… what was it called?
Kyle: It was…
Mark: Not challenge athlete.
Kyle: Transition possible.
Mark: Transition possible. Yeah, I should have remembered that. And so the whole essence of this was to pair wounded athletes and warriors–most of whom had lost a limb, though we also had Cory Reeves who was blind, which was interesting. Super-neat guy…
Kyle: I think he was an amputee as well.
Mark: Blind and an amputee, right. And so we paired wounded warriors and athletes up with executives, CEOs and put them through a 12 hour 20x. Wasn’t that cool? And
Kyle: Except for half the CEOs dropped out.
Mark: (laughing) Right. Half the CEOs quit. And the wounded warriors and athletes…
Kyle: It was one of the most inspiring experiences of my life.
Mark: It was unreal to watch you guys. And there was one evolution which I’m not gonna talk about right now, but if you want to bring it up later… It was actually when I was watching my coaches unfold this, I was like, “Holy Cow. Can we do this?”
Do you remember when we had all the athletes take off their prosthetics and then all the CEOs had to figure out how to get you from one side of the gym to the other. And they freaked out, they literally lost their minds.
Anyways, Kyle–for those of you who are watching, you may have noticed that Kyle basically has no arms and no legs. Or at least your legs and arms didn’t grow beyond kinda the knee and the elbow. They call that congenital amputee, or…?
Kyle: Congenital amputation. It’s about as technical as I know. Doctor’s didn’t really have any explanation for what happened when I was born.
Mark: You weren’t technically amputated, they just didn’t grow out…
Kyle: Developed…
Mark: So to see Kyle… like you were so incredibly inspiring. I still, on my iPhone have the video of you doing box jumps. Do you remember that? In the parking lot down there? That was so epic.
And then also pushing the sled. So trust me guys, Kyle’s one of the most…
Kyle: (laughing) There’s a lot that I blacked out about that day.
Mark: (laughing) Sure. You probably have no recollection. That was…
Kyle: I think I had the hose in my face for a little while…
Mark: Oh yeah. That’s no big deal. That’s just to keep you focused.
Kyle: So good. So fun.

High school athlete

[03:26] Mark: Incredibly, incredibly inspiring guy. So Kyle, a couple of key points and then we’ll get into some interesting chat. So you were… obviously we know that you’re a speaker and you’re an entrepreneur, you’re an athlete. Like, you were a champion wrestler in high school. That’s cool, so I wanna talk about that. How did that come about? It sounds to me like your father and mother had a big impact. Your father was in the military?
Kyle: Army, yeah.
Mark: What people need to know about Kyle is that he is the first quadruple amputee to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro, and I saw images of this, and you basically bear-crawled up the entire mountain. Took you 3 days, right?
Kyle: It was actually 10 days up Kilimanjaro. We did a climb this year in South America. Highest peak there. Aconcagua, yeah. We completed that in 17 days.
Mark: Did you use the same rig? Or did you have some improvements?
Kyle: Some minor improvements, but you wouldn’t be able to tell in the photos. But it made a huge difference. Even just… it raised up the right side of my body about an inch, and it just made a night and day difference.
Mark: Because you have a different size ratio going on there?
Kyle: Never would have known, you know? Thought that things were like, symmetrical, but it was about an inch difference in terms of my right arm and leg and my left side. So I think that actually…
Mark: So you climbed Kilimanjaro lopsided is what you’re saying.
Kyle: Well I used to like… you know, how sometimes, in a divide of a trail, right, it’s obviously not super-flat, so you’ll have one side that is kind of higher than the other. And I used to always try to get the right… have the right side of the trail be the high side. And I didn’t really know why that felt so much better, but sure enough.
Mark: Now you know.
Kyle: Now I know.
Mark: You’re also a Crossfitter. You own your own CrossFit gym, called “No Excuses” CrossFit. And that was named after a book you wrote when you were in your 20s right? Or was it earlier?
Kyle: 19.
Mark: 19 years old. Called “No Excuses: The True story of a congenital amputee who became a champion in wrestling and life.” MMA fighter. Been in different documentaries and basically all around super-cool guy.
Kyle: (laughing) Major ADD. A lot of thigs.
Mark: (laughing) I bet you’re a little bit busy these days. You know, that’s one of the things that’s been haunting me, and I’m whining a little bit about it, so I’m trying to check that, but…
What’s your lif3e like right now? Let’s talk about now, and then we’ll go back and hit up some of these other cool things.
Kyle: So I moved to San Diego 3 years ago. It was one of the best decisions of my life. It was about a 10 minutes decision, literally. I booked a one-way ticket December 9th at 4:50 PM….
Mark: Where were you before?
Kyle: In Atlanta, Georgia. So my CrossFit is still there. Packed a duffle bag and moved.
Mark: What caused you to wanna move out here?
Kyle: There were a few factors. One, I competed in the Brazilian Jiujutsu world championships that past 2 years… but came to San Diego first time, 2005. I loved it. I really wanted to be here. Started dating a girl that was on the west coast, and a number of factors…
To make a very long story short, my grandmother was battling a really gnarly brain tumor, and that she ended up passing from. We had this really unbelievable morning together before she had this brain surgery, and one of the most special hour and half periods of my life. We’re laughing, joking, crying and I knew that she’d come out of the surgery okay. And spent most of the day at the hospital. The girl I was dating, she had been in town visiting, and I was about to drive her back to the airport. And I could very clearly see myself on that hospital bed… hopefully not soon, but in the grand scheme of things we’re all gonna be there soon. And I was like, “Why am I in Atlanta, when I’m not as happy as I could be?” I’ve wanted to live on the west coast for a long time, so literally booked a one-way ticket, packed a duffle bag and moved.
Mark: Isn’t that interesting. So sometimes we have to stare death in the face, whether it’s our own or someone else that we love, to make a decision that you probably knew, but you just were willing to make it.
Kyle: So much easier just to wait, right?
Mark: Kick the can down the road.
Kyle: “Yeah, yeah. I’ll get to that next year.”
Mark: Right.
Kyle If you really have that experience that next year’s not guaranteed, it forces you to act a lot… with a lot more decisiveness.
Mark: Right. So let’s talk about your formative years. All the way to the beginning, and what was it that your parents did differently with you than, obviously, they could have. Which helped form you as a young adult and create the trajectory of your life?
Kyle: There is an interesting relationship between my mom and dad. You know, my dad having… they were both young, they were in their early 20s. And you know, my dad had just come out of the army. He was a military police officer, over at Fort Meyer, you know, and I was born at Walter Reid, where so many of our service members have gone home to do their rehab. And really, in a nutshell, both my mom and my dad wanted to make things as normal as possible for me. My dad knew that that wasn’t going to come without some massive failure and figuring stuff out. Even something as simple as picking up a spoon or a fork. You know, and using that to go and scoop up the food…
Mark: So they didn’t enable you, they forced you to figure it out.
