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Mindset Matters

Maxwell Mcknight has helped raise millions for charity, and advocates and collaborates with people and brands, generating millions of views. He wouldn't trade his life for an abled-bodied life. He attributes all this to his mindset.

'When I was diagnosed with a muscle-wasting condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) at two years old, doctors told my parents I wouldn't live past childhood. I'm now twenty years old. Now, I'm not a psychologist; I'm not going to tell you, "Making a positive change every day will help you achieve your goals," but I am a man outliving his false life expectancy by over eleven years.

Mindset matters, yet many people need to invest in it more during their time on this planet. It's not an inspirational social media post, a sudden change in diet, or a new intense gym routine. Mindset is far more profound than a single change in a network of interconnected behaviours.

My mindset didn't change my life expectancy, but it did change my outcome. I require a 24/7 care team to help me with all physical tasks, such as dressing, washing, and eating. My freedom is created through my Permobil wheelchair, which is a lifeline—the amount of barriers to a condition like mine isn't believable. If I had said my freedom cost me £20,000 every five years, most people wouldn't have believed me. Or that a house adaption for me to go to the lavatory costs £130,000, and that's just at home, let alone university, work and other places I might go. Planning around the availability of changing places toilets (adapted lavatories) is essential, or I can't use them.

Mcknight with John Caudwell

These are just a select few of the challenges I face; the list of others is pages long. I didn't write this to explain my condition; it sets the scene for my life. I want to let you know if I can do it, you can do it. I am now an A* student with a university placement year lined up. I've helped raise millions for charity, and now I advocate and collaborate with people and brands online, generating millions of views. I'm living my best life and wouldn't trade it for an abled-bodied life.

Yeah, you heard me right. I'm not saying I wouldn't love to get rid of my challenges because I would. I am saying that I found my purpose, and happiness comes from it, as well as from the people around me and my everyday thoughts. That is enough for me, those three things. Am I scared of my unknown life expectancy? I am not, and even my weakening muscles that might mean I'm left trapped inside my own body; I would also say the same thing. You see, the ultimate fear isn't in foreseeing the conclusion but in doubting our capability to reshape the narrative leading to it.

Our mindset is critical to making our lives as successful as possible, and I want to explore the three main things that make me and, hopefully, you more content with life. Why would I share this? Well, I see a pandemic of unhappy people in my generation. People are surprised when I'm happy, but why? Life is relative. Happiness is relative. Your perception of life is critical. The powerhouse between your ears determines if you feel good, so let's start making it feel good. Mindset matters because it's not what you have but what you can become.

Mcknight with Lewis Hamilton

Thoughts Determine Direction

Positive thoughts or actions are not a new theory I use to be happier. Nobody is always optimistic. The flowing balance of hardship, pain, love and happiness makes us feel a sense of achievement when we realise how far we have come despite challenges. The leading thought that has been nurtured into my thinking process is, "Let's find a way". I unequivocally believe that everything is possible with enough planning and research. It stemmed from things being inaccessible, for example, when I couldn't get on a school trip as there was no accessible transport, hotel or activities. My parents and I planned the school trip for a weekend with a wheelchair-accessible taxi, a hotel with electric beds, a level access wet-room, and accessible activities. I found my soul mate on the same weekend in Barcelona. Instead of backing down, you always run at it and say, "Let's do this!" I do this hundreds of times a year, innovating and pushing personal boundaries. I don't doubt, I do. For me, it's essential; if I didn't, I would be rotting in a bed with no goals.

You can't give up on your goals in the same way. You have to believe you can do it. When the world thinks you're crazy or laughs at the enormous amount of energy you put into things, trust me, you're in the right place. I like to keep it real. I'm not a motivational monster who never gets tired. I'm always tired because of my condition, and today, I spent the whole day gaming on my adapted computer and writing this. Mindset isn't created in a day, it's created over years. Just like my actions today won't affect my future. It is the effort over large expanses of time, never giving up, chasing your dream and not looking back. My one piece of advice for 'thoughts' is that emotion drives us; without overcoming adversity, we have no reason to prove the world or people wrong. Feelings can shackle us in place, stopping us from reaching our potential.

Be careful of what outcome you think of. There are many. Be wise. Push through feelings with a strong mindset. If you have yet to accept the way you feel or are, you need to check your mindset. So, create behaviours that keep moving you forward; if it's your good mindset, moving you forwards, you won't even need to think about moving towards your objectives.