Kyle: Yeah. I mean, my mom, her instincts were to… she wanted to do it for me, she wanted to coddle, she wanted to be there to help. She didn’t want to see me go through the failures. But my dad, I think he knew that… and I kind of say this jokingly sometimes in speeches, but he knew that… even though it’s jokingly and a little bit serious, I wouldn’t want mom or grandma sitting behind me at my senior prom waiting to go out and give me a bite, right? So it’s like… I think that one decision colored so much of my life.


[09:28] Mark: Right. That’s huge. How did you get into wrestling? Was that your choice, or did your dad kind of guide you to that, to the mat?
Kyle: It was a little bit of both.
Mark: That must have been very formative for you. Just think about, you know… I wrestled a little bit but not anything like you did. But I just know how much of growthful experience it was. Because you have to face your fears, and get your ass kicked. Just all the challenge around that type of training. Because the intensity, and the pain and the suffering. What a great way for you to grow as a young man, so how did you get into that?
Kyle: Right. Except the cutting weight part.
Mark: Kind of sucks. I know it.
Kyle: The… it’s amazing though, the sport itself has taught me so many lessons. It started from I played football. And my dad tricked me into thinking it would improve my tackling. “Oh, yeah, do this.” The amazing thing was, well in football too, it kind of came natural, right? I mean in 6th grade the guys were bigger than me, but they weren’t a ton bigger. I played nose guard. I would just smash my helmet into the running back’s shin as he went by. That was the way I tried to take people down.
But in wrestling it was different because it didn’t come natural at all. It was a long time, over a year and a half, before I actually won a single match. And that contrasted to senior year of high school, ended up wrestling able bodied kids who’d won 36 varsity matches, beat the state champ from Alabama and Louisiana. Was one match away from being a high school all-American.
But when I started, if my dad were being honest with you, then he would tell you legitimately that he did not think it was physically possible for me to win a match. Still made me do it anyway.
Mark: Hmm, yeah, I’m sure. What about your coaches? Did they take you seriously, or were they thinking that this was like a charity case, and they’re just going to let you roll around on the mat?
Kyle: I think it was a little bit of both, actually. It was… my coach felt the same way that it probably wasn’t likely that I was going to win a match, yet he was the head varsity coach, coach Ramos, and he would come and spend… you know, it was in 6th grade, and he would come to the youth practices long after it wasn’t his responsibility to do that. But he would just show up once or twice a week. He would wrestle, he would tuck his arms into his sleeves and try to wrestle from my perspective… It really, for the first year that I wrestled there was only one move, one technique that I had. And I actually had to let somebody take me down, and they’d get behind me, so they’d score 2 points for the takedown, and then apply a half-nelson, it’s like a pinning combination. And then I would grab hold of their arm, lean down and try to roll them. That was the only move that I had.
Mark: (laughing) That was your one-trick wonder.
Kyle: It was like, I spent so much of that year on my back, almost pinned. So we…
Mark: Did you ever want to give up?
Kyle: Oh, begged to quit. Yeah. I hated it. You know, it’s so embarrassing to get your butt kicked by somebody else, and people were saying it’s almost border-line child abuse.
Mark: I bet. And I guess that took a lot of discipline on your parent’s part. Or maybe as your father. To keep you in the game like that. A lot of parents… most parents wouldn’t have done it.
Kyle: My dad kind of tricked me into coming and trying out. Lost every match in 6th grade. Didn’t want to do it again. Tricked me into coming out in 7th grade, he said he didn’t win a match his first year either. And he said, “Nobody ever wins a match their first year, but everybody does their second year, cause you’re gonna find somebody who it’s their first season and you’ll beat them. So if you sign up this year, you’ll beat somebody.” And sure enough, I found out from my grandpa when I was interviewing him for my book that…my dad had told me this story. “I didn’t win a match my first year.” I believed it, literally based my whole life on that. And I found out it was a complete lie.
Mark: (laughing) No shit.
Kyle: For my whole adult life, at least my teenage formative years…
Mark: If he hadn’t done that…
Kyle: Exactly.
Mark: That’s awesome. And so you won a match that second year.
Kyle: I won a match that year, and by the 3rd season I was undefeated going into the state tournament. It was a night and day difference.
Mark: So what changed? You learn some more moves? Or was it confidence? Or did you just scare the shit out of everyone?
Kyle: That experience curve is like anything. I think the experience curve… I think about this a lot, right… in business, in life, in whatever you’re doing. If you start out doing something at first, you’re going to make a ton of mistakes. In business, you’re going to waste a bunch of money, you’re going to do stupid things, you’re going to spend money on some marketing campaign that doesn’t work. Over time, you’re able to drive your costs down, because you make lots of mistakes, right? And you’re able to do things more efficiently. And I think that experience curve, it just might be more exacerbated on the front end for a lot of things. Whether it’s putting on my socks for the first time, or like, driving a car, or like, you know, anything. Shaving or wrestling. Climbing a mountain. That front-end period is little bit steeper learning curve.

“I don’t know”

[14:36] Mark: Right. By the way, everything you just listed, I’m trying to imagine how you would do it, and I have no idea. I would be completely lost.
Kyle: That’s kind of how my life has been though. It’s really like, the foundational elements of it. And I’ve got an amazing group of friends, that have kind of been on this journey with me, that like, come up with a crazy goal, and some people would be like, “Well, how the heck are you gonna do that?” And I’m like, “I don’t know.”
Mark: Right. But, we’ll figure it out.
Kyle: Those three words, I don’t know… they’re probably the 3 most important in my life.
Mark: yeah, because there’s a “but” after that. “I don’t know, but it’s not going to keep me from trying.”
Kyle: We’ll figure it out, right?
Mark: I love that. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life? And I don’t mean, like, emotionally, like, breaking up with a girlfriend… what’s the hardest challenge?
Kyle: (laughing) That’s way harder for them than me. I kid. But no, I would say probably it was as a kid, 5 years old, being in stores where like other kids look or stare, or make fun of me. By far. Way more than the physical side, way more than anything else that emotional separation that I felt, you know, so another perfect example was…
Mark: Mm-hmm. Did you have any friends back then that could help you through that, or stand by you?
Kyle: Totally. My mom was…, she really got the importance of the social elements. So I had a great group of friends. I spent the first… born in DC at Walter Reid, spent most of the first 10 years of my life in Indiana, and then came to Georgia when I was 10, in 5th grade. And that transition was rough, cause it was like I left all those friends. And the new kids, and they looked at me as different, and then, again, that experience curve, that time passes and things are normal again. But… my mom used to organize like neighborhood street hockey games. We didn’t have a ton of money, but she would go and buy the newest super-Nintendo gaming system so that the other kids would want to come to the house and play.
Mark: Pretty neat. I imagine you still get some of that. But have you seen a change in our society where there’s more of an acceptance? Or, let’s say less kind of staring, less judging, less of the perception challenges?
Kyle: There is that. I think it’s also more so the change has been in me where… I’ve never known any different, right? So it’s just… kinda just normal…
Mark: You don’t even notice any more, probably.
Kyle: Yeah, I kinda get… but I also understand too, from their perspective if they haven’t seen someone like me before, of course they’re going to be curious, right? And as a kid I felt more threatened by it, now I can appreciate it for what it is, but I think the difference is I’ve had 30 years to cultivate that mindset. And spending time with a lot of our military… I know that you and I both care deeply… when somebody goes through some type of loss or amputation, it’s more of a visual shift. I think that the emotional, psychological side of that is way more challenging than like the physical, “How are we going to do this? How are we going to do that?”
Mark: Right. How did you get into CrossFit? I really enjoyed… I don’t know, I think I first met you at the affiliate summit in Florida. Remember that? It was…
Kyle: Miami.
Mark: Miami, yeah. And that was pretty interesting. Of course, coach Glassman was there, and I think we did some WODs and stuff. Or maybe, I’m not sure where I saw you doing muscle ups and… Except for Transition Possible, of course, that was different. But I’ve seen you do CrossFit WODs and it’s pretty cool to see how you modify. You get an amazing workout. I can see how you’d be a natural at it. So how did you get interested in it? To start a CrossFit gym?
Kyle: It’s not the most inspiring story, but I just saw a video of the “Nasty Girls.” It was Annie, Eva T. and Nicole, and I was like, “These smokin’ hot, beautiful girls are killing themselves.”
Mark: Mutant fitness girls.
Kyle: Mutant is right. Like what the heck is this? What just happened? It was like one of the most mind-blowing things I’d ever seen, and all of a sudden I found myself a certification like a couple weeks later.
Mark: That’s cool. And so you still have the gym back in Atlanta?
Kyle: I do, yeah. It’s awesome. Got a great group of people that are managing for me. Probably some of them might be tuning in to this. Listening to this, so it’s… I’m really grateful. I mean, I’ve been out in San Diego for 3 years, and the gym’s performing way better than at any point in time when I was actually there.
Mark: Isn’t that funny?
Kyle:(laughing) So, as soon as I remove myself from the equation, then…
Mark: I’m about ready to sell “U.S. CrossFit,” or at least bring someone else in to run it for me. And it’s probably going to explode because I’m holding it back.(laughing) Gotta get out of the way. I’m the single most limiting factor in my own business. That’s cool, so you did the same thing. All right, so let’s get into some really interesting things here.


[19:46] First, I wanna talk about the decision and the preparation, and then the mental side of the Kilimanjaro expedition. And Aconcagua. Cause they’re kind of related.
Phew. Wow. First of all, just too even have the vision to do that is extraordinary. So how did that come about? How did you one day think, “I wonder if could do that?” Most people with arms and legs don’t think they can climb the 7 sisters.
Kyle: I think there’s always been a thing in me since I was a little kid, my wheelchair, frankly… there were many places that my wheelchair couldn’t go. And at home I didn’t really use the wheelchair, but when I was out, with friends and stuff, I would be travelling in the wheelchair. And if my friends, if we were playing paintball or something, right, and they go and run off deep into the woods, there were many places that I couldn’t go. I wanted to go, but it was like totally inaccessible. So I think the desire was always there. But the first impetus of Kilimanjaro happened, it was a CrossFit sectional event, so before they had the CrossFit open, they had this sectional competition. And the first workout… they announced the workout like 2 days before, and the first workout is you had to do a sprint up Stone Mountain in Atlanta, so it’s about a 900 foot, you know, like 1.2 mile hike. So good sized hike. The first workout, 1000 meter row, sprint up Stone Mountain. With the rowing machine I would take like a webbing type strap and hook it to the handle bar of the rower. Wrap that around my arms.
So we did the row and jumped off that. And I had leather welding sleeves that I’d duct-taped around to use to protect my arms. Seemed like a good idea for the first quarter of a mile, until I liked realized the leather welding sleeves on the outside held up great. It was a lot tougher than my skin. It literally just started tearing all the skin off the ends of my arms.
Mark: No shit.
Kyle: So everybody did this workout. It was like, 25 minutes average time, there was a guy, amazing guy, who was partially paralyzed. He did it like 50 minutes, and it was like… for me it took an hour and 46 minutes. I got to the top. I’m bloody, and just sweaty. I get there… but I’d been to the top of Stone Mountain a dozen times, because every time that friends or family would come into town in Atlanta you’d have to go there and take a picture, right? So there’s a tram that goes to the top. And I’d always taken the tram. And this was the first time that I’d hiked it. I got there and I was like, “Holy Shit, this is beautiful. This is breathtaking.” And it was only because of that, like, period of suffering, that hour and 46 minutes to get to that point…
Mark: It changed your perspective…
Kyle: Completely. Even though it was the exact same experience as the dozen times I’d been there before.
Mark: Same place, you mean.
Kyle: Same place. So…
Mark: So what changed was the inside of you. You’re whole appreciation for that peak and what the view meant to you changed because you did the work…
Kyle: Did the work. That night… it was a 2 day event, so we had another chipper WOD after that, and I was in an ice bath in my bathtub that night, and one of my friends was there from my box, and I told her, “It sounds crazy, but I want to climb Kilimanjaro.” And she was like, “You are out of your effing mind. You know, you basically just tore all the skin off your arms doing, like…”
Mark: A mile.
Kyle: Yeah, a mile, right? How are you going to do… because Kilimanjaro’s like over a 30 mile trail…
Mark: That’s straight up?
Kyle: You know, up to 19, 340 feet. Just totally different, and again, coming back to this theme of “I don’t know.” It was like, “I don’t know. I have no idea.” But I knew that if we set that intention, and built the team, the resources would appear.
Mark: Okay, so once you set that intention, of course, the train was rolling. What was the prep like? How long did it take? Did you set it for 2 years out or a year out, or how long did you take to prep?
Kyle: The CrossFit thing was the fall of 2010, started building a team April, 2011. And then we were on Kilimanjaro, January 2012. January 3rd we flew to Africa. So had the final gear December 15th, 2011. So it was like 2 weeks, 2 and a half weeks before we were actually on the mountain. And we tried all kinds of things. Bath towels on my arms and my feet. Oven mitts. Pot holders. Football pads.