As a disability advocates, Mcknight and Josh Wintersgill aim to race each other up Mount Snowdon in powered wheelchairs, setting a world record while raising awareness of the inaccessibility of hiking spots

Passion Creates Purpose

Purpose comes with moving in the right direction. It's not fate; you created it! For the first eighteen years of my life, I felt as if I was present but behind a fibre-glass wall. If you suffer from a long-term health condition and feel the same way, you are not alone. You might not even know you're behind one! My life was mainly governed by my parents, not because they were controlling, but because my condition meant they always had to care for me. In turn, you lose independence, which can lead to your body being on autopilot. I was locked away, almost like I was living through someone else. I employed my care team when starting university, and suddenly, I had passion for doing something with my life. This often happens with university students when they realise they must fend for themselves. It just hit harder for me.

Brad Pitt with Mcknight at Silverstone

Through my advocacy work and, coincidentally, my newly funded wheelchair, I met the marketing director of Caudwell Children's Charity, who invited me to speak at a private ball at the 02 Indigo alongside John Caudwell, founder of Phone 4U. After helping to raise £1.8 million on the night, I realised that the super successful and wealthy were just like me. They just believed in themselves.

My mindset had put me on a course to accept the offer to speak, and my passion for helping others sparked my social media revolution. Finally, I was networking, getting increased viewership, and bringing my business specialities into my work. Outside of my main direction of business studies, I had found my passion: telling my story. From a meeting I had at my house for a marketing project, I later helped to deliver it.

I think you know what you want to do; it just takes the right circumstances to know. I have always liked business innovation because I have continually innovated with my condition. I am good at engaging followers with stories because I have repeatedly told many medical professionals the same story of my life. Sometimes, we have what we need; we just need to unlock our potential.

If you want to find your purpose, you have to leave your comfort zone. Only here do we see individuals with differing opinions on life or even your own life. You then have the option to broaden your opinion, using it to forge new ideas, processes, or products. Or, as I did, use the similarities in others to help empower your differences. I think your purpose is often filling in gaps or behaviour in society that you personally missed in your own life. So just be YOU!

People, The Uncontrollable, Controllable

We do not choose the people in our lives, so in a way, it's the only uncontrollable element of my happiness. I didn't choose who my parents are, and neither did you. I'm lucky that my parents stepped up to teach me the right morals, mindset and, therefore, happiness. When you become emotionally intelligent enough to realise the people you love aren't always right, I think you should hold onto it. I don't mean to keep it as a grudge you dislike them for, but to keep it in mind when developing yourself. We all joke about becoming our parents, but I think too many of us do. Apart from a progressive mindset, it is too important not to get stuck in the same psychological mazes our parents did.

First time in a cornfield

Until you reach a certain age, it's near impossible, but as soon as you do, it's a race to unlearn those behaviours. You have to rise above the behaviour you think is normal and teach others, too. Growing up with my condition, I did not care about what society thought of me. From this view, I could see a broader picture of what the world was like. I would overthink my own life, trying to be better.

My last piece of advice would be to think more open-mindedly. I never feel worried or anxious about the other side of the story because I'm always aware that I could be wrong. Acceptance is a powerful force in all walks of life. It's great to have an informed choice, which could change with new evidence. If you don't challenge your own belief system fairly, you're shutting hopes of a open mindset and hindering your progression.

All Bar One at Cambridge


As I conclude this hopefully helpful story, I'm reminded of the fine dance between mindset and circumstance, between perception and reality. My life has been a testament to the power of the human power to defy expectations and create a path where none seemed possible. I've learned that mindset isn't just a tool for motivation; it's the architect that makes up our reality. It's the lens through which we perceive the world, the canvas upon which we paint our dreams.

There lies a beacon of hope in uncertainty: the power of choice. We may not always control the hand we're dealt, but we hold power over how we play it. We can choose resilience over resignation, courage over complacency, and love over indifference.

I want to leave you with a challenge: dare to dream boldly, embrace the unknown with open arms, and wield the transformative power of mindset.

Life isn't just a series of random events; it's what we make of it. We may not control everything that happens to us, but we do control how we react. Our true freedom lies in our ability to shape our destiny, overcome obstacles, and walk boldly into the future.

So, as we part ways for now, remember this: keep dreaming, keep believing, and keep pushing forward. Our paths may cross again someday, but until then, live with purpose and passion. And never forget that your mindset is your greatest strength - it's what will carry you through the challenges and lead you to greatness.'

The weeknd at London Stadium

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