Mark: Whose idea was it to build the harness with the tire rubber and all that?
Kyle: So that… we used the tire and the rubber we just went to like a hardware store, and we’re like… we used a mountain bike tire, cut it up and duct-taped that all together. Kinda created this prototype. Just did it together, the team that I had. My friend Dan, Joey, and then some amazing people out in Arizona rescued me, and these really bad ideas for the gear. But they took this prototype, they put together like a carbon fiber system, so it’s like carbon fiber socket. Has a hiking shoe sole on the outside, crampons that fit it for ice spikes on top. And then it all connects to this climbers harness. It was… but, man, even finding someone that was crazy enough to go and take me. That was a process.
Mark: Right. So how big was your team to help climb the mountain itself?
Kyle: So we had 9 Americans on Kilimanjaro. 30+ Africans, support like guides and porters. It was a huge team. There was way too much drama, logistics, like all the kind of moving pieces, and…
So Aconcagua that we did this year, in February, we brought that back down to 4 Americans, including myself, and 2 Argentinian guides. Team of 6. I got why the teams operate with fewer.
Mark: Yeah. Small is better. Keep it simple. So you said it took you 9 days? For Kilimanjaro?
Kyle: It was 10 up, 2 down.
Mark: So walk us through a little bit of the highs and lows of the journey mentally and emotionally. What your challenges were.
Kyle: Mentally… saw the thing for the first time, thought, “Oh crap. This is a bad idea.”
Mark: (laughing) “This is actually really tall.”
Kyle: Then it was like, “all right, we’re here. Let’s give it a go.” Even not so much that it was super-tall, but it’s also like, just so far away. It’s a super-long approach to actually get to where you’re climbing.
Mark: Yeah. I’ve driven past it. And you’re right, it’s just like this flat tundra or whatever, or savannah, and then this mountain just rises right out of the middle of it, straight up into the sky. It’s pretty daunting.
Kyle: I didn’t see it until we hit the gates, and it was like these Jurassic Park gates. They go and open up into the park, and literally the clouds parted. It was like… I crapped my pants, instantly. It was like… I just… the first thought was, we’re filming for ESPN, and I tried to like… I don’t even know what was going through my head, I was trying to like…
Mark: Is that when someone stuck a film camera in your face? It was like, “What’s going through your mind right now, Kyle?” And you’re like “Holy shit.”
Kyle: Yeah, and I’m thinking, “man, this is probably like the worst idea I’ve ever had.” And then we start, and the biggest fear was a massive rain storm. What would happen if the gear got wet? Couple hours into the hike… it’s a beautiful day when we’re going, and then all of a sudden this monsoon hits us. We survived that, got out of the rain forest. And we were behind on the schedule so we cut out a rest day, and we kept pushing. We went 5 straight days, and at the end of the 4th day I was mentally, emotionally broken. I was in my tent crying, like, gritting my teeth, angry. You know, I was having fun, kinda before, we were laughing and joking with friends, and then progressively the next couple of days, we projected it was going to take 15 days to reach the summit, and it was on the 5th day we changed our path, we went straight up the west side of the mountain. We didn’t know that that was an option. And I was thinking, “Man, I’m like…”
Mark: Why did that happen? Isn’t that kinda risky to change your plan that dramatically right in the middle?
Kyle: It was a risk, but it was the only chance that I had, I think, to make it.
Mark: Because of the physical limitations.
Kyle: Exactly.
Mark: You had to shorten up the time demand. I see.
Kyle: To me, you know, mentally I was like,” I know that over a 24 hour period, I don’t care what it is that gets thrown at me, I can handle that. But over an extra 5 to 7 days potentially, like, that would be enough to physically, like… that on top of everything that I’d already done, it would just be enough to be broken.
Mark: It’s kind of like hell week with the SEAL training, you know what I mean? It’s one thing to show up every day and go home and get some sleep at night. There’s a lot of people who can make it through 6 months of that. But you throw that 6 day period in where they’re going to go 24/7, it’s a great equalizer. And you were facing you’re own little hell week pretty much.
Kyle: I felt it. It was… my arms were swelling up, my feet, everything. Just the distance. My shoulders were shot, my back, my hips, everything was just in shut down mode. I was losing a ton of weight. It was… yeah.
Mark: So you had to really, really dig deep into your reservoir of Kokoro strength. After a while it wasn’t about the physical strength at all. I mean, you’re pretty much shot. So you were just going on pure will power, probably?
Kyle: Well something that I think that you can relate to, and I know that you share a lot about is a powerful step is really kind of take that eyes off of yourself, and your own suffering. And… so for me, the big difference maker… and it’s really even hard to describe, how impactful this was. But on this 4th night in the tent I’m hearing my friends laughing and joking outside, and I felt this feeling of like, it’s not fair that they’re having fun and I’m not. And then I thought about what’s fair and what’s not fair. And basically the… I was brought back to this… right before we left I met the mother of a soldier named Corey Johnson, he was an infantry soldier, he was in Afghanistan and he was killed in combat. And his mom had just lost her son, she had 3 grandkids, and she told me… I mean, his wife was pregnant with his 3rd daughter before he went on his final deployment. And she told me… called it “Mission Kilimanjaro,” we had 2 veterans, a marine and an army staff sergeant who were both battling their own injuries. And we wanted to send a message to vets with this, they could still create the life that they want. And it was like, at this most broken point, I started thinking about….
Mark: Didn’t she ask you to spread his ashes up there? I remember you telling me this story once before. So that became your why.
Kyle: Yeah. She gave us Corey’s ashes… in it was kind of moccasin type material. And each one of our team members wore it on a different day, and I remember like feeling him in that tent with me, and it was like…I just, I made that decision there… this sounds crazy but I made the decision that the only way that I’m coming off this mountain is to summit and come back down. If I die here, I’m gonna go there. I’m not going to stop. And it was weird, it was like… the pain didn’t go away but it transmuted into something, and it was like that next day.
Having 50% faster speed and all that, and that was when we decided to go and change our route. And our guides all were against it. The African guys that had done the route said it’s physically impossible, there’s no way Kyle can do this. And I told ‘em, it was like, “look, one day, I don’t care what is on that wall, I’ll get through it.”
Mark: and did you have any technical equipment? Was there any roping in and all that kind of stuff? Or was this one limb after another so to speak?
Kyle: Yeah. We didn’t plan on going this way so we didn’t have that. It’s steep and it’s icy. I slipped on a sheet of ice about 17,000 feet. Pitch black.
Mark: Oh shit.
Kyle: Slid 5 or 6 feet. My guide, Kevin, jumped on me, bear-hugged and stopped my fall. So another friend, Richard Mackowitz…
Mark: I know Richard.
Kyle: Yeah, so Richard has this mantra “Not dead, can’t quit.” And any time that I’ve gotten to a really, really bad spot, you know, physically especially I…
Mark: Pull that one out? It’s a good one.
Kyle: Yeah, and I like kinda thinking “are you dead?” I knew if I heard that voice back then I wasn’t, so can’t quit.
Mark: (laughing) That’s a good one. Yeah. And let us always hear that voice, right? Okay, so what did it feel like when you crested the summit? You know, what was that moment like for you?
Kyle: I mean, for one, it was like this… we came up and it was like perfect time to have this beautiful picturesque sunrise, you know, and even that next morning, I had given myself frostbite, my socks froze overnight, but we got through that and it was like all the stuff going to get there, and I held it together pretty good until I called my mom on the SAT phone, and she started crying and I just lost it. And then, getting to pay tribute to Corey and to leave his ashes there, it’s the greatest honor I’ve ever had in my life. I just talked to his mom the other day, she messaged me on Facebook and we kind of talked, and just sharing some memories about some stuff. She told me that really she wants to be able to go there one day and see it.
Mark: Oh cool. Did you leave any marker behind?
Kyle: WE did. And from people I’ve heard that it’s still sort of there. Just created a little bit of a rock pyre, kind of off to the side.
Mark: Wow. What a cool story.


[36:22] Mark: Did you.., when you climbed Aconcagua di you have anything like that that came close as a why? And what was the purpose behind that beside s a second mountain?
Kyle: It was… a big part of it was as I mentioned my grandma passing. Was the first time I’d really gone through this loss, and it… it’s been probably that year, period of time, from… was moments of the worst year of my life and moments of it being the best year of my life. Never had a year quite like it. Really got me to go and examine “What am I doing with my life?” Spending this amount of time in airplanes ad conference rooms and all that. Is that what this is really about?
Mark: So this is kind of like a reset. You’re grandma passing away and then your bid for the mountain.
Kyle: So she passed in… This was last year, and she passed in March, and I buried myself in business and training. Was writing a new business plan. Launching a new business. And I was training for the Jiujutsu World Championships, so… and then, so literally she passed on a Friday, my birthday was a Tuesday… she passed that following Friday. I got to hold her hand on the Monday before, but then like, it was very quick. It was like Easter was the following weekend so my grandpa wanted to do the funeral. She had funeral services… viewing Saturday, viewing Sunday, and then on Monday I got up that morning to give a speech, in Indianapolis. Flew next day to Orlando to give a speech. And just buried it. All of a sudden, training for the jiujutsu worlds, working on the business stuff, and in one week I lost first round of the Jiujutsu worlds, and I quit the business thing that I was working on.
Mark: mm. It all unraveled right there.
Kyle: And I spent 10 days on the couch just doing nothing. I spent that summer wandering, I went to Europe for a while. Northern California. Just felt like just wandering.
Mark: yeah, interesting. So the mountain helped you refocus and kind of help you emerge the next version of yourself?
Kyle: To me, the best word I think I’ve kinda thought about it… it was my awakener, it was just like that moment of like… I didn’t go down there to make it a big media spectacle. I didn’t even really post on Facebook that I was going. I didn’t tell a bunch of people.
Mark: It was more about you this time.
Kyle: Yeah, it was like… we had a super-small team, just some of my closest friends and it was… you know, it pushed me as far, maybe even a tidbit further than Kilimanjaro did. And the crazy part was too… we got there and the Argentinian government, they found out we were coming, and they said, “We want you to be an ambassador for this new program we’re launching where we want to encourage people with disabilities to visit all of our national parks.” And so it was like… and on the way to this meeting we got checked into the hotel, and we went over to this meeting to meet one of their ministers of tourism, and on the way there was this amputee, who was middle-aged guy on the street. He was begging. And panhandling, and he saw me, and we just like made eye contact for 15 seconds. And he said “maestro.” And…
Mark: Is that like “brother?” What did he mean by that?
Kyle: Like “teacher.” And it was like…
Mark: Did he recognize you, or was it just a recognition that you were healthy and purposeful at the moment.
Kyle: I think it was that. And I just started to cry to, it was like… made me really realize, around the world there’s just… I’m so freakin’ lucky, you know? To be born in this time, where I have a wheelchair. If I’d been born 150 years before, you know… use a wheelchair that’s made out of wooden, square tires, like.
Mark: Well, also, you could have been born in Afghanistan. Or with a different set of parents who didn’t challenge you like that. It’s amazing, though, on that point, when you actually take stock of your true blessings, no matter who you are, they’re there. You gotta look for ’em though, sometimes,
Kyle: I think it depends too. Sometimes it just puts things in perspective but…
Mark: Just to be alive is an incredible blessing. Just a freakin’ miracle. You know the yogis call it a “precious human birth,” right? That we have to earn. Why squander that, you know what I mean? How cool is that?
So any… clearly the journey up Acancagua? Is that how you say it? Aconcagua.
Kyle: I had to practice that one for quite a while.
Mark: That really helped you focus on the next phase of your life. The move to San Diego came out of that, that’s sort of where we started here. What other insights did you learn or did you gain on that journey?
Kyle: A really key one came… so in that one, one day when my guide… he was losing confidence that we were going to be able to make it. Cause that one… it gets dangerous. There was actually a gentleman in the group ahead of us, an American climber who passed away about 1000 feet below summit.
Mark: From?
Kyle: Altitude stroke. It was…
Mark: Really? So it’s a higher mountain than Kilimanjaro.
Kyle: yeah, Kilimanjaro’s like a little over 19,000. This one is nearly 23,000 feet.
Mark: But still not a technical climb. You can go up it without ropes…
Kyle: There are sections that are more technical than others, and it depends on the route that you go. But there are some sections that are… but it’s not super-technical thing, it’s more of an endurance thing. But it’s… man, it was like there was this really… I was way grateful for the ice that I hit, because before that it was like this loose rock and dirt. And like this scree that just slides.
Mark: Scree is horrible.
Kyle: Terrible. Literally my friends can go and stab their trekking poles in and take a big step, and it’s like for me, it’s like
Mark: Sliding.
Kyle: Sliding.
Mark: 2 steps forward, 3 steps back.
Kyle: Imagine bear-crawling this vertical treadmill that’s like…
Mark: Oh my gosh. Did you have any spikes or anything that you could dig in?
Kyle: Not, I mean I had spikes for my arms, but that was for the ice. For the dirt, it was just… it was just brutal.
Mark: It’s almost like getting flat, closest to the earth, was the best strategy, wasn’t it?
Kyle: yeah, I mean it was…
Mark: Like, low-crawling almost.
Kyle: Low-crawling. And that’s what I did, I mean it was the whole way, is just try to gut it out. And I had one night, we’d just gone through these massive ice pillars. I was exhausted. Probably did 500 pullups that day, and then like there’s a watermelon sized rock that went by my head going about 50 miles an hour. I just dove under another rock and tried to cover my head.
Mark: Did you have a helmet on, by any chance?
Kyle: I did, but that would have just taken it right off. There’s no way.
Mark: Holy shit.
Kyle: And my resting heart -rate wouldn’t… like for a while, like for over an hour or two, would not drop below 140.
Mark: Holy crap.
Kyle: And I was thinking, like, at this point like…
Mark: This is it.
Kyle: This may have like real consequences. (laughing) And then I’m thinking too, “This parks department just asked me to be this honorary member for people with disabilities. Now they’re not going to let anybody climb it.” Cause if I die I’m gonna ruin it for everybody.
Mark: (laughing) Holy shit. That is awesome.
Kyle: I was seriously thinking that.
46:23 Mark: I bet you were. “I can’t die now, I’m gonna let down the entire…” Well that that brings you back to “Not dead, can’t quit.” There you go.
Kyle: yeah, actually, I remember clearly years ago listening to you on a podcast. It was… talking about the box breathing, and I sat there for hours that night doing it. My guide was asleep and I just tried to box breath, and get my heart rate down, and I thought, “all right, I’m gonna go to sleep. I’m gonna wake up in the morning and re-evaluate.” And… but I was really close to calling it. It was the last day too that I could have paid extra for a helicopter evac. At that point, I’m thinking, “Take it all. Whatever. Empty my bank account. What good is it if I’m dead? I don’t care how much this costs.” Like, I wanna be outta here.
But I decided to go to sleep, wake up the next morning, re-evaluate. We took a rest day, and felt good to get up that next morning and go again. Towards the end, yeah, I remember just… One of the big, key takeaways too is like my ski goggles. Ski goggles kinda limit your vision, right? Bit of a tunnel vision. So when I’m hiking I’m literally staring at the ground. It’s not a beautiful view, right? It’s just, right there. And I started thinking instead of looking up and seeing everything I have to go and do, I just started having this thought, I’m just gonna focus on what’s in my field of vision right now. And then there’ll be another thing. And then there’ll be another thing.
Mark: That’s awesome. It’s a great application of the micro-goal concept, right? All you gotta do is get to there.
Kyle: I could see like 2 feet at a time, and then there’d be another 2 feet.


[46:23] Mark: Right. Very cool. So before we started chatting we talked a little bit about the challenges that other veterans are having these days. It’s something that’s near and dear to my heart as well. What do you think… you mentioned you were just down talking to the Secretary of the Army about the issue. How can guys like you and I help; veterans who are desperate, despondent and committing suicide at a rate of 22 a day. Which is just stunning and sad, obviously. But what are your thoughts on this and what can we do? And what can people listening do to help with awareness, or…
Kyle: I wish I had a better answer. I mean, the truth is I don’t have a very good one, I don’t think even the military right now has a very good answer for it. I think it’s like something that we’re just beginning to go and… it’s, I think that we have to reframe this. I’ve been on these bases where… big bases through the different branches in the Air Force, The Army, the Marines, where like, someone had just completed suicide and like then it just sends this vibrational, just like massive impact and reverberation around the entire community. And everybody’s impacted by it. And it’s like there’s this really big–as there should be, probably–this big lamentation. This heavy feeling. And one thing that helped reframe things a little for me was there’s an organization called the Travis Manion foundation. Travis was a marine and was killed in combat, but his family has created this amazing organization. The mantra, the tagline for this organization is they say “Honor the fallen by challenging the living.” And I think that like instead of… I think a lot of times and talking to a lot of troops when they’re on the bases and all this stuff, when they have someone that they’re close to, or like a friend or even an acquaintance that commits suicide. And then it’s like, they have this feeling of like, why couldn’t they have known? What could they have done differently? All this stuff. And I think we need to be able to reframe that a little bit to go and be able to really honor that person. We need to challenge living now. And I think a big key is some of the stuff that you teach and talk about, too. It’s finding purpose. It’s realizing…
Mark: They’ve lost their why. And they need help finding their why. And the drugs aren’t going to help. All this stuff, like the other stuff like yoga and breath control that’ll help them come back into balance, but it’s still not enough. They still need a why.
Kyle: For all of us too in this why conversation, one thing I think that people miss is it’s not… and this applies whether people are depressed or just like higher performing, better in life. But it’s not a singular thing, and it’s not a static thing. There are constantly, right now, in this moment, there are hundreds of whys that are occurring for why me and you are taping this podcast. There’s gonna be different for different reasons, and this cross-contextual web of different things.
Mark: I love what you’re saying right now, because you’re right. A lot of people mistake it for thinking they need to figure out that one glorious thing where they’re going to change humanity, or it’s going to be their savior. And the reality is, you just need a why to get out of bed. And then you need a why to do the next thing.
Kyle: And there are already a hundred built in whys to get out of bed. I think you kinda need to be conscious of choosing and selecting, like, what is the one that I’m gonna go and draw from. I noticed, if I go and give a speech, and I’m just like, “You know what? Oh, this is a speech because these are financial advisors and this is just a paycheck.” It’s a disempowering place to come from, I can fake it. I can kind of go through the motions and all that, but I know there’s a palpable difference if I go and say, “I believe there are people that are capable of changing the world in this audience.” They’re people that have dreams and passions and goals, and whatever it is… business owners, and people that are impacting other people in their lives and their livelihood. It’s like it’s… but it doesn’t mean that I’m not being paid for the event, it doesn’t mean that there’s not also a financial consideration, doesn’t mean that there’s also not my own ego of looking good. There’s not, like, you know…
Mark: But the overarching why, the one that you’re connecting with… the one that’s helping you find meaning, right, you’re clear about that. And that helps drive you and motivate you.
Kyle: I’d say, when I’m clear about that it does.
Mark: Right. No, I get that. We have to remind ourselves, and to me it’s part of a ritual or practice. So for instance we teach a practice of every morning connecting with your why. So the why of… your perception of why you’re on this planet, connected to what you’re going to do about it in the next 18 months to 3 years. Which’ll be like launching a new business, or getting my CrossFit gym open, or getting healthy. And then connecting that down to what am I going to do today to move myself forward? And you do that in the context of already clearing your mind and dropping in through box breathing and a short little somatic practice. It’s extraordinarily powerful, right? Simple. And then you can take that and make it pre-event ritual. So before a speech, or before a therapy session if you’re in recovery or something like that. When I think about these vets who are suffering, if we could just get that word to them, and teach them some of these life skills. And the places that they’re being cared for are so systemically grounded in just giving them drugs. They’re starting to do certain things, but they’re not relying on any of these ancient warrior practices that you and I know are so powerful. And so when I think about that…
Kyle: It’s all heady stuff.
Mark: It’s all heady, and they need to get out of their head, and into their heart. They can’t keep them locked in their head.
Kyle: Research says this and that, blah, blah, blah. And it’s like you said earlier today, oh, like, smiling. We’ve discovered that smiling is the thing, right?
Mark: (laughing) Exactly. If you could just do laughing yoga with these guys it would probably cure them.
Kyle: But when we go and do research on it, then that proves that that’s a thing…Oh, okay. No, it’s so true. And it’s like, to come back to that point with veterans–I think a lot of times the work that you can go into, it helps. To really go and examine, like, I think research has shown that people are kind of prone to go and battle bigger challenges and make certain decisions depending on whether they faced certain childhood traumas and other things of that nature.
My childhood trauma might look a lot different from other people. And frankly I think people face things that are tens of thousands of times harder than anything that I had to go and face. And you’d never be able to see it.
And as human beings we’re so good at hiding that stuff, right?
Mark: Absolutely.
Kyle: We cover it up.
Mark: Well especially in the West. And this is going to take the conversation a little bit broader, more societal. We’ve been taught to look outside, that everything is about…
Kyle: Extrinsic.
Mark: Extrinsic world. The material world. Material success, financial success and building things. And you and I, even though we can do a lot of the internal work, can still fall prey to that, right? Like success to me is a successful business, and a number of books out there, and affecting people, but the reality is, it’s important, but it’s not as important as taking care of what’s on the inside. And cultivating and evolving what’s on the inside. So I think that we’re at this major inflection point in the human race, and it’s why we’re seeing such chaos and confusion. And I think the vets are part of that. It’s not just that they’ve served in combat, because throughout history, vets have served in combat, and not had suicide at the rate that we’re having now. It’s just that, when they get out of combat, they’re back into a world which has no lexicon or practices for them to touch bases internally, right? To figure out how to reorganize their internal battleground and set it up for the win. And so I think that’s where… my mission is to begin to get more of a training and lexicon around developing interior, so we can show up more powerfully and healthy on the exterior.
It’s gonna take time. It’s one person at a time.
Kyle: Which is so counter to the world that we live in now, right?
Mark: Which is going faster and faster.
Kyle: We wanna go faster, we want more. And it’s like, “how can I bio-hack myself to go and answer 5,000 emails a day, right? I was doing 4,500 last week, now I want 5,000.”
Mark: And I swear people want a pill that’s going to make ’em smarter, they want a pill that’s going to make ’em stronger, and they want the next tool that’s going to allow them to impact more people. And there is a lot of good in technology, but it also can be extraordinarily distracting. And it can amplify our problems. Amplify our dysfunctions, too. You know, and I think that’s probably what’s happening here.
Kyle: I think societally, globally, we’re looking at that. But it’s also too, I think with veterans you go and add in on top of that a major, stressful trauma or something like that, that happens in combat. And maybe people were able to… you know, if you think about it, like, if you’ve got like a bathtub full of water, right? And you go in somebody’s just general bathtub of stresses is like, high, right? But then you take a giant duffle bag of sand like you’ve got outside here, and you go and throw it inside there, it’s going to create a massive disturbance and a massive stress. The lower that you can get the water level in there, you go and throw that sandbag in now, and there’s a lot more room for the displacement, if that makes sense.
Mark: Interesting metaphor. Yeah. I like that.
Kyle: And I think a lot of that has to do with our lifestyle. It has to do with our sleep, our stress. It has to do with going deeper, connecting in. But it’s not just a heady type thing. It’s not just a psychological thing. It’s in our gut. And like, the heart/mind, that you’ve talked about. The Kokoro.


[57:01] Mark: Yeah. The Kokoro means, “heart/mind” or “whole mind.” and I think that’s the key. The ancient traditions taught us that the brain is just one executive agent of your consciousness. But it is not your whole consciousness. So this flies in the face of modern technologists like Kurzweil and others, who say that consciousness is complexity. So the more synaptical things are going on… and then that complexity becomes self-aware. And so that’s why they think that artificial intelligence can become self-aware. And they’re not taking into account the heart’s energy, right? The belly’s energy. The spirit’s energy. The ancient notion that consciousness exists in and all around us as an enmeshed being. That’s why we call it integration, when you train. Here’s an interesting concept, when you go to your CrossFit gym, you’re training yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, intuitionally and spiritually. You’re not just training yourself to do muscle ups.
Kyle: Had very similar conversations with Coach Glassman about that. I think it’s really… I think that that the people who really get what it’s about, realize that it’s a spiritual experience.
Mark: It is. It’s an evolution. Every time… in fact in SEAL training, I don’t know if this is actually true, but this is my story. We call everything we do an evolution, and I believe that’s because some wise instructor, years back, said “we’re evolving ourselves.” Every time you go out and run five miles in evolution, you’re going to evolve yourself and come out a stronger person, a different person. Isn’t that interesting?
Kyle: You know, when I was a kid I use to pray every single night that wake up and have arms and legs. If I’d continued to go and do that, I think it would have turned out be a very different experience of life. And I think that…
Mark: So what you’re saying is you wouldn’t change anything.
Kyle: I think beyond not changing anything, it’s by far… I acknowledge it as the greatest gift I’ve ever been given. And I think it’s allowed me… who knows? (laughing) Coach Glassman said I might have been a heroin addict.
Mark: And you probably can’t even get a mental image of who you would be if you had arms and legs.
Kyle: Big time. It’s… but the difference is though, and I think that something that… I love what you share in terms of like, the heart, the mind, the integration with all of this. Because it’s you’re a SEAL commander. You’re the baddest of the bad in terms of like the warrior elite. And if you can go and have somebody… “If this guy is talking about breathing, and yoga.” it’s not as uncool or weird, you know, it’s like… and we have to present this stuff as an opportunity.
Mark: As mainstream as normal.
Kyle: Exactly. Not only as normal, but as way to give you like this access to this huge advantage in life. And this leg up. The reason why this biohacking stuff takes off is because it’s this great advantage. But we neglect to talk about this spiritual advantage that you go and get. But it’s just… for us it’s just a natural thing. Who knows? I probably wouldn’t have had any interest in any type of philosophy or anything like that if… maybe I would have, never know. And I’m so grateful because of that inquiry and because of that opportunity. Even though as a kid, I was at the point where I was ready to give up on my life at 10 years old. I know what that’s like. I know what its like to have no fear or hope for what the future is, and the anger. And you kind of have to be able to go meet people where they’re at. And I think you also too… this stuff that we’re talking about it has to be presented as opportunity. It’s not something that you have to go and do.
Mark: Right. It can’t be have to, it can’t be dogmatic, it can’t be tied to any one religion or any particular person, too. Cause people want to put like Coach Glassman, and I’m starting to experience people want to put me on a pedestal. Its like, “Nah. That’s not going to happen.”
Kyle: It’s a slippery slope. You start to go and see yourself in a certain light. You’re better than others, and I think that that creates separation. I’ve seen it happen with high-level athletes, I’ve seen it happen with public figures. They start seeing themselves as separate. To me, it creates this prison of life. That, like, you can’t see yourself as the same as someone else. If you can’t see yourself as the same as the busboy at the restaurant, or the cleaning lady at the hotel…
Mark: We’re all on our journeys, but we’re all the same. And we’re connected. And we all have amazing gifts to offer, and lessons to learn, and things to teach.
Kyle: And people can go and learn just as much from the cleaning lady at the hotel just as much as they could hanging out from us if they’re really curious and they’re really open, and willing to go and dive in. There’s so much there.

The Razor’s Edge

[1:01:49] Mark: Have you ever read Somerset Maughaum’s “The Razor’s Edge?”
Kyle: No.
Mark: Oh, it’s a terrific book. And it’s classic because it’s about… different era, I think it was like 1920s, around that era. Almost before or between the wars. I think. I could be wrong. It could be later than that.
At any rate, so it’s a group of young individuals who kinda come from money, and they find themselves in Paris. And yoga and mysticism are really kinda popular over in Europe during that time, and they’ve started to trickle into the United States. And this one individual in particular is just really drawn in. And he’s like so different, and all his peers are treating like its hip. And this guy is actually doing the work. Without a lot of fanfare, he’s doing the work. He’s meditating every day, he just really kind of taps into that… not seeking it. It’s not like the cool phase. And for a lot of people it’s a phase. “I’m going to meditate.” That’s like spiritual egoism in this country is running rampant, because people say “Oh, I meditate.” Really, what does that mean?
Jon Kabat-Zinn? I probably ruined his name, but he’s the founder of mindfulness. And he just recently wrote a book and said something like, “After enlightenment, do the laundry.” And what he means by that… and I’m going to use a term that he says, and that my yoga teacher said, is “if you’re an asshole and you meditate for 20 years, you’re just going to be a bigger asshole.” Because it really isn’t about just sitting there, pretending.
Kyle: Address the core way of being that created that.
Mark: Right. You haven’t addressed the underlying change or conditions. So back to Somerset Maugham. This kid, he’s got so much power and wealth. He’s accruing all these skills, just… and he’s goes back to the United States, and he decides to drive a cab. Because none of it means anything to him, and he figures that the way he can actually connect and not be separate but connect with other people is just sit in a cab with them. For 1 minute or 20 minutes at a time. How cool is that? Have you ever thought… wouldn’t it be cool just to drive an Uber or a Lyft, you know? And get rid of all the structural complexity of our lives.
Kyle: World’s craziest conversations I’ve had were with the Uber driver.
Mark: Me too. Some of the funnest moments. And I’m like, “what are you doing?”
Kyle: Maybe they know more than we do.
Mark: They’re all enlightened.
Kyle: Here we are, flying around…
Mark: Requirement for drivers: you must be enlightened.
Kyle: But, no, it’s so true man. And that was my experience after this period of time like I talked about with my grandma. And all that stuff. It was like, I felt this over… this pervasive sense of meaninglessness. And it was like “what is the point?”
And there was some definite, like, disempowerment that occurred there, but it was like this powerful experience of if that’s true, if I think about that, I can basically do whatever I want. If I wanna go and build a business, it’s not because I have to because some thing I’m trying to prove or do or get to or something like that. It’s just because that’s what I want to freakin’ do.
Mark: Absolutely. I love that. So you use the term disempowering, but the reality is, is that you just stepped back from all of your belief systems. And examined them. And they started to come crumbling down, so now you’re left with…
Kyle: Disempowerment. It’s like a duality there, it’s kinda two sides.
Mark: Disempowerment of what wasn’t working.
Kyle: Yeah. And there’s the other side of it though is this beauty of like, “Yeah, we are on this massive spinning spaceship that’s going through the universe at 66,000 miles per hour, and we’re just this little speck in this infinitesimal thing, but like that’s beautiful because now I can go and do whatever I want, you know?
Like one of my best friends–he’s in the Navy right now, and he’s getting out and we’re starting a swimwear company together. Like, it’s one of the things. Why would I want to go and do that? Why not?
Mark: (laughing) Why not Brazilian swimwear?
Kyle: It’s like that kind of stuff, though, I just wanna have that experience of that curiosity and discover what this is, instead of being locked in. I’m not any one thing, I’m not a speaker or this or that or whatever. I’m not a mountaineer, whatever. Like, again this idea of I don’t know, I read… we were talking about the Upanishads before this, but like, I read in the Upanishads it says like Brahman and Atman, meaning like “soul and reality” they are only known to those who don’t know it. And unknown to those who know it. So the only way to know it is by not knowing….
Mark: Okay, hey. Sorry Kyle. (laughing) We just had to take a little station break.
Kyle: (laughing) A little technical difficulty.
Mark: We ran out of storage on the camera, so… and frankly we’ve been going for quite a long time, so we’re going to do a part 2 to this. You wanna do that? We’ve got a lot more to talk about.
Kyle: Let’s do it.
Mark: And I’m excited to know that you’re going to be speaking at our Unbeatable Mind Retreat, December 2nd, 3rd and 4th. I think, right?
Kyle: I’m just pumped to be there and learn. Jimmy Chin…
Mark: Are you coming for the whole thing?
Kyle: I’m gonna be there as much as I can.
Mark: Excellent. It’ll be great to have you there.
So if you’re on the fence out there about the Unbeatable Mind Retreat, I think this podcast is going to run before that? Yes? I’m getting a nod. So you still have time to enroll. Go to and check it out.
And go check out Kyle’s stuff at
Kyle: Yeah.
Mark: Or just Google Kyle Maynard.
Kyle: Who knows what’ll come up? Depends on what happens this weekend for my friend’s birthday, but…
Mark: Awesome. So it was awesome to have you here as usual, and we’ll do a part deux soon. And now that I know you live in San Diego, I’ll hunt you down and we’ll do some stuff together.
Kyle: Absolutely, man. For sure.
Mark: You rock. Thanks for being you.
Kyle: Thank you, man.
Mark: Train hard. Stay safe. Have fun.
Coach Divine out.

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